Thursday, April 25, 2013

A step in the right direction

Regular readers will know that I have had a little bee in my bonnet about season ticket prices at Celtic Park, so the news that everyone is getting £100 off the price of one next season is welcome. At this moment, it should be a glorious time to be a Celtic supporter with another league in the bag, a cup final to follow and news that our top players are coming out saying they love it in Paradise. Of course, that hasn't been the case recently given the ongoing treatment of the support so anything that rewards that support has to be a good thing.

I think it's important for the supporters to keep the pressure on the prices going in the right direction because as much as a decrease next season is great for everyone, if it is followed by a big increase the following year, it immediately becomes a PR disaster.

Everything should be done to ensure Paradise is full every week next season and that isn't just down to pricing. Celtic have said the matchday experience will be improved next season and I am interested to see how. I'd love to see the catering facilities improved, and the campaign to do this by @maleysbhoys is admirable, whilst a good innovation on Sunday was the pre-match interview with Johan Mjallby on the big screen. This, added to the expected WiFi around the stadium next season, is welcome by pretty much all fans.

Somethng that would also help the matchday expeirence of all fans is the end of patting down, sinister threats and general harassment of a lot of fans. The application for a standing section holding 3000 supporters is a bold move and very welcome. What that would add to the atmosphere is worth any criticism that will inevitably come from folk that have never paid into a football match in their lives.

Of course, the best way to improve the matchday experience is to have a team on the park playing the Celtic way. The tools are there, a few just need sharpened, and if a couple of players with great football brains and experience were added, there should not be any limit to what this team can achieve.

So, hats off to Celtic for the discount, a decision that is finally made with the fans in mind.

All fans.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When Tims fight back

Sunday wasn't a pleasant experience for me. Not even taking into account our performance, which is another blog altogether, I just didn't have a good day on Sunday. The first thing was that, as Hibs fans plan their cup final dayjollies with a total care-free perspective, here we were again with another ridiculous early KO, no real time for pre-match festivities (if you can afford them these days) and into a soulless national stadium which is fast becoming the embodiment of all that is wrong in Scottish football.

That wasn't the main reason Sunday wasn't a good day for me thougb as I'm kind of used to being treated like a cash cow. In the ground, to my right and one row behind, there was guy who had two kids with him that I'd estimate were 5 and 7. Now, anyone who takes kids to games knows that at that age, it is a very hard shift for the parent. Anyway,  the folk to my right but one row in front of me were standing. There was no need for them to stand as there was only about three rows in front of them standing and everyone else in the section was sitting so simple common sense could have rectified this. The guy with the kids asked the guy standing two rows in front of him if he could sit down. The guy replied "Naw, I want tae fucking stand" So the parent replied "Look mate, I'm asking you nicely, my kids can't see" The guy replies "Take them fucking hame then"

At this point, my mate to my left had the red mist descend and said "Sit the fuck doon". Now this was a stupid response but the reply was beyond the pale "Fuck off or I'll stab you ya cunt, first time in a big city is it?"

The game had not even started yet.

Now, I have to say that throughout my entire life, my normal response to this kind of situation would have been the stupid, violent one. However my kids were there and that impression of their father is something I want them to get as little of as possible.

So I said to the guy "Mate, we are all Tims here, there's kids here, cool it, eh?"

He replied "Fuck you anaw ya scumbag"

I actually sat there stummed  that someone, wearing the same colours as all around him, looked like he wanted to kill all around him.

I'll be honest, at this point I wasn't sure what to do other than react to anything this clown did. He had three mates with him and the whole game, they stared, they whispered, they pointed and generally made everyone around them feel uncomfortable to scared.

I've been in this position before and I knew they were going to do something at FT.

As it got to extra time, I started to think about it more, my choice being that I would move in the opposite direction and have my kids in front of me so they remained protected at least.

Then fate dealt her hand.

I bumped into a guy, whom I won't name for obvious reasons, who was returning from the toilet and I caught his eye. I had not seen this guy since I came back from NYC and he came over all hugs etc As we embraced, we went 4-3 up at the time, I told him the score and my plan and he said he would help. Sad to say that the partent with his two kids had made a shapr exit, so sharp that I didn't even notice and if it was in fear, not only do I not blame him, I feel sick at the thought.

