A few days ago, I was asked to write something for the blog and I want to say thank you for allowing me to expand on a thread I put on Twitter regarding the behaviour of a group of Celtic fans commonly known as the Green Brigade but now apparently calling themselves the North Curve.
Let me give you some background, I’m a Celtic supporter over 60 years standing, ever since my dad took me to Celtic Park when I was a kid of six or seven.
I love watching Celtic just now; they are exciting, progressive, innovative, with a manager who has initiative and a desire to play what many of us would call ‘the Celtic Way’, something that’s been lacking for a few years.
However, recently when I watch Celtic, particularly in away games, I am embarrassed by the songs and chants that comes from one section of the ground.
Celtic are a Scottish team with a proud Irish background, something we should be happy to celebrate. I have even started and convened a cross party group on Ireland within the Scottish Parliament which I hope will help in that celebration of Irish culture in Scotland.
However, we are not the sporting division of Ireland’s struggle for reunification, which I believe in.
But it is for the Irish people to decide, not a group of football fans, and it will be a political not sporting decision.
I understand that some Celtic fans will disagree with my position, but interestingly, I hold this position, not because I don’t think there’s a place at Parkhead to celebrate our Irish culture; I do.
It’s because I see the way our Irish culture is abused for, what I consider to be, inappropriate reasons.
If you really support Ireland then sing songs of it at a time of special celebration, Saint Patrick’s Day, or the anniversary of Irish independence or any other major event in Ireland’s cultural or political calendar.
This would be completely understandable and something I would welcome.
However, this continual singing of IRA songs, in particular, appears to me to be not a celebration of Ireland’s wide and varied, interesting and beautiful, history and culture but simply an opportunity for a certain group of fans to highlight their importance in being the standard bearers of this imaginary eternal flame of Ireland that apparently burns, or should burn, in the heart of every real Celtic fan.
The other reason of course is football rivalry. We know these songs anger and irritate our opponents, who have, in my view, their own and in many cases much worse, songs in their own repertoire.
I always thought the whole purpose of going to the match was to hopefully see good football and to get behind your team.
How does singing about a conflict that many of our players will know nothing about help do that?
Take last nights’ game, Thursday 9th December, for example; this same group of fans decided that because they disapproved of a decision of the board, of which they’re fully entitled to do of course – and I can hardly remember the last time I agreed with that Board about anything – that they would attend but sit in silence during the course of the game.
This game was played by what could only be called Celtic’s B team, full of young boys and players who have hardly played for the team.
What the support got was a fabulous performance and result with a number of players staking a claim for a first team squad place.
What the players would have liked in return is the wholehearted backing of the support in attendance.
What they got from those arbiters of the ‘real’ Celtic fan was silence, except for near the end of the match when they decided to loudly chant against an ex-Police Officer.
Seriously, whatever your view on the Higgins appointment it wasn’t those young lads out there making their debuts who set it in motion.
For me football is about loyalty and entertainment, it’s about that club loyalty that probably came from your dad, and it is about the heritage of a club as old and distinguished as Celtic.
But, like it or not folks, Celtic are a Scottish club, they were created in Scotland, they play in Scotland and most of the fans including those that go to Parkhead, even those in the North Curve, were born in Scotland.
By all means celebrate where our ancestors came from. Celebrate and enjoy the Irishness within the club’s tradition but let’s not pretend that we’re something we’re not.
We’re simply a Scottish club with an Irish background.
One last thing, Celtic Park is a football ground, it’s not a church, it’s not a holy place, even if we do call it Paradise, so I don’t see what place songs about religion have in that ground or any other football ground to be honest.
The Pope is not a Celtic supporter and he is highly unlikely to hear chants in favour of him on such days. The players are Celtic supporters though, and they will hear if you sing songs about them.
So let’s get back to singing songs in support of the club. Let’s leave political allegiances and conversations for elsewhere. Let’s leave our religious beliefs to whichever place of worship, if any, we go to on a Sunday, Saturday whenever.
Let’s use the 90 minutes to support our club.
This is an exciting time for Celtic.
I look forward to getting back to trophy winning ways, hopefully over the next few weeks, but I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that during this journey we do not allow ourselves to become that which we rightly criticise strongly in others.
Let’s get back to concentrating on Celtic, starting on Sunday, and that we continue to be the football club that has won the hearts of football supporters all over the world.
James Dornan is the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart.