I loved seeing the sight of Fergus back at Parkhead yesterday.
He is one of the greatest men in the history of our great club; he is as close as we have to a founding father.
Celtic was here before him, but had he not been on the scene who knows what kind of club we would have right now?
I still think the things he did for us are still only half understood.
We are where we are right now because of the genius of Fergus McCann.
You have to realise that before he arrived we were run by rank amateurs.
These were not people with the capability to run a major football club; they didn’t have a clue.
There was no plan in place to redevelop Celtic Park into a modern sporting arena.
Their Cambuslang plan was a joke.
Fergus came with everything worked out.
The business plan was solid. The one for the ground was even more radical, and advanced. He knew the order in which the work would be done, knew the deadlines for every bit of it. I went to one of his open nights when he talked to the fans straight, and showed us the early models of the North Stand.
It seemed unbelievable.
It sounded so much like a dream that I wondered, right up to the day when the stand started to rise up over Janefield Street, if something would happen to snatch it all away from us.
As that stand took shape you could feel that New Celtic was forming along with it.
Fergus knew what he was doing.
From the day he took over the club until the day the stadium was completed, in a mere four years … think about that.
That’s how good the plan was.
That’s how much work went into every phase, that we were able to do it in such a short space of time. The total cost was £40 million.
Fergus knew we’d make that money back with ease. And he knew that a stadium with 10,000 seats more than Ibrox would give us more than bragging rights; that’s a £5 million financial advantage every year based on a flat £500 price for a season ticket.
And the work was completed 20 years ago … even on a conservative estimate, with tickets priced £100 lower, that’s £80 million more than them we’ve made in that time based merely on ticket sales alone.
It’s just part of the enormous financial gulf that exists between the clubs.
We are, now, what they always thought their club would be … and that’s down to Fergus.
Our modern philosophy came from him.
The hard-nosed business vision is his.
Fans owning shares was his innovation. He created the season ticket culture. He pioneered the concept of The Celtic Family and asserted our strength by taking on the SFA. He despised the media and fought many a war – and won many a war – with them too.
Our club has gone through phases all the way through history.
There have been giants in those times, men who literally shaped our direction.
We are still living in the Fergus McCann phase at this club, that’s how huge his impact has been.
When people talk – for example – about completing the stadium by expanding the Main Stand, they are talking about finishing Fergus’ work. When this club contemplates ten in a row we can do so only because he put us in a position to stop the one at Rangers. It was that triumph that forced Murray towards the desperate splurge funded by EBT’s … Fergus played a key role in destroying Rangers, a role that even today few are able to fully appreciate.
We will have him as a guest of honour when we secure the ten. He will stand on the pitch and take the rapturous ovation that is due to all who played their part in that success … he may have played the largest and most important part of all.
An ovation on that special day is the least he deserves. This club owes him everything. The time has come to start thinking of a permanent monument to him, not just as a token of appreciation for his efforts but something to acknowledge his immense impact on our history. It might take the shape of a statue – that would be a great idea – or the rechristening of one of the stands after him, but it should happen before we reach the magic number.
A statue would be great, and I think we should definitely have one of him, but not out front, not at the main stand.
Fergus’ statue belongs by the North Stand, which should bear his name.
It is high time that Celtic were petitioned to make it happen.
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