Days like these
Tony McIvor looked at the battered old Ford Fiesta, ‘Ye think that’ll get us tae Dundee? Looks like a feckin antique.’ His good friend Johnny Mullin shook his head, ’Oh Ye of little faith! Just get in and we’ll go pick up daft arse.’ Tony had a look of mock shock on his face, ‘daft arse? That’s my brother yer talking aboot!’ He thought for a second before continuing, ‘but yer right daft as a brush.’ Johnny jumped into the driver’s seat as Tony opened the creaking door of the passenger side. The interior smelt vaguely of urine. ‘Where did ye get this dream machine?’ he said as he buckled himself into the seat. Johnny started the engine which whined into life, ‘Bought it for £250 aff a guy in Royston, a good year or two in it yet.’ Tony was less than convinced but added, ‘As long as it gets us tae Dundee, we’re not missing this game.’
They cruised down Mill Street on Glasgow’s south side heading for Tony’s brother’s place in Castlemilk. The bright May weather and Celtic’s imminent chance to seal an unexpected league title after a remarkable end to the 2007-08 season had the friends buoyed up. Tony pushed a cassette into the tape player on his left and the familiar sound of the Wolfe Tones filled the car…
‘He was me brother Sylvest, got a row of forty medals on his chest
He killed 50 bad men in the west; he knows no rest!
He’s got an arm like a leg and a punch that would sink a battle ship,
it would take all the army and the navy to put the wind up Sylvest.’
The car headed up the steep incline of Castlemilk Drive and stopped at the close where Tony’s brother Dom lived; the balcony of his second floor flat was draped with an Irish tricolour. ‘Hope yer brother’s sober, he nearly got us jailed at the last game wi the currants.’ Tony smiled, ‘I telt him if he’s oan the Don Revie he’s no coming.’ On cue Dom McIvor came out of the close, a plastic bag clearly containing alcohol. ‘Mon the Celik!’ he shouted as he came towards the car. He wanted to come along despite not having a ticket, saying he’d get in by hook or by crook. He was wearing his usual Celtic top and jeans. Tony grinned, ‘Never changes oor Dom.’ A slightly tipsy Dominik McIvor plonked himself in the back seat of the car and greeted them with a cheery smile, ‘Right boys let’s get up tae Dundee and see the Celts do the damage!’ The car pulled off and as the first ring pull was popped in the back seat. The car glided through the streets of Glasgow and headed for the M80 motorway.
Like thousands of other Celtic fans they were headed north to see if Celtic could pull off the final part of a remarkable comeback. The team had been streets behind their rivals Rangers until two victories against the Ibrox club coupled with their loss of form had seen Celtic climb to the top of the table. Now all they had to do was win this last match and the title would be theirs. As the three friends headed north they passed numerous buses and cars loaded with green clad fans. It was going to be a special night. As they neared Stirling, Dom leaned forward and said, ‘Here Johnny boy, any chance ye could stoap for a minute, am needin’ a Lillian Gish?’ Johnny smiled; he always found Dom’s ability with rhyming slang amusing. ‘Nae bother mate, there’s a layby up ahead. ‘Cheers big man, I’ll no be long, just need tae syphon the python then we’re back on the road tae Dundee.’ Tony and Johnny watched Dom head off into the bushes. They were parked less than a mile from the imposing sight of Stirling Castle which had stood on its volcanic rock for centuries. ‘Nice part of the world this,’ Johnny commented. Tam nodded, ‘Aye till some mad weegie shows up and pishes oan it.’ Johnny laughed and nodded towards Dom who was heading back towards them. ‘William Wallace country here boys, bet he’d have been a Jungle Jim if they had fitbaw back then! I could see him in the Hoops.’ With that bizarre image in their heads they were off again and heading for Dundee.
A warm spring night greeted them as they parked near Tannadice Park. Thousands of supporters were already milling about, most of them seemingly sporting the green of Celtic. ‘Right,’ Tony said, ‘We need wan mer ticket, ask at the buses and keep yer eyes opened.’ As the game came closer they had no luck. Hundreds seemed to have travelled without tickets. Dom was in magnanimous mood and said, ‘It’s no happening wi the Celtic end. I’ll head roon tae see if any the locals will part wi a Wilson Picket for their end.’ Johnny shook his head, ‘No wi the hoops oan. The cops will chase ye even if ye get wan.’ Tam took off his light jacket and gave it to his brother. ‘Zip this right up and try yer luck. If ye don’t get in we’ll get ye at the motor.’ They clubbed together a few more pounds to give Dom more bargaining power with any local with a spare ticket. ‘Good luck Dom!’ Tony shouted as his brother headed off towards the home end of the stadium.
Dom wandered among the milling throng of tangerine and black clad supporters outside the George Fox stand. He could clearly hear Glasgow accents among the crowd and the ever vigilant Police were on the lookout for Celtic supporters trying to access the Dundee United end. He approached a group of United fans who stood chatting to his left and put on what he thought was a decent Tayside accent, ‘Here pal, ye ken where any tickets are fur sale ay?’ One of them laughed out loud; ‘Where the fuck is that accent from?‘ Another smiled at Dom, ‘Good try pal but this isnae Fife.’ An older chap touched Dom’s elbow, ‘My boy didnae make it tonight, ye can come in wi me.’ Dom was about to offer him money but the grey haired man shook his head, ’Put that in yer pocket son. I might be a United supporter but I’m a Lochee man aw the same.’ Dom wasn’t quite sure how being a Lochee man made this old chap so generous but he was delighted to be getting into the match. He might have to sit on his hands for 90 minutes and keep his mouth closed but it’d be worth it if Celtic won the title.
As he took his seat among the Dundee United fans he couldn’t help but look at the packed ranks of Celtic supporters filling half the stadium. Their banners draped over the stands, their songs filling the air, it was going to be a special night. The game passed in a blur; there were chances at both ends, a good penalty shout for Celtic and a huge roar which greeted Aberdeen’s first goal against Rangers 70 miles to the north. Then on 72 minutes Celtic won a corner and Paul Hartley lined up to take it. As Dom watched the ball, a white blur, flashed across the penalty box where Celtic’s big striker Jan Venigoor of Hesselink met it with his head. The ball smashed into the net and a wall of noise swept across the pitch. It was obvious there were hundreds of Celtic fans dotted around the United stands and a few were ejected by the Police for celebrating the goal. When the game ended the old fella shook Dom’s hand. ‘Well done son, enjoy yer night.’ Dom smiled, ‘Thanks Pal, that was very good of ye.’
As the Dundee United fans drifted away hundreds of Celtic fans who had been in their end were left to join in the songs of victory filling the Tayside air. It had been a remarkable end to a remarkable season and Dom gazed across the field to the celebrating throngs of Celtic supporters taking it all in. Days like these made it all worthwhile. He unzipped his brother’s jacket to display his hooped shirt and joined in the songs of victory.