Thursday, September 29, 2016

The perfect game of football

My match build up yesterday consisted of me sitting on the couch, wrapped in a big duvet with a New York Taxi adorning it, feeling sorry for myself with man flu. There was an hour or so during the day where I considered not going but the consequences of that, ghastly enough at the best of times, were even worse because I had a ticket for a friend and no real way of getting it to her should I not go.

My mate Ally had said he would pick me up in Edinburgh which helped me immensely as I fancied stoating about Waverley and Queen Street about as much as Brad fancies Angelina these days. I still had to jump on two buses to get to the pick up point but wee tatties really. We did the usual crawl along the M8 (baffles me that Scotland's busiest road only has two lanes) but Ally had the Rebs on in the car so I croaked along to them.

We got to Celtic Park at 6.45pm from a 4.45pm departure and still considered that good going. The place was teeming with people in keeping with the sky teeming with rain as supporters tried to find shelter outside (not easy and I'm sure I saw a few folk smirking at us from the heat and comfort of the Walfrid Restaurant)
I met my friend we hurried round to our seats. Not because it was raining but because she had decided to buy and wear a Poncho and I was hoping no one saw me with her.

You can set these type of games to your watch. We got in about 7.15pm and the place was emptier than the wallet of a Rangers (IL) Bond holder. You can see the looks on the faces of people visiting Paradise for the first time thinking they had been given a bum steer regarding the atmosphere not realising that Celtic has a support largely made up of people who have the thirst of someone staggering through the Sahara Desert.

Permanently.

Before you can finish your pie (as it takes that long to cool down), You'll Never Walk Alone starts and you remember again that you are home. This is the holy ground and you are surrounded by angels (Ok, maybe a bit romantic) before the big starry ball starts waving up and down in the centre circle and the music plays.

The lion that sleeps in Paradise then roars.

I was pretty confident last night (Check my prediction on HomeBhoys "A fighting 2-2 draw") and, of course, enjoyed the game immensely.  That was Celtic Park at it's best, a tornado swarming round the players, blown there by The Green Brigade and then caught by the rest of our supporters. When that happens and the team responds, you can tell your kids and grand kids that you know what heaven is like.

Brown, Tierney, Dembele, Toure were the four faces on our Mount Rushmore last night but many were chiselling away their own on there too.

Me? I forgot about my man flu for 90 minutes (which will have women nodding no doubt)  and I remembered how lucky I am to be a Tim.

On the journey home, I heard Mark Chapman say on Five Live he had just watched "The perfect game of football"

I'm too sick to argue.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Routine

I think you get to a point in your life where you realise that it's pretty short and you just can't be bothered doing things you used to. Gone are the days I'd be out every night or I'd be doing stuff in spite of any ailment (I once went to Dortmund by bus despite having the flu) I've reached that point now in my life, no doubt. There were always certain things you could rely on in life and if football was your life, then those things came from football. As life changes, so has football. I guess you are reading this saying "Whit is this auld dick going on about?"

Well.

If you take the life of a working class man right up until the 80's (I use this example because this is what I am) then it was all about routine. They went to work Monday to Friday (sometimes Saturday morning), went to the boozer on a Friday night, football on a Saturday afternoon, out with the Mrs on a Saturday night and a big Sunday dinner the next day. Gifts were reserved for Christmas and Birthdays only and holidays were taken in the same two weeks in July almost every year.

I'd guess the majority of you reading this are working class males so let me ask you, how much of this do you recognise in your own life now?

Football is the same. It's changed beyond all recognition. You only need to look at our opponents tonight to realise that. A lot for the good mind you, particularly the families which embrace football now and add to the culture of the game. My experience of Manchester City pre oil money was very limited. They were never a big club in England and probably the only time I even saw them in the 1980's was when Ricky Villa was waltzing past their defence in a FA Cup final replay.  Yet here we are tonight, facing them with a massive disadvantage because of the way the EPL is run. Sam Allardyce lifted the lid on the kind of thinking that goes on within English football, where you have a guy from a council estate in Dudley talking about copping £400k for effectively doing FA.

How did it get to this point?

Very simple, like in life, where you struggle to get a contract of more than minute for a job, football is swamped by money, greed and corruption and it leaves a bitter taste. It wouldn't bother me in the slightest of Man City had an advantage over us because of the amount of money their fans give them (Which is why Celtic have a financial advantage over the rest of Scottish football) but they don't and so are expected to win and win well tonight because of oil money. The same oil money which props up the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, PSG and Arsenal.

So in effect all routines of football are now completely dictated by money, no matter where it comes from.

Then again, I suppose that worked for one club in Scotland for 20 years.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

To G or not to G is the question

I know a little bit about intimidation. Over my 42 years, I've seen lots of it in different countries. I remember an occasion when I lived in New York where I was unwittingly part of it. I was seeing a girl and one night she tensed up all of a sudden as we walked home on a balmy summer evening in Queens. When I queried what the problem was she said that a guy she used to date had just walked past us and she felt scared as he had been a total dick to her. I reassured her there was no problem and there was nothing he could do but around 4am that night he had called her three times and left abusive messages.

Now there was a problem.

In Scotland this would be sorted out with what is affectionately known as a "scheme booting" but this was New York and I had to go and speak to someone who knew their rules a lot better than I did. The ex-boyfriend worked at a really prominent place in New York and so when I told my guy the story he immediately grabbed his coat and said "Ok, let's go downtown" We pulled up at the building and I was instructed to sit outside whilst he went in. I watched him walk away, go into the building, talk to the security guard at reception and then after a couple of minutes the ex-boyfriend appeared. I watched as my guy talked to him in what seemed like a jovial manner right until the ex looked at me and his face drained of colour. After that, my guy walked back out and said to me "Let's go" We got back in the car and as soon as we were out of sight of the building I asked him what had happened? He said "I told him that if he ever as much as thought about her again, yours would be the last face he would ever see in his life"

That's how problems are dealt with by certain people in New York.

When my front door went on Tuesday and two suits stood in front of me as I opened it, I kindae knew it wasn't the Jehovah's Witnesses.  They informed me that they had intelligence that there was a serious threat to my life.

Then they left.

That last part shocks people, they didn't do anything? They didn't tell you who? They didn't advise on safety? No. This is exactly what happened to Neil Lennon five years ago as well, a knock at the door, told of the threat and goodbye. It was Celtic who had to beef up his security, not the police.

Over the last few years I've faced a lot of abuse and the odd threat here and there. My front door was caved in, whilst I was out, the Friday after The Asterisk Years premiere and about a week after that someone tried to run me over on my way to college. Then there have been the bizarre incidents like when I walked into the big Wetherspoons in George St in Edinburgh and was asked to leave by the manager as I tried to order a drink or the time I had my invitation to a friend's wedding withdrawn as things were getting a little hot in the kitchen for me.

Increasingly, I don't go out in Scotland and if I do, it's with people I've known for years and can trust. I never say in public where I am going, only where I have been and find myself more and more unable to do things in Scotland. Even when I had my youngest son out in Edinburgh in July, I was abused by some nutcase on a bus.

This week though, things got more sinister with this threat. It is now the third time I've had the police at the door in this guise and each time I am never quite sure if they are enjoying it.

So what do I do? Well, being Scotland, the support has been incredible and the offers of payback have came from people who know how to pay back. On Tuesday evening I thought long and hard about that. However much I would like that, that is no victory.

The victory for me, and all of us quite frankly, is to keep going, keep moving forward and keep shining a light on the injustices that we and our club suffer. That is what they hate most.

So for those who think they can intimidate me and many others? Our faces are staying right here.