The Season So Far...
Our SPL season started off at East End Park. The usual fairly friendly atmosphere when we visit this ground was certain to be missing this time round after Chris Sutton’s remarks on the last day of last season. The man himself was suspended for this game which turned out to be a pretty drab no scoring draw. Neither Larsson nor Maloney made much of an impact but our regular back 3 was solid enough although Balde, Valgarren and Mjalby wouldn’t be our regular back 3 for much longer. The match was most notable for Liam Miller making his first appearance of the season as a sub.
Liam Miller had already grabbed some attention by scoring against FBK KAUNAS in the away leg of the first Champions League Qualifier which we came through comfortably 4 – 1 despite a dreadful home tie which we lost 1-0. Our away form in also got us past MTK HUNGARIA to qualify for the Champions League group stages. As much as we all enjoyed last years UEFA Cup run we were all glad to be playing in the big European competition again this season ! There were no big signings in preparation for the group stages but getting drawn with Bayern Munich, Lyon and Anderlecht gave us a good chance of getting through.
In-between the Hungaria ties, we picked up a couple of SPL wins to put the disappointment of our opening day draw at Dunfermline behind us. A 5-0 home win over Dundee United was particularly encouraging given the very attack minded display we put on. Liam Miller started the game and along with McNamara and Maloney added a real positive attacking feel to the team that day. The sort of driving forward play we don’t usually get with both Lennon and Lambert in midfield, effective as they are.
The SPL victories kept coming without any real excitement as we waited on the Champions League games to start. Fist off was a trip to Germany to play Bayern Munich and despite having a relatively short time to plan this trip there was still a sizeable travelling support over for the game. At first it looked like the team were putting in the sort of assured display that served us so well in last years UEFA cup as we cruised to half time without giving away chances but not really threatening to score either. Then ten minutes into the second half we were 1 up through an excellent Thomson header. Sadly it wasn’t to be as two bad mistakes at the back seen us get beat 2-1. A slack headed clearance from Varga gave Makkay the chance to volley home. Hedman then decided that whatever mistake Varga could make, he could better. 4 minutes away from a credible draw and Magnus decided to neither clear nor cover a floated curling free kick to the back post, which went straight in.
After another couple of victories over Motherwell and Hibs it was time to face Lyon at home, and tie for Liam Miller to build on his steadily increasing impact on the team. We played well in the first half but Thomson missed a penalty and it was still 0-0 on 63 minutes when Miller came on for Hartson. He was only just getting into the pace of the game when Miller turned up in the box to head home a perfect cross from Larsson. Sutton sealed the win shortly after when he headed home from a similar position after a move that totalled 26 passes ! We played the ball down one flank, got nowhere so played it back to defence and after waiting for a space, went down the left wing for Larsson again to put the perfect cross in. It was the sort of goal you will always remember and the reaction of the fans that night was in stark contrast to those who jeered Neil Lennon less than 12 months previously for playing diagonal and backward passes waiting for space to open up.
The celebrations that night were matched a few days day later when we went to Ibrox to put the huns in their place – second. Oh how they’ll regret that ‘We Welcome the Chase’ banner as we went top of the table for the first time with a 1-0 win. We didn’t play to our best that day but they were, and are, inferior to our current team. It might have been a deflected goal that won it but Hedman could brought his knitting to Ibrox that day as the pitiful home team never managed a shot on target over the entire 90 minutes. We were expected to lose the game with the build up being dominated with Balde being missing and Valgarren and Mjalby still out injured. No worries as Varga, Sutton and McNamara stepped up to snuff out the huns ‘attack’. It was predicted that we lose the game and go 5 points behind but two games after this victory we were 5 points clear of them.We do indeed ‘Welcome The Chase’.
It was then back to playing some big names in European football with a double header against Anderlecht. In the first game in Belgium the form and momentum built up over recent games deserted us as we couldn’t even get a draw against ten men. It was just one of those nights where it didn’t happen and by the time we faced them at home we needed a win to keep our hopes alive. We only had three points at this stage and having been beaten twice already nothing less than a victory would do. Thankfully we found the form to do the damage with an old fashioned ‘ hit them early’ approach that had us 3-0 up within half an hour and the points were safe. By this time, everyone knew about Liam Miller but just to convince any remaining doubters the lad from Cork ran the show and got on the scoresheet again. It was the sort of demolition we are getting used to seeing in the SPL as we pounded them from the first whistle to get a 3-1 win and go second in the group a point behind Lyon and one ahead of Bayern. Unfortunately Alex Ferguson was there to see Miller at his very best for Celtic and moved quickly to secure his signature for Manchester United. Miller’s decision to take the money and run to Manchester is perhaps the biggest disappointment so far of Martin O’Neill’s reign. The club apparently fought hard to keep Miller but the player was determined to go to United and continued to up the financial ante on each occasion that his financial demands were met.
It’s difficult to be anything other than bitter about the way that Liam Miller conducted himself throughout the underhand deal that he negotiated with Man U. He may yet live to regret the decision that he has made, especially if, as seems likely, he has traded a burgeoning first team career at Celtic for a place in the United reserve side. I hope the £25,000 pieces of silver per week were worth it Liam.
The best thing said about the home match against Bayern is that we hammered them all the way to a 0-0 draw. The Germans were delighted with the result because it effectively kept them in the competition and still in with a shout for a place in the next stage.
And so to Lyon, where a great fighting performance from the Celts proved not to be good enough on the night and which saw a very good French side that we had simply annihilitated at Celtic Park only weeks before proceed to the next round with a 3-2 win. Typically the Bayern B*st*rds who had ridden their luck all the way through the group went through with them after beating Anderlecht in Munich.
Once again it’s down to ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybe’s’ regarding our Champion’s League campaign. We knew at the start of the group that if we won all our home matches there would be a very good chance of proceeding to the next round. The points lost at home to Bayern Munich proved to be our undoing. As the saying goes, “We’ve only ourselves to blame…”
And so it’s the UEFA Cup and dreams of going one better than last year. What a fitting end to Henrik’s time at Celtic that would be. The dream goes on.
Domestically it has continued in the same vein with only the hiccup of the CIS Cup 2-1 defeat to Hibs interrupting an otherwise all-conquering season on the home front.
Sweetest of all so far must rate as the easy 3-0 hammering of the huns on January 3rd. After all the triumphalism at the beginning of the season this was one of the poorest performances from a rangers side that I’ve seen. They were outclassed and outplayed in every area of the park. What a sorry bunch of no-hopers they are with the biggest no-hoper among them being Nuno Capucho, their ‘rub-it-into-the-tims’ signing from the Porto team that robbed us of the UEFA Cup at the end of last season. In years to come rangers fans will most likely deny that ‘Crapucho’ ever wore their team’s jersey—but we know cos we were there!
Victories in the Scottish Cup against Ross County and Hearts have seen us through to another encounter with the forces of darkness. The domestic double must be firmly in Martin’s thoughts as we sweep all before us in the league.
Wins over Hearts, Aberdeen, Killie, Dunfermline & Dundee United have kept us on track for the SPL and with rangers happily continuing to bungle the “chase” we are 13 poionts clear and on schedule to clinch the title before the league splits. There’s a feeling that it’s in Europe that we might just still be capable of achieving something quite significant again. With Ghod packing his bags soon it could be years before we are in this position in Europe again. C’mon The Hoops - for Henrik, Martin and the supporters.
My First Time...
By Martin O
My first Celtic game was on January 28, 1967 when Celtic faced Arbroath at Celtic Park in the first round of the Scottish Cup. The game itself will not go down in the annals of Celtic history as one of the great games. Celtic strolled to an easy 4-0 victory against the hapless 'Red Lichties'. The most remarkable thing about that day was not what happened in Glasgow's East End, but rather something else which happened many miles away, but more of that later.
I had been playing football in the local park with my pals on that freezing day when the great opportunity presented itself which would allow me to see Celtic in the flesh for the first time. One of the laddies I had been playing with was the son of Frankie Corrigan who had a bit of cash and had recently acquired a Ford Zephyr. To me this represented the ultimate in taste, fashion and sophistication. A popular television programme called "Z Cars" had this particular model as the main protagonist in its opening scenes. This only served to add to the allure of the expedition which I was about to undertake.
Frankie, noticing that I had no coat and had only a pair of wellies to display my football skills, suggested that it would be a good idea to go home, get a coat and ask my father for permission to go to the game.
Knowing that my father would not countenance such a thing, I boldly stated that it was alright and with that jumped in the car.
There were five of us laddies squashed in the back seat which as I recall was covered in what seemed to be emerald green plastic. We were given juice and crisps as we set off westwards to find Paradise.
Frankie was at the wheel with big Paddy Coyne as his navigator. Frankie and Paddy were that new generation of younger Catholics who had a wee bit of money and were able to see the Bhoys on a regular basis. The contrast between the two could not have been greater.
Frankie was a bit older than Paddy and came from Derry and a smile was rarely off his face. I never saw the man angry in my life. By way of contrast, Paddy was a bull of a man. Well over six feet and with the build of a genuine light heavyweight, he was an awesome sight. Even with numbers huns were very wary of him, at that time I always felt reassured by his sheer physical presence.
It struck me odd that we were leaving at eleven o'clock for a regular three o'clock kick off. My confusion was added to by the fact that we seemed to avoid the main Glasgow road and instead embarked upon a grand tour of West Lothian, Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow. The reason for the detour became all too apparent as our Odyssey gradually unfolded. We seemed to stop with monotonous regularity at every second pub on the way with which both men had an intimate knowledge.
In an era when there was no breathalyser and when car ownership was still mainly confined to the Middle Classes, Frankie and Paddy rightly deduced that there chances of being pulled over were minimal. Today's over protective society would have been appalled by the circumstances of our travel arrangements. No seat belts (not compulsory) a driver who was clearly over the limit and five youngsters in the back and a car which seemed to automatically screech to a halt when it sensed a pub in the vicinity.
