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Old 21-09-08 10:28 PM
Ellives Ellives is offline
Vengeance is mine; I will repay
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By now, there’s barely a Scottish football fan who is not aware of what is now commonly referred to as ‘The Famine Song’: our radio shows, understood by many of us as having a reluctance to tackle such issues, have been saturated with talk of it; the printed press have devoted both sports pages and news columnist inches to the fallout; and, of course, the online community has been relentlessly debating it since some time in Spring – the issue having merely spiralled in that community, fermenting over time, then exploding with the oxygen of publicity. The seeds, sown well before the end of last season, seemed finally to have given root to something which could not be ignored; yet instead of a blanket condemnation of this song, almost every news outlet has been very careful to couch their criticism in equivocation. At various times it has been referred to by those who really should know better as ‘banter’, as ‘tit-for-tat’, or – in that time-honoured, cherished, though never dusty phrase – yet one more example of the maxim that ‘one side is as bad as the other’; in short, the suggestion was that this was an ‘Old Firm’ problem. There were as yet unconfirmed reports of journalists ‘embedded’ in the Celtic support at Rugby Park today, hoping to root out some sectarian weed, or offensiveness. In the past week, media attacks on Celtic’s oft-praised support have been ramped up considerably. In the face of such tortuous ambiguity most people would be ready to switch off, to accept the futility of dealing with the problems in the West of Scotland, and to close their ears to the nature of this song. That would be the wrong thing to do at this point.

The song itself is reprehensible and there seems little point in beating about the bush on this. It is offensive; it is racist; it is bigoted. In fact, it is possible to wonder whether the person who wrote it jotted down a list of repellent qualities that this song might have, then went about systematically ticking every box. “Why don’t you go home?” the chorus cries. It does not have to be pointed out that such a song aimed at any other grouping in Britain would be instantly and unequivocally condemned. Those who chant this song have the absolute audacity to claim it is merely a wind-up of those Celtic fans who ‘harp on’, as they see it, about their Irish heritage. Since when did having a heritage become something which excused such racism? There are many ethnic groups in Britain, and Scotland, and many within these communities are rightfully proud of their ancestral homeland: the Italians, the Polish, the Pakistanis, the Indians, the Chinese. The list goes on – and we have, or had, our very own slogan proclaiming the beauty of such a rich and diverse heritage: ‘One Scotland, Many Cultures’. It is a thing to be proud of. If Celtic’s supporters who are descended from the Irish are proud of their heritage, that is commendable; it is not a reason for asking them to ‘Go Home’. The other part of the chorus is a reference to the Irish famine: ‘the famine is over’, they gloat. This is a famine in which an estimated one million people died; it is a famine which, through death and emigration, reduced the population of a nation by approximately 20%. Time is a healer, but some things do not invite mockery. Such a tragic event, an event with a complex history, is one such thing. Other countries commemorate the famine – An Gorta Mór, in an Irish many would find offensive – yet our sole tribute is a song inviting the descendants to ‘Go Home’. Obvious comparisons to the Holocaust have been made – is it possible to imagine the morally reprehensible idea of a group of football fans singing this song to those of Jewish ethnicity, invoking the Shoah? I would certainly hope not. Despite this, Ewan Murray, writing in The Guardian, states that, “the scale of death during the potato famine is hardly akin to the methodical slaughter of the holocaust,” presumably in the belief that there should be some macabre league table of death so that the authorities may decide, from on high, what may be mocked and what may not. This, indeed, is Scotland’s Shame.

That is the chorus. It is the part of the song on which the media must focus most since it is the part which is most vocal at grounds such as Celtic Park or on occasions where players of Irish stock must run the gauntlet of hate provided by the followers of the Ibrox club. Yet it must be noted that the chorus is not the whole. It is the stem of this racist growth, yet the truly poisonous part of this plant is in the verses. No one in the mainstream media paid much attention to the statement released by Martin Bain, the Ibrox club’s Chief Executive. In it he referred to the fact that the club’s fans had been singing the ‘chorus’ of the ‘Famine Song’ and in doing so he implicitly acknowledged an awareness of these other verses. These verses plumb the depths of depravity: referring to the ‘Papists of Rome’; propagating the idea that Ireland somehow ‘fuelled U-Boats by night’; and making a mockery of the victims of child abuse, while simultaneously denigrating the late, great Jock Stein – a hero to many in Scotland not connected to Celtic, never mind our fans. The opening chorus makes very clear the racist intent in this chant:

I often wonder where they would have been
If we hadn't have taken them in,
Fed them and washed them,
Thousands in Glasgow alone.
From Ireland they came,
Brought us nothing but trouble and shame.
Well the famine is over,
Why don't they go home?

These people commenting on the chant – in the printed press, on the radio, in the Ibrox boardroom – know this. They are aware of the content. They are not blind to the vicious and obscene bigotry of this chant. Yet rather than condemn it outright the decision has been taken to call it ‘tit-for-tat’. We are, in case you are not aware, all as bad as each other, us ‘Old Firm’ fans. The response from Bain was pitiful. His statement made clear that, rather than finding the song offensive, he merely worried about the possible risk of sanctions for the club and the possibility that these racists who sing the song may be arrested. While some may understand such reticence in a man lambasted by some of the club’s more Neanderthal supporters for daring to speak out against their bigotry in the past, it is nevertheless unedifying to see such moral cowardice in a man charged with such responsibility.

While Bain’s recognition of the full song is not matched by his criticism of the content, much of the media seem, instead, to be trapped in a maze of misunderstanding: either wilful or through ignorance. If it is merely a failure of understanding, one must wonder how they ascended to their positions; if it is a wilful failure to confront this racism, one must fear for the ability of our establishment to remove this weed from our society. Listening to Radio Scotland on Friday, and Radio Clyde at other times, I was struck by the amount of references solely to the ‘offensiveness’ of the chant. Some truly woeful comparisons were made. One presenter on the BBC compared the chant to the songs aimed at David Beckham’s wife; another wondered aloud if the Aberdeen support may make advances to the Ministry of Agriculture if they felt aggrieved at the ‘Sheep Shagger’ chants so often heard around the country. Laugh? I nearly cried. Can these people truly be so obtuse? You will hear offensive chants up and down the country and you probably always will. Indeed, during several recent encounters against Rangers their fans could be clearly heard making reference to the wife of Artur Boruc. Offensive? Of course. Grounds for inter-governmental dialogue and the threat of police action? Of course not. The problem with the ‘Famine Song’ is not that it is simply offensive, it is that it is both primarily racist, and also – in the verses –sectarian. There have been enraged complaints from both within Ibrox itself and within the club’s support that other songs have been ignored: Martin Bain, in a – let us be clear – successful attempt to divert attention away from his own club’s support made reference to the Ibrox disaster song apparently sung by the visiting Aberdeen fans and the Nacho Novo song sung by some Celtic supporters. Both of these songs are to be condemned: they are offensive and odious. Though plainly neither is sectarian nor racist. The accusations made against the Aberdeen fans remain just that – accusations – because the numbers singing the song are not sufficient to be picked up by the microphones, it would seem; I was at Fir Park last week when the Novo song was sung – and I know it was sung – yet I did not hear it personally. These songs are not widespread. All football clubs in the land have morons in their support: from Sunderland to Torquay; from Inverness to Queen of the South. (Need I mention the disgraceful racism from the Motherwell support aimed at Laryea Kingston of Hearts? I should, since I must listen to smug condemnation of my own club’s fans from Tam Cowan, celebrity Motherwell fan, in his attempt to downplay the ‘Famine Song’. Paradoxically, were this so widespread as the ‘Famine Song’ amongst the support of the ‘Family Club’, would it perhaps have had as little attention as the Rangers supporters had for 6 months of chanting the ‘Famine Song’? Presumably not.) There are morons in society and it stands to reason there will be morons amongst the support of all football clubs. The difference in numbers may seem unimportant – and perhaps it is when a condemnation is so obviously required – but it must be stated that a particularly large moronic contingent has attached itself to Rangers Football Club and continually shames that club (a club which played up to that moronic element by its own actions in many ways: a sectarian signing policy and, more recently, Orange shirts do not seem ideal ways to combat prejudice).

