Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

He walked purposely across the empty hall his footsteps echoing as he went. In an hour or two the hall would be full and there would be much persuading, cajoling and no doubt arguing to be done. Tonight was the night they decided on the name of the club and the direction it would take. He knew the factions well; there were those who wanted a Glasgow Hibernians to mimic the Edinburgh side but there was no way he would be going down the exclusivist route. Much as he admired what the Hibernians had achieved theirs was not a template he would follow. Yes, the lads he had in mind to launch the club would be drawn mostly from the Irish Catholic community but once the club was secure there would be a mixed team. The team would come to mirror the society it played in. There would be nothing to gain from being exclusive, best leave that to others if they so choose. He reached his small room at the back of the hall in East Rose Street. He would write out the club’s mission and read it to the assembled community tonight. As he moved towards his desk he caught a glimpse of himself in the dusty wooden framed mirror by the window. He looked old and tired. The years of toil in Glasgow’s east end had taken their toll. He allowed himself a small smile and mumbled the old Jesuit phrase which reminded him of why he was here among the poor in the first place; ‘Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.’ The Jesuits wouldn’t mind a Marist borrowing their motto…’To the greater glory of God.’ It was, after all, why they were all working in the poorest parts of the world.

As he sat at his desk and thought of the words he would write, a spider scurried for cover behind some books. Something about it stirred a memory from long ago and his childhood in County Sligo, he stared into space, his mind lost somewhere in a past long gone…

The glistening web of a wolf spider, heavy with dew clung to the reeds. The light of a new dawn shone through the strands of the web casting a shimmering kaleidoscope of colours. It was as if the spider had set out to snare a rainbow. The child, barely 5 years old lay on the damp grass watching it intently, mesmerised by its beauty. A gentle breeze caused the web to sway gently before his young eyes. He felt as much a part of this land as the spider or the birds greeting the new day with their chorus. All of his short life his grandmother had whispered or sung to him in the old tongue, the folk tales of their ancient land. She has passed them onto him as they sat by the turf fire on wild winter’s days when the trees bent in the westerly wind. She had poured them into his drowsy head as she rocked him to sleep at night. She had sung to him the ancient tale of the Children of Lir who had been changed into swans by their father’s jealous second wife and destined to remain that way until the sound of a Christian bell was heard in the land. She had told him of Dagda’s Harp which had the power to make men weep, laugh or even sleep at its sound. She had also taught him respect for the land and all the creatures which drew life from it. ‘Listen to me sweet child,’ she’d say, ‘everything has a spirit. The rocks, the pools, the hills and trees, all are woven into the very pattern of life. When men forget this truth disaster usually follows.’ Even as a small child he understood something of her wisdom. A slight movement of the web made the child tilt his head slightly, a smile of anticipation crossing his lips as he saw the spider emerge from its hiding place. A small fly was struggling on the lower part of the web and in its vain attempts to free itself had merely hastened its demise. A voice broke into his silent world, ‘Andrew, where are you?’ He raised himself onto his knees and glanced back towards his family’s small cottage. He could see his mother’s familiar form glancing to her left and right looking for him with a worried look on her face. ‘Andrew!’ she called again, this time louder. He stood and faced her, seeing her relief as she realised he was safe. She strode towards him and knelt by him pulling him close, ‘You need to stop leaving the cottage before we’re awake. The bog can be a dangerous place for a child. Whatever are you thinking?’ She swept him up in her arms and headed back towards the house, ‘Come now, you’re father and brother are waiting.’ Andrew glanced over her shoulder and smiled at the spider’s web. He’d return to look at it again one day soon.

