Tuesday, 30 October 2018

A time and a place

A time and a place 

Like over 30,000 other Celtic supporters, I travelled through to Murrayfied in Edinburgh for the League Cup Semi-Final with Hearts. The sun was shining, the team showed up and the atmosphere was excellent. From my seat near the halfway line I had a good view of a terrific second half performance from Celtic who really put their opponents to the sword when the game opened up. Ryan Christie scored an excellent goal but there were good performances all over the field; Benkovic strolled through the match like the class player he is, Scott Sinclair showed flashes of his true self and even the much maligned Mikael Lustig had a good match.

The fans were in good voice too although the songbook is drifting back towards a less enlightened time. Maybe it was the opposition, maybe it’s the lingering effect of the now defunct Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, but there has been a distinct increase in political chanting at Celtic games. This is especially true at away games as I noticed on Sunday and at Kilmarnock recently too. The joyous ‘Beautiful Sunday’ song belted out after the victory over Rangers earlier in the season has been converted into homage to the IRA. Songs such as the Boys of the Old Brigade, the Broad Black Brimmer and Sean South were also aired. Surely we can do better than this? If folk feel the need to sing these songs then they should be saved for the pub, the home or other more appropriate venue. This is mostly young people with no memories of the Troubles and the utter carnage and horror of those years singing such songs at a Scottish football match. How is this appropriate in 2018?

I saw one online debate where a chap raised the issue and stating that it took the shine off of a good display for him. He was expecting to be harangued by those who enjoy the ‘Rebs’ but it seemed to me the majority agreed with him. Of course for a minority he was a ‘snowflake’ or a ‘soup taker’ but he raised an issue that is troubling some Celtic supporters.  There will always be a minority who couldn’t care less about the opinions of other fans or the damage this does to Celtic’s reputation. Nor do they care about the victims and relatives of victims of the Troubles very much with us still. Nor yet about the youngsters in their midst listening to them. Like it or not, these songs give the media every opportunity to play the ‘both sides the same’ card they often do when discussing sectarianism in Scotland.

A few years ago I was at Rugby Park watching Celtic play Kilmarnock. Kenny Shiels was the Killie boss then and as a percentage of Celtic fans began singing a modern rebel song, I wondered how many knew that Kenny’s brother had been killed in the troubles? Yet here he was in a Scottish football ground listening to supporters singing about the organisation which killed his brother. Do we really think that’s right? The legacy of those years is very much with us still. It may be 20 years since the killing stopped but many on all sides still live with loss and grief. There were awful things done by all sides and many innocents have never received the justice they’re due. If healing and reconciliation is ever to have a chance then perhaps the war songs are better not aired in public, particularly from those with no experience of the bad days of the past. Of course every community has its stories and its songs and no one would argue such expressions should be outlawed, merely that people consider the right time and place to air them.

I come from a traditional Celtic supporting family with roots both Irish and Scottish. I enjoy the traditional songs as much as anyone but there is a time and a place and it isn’t in a modern football stadium. My Irish grandad fought for his country’s freedom but always taught me that all the people of Ireland had to reach agreement to live together. He would say, ‘You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.’ He loved the songs he learned in his homeland and would sing the Rose of Tralee, Kevin Barry  or the West Awake at family parties but if there was what was once called a ‘mixed company’ in the house he’d respectfully avoid any political or nationalist songs. That was considered decent behaviour then.

I understand the cultural and historic circumstance which brought the Irish to Scotland and the roll Celtic played in giving that community pride and hope in a better future. It’s natural to want to celebrate the club’s Irish roots but we are a much more diverse support these days with followers from all walks of life, all faiths and none and no one should ever feel uncomfortable among us. The songs I mentioned earlier aren’t in my opinion sectarian but for many they are offensive and there are so many good Celtic songs which could be sung instead.

It’s now 45 years since Jock Stein invaded the terraces at Stirling Albion to tell supporters that they should keep their songbook focused on Celtic and not politics. That was in 1972, the bloodiest year of the Troubles when 479 people were killed and almost 5000 injured in a province with a population no bigger than greater Glasgow. Here we are in 2018; 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement, and we’re still talking about what is appropriate to sing at a football match.

