Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Hunger

The Hunger

Celtic supporters have grown used to success in the Glasgow derby and yesterday’s loss was the first in almost 7 years in the league. The record for the calendar year 2018 shows the following sequence of results, Celtic score first: 3-2, 4-0. 5-0, 1-0 & 0-1. Hardly a disastrous run of results but the supporters are rightly angry at the performance at Ibrox. We all knew what was coming; an in your face, aggressive home side playing on the edge of the rules. Sure they were being given considerable leeway from officials who could apparently spot a marginal offside but not Morelos stamping on a Celtic player or kicking Scott Brown in the balls. We expected all of that and should have been ready to go to war with them. Instead Celtic looked timid, limp and lacking in the sort of character needed to win at these places. 

There is an old adage that the hungry fighter is the best fighter; well yesterday Rangers were the hungrier team and Celtic need to take a lesson from this and rediscover the hunger successful teams need. These games are physical and psychological battles and all the pretty football in the world won’t help if you allow yourself to be intimidated or bullied. Celtic need to rediscover that hunger and passion they showed in 2011-12 season when they battled from 12 points behind to win the title. Joe Ledley’s headed goal in the final match of 2011 took Neil Lennon’s side to the top of the tree and they have stayed there for seven long and successful years.

Watching Celtic for many years gives you some perspective on such games. I’ve seen good Celtic sides, sometimes very good Celtic sides, lose such games but they have shown that they have learned from defeat and bounced back to win the league. Yesterday was a lost battle not a lost war. The prizes are given out in May and that defeat may well make certain players and even the manager reflect on why they were outfought in that manner. It may also be a blessing in disguise as it strengthens Rodgers’ hand when he asks the board for the money necessary to strengthen the squad. Players were played out of position, others obviously not fully fit but a club the size of Celtic should have more cover in key areas. The team remains on top of the table with a game in hand but they need to show resilience and begin the new-year with a determination to show the rest of the league that they do have the bottle for the battles ahead.

Yesterday the Celtic support was under the microscope as a minute’s silence was held in memory of the Ibrox disaster of 1971. It strains credulity that many in the home support watched the 750 Celtic fans like hawks almost willing them to break the silence before they themselves begin the usual poisonous chanting which so scars their club’s history. We saw banners about paedophilia, others mocking Jock Stein, a man who quite literally carried the dead and dying from the terraces on that lamentable day so long ago. This support must have the lowest self -awareness of any in the land. The child abuse scandals which beset so many institutions in modern society affected Rangers FC too. Indeed many of those scoring tawdry points at football matches chanting about it are statistically likely to be standing near a victim of abuse. Do they ever stop for a moment to think how utterly crass and low it is to sing about such things at a football match? One fellow Celtic fan told me after watching the game on TV, ‘That’s why I hate those bastards and everything they stand for.’ Listening to that poison yesterday, I can at least empathise with his point of view.

When the prizes are given out in May I hope that yesterday’s result is but a blip in an otherwise successful season. As I’ve already said good teams learn from setbacks and address the flaws which make defeats like yesterday’s possible. I look for Celtic to bring in some experience and flair in the January transfer window but I also want to see a more determined attitude; one which says ‘Yeh, we’ll play football but if you want to scrap we’ll be ready for that too.’ Jock Stein knew the value of players who fought to the end and once told a hushed dressing room at Hampden Park moments before a cup final with Rangers…

Every one of you has a job to do. You’ll be up against determined opponents used to bullying and bossing Celtic, well it stops today! The first tackle you have with your immediate opponent is crucial. Go right through the bastard; let him know he’s in for a game. We won’t be bullied any more. This is the new Celtic, we can play football but we can scrap too if that’s what they want. Any of you not going into tackles with the right degree of conviction will be on the transfer list next week and I’ll tell any manager interested in in buying you that you’re a shite bag. Do I make myself clear? Now get out there and win this cup.’

His team did indeed go out and win that game all those years ago. In fact he made then so successful they won 25 major trophies in 12 years. Stein’s team were not just excellent players, they were fighters too who knew that those one on one battles decided how matches would go. Celtic of 2019 need to relearn that lesson, you need to be up for the fight and ready to go to war in those games. If you show any sign of weakness then you’ll get what Celtic got yesterday: nothing.

 As 2018 comes to a close we can look back on another successful year. Yesterday was a warning that if we don’t maintain the standards that we’ve set in recent seasons then we could let a once in a lifetime opportunity to complete a historic ten in a row slip away. I’m confident Rodgers won’t let that happen and if some of the players don’t have the heart for the battle then he must source others who do. Celtic have better players than any other side in the league and occasional dips in form can happen but there will never be an excuse for being outfought in the manner they were yesterday.

Have a very happy and peaceful New Year. I’m confident we’ll be celebrating again in May. Remember; he who laughs last laughs loudest.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Kingston Town

Kingston Town

Tony McGuire glanced though the glass partition at the young woman who found making eye contact with him difficult. Her badge told Tony her name was Sinead. She continued speaking at him in a monotone voice, ‘that’s right, Mr McGuire, it’ll be 5 weeks till you receive your first payment. The new universal credit will help you see the value of taking on work of any kind while you receive it.’ Tony looked at her, ‘Five weeks? But it’s Christmas in a week, how will I get something for the wean? How will I feed myself? Five weeks withoot any money are you fuckin serious?’ She pursed her lips and glanced past Tony to the stout security guard who stood watching like nightclub bouncer waiting on the call to action. ‘Calm down Mr McGuire, there’s a slip you can get for the local foodbank….’ Tony looked at her, ‘Whit? I’ve tae rely oan charity for five weeks?’ She looked down at her notes almost embarrassed, ‘I’m sorry Mr McGuire, I don’t make the rules.’ Tony stood to leave, 'how do you people sleep at night?’

Tony exited the Job Centre and looked around him at the busy shoppers rushing here and there, laden with their packages for Christmas. He crossed the street and entered the Forge shopping centre, more to get out of the cold rain than to buy anything. He sat on one of the seats in the mall as crowds of shoppers flowed around him and tinny Christmas music played. The year which was almost over had been a bad year for him. His job had gone and worst of all his Karen had had enough of his drinking and thrown him out a few months earlier. He was back at his mother’s house at the age of 30; no job, no money, no prospects and missing his daughter. He now had the princely sum of £35 to his name and Christmas was a week away.