The following day Andrew had joined his father and brother Bernard on a journey to the small market in Ballymote. His mother waved them off before turning to the many chores a country woman had to attend to. Not least of which was caring for her old and increasingly frail mother who had lived with then in their cramped little cottage for the past year. Their small cart was loaded with the meagre produce his father had grown with much effort and they needed to sell it at the market so that the landlord could have his rent. So many had been turned out onto the road in recent times and some had even been forced to watch as their humble homes were destroyed by the landlord’s agents. Young Andrew sat in the back of the cart among the cabbages and carrots as it lurched along the rutted roads and tracks to the town. They had barely gone a mile when his father stopped the cart and stared in silence at a field to his right. Andrew followed his father’s gaze and saw a group of perhaps eight or nine haggard figures, dressed in rags scavenging like crows in the rutted field. At least four of the wraith-like figures were children but they were so painfully thin and their long, unkempt hair covered much of their faces as they dug in the muddy turnip field with their bare hands. One of the skeletal adults let out a guttural cry as he had managed to drag a turnip from the unforgiving ground. The others flocked to him as he beat the turnip on a rock and attempted to bite into the hard, raw surface. Andrew looked at his father and saw that he was greatly troubled by what he was witnessing.

At the edge of the field, barely 10 yards from their cart, something drew Andrew’s attention. He was surprised to see the emaciated figure of a small girl, younger than he was but painfully thin and haggard. Her eyes, dark, emotionless pools regarded him. He clothing was little more than a piece of rough sackcloth wrapped around her and tied with a thin piece of rope. Her feet, bare and thick with dirt, stood in a gathering puddle as she continued to watch Andrew with dark, hungry eyes. Instinctively he reached in to one of sacks of carrots his father had loaded onto the cart and took out a bright orange carrot. He threw it towards the child and it landed in the mud at her feet but she didn’t move, she just continued to watch him. Andrew’s father turned to him and gently rebuked him… ‘Andrew, I know you mean well but no more. If we give all our food away we will be joining those poor wretches. It breaks my heart son but these are dark times. They are in God’s hands now. For sure as the sun rises men have abandoned them.’ He sat down again in the cart and with a flick of the reins set the donkey pulling it again along the road. ‘But Father, they’re hungry?’ he had intoned. His father stared grimly ahead, perhaps determined that his little family wouldn’t be joining the increasingly desperate groups of starving and dispossessed people who haunted the countryside in these cruel times. Andrew turned and watched the girl as she receded into the distance behind the cart. She had still not moved and stood like a barely living statue by the roadside. He knew that his conscience would imprint this sight onto his mind forever and was in his own childlike way as troubled as his father by what they had witnessed. He mumbled a soft ‘sorry,’ which she would never, could never hear.

Andrew Kerins exhaled and dragged his mind back from 1840s Sligo to the pressing business at hand. As he began to write he forced his mind to blank out for a few moments other desperate images of the black years of the great hunger which crowded his consciousness. What he had witnessed on that day long ago on the road to Ballymote was just a foretaste of the horrors to come. Sometimes thoughts of those times could overwhelm him and he would weep in the darkness of the night as he thought of the emaciated children tumbled into mass graves with neither coffin nor shroud. Sometimes it was the wailing of mothers with nothing to feed their crying offspring with. God how that cry haunted him still… For now though he must put such thoughts out of his mind. Tonight’s meeting was of vital importance and he needed to find the right words for his audience. He had grasped quickly the potential for the new sport to raise much needed money to help the poor around him in Glasgow. People were willing to pay to watch a good side play and there was no denying that his flock needed a symbol, a source of identity and pride. Most of his close associates felt as he did that their new club shouldn’t go down the temperance or strictly Catholic route. In the longer term this was wise as was his choice of name. ‘Yes, that name had a ring to it,’ he thought to himself; ‘Celtic.’

He began to write and the words seemed to flow from his pen…

 ‘A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and the unemployed…’





Friday, 18 April 2014

When you walk through a storm

Watching the magnificent Kenny Dalglish snap up a half chance and clip it into the net was something those of us of a certain vintage had seen on many occasions over the years. On 30th April 1989 he did it again but this time it was under the most extraordinary of circumstances. He was wearing the red of Liverpool and had brought his magnificent team to Glasgow to play in a benefit game for the families of those lost in the Hillsborough tragedy. That Celtic had held out the hand of friendship to a team and a city in great pain was a gesture which fills me with pride as a Celtic fan.