There will be those who will sing what they want regardless of the damage it does their club’s reputation. There will be those who think politics and football have always mixed and see no problem with singing any songs. There are of course, those with a visceral dislike Celtic and use these songs to legitimise their hatred.  There is also, I believe, a large group of Celtic supporters uncomfortable with it who’d rather Celtic fans sung Celtic songs. There will also be those who will not be happy reading the words I’ve written. But do you what? This club belongs to all of us and each of us has a right to an opinion on the issues which affect us all.  

I know the club would rather not hear these songs at games as it does damage to the image of our support. So how about keeping it to Celtic songs  and leave the war songs at the turnstile?

Friday, 26 October 2018

Ordinary Angel

Ordinary Angel

One of my earliest memories as a child concerns a time when I was about 7 years old. My mum was struggling on her own with six demanding young children and we were living in a damp flat in a decrepit tenement building which stood near the Tennent’s Brewery in Glasgow’s east end. I recall one dark, winter’s night when the money had run out and the cupboard literally was bare. There was a knock at the door which I answered to a well-dressed, polite man who smiled and said, ‘a friend told us you might be in need of this.’ He then handed me a rather heavy box which I could barely carry before turning around and heading down the dark stairway.

I took the box into the living room and explained what had occurred to my mum. She opened the box and to our delight it was full of tinned food, fruit and all manner of nice things. It was like manna from heaven to us coming as it did at our moment of greatest need. My mum explained as she read a small card she found in the box that it came from the Society of St Vincent de Paul. She told me that in life sometimes we meet people whom she called ‘ordinary angels;’ People who do good things for others and ask for nothing in return.

Recently we lost one of those ‘ordinary angels’ with the passing of Michelle McFarlane. Those of you who know the work of the charity, ‘The Invisibles,’ will know that it is at the forefront of supporting the homeless who sleep on the streets of Glasgow. Michelle brought drive, energy and organisation to the charity as well as her knowledge of the various ways to help those on the streets with advice on benefits and other useful information. She joined The Invisibles at a time a rag-tag team of earnest and decent people were doing their best to help those in need. She brought organisation, allotted tasks which suited the skills of those who did them and helped forge a much more cohesive and effective organisation. Those who knew her well spoke of a woman with a heart of gold allied to a steely determination to do the very best she could for people she sought to help.

Michelle was a fighter in a variety of contexts and as a life-long Celtic fan saw the injustice of the Offensive Behaviour at Football act and the heavy handed way it was being implemented. She did all she could to support ‘Fans against Criminalisation’ and was pleased when the Act was eventually scrapped. One colleague who worked closely with her said of her…

‘It was in her DNA to help people, not just the homeless or football fans, but everywhere she saw injustice. She did all of this and still remained a very humble person.’

Her passing was marked in a very poignant way outside the Invisibles centre in Cadogan Street, Glasgow. Volunteers, family members and some of the homeless people they and Michelle have helped along the way gathered to pay tribute to a remarkable woman. They created a makeshift display using her picture which was surrounded by the light of candles which brought light to the darkness of an autumn night in Glasgow. The symbolism was very apt for a woman who in her life brought light to those in need. The comments on the Invisibles web page when her death was announced speak volumes about the sort of person Michelle was. Here are a few….

‘Gutted for you all and for those Michelle cared so deeply about.
Michelle was at the heart of so many campaigns, fighting for justice tirelessly.
Such a sad loss.’

‘One of life’s good troopers, she will be working tirelessly up there too.

‘Rest in peace my friend, you will always be in our thoughts. God bless.’

‘The Lion sleeps tonight, RIP our dearest friend and volunteer, we will continue our fight to support the most vulnerable in our city.’

‘Goodbye friend. You made the world a better place and not many can say that.

‘Just can’t believe she’s gone, a true woman of principle and we were all lucky to have known her.’ 

‘The saddest news. I have been sitting right in front of her, Mark & Michael at Parkhead for about 20 years. I am heartbroken. R.I.P My friend

‘Such a truly wonderful woman with a heart of pure gold; you will be sadly missed.’

As balloons drifted into the dark, night sky over Glasgow in memory of Michelle, a group volunteers, family and some of those Michelle helped on the streets had gathered to honour her. Of course they were saddened at the loss of one whom they held so dear but were also proud of this feisty lady who fought for those less fortunate, for the poor, the harassed football fan, for those in need. 

