Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Operation Good Guys-McNamara&Donnelly

It's good to see good people do well. Dundee Utd have hired two of the best coaches, and nicest people, in Scotland.

I'm biased of course.

It's a shame that Partick have lost them mid-season, and the two of them know how much of a wrench that is, but it was a job they simply could not turn down. Still relatively young in the game, Jackie and Sid have a clear determination to progress Dundee Utd with a belief that the current squad has underachieved and can do a lot better.

Celtic supporters will wish them all the best (especially on Saturday) and I'm sure more than me will be keeping half an eye on developments at Tannadice over the next few months and years.

So all the best to messers McNamara and Donnelly.

Except on February 16th of course.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Never forgive, Never forget

As we move, finally, to the the inquiry that will address what appears to be the biggest scandal ever to engulf Scottish football, it is important that we, as supporters, don't accept anything less than justice.

Whether you are in the camp of jusr wanting titles stripped from Rangers oldco as a bare minimuum or, like me, you want what I believe is rightfully ours, the common bond is that we all want this stain washed off Scottish football as soon as possible.

You will have probably noticed that Sevco cages are rattling more than normal just now, because they are scared. The rub is, even they know you can't pick and choose what history you claim. Leaving aside the nonsensical argument that they are still the same club, the world and its wife knows that Rangers oldco registered players illegally to gain an advantage over the rest of us.

That's why there were side letters.

When the media sidestepped the alarming, for Sevco fans, comments from Charles Green that Sevco were running at a loss and instead chose to print and broadcast the fanciful drivel that Ibrox would be modernised, we got a reminder, once again, how they will come at this inquiry.

For me, it's personal. Out of the five league titles that are being scrutinised, we lost three of them on the last day (2003, 2005, 2009). Whatever you think about about the particular merits of the Celtic teams that competed for those titles, the fact is they should not have been up against the Rangers oldco teams they played.

That's the whole thing in a nutshell.

I also say now that I hope justice is done for those teams, like Hibs and Aberdeen, who played by the rules for years, suffered greatly for it, whilst cheats prospered.

I am sure, if my love letters from Sevco fans are anything to go by, that if this blog is read by any Sevco fans I will be dismissed a bigot, a hater of Rangers oldco and a fenian with an agenda. However, this is not just about Celtic, this is about the whole of Scottish football.

I say whole, it's not really, it's about the people in Scottish football who didn't buy into the propaganda that David Murray put into the game for 20 years, the ones who remember the policy of apartheid at Ibrox and the ones who don't regard Ally McCoist as a "cheeky chappie"

This is about justice and anyone who does not want it done, you have no place in Scottish football and you should regard yourself in the same mould as the lickspittles who are frightened by Jim Traynor.

We demand justice for Martin O'Neill, who should have won five leagues in a row, we demand justice for the Seville team who should not have ended 2003 empty-handed, we demand justice for Chris Sutton who should have scored the league winning goal in 2005, we demand justice for Gordon Strachan who should have won four in a row, we demand justice for all fans who saw their clubs sell off good players and end any chance of sustained success and we demand justice for a Celtic support that David Murray knew he could never compete with.

Justice is the least we should expect.

The Long Walk

Walking back, devastated, from Hampden to the city centre yesterday had a horrible sense of deja vu about it. I've done it too many times in such a small time frame. Under Neil Lennon we have now lost five big games at Hampden and that has to change. Yesterday was Ross County all over again. Outthought, outfought and outplayed, every single Celtic player, coach and director needs to take a long hard look at themselves.

The players have to understand that nothing is won until the trophy is in your hands. You have to fight and scrap for anything in this game and the time to look back and reflect is when your career is over. How can I put it? Well Roy Keane wouldn't be getting a jersey framed after winning a game that had no trophy at the end of it, that's for sure.

The underlying thing about these players has always been that, in total adversity, can they hack it? Not on yesterday's evidence that's for sure.

Then I come to the manager, who has to shoulder a lot of the blame for yesterday. Dropping Rogne againat a team, whose whole game plan is to get the ball in the air to a guy up front to knock down for willing runners, was utter madness. Why Mulgrew was allowed to take that penalty is beyond me, you don't need to be Jose Mourinho to know he was never going to score it after the game he was having. Also, when dramatic comebacks are staged, most of the goals that make them happen are scrappy and coming from balls being fired into the box. So from now till doomsday I will never understand his three substitutions yesterday. No matter how bad Lassad, Samaras and Wanyama were...THEY CAN ALL HEAD THE BALL IN THE BOX.

This is a time when we should be hoovering up trophies, not surrendering them meekly like we have on the last three visits to Hampden,

When we think back to speactular Hampden wins, my mind drifted back yesterday to the 1985 Scottish Cup Final. The winning goal came because Roy Aitken burst his lungs to whip a cross in that Frank McGarvey dived to full length to meet.

That's why that game is legendary and yesterday is not.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Changes at the SFA? Yeah and a Chinese Democracy

Was interesting listening to Radio Scotland tonight. It was a relatively new show I stumbled upon after listening to the ICT-Hearts penalties. Kenny Shiels was on it as was John McKendrick from the Referees Association.

If you don't know John, here is his profile, and, you'll all be delighted to hear, it has his favourite ever game in it:

Now, as John was castigating Kenny Shiels for him questioning his guilty verdict in his recent case with Andrew Dallas, William, an ex Ref, from Symington phoned in. John knew instantly what was coming and so went for the old "long lost brother" act with William (who knows, they could well be brothers...) William went on to say that in 60 years of the SFA disciplinary committee, no appeal has ever been upheld. As John tried to laugh this off and distort the facts, William shouted "John McKendrick is not a man to be trusted!"

Then he was cut off.

This came after Kenny Shiels alluded to the fact that the independent panel that sat in judgement on him contained one panel member(out of three) who had a SFA pin badge on!

Now, if you have read my latest book (above) you will have read some real life tales of how the SFA worked in days gone by.

Clearly, nothing has really changed.

Interestingly, John McKendrick seemed to be at his angriest when Kenny Shiels spoke about the panel and said, should he name them live on air, he would possibly be bringing the game into disrepute.

Just remind me, cause I'm all a quiver with deja vu, didn't another manager do that?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Don't overlook Ireland

Things are changing in Ireland. Just certain people haven't caught on yet (Clue: They are the ones out every night trying to re-create Last Night of The Proms). I listen to a lot of Irish radio and, despite the horrific economic circumstance the country finds itself in, there is still a lilt in the voices I hear from callers on the various shows and my mind often wanders over there when I hear them, such is the warmth in the sounds.

The north east of the country is evolving, despite the reactionaries, in almost everything. There seems to be a determination to never to go back to the days of war and I also sense the real notion that a United Ireland is on the horizon at last. I've been a Republican for as long as I've known politics and, for me, the reason we are moving closer has a lot to do with the leadership of The Republican Movement remaining the same whilst all other parties fell by the wayside.


It struck me last night, and many times this season as it goes, that diehard Irish Tims, the ones, like Jim Mervyn and Jim Greenan, that you see everywhere with Celtic, are probably being done a disservice by Celtic. I see folk on Twitter like Gary McGeady, Hank Moody CSC and Muireann Fanning getting up at ungodly hours in freezing temperatures to catch boats and buses to come and watch Celtic. Whether they realise it or not, it's inpsiring to see that level of committment.

I've been doing some research on the formation and establishment of Celtic and no matter what Celtic say on the official website, it cannot be denied that Celtic had an Irish identity in mind on formation. The club was founded by an Irishman of course but let us not forget that it was also managed by an Irishman for the first 43 years of our existence. The club's top scorer ever, Jimmy McGrory, always said he felt he had Scottish blood but an Irish heart.

Perhaps in these times, given that playing in Scotland gives us a natural, albeit partial Scottish identity, it is time to shine more light on the part of us that is Irish. If you want to "promote the brand" then that's the thing many thousands will hook onto. After all, if a university in Indiana can do it, you can be damn sure we could. We will never lose the Scottish part of Celtic as long as we play in Scotland and we will always play in Scotland because Celtic Park is our Mecca.