Certain images of that sunny day 25 years ago remain etched into my mind. I recall standing beside two Liverpool fans in the old Jungle that day, a father and son. Neither could stop the tears as the whole stadium boomed out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ The older man put his arm around his son’s shoulders as they sang along with the rest of us. His eyes were closed but the sheer emotion in his voice spoke volumes about the depth of pain the city of Liverpool was going through in those dark times. I remember thinking of all the families unable to stand together at a football game again after the appalling events at Hillsborough.

Another moment from that day which is still fresh within my mind is the impeccably respected minute of silence before the game began. Players and officials stood in a circle in the centre of the field as 60,000 people joined them in remembering the lost. We were all Liverpool fans that day, all standing shoulder to shoulder with a suffering city and telling them that they really wouldn’t walk this road alone. Thatcher’s policies may have ripped the heart out of so many of the great industrial cities of the UK but the spirit  Liverpool and Glasgow exemplified that day was undefeated.  This was the sort of solidarity decent working class communities had always shown each other in times of tragedy.

Of course nothing can assuage the pain of those who lost loved ones. We can offer a shoulder or a helping hand but they must go through life and learn somehow to smile again. We rightly demand justice and truth and at long last the edifice of official lies and cover up now seems to be crumbling. The pain caused by the disgraceful reporting of events at Hillsborough in those early months after the tragedy to a people already traumatised by the loss of loved one is beyond comprehension. It was another bitter lesson in how the establishment protects itself with lies, disinformation and worthless reports. We saw it after Bloody Sunday and we saw it again after Hillsborough where Police briefed the gutter press to portray the fans as out of control drunken, louts. That some obliged is to their eternal shame.

It’s now almost 25 years since that match was played between Celtic and Liverpool and the face of football in these islands has changed dramatically. Stadia are now all seated and much safer places to watch football. Fans are no longer treated like cattle and are much more able to articulate their feelings to clubs and the wider society via social media outlets undreamt of in 1989. The unique circumstances and official incompetence which led to the Hillsborough tragedy are unlikely to occur again in the UK. A chapter will close when the truth is told at last about the events of that day but for those families involved there can be no forgetting, just the quiet satisfaction of knowing that justice will now hopefully be done.

The people of Liverpool have walked through a storm and I’m proud to say that Celtic and its supporters walked some of the way with them.

Rest in Peace the 96. You’ll never be forgotten.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

No one likes us, we don’t care…
Big Kevin isn’t a man to be trifled with. Standing well over six foot tall with a physique sculpted by years of hard, physical labour on the roads, he isn’t a man who suffers fools gladly. He’s also a straight talking guy and it was nice bumping into him recently. ‘How are your boys?’ I asked, ‘Still playing football?’ He nodded, ‘Aye, I was watching them this morning and a guy came up and said he was scouting for a club, ‘asked if the boys could go train with them.’ I smiled encouragingly, ‘Good stuff. What did you say?’ Big Kevin shook his head, ‘I asked what club and the guy said Rangers.’ Before I could ask the obvious question the big man continued, ‘I told him to fuck off, no way any of my boys will be joining that shower.’  Big Kevin’s jaundiced view of the team inhabiting Ibrox Stadium isn’t uncommon among Celtic fans. I asked myself if I’d be happy watching one of my boys wearing their strip and came to a similar conclusion.

The following day I watched the Scottish Cup Semi Final between Dundee United and the artist formerly known as Rangers. I must confess, like all Celtic fans, that I wanted United to win. The singing from some of the supporters in blue reminded me why. Even before a ball had been kicked thousands of voices echoed around the stadium singing….

