Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Rhythm of Time

The Rhythm of Time

As the leaves fall and October turns to November we are treated to the now fairly boring storm in a tea cup over who does and doesn’t wear a poppy. James McClean, the West Brom footballer and a son of Derry is trotted out annually to be castigated by the right wing media and the more moronic elements on social media because of his perfectly understandable and legitimate choice not to wear a poppy on his shirt. Any middle aged person from Derry could recite a litany of abuses the nationalist population endured there during the troubles from the uniformed representatives of the British state. From internment without trial, the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ which left over 1000 injured and ‘Operation Motorman’ when the army mobilised thousands of troops to end the ‘no go’ zones in nationalist areas, the use of force by the military was often lethal. Most people will know about the slaughter of Bloody Sunday when the Parachute Regiment killed 14 and seriously injured 15 other Derry citizens. Most were hit by gunfire although at least 2 of the injured were run over by army armoured personnel carriers. Any reasonable person would understand why James McClean would baulk at the idea of wearing a poppy to commemorate that same army which did such things to his people.

That is not to say that the British military were the only offenders during the sad years of the troubles as the Para-militaries bear their share of responsibility too as do the politicians but James McClean is perfectly entitled to make his choice and no one has a right to castigate him for it.

Attempts to enforce conformity onto the peoples of the UK have been ramped up in recent years and anyone who finds the jingoism and sheer poor taste of many of the events around newly invented ‘armed forces day’ troubling, is in danger of being labelled as ‘unpatriotic.’  It is hardly likely to inspire confidence in the military among those of an Irish extraction to watch the annual circus at Ibrox stadium when military personnel abseil from stands, some join in sectarian songs and others are photographed with loyalist paraphernalia. The British Army represents ALL the people of the British state; that is all creeds, colours and political hues. Senior officers should ensure they are seen to be acting in such a manner.

On a similar note I went to the Glasgow Film Theatre to see Brendan Byrne’s movie ‘Bobby Sands; 66 Days.’ The film charted Sands life from his family being intimidated into leaving Rathcoole on the outskirts of Belfast through to his political awakening and eventual decision to join the IRA. One biographical piece gives a flavour of the times when it speaks of his alienation with the northern state…

‘He left school in 1969 at age 15, and enrolled in Newtownabbey Technical College, beginning an apprenticeship as a coach builder at Alexander's Coach Works in 1970. He worked there for less than a year, enduring constant harassment from his Protestant co-workers, which according to several co-workers he ignored completely, as he wished to learn a meaningful trade. He was eventually confronted after leaving his shift in January 1971 by a number of his colleagues wearing the armbands of the local Ulster loyalist tartan gang. He was held at gunpoint and told that Alexander's was off-limits to "Fenian scum" and to never come back if he valued his life. This event, by Sands' own admission, proved to be the point at which he decided that militancy was the only solution.’

I leave people to judge his subsequent actions for themselves as one’s perspectives are shaped by many things. Sands was a man of his times and who among us can say how we’d react to the pressures and myriad forces which were tearing the north of Ireland apart in those days? I’m sure men and women on both sides of the conflict would claim their actions as being in defence of their people and that in a sense was the crux of the problem. Some within the two communities in the north of Ireland often see themselves as two distinct peoples. The vagaries of history have led to this situation and perhaps ironically the violence of those troubled years reinforced this attitude and made the unity Sands and his colleague’s sought harder to create?

 What was interesting though was the power Sands’ life and death still hold today. There was spontaneous applause in the cinema at one point in the movie and that is rare indeed. There were also some folk around me clearly becoming emotional as the movie reached its sad and inevitable climax. The full house at the GFT demonstrated that there is still an appetite for such films and that the life and death of Bobby Sands remains an emotive issue for some.

 The nations which share these islands on the north-west coast of Europe never have been and probably never will be a homogenous mass. We are all products of our history and need to learn the lessons it teaches and not repeat the same mistakes which led us to conflict in the past. Respect for each other and the opinions and views we hold is the starting point for relationships between individuals or indeed between peoples.  There can be no forced conformity, people must be free to exercise their conscience as they see fit. Far from resolving conflicts, pressuring people to conform to modes of behaviour usually leads to more problems.

