The Craig Brown Story Celtic Fans Know But Folk Would Rather We Forgot.

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A year or so back, I wrote an article about Scottish football’s little unspoken truths.

I opened it with the story of how Joe Biden, who has always been a left-leaning liberal, gave the funeral oration for Strom Thurmond, an unrepentant segregationist.

I thought it summed up Biden as a man but wondered whether it was really in the best interests of public debate for someone like him to pretend that Thurmond had actually been a good and decent man and not a blinkered bigot.

I wrote that article because the press was eulogising the former Ibrox kit-man Jimmy Bell, using coded discourse about how much he “understood the club” and was “steeped in the culture.”

We all know what that meant, we all got the message.

He was “one of their own.”

He was a backward relic of an age this game can’t seem to leave behind.

Yesterday I read the same sort of flowery tributes about Craig Brown, and in the main I have no issue with them at all. Because I am sure that Craig Brown was “a good man” within the definitions which Biden used to describe Strom Thurmond, in the sense that he could be warm and generous and good hearted and considerate and kind to his friends and others.

But Craig Brown was also the Scotland international football team boss who sang down the phone to his bird about being up to his knees in fenian blood, and chanted “f@@k the Celtic” and bellowed out the Ibrox anthem Follow Follow … and kept his job, amidst an overwhelming tide of support from almost every prominent individual in the game.

Some of them should be embarrassed by their comments of that time.

Those who rushed to the papers and told them that they flatly refused to believe the story, that Brown “didn’t have a bigoted bone in his body”. What a shock to them all, I would imagine, to discover that the News Of The World wasn’t just making stuff up … she had taped it and they had the tapes.

So Brown absolutely did it, and there’s never been any real debate about it. Instead we got mitigation. How he didn’t really mean it. How it was “out of character.”

The Scottish football community rallied round him, protected him and made sure his back was covered and his reputation remained intact.

And you only have to read all those tributes from yesterday to recognise that it still is in spite of a rancid little piece of personal history which nobody wants to acknowledge but in a saner world, and in a different context – imagine his songs had been about blacks or Jews and not just Catholics – would have cost him his job and a lot more besides.

I can’t remember how people attempted to justify what he did at the time, but it should have been career terminal, and his reputation should have been shredded forevermore.

I don’t care whether it was a particularly off-colour joke or whether he meant every damned word of it. The national team, and the people running it, kept that man in post in spite of his expressing sentiments of the darkest kind … and yesterday that man was lionised as one of Scottish football’s towering giants.

And all I can say to that is what I said when Bell was being treated in the same way by a media which ties itself in knots every time The Green Brigade unfurls a banner whilst at the same time they airbrush things like this completely out of the narrative; it’s easier to overlook this stuff when you’re not the one who’s blood these people are up to their knees in.

I feel much the same way every time a national title talks to Dick Campbell or Maurice Ross or turns to the “wisdom” of Hugh Dallas. That there is something deeply corrupt here, that anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic hatred really are still “the last acceptable forms of bigotry” … and in Scotland always will be.

Here’s the thing; most of us are happy to forgive … but don’t ever think we’ll forget, because some things ought not to be forgotten and this is one of them.

So to close, I’m going to close this article with the same ending as the Strom Thurmond piece, and it’s as true now as it was when I was wrote it then, and perhaps even more so.

“Scottish football is like a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else intimately and the wife beaters sit and drink with the preachers and the fraudsters sit down with the bank managers and the guy who murdered his former wife sits and sups beer with the school mistress and the barman keeps on pouring for the not-yet-acknowledged alcoholics and tells them they earned a drink after a long hard day and the wheel keeps on turning because although everybody knows nobody ever says it outright and although nothing is a secret everyone acts as though there are no secrets to tell. A town where the word community means that everyone lives in blissful ignorance, although nobody is ignorant of anything. A town where if you never acknowledge it, maybe it didn’t happen at all.”

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  • John Copeland says:

    Don’t forget about giving out ‘attaboy ‘ back slaps to a convicted drug pusher football manager ,deemed worthy of a ‘second chance ‘ ignoring how many lives were lost or ruined due to his profit making , highly dangerous and illegal little routine ! It just warms the cockles ,doesn’t it ?

  • Ewing Grahame says:

    That’ll be the same Craig Brown who took eight Celtic players and just one from Ibrox to the World Cup finals in 1998?

  • Ian says:

    Imagine using joe biden as any sort of benchmark for saying anything factual.

  • Clara says:

    or a certain goalkeeper who became the darling of the loyalists and was as much a hater of taigs as anyone on the Shankill

  • Jim says:

    Here me thinking everyone forgot about that incident!!

  • S Thomas says:

    You shouldn’t have done a piece about this .. you should have let it be, it’s coming across as spitefull and lacking empathy for people. He might have been a current bun, a mean who actually cares, but this is painting Celtic fans in a bad light writing pieces like this man. You should not have wrote about this.. it’s making us seem like we have no feelings for people.

    • James Forrest says:

      You know who I have empathy for?

      Every Catholic who was ever told to fuck off back to Ireland, or who got a boot or a fist or spat on on the back of these ideas, these ideas which we somehow don’t yet have the courage to drive out of this country.