‘Hullo, Hullo we are the Billy Boys,

Hullo, Hullo you’ll know us by our noise

We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood,

Surrender or you’ll die

For we are the Bridgeton Derry boys.’

Those of you well versed in Glasgow’s history will know that the Billy Boys were a Fascist street gang in the 1920s and 30s who used violence to further their racist and anti -Catholic agenda. That modern Scots feel it’s proper to sing such songs in 2014 is as depressing as it is bewildering. We stand on the cusp of this ancient nation deciding whether to leave the United Kingdom and some seem stuck in a time warp of absurd proportions. It may well be that some sing such songs out of pent up rage about events at Ibrox over the past few years and the complete lack of sympathy from Scottish football fans outside the blue bubble. Nothing unites like having a common enemy and Dundee United fans exemplified this with chants of ‘You’re not Rangers anymore!’ However, there can be no excuse for the sort of bile I and probably hundreds of thousands of others heard on Saturday. You really have to ask where were the Police as thousands sang…’We hate Celtic, Fenian Bastards?’ When viewed against the virtual persecution of the Green Brigade the lack of media attention or even comment on Saturday’s bigotry is perplexing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if these songs were aimed at Muslims, Jews or black people,  there would be a major outcry. Is it not worth mentioning in the press just because it’s only the ‘Fenians’ being abused?

Some things can’t just be cured by passing laws seeking to eradicate them. The UK has some of the most comprehensive anti-racist legislation in the world and yet it isn’t hard to find people in our society expressing racist attitudes. The law sets the threshold of what is acceptable in a society but the real answer to eradicating such attitudes is education and the general population shunning those who practice such bigotry as thick and vulgar. In much the same way as drink driving was once accepted as the norm for some until attitudes were changed by advertising, law enforcement and people actually realising its true cost. In terms of sectarian sentiments being expressed at football, we have the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. This rushed through, ill thought out and rather unnecessary piece of legislation has caused more problems than it has solved. Existing laws would have dealt with any situation arising if the Police simply enforced them.

It seems as if our press and TV media don’t have the stomach to take on the bigots who pollute our air with their poisonous attitudes. They’ll trot out the ‘Two sides of the same coin’ argument, blame it on Catholic schools or otherwise fail to meet the problem for what it is; Poisonous, insidious bigotry which has no place in a modern, educated country. There is no excuse for it, it is simply wrong. The silence from the media and politicians is deafening.  

I can understand big Kevin’s point of view when it came to rebuffing the Rangers scout. Just as he’d understand my view that it was best they lost that game so that our showcase cup final day isn’t turned into another festival of bigotry. It may well be that many who follow the new club hate this stuff as much as I do but they really must speak up against the bile which so pollutes their club or risk being viewed as tacitly supporting it. It may be that some are beyond redemption but the children who sat among that poison on Saturday deserve a better example.

No one likes us, we don’t care’ they sing…. Is it any wonder?

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Lies we tell ourselves…
A work colleague approached me one day and surprised me by asking if I ‘Supported people in Africa catching aids.’ I could see how agitated she was and despite being utterly mystified about what the hell she was talking about, I kept calm and replied, ‘Of course not, why do you ask?’ She then handed me a ‘SCIAF’ (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund) sticker she had removed from a child’s school jumper. ‘Then why are you supporting an organisation which refuses to give out condoms?  Taken aback doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. I had a SCIAF ‘Wee Red Box’ on my desk which children popped their coppers in to support the schools, hospitals, pre-natal clinics and the host of other good works SCIAF does in Africa. In return the children took a sticker which they wore with pride. A worthy and worthwhile cause I had thought and now I was presented with a colleague who had obviously been mightily annoyed by a SCIAF sticker in a non-denominational school. Her line of argument was so narrow and so obviously linked to the second word in the charity’s name that I was genuinely surprised at her vehemence. I told her in the politest of terms why it was good to support that charity and the others we helped throughout the school year. She had displayed such ignorance of what the charity actually does and focused instead on the only negative she could think up. She barely spoke to me after that episode. It was a lesson in how our innate prejudices can affect behaviour.