In addition to a completely lopsided reporting of the chants from the terraces, this week has saw a sustained attempt to indict the Celtic support in all manner of ways. Today (Sunday 21 October), for example, saw a report in the News of the World which linked a graffiti attack on a pub belonging to the former Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram to the posting of the details of that pub on a Celtic messageboard. Yet days before the attack those details were published in The Hamilton Advertiser, a local newspaper, making clear that Goram was the owner of that pub. As if that were not enough, the same details posted on this messageboard appeared in The Sun newspaper – the sister paper of the News of the World – before the spraypaint ‘attack’. You really could not make this stuff up: it is desperate and completely transparent. That is not to suggest it is not likely a Celtic fan was involved – but this was almost certainly no internet planned, spray-paint wielding plot. Similarly, while there was a sense of schadenfreude in much of the reporting of the recent cowardly attack on Neil Lennon – to many he ‘brings it on himself’ with his style of play, as though a full tackle should be met with a swollen jaw rather than a possible yellow card – no mention was made of Goram’s murky past when his recent troubles were reported: here was a man who posed with UVF memorabilia, the resulting furore causing him to let down his employers at Motherwell by being unable to play against Celtic, having his pub defaced with Republican graffiti, yet this seemed to warrant more condemnation than physical assault.

This isn’t new to Celtic fans. We have become au fait with such blatantly biased reporting: when Rangers fans rioted in Spain, it was an ‘Old Firm’ problem; when they trashed Manchester, it was an ‘Old Firm’ problem; when they were warned over their conduct by UEFA, as Celtic supporters basked in the warm afterglow of a recognition of their fine behaviour abroad, it was – you guessed it – an ‘Old Firm’ problem. It is possible to look back on the reporting of Manchester today with some mirth. The difference between the reporting of the story in England, where it could not be swept under the carpet as a police problem, and the reporting of the story in Scotland, where the failure of a TV screen became part of the acceptable motive for widespread looting and sickening violence, was painfully clear. One Scottish paper had the temerity to report, with glee, how the policeman who suffered a painful beating had been rescued by a valiant Rangers fan: the fan was portrayed as symbolic of the ‘majority’; the hundred-odd fans trying to stamp on the officer’s head playing the part of the shameful ‘Old Firm’ minority – with a smattering of Chelsea fans. Within a day the story unravelled: the brave fan had, in fact, been English, not involved with the UEFA Cup final except in his misfortune in being caught up in a riot and forced to defend a lone policeman from a barrage of bluenose boots. That story, rather, that correction, barely made a ripple in Scotland.

It is difficult as a Celtic supporter to remain hopeful in the face of such manipulation. It has become increasingly clear in the past year that there is nothing we can do to remove the muddy waters of the ‘Old Firm’: our triumphs are an ‘Old Firm’ thing; their disgraces are an ‘Old Firm’ thing. And so it remains. Yet remain hopeful I think we shall. Because we will never be like them. We will always be unique as a club; we will never be the other side of their cheap coin. The press have a duty to face up to this blight, this unwanted, cancerous growth, within our footballing society. Their persistent failure to combat it – allied to the shameful negligence of the SFA and SPL – can only perpetuate bigotry and intolerance in society. No one longs for an inoffensive, staid game; we only ask for a game free from blatant racism. For that reason, we must remain hopeful that Rangers, and their support, will begin to reap the punishment of the seeds they have sown.
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Old 18-03-11 09:23 AM
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I do not see a time, ever, when the bad blood between Celtic and Rangers will be nothing more than a memory. Too much has happened, peoples memories are too long and the systematic way that barriers have been put in front of Celtic FC and the Fans, in terms of football and National identity, strikes at the heart of who and what the majority of Celtic Fans are and this will never be forgotten. On both sides of the divide, miscarriages of justice – real and imagined – have been handed down from parent to child and always will be. This is unstoppable.

Great strides have been made by Celtic FC and our fans and both have done a remarkable job in turning Glasgow Celtic into a modern forward thinking football club with family and social issues – not only local but global – at the heart of what it means to be part of the Celtic family.

There is a part of me that would like to see Celtic and Rangers truly unite to make Glasgow a city to be more proud of. If the two clubs could somehow become closer perhaps the violence would eventually stop. I am aware that some fans will already be forming their replies to this view but I feel that 20 senseless deaths over 20 years are unacceptable and that the families of the victims of hate and ignorance would share my feelings. There is however, I believe, a need to distance ourselves from our neighbours. As we - as a club and support - grow and grow in all ways, not least emotionally, RFC continues to sink ever deeper into a cycle of hatred and shows a complete lack of self awareness. They have the problem of the alcoholic, they are in denial and until they admit they have a problem it won’t go away.

Glasgow Celtic FC, rather than being the other side of the Glasgow coin are a completely different currency. The Celtic Family I believe is unique and if Glasgow Rangers cannot be cajoled into pressing forward into the modern age then I propose that – if they cannot join us in peace – then we leave them behind. I am talking about the practice of labelling the Glasgow clubs as old firm. I know that most fans find this label objectionable and I agree that we have good reason to feel this way. I myself would rather we stood or fell by our own reputation than run the risk of being dragged through the mud due to the faults of others.

I recently tried to start a twitter trend, unfortunately I have very few followers and little influence and very little was said about it. My idea was to have the whole Celtic family say WE ARE NOT old firm WE ARE CELTIC on a regular basis. Place this statement on any communications regarding our club: websites, tweets, Facebook pages and banners at Celtic Park during games. After this notion has taken root and the football world recognises the singularity of our club the statement would be cut down to simply WE ARE CELTIC.

I began to wonder if my notion was ridiculous. Who am I to suggest this? I have no experience of manipulating modern communications, no background in advertising and under the cold light of day I would be seen as nothing more than an over zealous fan. To be honest this still worries me but I feel that it is so important to publicly distance ourselves from RFC, that I am willing to take the chance.

I have had reservations. Would this be seen as elitism and lead to further bad feeling towards our club from the whole of Scottish football? I don’t think so. If it were handled correctly no one could object to our wish to be seen as a club apart from every other, a status that all other clubs in the world enjoy. Is it possible that this could cause more trouble between our club and Rangers? For the same reasons I have mentioned in the first paragraph, I doubt it. Our culture is what it is and any attempt to better oneself must be seen as progress and above reproach.

I truly believe that it is time to cut this chord. Glasgow Rangers have had every opportunity to stand by Neil Lennon at a time when a true unity of purpose in condemning his detractors and haters would have done much to soften attitudes towards their club. They have made the Celtic Family the scapegoat for their own disorder and been complicit – by their lack of action - in the campaign of hatred against Neil Lennon since he signed for the club he loves. Ex Rangers players validate the vile actions against Neil Lennon and cite his character as the root of other individual’s failings. Ranger’s fans continue to sing songs of hatred at home, away and abroad but pay for the privilege and so are allowed to continue without impunity, endangering the reputation of anyone connected with their club. Their fans destroy sections of Celtic Park and there is no public denunciation. Rangers players are sent on a seek and destroy mission and again, ridiculous attempts to blame CFC for their own short comings are released by their Chief Executive.

