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Celtic Fans, Enjoy Your Day. But Spare A Thought For Those Who Thought They’d Be Celebrating.

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Today is going to be good. Today is, in actual fact, going to be great. Remind yourself at various intervals in the course of it that this is the day we were never meant to have. Remind yourselves of that in particular if you were born in the 90’s.

I’m going to tell you something; I was born in 1976.

I was alive for Celtic titles but I don’t remember a lot of those early titles. The most vivid one I have a frame or reference for was 1986 at Love Street. I remember being with my mother and my grandmother and hearing that we’d won the league standing in a butcher’s shop in Westmuir Street not far from where The Forge now stands.

The butcher, clearly a mad Tim, was spraying champagne all over the customers.

I remember being in a bar on a Saturday afternoon, drinking cokes, and listening to the Scottish Cup semi final of 1988 when Hearts were a goal to the good going into injury time and we came back and scored twice to win that.

Those were a handful of memories of not being at games back when you didn’t have mobiles or the internet and you listened to it all on the radio.

I went to nearly every game growing up. The year before the 1986 decider, I was nine, and at Hampden to watch us beat Dundee Utd 2-1 courtesy of a sublime Davie Provan freekick late in the game, and a Frank McGarvey winner at the last knockings.

I remember Dundee at home the following year for what I am sure was the centenary title league decider but might not have been; it might just have been the day they got relegated, the week after we won the league. I remember it because our fans sung “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when …”

I was at the cup final at Hampden, again against Dundee Utd, shortly thereafter; as before they had a 1-0 lead late in the game, this time in the closing minutes, and we repeated the semi-final feat we’d pulled off against Hearts to win 2-1 … Frank McAvennie got the winner that day. I never thought those glory days would end.

We didn’t win the league the following year, but we were at Hampden again where Joe Miller put the ball in the net to give us a win over Rangers … and that might have been the last time I remember seeing my dad properly drunk, and dancing down the street.

You know how many years I would have to wait to see us win another trophy? Not a league, a trophy. Six. Pierre Van Hooijdonk with the only goal of the game, against Airdrie, at Hampden, in 1995. The following season, Rangers beat Hearts 5-1 there to put the cherry on eight titles in a row. Did we look like we could mount a comeback? We lived in hope.

The season they won the eight in row title we lost one game in the league. We went 31 league games unbeaten in that campaign, and lost the title with 83 points. The problem was that we drew 11 matches and couldn’t seem to break that habit.

And oh, how Rangers rubbed it in.

Let me tell you; you really have no frame of reference for what hard times look like unless you were there in that era, and you really have no way to comprehend how awful it was in a landscape dominated by a handful of media outlets which Murray and Rangers had bent completely to their will, and where they flaunted their success every chance they got. The awfulness of it cannot be adequately conveyed to you unless you were there.

To people who look back on the last three titles Rangers won before falling into eternal darkness – between Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon – as though they were a whispered voice in a distant room, those long-ago days before and during Fergus’ revolution must seem like something from ancient history. But to have lived it is different.

When I read them online talking about bringing back the glory days and putting us back in our box, those are the days they mean. And the gutter dweller supremacy complex they show off in the here and now is at least partly a carryover from that time.

I was on one of their forums the other day and they had an entire thread devoted to reliving those years.

They won titles after that long run of nine titles ended with Henrik Larsson and Harald Brattbakk scoring goals against St Johnstone. But they never again had it all their own way, they never again were without a serious challenger. They won the next two titles and then it was our turn again, with the Martin O’Neill treble, and this is where you see their mentality most clearly.

They hate O’Neill. Murray loathed O’Neill. And the reason they hated him is that Martin O’Neill symbolised the change in our fortunes, but also the change in our mentality. It was at that point that we really got off our knees and started slugging these people right back.

I know John Reid is hated by many in the Celtic support, but I’m on record as having never agreed with that at all, and I will tell you why right now.

Last night, I attended the Celtic Supporters Association annual rally, and it was a pleasure to do so, and I got to speak for a while with Tom Boyd, and to shake hands and talk albeit more briefly than I’d have liked – cause he’s an amazing man – with the great Jim Craig. It was a special night. I got my picture taken with the two of them and with the championship trophy … I’ll treasure that a long time. It was my first rally in many years.

But during the course of the evening, the guy on stage announced that amongst the guests were the CEO, Michael Nicholson, and the chairman Peter Lawwell. I saw Nicholson floating around at the other end of the room, but I didn’t see Lawwell at all.

