Celtic Fans Were Reminded Last Week About What Scotland’s Shame Really Looks Like.

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Yesterday, Tom English answered the pressure a lot of us have been putting on him for the whole of the week by commenting on the Ally McCoist scandal. Or rather the non-scandal. Some think English has gotten himself in a bit of trouble with his comments, where he accused McCoist of having said that he would be singing about being up to his knees in fenian blood.

McCoist didn’t actually say that, of course. But English did say he was paraphrasing, and so I think he’s good to go if he decides to stand on that comment. Let’s remind ourselves of what it was that McCoist said; that Scotland had just passed a Hate Crime bill and that today he and 48,000 others would be breaking it. So, in what context would he break it?

Singing about transgenders? I very much doubt it; they never have in the past. So, what possible song could he and 48,000 other people sing that is 1) commonplace at that ground 2) horrific enough that it constitutes a breach of that law?

There are a few actually, but number one with a bullet is the one English was referring to, and as nobody in the media has put it to McCoist and pressured him to answer the question, we can only speculate and draw our own conclusions.

Before I go on, let me lay out my personal opinion on what he said; I think his comments were loathsome. I think they were scandalous. All the justifications I’ve heard – and a lot of them are pretty pathetic – don’t add up to the proverbial hill of beans.

Too many people simply refuse to accept what it was that they heard, or take it to its natural conclusion, which is what English has done.

One question that’s been asked of me repeatedly is how can I be sure that he meant Catholics, that particular song, those particular sentiments … my answer is twofold;

First, he talked about breaking the law, and that law is a Hate Crimes bill, so in the end does it really matter a damn? He said he would commit a hate crime; isn’t that, on its own, a disgusting thing to say?

Secondly, it insults the intelligence of every single one of us to ask us how we can know what he meant when the place was Ibrox, the 48,000 were the fans of the club there, it was a match against Celtic and that there is a song which meets that definition and is sung there every week.

Another question; I was asked how I could know he wasn’t just joking and saying that they’d be singing about “hating Celtic.”?

First, if he thinks hate crimes are a joke, I suggest he and others like him – and I’ll get to them in due course – think again.

This is not a joke. Singing about being up to your knees in someone else’s blood is not a joke. It is a rancid sentiment. It is a shameful thing to express.

Anyone who thinks that we whose blood it is should take it in good humour … I suggest you try jamming your fists up your backside as far as they’ll go and if you can wave at me from out of your mouth, I’ll give that the consideration it’s due, which is about two seconds worth. Otherwise, you and everyone like you can just piss off.

Secondly, the answer to the question is, itself, fairly obvious; songs about “hating Celtic” wouldn’t have broken the law. That’s football rivalry 101.

That’s not a hate crime. McCoist was very specific, and I’m sorry but I fully intend to keep on taking him at his word.

This law, scattergun or not, affords a very specific set of protections to very specific groups … he knew exactly what he was saying and so do the rest of us, and anyone trying to hide behind a smokescreen is only kidding themselves.

There is a very clear power dynamic at work here, and it should worry some of those people who are indulging in this blatant attempt to soft-soap this.

People aren’t stupid, and this attempt to play to stupidity and to treat us as if we are stupid betrays a breathtaking contempt for us from all involved in it. “Fob them off with some transparent excuse, see if they swallow it.”

This tactic is especially obvious when it comes in defence of someone like McCoist, because he’s had little moments like this before.

During the Donald Findlay saga he gave a TV interview in which he basically suggested that Findlay’s behaviour was just one of those things, and that the outcry was much ado about nothing. He said something along the lines of “we’ve all done it, how bad were his songs really?”

Nothing was ever made of that atrocious attempt to defend something that almost cost Findlay his career and forced him to take a long overdue moral inventory, which he says – and I believe him – profoundly impacted his life.

You can tell which people get it and which don’t.

Findlay got it the first time. Terry Butcher’s wife staged an intervention to save him from vanishing down that black hole and he got it at once.

