Before I start, let me tell you that I am loathe to write this piece.
I didn’t want to. I don’t want to. I even reached out, privately, to someone at Celtic to find out if they had any thoughts on the matter, one way or another, before I did.
Had I heard back from that person and they told me to leave this alone I’d have done so, and I apologise if they get back to me now.
I no longer feel comfortable sitting on my hands.
This morning, The Daily Telegraph ran an article on how one Hillsborough campaigner had said it was “insensitive” for our club to have “announced” a safe standing area so soon after the families got their well-earned justice in the inquest at the end of last month.
I was appalled to read that story, based as it is on a fundamental mistruth and coming as the families and the Justice Campaign are set to travel up here at the weekend for the game, where they will be treated as heroes and welcomed by the Celtic Family like few other groups or individuals have ever been.
This whole club, our entire support, has been on the side of these people since Day 1 and the idea that we would ever in any way undercut or undermine what they’ve been struggling for is abhorrent and disengaged with reality.
I checked out the writer of this piece.
He’s got a lot of history with the families and he’s written some excellent stuff on the subject.
I’m moved to wonder where he got it into his head to go to those people and ask them about something that has no bearing on their campaign at all, and from that crafted an article that doesn’t even understand the concept we’re pushing or the timeline in which this announcement was made.
To me, it read like something deeply underhanded if it wasn’t simply shoddy journalism.
Still, I didn’t want to draw attention to it by writing about it.
If the club’s position on it was that it should be ignored, especially so as not to cast any bad light on the visit at the weekend, I would not have argued, would have respected – wholly – that view, and with relief I would have left the matter completely alone and written about something else.
But lo and behold the decision’s been taken out of my hands, and Celtic’s by the world heavyweight champions of shoddy journalism, The Daily Record.
They couldn’t help themselves.
They’ve run the story, and even though they know full well – and even mention it in the piece – that this wasn’t a recent announcement at all, but one dating back months, they’ve run an inflammatory headline and stuck the boot right in.
This is a new low.
Using Hillsborough to attack Celtic.
There’s something rancid in the media culture in this country when they’ll stoop to this kind of crap. They’ve turned a non-story into something else, and if the Celtic media office doesn’t respond to this I’ll be very, very surprised. Now when the families come here at the weekend every media outlet in the country is going to ask this question, regardless of how insensitive that is, ignoring that it has to nothing whatosever do with why they are here or the victory they have won.
For the record, I have no issue with Margaret Aspinall or her organisation.
Far from it.
My issue here is the way in which the media can’t help itself but to look for scandal and controversy and how, in Scotland, that’s at its juiciest when it comes with an anti-Celtic slant.
The level of cynicism it takes to attack us in this way is mind-boggling.
Their efforts to the contrary will have no effect whatsoever on the response the Justice Campaign gets at the weekend, and nor should it.
This is a media exercise in muck-raking.
It’s not the fault of Margaret Aspinall, who I have no doubt was asked a loaded question and given half the facts, if even that, on which to base her answer.
I continue to be staggered at the depraved and underhanded conduct of some of the people who call themselves journalists in this country of ours. It was their profession who slandered and maligned the victims in the first place, and even now some members of it will use them for any purpose at all that suits.
Even The Record knows this one reeks.
Apart from it’s half-hearted and deliberately feeble recitation of the actual facts here, they didn’t even put the name of one of their hacks on the piece, because they know it’s not actual news but digging in the dirt.
Justice For The 96. YNWA.