Celtic Fans, Harness Your Hope In The Week To Come. Whatever Happens, Be Ready For It.

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Last night, after the lights went out across most of Glasgow, I sat up and listened to The Bulwark podcast which they recorded recently in front of a live audience in Philadelphia. As regular readers will know, The Bulwark is an American political podcast fronted by two former leading Republican activists, Tim Miller and Sarah Longwell.

They are amazing people, dedicated, patriotic and passionate about their country and prepared to make great personal sacrifices for its future. They have done one of the hardest things there is to do; they have gone against their “tribe” in order to fight Trump. The Bulwark’s creator, Jonathon V List was also there; his is always the voice articulating the worst-case scenario. JVL is a hugely engaging host, but he is the most pessimistic of the three.

And as I was sitting listening to it, I was reading over a lot of social media posts both about our club and the one across the city, and there too you see contrasting shades of light and darkness. Across on CQN they were having one of the best debates I’ve seen in a long time, and the crux of the discussion was this; is the current Ibrox fan-base “worse” than the last one? I don’t have any problem answering that in the affirmative and later on in the week I’m going to write about why I think so and what that means for their future, and for Scottish football.

Towards the end of The Bulwark’s Philadelphia show, JVL was supposed to say something uplifting.

But he handed it over to Sarah Longwell instead, and he took some ribbing for it, but I was very glad he did that because I love Longwell and how intelligent and compassionate and decent she is, and I thought what she said was tremendous and I wanted to share it with you lot because I think it’s germane to where we are this week, on the brink of a massive achievement and a stunning victory, but with some people feeling a bit of anxiety over it.

And the thing is, I understand that anxiety. I get where it comes from and what it’s based on, and it has nothing to do with the opposition, who most of us don’t fear at all. We know what this season has been characterised by.

It’s been the Year Of The Honest Mistake and the “pattern of assistance.” It’s been a campaign as much do with Crawford Allan as Kyogo Furuhashi. It’s been a year of relentless media negativity, about our manager and our players and at times even the fans. We have seen some of the darkest of the dark arts brought to bear to prevent us from winning this.

Yet here we still stand, on the very edge of it, so close we can reach out and brush our fingers against the silverware. And if anticipation is always the greatest just before the moment comes, so too is the anxiety that maybe it will be snatched from out of your hands.

But this is what Sarah Longwell said when she was tasked with offering hope, and optimism, to the audience, in a country where right now something much bigger than a title race is poised at “too close to call” in spite of one of the candidates being an election denying, insurrectionist bigot who a civil court says is a rapist and whose own comments reveal him as a white nationalist racist who hundreds of health care professionals say is a clinical psychopath.

“Autocrats want you to get tired; that’s in their playbook …” she said. “It’s why they flood The Zone with shit, it’s why (they) make it impossible. It’s why there’s not one court case, it’s 88 and then there’s the civil cases, and the other stuff … I had to set up a podcast with George Conway just to track the legal news, just so I can understand politics here … everything Trump does, it’s so much … and this is where I give the American people some leeway, because it’s impossible to take it all in and live your life … that is on purpose though. He’s got one scandal, he wants to hit you with the next one, and why? So, you can’t keep up, so you get tired, so you can’t fight back, because it feels too much, it’s just like a tidal wave … and so our job is to never get tired. It is to maintain the energy we’ve had this whole time, the thing that built this community, really. To make sure we are always focussed on fighting back and pushing for what’s better, and that’s our job … do not get tired. Do not get tired.”

And that is beautiful to me.

Because that’s where we are this week; we’re right on the line and we know that this week is going to bring with it a ton of absolute nonsense. That it might see the SFA throw us one last curveball. That it will probably bring with it some attempt at a negative story, or a piece of Ibrox feel-good, and all of this will be to play on, and build, the perfectly normal anxiety that always comes when you’re right at the end but the ending isn’t clear yet.

And the thing is, it’s already in the bloodstream to a degree, that tiredness, that anxiety, because even yesterday, watching the Kilmarnock game, even when the first penalty call doesn’t go their way you knew the next one would, and it did, and you knew the player would be red carded even though that’s ludicrous, just as you know watching them every week now that the “pattern of assistance” will be brought to bear, and that every Celtic goal is scrutinised meticulously for a reason to chop it off … one guy said to me yesterday – and he’s not the first and he won’t be the last this week – that he doesn’t think we’ll be “allowed” to win this game on Saturday.

