Friday, January 27, 2012

It's ok to cheat say SPL

The news that the SPL have dropped the case against Hearts re the late wages is an indicator of what lies ahead. As doomsday approaches Ibrox, the SPL did not want to hammer Hearts for the simple reason that there is a strong possibility that there will be another club in the same position as Hearts in the very near future.

After all the posturing, the SPL have shown themselves to have no backbone nor indeed grasp of basic SPL law. So in future pay your players when you like, openly criticise the governing body and by all means call us cheats and liars. You'll face no action.

The fact of the matter is, like Rangers, Hearts have been consistently cheating for years by delaying tax and wage payments whilst others, like Aberdeen and Hibs in particular, are struggling on the park because they played fair on it.

The only outcome today should have been a docking of points and a warning that if this continued, demotion was inevitable. Sadly, we have a joke league that makes us all a laughing stock again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hurley Burley

Anyone who heard Craig Burley's comments pre match on Saturday may well have thought they made a big mistake getting out of bed. Seemingly our entire team will be sold in the transfer window. Here was me thinking that it was another team in Glasgow who were in desperate need to sell(later confirmed by Ally McCoist who is now begging Craig Whyte to sell Jelavic asap) but no, Burley alerted the viewers to the fact that scouts were looking at our players.

What a revelation.

I'll let you into a secret Craig, the reason scouts are looking at our players is that we have good players, most of whom are far better than you ever were. Similarly when you delighted in telling the viewers that not everyone wants to play for Celtic, you forgot to add that we were the biggest club you ever played for and the club who give you the platform to be a pundit for the likes of ESPN. You really think anyone would give a toss about a bit part Chelsea player that they could not get out of the door quick enough when money was being spent.

Finally Craig, when you talk of players lacking ambition by wanting to stay in Scotland, let me remind you that when you left Celtic, you joined that giant of the game, Derby.

Having said all that, I would love nothing more than if you took your own advice and left Scotland, never commentating on a game here again.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The hardest game of the Centenary season

Just under 24 years ago(feck me that's scary) Celtic had undoubtedly it's stiffest test enroute to a double winning year. Anyone at the game will know just what it was like. What may shock some of you is that it did not come from rangers or Aberdeen, it actually came from Starnraer. Being a lowly second division side, no one at Celtic Park that day expected anything other than a routine thrashing and when Frank McAvennie put us one up in six minutes, we all expected an avalanche. Sometimes in games like this you can score too early and this was one of them. What happened next would enshrine a new name in Celtic history.

Bruce Clelland.

The Stranraer striker, who had scored a decent 28 goals for them, was playing his last ever game for Stranraer before emigrating to Chicago, USA. He had a fair old tussle with Lex Baillie that day and had many chances to equalise but after missing a penalty, a great save by Paddy Bonner, he may have realised then it was not going to be his day.

I was in The Jungle that day, we always stood towards the old rangers end when we went to The Jungle and had a great view of what was unfolding. Quite frankly, I could not beleive it. Time and again Stranraer bombed forward and Billy McNeill would be out the dugout screaming at our lifeless players.

It looked like we had got away with it when in the last seconds Bonner and Baillie, who had been by far our best players, indulged in a little "After you Claude" and ended up in an almighty fangle. The ball broke to Clelland eight yards out, goal at his mercy and....he ballooned it over the bar.

The sigh of relief was evident all around.

To be fair to Clelland he took it all in good humour, the sort of thing you can do when it is your last game, and said after the game "I just phoned the Samaritans there...and they were engaged"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Business as Usual

11 league wins on the spin is absolutely brilliant. The dark days of September and October seem a long way away as does the clamour then to have Neil Lennon sacked. I've been in a sort "Acid flashback" phase in 2012 myself. After being based in America or flying back and forth to it since 2004, to be back in Scotland and having a game-going perspective on things again has been a pretty surreal experience I have to say.

Also I met up with an old but very dear friend. I say dear on the basis that he never goes to the bar. Evan will be known to folk who have read my books and yesterday was the first time I'd seen him in almost 12 years. I met him at Waverley Station early yesterday and almost immediately it felt like those 12 years had not happened. That's the sign of a real friendship. Cans and banter on the way through, the halfwit selling the bevvy tried to tell us Dundee Utd would win easily, we laughed, then he did a pet hate thing of mine, he tried to drag the arse out of the joke, to the point where the lovely lady at our table said "He's taken that too far", we on the other hand thought "Aye, aye..." hehe.

Tickets picked up, surprisingly two top quality seats in the North Stand Lower, we decanted to the Prince Charlie Pub to see the latest version of the HFA rules. The Guinness was good at least.

Onwards to the game and I have to say it felt fantastic. Not just going to the game but going with some you don't need to look after or shepherd about, yes Evan was no drunk yet. The game itself was the sort of game we have been accustomed to recently, most importantly, we won again.

After the game we trotted along the Gallowgate and I was amazed to see the transformation. There's actually stuff there now. We passed lots of bars with steamed up windows and faces pressed against them but being old as fuck now, we settled for one in the Merchant City for a quiet pint, at which point a band struck up. They were shake, rattle and rolling the whole pub and we just had to grin and bear it, in a similar vein as to when one @chibchenko was peering in and that sinking feeling hit us. To be fair she was good company, which made up for her shocking taste in music. Sadly we had to depart for the train and were greeted by a few folk at Queen St who had clearly partaken in a lot more ale than us.

In the old the days it would have been onto a club, nowadays a fast black was the order of the day and home for Match of The Day.

