Celtic Fans Are Not Perfect, But How Dare Gerrard Use Us To Attack Steve Clarke And Deflect On Sectarianism.

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I am proud of this website and the stand it has taken on sectarianism in Scotland.

I am proud that my writers and I have slammed this ugly evil whenever it has raised its head in our game.

There are songs which Celtic fans have sung which trawl the gutter and are up there with any that are boomed out of the stands at Ibrox, such as the Jimmy Bell dirge which appeared and thankfully was gone just as quickly.

This site has called out coin throwing, flares and smoke bombs. It has called for fans who go on to the playing surface to be prosecuted. It has not always made this site popular, but I am proud to have done it and stand in solidarity with all the other Celtic sites which have done the same.

By and large, our club does not have a sectarianism problem.

The singing of Republican songs is not everyone’s cup of tea, but those who moan about it constantly, or try to equate it with bigotry, are really not worth listening to.

Those songs are cultural, political songs in the same way as La Marseille or The Flower of Scotland are; I know this is hard for some people to take on board, but I’m not interested in convincing them anyway. To anyone willing to approach it with an open mind, even the smallest examination of the lyrics would end the argument at a stroke.

I personally don’t think Republican songs belong in a football ground, but I know those who support Strict Liability want to push them into the same category as evil songs about being “up to their knees” in the blood of those of a different religious denomination, and so I’ll never support that policy.

Furthermore, I’ll make again the bet that I have several times before; if someone can point out to me the Republican song sung by Celtic fans which celebrates and glorifies killing in war then I’ll never write another word on this blog again.

This is a challenge I’ve laid down many times over the years and I still await as much as a single response to it. I don’t imagine I’ll get one here.

Celtic fans are not perfect, and this website has hammered that point across again and again and again and what I’m most proud of is that our club is not afraid of this issue and our fans as a whole are not afraid of it either. The responses to the articles I’ve written on it have been overwhelmingly positive and I know the vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of our fans agree that any trace of it should be wiped away from Celtic Park once and for all.

Are there problematic issues still? Yes, there are.

Whilst I would contend that the word “orange” is not sectarian I am willing to accept that in a certain context it could be used in that manner … and I don’t think our fans should be using it in any context anyway. But that’s an argument for another day.

Those issues will not stop Celtic fans from debating this as we have always done. Our club has been courageous when confronting the behaviour of our fans – even closing the standing section earlier in the season. Let nobody attempt to argue otherwise.

I think what happened at Kilmarnock last weekend was dreadful in many respects.

I commented on it almost immediately after the game, condemning the coin throwing and the flares.

I think more was made of the singing directed at Boyd than was necessary; that word “orange” as the reason for the media’s initially OTT response.

Curiously, Boyd himself played that down, which is a sure sign that he knows exactly why he gets sung about, and it has little to do with his having played for the Ibrox clubs; there are dozens of players in Scotland about which that can be said, including his Rugby Park team-mate Kirk Broadfoot, who was red carded for a vicious lunge and didn’t get any of that treatment from our fans.

The songs and chants directed at Boyd do have a source; they are a response to how he spends his off-field time; promoting the theory that Celtic’s dressing room is divided and writing articles which appear designed to antagonise as many people as possible.

Celtic and Aberdeen fans in particular have been the targets of those pieces.

When Steve Clarke spoke after the game he knew literally nothing of the coin throwing and the songs directed at Boyd, which goes to show what a small section of the Celtic support that day were actually involved in singing them.

So of course he didn’t say anything until told that Boyd had been hit by a coin, and then he responded vocally in condemnation.

Anyone who believes Clarke didn’t stand side-by-side with Boyd on the day, or that he would knowingly decide not to comment in defence of any of his players, is a moron of colossal magnitude. It betrays a nearly breath-taking ignorance of the man and what he’s about.