A combination of the stop-start and the effects of too much juice and crisps led to the inevitable, with me much to my shame throwing up on various grass verges en route.
Finally we made it to the outskirts of Celtic Park and the inevitable ritual of parking the car. A wee boy who was younger than us, but much older in other ways, kindly (as I then thought) offered "tae look efter yur motor Mister". A tanner was thrust in his hand and I felt great jealousy that this wean was able to con two grown men out of a lot of money.
This was my first visit to Glasgow that I could remember and there seemed to be a lot of people that you don't see anymore. Wee dwarf like men with clubbed feet and other deformities which I had never seen before yet all possessing voices like foghorns selling an array of goods and papers.
Coming from a small village, I had never seen so many people congregated together as we made our way through the streets.
As we approached the turnstile my excitement mounted, it hadn't occurred to me that I would have to pay to get in. Paddy stood next to the turnstile as the laddies lined up, he grabbed us by the scruff of the neck and thrust us roughly over the contraption into whatever lay beyond. The closest I have seen to this manoeuvre was on television when a group of Australian farmers shepherded their flock through the sheep dip, though it has to be stated that the Antipodeans displayed far more concern and dexterity than Paddy did.
Typically, I was last in the queue and as I was wheeked over the turnstile, one of my feet caught the top ( I have always been a big lump) and I tumbled over into the muck and whatever else lay beneath. When I arose from the filth, much to the amusement of all present, I looked like a prime candidate for "Children in Need'.
Thus I entered Paradise.
Impervious to the derision of the others as well as the freezing cauld, I bolted up the stairway and gained my first sight of Celtic Park. My breath was taken away by the sheer size and scale of the ground. Unbeknown to me I was in the 'Jungle', it's difficult to convey to the younger generation of the atmosphere that was generated at that time but it was unique.
Being a child I saw everything from a child's perspective both physically and emotionally. Of the game itself I have very few recollections except that Celtic seemed to score with effortless ease. I was disappointed that both Jinky and Buzzbomb weren't playing that day as they were my favourite players. In the school playground, everybody wanted to be Jinky as he could dribble and the ball seemed tied to his boots. Buzzbomb could run fast and score goals, that was good enough for me. (The more subtle but immense skills of Murdoch and Auld were completely lost on this nine year old.)
Three players stood out one of whom was Ronnie Simpson with his bright, emerald green jersey. Then there was big Tam Gemmell with his flaming red hair. However, Billy McNeill commanded my attention most as he just looked like a giant with his blond hair and imperial presence.
Most nine year olds have a short attention span and once it was established that Celtic were going to win this game with ease, my eyes and ears began to wander. At ground level I could see the debris of the broken bottles which littered the terraces, the reek of stale drink was everywhere.
As it transpired, my wellies had been an inspired if unintentional choice of footwear for that day as an acrid and foul smelling torrent streamed endlessly southwards. The floodlights too were a source of wonder, I had never seen anything quite like these things.
But most of all it was the people who intrigued me as I slowly got used to the sing-song rhythms of the Glasgow speech and patter. It was as if I was being taught a new language, acquiring a new vocabulary and new songs and most importantly being gently inducted into "the Celtic way". From what I can recall there was no chanting and certainly at that time no overt reference to the political struggle in Ireland. The troubles however were sadly shortly to break out some months later. These were happy days in
so many ways as the song so rightly proclaimed. I was also privileged if blissfully ignorant of the fact that I was watching the greatest football team to come out of the British Isles and one of the greatest sides ever in the history of the game.
At the end of the game a huge roar erupted and I assumed that this was how every Celtic victory was acclaimed at Celtic Park, although even though it did occur to me that vanquishing Arbroath did not merit such a response.
Paddy was delirious with joy as he yelled out "The Huns are oot the cup!". I wasn't even aware who the huns were playing that day but was quickly appraised of the essential facts. In probably Jock Wallace's greatest moment, he as goalkeeper had managed to retain Berwick Rangers 1-0 slender lead over the big Rangers in far off Berwick.
Paddy insisted that the monumental defeat of the hated hun was yet another reason to prolong the celebrations, though had Rangers won 10-0, he would still have gone to the pub anyway.
Eventually when they had quenched their thirst, it was decided to make our slow, tortuous way back home. Through the gloom and the darkness, it slowly dawned on me that I would have to face the music.
In my absence, my parents had sent out search parties to locate me. They were frantic with worry. I knocked at the door and my mother's face was a mixture of shock and pure relief, "Where have you been!"........ "I've been to see Celtic ma" came the honest reply.
As I explained the chain of events relief gave way to incredulity and then to anger. I was given a skelping (well, rituals had to be observed) and sent straight to bed with no supper.
That night I couldn't sleep, not because my arse was stinging because of the skelping (my father's heart wasn't in it if the truth be told, deep down I suspect he admired what I had done). To me the sights and sounds of that day were too vivid to erase from my memory.
