I always love it when the enemies of Celtic attack us with such vitriol that the allegedly “serious” and “neutral” point they were trying to make gets obliterated in their obvious desire to land a blow.
When Steven Naismith sat in front of the media yesterday his bitterness and sense of grievance, going back a long way, was so raw that it couldn’t be missed.
Hearts entire stance on away fan tickets was revealed in his statement.
The whole club is still angry over sins past, or at least what they perceive to be sins past.
It is exactly as I thought it was and wrote last week when it was revealed that they were opposing changes to the rules which would give away fans some much needed clarity and rights.
Hearts is a club every bit as spiteful and self-obsessed as the one at Ibrox.
It will relitigate their relegation from the SPFL from now until doomsday, in the same way the current board over in La La Land have talked about “settling scores on and off the pitch.” The Tynecastle leadership, at the helm of which is Ann Budge, clearly believe in much the same.
Naismith is the perfect manager over there, that much is now clear. He might not be up to par when it comes to his talents in the dugout – Budge has a history of appointing not only duds but making managerial choices which would make a Sevconian blanche – but he reflects the personality of the place like few others could.
Now we know how he got the gig.
He started not by talking about Hearts at all but about his time at Rangers and about how there were “individual agendas” which stopped them getting a helping hand during their UEFA Cup run in 2008.
It’s funny how differently people remember things; they were allowed to cancel a league fixture to help them out in Europe that year, and that was a contributing factor in the “fixture backlog” which he is moaning about.
But I also remember that campaign finishing on a Thursday night; when in history has that ever happened?
That was an extension to the league season granted to their club by the governing body itself, who in addition offered to cancel the Scottish Cup Final before their opponents put their foot down and prevented that.
This lie – for that’s what it is – about them getting “no help” that year has been repeated ever since, including by some of the hacks.
That he brought up something that had absolutely nothing to do with tickets for fans is telling. It’s also revealing of the attitudes inside Hearts that he would dare to equate the two, and he did so before moving on to bang the drum about the COVID campaign.
“This season, every team struggled through the start with Europe but the league don’t help you. That’s not the league’s fault, it’s everybody in Scottish football’s fault,” he said, without offering any solution short of cancelling matches and creating exactly the sort of fixture backlog later on which he had been crying about moments before.
“Whether it’s been what happened at Covid, how you just stop leagues and teams are just relegated … in every aspect, there are areas we could do better. Do we want to or do we not?”
And right there is one of the principal reasons Hearts are taking this stand; they blame all of us, collectively, for their relegation that year, a relegation which no number of additional games would have prevented.
Ann Budge had allowed her club to enter freefall. It was her dire leadership, not the rest of Scottish football, that put them in that tailspin, and years later she is still getting away with blaming other people for that.
And because they still do, they aren’t willing to offer help to fans.
“At this moment in time, with the structure as it is, it isn’t going to change,” Naismith said, about the possibility of a minimum fan guarantee.
Note that he’s talking about the structure of Scottish football, the one he sees as built completely on self-interest.
“That’s why we, as a club, need to look after Hearts. Whatever the solution may be, everybody needs to be willing to make that sacrifice to get it better. Over 20 years I’ve been involved; it doesn’t seem to happen.”
In short, because he and his current club and his previous one got what he perceives as a raw deal they are going to wage a personal vendetta here rather than act like the grownups he says he wants to see.
Every club would have to make sacrifices in the event a minimum fan guarantee was written into the rules, as it should have been years ago. His club simply isn’t willing to do so, because that would mean letting go of the past.
He then had a go at Celtic. “But then, there will be more said about the viewing platform for away fans at a lot of ground. Being papped in corners, can’t see for pillars and stuff like that.,” he moaned. “There is a bigger argument.”
But is there? Of course there is, and we’ve said so.
Celtic fans are also treated like shit at plenty of away grounds; there are two or three that come readily to mind where our fans have restricted views. At Pittodrie they are slinging Celtic fans into a section where there’s no cover in case of rain, and up there it has rained on every damned occasion I’ve been in that stadium.
There are a handful of restricted view seats at Celtic Park, and it is arrant nonsense to single our ground out as being some sort of exception to the rule when it isn’t. But this is just another excuse for this guy and his club not to do the right thing.
It suits Naismith’s club for him to bring these excuses up because it keeps their position from being more firmly scrutinised.
As big Hartson said, and as I wrote earlier, Hearts position is as much to do with trying to gain some modest sporting advantage from this situation as it is with anything else, and their position overall stinks to high heaven.
The possibility of clubs restricting the number of away fans at games to benefit their team on the pitch is the explicit reason minimum provisions exist almost everywhere in football. The clubs could vote to change it and bring us into line with much of the rest of the world, but some of them will vote with their own interests in mind, and to Hell with whether that’s in line with sporting integrity or not.
Everyone knows what has to come out of that meeting later this month.
Everyone in the game here knows that a minimum away fan guarantee is necessary if we’re to stop the game sliding even further into this morass.
Hearts at least have the courage of their convictions; they intend to vote against it and are making that publicly known.
Their reasons are selfish. They admit that.
But they are also infused with a misplaced sense of injustice for what they think are past sins, or at least what they are content to blame other people for.
I have no doubt that at least one other club will vote their way, and that we’ll not move one inch forward although it’s clear that we must.
And Naismith’s reasons?
He is profoundly anti-Celtic. His entire rant reeks of it. But in that there is as much honesty in the position his club is taking here.
It is people like this – Peepul like this – who are holding the game here back.