The news that the BBC is finally set to air a documentary on “The Man Who Saved Celtic” is annoying only in that it hasn’t happened sooner.
There’s also a slight mislead in the headline itself. We were not the first Ibrox club 2012 back in 1994; if Fergus hadn’t stepped in to delay the bank’s action there were at least two other parties willing to do the deed.
That’s the difference between Us and Them. In our hour of need, in the moment where it had to be done, there were people queuing up to put the funds in on our behalf. At Ibrox nobody came forward until the vultures were picking the bones off the corpse.
Never, ever let certain people forget that.
But Fergus did come forward. Fergus was there.
He did step in.
And unlike a lot of the others who had an interest in the club at the time, Fergus came not with vague ideas but with a fully formed strategy, including the scheme which was to rebuild Celtic Park. Fergus was the “no half measures” guy this club needed.
He was The Man With The Plan.
From the moment he was in office, the club across the city saw its strength start to drip drip drip away. From the moment Celtic started to rise again, they began to shrink.
Murray famously said when Fergus’ time was almost done that “whoever takes over next better have very deep pockets” and that shows just how thoroughly he misunderstood (or tried to misrepresent) what it was that Fergus aimed to do at our club from the moment he was involved.
Fergus wanted to build a financial powerhouse.
He knew that having a bigger stadium meant more income.
He knew that renegotiating all our commercial deals and pushing the Celtic brand to its maximum effectiveness would get the job done, and so it was never about his successor having deep pockets (his successor, in some ways, turned out to be Dermot Desmond, with pockets far deeper than Murray could have imagined) … it was about how deep the club’s spending power was once the machine was rolling as well as it could be.
There was no “pie in the sky” about Fergus’ plan for Celtic.
There were no moonbeams at any stage. He knew what he was coming in to do, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he knew not only that it would work but that it would present Murray and his club with the kind of difficult choices he didn’t want to have to make. Murray’s own “deep pockets” were an illusion; he was spending the bank’s money all those years, and Fergus knew it.
The media treated Fergus abysmally. Abysmally.
There was no excuse for their constant bitching and sniping, with The Daily Record being far and away the worst of all publications when it came to telling lies about him and smearing him as some sort of tyrant.
The truth is that Fergus was no fool and would not suffer fools. He was a “get stuff done” guy and would not tolerate anyone who fell below those standards … and he knew hypocrisy when he saw it and he knew cheating when he smelled that and would not accept those either.
The man is a legend. He is one of the most formidable figures in the history of Celtic, and whilst I might dispute the truth of the notion that he “saved us” – only in that he got there first and that his plan was better than the rest – the impact he had on us, and which he continues to have on us, is momentous. He is one of our towering heroes.
And just so long as the BBC isn’t doing a hatchet-job here, I think it will be must-watch stuff. It is overdue.
This is the man who changed everything.