Social Dominance Theory describes a mode of thought which, among other things, uses what it calls legitimising myths to maintain existing social hierarchies. These ‘Legitimising myths’ usually take the form of stereotypical or insulting ideas about groups in society which dominant groups claim explain their low position in society or the need to keep them in ‘their place.’ Many groups have historically suffered from prejudice which, based on such legitimising myths, allowed ruling groups to maintain control. For instance, African Americans, along with all new recruits, were subjected to IQ tests when joining the US Army in World War 2 and the results suggested they were significantly less intelligent than the average white G.I. Of course this was patent nonsense as modern scholars looked at the tests and found them culturally unrelated to African American experience. They also found huge bias in collating results. They concluded that the test merely served to reinforce existing prejudice and offer some legitimacy to ongoing segregationist ideas then popular in some sectors of American society. It seems when we humans want to believe something enough, we will. By now you’ll be asking yourself what the hell has all of this to do with Celtic or football?

You will of course be aware of legitimising myths in our own society. Just as the Irish migrants to Scotland were once derided by some as dirty, drunken, disloyal, superstitious, disease carrying and lazy, etc.’ So too some of the new arrivals in Scotland face similar charges from a small minority of our less enlightened citizens. It can be bitterly ironic to hear a Scot with an Irish surname describe new arrivals using the same terminology others used about his or her grandparents in the past. In some ways this made Leigh Griffiths recent sing song all the more silly as he supports a club founded by migrants and plays for another with similar roots. But if we dislike stereotypes and seek more objectivity in our debates then we must also look to ensure we don’t practice the same type of mythology in our understanding of other groups. For instance, Marco Negri is alleged to have given the following interview to an Italian magazine (unnamed) about his time at Rangers…

Marco Negri Interview :

L.B. - Luigi Bruno (Interviewer)

M.N. - Marco Negri

L.B. - ' Marco, you left Rangers under very strange circumstances, why was that?'

M.N.-'Strange? There was nothing strange in anything that happened there, they simply did not want me there any longer'.

L.B.- 'Why was that?'

M.N.- ' The honest answer is that I didn't know then and I still don't know even today. Nobody ever explained why I had fallen out of favour.'

L.B.- ' Your goal record at Rangers was fantastic and when fit and available you were scoring for fun. I, and many others still do not understand why you left under a cloud'.

M.N.- 'Let's just say you are getting very close to why I think that I was frozen out. Scotland is a very claustrophobic place where everything is examined and analyzed endlessly. Scottish society is in many ways a backward place'.

L.B. - 'What do you mean by that?'

M.N. - ' The culture, the underlying culture of Rangers was not good. The first team players had a habit of drinking vast amounts of alcohol during the week. As you know here in Italy we have a different culture as professional footballers. We know that it is our duty to keep ourselves fit and healthy.
Some of the players there like Paul Gascoigne and Andy Goram would turn up smelling of drink before training!! I could not understand why such behaviour was tolerated by Walter Smith who was manager then'.

L.B.- ' Marco we are well aware of Paul Gascoigne's problems and it is sad to see his decline, we saw it earlier at Lazio. Are you saying that the players were out of control?'

M.N.- ' Absolutely, I tried to point this out to Walter Smith several times but he became very defensive and said that I needed to understand Scottish footballing culture. He would hear no criticism of Goram and especially Gascoigne who could literally do anything he wanted to and still get away with it! It wasn't just their drinking however, they had some really extreme political and religious views'.

L.B.- ' Could you elaborate on this please?'.