After all, it is unmistakable to think that it is the Irish part of our identity which give us a worldwide support and hope for many, many thousands.

Let us also never forget that it was Ireland which gave us our club.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When Lustig fights back

One of the undoubted success stories of this season has been the transformation of Mikael Lustig. I have no doubt that all the tools were already there, he just wasn't showing them a lot when he came in from last January.

A really good European Championship has beem followed up by a very solid season whether it be at right back, wing back or centre half, Mikael hasn't let us down. It has been said that he has been working closely with Danny McGrain and there is no better defender to learn from. This culmintaed in a superb performance last night against Gary Mackay-Steven which I hope leaves the latter realising he has a long way to go before he gets anywhere near the top level.

Lustig is a non-nonsense defender who, when 100% focused, plays the way a defender should play with a "they shall not pass" type of attitude. Perhaps his one flaw has been to occasionally switch off in games but that seems to be no more than a passing fad and can easily be worked on.

Once again our scouting system has unearthed a gem who was brought in for a modest fee and would already command something a lot higher. That said, I want the big man to stay for a while yet as he is the prefect Yin to Adam Matthews Yang,

Plus any wearer of facial hair is ok in my book. Just ask Danny.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sleeves up for the title

It will be cold tonight, of that there is no doubt. It has been so cold in the last week that brass monkey's everywhere are crying their eyes out. My house always seems to be freezing, a combination of crap storage heaters(what they actually store, I have no idea) and one of those fires that cost a fortune to use and and you need to sit on to actually get a heat from. Anyway, enough tales from the ghetto.

This should be a good game tonight. Dundee Utd are a dangerous opponent and have a striker in form, whilst we will not have our full strength defence. That said, we have a striker doing not too bad just now and a midfield that is strong and looking fresh again. Despite the freezing temperatures, I'd expect another good crowd at Celtic Park.

I said last last week that the next few weeks will shape our season and there's no doubt that the next three league games, Dundee Utd and Kilmarnock at home then a trip to Inverness for a potential title decider (not a sentence that I thougth I'd ever type)

This is a game where, if we win, it puts us in great shape and as all you title winners out there know, these are the games that enable the golden days later in the season.

When it's a whole lot warmer.

What's in a name?

When Celtic moved to the current site of Celtic Park in 1892, it was a lot to do with money. The rent had increased so much that it was decided that a new stadium had to be built. It was bulit and it was built by volunteers who already cared so deeply for a club that had such a positive impact on both their communities and lives.

About ten years ago, when naming rights for stadiums in the UK first started rearing irs head, I spoke to a friend in NYC about what American fans thought of it happening with their teams in various sports over there. He went on at length about why they did it and how much they raked in from doing it but right at the end he said "Of course, none of these teams have a history and tradition like Celtic"

Most of you who know me, will know I am a traditionalist. I'm not interested in doing anything and everything to bring money into the club, In my view, three things are sacred, the name, the green and white hoops and Celtic Park. You can't buy class, prestige and tradition, and you should certainly never sell them.

Market research shows that the most popular colour of strip among kids in the UK is red. Should we ditch the hoops and go with that as well?

Even Man Utd, not slow in making a fast buck, have named their stands after the manager and what they have always been called and have made a committment to never change the Old Trafford name.

I like Celtic the way we are, I've said before, I'm not interested in going to the EPL.

2013 is actully my 35th year of going to Celtic Park (auld bugger I know) and it means something to me, far more than money ever will.

To me it's a simple choice, we are either "more than a football club" or just a football club.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

This is our time

The second half of the season is almost upon us and the news that people are already queueing round the block for Juventus tickets is a timely reminder.

The commentator on the Man Utd game last night reminded viewers that it's been such a great season for Man Utd as they still have three competitions to go for...

Our season will be shaped in the next month. With three cup competitions coming at us pretty soon, and two home league games in the space of a few days, this is a real chance for us to cement a golden season in the club's history.

