There are a lot of people who are going to criticise The Green Brigade for the banner they left outside Celtic Park this morning. There are a lot of folk who are going to claim that they are self-entitled fools who are embarrassing the club.
I am not going to be one of those people.
There are a lot of folk in our support who cannot stand these guys, and have long thought of them as a cancer on our club.
They don’t understand why one segment of the fan base is so feted by those inside Celtic Park, and especially when they have occasionally brought trouble to us in the form of those UEFA fines. There was a time when flares were a problem too, as the “no pyro no party” goons smuggled their fireworks into stadiums.
I have not always agreed with The Green Brigade, even when they’ve been right.
I thought the famous Palestinian flag protest, which greeted an Israeli club at Celtic Park some years back, was a hideous idea although I’ve marched, raised and donated money to the cause of their people.
I objected to us insulting guests. I objected to Celtic being used to make a political point … and I thought that the whole idea would draw criticism and help exactly no-one.
I completely missed how well thought out the whole idea was.
Not only did it get international coverage and gave succour to the Palestinian people in the form of all that publicity, but the Green Brigade guys had an even greater trick up their sleeves; the “Match the fine for Palestine” campaign which flipped UEFA’s punishment on its head, got many in the media to confront the contradictions of their “no politics” policies and, of course, helped an amazing cause.
That was the point where I started to think, “These are some smart kiddies. They know exactly what they are doing.”
Since then, I’ve learned to trust their judgement a bit more, and when the Ibrox illiterati decided to take them on over their use of the word “fenian” I realised what genius that move had been on the part of the North Curve bhoys.
I’ve also given them fair warning as to the thinking inside the club though.
When the whole pyro debate was raging I spoke to one well-placed insider at Parkhead who warned that the issue was coming to a head and that the club would have to take robust action if things didn’t change. I wrote that.
The fireworks and smoke-bombs continued to appear.
Then the club closed the standing section for the start of the following campaign. They had known it was coming. Why did they ignore the club’s warnings? Did they over-estimate their relationship with Celtic?
I think perhaps they did, at that time.
Discussions were had behind the scenes.
The standing section was re-opened.
Things returned to something like normal, except that the fireworks and the smoke bombs never made an appearance there again.
The Green Brigade has always known where the line was, the line between working with the club and working against them. They have criticised the club when they’ve believed that was due, but they never attacked them at the most fundamental level.
The Green Brigade valued its relationship with the club.
It was a good relationship, one that was mutually beneficial. Celtic Park had the best atmosphere in Europe, thanks in no small part to these guys. The club gave them a lot of leeway.
That, surely, is at an end. The Green Brigade are attacking them with real vigour right now, and today’s banner was a no-holds barred assault on them. To call the directors liars and parasites – and this blog agrees with both of those characterisations – almost certainly brings to an end any chance of any future working relationship between these parties.
And that is why I believe The Green Brigade has done a courageous thing today, and why I support them in it absolutely. They know what they are doing; they are torpedoing their own special status, for the greater good of Celtic.
It doesn’t matter if you agree with them or not, whether you think those banners are appropriate or not … these guys are saying “enough” and they know that there are likely to be consequences but they simply don’t care … or rather, they care about the club more.
Listen to the podcasts. Read all the blogs. Check out any fan forum.
The level of anger has not abated because of two wins, and it’s not going to be abate whilst certain people are still at Celtic Park.
The small band of tired white men who run Celtic do not have a clue where to take us next and they are stalling and delaying and in the meantime the countdown clocks tick inexorably down; the season ticket deadline, the end of this campaign, the opening of the next transfer window, the European qualifiers.
The Green Brigade are putting the message from all those various places where it belongs; right in front of Celtic Park, where the directors cannot simply shut off their smartphones and ignore them.
That is right there in their face … and it’s impossible to imagine those people sitting down across the table at any point with those who put those banners up.
A lot of us have reached the point of no return; The Green Brigade’s relationship with this club has drastically changed, and not for the better.
This is a fight for all the marbles, folks.
It’s win or bust.
Either this board changes direction in a radical fashion and starts listening or The Green Brigade and other organisations are going to hammer at them until something breaks.
For the North Curve bhoys and ghirls, something already has.