What a day…
‘Pregnant?’ Mick said incredulously looking at Sniper, ‘You’ve got yer burd up the duff?’ Sniper nodded, ‘Aye, and ye know whit, noo the shock factor has passed I’m quite excited aboot it.’ Mick looked at his friend, ‘Sniper, being a Da is a hard job, it’s no everybody’s cup of tea.’ They looked towards the door of the Pub as Barry entered, ‘Aw right fanny-baws?’ he smiled at Sniper, ‘I hear you’re no shooting blanks efter aw big man?’ Sniper smiled, a little embarrassed as Barry shook his hand, ‘Cheers Barry, wiz gonny ask wan of you two tae be the Godfather but ah canny decide who?’ Barry looked at Mick, ‘He can dress as a wumin and be Godmother and I’ll be Godfather?’ Sniper laughed and Mick responded by shaking his head, ‘You decide Sniper, just remember who was then when you needed handers yon time ye got intae a fight on the underground wi they mad drum bangers.’ Sniper smiled at the memory, ‘That wiz an epic battle Mick, broke a few flutes that day!’ Mick nodded, ‘Hard tae play the sash wi nae teeth eh?’ Barry cut in, ‘And don’t forget who got ye aff wi yer burd in the first place!’ Sniper shook his head, ‘Whit? Is it Pollok or fantasy fuckin island you live on ya tadger, Sinead was intae me fae the start.’ Barry smiled, ‘Aye but ye had nae money tae go oot the night ye met her, I gave ye forty quid!’ Sniper shook his head confused by the thought of having to choose between his two friends. ‘When’s the wee yin due?’ asked Barry. ‘Should be some time in August so plenty of time tae decide who’s doing what.’ Mick patted Sniper on the shoulder, ‘Meant tae say, congratulations mate, you’ll be a great Da,’ Sniper grinned, ‘Does that mean you don’t want the forty quid back?’
As the three friends travelled around the country following Celtic that season Sniper kept them up to date with the progress of Sinead and the growing child within her. On a trip to Kilmarnock he had them in stitches talking about sitting on the floor of the health centre hall with a dozen other couples at a pre-natal class he’d been dragged to, ‘Did ah no fart when we were getting back up? Some snobby burd drew me a look but feck it, wit kin ye dae? Better oot than in eh?’ On another trip to Aberdeen he worried them by informing them that he was thinking of having the scan picture tattooed onto his arm, ‘ Don’t be daft, ya big plonker,’ Mick had reasoned with him, ‘Wait tae the wean’s here and get their wee face or something done, no a daft scan picture that looks like fuckin E.T.’ Sniper was not pleased, ‘You saying ma wean looks like E.T ya knob?’ Barry shook his head, ‘Cool the beans big man, yer wean will be beautiful, Mick just means they scans don’t show the full picture.’ Mick changed the subject to distract Sniper, ‘I hear Martin O’Neil might be up for the Manager’s job?’ Barry nodded, ‘Hope so, this season has been a disaster.’
On a bright June day they stood outside Celtic Park with thousands of others as Martin O’Neil was confirmed as Celtic boss. The intelligent Irishman came out of the front doors to a huge roar from the assembled fans. Once things had quietened he spoke briefly to them, ‘I’ll do everything I can to bring success to the Football Club.’ Barry was happy, ‘That’s the man to sort us out, get ready for lift off now boys!’ Sniper nodded, Canny wait till we meet up wi the dark side, when are the fixtures oot for next season?’ Mick smiled, ‘Hope we don’t play them in August as you might be oan Daddy duty, when’s the wean due again?’ Sniper frowned at the possibility of missing a Rangers game, ‘15th of August but it can go a fortnight either way?’ Barry soothed his friend, ‘A long way tae go before then Sniper, be a few players in and out tae. Hope O’Neil gets a bit of cash tae spend, we need some top players tae lift the team.’ Their chat was cut short as they joined in with the crowd around them in the Celtic car park as they began to sing, ‘Martin O’Neil, Martin O’Neil, Martin O’Neil, Martin O’Neil….‘ Sniper grinned, ‘Need tae learn the words of that song eh?’
The fixture list did indeed have Celtic playing Dick Advocaat’s Rangers on August 27th. The morning of the game dawned bright and promised a sunny day ahead. Sniper had already had two false alarms with his lady and their baby. The Wednesday before the game they had rushed to the hospital at 3am only to be sent home when the contractions proved to be false. The night before the game as they shared a beer Sniper had said, ‘She better no go when I’m at the game, I mean I canny leave an Old Firm game, wean or no wean!’ Mick had advised him to do what was right and be by his woman’s side when his child took its first breath. On that bright and sunny morning Mick arrived at Barry’s house to travel over to Parkhead in his car as was their usual routine. ‘Nae Sniper yet?’ he enquired. ‘Must be still wi Sinead, he’s no happy about the chances of missing the game. She’s about 10 days over her due date.’ Barry sent Sniper a text message, ‘Leaving at 1pm, you making it?’ After what seemed like just a moment the reply arrived, ‘Does a bear shit in the Louden?’ Barry laughed showing the reply to Mick, ‘Looks like he’s coming tae the game.’