We’ll know we’ve grown up and matured on these islands when an individual isn’t singled out in the media and online for merely exercising the right beholden to all free men; to follow his conscience.

James McClean has every right to follow his own mind and all decent people should support him in this. He may well recall the words written by a countryman of his long before he was born.

There’s an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend?
It has withstood the blows of a million years,
And will do so to the end.

It lights the dark of this prison cell,
It thunders forth its might,
It is ‘the undauntable thought’, my friend,
That thought that says… ‘I’m right!’

                                                           (From the Rhythm of Time by Bobby Sands)

Friday, 28 October 2016

Being Bertie

Being Bertie

Watching the unveiling of Billy McNeil’s statue on the Celtic Way last season was one of those poignant moments which makes you reflect on what Celtic and the men who have been our heroes in the hoops mean to us. Billy, looking a little fragile, had his old comrade Bertie Auld at his side as he walked down the Celtic Way. The thousands of watching supporters could see the bonds of affection which still bound these two fine players together. They have both been involved with Celtic for longer than most of us have been alive. When it was over and the modern players had gone inside to prepare for the game and Billy had joined his family in the stadium, wee Bertie was still there posing for pictures with fans, shaking hands and laughing with the ordinary folk of the Celtic support. I shook his hand and thanked him for his efforts for Celtic and the many things he has done for the supporters.  As I headed to the game he was still there smiling, joking with the fans and just being Bertie. More than 50 years earlier this Celtic legend was far from Celtic Park having been sold to Birmingham City but plans were afoot to bring him home.

Fulham and England Striker, Johnny Haynes was the first professional footballer to earn £100 per week in Britain. Always immaculately dressed and idolised by his fans, he was the David Beckham of the 1950s and 60s. Early sponsorship with a hair cream company meant Fulham were often called the ‘Brylcreem boys’ in those days. Haynes once took part in a heated game against Birmingham City on a frosty night at St Andrew’s park and got into a verbal spat with a cheeky Scottish midfielder who had the gall to nutmeg him. ‘You little Scottish Bastard,’ he called after the dark haired Scot as he chased him back towards the midfield area. The verbal spat went on until the little Scot had had enough. In his own words he recalled…

‘As we trotted back Haynes was giving as good as he got, ‘I’ll get you the next time you little Scottish bastard.’ I snapped as we reached the centre circle and thought it would be a good idea to give him a dull one. I whacked him. Our pitch was hard as flint and he went down like a sack of spuds. His head thudded off the surface and he just lay there.’

So it was that Maryhill boy, Bertie Auld, laid out 56 times capped England striker Johnny Haynes. As the inevitable ordering off came Auld heard Fulham’s centre half Maurice Cooke thundering after him with revenge in mind. The little Scot wheeled around and delivered a pre-emptive uppercut to Cooke’s chin which laid him out too. St Andrew’s went wild as the crowd began to chant ‘One, two, who’s next?’  Such indiscipline was one reason Celtic had allowed Auld to leave in 1961 and the four years he spent in England saw him develop as a player even if it never fully quelled his fiery nature. Bertie won the League cup with Birmingham as well as playing in the Final of the Fairs Cities Cup (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup) but greater prizes awaited him as a revolution was about to begin at his old club in Glasgow’s east end.