The full time whistle went, I got up and my mate got up beside me, as second protector of kids, except turned and knocked the guy in front spark out akin to that scene in the restaurant in Crocodile Dundee.

He didn't tell me he was going to do it but it's not surprising to me that he did.

I know what some of you are thinking here, a total double standard and all that, but I wanted to tell this story for one reason: I don't blame the Celtic support, The Green Brigade or the tea ladies at Celtic Park for one arsehole who managed to get a ticket for Hampden, far from it.

I'll tell you something though, guys like my mate reaffirm my belief that this is the right club to be in.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

SPL-Self Preservation Lunacy

There was a time in Scottish football when you stopped hearing words like "Fan" and "Supporter" and started hearing words like "Customer". Not a word that any hardcore football fan ever wants to hear yet the SPL have now even gone beyond that level.

I can't think of any other business in the world who would treat the people they need to give them money so shabbily. After stretching out the simple process of confirming five weeks of fixtures longer than a cowboy builder stretches out a conversion, the SPL contrived to piss off almost every fan in Scotland with the fixtures that came out.

First of all, the best day you can promote your product is the day a team wins the trophy you put up. You can roll out all your PR and spin and get all your bigwigs on TV given that it is exactly the sort of game that TV craves. So what do the SPL do? Put a fixture on two days before a game of that nature that could take away any sense of anticipation should Motherwell not win it.

As decisions go, that's up there with Robert Maxwell deciding on a wee boat trip.

Then you have the involvement of said TV.  The strongest argument, in my view, for summer football, is a good 2-3 months you would have where you are not competing with the EPL for TV time slots. The chance to put your football on display in good weather, on good pitches and with proper kick off times seems like the golden goose of anyone running the SPL.


Because what we have now, as Celtic supporters, are five games left, four on a Sunday, and the one on a Saturday being an early kick off just like the Sunday ones. Do the clubs want fans to turn up at these games? Is it part of the strategy to attract folk to actually attend the games? Because I can't see it.

With that being said, Celtic are to be commended for lowering prices for the last two games at Celtic Park to the sensible £20/£5 rate. Please let that be standard next season.

The fans I speak to now, of clubs other than Celtic too, are totally pissed off with the game in Scotland right now. It reeks of incompetence and self preservation as it urges fans to pay EPL prices for football that is of an average to decent standard at best. It further enrages fans that they are asked to show up for ridiculous kick off times because our clubs have been run so badly by many that without the TV money, they'd fold.

There has to be a massive change in the mindset of the game in Scotland because, right now, fans are at the point of no return,

If paying £20 a game meant that I had to watch the likes of Forrest, Watt and McGeoch every week, I'll do it. That is not a hardship for me at all, because I see that as bigger crowds, more vocal support and a team full of guys who would run through a brick wall for Celtic.

I'll sign up for that right now.

What I won't sign up for is another depressing season of crap kick off times, inflated prices and guys in suits talking a lot but saying fuckall.

You want to save this game in Scotland? Give it back to the men and women in the streets.

The ones who made it great in the first place.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Bampot Book Launch

The dust has settled on another Bampot Book Launch and the exhaustion I am feeling now, added to the still slightly pished vibe, tells me I had a good night. And how.

These things always come with a lot of stress in the build up but it always gets blown away when the night actually starts.

I attended the demo on Saturday in George Square and was really pleased how that had went, the message got across, the vibe was chilled and no one gave the polis an excuse. Credit must go to FAC for the quick organsisation of it and both Chris and Jeanette spoke very well.

We had a couple of jars in the pub across the road before it and this definitely relaxed me.

After the demo, we hot-footed it to our hotel, checked in, had another couple of jars and had a leisurely stroll to Paradise. The sun was shining and we passed the CSA on the way, banishing all thoughts of the launch and minds wandering to Hibs.

There was a great atmosphere at Celtic Park, again started by The Green Brigade, and maybe, just maybe, things are getting back to how they should be.

As well as the goals, the highlight was the Craig Whyte banner. From the squirming in the directors box, to the rage from the press box, it was a fantastic sight.

We didn't win the league, yet, but people left happy all the same.  That's what you want from attending Celtic Park.

We had another leisurely stroll after the game, catching up with Team Maguire on the way, and the purpose for me is always the same, I don't want to be the first person at the venue. Despite all that, I was the second I think, only seeing Simmy Ward at the bar. This is probably the most stressful time of these events, that place at the back of your mind screaming at you, "what if no one shows up?" That's just the stress talking though and, quite frankly, does a dis-service to the quality of people who do come to these events.

