Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hiding behind the Rodgers mask

So tickets for the Hydro are sold out then. That doesn't surprise in all honesty. Celtic were aiming at a certain demographic and had them well prepped for today. I said on HomeBhoys on Tuesday that I was completely underwhelmed by the whole event. In all honesty I have been completely underwhelmed by the whole 50th anniversary celebrations where I've seen nothing that wasn't about monetising it. I know there is a bus parade planned for May 28th but that is treble dependent.

I'd have loved to have seen the club put on exhibitions and talks at the park all season. Instead we were offered the chance to pay to see Jim Craig. There is a raft of Lisbon related stuff out there in the hands of serious Celtic collectors (Some of which I have been privileged to see) and I know thousands of fans would love it. (It would even drive them to the park and give them the CHOICE of buying stuff)

I appreciate the fact the club will monetise some stuff and I would like to buy good, quality stuff around the time but I feel we have missed a massive trick this season in not taking the opportunity to really imprint Lisbon in the minds of our younger fans.

The Hydro event is not my cup of tea. I'm a fan of Madchester and Hip-Hop so the musical side of it was never going appeal to a guy like me. I'd hazard an educated guess that it won't to most of the Celtic away support either and therein lies the problem. Communication and knowing your base. I know you are shouting now saying "But it's sold out!" and that's because, as I already said, there is a demographic in the Celtic support that will lap it up and they have but don't tell me this is an event that appeals to all.

There did seem to be a seismic change in thinking this time last year in terms of communicating with the support. A resolution was even passed at the AGM to enshrine forums into the fabric of the club. A little background now, I attended forums from late 2014 until they abruptly stopped with very little achieved. They weren't really forums either, they were Q&A's that occasionally got heated. Some people I spoke to spoke of their intention of changing club policy on certain things. I always chuckled inside at that notion. In all my years of dealing with Celtic, going to meetings and forums, the vast majority of it has been people making points, Celtic nodding their heads and then absolutely nothing happening.

A quick recent example: I knew the Brian Wilson story was coming a few weeks ago. I relayed this to Celtic. Nothing happened. I mentioned this to an employee on the day it broke and was told "You always bring us bad news"

Similarly, I did raise concerns re the Hydro that a certain part of the support was not being represented within the talent on show that night. I was given good reasons for the acts and I really do appreciate it's not easy pulling a line up together but maybe if that had been communicated to the support early, they could have helped?

A lot of things have gone right at Celtic this season and Brendan Rodgers has been responsible for most of them. This cannot mean however that communications go back to the dark ages just because we are winning every week again.

It also should not mean that with the two biggest games of the season coming up, folk who go week in, week out are struggling for tickets. After all, we were told back in October that the ticket system was changing , right? What happened to that then? I know there was resistance to change but has it now been quietly swept under the carpet?

Celtic do get a lot of things right, this is not just a grumpy old man piece, the Celtic Foundation continues to be a beacon of hope, the tributes and support for Tommy Gemmell and Billy McNeill were outstanding and Celtic TV is getting better and better (something I can testify to recently) Brendan's Invincibles continue to please also.

They just need to make sure that the people who stick by the club in the bad times, aren't forgotten in the good.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A tale of two former politicians

It was with great sadness this morning that I received the news of Martin McGuinness passing. I remember reading in a book in the early 90's that "No person was a greater threat to the British state" than Martin McGuinness. All the while he was paving the way for a peace process that could not have worked without his input. A lot of that included things that stuck in the throat of Republicans, none more so than meeting Elizabeth Windsor, but I always got the feeling that Sinn Fein were taking their lead from the A.N.C. handbook. I met him once. January 2000 at the Vol. Tom Williams re-burial in Belfast. What struck me more than most about him was how tall he was (I guess standing next to Gerry Adams for so long would make anyone look small) He put up with numerous threats over the years to keep the process going but always remained calm. The most remarkable feature of his life had to be his friendship with Ian Paisley. This led to one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in Irish politics, Ian Paisley Jr thanking him for his contribution to Ireland and his friendship to his father. With that statement, I saw a dawn of light on the road to peace and eventual reunification and Martin McGuinness played an enormous role in that.