In early 1965 he was transferred back to Celtic for £12,000 and it is very likely that the soon to be Manager, Jock Stein, had requested his return. The Scottish Cup Final that year saw Celtic pitted against the fine Dunfermline team of the era and even the most optimistic Celtic fan knew it’d be a battle. 108,800 supporters, the vast majority of them Celtic fans, filled the vast bowl of Hampden to see if Stein’s Celtic could succeed where McGrory’s teams had so often faltered.  It had been 8 long years since Celtic had won a major trophy but how they roared and sang as Celtic twice fought back from a goal down to balance the match at 2-2 in the final stages. Auld had scored both of Celtic’s goals and had slotted seamlessly into a midfield in which he and Bobby Murdoch pulled all the strings for Celtic. His first goal in front of a packed Celtic end was a breathless piece of action. A Charlie Gallagher shot had smashed the bar and spun high into the air with the goalkeeper stranded. Auld raced forward and outjumped the Dunfermline defender to head the ball home. The massed ranks in the Celtic end exploded in joy. He scored Celtic’s second goal after another fine move and the match entered its final phase with the cup still up for grabs. With just 9 minutes left the huge Celtic support watched a corner glide into the Dunfermline penalty box. Lennox looked certain to leap for it but a call behind him from McNeil saw the winger duck allowing the Celtic skipper to meet the ball imperiously with his head. It exploded into the Dunfermline net and Hampden erupted in sheer joy as Celtic finally broke through to take the lead. The cup was won on that bright day in April 1965 and Celtic looked to the future with renewed confidence. The following season they would be champions and set off on a remarkable period of success.

The next few years saw Celtic gorge themselves on success. The hungry years of defeat and disappointment melted away as Stein’s side took Celtic to an unprecedented level of success at home and in Europe. Not only were Celtic winning regularly, they were playing attacking, entertaining football which won them admirers among those who love the game. The engine room of that fine side was Auld and Murdoch who would ping passes to a speedy and very effective forward line. Bertie had found his spiritual home. He was a Celt at heart and found in those exhilarating years the perfect team mates to help him shine.  Yes there were still flashes of his temper to be seen and he occasionally took retribution on the odd opposition player who overdid the rough stuff with him or his team mates. He was especially protective of Jimmy Johnstone who took some dire punishment in the more physical environment of 1960s football. Most famously he punched a Racing Club player who had spent the game kicking and spitting on Celtic players. Bertie then simply refused to leave the field when the very weak Referee sent him off. In the Alfredo Di Stefano Testimonial match against Real Madrid, Bertie and Amancio of Madrid went for a 50-50 ball. The Spaniard got a little upset at Bertie’s tough tackling and threw a punch. The Maryhill man answered that in the only way possible by returning the punch with interest. Both players were sent off.   But for most of that golden era he prowled the midfield and helped Celtic to glory using his footballing skills rather than his fists.

He recounts in his biography Celtic’s date with destiny in Lisbon in 1967 and the period when both teams waited nervously in the tunnel before the game. Celtic’s pale Scottish lads glanced nervously at the tanned Italians standing beside them. Bertie decided then to instigate a song and get the Italians thinking about what they were up against.  He started to sing… ‘Hail, Hail, the Celts are here…’ and it spread along the line of Celtic players until they were all belting it out in unison. Suddenly it was Inter who were glancing nervously at the Scots who sang with such defiance. They knew then they’d be in for a game.

It could be argued that Jock Stein broke up the Lisbon Lions team two or three years earlier than was necessary. Bertie was freed in 1971 and joined Hibs. His final appearance in the Hoops saw him carried from the field on the shoulders of his team mates. They knew his value as a player, as a team mate and as a man.  His career took him into management with Hibs and Partick Thistle and it was during his time at Easter Road he bumped into his old sparring partner, Johnny Hayes, who had retired and moved to Edinburgh. The two old pros shook hands and laughed about their punch up of decades before. ‘I hope you could hit a ball as hard as you hit me,’ Haynes joked.

Bertie Auld wasn’t just a great Celtic player he was a great Celtic fan. He always took time to go to supporters functions, to sign autographs or have his picture taken with the ordinary punters who idolised him. Few players in the history of the club have been such great ambassadors for Celtic. His one liners and anecdotes are legendary as were his antics on the pitch. He once said…

“Every time I walk in the front door at Celtic Park, I still feel an immense pride, and at the same time an immense humility because of the way the fans respond to all of the Lisbon Lions.” 