I knew I had to go back
We're Irish & Proud We Are To Be
Celtic means everything to the people of Ireland, it is our way of life. Our fellow countrymen went to Scotland over a hundred and fifty years ago to seek a better life. They formed the club in November 1887 and we are eternally grateful to them, they will stay forever in our memories. The institution that is Celtic Football Club is a great Irish institution based in Scotland.
I felt compelled to write a few words as I believe there are quite a few people who do not understand just what Celtic Football Club means to the people of Ireland.
I was born in Belfast in 1978, the conflict was in full flow and my parents just happened to live on the Falls Road. I have very clear memories of early life in Belfast, some more memorable than others.
I recall as a four year old, my parents house being raided and parts of it being destroyed by the British army, I recall the British shooting a man at our front door, I recall the endless nights of rioting and gunfire, I recall my father throwing me on the living room floor just in case a shot came through our front window. I recall politicians, posters, elections, badges, loudspeakers, loud men and a few loud women also.
But the one memory, the one thing that made me the happiest kid in the world was Christmas 1981. Although that year goes down as one of the most harrowing years in Irish history, for me it was all about that Christmas.
On the 25th December 1981, I became the proud owner of my first Celtic jersey. I got a woolly hat, gloves and a Celtic schoolbag as well, but the hooped jersey that Santa brought for me was soon to develop into an almost tattoo status, as it rarely left my back.
This jersey even as a two and a half year old was not just a football jersey. Even at that tender age I knew I was part of something special and unique. It represented a football club, but it also represented a community, an oppressed people and what has become over the decades, a widespread but very close family unit.
I have friends who follow clubs other than Celtic, they try to tell me those clubs are the same as Celtic, I always have a wee laugh to myself. The simple answer is there are no clubs like Celtic. I have searched high and low; I have found some with similarities, but not one club the same as Celtic.
In 1981, my father was a regular at Celtic Park and beyond. I remember the night he came home from Glasgow with a match programme and the news that the mighty Juventus had fallen at Celtic Park thanks to Murdo Macleod. My father told me he was in the Jungle and that it would not be too long before I would be there.
Always a man true to his word, I went on my first trip to Celtic park for the last game of the season in 1982. In hindsight I did not realise how important this game was, this was a league decider. Thankfully George McCluskey got a goal and Celtic went on to win 3-0. Incidents at Pittodrie that day remind me of the last day of last season. Aberdeen had to beat Rangers 5-0, and were already 4-0 up at half time. Some things never change.
So my first trip to see the Bhoys was a successful one, although over the years I have become very reliant on travel sickness tablets. I was never a good traveller and would spend my time on the boat out on the deck, feeling not too well. I then would have spent the two-hour journey from Stranraer to Glasgow with my head out the minibus window, something which my father’s friends have never let me forget. But just getting to Glasgow was great, I loved seeing the Springfield Road and London Road crossroads, in a different country, but very much at home.
Thanks to my father I became a regular traveller to Celtic Park. My father had many friends in Glasgow and these men have now become my friends. Men like Rab and Archie Mc Williams, Rab Allen, Lindsay, John Lynch, Jas Allan, Gerry Clocherty, young Gerry, Willy Rossini (RIP), Big Eddy, Johnny Cryans and Peter Mc Ghee. These men typify Celtic for me, they are resilient, passionate, humorous and fiercely proud of their Irishness.
Throughout the early to mid 1980s, my father, my uncle Joe, my cousin Joseph, Maxi, Billy Toner, Danny Nugent, Jim Molloy, My Uncle Joe McIlroy, Joe Hughes, my cousin Terry Park, my cousin Lisa McIlroy, My uncle Tony Burns, John Watson, Seamy Thompson, Jackie Collins, Jackie Mcloughlin and My Granda Tanzy Burns all made regular trips to Glasgow under the banner of the Glen Celtic Supporters Club.
In those days, going to watch Celtic was not as easy it may have seemed. I recall being told that if anyone on the boat asks what we were doing in Scotland, we were to say we were going fishing. It was well known that the authorities on the Scottish side would have kept you there for a few hours if they thought it would cause you bother. I was never allowed to wear colours on the way to Scotland and one time when our Terry did wear colours, he found out why he should not have.
The 18th May 1985 was the next time I saw Celtic lift a trophy, My father threw me in the air as Davie Provan scored a great free kick and then after Frank Mc Garvey scored a diving header, he threw me in the air again. What a childhood. I remember leaving Hampden that day feeling immensely proud, thinking to myself, the whole of Ireland will be over the moon. All round Hampden there were only Irish flags, our national anthem was being sung and the music of our native land could be heard everywhere. Not even seven years of age, I understood the significance of those flags and those songs.
Going to Glasgow has never become easier, I absolutely hate the travelling, but the sensation and the buzz surrounding the ground makes it seem all worthwhile. The boats are better quality and the Troon route softens the blow. Today, it is made special by men like Joe Duff, Bubbles, Hesky, Colum McCann, Sean Mc, Jim 'The Vigo boxer' Rowntree, Gerry Keon, Kieran McGourty, Dee Martin, Colly Clarke, Micky 'Anfield' Armstrong, the Monaghan Bhoys led by Jim Greenan and the Dublin Bhoys. It is a family tradition and one which I hope to pass on to any siblings I may have, just like my father did to me.