We have a reputation that has been won through the hard work, stamina, creativity and commitment to the ethos of our club, by a wonderful Celtic Family, which cannot be allowed to be tarnished by our neighbours. While I would insist that it would benefit us as a family and a club to aid any football team in any way we can - out of the sheer humanity and social ethics that our club was founded on - we have a responsibility to each other, to Celtic FC and to the whole Celtic Family to protect and nurture our reputation and let the world know that WE ARE NOT old firm WE ARE CELTIC.
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Old 09-12-10 05:25 PM
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The weekend beginning on November 26, 2010 will live long in the memory of Celtic fans throughout the globe. Such was the glee that emerged through the removal of Messrs Dallas and McDonald, the dropping of two points at home and the sub standard fare on display at home against Inverness was very much secondary.

At the time of writing it remains to be seen just how much of a watershed moment this could be. Dallas, Head of Referees at the Scottish FA has for many years been a figure of contention and controversy for Celtic supporters. He, for many epitomises the sinister patterns of officialdom that have prompted generations of Celtic die-hards to cite that the game in Scotland has surreptitious methods and subterfuge embedded within it. This angst perhaps best illustrated in a game at Celtic Park in May 1999 when such objections to his performance saw him inexcusably struck by a coin, thrown from within the support. Since then his decision making during games beyond these shores has compelled emotional responses from players and coaches alike in stadia beyond Scottish football and has saw him being victim to attacks, both verbal and physical, the likes of which were incomparable to anything that materialised in Scottish football.

Dougie McDonald and his rise to prominence as the man in the middle came as his former superior Dallas' career was to all intents and purposes was in its twilight. A Grade 1 referee as of 1997 it was into the new millennium that he came more to the fore in top flight Scottish football. It is however over the course of the last 24 months that McDonald has became a figure of opprobrium for supporters. With McDonald taking charge of several Glasgow derbies in the period his officiating has encouraged greater scrutiny and there are now a catalogue of contentious decisions that for large swaths of Celtic fans point to bias, a favouritism that ultimately seeks to benefit Rangers and disadvantage Celtic.

October 17th, 2010 and Tannadice Park, the home of Dundee United and what seems like your standard Scottish Premier League fixture is playing out. Celtic already feeling victimised by decisions during the games opening hour are awarded a penalty. What unfolds in the ensuing minutes may not define McDonald as a referee but it will most certainly will haunt him for many years to come. Many a match official has erroneously pointed to the spot in the heat of battle, that is irrefutable, many have waved play on when the ubiquitous cameras have in the immediate aftermath informed the viewers that such a decision was incorrect. I do not recall seeing what happened next in any other game although that is of course not to say that it has not occurred elsewhere. That he changed his mind is now well known but as time went on the controversy raged and the lies from the media in Scotland sought to negate the contention around the decision of McDonald.

In the ensuing days certain publications told of the assistant referee raising his flag. This has now been proved to be not only innocently false but a blatant lie which went to print as editors and their minions went into overdrive to nullify the long standing claims of Celtic fans around bias. Craven, the assistant referee on the day ran to take up the position that is the norm in light of a penalty being given. Mr Craven in the week after then went public to reveal a bullying culture that Hugh Dallas was chief culprit in the SFA Officials environment, but moreover to disclose that he had been party to, certainly for a brief period, a conspiracy to lie to Neil Lennon and by extension Celtic about the decision that was changed.

Fast forward three weeks and the revelations emerged about Hugh Dallas and 'that e-mail', the usage of that now having the same notoriety which was directed towards Elizabeth Hurley many years ago and 'that' dress'. The e-mail, an attempt at topical satire but undoubtedly offensive to both the Pope and Catholics, came on the same day the Pope celebrated Mass in Glasgow and as anti-Catholicism increased in workplaces across Glasgow and beyond. Whether Dallas forwarded this 'humour' with underlying anti-Catholic motivations we may never know and whilst some may suggest I am trying to exculpate Dallas there is something far more sinister in all of this. The reality is that someone felt sufficiently confident to send this to Dallas, confident that it would meet with his approval. Perhaps the best indication that it did meet such approval is owing to the fact that Dallas then forwarded it on to numbers speculated, but conclusively unknown.

All of the above has infuriated Celtic supporters across the globe. Celtic supporters of any faith and none have a unison on the issue of bias, favouritism, preference etc like no other matter of common interest. There are disagreements and debate on the extent of bias, discussions on whether it is cultural, conspiratorial, or a fusion of both, but the underlying belief is that it exists. The Dallas e-mail, whilst unconnected to Celtic or its fans, is viewed in the context of Scotland. That being that with the unresolved allegations of anti-Catholicism it points to the triumvirate of intolerance that has been ingrained for decades. Anti-Catholicism, anti-Irishness and through both, anti-Celtic bias as the club are perceived to be the most public representative of both and all three that permeate through both the police and the judiciary, evinced by Celtic fans being mistreated by the police and having to contend with superfluous charges.

For all the individuals that have been exposed, this matter is not employee specific, it has its roots and maintenance in an ethos, an ethos that has in time eroded any confidence in those in the Irish Catholic community in Scotland that the Scottish Football authorities not only do not value their contribution to the game in the same way as others but have sought continuously to ensure that a glass ceiling is in operation regarding advancement and aspirations. Whilst a Dermot Gallagher may be able to ascend the referees career ladder in England, unobstructed through a name that points to national and religious identity, there is a clear belief that North of the border difficulties would abound for anyone with such a name reaching the apex of the officiating pyramid.

Sectarianism and racism regarding career are not merely issues around the acquisition of employment, the remnants of such widespread prejudice are to be found around the areas of advancement once in position and progress. Far too many Celtic supporters, and indeed others, are willing to look at specific areas and point to someone they know, or know of, operating in that field or industry and draw the conclusion that their employment in a certain area means that an individual employer is adhering to non-discriminatory practices. They have been hoodwinked, not least by the broad media into absorbing that intolerance can only exist in certain ways. It is a foolhardy assumption which disregards the nuances of prejudice in any given environment.

On this particular issue it would be interesting to find out how many Catholics, or those perceived to be from culturally Irish backgrounds, have advanced through the structures of the national association or have found themselves as part of the decision making process, either through endeavour or through a right of succession that does not have effort and natural progress as part of the criteria.

The English Football Association has a Race Equality Advisory Group, within this group are various individuals from Black Minority Ethnic communities, their presence in such groups no doubt beneficial in relaying the concerns that exist within their respective communities. One example around this being the under representation across football, from grassroots to its highest echelons, from within the Asian community, or to be more specific, those from Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds. Yet in Scotland it would be surprising for most to see that amongst the power brokers of the Scottish FA there were several Gallaghers, McDonaghs or O'Donnells. All this despite the Irish immigrant community in Scotland embracing the game in such a significant manner and figures that suggest that the Irish community in Scotland are the biggest immigrant group. When stakeholders allude to change in the game and its structures it is essential that the Scottish FA not only deconstruct the antiquated building blocks that have been in place for so long but they also instill a confidence that positions and places within the national association are available and accessible to all and are no longer enveloped by a nepotism propped up by sectarian and racist pillars or that are contingent on perceived class or social status.