I said to him what I’ll say to all of you now; we will win on Saturday, and we’ll win well. Because we’re the better team, with the better manager, playing on our turf in front of our fans and we know what’s at stake, and that it’s one last push to virtually get us to the line, and because Rodgers is already inside their heads and undermining what self-belief they had. It’s not certain, but I still feel that it’s a certainty. Everything I see convinces me we’ll win.

But I understand why some fans are tired, and anxious, cause it’s like Sarah Longwell says, in that very different context; it has been relentless this season. Just when you think they cannot possibly scandalise you further, they find a way. When they’ve been as brazen as you think it’s possible to be, we get the Tynecastle game and then its aftermath, and then John Beaton twice in a month after our manager has accused him of incompetence.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent long stretches of this season feeling frayed at the edges. On Saturday, I went to the game absolutely physically done in. I had bad stomach cramps all the night before and all the way through the day. I went home, posted my 7pm report on the game and fell into bed and slept for 12 hours.

Some people, earlier in the day, thought I was just stressed about the match, but I was totally run down and just utterly wrecked. Was it something I ate, or some one-day bug, or have I just spent so many weeks cruising on coffee and chaos that my body just said “Hey! No more of this!” and rebelled against it? I don’t know, but I can’t rule that out. I do know that I never sleep for 12 straight hours, and that on Saturday I did, on a night I’d usually be in the pub.

This stuff takes a toll on everybody, on all of us. It has to.

You see diabolical decisions and blatant corruption and nothing ever seems to get done about it and it’s easy to get sucked into a fatalistic black hole. You read unceasingly negative stuff about the team and the boss, and even if you know better you can catch yourself thinking at odd moments, “Are we really capable of doing this? Are we kidding ourselves about what our chances are?” Even when we’re top and looking good, every bad performance is turned into a series of stories about how the team has broken under the strain … and you can feel that strain yourself to some extent and it’s dead, dead easy to believe maybe they do as well.

And because I know this, and I know that’s why they do it, I am always consciously, wilfully, fighting against feeling that way, and I’m luckier than a lot of you because I can channel those feelings and that anger into doing this … but that, in itself, takes a Hell of a lot out of you, and maybe that’s why I crashed this weekend, because everyone has a limit.

But this is why, this near the line, the clarion call is always for “one last push.” It won’t be literally the last push, because it won’t completely get us there, but for all intents and purposes it’ll be over and we can start to plan the party. There is no way we win on Saturday and then lose the next two, and especially not with the last one at home. With all respect to Kilmarnock and St Mirren – and we will give them that due respect – we’re too strong not to get at least a point.

So, one last push, no matter what they throw at us this week. Do not spend it worrying about what the officials might do or anything else. Project confidence. Project strength. Give that back to the team and to the manager.

Do not let these people get in your heads or grind you down or make you feel that this is tougher than the task actually is; look, these people have had every opportunity to kill this campaign, and they’ve tried at various stages and we’re still here. We’re still top.

We’re going into this game knowing that a win virtually secures this title … not only is their favourite club not as strong as we are, but the power of that club, it’s cheerleaders in the media and whichever corner of the SFA is auditioning for the Sash Bash combined have proved to be not so strong as we are, even with our own directors making such a balls up of the transfer policy that the boss, at times, was working with a team held together with superglue.

So this coming week, whatever they throw at us, whatever they attempt to do, however their last throw of the dice before the game manifests itself, no matter how ridiculous it is or infuriating it might be, dismiss it as of no consequence.

Rodgers is right; this is all about the mentality now, and he’s drawn first blood, and they are the ones hurting, they are the ones feeling the pressure. So, keep that pressure on by keeping your heads high and the confidence flowing.

Between that, the performance at the weekend and all the advantages we hold … there’s no reason not to be looking ahead to that game with anything but happy thoughts. Please, remember that this team needs us to be up for this as much as we need them to be, so think about it the way Sarah Longwell does.

Our job is simple enough; whatever comes, do not get tired.

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  • Martin says:

    If we can avoid a red card on Saturday we will win well. There’s a limit to being able to chop off goals etc…. The best hope for any bent official would be to reduce our numbers. Keep the head and avoid rash challenges and we’ll be fine.

    If both teams play like they did this weekend it will be a slaughtering. That hun team are dogmeat.

  • Taj says:

    Brilliant, thanks James. I was one on the cusp of anixiety wondering if my heart could take going to the game. Not now. To paraphraseTommy Burns ‘we’re there and we’ll always be there’ and God bless us and the team on Saturday. Hail hail ?

  • Andrew says:

    100%, great read and spot on, we the fans have a part to play and we will.