Michelle made a difference and won the trust and respect of the many clients she worked with. She also won the affection and admiration of many who came into contact with her and could see she was the real deal, a genuine person who not only cared about people society had marginalised but actively fought for them. She would have smiled at the Green Brigade's banner flown in her honour at Celtic Park. No doubt she would point to the others who worked with her and share the recognition.

Rest in peace, Michelle and thank you. You were indeed a Champion of the people and in the words of my old mum, one of life’s ordinary angels.

Friday, 19 October 2018

The Know-Nothings

The Know-Nothings

The nature of prejudice and its role in the subjugation of groups in just about every human society has long been discussed by social scientists. It remains a cultural heirloom passed down the generations and as such can be difficult to eradicate. Abraham Lincoln once wrote to his friend Joshua Speed using words which could fit any number of conflicts today…

‘“As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

More years ago than I care to remember, I sat in a bothy on a building site nestling in a Glasgow scheme which was being renovated. To my left was ‘Chelsea’ so called because he wore a Chelsea top to work each day; on my right was ‘Ian’ who wore an England top and liked to spend his breaks using felt pens to decorate the bothy walls with child-like artistic impressions of Loyalist insignia. Both young men were Glasgow born and bred. What surprised me was the fact that the mixed group of workers in the Bothy barely batted an eyelid at behaviour and language which was overtly racist and sectarian. It was as if this was the way things were and nothing could alter it.

‘Ian’ was a particularly nasty person with what some call ‘wee man syndrome.’ His daily anti-Catholic remarks and bitter little jokes could perhaps be excused as he was also clearly, ‘not the full shilling’ as my dad used to say. He didn’t like my humorous putdowns and was far from happy when my response to another of his predictably moronic statements; ‘Ain’t no black in the union Jack’ was, ‘Aye but there’s blue and red so can Smurfs and native Americans get in yer wee club?’ His face was as scarlet as the red hands he liked to sketch, particularly as the bothy laughed at him. Humour remains a powerful weapon when used well against those seeking to spread division.

Chelsea was a brighter if somewhat misguided young man. He seemed desperate to find an identity and a world view to guide him in life. I told him one Monday morning that I saw him at the weekend fighting with Celtic fans at Duke Street railway station. He tried to explain himself with the old. ‘Aye Tims like you are OK but those other ones deserve it.’  I pushed him to say why the others deserved it and he fell back on tired old tropes like, ‘They’re all IRA supporters’ etc. He was bright enough to see how hollow his words were even as he spoke them; in honesty, he just liked the excitement of violence. I got to know him quite well and it struck me that his life revolved around cultural, sporting and social events which restricted his interactions to those he called his ‘own people.’ Getting to know people from other backgrounds personally through work though introduced him to the idea that they weren’t so different to him. ‘Ian’ may have seemed to be beyond redemption back then but Chelsea was potentially a good guy despite adopting shallow tribal postures and attitudes which helped him fit in to his chosen sub-culture. You got the impression he never fully bought into the nonsense he sometimes spouted.

We all know people like Chelsea and Ian; young men looking for purpose and meaning in their lives and through the more malign influences around them, find it in worn out attitudes and prejudices which in reality can blight their lives. I met Chelsea in a totally different context a couple of years back and he was thankfully a wiser man who had shed the worst of his prejudices and lost the friends that needed losing. Some people learn and grow in life; some follow the same old groove all their days.

I thought of these two chaps as I watched footage of England fans in Seville for a match with Spain. A minority displayed all that old ignorance and arrogance which makes them as popular as the plague.  Their prejudices have been weaponised by Brexit and are now portrayed as less absurd than they should be by some. We had the usual ‘fuck the Pope and the IRA’ no doubt learned over the years from those other Brit-Nats further north. There was also an utterly obnoxious ditty about Scott Brown and Madeleine McCann. Jack Pitt-Brooke, writing in the Independent with characteristic candour said of them…

‘We all know inside ourselves that the behaviour of so many of England’s fans abroad is no aberration and no accident. It is not at odds with our national character and mood but entirely at one with it: insular, arrogant, confrontational, territorial, unable to see anything through the eyes of anyone else, suspicious of minorities and foreigners, increasingly dependent on national myths and purity tests. Do not be too surprised by the behaviour in Seville. Just turn on the news.’