For me personally, there will be a new book (Novel) in April and, of course, that will bring with it a #bampotbooklaumch. When we know the detials, so will you.

I can't thank people enough for buying my last book. The comments still come as well and to have been No1 on Amazon was something I will always cherish. The sales are still happening and with so many coming for electronic devices now, the future is clear.

Finally, it's wonderful to see so many new blogs and shows popping up as the Internet Bampot revolution becomes evolution.

This is our time.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Before you want us to go, remember where we came from.

The debate, seemingly endless, rages on about where Celtic will be playing football in years to come. I did the tour of Celtic Park on Saturday, my fourth time now I think, and the subject came up amongst the supporters there about where we should be playing. Everyone was talking EPL and saying things like "Brand exposure" "Bigger markets" and, of course, "Money".

Sadly, these are words and phrases you hear bandied about at will by supporters these days.

I say "Sadly" because when Robert Kelly said in 1963 that we were "More than a football club" I don't think he meant that we can also be a cash cow.

I'll state my position clearly now, I am a fan of Scottish football. I like going round Scotland watching Celtic. I like the banter with opposition fans and I like the opportunities that Scottish football provide us. Sadly, for the business types, they are all on the park opportunities.

You see, if that day ever comes, when we get invited to play in England, you can be damn sure we aren't being invited to take their trophies or their Champions League spots. We would be invited for our support. That wonderful support. The one that got invited to testimonials such as Bobby Moore, Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs.

I know Scottish football is bit down on itself just now but that is where, in my opinion, our future lies, and the sooner we realise this (I think Peter Lawwell has finally realised this) the better. We cannot compete with the resources of Barcelona and Man Utd, so we must create the environment at Celtic where we can produce the next Messi or Rooney.

I believe we are well on the road to doing that.

After all, that's how we conquered Europe the first time.

See, playing the likes of Bolton and Wigan away does nothing for me. I'd rmuch rather play Hearts and Aberdeen away. Similarly, my big game appetitie is fed by Barcelona and Juventus, I don't need Arsenal and Man Utd.

The key to the revival of Scottish football is for clubs to follow Celtic's lead in transfer policy and youth development and for every club to do all they can to bring fans back through the gates. It has happened in the past and can happen again.

Also, let us never forget, wonderfully illustrated by The Green Brigade aganst Barcelona, that this club is 125 years old and was formed to feed the poor, immigrant Irish of the east end of Glasgow. I don't want it to become another corporate entity where anything can be eroded from the traditions and history of the club if a new customer base doesn't fancy it.

When the club was formed for those wonderful reasons 125 years ago, it very quickly went on to be the biggest supported club in Britain.

Nobody gave a toss who we played back then.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One of us

Many times I've heard the expression "He's a good guy, he's one of us". On another occasion I heard a guy say "Not only is she beautiful, she is one of us"

I wonder if that means the same to me as it does to you? What it means to me is that if you, like me, are one of us, you get certain leeway. Not much more than someone else, but definitely a little. That's how I was brought up with Celtic, to treat your fellow supporter like the guy next to you on a battlefield.

That's how it should be, right?

Sadly, I'm not seeing a lot of that just now. Instead what I am seeing is a lot of attempts at demonisation, alienation and a blame culture that belongs with the Daily Mail not the Hail Hail.

We are better than this surely?

We have seen many, many expressions of what this Celtic support can do as a positive and the world has witnessed and commented. Many times my heart has been pumping out my chest because of this Celtic support and it will again in the future.

The picture above is of me in Philidelphia.

Standing in front of the An Gorta Mor memorial there.

My arms are wrapped round guys that I had never met before in my life. They made me feel so welcome that day, why? Dress up it any way you like, but it's because we are all the same. We bleed green and white, like you all do as well.

Never underestimate what that means because it's who we are.

Celtic is our team and we love them.

Some of the descriptions of the Celtic support I've seen recently are unrecognisable to anything I've ever seen. Then again, I'm there to watch my team, not take notes. Generalising is a dangerous game, one you can never win.