The fans treat Bertie and the Lions so well not just for the success they brought the club on the field but also for the fact they were so obviously committed to the club, so obviously Celtic fans on the pitch. The term ‘Legend’ is banded about too often in the modern era but it can be used to describe Bertie Auld, the Maryhill boy who wore the hoops with distinction. It is now almost 60 years since he first played for Celtic and his affection and enthusiasm for the club has never waned, nor has the affection the Celtic support has for him.

As I watched him smile and joke with supporters of all ages on the Celtic Way last year it was obvious to see that he loves being a Celt. He put people at ease and even at 78 years of age knelt for one picture with a man in a wheelchair. He had time for them all, those who had seen him play and those who only heard the legends from fathers or grandfathers.

Bertie Auld: Celtic Legend. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

For we only know

For we only know

Wednesday’s sobering defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach was a timely reminder of the road which Celtic still has to travel in order to become competitive in what is the world’s toughest club competition. The Germans are not among the elite of European football by any means but demonstrated the sort of tactical and technical skills which are developed playing in the ultra-competitive world of the Bundesliga. The speed, closing down of space and ruthlessness in taking chances they exhibited was in stark contrast to a Celtic side which never really got going in the game. Celtic are seldom stretched and challenged domestically the way sides like Borussia are on a weekly basis and it showed.

Competition drives up standards and that is one of the reasons Scottish sides performed well in Europe in the years 1960-1985. Our sides reached 7 European finals and numerous semi-finals in that era and we saw some impressive victories for Scottish sides over some of the big guns of Europe. Not just from Celtic and Rangers; Dunfermline knocked Everton out of Europe, St Johnstone disposed of Hamburg, Dundee beat AC Milan at Dens Park and both Fergie’s Aberdeen and Jim McLean’s Dundee United took some notable scalps. In that 25 year period Scotland saw 7 different domestic champions (Hearts, Dundee, Rangers, Kilmarnock, Aberdeen, Dundee United & Celtic) and a real struggle for the title every season. In the last 30 years no side outside the big two in Glasgow had won the title and the adage about monopoly (or duopoly) being good for no one rings true.

However the lack of a truly competitive and high quality league in Scotland isn’t the only factor affecting our clubs chances in Europe. As television popularised the sport in recent years and sold it so well to a global audience, the revenues available to the big leagues have grown at a huge rate. The billions flowing through La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and of course the Premiership in England have seen the construction of wonderful stadiums and excellent coaching facilities. Add to this the investment in coaches to develop young players and the progress on the field begins to make sense. The number of coaches holding a UEFA A, B or Pro- Licence in the big European leagues is very telling. Germany has more than 35,000 and there is a coherent strategy in place to ensure young players receive a proper footballing education ranging from skills, fitness and tactics through to lifestyle choices and media training. This added to the free availability of good quality pitches across the country helps enormously. The down side for a country like England is that the TV billions has drawn in mercenaries from across the world and on any given weekend less than 35% of players playing in the English Premiership are actually English. Among the top 4 or 5 clubs the percentage is far lower.

Scotland isn’t alone in feeling that the financial clout of the big leagues is leading to a two tier game in Europe. One idea being touted again is that of an Atlantic League involving the best clubs from countries such as Holland, Belgium, Portugal, Scotland and Denmark  banding together to form a new footballing ‘country’ to compete with the big leagues. Henrik Larsson’s former Agent, Rob Jansen stated recently that in 1999 it almost happened…

‘In 1999, I worked with Celtic to prepare a plan that was so revolutionary, everything would have changed in football. In secret I spoke with Rangers , Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, Porto, Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Anderlecht, FC Copenhagen, the top clubs from Switzerland and Celtic too obviously. They would all have left their national leagues. We created a giant fictitious country of more than 60 million people by combining these teams. We had multinational companies ready to sponsor us, we knew how we would sell the TV rights, how the payments would run, the arbitration was settled, the infrastructure. Unfortunately, some people opened their mouths, UEFA was furious and it collapsed. Now clubs from Holland and elsewhere will never be able to challenge again. The chance has gone.

