Magic Zurawski and the Jimmy Final
The 7000 Celtic fans in the Broomloan Road stand held their breath as Chris Burke hared up the right wing unchallenged. The Rangers winger glanced into the box to see Prso bursting beyond the Celtic defence. He flashed a cross along the six yard line and Prso looked favourite to meet it and break the deadlock. As Sniper gripped Barry’s shoulder in the packed stand behind the goal a flash of yellow, in the shape of Artur Boruc, intercepted the cross and in an instant sent the ball downfield. ‘Yaaasss! Gon the Holy Goalie’ yelled Sniper from the fourth row of the stand. The play raged to the other end of the field and a high ball caused chaos in the centre of the Rangers defence. The ball broke to Zurawski, Celtic’s Polish striker and he flashed a low shot into the corner of the net. A hundred yards away the massed ranks of green clad supporters exploded. Barry, Mick and Sniper grabbed each other in a euphoric huddle. They jumped and roared as they celebrated the goal with all the zest they could muster. Celtic were miles ahead in the league but that didn’t matter. All they cared about in that instant was sharing together that moment of triumph at the home of their greatest rivals.
As the game progressed it was clear that Neil Lennon and Roy Keane were bossing the midfield. They snarled and flew into tackles leaving Ferguson and Malcolm looking outclassed and outfought. The home support were subdued but Sniper was in his element taunting the nearest Rangers fans with his usual crude wit. ‘Here you ya mad walloper, how ur ye liking it?’ Then the away fans started a familiar song which echoed around Ibrox..’Hail Hail the Celts are here, what the hell do we care, we the hell do we care…’ The three friends, arms draped around each other’s shoulders joined in as 7000 voices roared out in unison... ‘For it’s a grand old team to play for, for it’s a grand old team to see…’ Celtic were looking in control and dominant and the fans were loving it. Later in the game as Prso looked set to break, Keane nailed him with a professional body check and took the yellow card. No one was going to stop Celtic winning today. It was a solid professional display and the fans left Ibrox in good voice. Somewhere in the happy crowd Sniper was separated from his two friends as the crowd swept towards the buses. Barry scanned the masses of green clad supporters but there was no sign of his tall friend. ‘Where’s that dick got to?’ enquired Barry. ‘We’ll get him up the pub later,’ Mick replied ‘I’m sure he can find his way up the road without us.’
Two hours later a call from Govan Police office to Mick’s phone alerted him to the fact that Sniper was in jail. ‘Big man’s been lifted’ he said to Barry. Barry looked at him in surprise, ‘What for, possession of a peanut shaped head?’ Mick’s serious face told him it was true. ‘Boxing wi the bammy brigade.’ Barry shook his head, ‘The big man isny a trouble maker?’ Mick added, ‘But if anybody starts he won’t back doon either.’ The two friends finished their beer and headed over to Govan Police station to pick up their friend who was being released later that evening. They sat in the waiting room among the friends and relatives of those who had stepped over the line that day. A drunk started singing ‘Follow Follow we will follow Rangers,’ as Mick and Barry looked on a burly Policeman showed him the door. After what seemed an eternity Sniper appeared. His Celtic shirt was ripped and the area below his left eye was bruised. ‘Awright fannybaws!’ he grinned at his friends, ‘I’m feelin like Lee Harvey Oswald in here.’ Barry shook his head, ‘Mer like Lee Harvey oddball.’ As they headed for the exit Mick asked, ‘So whit happened anyway Sniper?’ The big man replied, ‘Bit of boxing wi the goons, nae big deal, starting their usual pish.’ Mick looked at him, ‘So ur ye being charged?’ Sniper nodded, ‘Aye, assault and breach. Nae worries but I’ll be walking wance they hear my side of things in court.’ ‘Aye,’ said Barry, ‘That’s what Lee Harvey Oswald said.’ As they headed along the Paisley Road heading for the bus stop the drunk who was thrown out of the Police Station shouted at Sniper, ‘We arra Peepo!’ Sniper refused to take the bait, ‘Still trying tae be a Wit eh? Well yer hauf way there.’