M.N. - ' Of course. They hated Catholics. All of them. I never understood why they were so filled with hatred. Several of us who were Catholic players and all foreigners were told upon arrival, never to bless ourselves at Ibrox as it could cause problems for us. I began to understand that Rangers was an extreme club very similar to Lazio here in Italy. You know, a right wing club with right wing supporters. I personally am not a practicing Catholic but my wife Anna Maria is, and it used to cause me pain when I heard what they said about my fellow Catholics. Lorenzo Amoruso and Jorg Albertz, just kept quiet and kept their heads down'

L.B.- ' What finally brought things to a head?'

M.N.- ' I was rapidly disillusioned by Rangers and especially their supporters. As part of my professional duties I was strongly encouraged to attend social functions which meant going to several Rangers supporters clubs. The last one I attended really brought home to me the fact that I had nothing in common with these people. The anti-Catholic feeling was venomous and the songs they sang that evening filled me with disgust. It was at that point I decided not to give my all for a club that condoned such behaviour. I went sick. Walter Smith knew the real reason for my 'illness' and he just ignored it. But I wasn't lying, I was sick, sick of Rangers and sick of what they stood for and that is the truth'

A very powerful and compelling interview, but despite being printed and reprinted on Celtic websites, not one single person has ever posted a link to its source or proved it to be anything other than a complete fabrication. I really don’t know if it is fake or not but have searched extensively online for the roots of this ‘interview’ without success. If it is genuine then I’d be glad to see it in its original context but my instinct is that it's fake. But the point is that many accept it as genuine without the need for proof as it fits into their pre-existing ideas of what life was like at Rangers FC in the late 1990s. I have seen it quoted often without the merest suggestion that it may be a fabrication.

As a support, we Celtic fans often have to endure the sort of mud-slinging and twisted reporting which has led many of us to despise elements of the Scottish sporting media. We expect it from hate sites such as the laughably bigoted ‘If you know their history,’ a site maintained by a sad individual who collects every negative snippet of news he can find on Celtic or Celtic fans, true or not and posts it as part of his ‘legitimising myth’ that whole groups in society are scum. No attempt is made at critical appraisal or judgement of these tales. They simply serve the function of legitimising the petty hatreds of certain individuals. The lack of any reasoned or balanced debate makes the whole project worthless and undermines the whole point of it.

We must also accept that we too may be guilty of stereotyping at times. We all know, work with or even share our lives with followers of Rangers and know most of them not to be knuckle dragging, Neanderthal bigots nor in the new phrase I see banded about; ‘Klan.’ Yes, there is clearly a problem with an uneducated group described by Journalist Graham Speirs as a ‘white under-class’ which attaches itself to Rangers but they are very much a minority.
No one is for a moment exonerating the disgraceful policies of Rangers football club which between 1872-1989, had played just 14 Catholic players who amassed just 25 years of service between them. I put that into context by reminding you that someone like Danny McGrain has himself served Celtic FC longer than those 14 players combined served Rangers. The sins of the past are rightly Rangers to bear and some will never forgive their attitudes or actions. Nor can we forget the massed choirs at Ibrox over the years pouring out their despicable songs. However, there can be no legitimacy to any condemnation if some of our own behave in a similar way. We can become deaf to some of the sentiments expressed by some in our own support and there lies the root of hypocrisy. It does us good to consider how others see us, to take a different perspective. I guess that is the whole point of this article; to remind us of Celtic’s founding principles and encourage us to be sporting, fair minded and above all not to allow hatred to warp our perceptions. We all have a duty to guard our club’s reputation.

Thankfully, Celtic FC, an ideal unashamedly born into the Irish-Catholic community, had an integrated team from its earliest years. I wouldn’t support the club if it wasn’t so. The vast majority of Celtic fans I’ve interacted with over the years in person or online have been rational and decent people. Of course there are the exceptions to the rule who through ignorance, bitter personal experience of wrong-headed parenting were taught or learned to hate but they were very few. The great majority can see through the stereotypes and myths and realise that we are all individuals and not labels. If Scottish football and indeed Scottish society is to improve in the years ahead then we all need start thinking for ourselves and making judgements based on our common sense and not any irrational prejudice. I have faith that the vast majority of you reading this will feel that way too. It is of course the right way, the best way and in my opinion, the Celtic way.







