Celtic Went Eyeball To Eyeball With Hampden, And The Other Guys Blinked.

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“We were eyeball to eyeball,” Dean Rusk said to McGeorge Bundy at the crucial moment of the Cuban Missile Crisis, “and I think the other guy just blinked.” It was Wednesday, 24 October 1962 and the first Soviet ships had approached the American naval vessels enforcing Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba, and as the world held its breath some of them turned back.

Some of them. Not all of them. Khrushchev didn’t withdraw the missiles that day, and a handful of boats kept on sailing towards port, but history remembers it as a turning point, as the moment the Soviet leader sent a message to his American counterpart which basically boiled down to “The world is depending on us not to go nuts here. Let’s not do this, eah?”

And maybe that’s what diplomacy really is; both sides realising the futility of burning everything down just to get your point across.

Whenever I think about mutually assured destruction, I think about a cartoon I saw once of two guys sitting in the wreckage of a collapsed building, in a shattered city, with a starless sky behind them and fires raging in the distance, and one is saying to the other “So, do you think we’ve won?”

At one point over the last week or so, after it became clear that Celtic intended to go hard today and head into the Rodgers hearing armed to the teeth, someone at the SFA must have wanted to reach out and say to us, “Maybe we shouldn’t do this. Is there some way we can all get out of it having saved face, and where everybody is sort of happy with the outcome?”

Today’s verdict, where Rodgers gets a one match ban with another suspended, is the sort of fudge that they might have come up with. A little bit like Kennedy agreed to remove an obsolete missile system from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets taking their nukes out of Cuba; a way for everyone to get a little of what they wanted and for each side to go back to their people and say “We saved the world and it didn’t even cost us that much.”

But let’s be honest; everybody who knows anything about it at all knows who “won” the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy famously told his staff and his congressional allies that “it was just as much a victory for them as it was for us” but he knew different. He’d shown strength and grit and he’d played his cards well. He knew that Khrushchev, who had thought him a bit of a wimp, had backed away and settled for an outcome that left him looking foolish and wrongfooted.

And we know who won this today, and that was us. Half a win is more than they ever intended to give us. They scheduled the hearing to ban Rodgers from Ibrox, I don’t doubt that for even one second, and I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Crawford Allan was told to pack up his pencils in the interim. We got tough. We went on the offensive in that way we do, behind the scenes, but this time one Hell of a lot more convincingly than usual, and when you look at the events of the last few days you can actually see that they knew how they were going to end this when you see Don Robertson given the game against us this weekend.

That makes perfect sense now, when you look at it in context; it was their cack-handed and clumsy way of trying to look tough whilst behind the scenes they’d already decided on their cowardly strategy of backing away from the fight that they had provoked.

The minute Rodgers doubled down on his criticism the following week and basically told the SFA that “we’ll see you at the hearing” they developed a severe case of the two-bob-bits and started looking for a way to get out of this without looking ridiculous.

The SFA is a spinless and inept bunch. As I said last night, a plain text reading of the rules and we were bang to rights here.

They had no intention of letting Rodgers off lightly in this case, and they had fully intended to keep him in the stand until he had skelves in his backside, but then we wheeled out the heavy artillery, and when we told them who was representing us that was our equivalent of Kennedy going on TV and making his “full retaliatory response against the Soviet Union” speech. When we made sure the press knew about that yesterday that was our nod and wink to the wise, our way of saying, “We’ve got this lot by the short ones and they know it.”

That proves that we knew the outcome in advance as well, because we wouldn’t have put that info out there if we weren’t pretty sure that we’d get a favourable settlement. It’s likely that this was all done away from the hearing, the way these things sometimes are.

I can attest to that myself having once lost my job for a less than civilised response to something a workmate said to me at a staff meeting. That ended up at an appeal hearing where all the groundwork for my reinstatement was laid well beforehand, thanks to some allies and friends who I had on the council. It’s how this stuff works sometimes.