The gallery of Court one was busy as Sniper took the stand. Barry and Mick sat near the front offering their moral support to their good friend who stood charged with assault and threatening behaviour. The Prosecuting Lawyer looked at Sniper with some disdain as he stood dressed in jeans and a green T-shirt which allowed the court to see his tattoo covered arms. After the preliminary questions establishing who he was and where he lived the Prosecutor got to the meat of the trial. ‘Where were you on Sunday the twelth of February?’ Sniper looked at him, ‘I was at the fitbaw.’ The lawyer continued, ‘You attended a football match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium, is that correct?’ Sniper, showing no sign of nerves, nodded, ‘Correct Chief.’ The Lawyer leaned on the podium in front of him, ‘After the game did anything unusual occur?’ Sniper shrugged, ‘Naw.’ The Lawyer’s eyebrows were raised a little as he looked at his notes, ‘Are you sure of that, because I have been led to believe that you were involved in a fracas on Paisley Road West. Was this the case?’ Sniper looked at him a mystified look on his face, ‘Whit’s a frak-arse?’ There was a mild murmur of laughter from the gallery as the lawyer looking a little irritated continued, ‘A fracas could be said to be a physical confrontation, a fight if you will?’ Sniper nodded, ‘Goat ye noo boss. aye there wiz a wee bit of boxing but that’s no unusual wi that mob.’ The Prosecution lawyer went on, ‘In your own words tell the court what occurred.’ Sniper looked at him in a relaxed matter of fact way, ‘A few o’ us were heading up the road after the gem when a mob appeared fae wan o’ yon mad pubs oan Paisley Road. Fired a few bottles at us but shat it when we stood wur ground. Then the Polis showed up and that wiz that, the game’s a bogie.’ The little lawyer removed his glasses, ‘So you claim that you were accosted by a group of opposition supporters who exited a public house with the express intent of attacking you, is that what you’re telling the court?’ Sniper nodded, ‘Aye.’ Did you see my client Mr McWilliams among the group from the pub?’ ‘Oh Aye,’ replied Sniper, ‘Ye couldny miss him.’ ‘What do you mean by that?’ asked the Lawyer. Sniper went on, ‘He’s a big guy, know wit ah mean, mer chins than a Chinese phone book.’ There was another ripple of laughter in the court. The Lawyer pressed on with a more strident tone of voice, ‘I put it to you that your group were in fact the aggressors that day and that you did in fact assault Mr McWilliams with no provocation whatsoever!’ Sniper shook his head, ‘Naw Pal, fat boy wis mad wi it and looking for a Tim tae batter. Canny just staun and take it can ye?’ The Lawyer raised his voice a little more, ‘I also put it to you that you did in fact strike Mr McWilliams with a pole of some sort to his actually bodily harm?’ Sniper didn’t take the bait and remained calm as Barry had warned him to, ‘Naw mate, him and his cronies came roarin’ oot the pub swinging hooks and I hud tae I gave him a swift boot in the hawmaws, tae put his gas oan a peep, know wit ah mean?’ As Barry and Mick tried hard not to laugh in the gallery, the Judge intervened, ‘Can we try to speak Standard English gentlemen as I’m having trouble following this?’ The lawyer nodded and turned back to Sniper, ‘by ‘hamaws’ you mean what exactly?’ Sniper looked at him, ‘Baws mate.’ ‘You mean testicles am I correct?’ the lawyer enquired wearily, ‘Aye’ responded Sniper his expression betraying no emotion. ‘So you admit to assaulting Mr McWillians by kicking him in the groin area, is that correct?’ the lawyer asked. Sniper shook his head, ‘Listen Pal, he wis oot for taking a liberty, it wis self-defence. If I didny rattle his cheenies I’d still be in the Southern General the noo, ye catch ma drift?’ The Judge shook his head, a mystified look on his face as the prosecuting lawyer continued, ‘So you’re claiming that you assaulted Mr McWillians, a man going about his lawful business, in self-defence?’ Sniper looked a little annoyed for the first time, ‘Goin’ aboot his lawful business? He was pished an trying tae rip ma heed aff, wit ye want me tae dae? Staun there like a bam and take it?’ The exchanges continued in this vein for another 10 minutes before the exasperated lawyer, realising that Sniper was not going to be trapped into saying anything incriminating, gave up. At this point the Judge, who appeared to have given up trying to follow Sniper’s slang filled language decided to call an adjournment and Sniper was excused for the day.