His chain of thought was interrupted when a man sat beside him, ‘Tony boy! How ye doing ya fud ye?’ He turned to his left to see the familiar face of an old friend. ‘Franny, long time no see, whit are ye up tae these days?’ Franny grinned at him, ‘Still driving a bus, still backing the Celts & still the most handsome man in Tollcross.’ Tony felt a little cheered by Franny’s infectious humour. You always got him one way. ‘I’ve been tae Tollcross and Quasimodo was runner up so it’s not something I’d boast aboot.’ Franny laughed, ‘Shut it ya tadger! How’s yer Maw? How’s the wee yin, she must be at school noo?’ Tony filled him in on the latest developments including losing his job after a bust up with the site foreman. Franny shook his head, ‘I know that clown, he’d find excuses tae get aw the Tims the bullet if he could. Grade A bigoted arsehole. So that’s you nae work the week before Christmas?’ He shook his head, ‘I’ll keep my ears open if I hear of any jobs goin.’ The two old friends parted with a smile, ’Nice seeing ye Franny. Have a good Christmas mate.’ Franny nodded, ‘You too pal, always a seat on the bus if ye fancy getting back tae seeing the Celts.’

Tony sat for a few more minutes letting the river of shoppers flow around him before heading out into the cold. They sky was already darkening over Glasgow’s east end as he stepped out into the street. He held the door for a woman in her 70s who struggled with her many bags. As she passed Tony she smiled, ‘Thanks, son.’ She had barely gone five paces when Tony noticed that she’d dropped something. He saw immediately that it was one of those big red purses that only pensioners seemed to own. He bent to pick it up feeling it’s fullness in his chilly fingers. For a fraction of a second he considered keeping it, simply turning and walking away in the opposite direction but tutted quietly to himself for thinking that way and hurried after her, ‘Here, Mrs, ye dropped something.’ The old woman turned and regarded him, her eyes widening slightly when she saw her purse in his outstretched hand. ‘Goodness! That’s so good of ye son.’ Tony smiled slightly glad to have done someone a good turn. ‘No worries, Mrs.’ She gazed at him, ‘That was very honest of you, son. What’s your name?’ He mumbled, wanting to get going, ‘Tony…Tony McGuire. Merry Christmas.’ With that he turned to go. ‘You too, son and thanks again.‘ Tony headed for his mum’s house, feeling a little better that he’d done the right thing.

The following day he got a frosty reception from Karen as he picked up his daughter to take her out for the afternoon. ‘So I hear ye lost yer job?’ Tony nodded, ‘Aye, Foreman never liked me much he was just waiting oan an excuse.’ She zipped up their five year old daughter’s jacket and as the child ran to get a soft toy, Karen said to Tony, ‘Ye promised wee Katie a bike for Christmas; I suppose you’ll be letting her doon again like ye did at her birthday?  He exhaled, keeping his emotions in check, not wishing to be drawn into a row, before replying, ‘I’ll do my best, Karen. I won’t get any money aff the social for five weeks but I’ll do my best.’ She barely looked at him as she opened the front door of the flat they once shared. ‘Right, have her back by six and don’t get her soaked if it rains.’

Tony enjoyed 2 solid hours in his daughter’s company and it was a delight to him. He watched her as she cavorted with the other children in the soft play. Every smile, every look over in his direction filled him with pride and love. Later, as they sat in McDonalds, she grinned, ‘Only five sleeps to Christmas daddy! I hope I get a bike and maybe a telly for my room!’ He smiled even as a pang of guilt cut through him, ‘Ye never know what you’ll get at Christmas, darlin. You’ve been a good girl so you’ll get something nice.’ Before heading home, they wandered past Celtic Park, looking resplendent with the Christmas lights glinting in the darkness. ‘Look Daddy!’ Katie smiled, ‘Look at all the lights, it’s beautiful!’ Tony grinned, ‘Not half as beautiful as you, angel.  He picked her up in his arms and carried her towards the stadium where he showed her the three statues outside the entrance. ‘That’s Walfrid, he was a good guy and he helped the poor children when they were hungry. That’s Jock; he was a great man who helped the team be great too. And that’s wee Jimmy he was the best player ever!’ She looked around her mesmerised, ’Can I come here and see them play one day?’ Tony nodded, ‘in the spring when the weather is better. Now, time to head home, yer mother will be expecting you.’ As he carried her down the Celtic way she rested her head on his shoulder, ’I love you daddy.’ It was all he could do to stop his eyes moistening too much. ‘I love you too, angel.’

The following afternoon Tony found himself in a grubby Bookmakers on the Gallowgate. His last £20 would need to be gambled if he was to get Katie the bike he had promised her. A friend had told him of a whisper about a horse called Kingston Town which was currently 16-1. Tony wrote out the slip and stood with a few dozen others staring at the screens on the walls around them as the race began. Three minutes later his £20 was gone as Kingston Town finished fourth. Tony sighed, mumbling to himself, ‘Well that’s you rooked noo, Tony boy.’

As he turned to leave he noticed two men watching him. Both looked like tough cookies but the bigger of the two looked especially hard. One nodded in his direction and said something to the bigger man who walked towards him. Tony’s heart sank when he realised it was indeed a well-known local tough nut. ‘You Tony McGuire?’ he asked in a gravelly, low voice as Tony searched his mind and wondered what the hell he had done which might attract the attention of this character. ‘Aye,’ he said in a voice sounding a little more calm than he was feeling, ‘whit can ah dae for yer, mate?’ Tony was expecting the worst but the man smiled slightly, ’This is for you.’ He handed a very confused Tony an envelope, ‘My maw sends her regards.’ Tony was utterly baffled and it must have shown on his face because as the big man turned away he smiled, ‘Yer a good cunt son, ye could have bolted wi her purse and ye never.’ The two men left and Tony followed behind them, the envelope stuffed into his jacket pocket. His heart pounding, he stopped at the first bus stop he came to and surreptitiously looked in the envelope. It contained twenty crisp ten pound notes. Tony’s eyes widened, ’Shit!’ he said to no one in particular, a smile creasing his face.