One wonders if Celtic supporters would have turned out in their droves to see games against Benfica, Basle, Porto, Ajax, Copenhagen and Anderlecht? It would of course have been more competitive and raised revenues to new heights as well as offering in theory 3 or 4 places in the Champions League were UEFA ever sanction it. The frustrations felt by clubs like Celtic, trapped as they are in a low revenue league must be balanced against the duty they have to Scottish football. Would it be morally correct to dump the rest of the game here and chase the money?  Some argue Scottish football would wither away others that it might flourish in the absence of the two giants who have won 101 of 120 league titles played since 1890.

All of this is of course speculation but it is symptomatic of feelings in the smaller footballing nations of Europe. With Champions League spaces being guaranteed in bigger numbers to clubs from the big five football leagues (Spain, Germany, Italy, England & France) it will become even tougher for teams such as Celtic, Ajax or Legia Warsaw to reach the group stages and if they do they will face sides with infinitely more financial clout. A look at some of the hammerings teams from out-with the big leagues take in the Group stages speaks volumes about the increasing gap between the haves and have nots of European football. UEFA show little sympathy as they dance to the tune of the rich and powerful clubs.

Of course the smaller clubs in Scottish football may argue that Celtic does exactly the same here as the big clubs do in the Champions League; buying up talented players and generally dominating the scene. Indeed they welcome Celtic’s money as much as Celtic welcomes the fat cheques from the English Premiership for their stars. It’s a conundrum with no easy answer as few would be up for the sort of change which might make Scottish football more competitive; smaller number of clubs in the league, amalgamations if necessary, bigger clubs spreading the money more and  pushing the Scottish Government to invest more in the grass roots of the national sport.

It may well be that Celtic continue to function as a big fish in a small pond and that no real change in the structures of the game at domestic or European level will happen. It may be hard for fans to accept that even if Celtic build a good side they may well be asset stripped by the cash rich clubs in England or elsewhere. No one likes watching the better players being sold but financial realities dictate that men like Wanyama and Van Diijk can make life changing amounts of money elsewhere and the club needs the huge cash injection such transactions brings.

One thing is for certain though; Celtic is a club with a huge support and fine European history. To maintain our profile requires fairly regular participation in the Champions League group stages. All of Europe watches these games and will not fail to be impressed by the noise and passion of Celtic Park. It may be more difficult to build a team to compete at the very highest level but it isn’t impossible and in Brendan Rodgers we have just the man to help us progress at that level.

Lisbon is now half a century in the past and a return to those glory days seems unlikely given the prevailing conditions in European football. That doesn’t mean we give up our dreams of enjoying those great European nights under the lights. It does mean though that we approach those nights with a sense of realism about what is possible. On any given night we can give anyone at game at home as some of the very best teams in Europe have found to their cost. There’s still a magic and a romance about those big games under the lights at Celtic Park and the ghosts of the past would be happy that the Celts are still at the party.

Whatever direction football takes in the future you can be sure Celtic and their faithful band of supporters will be there giving their all. This club has become a part of the lives of so many people and they’ll ensure it survives and thrives wherever the road leads it. As the song says…

‘For we only know that there’s going to be a show and the Glasgow Celtic will be there.’

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Worth Fighting For

Worth fighting for

Sunday mornings are one of my favourite times of the week. As an early riser I have the house to myself for a few quiet hours to write, read or watch a bit of TV. Today I watched a programme on one of the history channels about the struggle for civil rights in the USA in the 1960s. To modern eyes the naked hatred and institutional discrimination which occurred in America in those days is simply appalling. There is a case for arguing that the USA still has a long way to go to live out its creed as a free and equal nation but the changes brought about by the sacrifice and courage of people back then were real enough. They faced brutality, violence and murder and much of it meted out by the forces of law and order which should have been protecting them. The long march to freedom of the African American people is not yet complete and what Lyndon Johnson called the, ‘crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice’ lingers on today.