The current national discourse regarding Brexit is undoubtedly feeding this xenophobic fringe in the UK. The so called ‘Football Lads Alliance’ march in London demonstrated that a group set up as ‘anti-extremist’ has in fact drifted to the far-right itself. People of my age have seen these types before. They have gone by many names but the values they espouse are always the same; exclusively nationalistic, xenophobic, racist and reactionary. We saw then in George Square in 2014 after the referendum on Scottish independence. We saw them try to march into the Jewish quarter of London’s east end in 1936 when the Jews, Irish and others stood up to them. They never change,’ it’s always some minority’s fault, never the fault of the so called ‘elites’ who work them like puppets.

No matter your politics, your view on Brexit or the team you support, there are limits to what is acceptable. Overt racism or bigotry is going too far and we must stand up to it as individuals and as a society. As Abraham Lincoln said of the bigots of his time…

'When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except Negroes…. and foreigners…. and Catholics….'

The ‘Know nothings’ exist in every group, every community and yes, every support. That’s why it’s everyone’s business to call it out and shame those who practice the sort of ignorance and racism we saw from a minority of England fans in Spain. It’s not about being anti-English; it’s about being decent human beings. 

These are challenging times in our world and we need the good folk to be heard now more than ever.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Days like these

Days like these
Tony McIvor looked at the battered old Ford Fiesta, ‘Ye think that’ll get us tae Dundee? Looks like a feckin antique.’  His good friend Johnny Mullin shook his head, ’Oh Ye of little faith! Just get in and we’ll go pick up daft arse.’ Tony had a look of mock shock on his face, ‘daft arse? That’s my brother yer talking aboot!’ He thought for a second before continuing, ‘but yer right daft as a brush.’  Johnny jumped into the driver’s seat as Tony opened the creaking door of the passenger side. The interior smelt vaguely of urine. ‘Where did ye get this dream machine?’ he said as he buckled himself into the seat. Johnny started the engine which whined into life, ‘Bought it for £250 aff a guy in Royston, a good year or two in it yet.’  Tony was less than convinced but added, ‘As long as it gets us tae Dundee, we’re not missing this game.

They cruised down Mill Street on Glasgow’s south side heading for Tony’s brother’s place in Castlemilk. The bright May weather and Celtic’s imminent chance to seal an unexpected league title after a remarkable end to the 2007-08 season had the friends buoyed up. Tony pushed a cassette into the tape player on his left and the familiar sound of the Wolfe Tones filled the car…

 ‘He was me brother Sylvest, got a row of forty medals on his chest
 He killed 50 bad men in the west; he knows no rest!
He’s got an arm like a leg and a punch that would sink a battle ship,
it would take all the army and the navy to put the wind up Sylvest.’

The car headed up the steep incline of Castlemilk Drive and stopped at the close where Tony’s brother Dom lived; the balcony of his second floor flat was draped with an Irish tricolour. ‘Hope yer brother’s sober, he nearly got us jailed at the last game wi the currants.’ Tony smiled, ‘I telt him if he’s oan the Don Revie he’s no coming.’  On cue Dom McIvor came out of the close, a plastic bag clearly containing alcohol. ‘Mon the Celik!’ he shouted as he came towards the car. He wanted to come along despite not having a ticket, saying he’d get in by hook or by crook. He was wearing his usual Celtic top and jeans. Tony grinned, ‘Never changes oor Dom.’ A slightly tipsy Dominik McIvor plonked himself in the back seat of the car and greeted them with a cheery smile, ‘Right boys let’s get up tae Dundee and see the Celts do the damage!’ The car pulled off and as the first ring pull was popped in the back seat. The car glided through the streets of Glasgow and headed for the M80 motorway.

Like thousands of other Celtic fans they were headed north to see if Celtic could pull off the final part of a remarkable comeback. The team had been streets behind their rivals Rangers until two victories against the Ibrox club coupled with their loss of form had seen Celtic climb to the top of the table. Now all they had to do was win this last match and the title would be theirs. As the three friends headed north they passed numerous buses and cars loaded with green clad fans. It was going to be a special night. As they neared Stirling, Dom leaned forward and said, ‘Here Johnny boy, any chance ye could stoap for a minute, am needin’ a Lillian Gish?’ Johnny smiled; he always found Dom’s ability with rhyming slang amusing. ‘Nae bother mate, there’s a layby up ahead. ‘Cheers big man, I’ll no be long, just need tae syphon the python then we’re back on the road tae Dundee.’ Tony and Johnny watched Dom head off into the bushes. They were parked less than a mile from the imposing sight of Stirling Castle which had stood on its volcanic rock for centuries. ‘Nice part of the world this,’ Johnny commented. Tam nodded, ‘Aye till some mad weegie shows up and pishes oan it.’  Johnny laughed and nodded towards Dom who was heading back towards them. ‘William Wallace country here boys, bet he’d have been a Jungle Jim if they had fitbaw back then! I could see him in the Hoops.’ With that bizarre image in their heads they were off again and heading for Dundee.