Katie’s excited eyes opened to greet another Christmas. She leaped from the bed and ran into the living room. A pile of presents lay under the tree but she ignored these for the moment scanning the room until her eyes fell on the pink bicycle, complete with stabilisers and a helmet, which stood by the TV. ‘Yassss!’ she roared as her mother smiled at her. ‘I must have been a very good girl!’ Tony phoned at that very moment and she shouted excitedly down the phone to him. ‘Daddy, I got my bike! Santa brought me my bike.’ Tony listened to her excited voice, drinking in her happiness. ‘Mind ye promised you’d take me tae see Celtic when the spring comes tae!’ she continued. Tony laughed, ‘don’t you worry, Angel, I’ll be taking you alright!’ Tony spoke to his erstwhile partner as Katie opened her presents, ‘She sounds happy.’ Karen agreed, ‘She is and she misses you. Don’t get any ideas but why not come roon for Christmas dinner. She’d like that.’ Tony smiled, ‘So would I.’


The skies over Celtic Park were blue as the stadium was bathed in bright sunshine. Tony and his daughter sat near the front of the Lisbon Lions stand as Celtic moved onto the attack. The ball was carried up the right wing and flashed across the face of the goal where a forward arriving like a train smashed it into the net. Tony grabbed his daughter and hugged her. Around them thousands roared out their appreciation of a fine goal. As the crowd settled a little the PA system announced the goal-scorer’s name as the supporters joined in a loud chorus which echoed around the stadium. ‘Oh, Oh Oh, Oh, oh we’re Glasgow Celtic, Oh, Oh Oh, Oh, oh we’re Glasgow Celtic.’ Tony joined in watching his daughter as she smiled to see her old man so excited. When thing’s settled a little he said to the man beside him, ‘I love that song, where’s the tune from?’ The man grinned,’UB40 mate, from a song called Kingston Town.’ Tony smiled, hadn’t he lost his last £20 on a horse of that name?  His life had improved a lot since that day just a few months before and when he was with his angel he was the happiest man alive.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Take me to your Paradise

Take me to your Paradise

A damp mist hung in the chill December air as the noisy crowd exited the Broomloan Stand at Ibrox Stadium. The 7000 Celtic fans were in good voice having just watched their side beat Rangers by 2 goals to 1. As they poured from the stadium they sang the praises of the player who scored the winning goal…

‘Oh Scotty Sinclair, oh he is so wonderful, When he scores a goal, Oh it is beautiful It's magical, When he runs down the wing, He is fast as lightning, It's frightening and it makes all the bhoys sing, Do do do dodo do doodododododo...’

‘You coming for a pint, the Gallowgate will be bouncing?’ Micky Stevens said to his long-time friend Andy Gallagher. ‘Naw Micky, going tae see my brother, he’s back from Malawi.’ Micky smiled, ‘I always liked Peter, give him my regards. Is he finished wi the missions?’ Andy shook his head, ‘Just back for a month or so. He’ll be helping oot at the local parish till he heads back in late February.’  Micky nodded, ‘Still amazed he became a Priest, he liked a swally and the lassies when we were younger?’ Andy smiled, ‘He did but then I’d catch him praying now and then so the signs were there.’ They boarded the supporters’ bus for the journey through the dark streets of Glasgow. The mood on the bus was euphoric after Celtic’s win. The songs and laughter flowed as they headed for home. Seeing Celtic win was always good; seeing them win at Ibrox was just perfect.

Andy slipped quietly into the church and sat in one of the pews near the back. He glanced around the familiar interior which he had been dragged to by his teachers and parents in those far of childhood days when he’d rather have been playing football or computer games. The Stations of the Cross were still there showing the last agonising journey of a persecuted man 2000 years before. He looked for a long moment at one image bearing the title ‘Jesus falls for the first time.’ The painting showed a blood spattered man in the crown of thorns who lay bleeding under a bulky wooden cross as the Roman guard prepared to whip him again. What was it with the church and these agonising images? The gentle tinkle of a bell broke into his thoughts and announced that the service was beginning. There was old Father John and beside him Andy’s brother, Peter, known to one and all as Father Gallagher, in these parts. Andy regarded him in his Priestly garb, looking fit and tanned after his time in Africa. As the service began Andy felt strangely detached. Like a spectator rather than a participant. How was it he and Peter had been brought up in the same house by the same parents, went to the same school and yet were so different? He watched the service flow in that timeless way mass did and as communion came closer, wondered if he should partake. When was the last time? A long time ago, he thought to himself. He stayed seated as the faithful shuffled forward towards the altar and waited behind after Mass as the church emptied.

After a few minutes Father Gallagher came out to greet him. ‘Andy, I saw you there during Mass. How are you?’ He wrapped his younger brother in a warm hug. ‘I’m good Peter. You’re looking well.’ His brother smiled, ‘You not fancy coming to communion tonight?’ Andy regarded him, ‘You know me Peter he said with a hint of a smile. Celtic is my religion; Celtic Park my church. I’d be a bit hypocritical going to communion when I’ve stopped believing in the church.’’ Peter nodded with a sage smile on his face, ‘you can still believe in God without believing in the church you know.’ The elder brother led Andy to the sacristy and poured some tea for his him. He glanced at the Celtic scarf Peter still had on under his heavy winter coat from his trip to Ibrox, ‘It’s New Year’s eve, I’d forgotten this Celtic, Rangers thing happens every festive period. Did you win?’ Andy smiled, was his brother the only man in Glasgow who didn’t know the score? ‘Yeh, we won Peter, we seem to always win these days.’  The two brothers regarded each other for a moment. They had many disagreements growing up and a few fights as all brothers do but their bond was strong. Andy spoke first, ‘How was Malawi? Still saving souls?’ Peter sat with his tea at the big circular table which dominated the room, ‘Malawi is fine, the people have nothing but then they have everything. Family and faith still mean a lot there.’  Andy’s face changed a little, ‘Well, I gave up thinking I’d ever see Jesus a long time ago, bro. I can’t see that changing.’ Peter smiled, ‘Come and help at the shelter tonight, you’re sure to see him there.’ Andy laughed, ‘Jesus serving soup to the homeless now is he and on New Year’s Eve?’ Andy’s brother looked at him patiently, 'Pick me up at 9 o’clock, it’s the late shift tonight, wrap up.’