If this alone can be achieved by Stewart Regan, the new Chief Executive then it will represent a huge and significant change in the Scottish Football Association. Regan, in post only since the summer, must be still dazed at all that has occurred around him. Whilst anyone in such a new and pressurised position has to confront hitherto issues, the nuances of Scotland will undoubtedly have left him bewildered. As he recovers from one crisis another emerges and all the while there is little sympathy from the fourth estate, many of whom desire change in Scottish football but are vehemently opposed to it being changed at the behest of Celtic or their supporters. Within the press pack there are calls for the dismantling of the committees, alterations in the powers that certain individuals and panels have, the promotion of changes around promoting the game and continuous frustrations that the well which produced Dalglish, Law, Souness et al has run dry. These of course are valid questions, queries and viewpoints. It is incontrovertible that the conveyor belt has grind to a halt, perhaps not in quantity but most certainly in quality. Broadly speaking however, there are no proclamations within the media which reflects the opinions and assertions that are proffered by those within the Celtic family. In fact, it may well be the case that such is the entrenched position of some and their point blank refusal to entertain our grievances that they would rather sustain the present structure and its shortcomings rather than face the prospect of the necessary changes coming through a united Celtic front or having to admit that 'You know this bias thing, you were right all along'

Bias, the buzzword that has resurfaced intermittently through the events above can be confusing in how it manifests itself. The norm regarding recourse of the media has been to portray the wide Celtic support as paranoiacs, clinging to the idea that former social inequalities still somehow resonate within football. The media repeatedly request hard and irrefutable evidence in the full knowledge that owing to the nature of the allegation this is almost impossible without whistleblowers becoming whistleblowers. The supporters point to a pattern of on field decisions to evince their assertions. The media, and others unwilling to contemplate subterfuge respond with examples of injustices affecting all teams. And so it continues ad nauseum. In the midst of all this toing and froing external comments seem to be lost or at best no significance is placed upon them and at no point has any media commentator sought to collate the remarks of those who are in the game or have been and whose views come from beyond the generally accepted conspiracy theorists. Bias is defined as 'to cause partiality or favouritism'. It is not dependent on size or where or how it emerges. Berti Vogts, one of the external parties said in the book 'Tommy Burns : A supporters who got lucky', on the issue of Burns inheriting the Scotland managers position that 'I think maybe if he was the assistant manager of Rangers, then maybe he could have taken over. If Tommy came from the blue side then I think he'd have taken over after me. Sorry but I have to say that. What exactly would prompt such a comment ? Vogts, bereft of any historic allegiances and without vested interest, has in such a relatively short period of time in Scotland felt that there is some form of favouritism towards Rangers and/or anti-Celtic bias. Craig Levein, the current Scotland manager back in 2008 bemoaned the decisions that went against his then employers Dundee United in a game against Rangers at Ibrox. Despite the loaded overtures of Chick Young to cite Glasgow club stadia as venues where officiating can be a source of annoyance and injustice, Levein was quick to point out to Young that his ire was around visits to Ibrox and Ibrox only. Terry Butcher, now manager of Inverness Caledonian and former Rangers captain, recently gave a post match interview after his team had battled to a draw at Ibrox. Upon being asked about the prospects of being given a penalty during proceedings he sarcastically quipped 'What us, get a penalty at Ibrox'. As many Celtic fans will know Billy McNeill, former club captain has arguably went one further and opined that bias has been in play for decades. So are they all card carrying members of the Paranoiac posse ? Are we to believe that these figures within the footballing establishment are somehow disregarding their own reputations to reinforce long standing views of the Celtic support ? I think not. Adding fuel to the fire has been Graham Spiers and Jim Traynor. The former has accepted that there has been bias but it has been absented in more recent times. Spiers has not offered much more, such as any opinion of when it ceased to be. Traynor, on BBC Radio, reluctantly acknowledged that there probably was bias but its existence was when trams and ration books were commonplace.

Although bias can exist in many forms and as football has evolved it has opened up new avenues for favouritism and prejudice, it is the issue of on field decisions that is the most pertinent amongst the discussions and debates of Celtic supporters. With such convictions around the deviancy of match officials this belief is not likely to abate any time soon. The inception of the internet, the birth of the forum and the easiness in accessing archived materials has permitted the footballing community to locate evidence at the touch of several buttons. Newspaper articles are perused and scrutinized, some acting as all the testimony supporters need to justify their position. From a former referee appearing at a private function and referring to 'Fenian bastards', to another ex-referee having his wish granted to officiate his last ever match which happened to be Rangers penultimate game of the 1997/1998 season whilst the club were on the cusp of securing a tenth consecutive Scottish title . The above being symptomatic from a Celtic fans perspective that Rangers, favouritism, prejudice against Celtic are interwoven and rooted within the culture of officialdom. Also arising from the deeply held belief system around the establishment and the establishment club is the perpetual question of Masonic associations and if they play any role in upkeeping such bias. The Masons, a global body but with autonomy has long been felt to have anti-Catholicism running across it in Scotland. With membership of the brethren, or craft as it is known, being out of reach for most of the financially impotent the reality of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic discrimination meant that becoming a full member of the fraternity would have been beyond many of those from within that particular section of society. From this and maintained to this day is the view that whilst the ethos may be sectarian and racist free, there will exist mindsets amongst the membership that certain individuals and groups are, shall we say, less welcome than others.

Those for whom there has always been a welcome has been the refereeing brotherhood in Scotland. In looking deeper into the machinations of the organisation it only raises more questions than provide answers to any queries people have. Are certain individuals being elevated to positions of prominence in the Scottish game simply because of their craft card ? Is the Masonic pledge to help a brother suppressing the advancement of those who follow procedure but are not within the fraternity ? Perhaps the most relevant question in all of this is just how far will 'brothers' go to assist in the need of their fellow craftsmen. In Musselburgh, November 2009, just a few short miles from Edinburgh, the local Masonic lodge has an open evening. It is designed in part to remove the veil of secrecy which still shrouds this body. Consequently there are figures there from the local community and who are not members.

What is disclosed by Brother Abbot in Lodge 112 is that both the Rangers manager, Walter Smith and his assistant Ally McCoist are both members of the brethren, with McCoist having been initiated more than a quarter of a century ago in Thornliebank, Glasgow. To some this may not come as a great surprise. What it does do is raise questions about the assistance that one brother may offer another and would such brothers be prepared to engage in deceit in their professional life in order to be of benefit to their brethren. We may never know, again without verbal declarations from the people involved or some form of paper trail we are left with conjecture or gut style convictions. It may also explain why Walter, as he is affectionately known by the reporters, is so reluctant to offer any criticism to officials who oversee Rangers fixtures.

It would be interesting to locate any criticism from Smith which was aimed at any of the following in his time in the Ibrox hot seat, assuming of course that these officials were operating during the referred to periods that Smith has been in charge at Rangers, or for those who officiated outwith Smith's tenure, was criticism commonplace from Rangers employees against the following : Jim McCluskey, Stuart Dougal, JRP Gordon, Jim Renton, Tiny Wharton, Mick McCurry, Andrew Waddell, Donald McVicar, Willie Young, John Rowbotham, Davie Syme, Brian McGinlay, Bobby Tait, Les Mottram, Bobby Orr, Bobby Davidson.

Within the above we have referees, Brian McGinlay who has,according to reports described Celtic as 'Fenian bastards', Bobby Tait, given permission to officiate over Rangers versus Kilmarnock in his last ever game in Scottish football, Stuart Dougal, known for his anecdotes in Masonic gatherings, and a certain Mr John Rowbotham.

Rangers FC have won over 100 domestic trophies, many of their players are Scotland born, bred and resident. Yet in April next year the Rangers Supporters Trust have as main speaker at their Annual Dinner dance none of the players who have assisted in any halcyon days, certainly not at this moment, though I suspect that will change, they have none other than a Mr John Rowbotham. Yes, the one and the same from the list above. The same supporters trust who on the departure of Gordon Smith from the Scottish FA bemoaned his departure whilst calling for a radical overhaul of this 'archaic institution' yet seemingly unprepared to entertain the idea that the ethos of this 'archaic institution' may have been what facilitated Smith in being given the position in the first place.

Paranoid. Moi ?