Other people in his circle never did, and when Andy Gray was later fired from Sky for his blatant misogyny, that was only a surprise to those who weren’t aware that he’d spent years indulging his casual bigotry, the very sort that Butcher wanted to put far behind him.

McCoist’s sins don’t stop at a little apologia for sectarianism either; he was the one who endangered an anonymous SFA panel, and even named one of the people on it once he found out who they were.

What happened then? A Raith Rovers director got death threats and there was an attempted firebombing at the ground. Now, we can’t definitely hang the firebombing on anyone with an Ibrox connection because we just don’t know for sure … of course, that didn’t stop McCoist himself from levelling an allegation at Celtic fans when Ibrox’s new swanky team bus went up in flames, although he had not one shred of evidence in support of that claim.

This blog, in fact, pointed out that it bore all the hallmarks of a professional job and that nobody would ever be arrested, far less convicted, for it, and of course nobody ever was.

Hardly, then, the work of some drunk guys in Celtic strips who would probably have left a trail of evidence all the way to their own front doors. Not that McCoist cared about that when he was throwing the allegations about concerning our fans having done it.

The thing with McCoist, just as was the case with the likes of Craig Brown when he was caught, is that these people are like some sort of protected species, as part of the sport-media nexus, and so stuff that their media colleagues would be demanding banning orders for if it was fans involved are passed off as jokes, banter, simple misunderstandings or one-off acts of aberrant behaviour from people who are not, definitely not, absolutely not bigots.

On Friday night, mostly in the hope that I might hear a genuine discussion on this matter, I listened to the latest Graham Spiers podcast, this one on the Hate Crimes bill.

Any semblance of hope I had that it was a real debate evaporated the minute Graeme McGarry started talking; he dismissed the whole idea of the law, pointed out that they have it in England and appeared largely unconvinced that it would do any good, not knowing he’d made the case in its favour.

Andrew Smith was, in many ways, worse.

He who has consistently, and well, called out the fans of the club across the city and on, on more than one occasion, our own was almost falling over himself to suggest that the law would accomplish nothing, and that it was pointless and unworkable, which is astonishing considering that if properly implemented it might reduce the scale of this problem.

Here’s what they failed to understand; we need a law like this in Scotland, if not this particular version of it with its clear lines of intrusion into other areas of debate and its clauses about not requiring intent and other such guff.

McGarry’s comments are particularly disingenuous because he has to know that we have a unique problem up here, something UEFA already confirmed when it first took up the cases against Rangers for sectarian singing; they literally had no frame of reference for those particular charges, but they recognised the problem.

I’m certain that all three of them also recognise the problem, and where it emanates from; an entire ecosystem up here of bigoted supremacist guff, as evidenced every July on the streets of our cities. You show me the English version of that. You show me its equivalent.

That we’ve not had a specifically carved out protection against religiously aggravated hate crime, chiselled into the bedrock, enshrined in our laws, until now, suggests strongly to me that there was pushback against it and too many people were content not to open up the can of worms.

Scotland’s first serious attempt at emerging from this primitive 17th century cesspit could certainly have been handled better, but a lot of people will be glad for it.

The conversation about McCoist was abysmal.

Utterly shameful, and enough for me to renounce my membership of his Patreon and send a long, angry email to Spiers for the tone of the whole debate.

I thought it was disgusting on Friday night, and more than a day later I find that my anger hasn’t abated one bit. It was nothing but rank rotten reasonings and ersatz rationalisations for what McCoist had said, rather than a confrontation of it on its very simple terms.

It was an insult to everyone who listened to it. It was the attempt to justify those remarks that McCoist has neither had the guts nor the inclination to offer himself, having attempted to slither off the hook he’s made by saying he’s not attending the game anyway.

Their attempted defence of him is made all the more pathetic by his own complete lack of contrition or even a half-hearted attempt to explain it away as a misunderstanding or misrepresenting of his views.

