On 25 October 1854, a combined force of British and French riders rushed Russian lines at the Battle of Balaclava. The task they had to was to capture Turkish guns before enemy forces could reach them. The theory behind the operation was sound; light cavalry was uniquely suited to a job like that, because it required speed and small numbers.
But in truth, it was a lunatic decision to send those forces in there. The commanders had no idea what the opposition looked like; it’s estimated that the Russians had 20 infantry battalions and 50 artillery pieces arrayed there, to halt what they expected would be a major assault.
Instead, their lines were charged by 600 horsemen.
It was target practice.
They killed over 100 in just a few minutes. Over a hundred more were injured, many of them seriously.
For the British it was a disaster.
History remembers it as The Charge Of The Light Brigade. The place where it happened has passed into folklore as the Valley of Death.
In a week Sevco comes to Celtic Park. Based on their current form all three of our strikers should be giving their boots an extra special polish. They should be spending what time they have in training battering the ball into the net. They should sight their rifles on Tuesday night at Dundee and blow them out early, and easily.
And when Murty and his hapless band take the field a week today whoever starts should gun them down like they were paper targets. It should be over by halftime.
Yesterday they appointed Graeme Murty as manager. They did so just after a judge had told Dave King to find £11 million within 30 days or face the consequences. According to Keevins, the press conference which announced Murty as boss was initially going to be just him in front of the hacks. The club needed a distraction from the King news, and simply threw the guy out there. It is one of the most unprofessional things I’ve ever seen.
The media has been totally conned by it, of course. Murty’s appointment has “given them stability”, a farcical suggestion when you consider he’s been given a six-month deal and will be lucky to last half of it. Today they were beaten – easily, comprehensively although there was just one goal in it, by a Kilmarnock team whose fat, lazy striker Boyd had enough about him to stick the ball in the net twice. Had Hibs possessed a forward with his eye for goal they would have taken at least a point at Easter Road. St Johnstone took them apart at Ibrox last week.
Murty is a dire choice. The football he’s produced has been abysmal. They rode their luck against Hibs like no team I’ve ever seen. They had scraped past Ross County with a narrow single goal win. Forget the matches against Aberdeen; appointing this guy is outrageous and their supporters knew it before today. Now their anger is boiling over.
They play Motherwell on Wednesday; some of the hacks have already said that it is “unthinkable” that they could lose three games in a row. This is part of the problem, of course, because it’s not unthinkable at all. Even without Moult, Motherwell could win that game and if they turn up and play to form they very well might. These people appear not to realise that this team does not have any divine right to win games. The shock when they don’t is palpable and it doesn’t matter how many times they are turned over. These folk can’t get their heads round it.
Motherwell are not playing well. They got a draw today at Dundee, but the exertions of three Celtic games have left them looking wasted. But I would not bet against them on Wednesday night. And I would not bet on Sevco winning any match if I found a bag of stolen money and somebody told me winning such a thing was my only chance to keep it.
But when Murty and his rag-bag mob rides into Celtic Park and try to play their long-ball kick and rush stuff against us this Charge of The Shite Brigade will end up with them on the wrong end of the hiding we’ve been due giving someone all season long. This is the Valley of Death for Murty and the people who thought hiring him was a good idea.
There was a Roman proconsul who’s province was widely regarded as a tinderbox; his response was to rule it with an iron hand, and to punish severely the slightest infraction. A senator was sent to visit him and see what was what; he arrived to find people hanging on crosses, and slaves being worked nearly to death, the prison cells were full, whippings were being carried out as a matter of routine and the smell of the corpses was stronger than that of the fruit for which the province was famous. The senator was amazed that a revolt hadn’t already shaken it.
“Look at them,” the proconsul said, pointing to a group of sullen citizens. “They won’t revolt. They haven’t suffered enough yet.”
The phenomenon is not unique to that time and place. People will live with suffering for a long, long, long time before they’ll muster even a protest. You should not assume that Sevco fans will suddenly rise up, as our fans did in 1992, and sweep this board away. We tolerated a lot of indignity before we reached the point where we got organised, and I would suggest it is much harder for them to get their act together than it would be for fans at other clubs.
When Roman provinces were shook by revolutions there was invariably a factor other than the suffering of the people there; in fact, there were so many benefits to living under Roman rule that a proconsul had to be trying pretty hard to spark that kind of response.
What rocked the empire over and over and over again were uprisings over larger matters, like when the slaves rose up and sacked the city early in Caesars life. The real problems came from the religious revolts. A unifying idea is deadly to a tottering regime.
See, for a revolution to succeed those behind it need to know what they are rising up for. There has to be a plan. There has to be a clear, concise, set of objectives.
Ask Sevco fans who’ve said King should get out what happens once he does.
They have no idea. They pray for salvation, from somewhere, someone, anyone … tonight on Clyde it was Mike Ashley’s name being mentioned, and the salivating over the man they drove out of the club is not confined to there.
As someone on the group Facebook page said tonight, these people would knock all their teeth out if they thought the tooth fairy would bring them enough to recapitalise their club. The desperation is palpable. It will turn to anger soon enough … but they will sulk and refuse to buy tickets and attend games rather than actually get together and act resolutely.
Their support is fragmented. Its leaders hate one another and many of the fans hate them all. Any figurehead would need to be a clean-skin to be accepted by the majority – with no connection to any of the previous Ibrox regimes – and that’s not going to happen. Too many have too much invested in their soft seats near the directors. Too many couldn’t wait to stick their noses in the trough and they didn’t care who sat in the boardroom.
The disunity amongst the fans was exactly the reason King and his board felt bold enough to drop Murty on them yesterday. There was probably an arrogant assumption that having lost at home that there would be a “reaction” from the team today; a laughable assertion as anyone who’s watched their matches this season knows full well.
They stagger on, living on shrinking islands of calm, amidst delusion, between defeats and reversals and moments of crisis. As their club ekes out a hand-to-mouth existence, so too their fans lurch through spells of euphoria over single wins to sickening lows over days like today, instead of accepting that this club is not the one they followed before and adjusting their expectations and their demands accordingly.
They have no idea how to get out of this mess, and neither does their board. Murty was a way to get through the next few months; that plan is in ruins on the very day after it was hatched and launched at that sham of a press conference.
There is no way this lasts until the end of the season, and if they aren’t aware of that already they are as divorced from reality as Hitler and his cohort were in those final days in the Fuhrerbunker when he obsessed over models of the Berlin he was never going to see, and moved phantom armies across maps of front lines which had long since suffered collapsed.
Win, lose or draw against Motherwell at home on Wednesday, their real fate is waiting for them next Saturday at Parkhead. There, all the delusions of grandeur, all the PR stunts, all the statements and deflections will be swept away. Because Brendan has Unfinished Business with Murty and Sevco’s hapless temporary boss (the media has clearly forgotten what the word “permanent” means, have you noticed that?) is under the worst pressure of his life.
He and his squad are riding into the Valley of Death, wittingly or not. It doesn’t matter. They can only guess at the firepower that our coaches will choose to unleash on them. They can only speculate as to which version of the forward line they’ll come up against.
But either way, they are simply over-matched.
And Brendan and Celtic will be waiting there for them.