Celtic Park seethed and roared that bright August day as the teams came out. The three friends joined in a deafening rendition of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ as the teams warmed up. As Celtic entered their pre-match huddle the noise levels were ratcheted up even higher. Barry shouted through the din to Sniper, ‘Keep yer phone oan vibrate, you’ll no hear it in this racket.’ Sniper, who had promised Sinead he’d leave the game if she was in labour nodded but his mind was clearly on the football. This was it, O’Neil’s first Old Firm game. ‘Let’s put these bastards in their place,’ roared Sniper as the game kicked off amid a crescendo of noise. Celtic launched themselves at Rangers from the start and there was barely a minute on the clock when new striker Chris Sutton smashed home the first goal. The 53,000 home fans erupted in joy as the big Englishman wheeled away in delight. In the great north stand, the three friends hugged each other, ecstatic at their team’s incredible start. It got better a few moments later when Petrov met a corner from the left and powered a header into the net! Under ten minutes gone and Celtic were 2-0 ahead! Astonishingly, just a few minutes later Petta cut the ball back as Celtic players piled into the box. It reached Lambert at the edge of the box and Sniper roared ‘Shoot, Paul!’ Lambert’s low shot was perfect and the ball whizzed, a white blur, through a crowd of players to nestle in the back of the net. The stadium erupted again. There was mild hysteria among the Celtic fans. With less than 12 minutes played Celtic were 3-0 ahead! As they celebrated, Barry saw Sniper’s phone on the ground at his feet, as he handed it to his friend he couldn’t help but see the words ’12 missed calls’ displayed on the screen. Above the small text message icon was the number eight. He handed it to Sniper and shouted through the din, ‘Ye might need tae go mate?’ Sniper opened one of the text messages and looked at his friend, ‘She’s in the Royal, I need tae go! We’re gonny skelp these clowns and I need tae fuckin leave!’ Mick grabbed him by the shoulders, ‘Go mate, we’ll win this noo but you’ve got a wean on the way!’ Sniper nodded and squeezed past them. He made his way down the stairs and stopped briefly at the barrier at pitch level where he shook his fist and shouted something they couldn’t hear at a Rangers player taking a throw in. Then he headed for the exit and was lost to their sight.
Barry and Mick enjoyed the destruction of Advocaat’s Rangers that afternoon more than any game they had ever witnessed. Before that incredible game was over Celtic had smashed six goals past their ancient rivals and the two friends had sang themselves hoarse. It was a massacre, a clear and resounding signal that things had changed. There was a new top dog in Scottish football and they would take some stopping! As the crowd exited the stadium the songs of victory echoed in the warm summer air. In the distance the Police sirens wailed, a sure sign that the away fans were accepting defeat with their usual ‘dignity.’ Barry’s phone signalled a text message from Sniper, it simple read ‘Ward 22.’ The joyous green river carried Barry and Mick along the Gallowgate before they headed up John Knox Street towards the Royal Infirmary to find sniper and hopefully his new arrival. The area around the hospital seemed to be filled with grinning Celtic fans. Barry and Mick asked directions to the Maternity department and took the lift to the 3rd floor.
The hospital was eerily quiet after the noise and excitement of the day and Barry noticed that his heart, still pounding from the events at Celtic Park was at last settling down. He took a deep breath and asked at the reception desk of Ward 22 where he could find Sinead and Sniper. The nurse smiled, obviously she remembered the big man well. ‘Last room on the left.’ As they approached the room Sniper’s Dad and mum were coming out the door. ‘Aw right lads,’ said Sniper’s grey haired father, ‘Great result today eh?’ Barry shook his hand with a grin, ‘Great stuff Mr Reilly but you got a better result in there I hope.’ Sniper’s Dad grinned, ‘Oh the wean? Aye grand, but six-two, six fuckin two!’ His wife a diminutive woman tutted; ‘Celtic oan the brain you and yer boy!’ The older man smiled, ‘Never mind her lads, wee currant bun that she is! In the huff cause she’s a granny an aw!’ Sniper’s parents left for a smoke in the warm August air and Barry pushed the door of the small room gently open. Sniper sat on the bed beside a tired looking but clearly delighted Sinead who held a tiny sleeping child in her arms. ‘Come in boys,’ he grinned. They approached the bed and Mick hugged his friend, ‘Sniper ma man, I feel like greetin.’ Barry kissed Sinead lightly on the cheek before looking at the baby who was dressed in a blue baby-grow. ‘A wee boy eh? That’s fantastic Sinead, well done.’ Sinead smiled, a little wearily, and held the child out for Barry to hold. Barry could feel the tears welling as he rocked the sleeping infant, barely 3 hours old, in his arms. ‘Amazing Sniper, just amazing.’ ‘Born at 11 minutes past 3’ said Sniper, came intae this world as Lambert smashed that third goal in so I think we’ll be calling him Paul?’ Sinead nodded, ‘Sounds good tae me.’ Barry passed the baby to Sniper and the big rough Glaswegian held his son with a gentleness they hadn’t seen before from him. Mick looked at his friend holding the baby, ‘What a day, what a fuckin day!’ A lazy tear rolled down his cheek.