We have arrived at a juncture where there is an unprecedented momentum amongst the Celtic masses, there is a desire for change, events in the last two months have in effect been the straw that broke the camels back. In the 1950's the Scottish FA demanded that Celtic FC remove the Irish national flag from atop the stadium. In the subsequent years more and more became fully au fait with the realities of the sectarian policy that existed at Rangers FC, a policy which flitted between No Catholics and an anti-Catholic diktat. Throughout the period the Scottish FA gave carte blanche to such blatant discrimination. In 1994 Celtic took up temporary residency at Hampden Park, the home of Glasgow neighbours Queen Park FC but also the headquarters of the Scottish FA. In the discussions around the lease, according to the a Guardian interview in 1999 with Fergus McCann, the former owner of the club, Celtic were informed that any attempt to fly the Irish national flag above the stadium would be a 'deal-breaker'. We may have traveled half a century since but some attitudes have not

What is also critical is the Celtic support collectively wanting change. Victimhood has addictive facets to it and even with these issues now having diuretic properties for the Scottish Football Association it still remains to be seen whether the support are prepared to be physically proactive to illustrate that they demand the dissolving of the culture of bias, favouritism, sectarianism and racism. There is also the matter of the club itself and just how far they are prepared to go to in ensuring a more equitable existence for both parties. The clubs former captain Billy McNeill, in addition to his comments about Celtic being susceptible to bias also remarked that 'but no matter referee’s decisions Celtic’s players have to rise above it all'. These remarks were echoed by Celtic new Bhoy Gary Hooper in a recent interview. Well with the greatest of respect Ceasar and Hoops, fuck that. The very least we can expect is impartiality and equality. We should not have to be 'that good' that the bias of officials is of secondary importance. We are Celtic supporters, no better or worse than any other set of supporters. The monies we proffer in maintaining the game in Scotland does not devalue as it travels to the custodians coffers. We are normal people, not 'the people' We expect, nae demand, that as stakeholders in the Scottish game who have contributed financially for decades to its upkeep as well as being ambassadors abroad that has reflected well on Scotland that we are viewed with a respect that should be afforded to any set of supporters irrespective of how large that group may be, or where their allegiances lie.

The Scottish Premier League, fortuitous to date in escaping any adverse coverage have sat idly by whilst the aforementioned attitudes have rained down on players in recent years. Two of the leagues brightest talents have decided to start new chapters in their respective careers, James McCarthy at Wigan and Aiden McGeady in Moscow. Whilst I doubt anyone would opine that the abuse both players were subjected to was the sole reason for departing to pastures new it is to the detriment of the league if figures like Doncaster, Lex Gold and others are unwilling to arrest the abuse of players simply because they are culturally Irish. What kind of business is prepared to let their product be poisoned by bigots to the extent that it can, albeit in a small way, compel the quality of the product to suffer. Can the Scottish Premier League really afford to offer carte blanche to bigots and such bigotry to be part of the thought processes of players in deciding whether to remain plying their trade in Scotland or to seek adventures elsewhere ? I think not.

For change to materialise there can be no complacency from within the Celtic family. There can be no smugness at removing two symptoms this time as opposed to one when Farry departed towards the end of the last century. To collectively fall back, sated by the latest events, will only allow the ethos of bias the opportunity to recover from these blows and the antiquated behaviours to continue with alternative personnel steering its course. For such change to be brought about the role of the support is paramount. The concept of boycott, protest and civil disobedience are matters that should never be far from the thoughts of fans. There is no trust in the broad media, they have for the most part been prepared to be complicit in sustaining football in Scotland as we know it.

With all of this in mind it is essential that Regan and the Scottish FA, as well as the Scottish Premier League, ensure that the game, in its entirety, is a game for all and that every last vestige of bias, sectarianism and racism, also in their entirety, are consigned to history
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Old 25-10-09 11:32 AM
at the fat [email protected] with the suit on
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Peter Lawwell took over as CEO of Celtic in November 2003. 5 months prior to his appointment, many, many fellow fans enjoyed what was, for a lot of people, the highlight of our Celtic supporting life, with a coveted trip to Seville. Ask any Celt who was lucky to get on that trip and they will talk of the weather, the team, the run to the final and countless other tales of a thoroughly enjoyable time as a Celtic fan. King Henrik Larsson, Neil Lennon, John Hartson(Get well soon BBJ) Stiliyan Petrov, Chris Sutton and Paul Lambert would have all held their own in many Premiership teams both back then and even now. Some would say the above players were reaching their peak and required to be moved on however this didn’t stop the majority of them winning another League Championship and Scottish Cup only 12 months later. It has also been muted that many of our players at that time were vastly overpaid and I do not have an argument with that, however if this was the case why did our new CEO arrive and immediately throw on the charm offensive by telling us all we would always be buying blue chip signings of Premiership standard like the players mentioned above. 6 years on and if for nothing else, he ought to walk for that comment alone. This was his “tenner for a fiver” statement and one that has firmly bit him in the arse. During his reign, our staffing costs have never been higher and despite an initial wage reduction programme, our payroll costs have spiralled out of control to nearly £40 million in 2008 from the £33 million we paid out on the run to Seville. Some will argue that we are 5 years on from Seville and that wages etc have risen but lets be brutally honest with the standard of players we have now in comparison to 2003, the reality is that we are over-paying, and by quite some bit. Whilst the Premiership wage bubble can take some of the blame for this hike, we only need to look across the water to get a real comparison and their wage bill is £50 million lighter than ours during his period in office. So what of our CEO’s results? I think most of us were surprised to learn, that in a season when our team capitulated, winning only the CIS cup against one of the poorest Rangers teams in recent times, our CEO somehow managed to walk out the door with just short of a £740,000 package. In what was our worst season since Peter taking up the position, he managed to somehow take a 35% pay increase and his wage has almost doubled in the past 2 seasons. It is evident that some of that pay was down to our Financial performance so let’s have a wee look at those results over his CEO career. Some would have you believe that over at the Shoebox, they have been in the mire over the last 5 or so years however I think most of us would hold our hands up in surprise at the reality of the comparative period of Peters reign. Since his appointment, we have delivered a total loss of £5.8 million and during the same period, they have delivered a £7.8 million profit. Just to clarify on this, their results for last season are not out yet and will no doubt be a huge loss of around £8 million all but wiping out the previous 5 years results but they will STILL be ahead in PROFIT terms against Peter in that period. Peter may well point to the sale of Hutton and Cuellar as reasons for this but it hasn’t seemed to hamper them. Every penny of those transfers was given to their manager to reinvest in the squad yet still they produced better financial results than our esteemed CEO. For me, this was the biggest shock I uncovered whilst researching this article. “But it’s all about the debt.” The debt is the one that we hear about all the time from Celtic PLC. We have no debt is the shout and some of us actually celebrate it like a trophy but the reality was soon to be aired by one of our own. Victor Arbuckle has given us an insight into the ins and outs of finance and his revelation on our real debt was an eye opener. Hidden amongst the speeches and celebrations was a chunk of debt not included in the headline figures we hear so much about. Whilst we are owed just over £6 million from suppliers, the worrying fact is that we owe others just over £14 million taking our “very little net debt” up to nearly £10 million. Further to this, we have a £12 million loan that for whatever reason, we don’t want to pay off. We have been covering the interest for the past few years but not eating into the capital part of it which is worrying. Could we not have been paying this off with our profit or would this have impacted on bonus payments is the question to be asked ? To be clear on the above, there is nothing illegal about the way we report this figure and many PLC’s use the same method but it would be in our best interest that we get a clear picture year on year rather than the smoky one being pushed out to appease the less learned of shareholders. So why write this article ? Well for too long, it appears we have been more focussed at laughing at the other mob whilst our own Board are pissing about, painting pictures of happiness when in reality, we are not too far away behind them debt wise. The stark truth of the situation is that we are perhaps only one more season of no Champions League cash away from reversing the balance of debt. Anyone who thinks otherwise or attempts to cover this up is not facing up to reality. So what’s the plan of action from the PLC to ensure we don’t fall behind them? Well apparently their solution is to hand our new manager less money to spend than our previous manager once again running the risk of trying to win the SPL on the last day of the season whilst making a Profit and a healthy bonus. Our performances so far this season have shown this may prove another failure and we need look no further than the PLC for the reason why. It is time to forget about the team from the other side of the river and concentrate on our own inefficiencies. Attempting to build brands in foreign markets is no longer enough for the likes of me, and many, many other Celtic fans. We won’t get any bigger than Naka as far as Asian markets go, yet he has came, wowed us all and went, and the figures illustrated above still show no marked difference. Its time for our Board, and Peter in particular, to concentrate on the football park. The CEO of Celtic Football Club should have a primary goal of delivering the Treble and Champions League football every year with a reasonable amount of debt control. Under no circumstances should he “profit” or end up in a better financial position by not handing our manager cash and consequently losing the SPL and Scottish Cup. Should Peter Lawwell go? The facts above say YES to me!
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Old 10-10-09 12:19 PM
Phil Mac Giolla Bain  
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Final score: 1-1

H/T: 1-0

Alan Judge (28 minutes)

George Ivanishvilli (88 minutes)

Last night in Shamrock Rovers excellent little stadium in Tallaght I was given a rare glimpse of what Celtic had passed up in James McCarthy.

