Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Bitter Cauldron

The Bitter Cauldron

My old man would have loved Celtic’s destruction of Rangers at Ibrox yesterday; not only the fact that the side completely dominated their opponents on their own patch but also for the fact that Celtic played some excellent passing football. For Celts of his generation growing up in the years following World War Two there was little to cheer as Celtic stumbled along with only sporadic successes to offer their huge and committed support. It is astonishing to recall that between 1920 and 1965, when Jock Stein arrived at Celtic Park, the Hoops won just 5 championships. In that same period Rangers won 25.

Celtic in the decades after the war were a useful side at times but occasional displays of brilliance were all too often followed by inconsistency and the sale of star players. It took a man of Stein’s calibre to harness the true power of Celtic and give a support desperate for success some glory to savour. That era made all the pain of the post war era worthwhile. Celtic swept to dominance under Stein and conquered Europe with a style of play which rejuvenated attacking football after the defensive dominance of sides like Inter Milan held sway.

For my old man, seeing Celtic win and win with style lit up his working week. For thousands of working class Scots, life in the factories, docks and building sites was hard and the football stadiums of the country were the theatres they attended to escape the drudgery for a while. It was there they met their friends, had a drink and sang their songs. It was there the drama on the field made them forget their troubles for a while. When the team was struggling they’d stick with them stoically knowing that the good times would be enjoyed all the more. When times were bad he’d stand on the terraces of the old Celtic end and shout, ‘Come on Celtic! Intae them!’

Yesterday was one of those great days you get now and then following Celtic. Not only did the team play with verve and skill, they simply ripped Rangers apart with their pace and movement. Yes, Rangers are a ragged and sorry side at the moment but no game is easy in the bitter cauldron of Ibrox. It seems the home support have not changed their song book in the last 100 years. It saddens me to hear the bile which poured from the stands occupied by the home support. From the outset it was clear that the boil of bigotry has yet to be lanced and we were treated to the ‘Billy Boys’ and other such ditties as well as truly awful chants about paedophilia. Sometimes I despair that the reasonable Rangers supporters are either swept along on this hateful tide or cowed into silence by the more coarse types among their support.  There seems to be a real lack of self-awareness among a support which doesn’t seem to care that watching millions on TV thinks of them as relics from the dark ages.

As the game turned against the home side and it became clear that Celtic were there to do a job, things turned uglier. We had a racist gestures aimed at Scott Sinclair, a fan on the pitch trying to get at Scott Brown and various objects thrown at Celtic players. One image shows Leigh Griffiths holding up a battery which had it struck him could have done serious damage. As Celtic tore Rangers apart in the second half it was too much for many among the home support who left the stadium in their thousands leaving huge swathes of empty blue seats. For some the sight of 7000 Celtic supporters celebrating in the Broomloan Stand was too much to take.

For some reading these words would merely convince them that no Celtic supporter would write anything positive about the Rangers support. It is up to each reader to decide on my motivations for writing about these things but it remains my honest opinion that there is a huge issue at Ibrox with sectarianism. In all my years following Celtic I have never heard the sort of bile present among the Rangers support. You will, of course, get the odd idiot among all football supports but it is nothing when viewed against the sheer scale of bigotry among elements of the Rangers support.

That being said, one Celtic supporter tweeted a picture of three Rangers supporters who had intervened to save his friend from the violent intent of other Rangers followers. There are decent folk following Rangers who must be heartily sick of the poisonous song book and Neanderthal behaviour of some of their fellow supporters. These decent fans need to find their voice and somehow try to win their club back from those who disgrace it with seeming impunity.

For Celtic supporters the side’s performance yesterday confirmed that Brendan Rodgers is building something special at Celtic Park. The exciting young team will be augmented further in the transfer window for another crack at the Champions League. It is in the summer months that some of the most important games of Celtic’s season are played and the side will need to be ready for them as the rewards of making the Group stages are so important to the club. There does remain the possibility of a domestic treble to be dealt with first though and the incredible prospect of completing the domestic campaign undefeated is tantalisingly close.

These are great days to be a Celtic fan and the club should learn that it is important to build from a position of strength. Too often in the past the Board have not invested in the side while it was on top and paid the price. With Brendan Rodgers at the helm of the side you feel that it won’t happen this time around. Celtic is on the march again and the supporters are loving it.

My old man would have loved it too and on days like yesterday I could still hear echoes of his voice roaring the team on as he did in those days long gone… 

Come on Celtic! Intae them!’


  1. A great piece,all of it true and my dad would be feeling exactly the same. Sad thing is the hatred and bile at ibrox is the tip of the iceberg. Scotland's shame. Ig the sfa had any guts they would shut them down

  2. Totally agree.
    I don't go to games against them anymore as my travel to/from the name takes me through their hotspots.
    Keep your articles coming Pat. Still enjoy reading them even if I'm no longer on Twitter.