Which brings me to Steven Gerrard, and his lamentable, mind-numbing and absolutely disgraceful response to Clarke’s emotional press conference at Ibrox on Wednesday night when he spoke with genuine sadness and dismay about the abuse he had to endure all the way through the match. That press conference reverberated around Scotland, and has drawn responses from anti-racism charities, civic organisations and, finally, even the SFA has stirred.

The reason that press conference got such a high profile when other incidents have been played down in the press is simple enough; whilst he was talking an English based journalist at Sky Sports was sitting and tweeting about it, and the reference to Clarke’s being grateful to Chelsea for keeping him and his family away from the madness up here assured that the topic would trend down south. Thus Scotland’s grubby little secret was, once again, dragged into the light.

But so was Ibrox’s grubby little secret, and in technicolour.

The PR disaster of that has been clearly understood inside the walls. Clarke’s contention that sectarianism is one of the reasons he turned the Ibrox job down in the summer – before Gerrard was offered it – has detonated with full force, and everyone inside the club knows it.

That has been taken so seriously that Dave King himself has commented on the matter and publicly apologised to Clarke and has vowed to root the disease out of the ground once and for all … it is the first time in King’s tenure at Ibrox that he has even acknowledged, far less pledged to tackle, the issue and that alone is a measure of how hard a hit this is.

Everyone over there – or almost everyone – knows how imperative it is to get in front of this issue and deal with it in a way that leaves no room for reproach.

Clearly the message didn’t get through to the manager though.

In the most shocking example of whatabouttery I think I’ve ever seen, Gerrard’s automatic reaction was not to come to a sterling and unequivocal defence of a fellow manager, but to accuse him of being a hypocrite for not standing up for Boyd at the weekend.

This looks like nothing less than a despicable attempt to deflect from the behaviour of his own fans by putting the spotlight on ours, with Steve Clarke as collateral damage.

It is so crass as to be almost unbelievable and what makes it especially grotesque is how completely out of odds it is with the rest of those who work at his club.

King’s statement and the one released by the board on the day after the game contained no such equivocation and not a trace of criticism of the Kilmarnock boss. There was no whatabouttery in either of them, and it leaves me bewildered as to what planet Gerrard is on that he thinks that his own response to this, and his effort to drag in Celtic, is in any way acceptable.

His comments are atrocious, and based on pure ignorance of the situation on Sunday.

As Clarke has pointed out, he was entirely unaware of the chants directed at his player until after the media had spoken to him.

Anyone who thinks he would have thrown Boyd under the bus, when he’s defended the player against criticism over his media work all season long, simply has no idea who he is. It is not the first time Gerrard has jumped in to criticise Clarke without getting his facts right either, as this site has written about before.

On the last instance, Gerrard explicitly criticised Clarke for commenting on a matter which didn’t involve his own club; this is hypocrisy with bells on it.

The events at Rugby Park last weekend are precisely none of his business, even if he had the story straight which he doesn’t.

In failing to properly stand up for a fellow manager and in trying to drag Celtic into this, as if that excuses what happened at his own ground, or detracts from the behaviour of own supporters, is one of the worst things I’ve seen in the game in many a year.

Celtic tries to tackle this, and I take them seriously because I look at what my club has done to wipe this scourge, and anti-social behaviour in general, from our own stands and see it clearly. I look at what the blogs have done to support that effort, and I see real action.

I see people who take this seriously and don’t use it as a stick to beat others with.

The problems inside our own walls, we try to deal with them responsibly.

At Ibrox, the board is fully awake now and pledging to deal with its own issues, at long last.

In light of that, and with condemnation raining down on the perpetrators from all quarters, it’s as if Gerrard is living in a different era from the rest of us today; he might have endeared himself to a small section of his own fan base, but guess what?

That’s the section the rest of us are talking about.

Much of Scottish football is just disgusted with him today.

He really does need to take a long look in the mirror, and when he’s finished he owes Steve Clarke – and Celtic – an apology.

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