How this lad can’t even get in the SQUAD at Wigan has me utterly baffled.

For the first hour McCarthy ran the show for Ireland in the playmaker role.

When he was finally substituted in the dying minutes of this hard fought contest he was shot, totally gone.

For the team’s sake he should have been taken off earlier as his control was gone through fatigue and he was starting to make bad decisions.

However it was just that, fatigue, of a player who missed the early part of the season due to injury and is now not getting on the bench at Wigan.

I caught up with him after the match down on the touchline. It is a year since I interviewed a nervous wee lad at New Douglas Park. He’s clearly got taller.

He acknowledged that he was gone physically by the time he had been hooked by Don Givens.

As ever the professional he didn’t want to dwell on the treatment he received in Scotland for choosing to play for Ireland.

“I didn’t hear most of it,” he told me.

His mother and sister were on the touchline. Mothers, as is their right and duty, have an inclination to mind their cubs. She was much more forthcoming about the treatment that her son had received from the racists in Scotland. Marie McCarthy and I had been in touch by telephone this time last year when I was writing about James and the abuse he was receiving.

She broke news to me that those lovely non-racist St. Mirren fans had played in a pre-season friendly at Wigan. Once more the “buddies” barracked James at every touch of the ball. Like myself last October at New Douglas Park she didn’t need to rely on press reports of the game-she was there.

At least now he is playing in a country where playing for Ireland isn’t a crime.

The game itself was a hard fought one one draw.

Ireland opened the scoring on from a goal by Alan Judge on 28 minutes with a low shot from 12 yards. The Plymouth Argyle winger had been left unattended by the left back, as McCarthy had burst into the box. The ball broke to the little number 7 who drilled it across the goal past keeper Roni Kvaskhvadze.

Judge’s club mate Cillan Sheridan thought he had doubled Ireland’s lead when he latched onto big Keith Treacy’s brilliant cross field diagonal ball. The young Cavan lad struck it cleanly, but saw his effort come back off the upright with the Georgian keeper a spectator.

Ireland quite reasonably could have been four nil up at half time. More often than not the incisive move came through McCarthy’s probing in behind the central striker Cillian Sheridan.

Ireland had a good shape of 4-3-3/4-5-1.

In the first half Ireland’s wingers, Judge and Treacy troubled the Georgian back line getting behind again and again.

In the second half as McCarthy tired the Georgians started to assert control of the midfield.

No one in the press box expressed surprise that the Georgians levelled the score.

When Georgia finally equalised in 88 minutes through George Ivanishvilli their dug out celebrated like they had received a phone call from Vladimir Putin telling them it was all in the past and the thousand of Russian tanks had been turned round and were heading back to base.

It was a swift move by the Georgians down Ireland’s left flank. The shot from 18 yards gave Shane Redmond no chance.

Ireland had allowed them back, but it was no more than the Georgians had deserved as they had started to press Ireland back after the hour mark.

Fort the last five minutes of play open warfare of the soccer variety broke out as both teams chased the winner.

Ireland almost lost the match when Shane Redmond pulled off a top class save from substitute Levan Kutalia.

One of the small contingents of Georgia supporters became particularly exercised as he feverishly “dried” his hair with the small Georgian flag he had been holding limply for most of the game.

Now as the play favoured his country it was time to rub his head with the national flag.

I approve of patriotism, but using the national flag, as towel is a new one for me.

In the VIP area afterwards big Pakkie Bonner was seething that Ireland had let this one slip. Hopefully tonight the big boys get a result against Italy.

A weak area for the full international squad is central midfield. This isn’t the place to re-ventilate the Andy Reid debate. However if a fully fit James McCarthy was a regular starter at Wigan then I honestly couldn’t see someone like Darren Gibson keep him out of Trappatoni’s central midfield.

In front of me in the press box was another journalist, but he wasn’t compiling a match report. Instead he was live blogging the game for UEFA. A new development from the governing body all UEFA competitions, including Champions league and Europa cup games are now live blogged. This blog is then compared to the match delegate’s report. At halftime we chatted about the issues of racism in the game and my interest in James McCarthy. A Spaniard living in Ireland and working for a news agency, he agreed with me that, at some point, UEFA would have to intervene in Scotland about the Irish issue. He took on board that; in a cultural and political sense Rangers were the Real Madrid of Scotland. Over mighty in the corridors of influence.

James McCarthy proudly stood to attention last night and faced the flag of his country as “Amhrann na bhFiann” was played.

One day in Scotland, that won’t be cultural crime.



Shane Redmond; Seamus Coleman, Gavin Cunning, Brendan Moloney, Calum Morris; Stephen Gleeson, Owen Garvan (C), James McCarthy; Alan Judge, Cillian Sheridan, Keith Treacy.

Subs: O'Shea for Treacy (80), Hughton for Coleman (86), Collins for McCarthy (90).


Roini Kvaskhvadze; Gulverd Tomashvili, Lasha Totadze, Giorgi Khidesheli, Levan Kakubava; Murtaz Daushvili, Irakli Klimiashvili, Levan kenia, Giorgi Gugava;George Ivanishvili, Mate Vatsadze

Subs: Kutalia for Gugava (61), Janelidze for Vatsadze (72), Tchedia for Tomashvili (87).
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Old 08-09-09 12:04 AM
Phil Mac Giolla Bhain
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Now that this transfer window is closed there are some facts that can be discerned about what is going on at the Reichstag.

Firstly is that by only bringing in one loan signing is that this the most straightened circumstances that RFC has found itself in for decades. Most of their second string has been shipped out from the first team squad. They were also willing (as they were last January) to sell their top scorer. Boyd wasn't for moving. This is either for club loyalty or because he can walk on a Bosman in the summer-perhaps it is a bit of both.

Because of the craven nature of the Scottish press it has been necessary to burrow behind the scenes to find out what has been happening at Rangers.

The following facts can be established.

In the autumn of 2008 agents who represented players employed by Rangers were told that their clients were up for sale.

When the last transfer window closed in January 2009-RFC had failed to raise any funds-the Bank of Scotland moved in a “Project Team to deal with the problem of the debt at the club.

The BOS team were given a a three year timescale to bring down RFC debt to “ a manageable level”.

A source from within MIH told me that the situation at RFC was, towards the end of last season, “getting grim”. There were weeks when salaries were paid, just paid and no more.

Consider this.

Last season Celtic were within two games of,in all probability, putting Rangers into administration.

The past is past.

However even with guaranteed group stage Champion's League football the bank needed more,much more,from Rangers this summer.

As this transfer window opened the club was given a task by the bank-to make £5 million of savings.

I have been told the figure was as high as £8 million, but £5 million seems the more likely figure.

This entailed CEO Martin Bain having to get the Bank's OK for any new spending. What happened with Celtic's exit from the Champion's league was that the extra TV money to RFC meant that the tourniquet on their hemorrhaging financial crisis could be eased, but just a little.

The expenditure of Jerome Rothen's wages were allowed.