    1. Great to hear from you Eddie. Hope you are well Sir HH

  3. Fantastic piece, it's has been great to be a Celtic fan this season and especially this last couple of weeks. From top to bottom, kids to first team have put them in their place.
    I hear that the Rangers fans are planning a demonstration against the SFA, these guys have really short memories. Without them they wouldn't have a club to support.

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  5. Quality to the letter , great pic , screenshot taken to reminisce in years to come

  6. As my departed Mum used to say ....You cannot make a Silk Purse out of a Sow's ear
    Mon the Hoops HH YWNWA

  7. Hi Pat.
    I enjoyed this and my father would also have loved the last couple of weeks and indeed this full season to date.
    As you have said there are good Rangers supporters who do know how to conduct themselves when representing their club but all too often in recent times some of their so called fellow supporters blast out bigotry and hatred that decent minded people find alien.
    I have worked regularly over the last few years in Belfast, Bangor, Omagh, Antrim, indeed almost every town in the North of Ireland and to see the sparkle in the eyes of a large percentage of the current generation who walk, cycle and drive to their work without the fear of the past is wonderful to see compared to the fear filled existence that their parents and grandparents lived through.
    The majority of those from both sides of the devide want to move on and not continually be reminded of the past.
    Who are we in the west of Scotland to carry the tourches of Ireland's war through the songs that are sung and the violence that still exists when many of those who live on the soils of Ireland want to move on and leave that part of THEIR history behind.
    I'm a Celtic supporter who has wonderful son in law who loves the Rangers. He married my daughter who loves the Celtic. They banter the hell out of each other but know what's not acceptable.
    You highlight Pat the bile that comes from the mouths of many of the Rangers support and that it seems to be getting worse. It's horrible to hear and see. You and I can't change these people but we can try to influence our own support.
    I must give my own thoughts to some of the songs that are sung by our own supporters AND THIS DURING A PERIOD OF GREAT SUCCESS.
    I believe it is time for those of our supporters who continue to sing Irish Republican songs irrespective of whether they are about the 'old republican fighters" our the more recent "provisional fighters", to let go of these songs just as many of the young aspiring Northern Irish current generation from both sides want to let go of the old fears they and their families have had to endure.
    Wouldn't it be wonderful if at every game the Celtic support and in particular the Green Brigade who have a platform at Celtic Park to influence what we supporters sing and what footballing messages we send out, where to go through the full season singing ONlY FOOTBALL related songs of which our great club have many. What message this would send to those across the city. What a message of support it would send to those who walk daily on the soils of Ireland and want to move on from the fears of the past.
    Celtic could complete the season undefeated and what an achievement that would be.
    Wouldn't it also be wonderful if the Green Brigade and all the Celtic supporters could go through the whole of a season singing the fantastic football songs without the need to refer to the troubles that have caused such tragedy on both sides of the great divide.
    Loved what you wrote Pat and all the best for the rest of this great season.
    Cmon the Hoops.
    John O

    1. Hi John, thanks for such a erudite & reasoned reply, I concur with every word of it. I get flak from some of our own supporters for asking them if it's still appropriate to be singing the 'Rebs' at football. I have no issue with the historical ballads but there is a time and a place. This whole issue isn't merely a 'Celtic- Rangers' issue, it's an issue of the decent majority of ordinary fans saying, love your club, be passionate in your support but leave the hatreds of the past in the past. The young generation deserve a chance to live free from the mistakes all sides have made. This is carved on the memorial to Irish soldiers of all faiths and none who died on the Western front in world was One, it says it all for me HH

      ‘’As Protestants and Catholics, we apologise for the terrible deeds we have done to each other and ask forgiveness. From this sacred shrine of remembrance, where soldiers of all nationalities, creeds and political allegiances were united in death, we appeal to all people in Ireland to help build a peaceful and tolerant society. Let us remember the solidarity and trust that developed between Protestant and Catholic Soldiers when they served together in these trenches. As we jointly thank the armistice of 11 November 1918 – when the guns fell silent along this western front - we affirm that a fitting tribute to the principles for which men and women from the Island of Ireland died in both World Wars would be permanent peace.”

  8. Written from the heart of a true Bhoy. My Da's story too. Thanks...we are the proud sons and daughters of those that stood by our club in the poor and the great times.

  9. I've had to give up ST due to health problems but had still be going wouldn't go to their games. I think k it's got worse instead of better and it's not just a 'minority' now it's a 'majority'. Grown men probably with kids of own singing about child abuse is sickening .

  10. Forgive, but never forget. I could be neutral in this case, being orthodox christian myself, but I'm not, obviously. Every truthfull, human attempt from Celtic side would be considered as a weakness by sevco support. True Rangers support will, sadly, always be a minority. That happens because true Scotsman aren't and will not be their representatives. They simply feel more English and Brittish then people in London. More than obscure, but that is a fact. This so called club has its only function in promoting bigots and freemasonry. Both ideas are far from being true christian, no matter if you are catholic, protestant, orthodox or any other. Protestants in Glasgow deserve a decent club. That isn't and sadly will never be, this abomination of lies, bigotry, sectarianism and anti-christianism.

  11. That was a very sad day for R.F.C by there minority of there Followers