In the Empire bar, which was situated under a bridge in the Saltmarket the friends shared a pint and chatted over the day’s events in the court. ‘Reckon I’m on tae a not guilty,’ Sniper began ‘as most of that Jury are Tims.’ Mick looked at him incredulously, ‘And how do you work that wan oot?’ Sniper looked at him with that pitying look he reserved for crying children and lunatics, ’Look at their faces Mick, too good looking tae be currant buns.’ Barry cut in at this point, ‘So your theory is that Tims are better looking? Have you looked in the mirror recently? Yer nae Brad Pitt yerself big man.’ Sniper was having none of it, ‘You’ve always been a bit jealous of me Barry, is it coz I nipped yer burd when we wur at High School?’ Barry laughed, ‘Nipped my burd? Big Lynne wiz everybody’s burd, mer fingerprints on her drawers than Scotland Yard has oan their files!’ Sniper smiled, ‘I heard you and her wur engaged?’ Barry was incredulous at this claim, ‘Engaged! I was 15 ya walloper, you talk some shite so ye dae!’ Mick interjected at this point, ‘Never mind big Lynne, are we going tae the footy on Sunday? Barry looked at him, ‘Only if this big eejit fae fantasy island remembered tae get the tickets.’ Sniper smiled and withdrew a white envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket. ‘When did yer yer big mucker ever let yeez doon?’ Mick grinned, ‘When ye pumped Bary’s fiancé?’ They all laughed at that, even Barry.
A few days later they returned to the court for the jury’s verdict. Sniper stood in the dock trying had to look like an innocent man in his best jacket. Mick whispered to Barry, ‘Looks like a feckin Pollok pimp in that coat.’ Barry smiled. The Judge turned to the Jury, ‘Could your foreman stand.’ There was a mood of anticipation in the court as they awaited the verdict. ‘Do you find the accused guilty or not-guilty of assault?’ The tall, middle aged man in the jury box replied with the hint of a smile, ‘Not guilty.’ Sniper grinned like a three year old on his birthday, ‘Yasss, cheers ma man!’ The Judge scowled at him before turning back to the Jury, ‘and on the second charge of breach of the peace?’ Again the man replied not guilty. The judge turned to Sniper, ‘Thank you, you’re free to go.’ They met outside the court and slapped their friend on the back, ‘Let’s get a pint Sniper.’ Sniper smiled before replying in a mock Martin Luther King voice, ‘Free at last, free at last!’ Mick pushed him towards the Saltmarket, ‘Right, move it ya plonker or we’ll miss the pub.’ As they sat in the Tollbooth Bar enjoying the cool pint, Sniper’s phoned buzzed. ‘Awright Uncle James? Good man, I’ll see ye later.’ He hung up. ‘Uncle James? I never knew ye had an uncle James,’ said Barry. Sniper nodded with a small smile on his face, ‘Aye, ma maw’s big brother. you’ve seen him ye know.’ Mick looked mystified, ‘Seen him? Naw Sniper I don’t think I’ve seen him.’ Sniper looked like a bad comedian holding back a punchline, ‘Ye saw him today,’ He was enjoying his friends confusion and hesitated a moment before blurting out, ‘He wiz the foreman of the Jury.’ There was a stunned moment’s silence before the three friends erupted into laughter. ‘Sniper, yer a fuckin madman!’ said Barry.
The League cup final that season was a poignant one for all the Celtic family. Jimmy Johnstone had finally lost his courageous fight with motor neurone disease and the loss was on every Celts mind. As Celtic and Dunfermline came out to a huge roar, Sniper shouted, ‘Look Barry, they’re aw wearing number seven!’ The entire Celtic squad did indeed have number seven on their shorts as a tribute to their greatest ever player and there were a few moist eyes among the huge Celtic support crowded around most of the stadium. As the teams prepared to kick of a roar emanated from the Celtic end of Hampden which spread around the old stadium. The three friends joined tens of thousands of others in an old chant which their father’s and even grandfather’s would have known… ‘Jimmy oh Jimmy Johnstone, oh Jimmy Johnstone on the wing.’ Barry looked around Hampden at the sea of faces, he couldn’t imagine not following Celtic. It was as natural as breathing. ‘Here we go boys,’ he shouted as Maloney sped down the wing. This would be the Jimmy Johnstone final to them all when they spoke of it in the future and there was no way Celtic were going to lose this one.