A warm spring night greeted them as they parked near Tannadice Park. Thousands of supporters were already milling about, most of them seemingly sporting the green of Celtic. ‘Right,’ Tony said, ‘We need wan mer ticket, ask at the buses and keep yer eyes opened.’ As the game came closer they had no luck. Hundreds seemed to have travelled without tickets. Dom was in magnanimous mood and said, ‘It’s no happening wi the Celtic end. I’ll head roon tae see if any the locals will part wi a Wilson Picket for their end.’ Johnny shook his head, ‘No wi the hoops oan. The cops will chase ye even if ye get wan.’ Tam took off his light jacket and gave it to his brother. ‘Zip this right up and try yer luck. If ye don’t get in we’ll get ye at the motor.’ They clubbed together a few more pounds to give Dom more bargaining power with any local with a spare ticket. ‘Good luck Dom!’ Tony shouted as his brother headed off towards the home end of the stadium.

Dom wandered among the milling throng of tangerine and black clad supporters outside the George Fox stand. He could clearly hear Glasgow accents among the crowd and the ever vigilant Police were on the lookout for Celtic supporters trying to access the Dundee United end. He approached a group of United fans who stood chatting to his left and put on what he thought was a decent Tayside accent, ‘Here pal, ye ken where any tickets are fur sale ay?’  One of them laughed out loud; ‘Where the fuck is that accent from?‘  Another smiled at Dom, ‘Good try pal but this isnae Fife.’  An older chap touched Dom’s elbow, ‘My boy didnae make it tonight, ye can come in wi me.’ Dom was about to offer him money but the grey haired man shook his head, ’Put that in yer pocket son. I might be a United supporter but I’m a Lochee man aw the same.’ Dom wasn’t quite sure how being a Lochee man made this old chap so generous but he was delighted to be getting into the match. He might have to sit on his hands for 90 minutes and keep his mouth closed but it’d be worth it if Celtic won the title.

As he took his seat among the Dundee United fans he couldn’t help but look at the packed ranks of Celtic supporters filling half the stadium. Their banners draped over the stands, their songs filling the air, it was going to be a special night. The game passed in a blur; there were chances at both ends, a good penalty shout for Celtic and a huge roar which greeted Aberdeen’s first goal against Rangers 70 miles to the north. Then on 72 minutes Celtic won a corner and Paul Hartley lined up to take it. As Dom watched the ball, a white blur, flashed across the penalty box where Celtic’s big striker Jan Venigoor of Hesselink met it with his head. The ball smashed into the net and a wall of noise swept across the pitch. It was obvious there were hundreds of Celtic fans dotted around the United stands and a few were ejected by the Police for celebrating the goal. When the game ended the old fella shook Dom’s hand. ‘Well done son, enjoy yer night.’ Dom smiled, ‘Thanks Pal, that was very good of ye.’

As the Dundee United fans drifted away hundreds of Celtic fans who had been in their end were left to join in the songs of victory filling the Tayside air. It had been a remarkable end to a remarkable season and Dom gazed across the field to the celebrating throngs of Celtic supporters taking it all in. Days like these made it all worthwhile. He unzipped his brother’s jacket to display his hooped shirt and joined in the songs of victory.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The Gap

The Gap

Disappointment is often found in that gap which exists between our expectations and reality. Watching Celtic playing in Europe in recent years has been a perfect example of this. Negotiating the preliminary rounds of European competition is fraught enough but the performances in the group stages of both the Europa League and Champions League in recent seasons have, for the most part, been poor. Most fans are well enough informed to know that it would take something special for Celtic to compete with sides like Barcelona, PSG or Real Madrid but when one considers Celtic’s 3-0 win at Anderlecht last season was the clubs first win in the group stages of European competition in 16 attempts it tells you something is wrong.