My Granda died on 12th Jan 1987 and as a token of appreciation and respect for someone who was not only a great Celtic man, but also a very decent and humble man, the Glen Celtic Supporters club was renamed the Tanzy Burns Celtic Supporters club. I think about my Granda at every game and I know he would be so proud of Lisa, Terry, myself and our Conor, who is the youngest of us.
Recently I have been going to domestic away games as well as European away games and home games. We make it to every game we possibly can, although in recent years tickets appear to be a bigger problem than transport. Our Lisa, Angela Brady, Our Conor, Ciaran O Neill, young Caitlin, my school friend Jib, myself and a few others are regular attendees at away games in Scotland. We have Aidso Digney and Eire Go Brach CSC to thank. My own club, the Tanzy Burns club travel regularly as well, Our Terry, Tony Park, Daniel park, The Sloans, Micky McDonnell, Big Roy, wee Roy, the singin binman, chopper, Paddy Deck, Jim Clinton, Tony Slack and several others.
It has been a journey that relatively speaking has only started for me, I believe we are on the crest of a wave. The experiences I have had and the people I have met along the way have been phenomenal. I lived in Scotland for a while where I met a group of Lads from a place called Lochee, on the outskirts of Dundee. These men again live and breath Ireland and Celtic, the dedication they show and the contribution these people make is incredible. Thanks to Kelly, Flynny and the Bhoys. I met brilliant people from Aberdeen, Grampian Emerald, big Paddy, Kevin and all the bhoys up there. Again these guys have an unbelievable affiliation with Ireland. Other men from Edinburgh, like big Chris from the Edinburgh No.1: a man who loves Ireland and Celtic alike. Others I see mostly at away games, like Robert Finnegan, Ronnie and his cousin JP have given the Irish travelling support, a welcome that is hard to describe. I sincerely hope the bond between team and country exists for many years to come.
While on a recent trip to Lyon, I encountered something I personally had never encountered before. We were waiting for a taxi back to the hotel and we got speaking to some fellow Celtic men, the two guys were saying they had nowhere to stay and we told them they could sleep on our floor, not a problem. One of the guys in his mid twenties, Stevie from Perth, was wearing a kilt and carrying a saltire. I was with two other Belfast lads and we commented that it’s good to have strong links between the two countries. Stevie then lost all chance of a place on my floor, by asking me why don't I support a team from my own country. I explained to him as if talking to a three year old that there are strong connections between Ireland and Celtic. He told us that Irish people were not welcome as they bring sectarianism with them to Celtic games, I asked this guy was he Frank Carson in disguise. Needless to say we left them both to sleep on the street.
When I think back to my father going to Celtic games over twenty years ago, I think that guys like Stevie from Perth were as rare as hen’s teeth. I am very proud to say that I am an Irish Celtic Supporter from Belfast. I firmly believe that we represent ourselves in an excellent manner and we never let the club down.
Thinking of what might have been...
By Holloway Gael
“I think that most Celtic fans are still trying to fathom out whether it was a good season or a bad season” – so wrote Ronnie Cully a sports reporter for the Glasgow Evening Time in a piece he did for the Fulham programme for our pre-season friendly at Loftus Road.
Sound familiar, heard it before? Aye, me too & its got tot the stage where I’m pissed off to still be hearing it at this stage of the current league race where we have everything more or less sewn up with another two months of the championship still to be played. But let it be said here that 2002/2003 is a season that will live long in the hearts and minds of Celtic supporters everywhere because it marked the beginning of a new era in the club’s history and that’s despite the fact that we didn’t win anything last season.
It was an unforgettable affair and the fact that we ended up without a trophy to show for the team’s efforts is a complete irrelevance. Let’s face it you don’t always get what you deserve in life. Or to put it another way, did Porto really deserve to win the UEFA Cup, and were rangers really worthy champions last year? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO… and that is not a lingering bout of sour grapes, but I’m straying from the point.
The simple fact is that they just don’t get what we are all about, do they? Of course we are about winning trophies – after all, over the years, we’ve already won the biggest and best that are up for grabs during our illustrious history. But it’s much more than that. It’s about doing things a certain way. It’s about having a set of beliefs and a belief in yourself and your own ability. Like standing firm in the face of a challenge and coming good when others have written us off. It’s also about putting on a show and we did all of those things last season and then some more on top!!!
The European adventure that we experienced would have been considered a flight of fancy just a few short years ago. Regardless of the result, the very fact that we competed in our first European final since 1970 is something that should have been recognised and celebrated in equal measures. Yeah we lost but what the held do we care, what the hell do we care???
Until we better last season (this season again anyone?) let us continue to wallow in the memories of a fantastic campaign. Memories like Ewood Park and Henke ramming the words of ‘simply the beast’ back down his throat…
Or that night in Galicia when the Bhoys weathered a storm and put out one of the best teams in the competition and many peoples favourites to win the tournament thanks to BBJ’s crucial away goal.