      I’m not suggesting he was an Ibrox sympathiser. I’m suggesting that somebody who sings about being up to their knees in fenian blood – my blood, that’s the point – probably shouldn’t have kept his job and probably shouldn’t be held up as a paragon of virtue.

      • James Forrest says:

        By the way … you worry a lot about what other people think of us.

        Let me clue you in on something; it’s sort of the point of the article 😉

        These people hate us already. We can either suck up to them or we can tell them to get stuffed.

        Sucking up to them, that doesn’t work so great.

        So I’m going to keep on highlighting these people and what they think and how they behave because then one day, even if I’m not alive to see it, even if it’s thirty, forty, fifty years down the line, this stuff will be as socially, politically and morally unacceptable as all the other forms of racism are.

        And until that day comes, I don’t care if rubbing their noses in their own shit pisses these people off.

        Yeah, they hate us already.

        • S Thomas says:

          I take your point with that.. but i think it’s a tad crass to be honest. Celtic should be above that stuff , otherwise we are no better than the people you are talking about . I think personally you could have gave this a wide berth, but each to there own I suppose. Yes I suppose I do worry what a lot of other people think.. especially with the green brigade and their banners, people over the uk will think Christ they really don’t care about people. Celtic is a club open to all, and we should I think show more dignity than that. Whether you like Craig Brown or not.. his family will be mourning and I think it was in poor taste, that’s only my opinion though.

        • Jorge says:

          abso-fucking-lutely!! No backing down.

        • Jim Duffy says:

          Well said James,put S Thomas in his place ,he should know better.

  • Michael Miller says:

    It should never be forgotten what these people have said or done .
    It is not out of character or anything else the SMSM try to say to cover up the sheer Bigotry these people have towards our Club and its supporters.

  • Walter Chinstrap says:

    I’ll never forget his answer to the question around why Scotland never do well at the World Cup.

    Without batting an eyelid he said it was because of the population of Scotland, too small.

    Not only a truly awful football manager but thick into the bargain.

    Uruguay, Croatia anyone?

  • Tony B says:

    Yes. The Scottish media and sporting establishment: the spiritual home of the 3 wise monkeys.

  • king murdy says:

    yep…when i read he’d died…i automatically thought…”one less bigot”,,,,

  • johnboys71 says:

    remember it well never forgot

  • JimBhoy says:

    I liked your last paragraph James, it could also be said of how the world is right now.

    Corruption,Greed, Iinhumanity, Fake news, Climate death, Selfishness, Ignorance and a general lack of empathy whilst everyone sees what is unfurling but accepts and looks after their own wee bit of life even if it is at the expense of others and the place we live.

    I met Craig at an after dinner thing over in Uddingston (ironically a place ownd by an ex-Celt). He seemed ok, funny, fairly intelligent. I hope he rests in Peace. We are all guilty of saying or doing the wrong thing sometimes.

  • John S says:

    I’ll bet every Scottish ‘Tim’ has a story or two to tell about the ongoing blight of sectarianism and bigotry. I’ve dozens myself. Its a social cancer and not in remission, clinging on to the lowest denominator. Apart from which, it does Scotland no good at all.

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      I’m in a mixed area for pubs etc and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been labelled a Fenian Bar-steward, and while it’s done under the veneer of a smile and a grin – it’s still done…

      I could but don’t return the serve with Hun Scum, but don’t – but I say to them – “ That’s a pity that I’ve got this beer belly or I could’ve gotten into The Sevco team given the amount of Fenians they have playing for them “

      They detest that big time ! And they detest how they were never successful until they signed all these uppity Fenians like Amorouso, Albetz, Negri, & Co…

      They truly are so very easy to wind up and shut up in and around my shores !

      It’s been a great 23 years since The Millennium !

  • Paul Murphy says:

    The last paragraph is fantastic and a great summary

  • John L says:

    Great piece. And thanks for the reminder, as stuff like that should not have the cracks papered over

  • Henry says:

    He was a dreadful manager. At France 98, it was obvious Burley should play in centre-mid, having been the fulcrum in Celtic’s title winning side. But no, wee Craig had him at right back.

    He consistently picked McAllister over McStay and indeed everything went through McAllister – he took all the corners, the free kicks, the throw ins. But a more overrated player you will struggle to find.

    Selections like Matt Elliot were truly baffling and when it was obvious players like him were out of their depth, but he would refuse to consider alternatives. By the time he left, the national team were a shambles.

    His sectarian warbling was not original, funny or excusable. Rather it shows him up as the parochial third division manager that he was.

    Oh by the way James, Biden is no liberal. It was him that militarised the police and oversaw the huge increase in prison numbers, mainly of people of colour so that the USA has 4% of the world population, but 25% of all prisoners.

  • Fun time frankie says:

    Scotland Is a cesspit and as long as the sevco scum are allowed to live things will never change, in the most bigoted little country in the world .

  • Michael Clark says:

    This doesn’t prove anything other than what we already know. We know the Scottish FA are rife with these people. We know their kind will never die because its drummed into them at birth but we know all this so why bother. Why bother with this stuff that shouldn’t mean anything to us and the quicker we rise above it, the less they’ll try to push it in our face. Celtic are now the powerhouse in Scottish football so let’s let the football do the talking because this bullshit is secondary. LET IT GO

  • Thomas says:

    Thank you so much for this article. Thought I was going daft the last few days. Bigoted wee man, bigoted wee Scotland

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