This very fact means that the wolf is no longer at Ranger's door, but has been forced back a few steps.

The current RFC squad now enter the Champion's League group stages effectively fighting to keep the bank from demanding further savings.

We will know if they have earned enough CL cash if players and staff at the club start to be given new contracts.

I know of one SPL employee who had applied to work at the Reichstag who had his application “frozen” earlier this year.

It is in the public realm that Walter Smith will not have,at time of writing, his contract renewed. His contract runs out in January and he has agreed to work on without a contract.

The elephant in the room is the fact that Ranger's parent company Murray Inter national Holdings (MIH) is in the business equivalent of intensive care.

MIH's last published accounts showed that their debt was £750 ,million.. That was two years ago.

That debt is rumored among business journalists to be around £1 billion. MIH owner and then Rangers chairman Sir David Murray gave an interview to the News of the World (NOTW) last November where he stated that Rangers needed “ the benefactor element”.

In other words an owner who would bankroll the operation at a loss to maintain a standard of playing staff at the club to ensure success.

In the absence of that benefactor Murray stated that, if reduced to existing on its own revenue,the Ibrox club would have to be downsized by up to 25%. This, I think, is what we are witnessing now.

Anyone who disputes that the Bank of Scotland put a Project Team into Rangers earlier this year is in denial.

Denial is sturdily resistant to evidence.

The evidence is that RFC shipped out a third of their first team squad and brought in ONE loan deal-and then only at the 11th hour when the bank re-assessed the club's finances as they got then entire TV pot from the CL. The current RFC squad as they go into the CL group matches are, quite literally, playing for the financial future of the club.

The BoS project team are not finished with Rangers. The club's accounts later this year will not make good reading.

Should RFC fail to make the Europa league-that is should they finish bottom of their CL group-then the bank will have to set knew targets for savings to be made.

If they do progress in Europe then players and staff who are nearing the end of their contracts will have some hope of being offered new contracts. Were this happening to any other football club in Scotland then you would know every detail, every crisis meeting with bank officials at the chairman's offices.

You would have a very clear picture of the almost daily strain that the CEO was under as his requests for extra spending was met with demands for more savings.

Instead all you have is the facts that the 1st team's entire second string was shipped out and,for the second window in a row, they were willing to sell their top goalscorer to anyone who would bid near his market value.

Against that they brought in one loan signing.

The bank, for now, is demanding no more savings from Martin Bain. What happens now for the remainder of this season depends on how much RFC generate in the CL this year as to whether or not the bank will be back for more.

Despite guaranteed CL money due to their SPL win last season RFC was forced by the bank to undergo an austerity programme. The first phase of that downsizing is now over.

The Bank remain in charge, there should be no doubt about that.

The next barometer of RFC's current financial health will be when players and staff have their contracts renewed or not.

If, for example, Boyd or Walter Smith are offered new contracts it is because the bank has approved that outlay. The bank remains in charge, sanctioning all new spending.

The Dave King story that was broken in the NOTW today is from a very solid source in a position to know.

It is, by no means, a done deal. However King is a Rangers supporter and is interested in buying Murray out. By his own admission King is, regarding his business dealings, “not squeaky clean”.

If RFC have found another sugar daddy to bank roll their operation then the relative weakness of Rangers in the past few years will be a thing of the past.

The “benefactor element” is the only way that RFC will financially keep ahead of Celtic.

In fact only an emotionally attached sugar daddy would buy the Huns.

Murray has attempted and failed three times in recent years to sell Dignity FC.

Each time the sale fell through at Due Diligence stage.

Basically only a Hun willing to lose lots of money would be willing to buy RFC.

The Ibrox club is many things, but a going concern it is not.

Until a new sugar daddy is in charge of Rangers and he is willing to run the club at a loss from his own resources then the banks will continue to tell Martin Bain what he can and can't do.

No one should be in any doubt about that.

Phil Mac Giolla Bhain
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Old 06-05-09 05:10 PM
Phil Mac Giolla Bain  
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Credit should always go where it is due. Since I started reporting on the Famine Song controversy the organisation “Show Racism The Red card” did, to some extent, feature on my list of bad guys.

Not for a second did I think that the people who work in SRTRC were racists themselves, but I did think they had been somewhat slow off the blocks on this issue.

My initial contact with the organisation had been with Scottish coordinator Billy Singh. A very personable lad who was rather like a deer in the headlights when confronted with supporters of his club indulging in sustained racist abuse against Scotland’s oldest ethnic minority. My take on this lad when I first met him at Tynecastle last October was of a very decent bloke who didn’t know what to do next on this issue.

My hunch is that, at some point, something turned within that organisation. My first inclining of that was a few weeks ago when I interviewed Ged Grebby regarding the public statement by their ex-employee Kieron Brady that Irish players in Scotland should have nothing to do with the organisation because of SRTRC’s failure to tackle the Irish issue in Scottish soccer. During that interview Ged admitted to me that “we’ve been a bit slow on the Famine Song”.

I had stated to Ged that my fear was that if the appropriate public agencies didn’t act then the Famine Song mindset would be affirmed.

I didn’t have to wait long to have proof of that feeling of affirmation from those who wrote the Famine Song. A Famine song CD has been produced and is now on sale on Ebay. I contacted Ged Grebby again with the link to the promo website and to the Ebay advertisement.

His response was unequivocal.

I then contacted Kieron Brady who responded in kind like the sound fella he is.

You can read the article at:

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Old 28-01-09 10:14 AM
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Growing up as in the 1970s I expected Celtic to win the league every year. It was a major shock to me as a 9 year old when the huns won the Scottish Cup with a goal that even Tom Forsyth never expected in a million years. I can still see his fat face with the look of total bewilderment at scoring a goal.
After that, they came slowly back, Jock Stein was involved in a serious road accident and thing started to go a bit awry. They won the treble in 1976 and again in 1978. We were no longer the force we once were.
The early 1980s saw us having a limited amount of success, but the big hitters were Aberdeen and Dundee Utd. Alex Ferguson had put Aberdeen in a position where it was expected they would win all, or most of the trophies, a sad scenario for a Celtic fans...however much worse was about to descend.
Ferguson left for Manchester in 1986 and this was the cue for the huns to step in and make a move to dominate Scottish football. Make no mistake, they had one aim, and one aim only, to brush aside every other team with their spending power. Holmes appointed Souness who in turn appointed various English internationalists ( who saw Scotland as both a way of obtaining easy money and playing in Europe as English teams were banned due to Heysel )
The huns ran over everyone. We won the double in 1988, but it was a false dawn. One more trophy followed the next year, then that was it. Nothing , zero, for SIX years.
Between 1990 and 1995 our main hope rested on the shoulders of Motherwell somehow wrestling the league away from the huns.
Now just sit for a second and digest what I just said....that’s right...you read it correctly.
In 1992 a number of fans decided that they had enough and started to round up the shareholders with a view to challenging White, Kelly et al to stop messing about and put up a credible challenge to the huns.
1993 saw us licking our lips in anticipation at the likes of Wayne Biggins. Now Wayne Biggins has become synonymous with failure, poor guy. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name. He wasn’t any worse than some of the dross we had to put up with in those days. We craved a new regime, a new team and a new board.
An expat called Fergus McCann was sitting in the sidelines waiting for his chance.
McCann saw how things were going and decided he wanted to get involved. Personally speaking as a Celtic fan, thank God he did. He had tried to help out previously, but Kelly and White knocked him back.
McCann’s closest ally then was Brian Dempsey. Dempsey was a master showman. He had us eating out of his hand at the Celts for Change meetings. He was the public face when Fergus took charge “ The game is over, the rebels have won” he proclaimed.
Where did Brian Dempsey go when push came to shove ? Fergus McCann was the only guy who had the gumption to see it through.
After a few false starts, in March 1994, Fergus took control. It seemed that we had been given a second chance. We were stifled under the old board and we were going nowhere – apart from oblivion.
1995 saw us winning the Scottish Cup and I’m not too proud to say I shed a tear that day. To finally just win something after all those years was such a relief. We were on our way back. We all knew it would be a long process, but there was no doubt we were on the road to recovery.
In the background was the spectre of the huns continually winning the league. The holy grail of 10 in a row looked a distinct possibility. Every Celtic fan’s worst nightmare. Despite Tommy Burns philosophy of attacking football, the huns still managed to come away from Celtic Park with a win each time we played them. Smith seemed to know exactly what to do and how to get the points to overcome us.
Tommy made way and eventually in came a wee Dutch guy with , what looked like a dodgy 1978 perm. He told us he would do his best. Personally I was on the verge of despair as this was THE season. They could do 10 in a row.....With Fergus’ backing , Wim splashed out and bought Gould, Burley, Lambert, Rieper , oh and this guy called Larsson. Jansen rated him and it turned out to be possibly the best and most astute signing ever made in our history.
To cut a long story short, we stopped them and on 9 May 1998 we won the first league title since the days of Chris Morris and Mick McCarthy .
Would this have ever happened without Fergus ? In a word. ..No. The old board were dogmatic and rigid in their outlook. They were “custodians” , so they continually told us. They were caught like rabbits in the headlights in the late 80s when the harsh reality of the commercial world kicked in.
A few dodgy seasons followed our “ 1 in a row” , Fergus left and we had a brief reconciliation with Kenny Dalglish, but you can’t go back.
2000 saw the appointment of Martin O’ Neill and the rest....as they say...
So to get to the crux. Would MON have been our manager had Fergus never came on the scene?
Would we have stopped the huns winning 10 in a row had Fergus never appeared ?
Would we be enjoying the luxury today of winning titles, being in the last 16 of the CL and generally being the “benchmark” in Scotland if Fergus had not come to us in 1994 ? Its highly doubtful.
Had the old board still been in situ, in my opinion, we would be languishing with the likes of Hibs and Hearts. A team who once did good things, but their best days are behind them.
Look at us now, the dominant team in Scotland, the team to beat, the team the media cannot stand due to our success.