Then onwards to Stuttgart and had it not been for the result at Anfield in the following round this would probably be most peoples favourite trip of the qualifying rounds. Although beaten on the night, two early goals meant that we were destined to go through despite the late rally by Stuttgart. That night it seemed that there were Celtic fans from every corner of Europe at the match – the Basque Country (Revolutionary Greetings Comrades!) Croatia (Mad B’s!) Dutch lads from Feyenoord and NAC Breda and of course fans from all over the host nation itself, from Dortmund, Munich, Berlin and by far the biggest travelling contingent from Germany, The Bhoys and Ghirls of FC St Pauli from Hamburg.
But as I mentioned earlier even that occasion was usurped by events on Merseyside in the Q/F 2nd leg. There were scores to be settled here: 1966 when 'Lemon' had a great goal chalked off and 1997 when we’d done enough to win but drew 0-0 and on both occasions we went out on the away goals rule. There was also the small matter of which set of supporters first adopted You’ll Never Walk Alone as their anthem. And, oh Bhoy were these old scores settled in style!
BBJ’s magnificent goal was a peach and how we celebrated with OUR songs. Who cares who sang YNWA first because rarely have the Koppites heard it sung as it was that night and to round it off we gave them a rousing chorus of The Fields.
The semi-final away leg was a damp squib of a match that was spoiled by the time-wasting, play-acting tactics of a Boavista side that was only interested in securing passage to the final on the away goals rule after managing a 1-1 draw in Glasgow. Bearing in mind also the behaviour of the Porto players in the final it's pertinent to ask if this is the norm for Portuguese football? No matter because the negativity of the hosts couldn’t hold us from celebrating our victory.
And so to Seville and the final…. And what an occasion that was. 80,000 Celtic fans came via every available flight and through every Spanish airport, as well as by road, rail and sea. Only around half of those who went to Seville actually had tickets for the match. That has to be one of the most breathtaking events in football in decades. Okay, so we got the fair play accolades from UEFA and FIFA to celebrate the fact but just hold onto that one for a few seconds… around 40,000 Celtic supporters went to Seville just for the CRAIC!!! That is truly unique.
Those like me who were fortunate enough to have a brief for the game can testify to the equally breathtaking scenes at the stadium. 35,000 Celts in a ground that only held 52,000 and everyone seemed to be wearing The Hoops. The stadium was a sea of green and white not to mention the many Palestinian and even a few Basque flags that were on show as well. 20 minutes before the kick-off came a moment that I will never ever forget as long as I live. On came Paddy Reilly’s version of The Fields of Athenry (and it’s still the best version for me!) and every man, woman and child lent their voices to what must have been one of the most emotional renditions of the ballad I have ever heard. What a sight… what a sound… I was greetin’ like a wean!
Alas there was no fairy tale ending. Even 2 goals from The King of Kings weren’t enough in what I believe to be his greatest game in the hoops. In the end it was a couple of individual mistakes that cost us glory but having said that I attach no blame to anyone. 4 days later we were robbed of the league by the narrowest of margins on goal difference. A bitter pill to swallow but the simple fact of the matter is that Celtic’s adversity was rangers’ opportunity. And even then they wouldn’t have managed it without the cowardice of Hunfermline. But we don’t care what the animals say….
So bhoys and ghirls the next time some eejit asks you whether or not you though last season was good or bad treat them with the scorn and contempt they deserve. Remind yourself of Blackburn or Vigo, Anfield or Stuttgart, and Oporto and Seville. When the smile begins to form on your face you’ll know the answer to the question. Remind them of the words of our old song “For we only know that there’s gonnae be a show and the Glasgow Celtic will be there.
Maybe then they’ll get what we are all about.
My own favourite memory of last year??? It has to be Seville but a close second would be the final ‘Old Firm’ game of last season. We literally got off the plane following the match in Boavista and turned them over like turkeys on a spit roast. A beach party ensued. And for that glorious day at the Reichstag we should thank rangers, the SFA and the PSNI (sorry, Strathclyde Police) for insisting that we go there less than 48 hours after returning from Portugal. All of which reminds me of an old republican slogan: We defy you – do your worst!
Tiocfaidh Ar La !
At the beginning of the season, Marxman, TAL’s London organiser along with our editor Talman met up with the now ex-Labour “maverick” MP, George Galloway at a curry house in north London to ponder all the big questions of politics; the war in Iraq, the prospects for peace in Ireland, sectarianism in Scotland and, of course, the future of Celtic FC.
The Milky Bars (or at least the curries!) were on George.
In relation to the war in Iraq George Galloway was absolutely convinced of the correctness of his political stance against the US/British invasion and subsequent occupation of the country.
“Everything the anti-war movement predicted has come true. We said that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction and there aren’t. We said that Iraq was not a threat or danger to anyone else, either in the West or even to its Arab neighbours, and it wasn’t. Let’s face it, it couldn’t even defend it’s own capital city for more than a couple of days.”
During the course of the interview Galloway, who has an insight into Iraqi politics that few other politicians on these islands possess, ominously predicted the large-scale resistance to the western military occupation that has become all too real in recent days and weeks. He was also scathing of the reasons given by Bush and Blair for the war, stating as the real reason for the conflict the quest to plunder the rich oil fields of Iraq by multinational corporations allied to the determination of the US political/military establishment to create another bridgehead of political control in the region outside of their client state, Israel.
“ We said that the war would increase rather than decrease Terrorism in the world and it has. We predicted that the level of hatred towards Britain and the USA would increase and it most certainly has. You only have to look at the British Foreign Office’s own website to see that the number of countries now considered to be dangerous for its nationals to travel to has greatly increased as a result of the war.
“And the real reasons for the war were apparent almost immediately as American companies lined up to receive the contracts that would allow them to strip the country of its wealth. All the prime contracts have been sliced up and handed out to the corporate friends of the Bush regime, including among them the Vectra Corporation whose day job incidentally is the privatisation of London Underground.”
He is also pessimistic about the prospects now for an early withdrawal of troops from Iraq given the massive damage that has been done to the infrastructure of the country by the invading forces.
“This is Vietnam all over again. There is going to be no easy way out for them now. They are seriously considering privately the prospect of an occupation force that could be in Iraq for as long as 5years, 10years or maybe even longer.”
We decided to tackle George about the continual criticisms of him in the media for his alleged contacts with the Saddam Hussein regime. Did he think that it was justified for him to have travelled to Iraq and met the dictator in the past?
“I met Saddam Hussein twice. That’s exactly the same number of times that Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Rumsfeld was meeting him on behalf of the US Government to sell him guns whereas I was there to try to persuade him to destroy guns.
“Neither do I buy the idea that just because I met Saddam it somehow means that I supported his regime, but it sometimes amazes me that people are taken in by the tabloid attacks on me. I’ve even had a wee bit of abuse at Celtic Park. I was on my way into the ground for a match and one guy shouted at me, ‘There’s the Tripoli Shamrock!’ A bit of a lapse in geography there. I’ve also been accused of being ‘Gaddaffi’s Friend’ even though I’ve never been to Libya and I’ve never actually met the Colonel!”
The MP for Hillhead is nothing if not philosophical about the tabloids’ view of him. A recent issue of The Sun newspaper ran a headline accusing him of being a “Traitor” and demanding that he be tried for treason.
“Funnily enough, the first time The Sun ran a “Traitor” headline against me was in 1990 when I marched in Dublin alongside Gerry Adams. Their line then was that no-one should be meeting or speaking with Adams.
“What’s better, talking to people in order to reach an agreement and avoid war or having a war where thousands of people get killed?
“If the British government had met the Irish Republican Movement earlier and dealt with the political demands of the nationalist community we may have avoided years of war and violence and many people who are not with us today might still be alive.
“And exactly the same is true of Iraq.”
George Galloway has for many years been a supporter of the cause of Palestine. His solidarity with the Palestinian people goes right back to his early political career in Dundee. It’s an issue that is familiar to TAL readers and supporters and despite the years that have passed and what appears at times to be an almost insoluble political situation he remains passionately committed to the rights of the Palestinians.
“A gratifying development in more recent years for me has been the realisation among many Celtic supporters of the importance of the Palestinian issue; how it’s not something that is foreign to them; that the Palestinians are fighting against the same forces that have so destroyed and stultified Ireland and the Irish people. Forces that have driven the Irish to the four corners of the world, just as the Palestinians have been driven to the four corners of the world.
“I am so happy when I see Palestinian flags flying among the crowd at Celtic Park. I feel a particular satisfaction about that because I have been so involved with that issue going back to the early 1970’s.”
As one of the few MP’s who has consistently campaigned for British disengagement from Ireland he also derives some personal as well as political satisfaction from the current political process that has pushed republicans to the fore in their efforts for a political solution to the conflict.
“It generally takes a long time to be vindicated in politics especially when you’ve taken a stand that is widely reviled at the time you first argue for it. In the case of Ireland, when I was being roundly condemned as a traitor for speaking with Gerry Adams in public, it turns out that all the time Mrs Thatcher and her representatives were speaking to him in private! It just goes to show the total hypocrisy of the British state in this regard.
“I’ve always believed that Britain should disengage from Ireland. For someone from my own background, as the grandson of Irish immigrants, it really isn’t possible for me to have taken any other view. Britain doesn’t have an Irish problem - Ireland has a British problem.”
It won’t surprise TAL readers to hear that due to his forthright views on Ireland Galloway has been a target of hate for loyalists in Scotland. Even the baptism of his grandson Sean managed to create controversy when it was publicised that the baby’s christening was the first Catholic baptism ceremony to be performed in the House of Commons since the days of Guy Fawkes. Despite the threats and abuse he has received over the years, he remains committed to peace in Ireland and to resolving sectarian conflict in Scotland. He imparts some advice to loyalists in the 6 Counties about the choices that they face.
“I concur with the advice given to them by Tim Pat Coogan, that they should ‘cut a deal’ before it’s too late. Essentially that was the conclusion drawn by the whites in South Africa. Unfortunately it’s not a position that has been adopted by the Israeli settlers and you can see the results.
“In the same way that the South African solution enshrined the rights of minorities, even the rights of the formerly dominant white minority, so too must any arrangement reached in Ireland preserve the rights and interests of the two traditions. The interests of all of the people of the island must be guaranteed.
“It would be just as intolerable for the nationalist majority in Ireland as a whole to treat the unionist minority badly as was the reverse in the Northern Ireland statelet for so many decades.
“I’d say to the loyalist population that they should stop fooling themselves that Britain has any interest in maintaining their supremacy. What you share in common with the rest of the people in Ireland far outweighs the things that you don’t have in common.
No-one wants to take away your churches or your orange halls. You can live as you want to, but you must also accept that other Irish people are your equal and they have a right to elect a government of their choice and as long as that government is one that respects your human rights as a community and as individuals. That is the best option available to unionists as a community because the British fell out of love with Ian Paisley & Co a long time ago.”
We asked George about his perceptions of “sectarianism” in Scotland and what he thinks of the Scottish Parliament’s proposals regarding the banning of marches that are deemed to be sectarian.
“I don’t want to see any marches banned. Where possible we should seek to accommodate all views within communities. Banning marches is not the way to address views that you disagree with or object to. Obviously a slightly different approach has to be taken if a march is proposed to go through an area with the specific aim of provoking trouble – as is the case in areas of the 6 Counties – but even then they are sometimes allowed with conditions placed upon them.
“You cannot equate republican marches with those of the orange order. There is certainly a difference between republican politics and religion. Michael Davitt was Protestant; Wolfe Tone was Protestant. You do not have to be a Roman Catholic to be an Irish republican. Republicanism is not a religion it is a political tenet, one that is shared by a very large number of people. Of course it’s not sectarian to be a republican – it’s the opposite of sectarianism.”
Finally we got down to the issue of football and despite our suspicions that George was in fact a Dundee United sympathiser (he has a soft spot for ‘the Arabs’ from his time in Dundee) he professes a life long affection for The Bhoys. Not surprisingly, as a Celtic supporter, he is as passionate about how our club is run as he is about how the country should be governed.
“I had a disagreement with Fergus McCann some years ago when he came down to London to address our Westminster branch Celtic Supporters Club. I challenged him about his description of the fans as customers. I said that ‘customers’ can choose to change brands if they are dissatisfied with the product but as supporters of our club it’s impossible for us to make that kind of consumerist approach. As Celtic supporters we can’t change to another brand because WE are the club and WE support them through good, bad or indifferent times.
“It’s a cultural thing that means everything to so many people. It’s our lives, so please don’t call us ‘customers’ because it’s an insult. We’re not buying chocolate biscuits – this is Celtic we’re talking about.
“As I said to McCann at the time, ‘This club and its supporters were here long before you and they’ll be here long after you.’ “
George Galloway said a lot more about his ideals for the club and those that he thought would be in the best position to take it forward. He cited his friend Brian Dempsey, as being “Celtic through and through” and expressed disappointment that there is still no place for Dempsey in the structure of the club. He also expressed agreement with TAL’s position of supporters having a greater say in the running of the club.
“I strongly support greater involvement of supporters at every level of the club. That is ultimately how the club should be run. We need a genuine coalition of Celtic people; the rich ones who can provide the necessary finance and the ordinary Celtic supporters who, come rain or shine, through thick and thin, remain the backbone of the club.”
Love him or loathe him, George Galloway remains a figure of political controversy, but he is also firmly committed to the issues in which he believes. His views on Ireland and Palestine may be more popular nowadays but it wasn’t always so. He has recently helped to establish a new electoral organisation called the Respect Unity Coalition. Our thanks to him for agreeing to be interviewed - and for paying for the curries when the bill came around!
Republicans Honour Joe Cahill
BY MARTIN SPAIN
On Saturday night 8th November , republicans gathered at the City West Hotel in Dublin to honour a man rightly described by Martin McGuinness as a colossus of the struggle. Up to 900 friends, family and comrades attended the testimonial function for Joe Cahill, a stalwart of republicanism since the 1930s.
A host of musical talent entertained throughout the night, including Cormac Breathnach and Niall Ó Callanáin, Noel Hill and Liam O'Connor, Tony McMahon and Barney McKenna, Barry Kerr and friends, Terry 'Cruncher' O'Neill and Spirit of Freedom. Céilí dancing has long been a passion of Joe's and he was also treated to a performance by dancers from Derry's Glen Gallaigh Céilí Club, joined by under-16 world champion dancer Leanne Curran.
It wasn't long before Joe's exploits over the decades of struggle were aired, Marian Reynolds of Irish Northern Aid in particular reminding the audience of Joe's tremendous impact in the United States on behalf of the republican struggle. "Joe founded Irish Northern Aid," Marian reminded the crowd as she made a presentation on behalf of the US-based group. "It was a pleasure working with him over the years."