Against his better judgement Andy Gallagher found himself walking though the concrete canyons of Glasgow city centre with his brother. Clubbers were heading out in their garishly coloured outfits and the city centre was alive with music and light as people aimed to bring in 2017 with a real party. Peter though was glancing into those darker corners where those struggling just to keep going watched the world pass. They stopped by a city centre lane where a shadowy figure huddled under some damp looking blankets. As Andy watched his brother knelt by the man and whispered to him. He sat up and Andy could see the unkempt beard, straggly hair and thin face of a man who was not looking after himself. His dark eyes regarded Andy, ‘Who’s this guy, fadder?’ Peter smiled, ‘My brother Andy, he’s helping out tonight, big Celtic fan like you, Paddy. You come down to the centre later for some hot food, ok?’ The man nodded before looking at Andy, ‘You giving us a wee tune the night, son? Tommy used tae.’ Andy nodded, ‘Can’t sing tae save my life bit if that’s what you want.’ Andy noticed the thin, damp track suit jacket the man was wearing and without thinking took off his heavy winter jacket. After removing his phone from the pocket he passed it to him saying, ‘Here, stick that on so I recognise ye tonight.’  His brother said nothing as they left Paddy and continued on to the shelter.

The shelter consisted of two large rooms set into what was the basement of a tall office block. One had the air of a cafeteria where a variety of men and women sat quietly nursing tea or eating some warm food. The second room had a row of bedrolls on the floor and some sleeping bags piled up in a corner. ‘The place opens at 9pm and closes the next morning. At least those sleeping rough get in out of the cold overnight and have some hot food,’ Peter said as he showed Andy around. ‘They know not to come if they’re drunk or high. Although if it’s exceptionally cold we can make allowances but most keep to the rules.’ Andy was stationed behind the counter and was soon chatting to the people who came for soup and rolls. ‘Cheers son,’ said a grey haired man as Andy served him, ’It’s a cauld yin oot there the night, saw a brass monkey looking for a welder.’ He guffawed at his own joke before taking his soup from Andy. I could fair dae wi some hot soup the night son.’ Andy found talking to the ‘clients’ as he heard another volunteer call them, easy as they were straight forward unpretentious people.

A thin young woman with eyes that spoke of a hard life smiled at him. Andy avoided staring at the tell-tale heroin tracks on her arm as she spoke, ‘No seen you in here before?’ Andy returned her smile, ‘Just helping out my brother,’ he replied nodding towards his brother who was deep in conversation with an older man. ‘Father Gal is your brother?’ she said with a surprised look on her face. ‘Aye,’ replied Andy, ‘for my sins.’ She looked into his eyes with a penetrating gaze as if reading his soul, ‘Well, he’s a real Priest, no like the ones I’ve….’ Her voice trailed off as if she’d said too much. She took her soup and glanced at Andy, ‘I’m Lynne by the way, hope I see ye in here again.’ Andy nodded, ‘we’ll see, I might not be needed after tonight.’ As she turned to go she said quietly, ‘Good people are always needed.’

Around midnight Paddy came in sporting Andy’s erstwhile jacket. He accepted a bowl of soup and some bread and sat at a table. Things were quiet at the counter so Andy sat by him. ‘Hi Paddy, how are ye keeping?’ The unkempt man of about 50 regarded him, ‘No bad son though my auld back gies me a bit of jip especially on these cauld nights.’ They got talking about football and life in general and Paddy told him of his days as a post man before drink got its talons into him. ‘The bevy ruined the lot son; my job, my family life and my health. Found myself sleeping rough 5 years back and been that way ever since. Fadder Gal helped me oot wi rooms in hostels but I always fucked it up and got fired oot.‘ Paddy told Andy of his days following Celtic all over and how he hardly missed a match in the 1980s and 90s. ‘Good days son, I was fit then and liked a wee scrap at the gem noo and again. Got three months once for fighting wi Hearts fans; never liked that mob!’ He grinned a gap toothed smile at the memory of his wilder, young days. ‘Fadder Gal came tae see me in Polmont. Got me tae think a bit aboot whit ah wis daen wi ma life. I tried hard but the drink’s like a parasite that lives in ye, wantin’ fed every day.’  Andy let him talk without interrupting. Sometimes all people demanded of you, was that you listen.

It was 1am when the two brothers and handful of other volunteers left the shelter in the hands of the overnight staff. A dozen or so homeless people were safely bedded down out of the cold. ‘Did you enjoy your night?’ Peter enquired. Andy nodded, ‘Aye, Peter it was interesting. Some real characters in there.’ He shivered a little in the cold remembering that he now had just his jumper to keep him warm. ‘I’m on the 10 o’clock Mass tomorrow, why not pop down?’ Andy smiled at him as they reached his car, ‘You trying tae convert me? You said I’d be sure tae see Jesus down here tonight but I didn’t.’ Peter grinned, opened the car door and got in, ’No harm in coming down to the church, Andy, Interesting readings tomorrow.’ Andy guided the car through the cold city centre streets. ‘I might if I wake up on time but I’m lost tae all that now, Peter.’ Andy dropped his brother off with a smile, ‘Good night, Peter.’ His brother returned his smile, ‘yeh, it was. Good night and happy new year.’

The following morning Andy was again sitting near the back of the church as his brother led the service in front of a fairly full church. Andy smiled to himself as his brother got to the gospel reading. As he listened his brother glanced up at him as he read…

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, "I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
When the service was over he again waited behind for his brother who appeared after ten minutes or so. ‘Nice sermon,’ Andy said, ‘I still can’t believe in all of this though, Peter.’ His brother nodded, ‘Andy, when you do good things in your life, you’re doing all God wants of you. You might doubt God but he doesn’t doubt you.’ Andy smiled, ‘Right, I’ve been in your church, you’re coming to mine before you head back to Africa in February?’Jeez,’ replied Peter, ‘I’ve not seen Celtic play in 25 years. Are you trying to convert me now?’ Andy laughed, ‘Pushing at an open door, Peter.’ His brother nodded, ‘Right, take me to your Paradise and I’ll put in a good word so you might get into mine.’

Dedicated to all of those wonderful people who work with the homeless in our society.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Stripes like a zebra

Stripes like a zebra

Aberdeen Manager Derek McInnes was commendably clear in his condemnation of one of his own club’s supporters this week after a video surfaced online of Scott Sinclair taking a penalty during the League Cup Final. A person very near the camera in the Aberdeen end of the stadium shouted in an unmistakable manner, ‘Ya black bastard!’ as the Celtic winger lined up to take the kick. The Dons boss said….

it’s an absolute disgrace, the ignorance of an uneducated fan shouting racial abuse, any racial abuse, in this day and age, is shocking. It’s embarrassing for the individual. It’s not a club issue for me. Its the individual. That type of comment was maybe normal practice in the Sixties and Seventies, and it was appalling then and shocking then, and even more so now. It’s shocking that Scott Sinclair and any other player is still subjected to that.”