Monday, 7 April 2014

Shape up or ship out
Having defended Leigh Griffiths over his ‘Hearts are going bust’ chanting in an Edinburgh pub, it’s only natural to respond to the latest tabloid frenzy over the alleged racist chanting which Griffiths is said to have instigated. My knee jerk reaction to the story was to assume it was a typical tabloid distraction from the latest Sevco disaster. Yesterday’s Ramsden’s Cup final came replete with the usual distasteful singing as well as scenes of violent disorder in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh which only ended when police ‘kettled’ a large group of Sevco fans. As Mr McCoist’s dismal cup record reached a new low it seemed as if the gutter press were indulging in the usual smokescreen to mask what is now surely a crisis at Ibrox.

Video footing purporting to show Griffiths leading a pub full of Hibs fans in a chant of ‘Rudi Skacel is a fucking refugee’ was posted on the Daily Record’s webpage and although a good lawyer could argue that it is inconclusive in terms of Griffiths’ actual words, it’s clearly not one of Leigh’s more sensible moments. I have noticed on social media a tendency from some to try and excuse the chant in terms of what exactly constitutes ‘racism’ and why there was no mention of the distasteful chanting at the Ramsden’s Cup Final. Such arguments shouldn’t distract us from the fact that Leigh Griffiths appears to be a young man who needs to learn what representing Celtic FC entails.  Every player who pulls on those Hooped shirts is an ambassador for Celtic and should bear that in mind. In a world where almost everyone has access to a phone which can film events in seconds and have it posted on YouTube in minutes, he really must think about the consequences of his actions.
A good way to judge the behaviour of any individual action is to reverse the situation and consider how you would react if the abuse was aimed at you or yours. You may recall the less enlightened among the Rangers support chanting ‘Lubo’s a Gypsy’ at Lubomir Moravcik some years back. It was distasteful and sadly typical of some in our society. Griffiths alleged behaviour in that Edinburgh pub was similar in its content and has to be viewed as similarly dumb. He seems to be a young man who enjoys being one of the lads but his modicum of ‘fame’ and his position as a professional footballer playing for Celtic means he needs to do some growing up and fast.

Neil Lennon and perhaps even Peter Lawwell will be having words with Leigh Griffiths. No doubt his Manager may adopt the manner of an older man who has made some mistakes himself in his time but Lennon should make Griffiths’ well aware of his duties as a Celtic player. As a young man Neil was no angel on or off the field but I think it’s safe to say Lennon has learned, particularly about the distorting power of the media. Most of you reading this will be familiar with the tactics and attitudes used by the worst elements of the tabloid media and their attempts to drag Celtic’s name through the gutter. Griffiths needs to be told in no uncertain manner that he should give these people no excuse whatsoever to write about anything other than his football. It may be that the SFA, who so ludicrously charged him over the silly but essentially harmless ‘Hearts are going bust’ jibe will look into this new and more serious allegation and Griffiths may have to face the music.  

It is tempting to think of what the likes of Jock Stein would say to a young player like Leigh Griffiths.  Griffiths is a talented footballer as his record clearly shows but Big Jock would no doubt have took him to one side and told him in earthy miner’s language, ‘Cut it out son or you’ll be feeling my boot on your arse.’ We live in different times now so perhaps Neil Lennon will be reminding Griffiths if he wants to have a future at Celtic and fulfil his potential at Celtic he really must think before he acts. It really is a case of shape up or ship out.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Who guards the guards?

                                                    Who Guards the Guards?