  • Jamie D says:

    James, that other mob are well aware that we are a better team, have a better manager and that we are capable of doing them real damage at Parkhead. Brendon is aware of the antics that will be employed by the so called media in the build up this week. All the players have to do is listen to the Boss and concentrate 100% and perform on the day, making sure that right from the kick off, we boss the game, not giving them any breathing space. That then only leaves the corrupt officials and ‘honest mistakes’ to take care of. I look forward to hearing ‘champions again’ ringing loudly at Parkhead. H H.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Personally ah’ve never predicted these games. Nothin tae dae wi any media, or biased diatribe wearin me down, nae chance of that. Never has been. Ah just think, there’s nae such thing as a ‘guarantee’ in football, especially these games. And thats regardless of who has advantages, or who the favs are. Anythin can happen. Ahm confident aye, absolutely, because if we play and there’s nae dubious interference, we’ve the players capable of doin this. Tho ah stop short at predictin this and that. It’ll take care of itself.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    P.S. It’s started already with the DR. ‘6 Brendan Rodgers rangers put downs’ ! So there it is ! Obvious what the focus is gonnae be all week. BR’s ‘fun’ comment bein twisted tae use as a motivator. Typical tactics.

  • Himuptheroad says:

    “honest” mistakes are corrupting our game.

  • Bhoy4life says:

    We’ll have 2 erroneous bookings inside 20mins, that gives the ref the foundation for the red as straight reds are rare.
    Its been the pattern all season for all teams against them, at the very least it makes players think twice about tackling, so thats an assistance on its own.
    For me Maeda will be targeted for an early yellow.

  • Board Out! says:

    That’s 6 games now the Huns have been awarded a pen & the opposition down to 10 men.. ALL when they’ve been behind or level! 18 pts won when WITHOUT assistance they took 1 off Motherwell, Ross County & Dundee! They would be BOTTOM 6 without help, they’re RANK ROTTEN & we will DESTROY them on Sat.. HH!!

  • Jimmy R says:

    What an excellent article which neatly puts into place my thoughts on reading Neil McCann’s latest, desperate outpourings. He “believes” that VAR “guessed” the offside call for Kyogo’s 1st goal on Sat. Does he offer any evidence? Don’t be silly. He believes ergo it is the truth.
    They cast assertions (of the mucky variety) at every opportunity, but especially when we have had success. In their world, we do don’t deserve success. We never earn our success by skill and hard work. It is always “gifted” to us by some conspiracy.
    My approach, whenever I see such nonsense, is to think that they are rattled. They realise, although they will never say it, that we are in pole position and getting it more right than their club is currently managing. Therefore they deride us. They talk us down. Hoping against hope that their words will get into our heads in the same way as Brendan has got into theirs.
    My hope is that our mentality will win through and we will overcome everything and anything which gets in our way until the season’s end. COYBIG!

  • Michael McCartney says:

    Great article James, I know exactly what you mean, I’ve spent most of my life trying to convince myself that it’s only a game, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things but here in Scotland it did matter. This country has always had a large group of people who thought they “were the people” and looked at their fellow countrymen of Irish or Catholic backgrounds with intolerance and bigotry. Most of them, but not all, attended Ibrox stadium for their hatefest days out. Even non Catholics with Catholic family connections were discriminated against by these people.
    In 1989 they were forced by UEFA anti discrimination policy in signing a token player with a Catholic background, we all remember his name and his double crossing of Celtic and Billy McNeill, since then they have signed numerous foreign and the odd Scot with Catholic backgrounds, but still the chants and songs of hatred aimed at Scots with Catholic or Irish backgrounds have come from all around Ibrox Stadium.
    After the Liquidation of the original club in 2012 the hatred and resentment towards the rest of Scottish Football and especially Celtic FC has taken hold even more. The ignorant and stupid majority of fans at Ibrox blame everyone and especially the “unseen Fenian hand” for their original clubs demise, rather than blame that clubs Board for attempting to gain an advantage over Scottish football with tax evasion and improper contracts of players registered with the SFA. Despite the Football Authorities in Scotland bending over backwards to squeeze the successor club back into the Scottish League, eventually being allowed into the 2nd Division, and allowing the original club to keep the trophies won during the cheating years on record, the supporters of the successor club are full of resentment and hatred. My God they even believe that Scottish Referees are against them even with the statistics proving otherwise.
    Our supporters were great on Saturday and must continue to give this team the support and encouragement this group of players deserve. It has been a hard season not helped by very dodgy refereeing decisions to help the Ibrox team, injuries to key players and our board and scouting department performing badly in the two transfer windows.
    I have watched Celtic from back in the days of Tully,Evans And Peacock but I can tell you I will get great pleasure in winning this Title. We will have overcome media disinformation and cheating throughout this season.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    Yep – Another great article from The Celtic Blog there once again…

    And while I simply won’t be financially supporting any sphere of The Scummy Scottish Football Media – I think we all know what the whole week is gonna be like for sure –

    It’ll be interesting to see what Cheats with whistles, flags and monitors that Surname Surname wheels out for this Glasgow Derby…

    Brendan should get out there in front of Clement and say that the game will need strong refereeing on the day after the the disgusting and deplorable performance by Beaton in the last Glasgow Derby at Liebrox…

    We are in trouble if it’s that DickinsHUN guy – That’s for certain !