Human beings seem at times unable to escape the tribalism which so often rears its head in history. We are in truth sometimes most comfortable in company of like-minded people and I can recall my old man talking about enjoying being with his ‘ain folk’ at Celtic Park on a Saturday. He wasn’t an exclusivist or bigoted man but here he could express his opinions, sing his songs freely and feel comfortable among people from a similar background. That group identity and loyalty is still strong among Celtic supporters and Archie McPherson once said that ‘it’s hard to think of a club so embedded in its community.’ That community realised at the inception of the club that if Celtic was to become a force in Scottish football it couldn’t limit itself to the Victorian ghetto of the Glasgow Irish community. Willie Maley, who was there at the birth of Celtic and played in the club’s first game in 1888 said…

"Much has been made in certain quarters about our religion, but for forty-eight years we have played a mixed team, and some of the greatest Celts we have had did not agree with us in our religious beliefs, although we have never at any time hidden what these are. Men of the type of McNair, Hay, Lyon, Buchan, Cringan, the Thomspons, or Paterson soon found out that broadmindedness which is the real stamp of the good Christian existed to its fullest at Celtic Park, where a man was judged by his football alone."

Maley knew Celtic needed to be inclusive to thrive but also knew the hard hearts of those in Scotland who despised the club would be difficult to soften. Having said that, Scotland as a whole absorbed more than half a million Irish migrants in a single lifetime without serious civil unrest and that says much about the common decency of most Scots. Yes there were bigots and racists who didn’t appreciate the newcomers but they exist in all lands at all times.  It may not seem like it sometimes in an age where one moronic comment can be shared with thousands on social media but the real bigots are a minority.  Of course to view the experiences of the Irish in Scotland through the lens of the African American experience demonstrates clearly that while hatred has similarities everywhere, the black experience of prejudice in the USA was infinitely more brutal, pernicious and deep rooted.

The founding generation of Celts would be happy that their offspring have assimilated into Scottish society so well and now rightly take their place in every trade, profession and position in the land. Those early Celts would also be delighted to see so many people from all walks of life, all faiths and none and all ethnicities proudly calling themselves Celts. That inclusiveness is the Celtic ideal and if on occasion some of our fellow fans fall short in word or deed it doesn’t change the fact that Celtic is for all and that is the foundation the club is built upon. Walfrid’s club was forged in adversity and demonstrated that despite experiencing poor treatment at times it was best not to become insular and inward looking. The people who founded Celtic built a stadium for 60,000 when the biggest average crowds in football were scarcely 10,000. That forward thinking is the mark of an institution going places.

Watching the struggles of the African American people on TV this morning was a sober reminder of the power of hatred. It was noticeable though that among the thousands who marched on Montgomery, Alabama or to Washington to hear Dr King speaking of his ‘dream’ there were many white faces. Moral issues such as racism or segregation led to good people joining the struggle from all racial groups. In some ways this teaches us that such struggles are seldom a simple battle between black and white, Catholic and Protestant or in current terms between Islam and the west; the struggle is usually between the decent people in all communities and those who, for whatever reason, revert to hate or violence.

I once wrote of the only time in my life I was seriously contemplating giving up going to watch Celtic. The realisation that some of our own could behave so despicably towards an opposition player because of his race appalled me. What kept me on board though was the reaction of the bulk of the Celtic support who called out the morons who abused Mark Walters in 1988 for what they were. One Fanzine described them as ‘racist arseholes’ and told them in uncompromising language that this was not what Celtic was about. Someone once said, ‘evil thrives when good people do nothing,’ in that sense I’m glad the good people among the Celtic support refused to allow those few individuals to act as they did with impunity.