A little word or two in the background, you make sure that everyone knows the stakes and you do a little side-deal and it all goes away, nice and neat. Celtic got what they wanted, which was Rodgers spared for the big game, and the SFA got to look like they’d stuck by their guns. Just for fun, though, Celtic threw in a “we are disappointed we didn’t force a complete capitulation” for good measure in their statement confirming the outcome.

We have marked their card, and everyone watching and who views this through the right lens knows that we have. We threatened to really brew them up some trouble if they went ahead and sent Rodgers to the stand for too many matches whilst the Ibrox club got away with murder. That they are the opponent this outcome was supposed to benefit would have been lost on nobody at all. Celtic may even have threatened to take all their concerns public.

It doesn’t matter how it’s come about. We got right in their faces, but we allowed them to slink away from the fight they’d started rather than subject them to the full humiliation of a good kicking. Why did we do that? Well, because this is a close title race and we need Rodgers in the dugout and not the stand and had this become the full scale rammy it’s not unlikely that he’d have been there until somebody was putting coloured ribbons on the trophy.

So mutually assured destruction, then.

That would have been the threat. Eyeball to eyeball, and the other guy blinked. They blinked because as an organisation they are yellow from the tips of the toes to the roots of their hair. They’ve gotten so used to us playing nice and being the “bigger man” in these affairs that they thought they could get away with murder here … and they were wrong, just as Nikita Khrushchev was wrong when, having bullied Kennedy during their first meeting, in Vienna, in June of 1961, he thought he was facing a wimp who would let him away with anything.

Over the course of 13 days in October the following year, he found out just how wrong he was, and we’re all pretty lucky that he turned out to be the one with the feet of clay. Or maybe not … maybe Kennedy’s words to his staff weren’t really ersatz self-deprecation but a sincerely held view that in any dispute where both sides dig their heels in that there has to be a little give and there has to be a little take. Nevertheless, over the course of that crisis he made his point and everyone got it, and that’s why history remembers it as his triumph.

The decision today will not echo through the ages. We do not owe everything we have to its successful, and peaceful, conclusion … but it may decide this title and not in the way some of those at Hampden very obviously wanted, and so we did enough. We bloodied the enemy’s nose and make him retreat with less than what he came for.

Now, having won the battle, this team can go on and win the war.

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  • D Joyce says:

    What an appalling analogy.

    Facts – Celtic are in the right and USSR were in the right, Celtic are the oppressed and USSR were the oppressed.

    Yet you take an empire so evil it drops two nuclear missiles on defenceless civilians and children in two cities and is the only nation so evil to have ever done so and make them out as heroic.

    Did the USSR invade Turkey,? No.
    Did the USA facilitate an invasion of Cuba? Yes.

    So USA puts nukes in Turkey when there’s no threat but the USSR only puts nukes on Cuba after a US facilitated invasion.

    The US nukes in Turkey gave them first strike capability over the USSR, Cuban nukes redressed this.Compromise negated that for both withdrawals from Turkey and Cuba.

    Initial US aggression by implementing US first strike capability was now nullified.Yet you make out that the US was heroic,in what reverse reality of good and evil did that happen?

    Your obsession for constantly brown nosing Americans I presume must be in your own personal interest for remuneration through advertising revenue, but don’t think your appalling views are not easily seen through by those of us who actually know history rather than those who seek to gain financially from it by sucking up to the one nation built on slavery and endless genocide from it’s inception til the present day

    Your excellent work on Celtic however is unmatched ,so do keep it up please but be aware many Celtic fans are socialist and despise rewriting of history which places the country that spread fascism and it’s death squads throughout Latin America in the post war period in a good light whilst attacking the very nation that destroyed fascism and was built on anti- racism.

    Good day.

    • James Forrest says:

      You don’t reach me much if you think I’m “brown nosing Americans” and if you’ve not twigged that I’m also a socialist …

    • Frederick Howden says:

      What a wee Russian revisionist u are sunshine ! The Yanks have many faults but they are the good guys compared to your buddies !

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