The crowd, which had cheered on Hart, Idah, Scales and Brendan himself, who had all come to say a few words before the event started for real, didn’t make a sound for the directors. Not one. And I remember it being different years ago at prior events.

And it was during that spell when we traded trophies and titles with the club from Ibrox every other year that then chairman John Reid told a crowd which whooped and hollered and banged on the tables and cheered him to the rafters that Celtic would “no longer be at the back of the bus.” Guys from my generation loved that. We were all for that, we wanted to get militant and aggressive and in the faces of our enemies … and we’ve been doing it ever since.

Those are not the days Ibrox’s fans harken back to. Believe me when I tell you that. They lust for the days of total dominance, that’s what they want for their club, that’s what they want to do to us, to have their boot on our throat, just like Rangers once did.

They don’t accept that those days are over, that the club they followed, or thought they followed, was as much a lie, as much an illusion, as the one they follow now is. They think that dominating Celtic so completely like that is the natural order of things.

When they won the Covid title, they expected – because King had told them to – to win the next two or three or four or more leagues after that. And they believed it because they have bought into all this supremacy junk without questioning it at all.

When they got in front of us earlier in the campaign, they thought that was it, that their time had come, that this was their title and that it would confirm that they were “back.” Not just for one season but for the next few years and God knows what beyond that.

We weren’t supposed to win this. Everything looked set up to make sure we didn’t. From the hostility of the media to their decent run of form to our own self-inflicted wounds to the gross underestimation of the manager Brendan Rodgers … they looked at the signs and they drew every wrong conclusion that it was possible for them to draw.

We are the champions, my friends. And today when we are presented the trophy for winning this title, celebrate it long and hard and deep into the night and be proud of the achievement and of this club. Under those circumstances I will understand if you decide to focus your attention on that and on us and on the things we’ve just accomplished.

But if you’re from my generation, or just one that gets it, you’ll know what a pleasure is to be derived from thinking of what their pain is like, what they are going through, what they are feeling after seeing that hope snatched away. We have been through all of that and more … and at every stage we had to listen to their smug, arrogant gloating.

So on a day like today, don’t feel bad if you decide that they have to listen to yours.

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  • Dave McG says:

    Some truly great replies from the genuine Old Bhoys here, magnificent reading!

    We are not triumphalists, we are Celtic, the perpetual ‘underdogs’, until now.

    Hail Hail, you brilliant Mhen in your eloquent articulation!

    YNWA

  • Bennybhoy57 says:

    I was born 25th May 1957..Celtic won the big cup on my 10th birthday.
    Got to watch the game with my dad, three uncles (all coal miners) and Cousins.
    That was me given the lucky charm title..Celtic then went on a run of nine in a row.

    Going to be 67 on 25th May, hopefully another omen and we finish the season with a double.

  • Gerry says:

    Another great article and some wonderful comments as per usual.

    Being a sixties child, the memories of supporting Celtic, encompass both sides of the spectrum. From the wonderful triumphs to the unfortunate lows we’ve had to endure.

    ( The memory of Provan & McGarvey’s goals in that 1985 cup final, are eclipsed by a police officer getting his hat knocked off as he tried to wade through our fans in pursuit of someone lol! As we know, with seating in stadiums now, that would never happen…a police officer amongst the fans I mean lol!)

    Anyway through these years and decades, the most definitive difference between our fans and pre 2012 Rangers, was humility. We had it…they always had supreme arrogance! I know plenty of good pre 2012 Gers and post 2012 Sevco fans, that although were/are ingrained with ‘ we are the peepul,’ attitude, they could still hold a legitimate and rational conversation about football. That may split opinions but for me, I can only speak from experience!

    It is equally important now, as it was then, that regardless of age, we retain a sense of humility and dignity with our ongoing successes, and use their continued & misplaced arrogance, as a reminder of how to conduct ourselves.

    Without sounding like, or being accused of sounding like, a dinosaur, our unbroken history, is and continues to be, our legacy. For me, you, our children, grandchildren and those to come.

    Ibrokes, do not have that and their legacy is one of unpaid debts, death of their club, lies, more lies and contempt for our continued success.

    As we wallow in our latest title, and enjoy EVERY minute of these times, it’s important that we never forget how we got here, and overcame so many hurdles, to achieve it !!!
    Onto to a Scottish Cup triumph ! HH

  • James Archibald says:

    totally agree about Reid he didn’t take any shite from them we need someone like him now not a grey suit man like nicholson who wouldn’t say boo to a goose HH

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