Last year we had Moussa Dembele being called the same thing at Ibrox and once more a smart-phone camera recorded the moron in question. Sinclair was abused at the same venue by a grown man acting like a monkey. Some questioned if we as a society had moved on at all since the 1970s and 80s when such behaviour was sadly common in football all over the world. Indeed far right groups often sought to recruit young men at football matches as far afield as Upton Park and Ibrox.

Having lived through some of those times I have personal experience of supporters of all hues behaving poorly. It would be disingenuous to say my own club hasn’t had its share of idiots from time to time. Indeed the way Mark Walters was treated at Celtic Park by a handful of morons in 1988 was as disgraceful as it was repugnant. The Celtic support in general were deeply embarrassed and angry by the behaviour of that handful idiots who threw bananas onto the track. Worse was to come for Mark Walters at Tynecastle a week or two later when he was pelted with bananas while taking a corner. We cannot shy away from this. It happened in our own stadiums and streets, it was disgraceful and it must never happen again. There are no mitigating circumstances it was just idiots being idiots and thinking it was okay.

The Celtic fanzines of the time ripped into what they called ‘racist arseholes’ in the Celtic support who had dragged us all down. They were also quick to point out the hypocrisy of Rangers fans’ outrage over the Walters incident given that they had filled the air that day with the usual anti-Catholic/Irish bile which made up most of their songbook then. It was too much for some to recognise any kind of moral equivalence between their own ‘FTP’ songs or ditties about being up to your knees in Fenian blood, and what happened to Walters. Therein lies part of the problem; we get habituated to hearing such songs and they lose some of their potency as insults. Equally, some are habituated to singing them and pass it off as banter, not really hateful. Sometimes it takes an outsider to look at it all with fresh eyes and ask us why we tolerate such base behaviour. Calling it ‘tradition’ or ‘culture’ really doesn’t excuse what is in essence thick, unadulterated prejudice.

I have an acquaintance who tells me he’s a ’90 minute bigot’ who sings it all at football then returns to being his normal self when the football is finished. I try to explain you either find those songs acceptable or you don’t but he’s happy with his ‘Jeckyl and Hyde’ approach to it. ‘You know me,’ he told me one day, ‘I have lots of Catholic pals.’ I nodded and told him this was all the more reason to drop the silly songs.

The advent of foreign players pouring into Scottish football meant that most clubs now have players from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds and our heroes are of many hues. We occasionally see or hear things will hark back to a darker time, a time before our society evolved in the more tolerant place it is today. It is far from perfect but it is satisfying to see so many willing to add their voices to the condemnation of racist behaviour in Scotland. There can be no standing on the side-lines with this one. It needs calling out without fear or favour wherever it rears its ugly head. These days of Brexit and increasing xenophobia have emboldened some of our less enlightened citizens to think they can once again air their prejudice with impunity. It’s up to us all to say; we’re not going back to the bad old days. We’re not standing for it in football or anywhere else. Too many men and women have suffered the rough tongues of racists and we need to work to educate those who are still receptive to it that this is simply not acceptable.

Leo Durocher was a baseball coach of some repute in the major league of the USA in the years after World War 2. Notoriously bellicose and mouthy ‘Leo the Lip’ was also absolutely ruthless and often ordered his pitchers to hit the batters with the ball deliberately. ‘Nice guys finish last’ was his usual comment when challenged on his approach to baseball. He was loud, brash and a hard drinking coach but when it came to winning he was focussed and determined. He spotted a hugely talented player and was determined to get him into his Dodgers side. The player was Jackie Robinson and his signing caused huge controversy because he was black and the Major Leagues simply didn’t play black players in that era. Durocher was determined to get Robinson into the team and faced down those in his own club who were unhappy with a black player in the dressing room. He told a meeting of his unhappy players with typical bluntness….

"I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin' zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays.’

When Robinson lined up with his grumpy team mates to play the Philadelphia Phillies, some of the Phillies players and officials called him a ‘nigger’ and suggested that he go ‘back to the cotton fields.’ This had the unexpected effect of galvanising his team mates behind him and he was accepted by them to a much greater extent. They came to realise team was more important than the individual members and Robinson’s fine play soon convinced many that it wasn’t so bad to have a black guy in the side after all. The fear, fed by unthinking prejudice, turned out to be groundless. Robinson was a pioneer and many followed in his footsteps.

So I say well said to Derek McInnes, it can be hard calling out one of your own but it is the only way to shame someone into thinking about their behaviour. There were undoubtedly children near or beside the voice bellowing out his prejudice at the League Cup final but thankfully they’ll be educated by the wiser heads and indeed by the Aberdeen manager himself that this isn’t a role model to follow. Bigotry in all its forms is an evil we must all fight. It isn’t about club loyalty or throwing mud at others, it’s about the decent majority at all clubs saying, ‘no, we’re not having it.’ Just as drink driving was greatly reduced by becoming socially unacceptable, so to bigotry and racism can be expelled to the fringes of society. There will always be foolish people prepared to say foolish things but in the end it tells us more about their personal ignorance than their intended targets.

They fail to see how their prejudice harms not only society in general but also themselves. An old Chinese proverb says; ‘hatred corrodes the vessel in which it is stored.’ It’s up to us all to nip this pernicious weed in the bud whenever it appears. To paraphrase the inimitable ‘Lippy Lou’ Durocher:

"I do not care if a guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a fuckin' zebra. If he wants play for my club or join us in the stands backing the team he’s more than welcome.’

Racists are not.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The changing of the guard

The changing of the guard

Paul Curran loved nothing more than the traditional family gatherings that took place every New Year for as long as he could remember. As a small boy he would perch on the couch watching as various family members drank, laughed, sang and on one memorable occasion, fight; but that episode involving his old man and Uncle Tony was never discussed. ‘Least said, soonest mended,’ as his mum often said. Now that he was 16 he held out some hope that his old man might finally allow him a bottle of beer. He stood in the bay window of the family flat in Dennistoun glancing down at the cold, dark street below. 1966 had begun with one of those freezing, foggy days and as darkness had fallen the temperature had plummeted further. ‘Taxi outside, ma,’ he called through to the kitchen where his mother was preparing food for the gathering. As the taxi opened he saw the familiar for of his Uncle Tony stumble out, carrier bags full of beer clutched in both hands. ‘It’s Uncle Tony, ma,’ Paul relayed to the kitchen. From the second floor window he could hear his uncle’s familiar laugh echo in the darkness as he shared a joke with his long suffering wife Sandra.

There was a family story told of the time Sandra had headed down to the Gorbals Pub where Tony spent a lot of his time and in front of the amused customers had plonked a plate of mince and potatoes onto the bar. As the they watched she took a knife and fork out of her coat pocket and placed them beside the plate saying, ‘You spend so much time in here you might as well have yer fuckin supper here as well!’ With that she stormed out of the bar amid good natured cheering from the locals. Tony, it is said, ate the lot without undue embarrassment. He was that sort of guy, Paul’s old man often said of his brother Tony, ‘He wouldn’t get a red face at a bonfire.’

Paul opened the door to Tony and Sandra who greeted him with a smile and a hug, ‘How’s young Tony boy? We goin’ tae see the famous Glasgow Celtic the morra?’ Paul grinned at him, ‘Aye, Uncle Tony, aboot time we won one of these New Year games.’ Young Paul was right there, it was 12 years since Celtic had last won one of the traditional New Year derby matches. His uncle grinned, ‘Jock has got the boys playing good fitbaw. We’ll gub them son, don’t you doubt it!’ Paul’s mum and dad greeted their guests too and they headed through to the living room. ‘You’re oan the records, son.’ Paul’s old man said to him, ‘nane ay that Bob Dylan stuff you listen tae and mind yer granda likes a bit of Jim Reeves.’ Paul sat by the six foot long radiogram which stood like a coffin on legs against one wall. He opened the lid and placed the first single on the turntable, ‘can’t go wrong with Sinatra’ he thought to himself as ‘Strangers in the night’ began.

More people arrived and the house was soon filled with laughter and noise. Paul knew it was his job to keep people supplied with drinks, empty ashtrays, bring in sandwiches and play the music. He didn’t mind any of it, he got to stay up much later than normal and enjoyed the family stories and songs he heard. As it neared 11 o’clock the music was turned off and family members took turns each at singing. The living room was crowded and a hush descended as Paul’s mum got things going with her usual rendition of Frankie and Johnny. He watched her as she sang before glancing around at the faces of various family friends and relatives. They seemed a little spellbound as her fine voice filled the room..

‘Frankie and Johnny were lovers, Oh Lordy how they could love.
Swore they’d be true to each other, as true as the stars up above,
He was her man but he was doing her wrong….’

There was a cheer when she finished singing and she smiled before handing the floor to her husband. There were unwritten rules about these events. You didn’t sing anyone else’s song, a man usually followed a woman singing and you only joined in when required. Paul watched his father begin his version of Sinatra’s ‘Chicago,’ which was well received too. He was surprised how well his old man was singing as he had downed a fair amount of alcohol. So it went on for a good half hour before Paul’s Uncle Tony’s turn arrived. He closed his eyes and began to sing…

‘In comes the Captain’s daughter, the Captain of the Yeos
Saying brave young Irishmen we’ll ne’r again be foes,
A thousand pounds I’ll give you and fly with thee,
I’ll dress myself in man’s attire and fight for liberty! 
We are boys of Wexford, who fought with heart and hand,
to burst in twain the galling chain and free our native land.’

Paul glanced at his old man who had told his Uncle Tony in the past to cool it with the Irish songs at parties but tonight he looked on and smiled. Maybe the whisky had mellowed him. Paul could feel his eyes getting heavy as the party went on and headed for bed. His Uncle caught his eye and slurred, ‘See ye in the morning wee man, mark my words, we’re smashing that mob the morra!’ Paul smiled and entered his cold, dark bedroom closing the door to block out at least some of the noise from the party. He slipped into bed glancing at the pictures of green and white clad players which covered most of the walls in the room. The games with Rangers excited him; they had that unique flavour games between bitter rivals offered as well as an ever present air of menace. As sleep threw her veil over him he mumbled quietly, ‘Please God, just let them win, eh?’

Paul was well wrapped up in his heavy winter coat as he, his old man and Uncle walked along the Gallowgate to the General Wolfe Pub. Paul’s old man glanced into the crowded bar and nodded at him, ‘Inside the day son, too cauld to wait oot here.’ This was the first time Paul had entered a pub with his old fella and he felt a tingle of excitement. He stood in a corner of the smoky bar looking around as his father went to buy a round. His uncle looked at him, ‘I hear McNeill isn’t playing, that’ll upset the defence but I still think we have too much up front for the Huns tae handle.’  Paul agreed, ‘McBride is scoring some amount of goals, Uncle Tony.’ At that his father returned from the bar with two pints of beer and as Paul saw to his disappointment a half pint tumbler filled with lemonade. They spent an hour in the pub before heading out into the crowded pavements of the Gallowgate for the short walk to Celtic Park. This was the moment of truth. If Stein’s side were to finally win the title after 12 long and bitter years then they’d have to win matches like this and show they no longer had an inferiority complex when it came to playing Rangers.

As they stood in the packed Celtic end watching the game begin, Paul could feel the chill in the air and it got colder just 90 seconds into the game when Rangers opened the scoring. ‘Aw naw,’ mumbled his Uncle, ‘same old, same old.’ This was now a major test for Celtic and the team applied enormous pressure on the Rangers defence which through luck and bad finishing held on to their slender lead until half-time. ‘If we get wan they’ll crack,’ Paul’s father said, ‘they’ve hardly been up the park since they scored.’ Paul sure hoped so but so far it was the same old story; lots of Celtic pressure and nothing to show for it.

The second half began and Celtic picked up where they had left off. Wave after wave of attack broke on the Rangers defence as the huge Celtic support in the 65,000 crowd roared them on. Hughes was tormenting the Rangers defence on the rock hard pitch with his strong running and close control. Then a corner was clipped in from the left and the ever alert Chalmers met it with his head to equalise. A huge roar split the gloomy east end sky as the Celtic supporters celebrated. Paul and his old man locked in an embrace as Uncle Tony punched the air in delight, ‘Yessss! Come on Celtic!’ As the crowd settled a little and the songs began to cascade from the packed terraces onto the pitch, there was a feeling in the air that nothing would stop Celtic now. This was the changing of the guard, there were new masters in Scottish football now and they wore green and white hooped shirts.

So it was that that Celtic simply ripped Rangers apart on that gloomy afternoon in Glasgow’s east end. Chalmers scored three goals and Gallagher added another but the jewel in the crown was a magnificent shot from Bobby Murdoch which arrowed high into the net as Celtic Park celebrated wildly. Paul, his uncle and old man were in delirium as they watched it all unfold. The bitter years of defeat and disappointment were behind them, they all sensed that. There was no telling what Jock and his exciting young team would achieve in the years ahead but one thing was sure; Celtic were back at the top and no one would stop them now.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Dreams and songs to sing

Dreams and songs to sing

Watching Celtic playing so well in that first half in Trondheim against Rosenborg gave us a glimpse of what Brendan Rodgers is trying to achieve at Celtic Park. He wants a slick passing, mobile side which presses high when not in possession and attacks with pace when they have the ball. A one goal lead barely reflected how far ahead of the home side they were. Of course, Celtic being Celtic you always had that nervous feeling that a one goal lead could be lost in the blink of an eye but the defence did well and held out a big, athletic side who were reduced to lumping high balls into the box and hoping to feed off the scraps. It was a deserved win for Celtic though and you had to feel happy for those loyal supporters who travel all over Europe to back the team and are more often than not rewarded with a poor display. At last they saw Celtic play well and cut out the soft goals, which so often costs them dearly in these matches.

That win combined with Red Bull Salzburg defeating RB Leipzig in Austria means the Hoops now require just a point from their final game to qualify for the last 32. That would be no mean feat given the standard of opposition Celtic faced. Leipzig are going well in Germany and sit near the top of the league, Salzburg are on a roll in Austria and well clear and undefeated in their table while Rosenborg were crowned Champions of Norway at the weekend. There was an embarrassing moment when Leipzig midfielder Stefan Ilsanker was being interviewed after his sides defeat in Salzburg. He said, ‘It was a disappointing result but it could have been more bitter had Celtic won in Rosenborg.’ When he was told Celtic had won and that the scoreboard in the stadium showing a 1-0 win for Rosenborg was in error his face fell and he responded, ‘In that case we are in a really shit position in the group then!’

It remains undoubtedly a tough task for Celtic to get the point they so dearly want against a very good Salzburg side but the Hoops are energised in those games by the incredible backing of the best supporters around. As Filip Benkovic said after the victory over Leipzig, ‘The supporters gave us wings to play.’ That being said, Jock Stein wryly commented many years ago after being asked about the noisy backing Celtic get from their fans, ‘Aye they’re good but I’ve never seen a supporter score a goal.’ He was correct in that as much as the fans will be right behind the team, it is up to the players to perform on the night and pull off what would be a notable achievement by qualifying out of a group which wouldn’t look out of place in the Champions League.                   

After watching Celtic winning in Norway, I watched some of the Rangers v Villareal match. It was more to check the home side’s form and style of play as Celtic head to Ibrox in a few weeks than any real interest in their European journey which despite just one win in 5 matches in the group is being talked up in the press as almost miraculous. It struck me as the ‘Billy Boys’ rang out in the damp Govan air followed by the predictable and dreary; ‘We hate Celtic - Fenian Bastards’ that this support’s song book has barely altered in decades and it simply not credible to say it’s a minority singing these songs because it clearly wasn’t. I stuck it for about ten minutes before turning it off.

Of course any mention of these distasteful songs will bring the knee jerk response of ‘physician heal thyself’ if we don’t recognise one or two issues in our own songbook which require some serious thought but the scale of the problem at Ibrox is of a different dimension. I want my team’s supporters to celebrate what we stand for and not what some hate. I want us to celebrate Celtic and the players past and present who bring us so many great memories. I want us to be proud of the club’s roots but also proud to welcome Celtic supporters from all backgrounds, all faiths and none and all walks of life. When I see Celtic Park booming out its support for the team it fills me with pride that this community of supporters have kept faith with the past and still back the team with the same passion which they always have. Still honour the club’s charitable and inclusive ethos and be a positive force in society.         

December will be a pivotal month for Celtic and it all begins with the League cup final on Sunday. Celtic has the opportunity to win seven consecutive trophies and that is an astonishing statistic which not even Jock Stein’s great side can match. Leagues are usually won by the best team over the season but cup ties are less predictable. The fact that Brendan Rodgers has yet to lose a domestic cup tie after two and a half years speaks volumes about the consistency and attitude of his team. With trips to Fir Park, Easter Road, Pittodrie and Ibrox to negotiate, Celtic will require the whole squad to be focussed and ready for a huge effort during the 9 games in 3 competitions in 27 days they now face. It all begins tomorrow at Hampden and another shot at glory for Celtic and hopefully another little piece of history.

These are great days to be a Celtic fan but in sport as in life nothing worth having comes easily. It’s up to the players to play to the standards our excellent manager demands. The supporters will be right behind them roaring them on and when the team and fans are as one it is a powerful combination indeed.

We have had much to sing about these past few years and much to be proud of but then we’re Celtic fans, we always have dreams and songs to sing.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

The sweetest thing

The sweetest thing

Desmond Daly stood beside his son Charlie in the huge bowl of Celtic Park as the sound of U2 echoed in the dark November sky. Tens of thousands of Celtic fans were cheering their team from the field after they had just destroyed their great rivals, Rangers 5-1. It was, as the song so fittingly said, the sweetest thing for every Celtic fan. New boy Lubomir Moravcik had played a blinder and scored two fine goals. The team were picking up and things looked a bit brighter than they had after the 2-1 loss at St Johnstone the week before. Dessie turned to his son and saw in his eyes that same thrill and sense of wonder he had known so many years before. As young Charlie cheered the team from the field, Dessie’s mind drifted back to days long gone…….

Glasgow 1970

Someone once said that Glaswegians had a hundred words for rain just as Eskimos had a hundred words for snow. Both might have been myths but on a chilly February day the wind driven rain was falling in that slanting, sideways fashion which drove it into the faces of those trooping along the Gallowgate towards Celtic Park. The February frost had relented but it was still bitterly cold as ten year old Desmond Daly leaned on the door post of Baird’s Bar waiting for his old man to finish his pints and take him to his very first Celtic v Rangers game. He had badgered his old man for weeks about going to the match and he had relented in the end. Dessie was excited about it and if the price of going to the match was hanging about outside a pub in the rain for a couple of hours then so be it. Occasionally someone would enter or leave the pub and Dessie would have a glimpse into the noisy, smoky interior which was packed Celtic fans, laughing, drinking and singing before the match. Would that be him one day, he wondered? As a patron left the Pub Dessie could hear a familiar song drifting out the door on a cloud of cigarette smoke…

‘A lorry load of volunteers approached the border town
They were men from Dublin and from Cork, Fermanagh and Tyrone
But the leader was a Limerick man, Sean South from Garryowen’

His old man had a scratchy old LP with that song and others like it on it. A boy of similar age to him arrived with his old man who lectured him, ‘Stay here tae I come oot, nae wandering aff or ye’ll no be going tae the game!’ With that the man disappeared into the pub. The boy glanced at Dessie, ‘Yer da in there tae?’ Dessie nodded, ‘Aye, been in there over an hour and I’m soaking.’ The boy nodded in return, ‘I’m Paddy, wits yoor name?’ ‘Dessie, Dessie Daly.’ Paddy stepped closer to him, ‘Listen Dessie, it’s only wan o’clock. They’ll no be oot tae at least two. Ye fancy a walk roon the Barras? It’ll get us oot ay the rain?’ Dessie’s instincts told him to stay put but what would be the harm, besides the Barras had some interesting stuff? ‘Right,’ he replied, ‘but just for 20 minutes, my da will dae his nut if I’m no there when he comes oot.’ With that the two boys walked the few yards from the pub doorway towards the covered market and all the strange delights it had to offer.

As they wandered among stalls laden with musty smelling old clothes, fishing tackle, work tools and a host of other things, Paddy grinned and nodded towards a stall set against the wall, ‘Check the sweetie stall, mon.’ The two boys stood among the milling crowd in the market looking at all manner of sweets neatly packed in rows of translucent plastic bags. ‘Have ye got aniseed balls, mister?’ Paddy asked the grey haired man behind the stall. The man grinned, ‘Naw, it’s just the way I’m sitting.’ The two boys missed the joke as he continued, ‘Cola cubes, Everton mints, Peaches and cream, American bubble gum, love hearts, flying saucers, Fizz whizz, candy cigarettes but nae aniseed balls.’ Paddy nodded, ‘Right, cheers,’ and turned away from the stall. Dessie noticed he walked a little faster until they were out of sight of the stall. ‘There ye go, Dessie,’ Paddy said with a grin, handing him a bag of sweets. Paddy took them with a look of surprise, ‘Ye knocked them?’ Paddy nodded as he stuffed two cola cubes into his mouth, ‘Too easy doon the Barras.’ Dessie glanced over Paddy’s shoulder to the stall selling religious items where a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus stared sadly at him as if to say, ‘Don’t let me down, Dessie!’

The two boys wandered the maze of stalls eating sweets and glancing at the eclectic and varied items for sale. One stall was piled high with hundreds of pairs of spectacles and people simply tried them on until they found a pair they could see out of. There were fireplaces, fur coats, Orange and Republican LPs, army uniforms, cooking pots, frozen meat, television valves, hot food and all manner of textiles and clothing. The noise, smell and sights hypnotised Dessie until he glanced at a stall selling clocks and noticed that most of them said it was 2,25pm. ‘Shit!’ he exclaimed, ‘we need tae get back!’ Paddy shrugged, ‘My Da always comes oot at half two so yer right, we’d best head back.’ They pushed their way through the milling crowds and back onto the Gallowgate. The pavements were now full of supporters heading for the match, marching east into the squally wind and rain. They reached the pub just as Paddy’s da came out the door, ‘Right you, let’s go and watch the Celts smash this mob!’ Paddy grinned at Dessie, ‘See ye Dessie, enjoy the game!’ With that they joined the human river flowing towards Celtic Park.

Dessie turned back to the pub and gently eased the door opened a little. The bar was much less crowded now and there was no sign of his old man. He risked taking a step inside to get a better look but he was gone. The barman glanced at him and barked, ‘Nae weans allowed wee man, so oot ye go!’ Dessie felt a mild sensation of panic as he realised his old man wasn’t there. He searched him mind, what would his da do? In the end he figured his da would figure he got fed up waiting in the rain and had gone home. Dessie decided to head for Celtic Park; he knew where his old man stood at every home game and was sure he could find him. He joined the river of humanity heading for the stadium.

As he turned into Janefield the crowds were heavier and the singing more raucous. A man stood by a wall with two big boxes full of rolls, ‘Erza cheese or ham rolls!’ he called out above the din. There were flag sellers, programme sellers and even the odd musician playing tunes on a penny whistle. At last Dessie reached the queues for the turnstiles at the Celtic end. He looked around for a suitable candidate to get him into the game. There was a skill to this, not too old, not too drunk and of course they had to be bigger than you. He spotted a kind faced man in a suit and heavy winter overcoat, ‘Any chance ay a lift o’er, mister?’ The man smiled, ‘Sure wee man, mon wi me.’ The queue took forever as the Police insisted on searching people for drink but at last they reached the turnstile where the man hoisted Dessie up. He swung his legs over as his feet touched the tarmac inside the stadium he heard a huge roar. Someone had scored! Dessie Daly raced up the stairs straining to see what was going on. A wave of noise swept across the pitch towards him, ‘Hullo, Hullo, we are the Billy boys!’Damn’ he thought to himself, was his first Celtic-Rangers game going to be a bad experience? 

He made his way through the packed Celtic end looking for the familiar face of his old man but he was nowhere to be seen. In the end he settled near the front of the Celtic end to watch the game. Celtic pushed Rangers back on a glue pot of a pitch but time after time desperate defending and some brutal tackling kept them at bay. Then as half time approached young full back Davie Hay clipped a cross into the penalty box where it was met by the ever dangerous Bobby Lennox who headed it firmly into the net! Celtic Park erupted! Dessie cheered his young lungs out and felt strong hands grab him from behind. He  was spun around and a familiar face was grinning at him, ‘I thought that was you ya wee rascal!’ It was his father and Dessie could have cried at the emotions unleashed at seeing him and Celtic scoring their goal. They hugged for a long time before turning back to the match. He felt safe and secure with his old man standing behind him, hands on his shoulders. The Celtic end and Jungle roared in unison and Dessie and his old man joined in….

‘And if ye know the history, it’s enough to make yer heart go oh, oh, oh, oh!
We don’t care what the animals say, what the hell do we care!
Cause we only know that there’s gonnae be a show
And the Glasgow Celtic will be there!’

There was only going to be one winner in this match now and Dessie could feel it in his bones. He was happy he'd be beside his old man to watch Celtic prevail.