It was with utter dismay this morning that I read Brian Wilson label half of Scotland bigots. Accusing Nationalists of trying to "sectarianise Scottish politics"  The nonsensical rhetoric, spawned out of his hatred of the SNP, should be the end of his association with Celtic. I've watched Brian polarise on twitter for the last few years and cringed at the insults he has given out to fellow Celtic supporters. The fact that this man takes £25,000 a year out of Celtic both mystifies and angers me. I was appalled to hear that he would be chairing the latest Celtic forum and made my feelings known to Celtic which fell on deaf ears. I'm not a Scottish Nationalist nor am I a SNP voter. In fact my politics are very similar to Brian's before he sold his soul to New Labour. I've no personal grudge to bear and care only about Celtic and the supporters in this thing and both are being cheated by this man. When a man brands half the country bigots, he should not be welcome at Celtic.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Down Under 2.0

I was leaving on the 8.10am flight to Abu Dhabi on Valentine's Day from Edinburgh. Disappointing lots of women obviously (When they realised I wasn't leaving for good), the flight to middle east was fairly uneventful. I had a two hour turnaround and made for the Duty Free with the intention of buying cheap booze and cheap fags to spread around my genial hosts. "Can I see your boarding card please Sir?" I was asked as I looked like I was stocked up for a council house party. "I'm sorry, you are only permitted to enter Australia with 500ml of alcohol and 50 cigarettes"  I'd find out why later.

A few folk have asked me what the flight to Australia is like and the brutal honesty is, it is boring as fuck. Especially as Etihad were tighter than a dead heat when it came to bevvy dispersal. I get bored watching films on those tiny screens on planes and never find the setting convivial to book reading either. On arrival, due to having a visa, I breezed through immigration and was met by two friendly faces at Sydney Airport, Jim Reilly and Ron Dorran, the latter would be putting me up. Jim drove and seemed set to take us to the shores of Botany Bay before Ronnie put him right on directions. We stopped at a boozer near Ron's and I discovered the full extent of the Duty Free scam, it was $11 a pint and $30 for a packet of fags.

(I'll pause for a minute there as I know a few regular readers will need to sit down after reading those numbers)

Ronnie, and his lovely wife Cath, have a great place in Sydney in an area known as "The Spot" and I settled in right away ("There's the pub, the cafe, the bookies and the cinema"). Ron and Cath were incredible hosts. Whether it was lovely meals, incredible stories or even just a comfy bed, I loved my time there. My mind started freeing up, stresses were disappearing and I was very relaxed. That was all down to Ron and Cath.

I also got to spend a lot of time with the bold Jim Reilly, the man who can tell six stories at once using voice skills that a ventriloquist would marvel at.

The screening itself was great. Good crowd and a lot of laughs.

I had initially meant to have been in Brisbane for a gig after Sydney but about three weeks before I was to leave, they got in touch with the tour organiser in Australia to say they were out. The flip side was this gave me time to head up the country and stay with Steff and Sharon Gilmartin for a four days. What a riot. We were sitting up drinking one night and Steff says to me "What time will you be up tomorrow?" I retorted "Eh, 9 or 10 maybe?" he says "Ah we would have taken you to Tits on Toast at half 6" I waited for the punchline but none came. He was serious. We had a good laugh about this notion that topless waitresses served you scrambled eggs on toast and I went to bed around 2am.

I was awoken with my name being repeated over and over again and realised it was Steff calling me telling me my breakfast was ready. I ambled upstairs and was met with the bold yin standing, holding toast, stark bollock naked.

From there it was off to Melbourne and to stay with Australia's most hated man, Sean Fitzgerald. That's not true of course but if you ever have some spare time, just mention Sean's name on Facebook and his fan club are sure to appear.

What a week in Melbourne, looked after by he and his lovely wife, Maeve, amidst the backdrop of a stressful time for them both, I can't be more thankful to them. Sean has been a friend for many years and just chilling over one or twenty four beers with him is always good.

The screening was in St Kilda, as beautiful a setting as you'll find, and was great. It was a big, lively crowd and a great time was had by all.

From Melbourne it was on to Perth and met at the airport, in blistering heat, by club President Andy Gordon. Andy is one of those guys you meet that drives a club forward. Normally clubs are lucky to have one guy like that but Perth actually has loads, male and female. From Cathie taking the money at the door to Davy providing the fun and frolics, you can't go wrong in Perth. You also have hardcore Tims like Paddy McConie who keep you laughing day and night.

Then you meet guys like Stuart Campbell and the strong Celtic heart makes you feel at home.

Perth was a real chill for me. It allowed me to write and take stock of a few things. The tour was absolutely flying and I had had a brilliant time in Australia. I was feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin and the support I am getting is now incredible.

Australia is a huge beating Celtic heart.

This was summed up after I left Perth, had an eight hour layover in Sydney and Jim Kinlan travelled two hours on the train to come in and keep me company for a few hours.

Things like that are what matter in life and the more you experience them, the more you love life.

I experienced loads of them in Australia.


PS The guy I am with in the picture at the top is Paul Kane, a gentleman and brother of the late Martin "Kano" Kane.