Still, this is merely pre season for me...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A week in Ireland is a long time

So I had my first real break since May 2008 last week. By break I mean going somewhere to do nothing, there have been one or two occasions I've done sod all at home(would be plenty more if I had the fecking chance). Flew into Dublin last week on the day of the horrific winds(I know, that could be any day) and then a bus to Heuston Station before a train to Limerick. I've got to say the train was superb, spacious seats, decent priced food and drink and the bairn fell asleep both times. At only 1 hour 40 mins journey time, it was fantastic.

It was my first time proper in Ireland since March 09 and even in that just under three years time, the change is stark. Rural towns are being battered by the bad economy and, where I was, eight pubs had closed in that time. Similarly young people are heading to Australia and America in their droves, particularly Australia and easy to see why with very little prospects for them in their homeland.

I must be getting more used to the Limerick accent as for the first time, the Newcastlewest twang, I could actually understand some folk there. The language used has certain quirks like everyone being referred to as "Lads" and funny people being known as a "Gas". Once you get your head around it, it gets easier!

Of course my one big thing was where to see the Celtic game on Sunday. I'd gone round a few pubs on the Saturday enquiring and a few said they would be showing it. However this was not the case on the Sunday where horse racing and Wayne Rooney interviews were the order of the day. I'd previously thought of going into Limerick City but was struggling badly with a cold by then. Sadly after going in every pub and bookies in the town, no one was showing it. So it was the dodgy internet stream and thoughts of why on earth these people put their lot in with english teams.

I didn't have any internet access at all in my time away, barring that 90 minutes at Peterhead, and was restricted to phone, which ran out after four days and could not be topped up til I got internet access. So from Sunday to now my only contact with the outside world was RTE and they are obsessed with Dr Phil. Trying to find out the cup draw was like trying to explain Twitter to your Granny.

I shouldn't complain too much though, if I had to listen to most of the politicians in the South prattle on, I'd need a Dr as well.

I did eat like a king though with loads of Stews and Steak Pies washed down with the black stuff. Thankfully prices have fallen a bit since my last visit. I've told this story many times but once I was out in Newcastlewest and went into The Shamrock Bar enquiring if they did breakfast? The woman said no but she'd do me a wee toastie if I liked? Grand. I ordered a Guinness, sat at the fire and before long the toastie came, two bits of bread, butter and a bit cheese. I thanked her and she stood looking at me before saying "Seven Euro".

So Ireland, I love you, but next time, get the Telly on the right channel and dinnae gie me the cauld.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


After a hard year where stress became my middle name, tomorrow I am off to Ireland for a week's break. I say break, I'm going to be working on my new book throughout to get the framework and structure ready so that stuff can just be slotted in where appropriate. The break part comes from using no phones, no email, no internet. I got a wee taste of that the last few days when the laptop decided to take it's own break.

So there will be no blogs, tweets, emails or texts from Jan 4th-Jan 11th and hopefully I will come back slightly more sane than now.

That's the plan anyway.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My New Years Honours List

I hate it when I read the likes of Ronnie Corbett getting some award or other. Then I think sod them, it's nothing to do with me. Having taken a wee break recently I was warmed to read so many kind words towards me on Twitter and Facebook. Too many to mention but I thought, as it's January 1st, I'd say thanks back to the people who have helped me in the year of 2011 and who deserve recognition.

First up is

Graham Wilson
The voice of Celtic in America. Graham on his show Beyond The Waves is proving time and again that the Celtic heart beats strong in America. His show provided me with a valuable sounding board, whether it be for floating ideas or just venting spleen, he will probably never know how much he helped me. Until now.

Next up is

Phil Mac Giolla Bhain
I can't even begin to describe how much Phil has helped me. His work in bringing down Hugh Dallas inspired me to start blogging. His constant encouragement, whether it be verbally or through his work is such that I probably wouldnt have written three books last year without it.

Next up is

Chris McGuigan
There is absolutely no doubt that the springboard for my three books of last year was the LostBhoys podcast I did in March 2011. That was thing that put me in the Celtic public eye and enabled a lot of a good to happen. A lot of that is down to the type of guy Chris is and the way he does his podcasts.  It's not an interview, it's a chat among friends and I am proud to call Chris one of those.

Next up is

Lauren McCloskey
A constant in all my work of last year, a lot of stuff would not have happened had it not been for Lauren. In fact the first game of the season, when The Shame drew with their Edinburgh Cousins, Lauren's updates on Twitter from it, as I travelled on a train from Queens to The Bronx, made me think a lot, about how far the Celtic Family have came and how Social Media has made us stronger. She is also a very good friend who doesn't hide when the chips are down

Next up is

Chas Duffy
The King of The Bronx, Chas welcomed me into it in Sep 2010 and the culmination of that was a book launch of Wim's Tims in The Bronx in Dec 2011. None of that would have been possible without Chas.

Next up is

Frankie Fraser
If you ever move to a new country, city, whatever, if you're really lucky, you'll meet a guy like Frankie and all your worries are over. Whether it be 8 hours a day Facebook chats, sound advice or standing in front of a bullet for you, Frankie is your guy.

Second last but one is

John Paul Taylor
We have been friends so long now that he feels like family, and he is. I don't think anyone has had more influence on my adult life than JPT.  I can't pay him a higher compliment.

Second last is

Simon Donnelly
There would have been a Wim's Tims without him it's just that it would have been crap. For someone who wasn't brought up in the Celtic Family, he has embraced it to the full and that was helped in no small way by being at the club for seven years. More than all that though, he is a good friend and someone who makes you feel good. That is a brilliant trait to have.

Finally there is

Gary Haley
Tom Arnold reckons you only need four friends in life. That is as long as they will bail you out, put you up and not contradict you in front of a woman. That's Gary.