Supporters were of course full of hope after Brendan Rodgers arrival that at last we could mould a side capable of competing in the group stages of European football. His team glided through the Scottish game like a Rolls Royce in that unforgettable invincible season but results in Europe were at best patchy. The embarrassment of Red Imps away was put right as the team overcame Astana and Hapoel Be’er Sheva to reach the group stages of the Champions League. Two creditable draws with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City were the highlight of a campaign which pitched the Hoops into possibly their toughest ever Champions League group. A 7-0 battering in Barcelona was the low point as the team barely laid a glove on the Catalans. It was this timidity; this acceptance of their fate in some European ties which so annoys some fans. It’s as if they don’t believe they can compete. No one expects Celtic to win in the Nou Camp but Celtic teams of the past would at least go down with all guns blazing, not stand off and admire Messi and co rip you apart.

Rodgers second season saw Linfield, Rosenborg and Astana despatched as the team reached the Group stage of the Champions League again. An excellent PSG side destroyed Celtic home and away hitting a dozen goals in the process. Bayern won narrowly at Celtic Park in a match Celtic should have taken something from as did Anderlecht although Celtic’s win in Belgium saw them drop into the Europa League round of 32 where a fighting performance saw them beat Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 at home before another one of those timid, error strewn performances away from home saw them tumble out of Europe.

This season saw the side knocked out of the Champions League in the final qualifying round by an AEK Athens side they really should have beaten. Shocking defending at every goal the Greeks scored cost the club tens of millions of pounds and fans rightly questioned what the hell was going on with recruitment if teams with a fraction of Celtic’s turnover can locate and secure the services of decent central defenders. It didn’t help that Boyata was seemingly in a strop about not getting his big money move and we can speculate about what might have happened if he had played in Athens but the whole team looked jaded and in dire need of new blood.

So it was that Celtic found themselves in the same Europa league group as RB Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg and Rosenborg. The narrow 1-0 win of Rosenborg at Celtic Park was Celtic’s first group stage win in European competition since they beat Dinamo Zagreb in 2014. It was also the first time Celtic had won an opening group game in all their years of competing in Europe. Up next was Red Bull Salzburg and some felt this was a tie Celtic could perhaps take something from. In reality this side had just won in Germany against their stable mates RB Leipzig and had in the past few seasons defeated the likes of Marseille, Real Sociedad, Borussia Dortmund and Lazio. They were also undefeated at their home stadium. This was always going to be a very tough tie. Celtic did well in the first half to snatch an early and defended reasonably well. Ball retention was poor though and this led to the team barely attacking the Austrians and as wave after wave of attacked flowed towards Craig Gordon you had that feeling something would give in the end. Salzburg is a good, dynamic young team but once more the inability of Celtic to do the basics well led to a predictable defeat.

Celtic now face a double header with German side RB Leipzig and defeat in both of these games would mean the campaign would almost certainly be over as Salzburg would most likely take care of Rosenborg home and away. It is vital Celtic pick up something on these ties with Leipzig so that they can at least enter the final two matches with something to play for. Salzburg and Leipzig share more than the same sponsor and the close links between the two clubs mean they will be doing Celtic no favours. European football is the big boys playground and is a harsh, unforgiving place. Celtic need to start performing at optimum level in these games and cut out the basic errors which so often kill our chances.

There is no point blaming individual players. We can all see that the team as a whole isn’t functioning well. The goals have dried up, the ball retention a problem against better sides and defending in crucial games is at best unpredictable.  The team has in reality regressed which is a huge disappointment to fans who thought that the bold appointment of Brendan Rodgers heralded an era where Celtic would build from a position of strength and improve season on season. The loss of good players like Roberts, Armstrong and Dembele would be a blow to any team but it’s more than that, players who performed well in the past couple of seasons are struggling for form and confidence and that combination is making the team vulnerable domestically and in Europe. With vital games coming up, it is to be hoped the manager sorts out the problems and gets the team back to some semblance of the form they have shown in his first two seasons.

January’s transfer window is now looking like an important one as the team needs an infusion of energy. We’d all like to see one or two class players arrive who can go into the team and make a difference. This team is capable of more than they are showing at the moment and it’s up to the manager to bring that out of them. There is still much to play for at home and in Europe, if Celtic play to their potential and get stuck in we’ll have no complaints. It means so much to the fans and it should mean the same to the highly paid players who wear those famous hoops.

As a banner once read; ‘We’re in here for you – be out there for us!’