Saturday, 13 January 2018

With hope in your heart

With hope in your heart

The smell of the Glasgow underground was instantly recognisable to Scott as he skipped down the steps of Buchanan Street station. The platform was already packed with people waiting for the rumble of those familiar little trains which were usually packed on matchday. A few Policeman dotted the platform making sure the fans heading to Ibrox were behaving and Scott could see from the preponderance of colours on the platform that most waiting for the next train were Celtic supporters. He scanned the crowd looking for his friend Davie who had told him in typical unclear terms the night before, ‘Get ye at Buchanan Street at two o’clock.’ As he stood scanning the faces a voice called out through the hubbub, ‘Scott, ya tadger!’ He soon located his friend who stood grinning a mere ten yards away.

Davie Murphy was one of those people who always looked happy. Life seemed to be a big joke to him but for all his cheerfulness his life wasn’t easy. One of eight children being brought up by their old man in Glasgow’s east end, Scott had watched Davie help his old man with cooking and caring for the younger children following the death of his Mother from a smoking related illness. He did this while still working forty hours a week in the Park’s Department. He recalled the dark humour when he’d gone to pay his respects when Mrs Murphy had passed. He had knocked on the door, entered the quiet house and followed Davie into the room where his mother was laid out in her coffin. The younger children were seemingly less affected by what was going on perhaps not old enough to grasp the enormity of what had occurred. As Davie and Scott approached the coffin Scott’s eyes widened a little; one of the younger children no doubt knowing their mum’s love of a fag had placed a cigarette between her lips. It just stood there like a rocket waiting for blast off, it was a strange sight indeed but then Mrs Murphy was seldom seen without a fag in her hand. Davie shook his head, ‘Fucks sake,’ he said quietly as he removed it, ‘that’ll be they mad weans.’

These thoughts flashed through Scott’s head as he eased through the crowded platform towards Davie. ‘Wit kept ye?’ his friend enquired, ‘fixing yer mascara?’ Scott laughed, ‘Shut it you, I gave up that new romantic phase.’ Before they could go on a low rumbling told them the train was near. It seemed to galvanise the crowd on the platform and from somewhere a song started;

‘In the war against Rangers, in the fight for the cup when Jimmy McGrory put Celtic one up, we’ve done it before and we’ll do it again….’

As the train stopped at the platform the crowd surged forward as if not wanting to be left behind. This made it exceedingly difficult for people trying to get off but that was of no concern to Scott and Davie who squeezed onboard just as the sliding doors closed behind them. The carriage was packed but the atmosphere was jovial as the songs and banter flowed. So too did the ubiquitous Buckfast which was being swigged by a few of the young men around them. Davie started one his stories which Scott could never tell was true or a fast arriving joke. ‘That’s the burd leaving me.’ He began, ‘said I’m obsessed wi gardening. I said, ‘where’s this all stemming from petal?’ Even Scott had to laugh at that one. The train rumbled around the stations until it reached Ibrox. 

As they walked up the stairs towards the daylight, they could hear the familiar strains of one of the home side’s anthems drifting towards them, ‘We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood, you’ll surrender or you’ll die….’ Davie grinned, ‘One of my ambitions is tae live long enough tae hear that mob sing a song that’s actually aboot fitbaw.’ Scott smiled. He had a point. As they exited the station the police were there in force to ensure the two streams of fans were kept apart. Scott and Davie joined the stream of Celtic supporters being herded towards the away end. The chanting was louder and the venom on a few faces disconcerting. Davie grinned and joked through it all though and even when a red faced local shouted in his direction, ‘You ya plooky Fenian basturt, ye want tae get yersel some Biactol!’ Davie smiled and called back over the shoulder of a weary looking Policeman, ‘Wit you saying fat boy, you’ve got mer chins than the Hong Kong phone book, ya tadger!’ The weary cop smiled a little at that remark.

They clicked through the turnstile and soon found themselves in the packed enclosure under the main stand. Celtic supporters occupied the Broomloan Stand, part of the main stand and even a section of the Govan Stand and they were making most of the noise.  There was a deafening roar as the teams came out and as the game got underway it was clear both sides where up for the battle. Celtic played most of the good football but bizarrely two deflected goals saw the half time whistle sound with the Hoops 2-0 behind. Scott shook his head and looked at Davie, ‘Playing well mate, just not had any luck at all that half.’ Davie nodded, ‘This game’s far from finished. The team will be fired up in the second half.’ No sooner had the words left Davie’s mouth when a coin from the stand above struck his head,’Arrghhh, ya f…’ As Scott looked up he saw a plastic cup heading towards him and was too late to react as it hit his shoulder, splashing liquid onto his face and clothes.’ Davie rubbed his head with a grimace, ’You no order me any tea? Yer the same in the pub when it’s your round, ye’d think ye had a rattlesnake in yer pocket.’ Scott smiled, ‘Hate tae tell ye pal but it wisnae tea in that cup.’ Davie eased closer and sniffed, ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Did wan of those mad Huns actually pish in a cup and fire it at you?’ He laughed as he said it, ‘hahaha Poor old pishy Scott! Suffering for the cause!’ Scott shook his head, ‘Aye, you laugh ya numpty.’ Davie smiled at him, ‘I’d rather get hit wi a coin than be scent marked by a currant bun!’  

They glance up at the Broomloan stand where the massed ranks of Celtic Supporters were beginning to find their voice. Soon every Celtic fan in the stadium raised their scarves and flags in in unison as the words of a familiar anthem boomed out…

‘Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone…’

As they sang the team came out and Scott could see Burns, Nicholas, Murdo McLeod and the other players look around in wonder. It was a strangely beautiful moment amid the coarseness of the day. Once more the supporters had bonded with the players, made them aware that they were right behind them. Here they were 2-0 down and the fans had clearly not given up. Neither would they.

As Scott and Davie settled to watch the second half, they and thousands like them urged the Celtic team on and the players found new energy and simply overran their opponents. First Nicholas scored with a penalty then McAdam made it 2-2 with a header as the huge away support watched in delight. There was only going to be one winner now and it was Celtic. McGarvey and Nicholas completed the comeback. As the final whistle sounded and news reached them that Dundee United had beaten Dundee to clinch their first league title, there was still huge happiness among the Celtic support that the players had risen to the challenge and not let them down. The fans gave their all at these games and they asked the players to do the same in return. Today they had, and no one was prouder of them that Scott and Davie.

As they headed home on the subway, the Celtic fans remained in good heart. Scott was putting up with Davie winding him up on the train. ‘Good movie on tonight, Lilian Gish is in it.’ He grinned. Scott could see he was using every opportunity to allude to what would become known as the ‘cup of pish’ incident. They got off the train and headed for the Celtic bars of the Gallowgate. There would be more laughter and songs to sing before the day was over. They may have lost the title that bright day in the spring of 1983 but the love fans like Scott and Davie had for their club was undiminished.


  1. This game was one of my favourite Celtic games ever.
    The walk on at HT was amazing I remember TB Danny big Roy going to all the players and pointing at the fans. Great memories

  2. I was also at that game and thoroughly enjoyed it. A year or two ago I found it on Youtube and managed to spot my 19 year old self in the crowd. Ye gods, what a scary sight!!

  3. Still remember the walk on as if it was yesterday.we also had a poy dance that night at the Normandy Hotel where 4 of the first team turned up including my hero paul mcstay. What a shame the players don't seem to do this any more.great read as always .hail hail