It was interesting to see the response to Leigh Griffiths' sing song with his fellow Hibs fans in the pub before the recent Edinburgh Derby match. Here we had a working class lad joining his mates for a beer and engaging in the sort of tribal chanting we have all joined in on many times. Big games don’t start at kick off time they start as soon as you wake up on the day with that excitement in the pit of your stomach. It continues as you get the tunes blasting before picking up your scarf and heading off to join your friends. Those couple of hours in the pub when the singing starts and the banter flows are an integral part of the big game experience. As is heading out and joining the stream of Celts heading towards the stadium, a stream which then merges with the green river as you near Celtic Park. So what exactly has Leigh Griffiths done that the Joy Division of the SFA seeks to punish him for?

He was asked for a song by fellow Hibs fans in a pub full of Hibs fans and in the tribal tradition of football taunted Hearts in the mildest way with a chorus of ‘The Hearts are going bust.’ If it hadn’t have made Youtube we wouldn’t even know about it and Mr Lunny, the SFA’s Chief wet blanket would have to find some other way of occupying the empty hours he seems to have sitting in his Hampden office. Do these Puritans not understand that part of the fun of football is the rivalries and ebb and flow of banter which bounces between fans? The SFA, who allowed Rangers to maintain a virtual apartheid system for a century with no criticism at all, are now attempting to police the behaviour of a private individual in a pub on a Sunday afternoon! Let me remind you that this is the same SFA which did nothing as Donald Findlay, then Vice Chairman of Rangers, was filmed singing anti Catholic songs. Some apologists tried to argue that it was a private party and thus no one’s business. Mr Findlay, currently Chairman of Cowdenbeath FC,  then popped up at a Rangers Supporters club in Larne in in the wake of the death of Pope John Paul and began his speech by saying…’It’s very smoky in here tonight, has another fucking Pope died?’  

What was Leigh Griffiths singing about that was so offensive that he was charged with misconduct by the SFA?  This is the same SFA remember who held two internal inquiries into Jim Farry’s holding up the registration of Celtic player Jorge Cadete for weeks at a vital stage in the season. Both of their ‘inquiries’ cleared Farry. All of this before Fergus McCann brought in his Lawyer, proved the deliberate nature of holding up the registration and saw Farry sacked for ‘Gross misconduct.’ Volumes have been written about the behaviour of the SFA during the collapse and liquidation of the old Rangers. That the governing bodies of Scottish Football were prepared to bend or ignore the rules of the game to admit the newco into the top division is beyond dispute. It took a Spartacus type revolt from ordinary fans up and down the country to make them think again about their chosen path. I could go on about Campbell Ogilvie owning shares in the old Rangers while working as Chief Executive at the SFA and the huge conflict of interest this engendered but you get the point by now: it is simply laughable that charges have been brought against Leigh Griffiths for a normal piece of football banter.
This is Scotland, a land where some can sing about paedophilia or the death of a million people in a man-made famine and the SFA stays silent. A place where you can even sing about the need for a section of Scottish society to ‘Go home’ now that that famine is over at the 2011 League Cup Final and be told by a senior politician after the game that it was a great showpiece and the fans were excellent. It’s hard not to get cynical about the cronyism and self-interest at the heart of our football administration and they do themselves no favours by allowing Mr Lunny to press ridiculous charges against a young man out with his friends enjoying the pre-match banter. Of course there is a line about decency and acceptable conduct in a public place but are we really so thin skinned that a chant of ‘The Hearts are going bust’ is going to give us sleepless nights?  It seems yet another symptom of demise of football as the ‘working man’s’ game. Just when we need to reconstruct Scottish Football on more open and honest lines we see this petty attitude from people who should be busy addressing real issues such as grass roots coaching, ticket pricing and how to attract fans back to our stadia. The SFA are the guardian of Scottish football and should always work in its best interests. The Romans had a saying which warned us of the need to hold those in authority to account. Its Latin origins are found in the words; ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ It translates into English as ‘Who guards the guards?’

As for Celtic fining Leigh Griffiths, it’d be nice if it was an amount commensurate with his ‘offence.’ I’d say 1p, the lowest coin in the land would be a fair amount.