Whenever I raise issues of bigotry among supporters of Rangers I get the odd message telling me that my opinions are based on hatred of the Ibrox club. I bear hatred towards no one but feel it right to point out the behaviour of a minority at Ibrox who seemingly intimidate the decent supporters there into silence when it comes to their less cerebral songs. At Inverness this week we had the incongruous sight of players holding up cards saying ‘Show racism the red card’ whilst at the same match their supporters sang songs about being up to their knees in Fenian blood. They surely see the irony? For many who sing such songs it’s all posturing and empty gestures but in joining in these songs they embolden the more dangerous types into thinking their warped world view is acceptable.

The point of what I’m saying this morning is that decent people, no matter what club they follow, must continue to fight for a healthier more tolerant society. No group or community in any society holds all the virtue or wisdom.  

I’m glad the Celtic support was quick to challenge a few foolish young men in 1988. It would have been greatly disturbing if they hadn’t. Martin Luther King once said…

‘In the end we remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.’

Thankfully our friends among the Celtic support were not silent in the wake of idiotic intolerance. Celtic means a lot to a lot of people and some things are worth fighting for. 

We must always guard that we never become that which we claim to despise.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Football for good

Football for good

Today I’m asking Celtic supporters and others who like to read good football related stories to support the launch of the book ‘The Green Angel.’ The book has been created to raise funds for charities and in that sense is in keeping with the best traditions of Celtic Football Club and their supporters. You will all of course know that Celtic was founded to help feed an impoverished community struggling to survive in the harsh conditions of Victorian Scotland. We may have eradicated the disease and squalor which saw thousands of children die each year before their first birthday but even today many in our country struggle to get by.

The rise of food banks is a symbol of the failings of our society and one can argue that they shouldn’t exist in the fifth richest country on Earth. However they do exist and as Mhairi Black, a young Scottish MP said in Parliament, ‘Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are symbol that the welfare state is failing.’ In that she is correct but until we create a society where they are unnecessary, then it is our duty to help those struggling in any way we can. There is a busy food bank just a corner kick from Celtic Park and one wonders what Brother Walfrid would think to see such things still being required 128 years after he founded Celtic to help feed the poor? That food bank near Celtic Park is one of the charities sales of ‘The Green Angel’ aims to support.

The book I’d ask you to purchase today is a collection of stories about the incredible football club which for many of us is a way of life. You’ll find the book to be excellent value and can rest assured that every penny of profit raised by the sale of the book and accompanying e-book will be given to charity. I have never written about the club I hold dear for profit or praise, I write about Celtic because it has been such a huge part of my life. Celtic inspires me, enthrals me and is simply a part of my life I couldn’t envisage being without. I like to think the passion and humour in my tales resonates with others who feel the same about Celtic and nothing gives me greater pleasure when fellow fans tell me they enjoyed my stories.

The Celtic story is a story like no other. Billy McNeil once said, ‘There is a fairy tale quality about this club’ and I think he was right. To rise from such humble origins to become the pre-eminent club in Scotland and eventually the finest side in Europe was a remarkable feat. The book celebrates great players, Managers and achievements but much of what Celtic has achieved over the past 128 years would have been impossible without the support of their remarkable fans. Many of the stories in the book reflect on the lives and experiences of those ordinary supporters who are the life blood of the club. Without them there would be no Celtic. It was written of the Celtic supporters as early as 1891…

‘Celtic are blessed with having a following that simply defy the elements, whose enthusiasm for the club is never lukewarm.’

That enthusiasm is of course geared to backing the team and driving them on to victory but it is also important to those fans that the club continues its laudable history of supporting those less fortunate. Today I ask you to continue that tradition by buying a copy of ‘The Green Angel.’ With Christmas on the horizon you may want to purchase a few copies for friends and family. In doing so you will be continuing to support Walfrid’s legacy and demonstrating that football can be a force for good in society.

Click the link below to place your order and spread the word as the more books and E-Books we sell the more money we will be able to donate to charity.  You have my heartfelt thanks as I know from previous experience that the Celtic support and others who like a good football story will support these good causes. I hope you enjoy the book but more than that I hope we raise lots of money to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

Hail Hail

Click this link to order your copy of The Green Angel and thank you for continuing a fine tradition: