Posted on Thursday, 21st February 2013 by admin
Thirteen years ago Celtic made their way through to Perth for a midweek fixture at McDairmid Park against St Johnstone. It was a horrible night. Freezing. Lashing down with rain. The type of conditions that Bertie Auld would have came out of retirement for. I was on the supporters bus straight from school. I didn’t even have a waterproof jacket on and my shoes had a hole in them but I wasn’t missing this game. It wasn’t going to be a pleasant game of football and no one in my class was going to envy me when I told them why I had a cold coming on the next day, but the elements were braved! Valgaeren and Larsson gave Celtic a 2-0 win. When Henrik’s late penalty hit the back of Alan Main’s net, it was met with delirious joy. An old fashioned ‘midweek bananaskin’ had been tackled and we made our way back to Glasgow in a happy mood.
You couldn’t pay me to stop me going to that sort of game back in the day. Now ? Changed days.
When Nigel Hasselbaink lofted his shot past Fraser Forster for St Johnstone’s equaliser on Tuesday I felt indifferent. I wasn’t exactly delighted we’d conceded but I was far from scunnered either – and that’s a big problem. Not having an emotion at all is quite an issue. It signals a malaise and it’s something I personally need to sort out. This isn’t a boastful article, I type it with a large degree of shame and embarrassment.
Since the early 90’s I was going to watch Celtic with my Uncle and my Granda – everywhere. Home, away, Europe, the lot. Even when we had to put up with guys like Galloway, Payton and Slater I can’t recall ever not being emotionally attached to the club when I was growing up. I knew we were terrible. I knew Rangers were lightyears ahead. It didn’t stop me supporting my team though. Even the Playstation 1 when it first came out in 1996 wouldn’t hold me back from making the walk through Shawfield to Celtic Park!
The first chinks in my Uberfan armour came in season 2008-2009. Celtic’s last season under Gordon Strachan was terrible. I won’t go into it in detail again as it depresses me never mind anyone reading this, but it was enough to make me consider chucking it. The decision to not renew was made when it was announced Tony Mowbray would be taking over for season 2009-2010. I did end up regretting it though, as I was tuned into every match regardless, either on a stream online, on the telly or the radio. When Steven MacLean scored Aberdeen’s 4th at Pittodrie to equalise in that infamous 4-4 game, I was down at Glasgow Green resembling The Hulk. As St Mirren ran riot in Mowbray’s last game I was doing a late shift at work, flooding the place with my tears. Despite not renewing that season, I was far from apathetic. I missed it so much that I took my season ticket back for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.
This season, after the Hollyoaks –Esque drama of the summer sponsored by Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan, I decided once more not to renew. I did go to the three Champions League games though. The demotion of Rangers and no derby games to look forward to did not have a factor in my decision, though, as I am pleased we aren’t playing them this season and hopefully don’t anytime soon.
I’ve seen a massive decline in the quality of Celtic on the pitch this season domestically. Yet you would never know it as we sit at the top of a pitiful premier league so far in front it’s a riddy. Guys like Gary Hooper and Joe Ledley have lost their spark and hunger and are not the players they once were. Gary Hooper’s second goal against Rangers in 2011 summed up what he was all about back then. A lungbursting run to get on the end of a cross and put it away was what you would expect from a striker brimming with enthusiasm. Now you’re lucky to see him him muster up a few seconds of energy to be bothered celebrating yet another tap in. In a way, I don’t blame him though. When you look at what we’re up against each week, I have a small degree of sympathy for them . A couple of weeks ago, Inverness, the second best team in the country, were blown away by a Celtic second string who didn’t even get out of first gear. We haven’t been anywhere near as impressive as we were in 2010-2011 or for the second half of 2011-2012 yet we’re miles ahead of anyone else in the league. The mediocre performances before Christmas and several points dropped before Christmas seems to have went unpunished as no other team can take advantage and build up some consistency to give us a run for our money. We can only beat what’s in front of us, and what’s in front of us is as competent as Rick Moranis as a Ghostbuster.
I can’t see it changing next year despite the league reconstruction – but I probably will renew. Even if the league’s won again by October next season, I’ll be able to keep the family thing going. It does bother me that it’s not easy for my granda and uncle to be at the stadium without me next to them, as it’s ‘our thing’, but as modern football continues to frustrate me more and more, chances are I’ll be there through gritted teeth.
I have argued that the matchday experience at Celtic Park is appalling, but there’s only so much the fans can do atmosphere-wise but when the league is already finished before March, how can you possibly expect anything other than a dull environment ? It’s all well and good saying ‘be like German fans in that Bundesliga!’ but the likes of Kilmarnock, Ross Country and Motherwell aren’t even on the same level as Augsburg, Furth and Hoffenheim. Their culture is a relaxed and happy one. Not like ours. We’re dictacted to and watched and judged by everyone whereas matchdays over there show us up from every level to transport to the ground and accessibility to the price of a ticket. Night and day.
I hate feeling like this. Totally disjointed with the club. Being viewed as ‘the bad guy’ for being utterly bored with the constant infighting within the support. Having to accept nonsense on a weekly basis from The Gaffer and being ‘that guy’ who questions him. I’m always moaning. For the sake of diplomacy I am also not going to comment in detail on the ongoing crap between the Green Brigade, Celtic and Strathclyde’s polis – needless to say that is also a tedious issue just now.
The fact that I watched Bayern cuff Arsenal instead of being tuned into a stream with us playing at Perth says it all. Midweek games used to be the best times to watch a Celtic game as well. Now they’re just, literally, a turn off.
How is this sorted ? Sadly, weakening our team. Which I can’t see anyone accepting we do. There’s no way teams like Hearts, Hibs and Dundee United are going to be able to sustain anything more than a brief threat unless they are bolstered by some serious cash, which, isn’t going to happen.
If we sold the likes of Wanyama, Ledley and Hooper next season and replaced them with up and coming European talent, a bit like we’ve been doing in the last couple of years. I would be all for that.
I don’t imagine the majority of people who read this will agree with me and possibly tar me as a dreadful fan and an abysmal person. They’re correct about the second one, but not the first. I just want to be entertained at Celtic Park while seeing the team win honours. Is that so much to ask ?