  • Gerry says:

    Uncanny how you hit the nail on the head as to how I was feeling going into this week’s game. Yes some trepidation as to how the man in the middle and his cohorts would conduct themselves to enable one team to luck out. Yes we are superior all over the park without a doubt.. it’s just that nagging doubt if an honest mistake is made.(not in our favour). A heartening, stirring, honest common sensible article. It’s in our own hands at our own park, let’s get this done and piss over the mannequin ‘s mob.HH

    • Gerry says:

      A great read thank you ? l am of an age now when this game should not make me as upset as it does and by that I mean shouting at the TV etc (wish I had a ticket) due to ill health my whole outlook on life changed dramatically I stopped drinking I had to get fitter and changed old habits now thank goodness I’m a better person in mind and body I went for my daily walk this morning in the park and a guy passed me giving me a prolonged look it dawned on me who he was he and all his cohorts would come into the pub only when his team won and usually look for a Celtic fan to bite fortunately that never happened as we were always turning them over a particularly bad lot of guy’s who should know better for the let’s say more senior supporter. One of the mates I had a drink with unfortunately passed a few weeks ago a lovely bloke and a season ticket holder for many years as I walked on I thought of him and how he would tell me to ignore that mob so Celtic on Saturday let’s do this for TONY and absolute gentleman till the very end hail hail

  • Mark says:

    Best I’ve read on here. Superb work.

  • Johnny Green says:

    FFS! I’ve already shtarted shelibrating, don’t tell me um too early. 🙂

  • Eldraco says:

    This is it, this is us , celtic. Play as we did that 2nd half against hearts, hunt them down in 2-3 to get the ball back play that extra 10 yards higher up and chip 8 irons shots from the mids and just inside the 25 just into that space and we have them.

    This is the time , this is the place, and WE are the people.

  • Gerry says:

    Despite the obstacles and struggles we’ve had to endure this season, it is only fitting that our fanbase come together at this critical time!

    It is only natural for there to be anxiety amongst us all, because we’ve not only had the issues within our own club to surmount…but those that are created by the dark arts at work, in Scottish football.

    It has been sickening to experience the consistent ‘patterns of assistance,’ towards the new club, and the blatant cheating/bias that has been part and parcel for so long!

    It’s also sickening that we have to worry about our players, going into the biggest game of the season, against our biggest rivals, and possibly having to watch how they challenge, for fear of soft bookings!!!

    It’s a disgrace and sign of where we are at, with SFA’s control and choice of officialdom!

    Immediate reform, is urgently required !

    The Sevco support yearn for a return to those pre liquidation feelings of arrogant supremacy, that they tried to hold over us.

    It is hugely important that we never, ever allow that club to get close to that again. They can spend all the money that they don’t have, as often as they want, but as long as they are denied the big booty, then it won’t amount to much. Their anxiety, allied to fear and loathing, has been evident, since they were born in 2012.

    So this week, there will be levels of nervousness and tension, amongst us, in anticipation of this huge fixture. I am glad I’ve kept the faith and belief that we would get this over the line . However, it doesn’t mean to say that there haven’t been periods of doubt along the way.

    As you say, and I fully acquiesce…we are the bigger club, we have the better manager, players, squad and fans! We all know that…So, It’s now time for that collective superiority, to come together as one this Saturday, ignore all the outside noise and prove how good, we really are !


      Wish Brendan could post this reply up in the Home dressing room.


      HAIL Hail.

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      An excellent post there Gerry – Like a lot on this excellent site !!!

  • Robert Downey says:

    Good article James, I agree with it 100%.
    I am presuming ” the curve ball” will come in the shape of the officials for the match.
    I too expect this, but no matter, if Celtic turn up and play to our potential we WILL WIN, of that I have no doubt.
    The unseen hand is a source of worry for me.

    • James Forrest says:

      Hahaha oh the curveball was curvier than even I thought!

      Willie Collum? Lol. I didn’t see that coming at all!

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