He hasn’t even tried to clarify his remarks, and so their craven effort to do it on his behalf just looks all the more disgusting.

Over and over again we heard the old rationale; “Ally is a mate, Ally is a colleague, Ally doesn’t have a bigoted bone in his body …”

How many acts of hate makes someone hateful? How many bigoted comments or songs does someone have to sing before they’re classed as a bigot?

These people know what the subculture of Ibrox has been like for decades upon decades, and so they know – they have to know – that McCoist has certainly more than a passing familiarity with the lyrics of those songs and the horrific sentiments  they express, and to pretend otherwise takes us all for mugs.

But it’s like with a lot of other things; Scottish football is full of these unspoken and unacknowledged truths. It’s how a club could operate a sectarian signing policy for decades and never be called on it. It’s why UEFA had to be the ones to put a stop to it the last time Ibrox fans were up to their knees in fenian blood every week and nobody here batted an eyelid.

McCoist wears the mask well, and it might even be convincing but for the times in the past when he’s let it slip, and for the fact that he’s not even attempted to change the narrative here, content as he is to leave on the record his intention to commit a hate crime.

It was Shakespeare who wrote that “A man may smile and smile and be a villain.”

Let me tell you what it was that prompted my angry email to Spiers; it wasn’t even the dance he and the other two did for their buddy, it’s the realisation that it when it comes to anti-Catholic and anti-Irish hatred that nobody in Scotland’s media really gives a shit.

McCoist could have broken out in song to illustrate his point and these people would still have found a way to brush it aside, because this is, as has been said before, “the last acceptable form of bigotry.”

And it is genuinely horrible to recognise that you and yours don’t have the support of many of the citizens of this country, even those who aren’t banging the big drums and marching in July.

We’re still only barely tolerated here, we’re still a “minority” and the prevailing view is still that we should sit down and shut up, and that things like this are much ado about nothing … no other religion or ethnic group would be expected to tolerate this stuff on such a regular basis, and those who should be speaking up and speaking out would prefer we didn’t bother them with it.

In the end, my issues aren’t really with McCoist and people like him.

We know what they are, we know it because we’ve grown up with it all around us; the shouts, the songs, the probing questions about what schools we attended, it’s always been there and these people have always been there.

What I told Spiers in that email, I’m happy to repeat here.

When it comes right down to brass tacks, McCoist is not the problem.

It’s his apologists who have that place of deep dishonour.

If you can’t see what he’s done wrong, if you can’t bring yourself to condemn it unreservedly and put aside that he’s your buddy, if you think this stuff is a joke or that it’s appropriate to treat it like one, then the problem is you, you and everybody like you who looks the other way, who won’t speak up and who won’t speak out and who won’t look this in the face.

Amazingly, I now find that I have to remove Tom English, of all people, from that list.

Because he’s at least cut through the BS.

I hope he stands by it. I hope he forces McCoist to account for those comments and acknowledge the full and dreadful reality of what it was that he said.

Those who bigged up Ally this week, don’t even bother to pretend to take a stand now.

Moral cowards, the lot of you. The humiliation you must feel at times looking in the mirror … how do you face yourselves?

That’s why they call this Scotland’s Shame, after all.

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  • Bhoy4life says:

    Can’t even begin to contemplate how different the narrative would be if Neil Lennon had made a similar comment about a game at Celtic Park.

  • Michael M says:

    Brilliant article, James, very well articulated.

    But shurely you should go easy on them, after all they’re only 90 minute bigots once or twice a week for 10 or 11 months of the year …

    I’m not at all surprised at his lickspittle media buddies wiping the shit from his shoes for him, not for a second, as we all knew he’d get away with it from the moment it was said.

    No, I’m just surprised that none of the have come out and claimed it wasn’t Super Swally who said it at all but that it was a Chelsea fan that did it.

    Isn’t that the media line on all their other sins?

  • Bob (original) says:

    In recent years Speirs has come across akin to Sleekit McCoist:

    projecting a false image of himself?

    Speirs is a plummy voiced, better educated, and a better writer than the

    average SMSM journalist.

    The bar is ratther low, but I did think in the past that he was the best of the bunch.

    But, as far as adding value to the Scottish football discourse,

    he’s no better than Keith Jackson at the Daily Record.

    And just like the rest of them,

    Spiers was invisible during the Rangers FC collapse: Scottish sports’ biggest ever story.

  • Lemon says:

    Well said, James. The silence from the media on this has been nothing short of scandalous. There was actually a headline which read “McCoist grilled ” which referred to a couple of throwaway remarks on a radio show. No one in the media has taken him to task, and he continues to be regularly employed in the industry and somehow recognised as the acceptable face of Celtic/rangers rivalry. It stinks, James, and I like you and many others, have had enough.

  • Taj says:

    Absolutely James. What a wonderful and spot on piece on Scotland’s shame. We have grown up with it but, as you say, we shouldn’t have to live with any longer. I’m reminded of the saying; “For evil to flourish it merely takes good men to do nothing”. It’s their shame not our! HH

  • Bunter says:

    Another great article that tells a few of our supposedly neutral journalists the real truth regarding Sally and will hopefully shame them. And yes, we’ll done Tom English. More of the same please…

  • Mick says:

    So, no more Spiers podcasts for you. XLNT.

    I always thought him to be too far into the dark side, you’ve confirmed that now.

    He’s just another pathetic apologist.


  • JTT says:

    I stopped my Patreon for his podcast after his “Good Girl” episode where he basically said BR’s comments were sexist.

  • Peter clark says:

    Met Mccoist in a pub in Paris following Scotland. It was 300 am and he was drunk . He refused to speak to me after he was told I was a Tim. People found this hard to believe when I told this story.

  • Charlie Green says:

    Spiers and his ilk are all that is wrong with Scottish society i.e.the tacit approval of the the educated.

  • Pan says:

    Spot on James.
    The media, with very few exceptions are appallingly poor, because many are bigots themselves whilst others are just cowards. There are few who stand up for what is right.
    The same goes for the so-called authorities.

  • Eamonn Lyons says:

    ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time’ Maya Angelou

  • Roonsa says:

    James. Firstly. It’s match day.

    Secondly, I am not going to start paying attention to what Tom English is saying now that he’s having a go at McCoist.

    I don’t care what anyone thinks about me saying that McCoist did not specifically mention anything about being up to his knees in Fenian blood. He was being wide. In fact, I believe he was anticipating this response.

    We have to stick to the facts. He said what he said. The only way to legitimately respond is to ask him to clarify. If you start to put words into his mouth then the argument against his actions falls apart.

  • Effarr says:

    But surely McJoist at least wasn`t as bad as Rodgers who had the temerity to address a non-male as “Good girl”. So, since Sally would have been employed at the game today as a know-all, how was he allowed to break the terms of his contract to take the kids out. And what age are his “kids” now? Is he taking them to a pub where he can sing to his hearts content and
    outwith the law?

    • Roonsa says:

      A crime is a crime regardless of whether it is carried out in a pub or a football stadium.

  • John Copeland says:

    What does it say about the country we are and where we live our lives in 2024 ,when the SMSM media types regard Mc Coist’s wording as saying he ” misspoke “? That it was ” clumsy ” ! The problem with bigotry and racism is that there are people out there in wee Scawlin who think that if they can’t spout out and live their true feelings ,then their dull ,banal existence won’t matter . Early Neanderthal and Denisovan humans had more respect for each other than nowadays !

  • Torky58 says:

    James, I was wondering if Speirs replied to your email or is he another gutless wonder?

  • James mcewan says:

    Fantastic read James well done again for highlighting it

  • Dave says:

    You didn’t miss and hit the wall with that piece James. Well said.

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