Then they came flooding in.

Was great seeing all the faces again, from Willie Keane and his gang to Big Davie from OAO and his crew, a lovely mix of the Celtic Family.

The Parrot was Master of Ceremonies and did a great job and got so into it that he almost forgot to announce me hahaha.

My only worries after that was making sure I didn't fuck up the reading I had planned. For maximum impact, my plan was to relax into it, say nothing too controversial then get into it. Of course, I still did my usual rants about how good Celtic are and so on, so most goes oot the windae.

The reading itself went very well from my point of view. I probably only flubbed two words (I hope) and managed to remember, just in time, to lower my voice slightly, for maximum impact for the huge "YESSS!!!!!! GET IN THERE!!!" I was about to scream. I have to say that when I did, to see 200 folk jump out their skin was a lovely moment for me hehehe.

The rest of the night was spent talking to great people and listening to The Quadrofenians blow the roof off the place.

And what about them?

A stunning 20 song set that top indie bands on the circuit right now would struggle to compete with. I was so happy to see the reaction the guys got because as well as being talented musicians, they are fantastic guys as well. For any event, book them @quadrofenians now.

By the end of the night, I had so many lovely people coming up to me, it was the cherry on top of the icing and, as a red blooded male, the amount of beautiful women at these things has all male hearts fluttering.

There were many highlights from the night for me, singing Joe McDonnell with Paul Lee, Jane Hamilton bouncing on me, giving Lynn Murphy the credit she deserved for her inspiration, seeing Billy No'Well's suit, being there the night Peter Hill became a man, kissing Sniper full on the lips, seeing Simmy pogo, mentioning Craig Whyte's name and the whole place erupting, the look on Frank Rafters face as his Guinness piled up,  Caroline Boyle asking me the best questions I've ever been asked about a book, seeing Team McGuire all happy and singing, seeing Liam dish out "The Power" and seeing the mass huddle at the end.

So it was off to bed and very little sleep, the vibe still pumping through my veins. Which probably explains why I am so exhausted now.

The Pepsi challenge of these things is always The Twitter Test the day after and the folks will let you know if they enjoyed it or their silence is a good indicator that they didn't.

Well, amount of good wishes, laced with a few hundred hangovers, indicates to me that folk had a great time.

And have started a Cheesy Pasta revival...

A year ago, I did my first book launch ever in Scotland and folk were a bit reserved at the start of the night, unsure who folk were and so on. Now, they are all just dive into it and everyone knows everyone else.

Along with promoting the book, that's the purpose of these things. Looking from the stage, I can see companies getting bigger and bonds getting stronger and I love it, that's Celtic and how it should be always.

I hope everyone there, if they haven't already, now goes out and buys the book. Because it's about them and you too.

I write about ordinary people but get support from extraordinary people.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

The curious case of David Longmuir

When Scottish football was tearing itself apart last summer because of the death of Rangers, one name to emerge unscathed was that of David Longmuir. As Regan and Doncaster pulled every stunt they could to manipulate clubs into believing Sevco had to be parachuted into the SPl, Longmuir was seen as a voice of reason by fans and pundits alike.

So what happened?

After what seemed like endless discussions, it looked like 12-12-18 was finally nailed on in January and we cxould look forward to reconstruction next season.

Then came Longmuir.

It is clear that clubs believe that Longmuir has been attempting to muddy the waters and put a negative spin on 12-12-18, a 12-12-18 he had already agreed to in princple and Falkirk have already made a statement to that effect.

So what is Longmuir playing at?

Last night, Longmuir espoused the view that Sevco has been fantastic for the SFL in terms of crowds, money, sponsorship and exposure.

If that's the case, then why, as top man in the SFL, does it appear that Longmuir is doing anything and everything he can to get them out the SFL?

It doesn't add up.

Unless you throw weight behind the theory that Longmuir is conducting a long, public interview for a job at Sevco, similar to what Jim Traynor did but with a Sports Direct Arena pie rather than succulent lamb on the menu.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Celtic Trust

Bill Hicks used to tell a joke that went along the lines of "I know how the fall of man happened. Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden and Adam turned to Eve and said 'Isn't this wonderful, we will never grow old, we will never die and all our dreams will come true the second we have them' to which Eve replied 'yeah, it's just not enough is it' "

Now obviously that's a made up scenario for a joke but I imagine that you feel like that often when you're at the top of any Celtic supporters organisation. 

One thing that has become apparent to me in the last few months has been the consistent message of The Celtic Trust. I admit, I never really knew much about The Trust outside of basic knowledge of who they are and what they do but plenty they have said has heartened me greatly.

Photos were tweeted yesterday of a protest against police harrassment at Pitt St in Glasgow. The ones I saw were from Eddue Toner. I've met Eddie on numeorus occasions and can honeslty say that if I was allowed to pick who I wanted inside Celtic Park, fighting the supporters corner, Eddie would be as good a pick as any. It's a job he done with great aplomb for the CSA but more importantly, Eddie is a guy with Celtic coarsing through his veins and has a big heart.

So anyone of Eddie's calibre at the heart of any organisation is always going to be a good thing.

I've also been mightily impressed with way The Trust have handled social media in the last few weeks. They seem to get a lot "You don't represent me" type of stuff thrown at them but you'll always get that. Sometimes though, leaders need to lead and that is what they are trying to do.

My own view on situations like that is you have to at least take the first few steps behind the leader before you start criticising them.

This blog is probably also an apology. Joining The Trust is something I was always going to get round to but never did. I'll be doing that now, just to simply support, and hopefully help in their cause of uniting the Celtic support.

Which we all know continues in George Square on Saturday at 12pm.

To join The Celtic Trust

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The April Fools

I grew up in Thatcher's Britain. When she and Nicholas Ridley sat down on day one in Downing Street, they hatched a plan. They were going to destroy the unions, starting with the printers union and ending with the National Union of Miners. People took to the streets to fight as the country was torn to pieces as a Tory government put millions on the dole whilst they fought their phoney wars and put the royals in military uniforms to show us all how "Great" Britain was.

Nothing changes.

Now one of the most evil men to ever set foot in British politics, Iain Duncan-Smith, has his destruction of the welfare state in place. As David Cameron bayonets the NHS at will. The most brutally ironic thing about all this is that it started in Easterhouse. When IDS went there, laughlingly trying to be Prime Minister, he saw the abject poverty people were living in. He saw the desperation and alienation that cloaked people like a Tsunami. He left that scene and far from thinking "I have to help these people" he actually thought "They aren't being punished enough". The Bedroom Tax, this generation's Poll Tax, will create poverty on a scale not seen since the end of World War Two. It was that poverty which saw the creation of a welfare state in Britain, under the stewardship of William Beveridge.

There was a war mentality amongst people then. In that sense that you looked after your neighbour, problems were dealt with "in-house" and you shared what you had. This was a collective of people who had been battered and bombed by Nazi planes and didn't buckle. Whilst their Queen hid in bunkers a mere 10 miles away, the east end of London was being flattened on a nightly basis. Her government eventually told her to sober up, get off her arse and show the people, the people who were being slaughtered every night, that she actually gave a fuck.

This Tory hell we are all living in doesn't come after a war, but it does come after a so-called Labour government had already started the war against the working class, the sick and the poor. It was Gordon Brown who first spoke of a bedroom tax, it was Gordon Brown who oversaw the dismantling of the Disability Living Allownance and it is Ed Milliband who has done sweet fuck all to stop it. The disgraceful abstension in the welfare reform vote by most Labour MP's tells you all you need to know about a party who are doing anything and everything to recapture "Middle England" and to hell with the rest of us. 

Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell created "New" Labour with a view that "the left" had nowhere else to go when voting so no concessions should be made to them and they were right.

Now though, we have somewhere to go.

The most important vote of our lives happens in Sep 2014. We get the chance to rid ourselves, forever, of Tory rule.

Whisper it, a YES vote will be the beginning of the end of The SNP as well.

Scotland is a left wing country. The only issues are people's definition of being left wing, but the heart is there. An independent Scotland will bring elections that will mean if you don't have policies that look after the working class, the poor, the sick, our old people, you will have no chance of getting in.

There will be a token Tory party and the SNP will scuttle around for your votes, but the emergence of proper socialism and the ideals within, is the real prize of independence.

Well that and getting rid of these April fools who are trying to "outThatcher" Thatcher.