Would any of this happened without the input of Fergus McCann ?
It is highly unlikely. That is why we should be naming a stand in his honour. Think 1993 – think 2009.
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Old 13-01-09 07:14 AM
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The attendances at Celtic Park have been noticeably dwindling now for several years, but the 23,070 crowd for the Scottish Cup clash with Dundee was a new low. In reality over twenty three thousand paying fans for a match against lower league opposition just after Christmas and during tough economic conditions is actually pretty decent, and there are certainly not many football clubs in Europe who could have achieved this. Especially when you considering that Chelsea for a Champions League match against Rosenborg on match day 1 of the 2007/2008 season could only attract a crowd of 24,973. The attendance of 23,070 also compares well with other major clubs across Europe on Saturday and to illustrate this fact The Estadio da Luz was half empty as only 32,837 watched Benfica defeat S.C. Braga to go to the sumit top of the Portuguese Premier League. However, the attendance against Dundee is one of the lowest attendances for a competitive match at Celtic Park since the Jock Stein Stand was opened in 1998 and is a new low in what is a very worrying trend.

The official average attendance in the 1998/1999 season when the Jock Stein Stand first opened was 59,233. This figure is probably a little high due to the fact that season ticket seats are included in the official figures regardless of whether the seats are actually filled on any specific day. However the official figures certainly are indicative of the dwindling attendances at Celtic Park. Focussing on the Strachan era, attendances have fell from 58,149 in his first season, to 57,928 in 2006/2007 and then down to 56,676 last season. This figure is particularly disappointing considering the dramatic and tight title race with Rangers. Peter Lawwell has been very proactive in trying to prevent this decline. Children and OAPs could purchase tickets for the Dundee game for only a fiver and if this wasn’t the case the crowd could have been considerably lower.

This year adult season ticket prices were frozen and season tickets for minors were slashed. For children twelve and under the price of a season ticket is as little as £50 which works out at £2.63 per match. It is £100 for children aged 13-16 (£5.20 per match) and £150 for children aged 17-18 (£8 per match). It’s an old cliché that children are the future and will be the lifeblood of Celtic in years’ to come thus Lawwell’s actions must be commended, however it hasn’t prevented the attendances dwindling further. In fact, I took someone to the game against Inverness on the 29th of November who hadn’t been to Celtic Park before and although the official attendance was 55,117 there could not have been more than 40,000 at the game. When asked why this was the case I struggled to give a suffice answer. Top of the league, going for 4 in a row and enjoying our most successful spell of domestic dominance since the Jock Stein era. Was the poor crowd a result of complacency? I don’t think so.

Ask yourselves this question. When was the last time you got really excited at Celtic Park? It’s been a while that’s for sure. Performances such as the 3-0 drubbing of Benfica have been few and far between in recent years. This season I would say it was the second half against Falkirk in August for me. It was the game where Maloney made his first appearance on his return to the club and I could feel a sense of optimism around the stadium. We played some really good football that afternoon and saw Samaras score an excellent goal after great build-up play with Maloney. Crosas came on as a late substitute and impressed. We had the Rangers game the following week and the Champions League to look forward too. We all know how that went… Although the vast majority of performances at home haven’t exactly been vintage we have had our moments - the last minute winner against Aberdeen, an exciting win against Hibs and Skippy’s goal against Man Utd have been my highlights but generally I have left Celtic Park feeling pretty lethargic and in my opinion this is why the attendances have been dropping.

With the impending departure of Nakamura in the Summer and possible transfer of McGeady following his rift with Strachan, the few creative and exciting players that I look forward to seeing are ebbing away. With the credit crunch I can’t see us spending big money either to replace them. With the potential loss of two of our best players with cheap and cheerful replacements seemingly already in place – Mizono, McGinn and McCourt, I fear the overall standard and quality of our team will only get worse and this could easily result in attendances abating further. Games against Hamilton, St Mirren, Falkirk and Inverness don’t exactly set the juices flowing anyway so if our standard does drop it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to fill Celtic Park on such occasions.

Personally I know several people who are seriously considering not renewing their season tickets next season. Their opinions are ten a penny on Celtic Minded too. Essentially their bored. They aren’t enjoying going to the games as much as they did in the past. Some blame the atmosphere, or lack of while others impugn Strachan and his tactics. Are we as fans getting our moneys worth?

I was discussing the issue of attendances with one of my mates who is originally from Nerwy recently, and he informed me how the numbers in the supporters club he used to be in had dropped considerably in the past five years. The bus has went from being regularly full to at times last season not having enough numbers to make the journey to Celtic Park worthwhile. To be fair, getting up at some ridiculously early hour and travelling all day to watch us scrap a 1-0 win against Inverness Caley Thistle on a cold and damp November afternoon isn’t exactly very appealing and those who do this frequently should be commended. As money does get tighter however, those making the journey regularly from Ireland or from far afield will decline sharply.

Half season tickets were made available for £150 and should see a rise in attendances in the second half of the season. However, in the longer term with the country in a recession and money tighter for everyone I fear that attendances can only get worse. The fact that we struggled to sell all the Champions League packages this season is an indicator that there is a serious issue. It will be very interesting to see what the attendance is against either Peterhead or Queen’s Park in the forthcoming Scottish Cup tie. With the League Cup semi-final against Dundee Utd at Hampden on the Wednesday and a trip to Inverness on the Sunday which will probably set me back in the region of £60 before drink, another £18 for the Scottish Cup game couldn’t come at a worse time and these circumstances could quite possibly result in another embarrassingly low attendance. As the credit crunch bites the next few years will be tough for everyone with people having to tighten their belts. Attendances will suffer further as a result. Difficult times ahead.
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Old 05-12-08 09:02 AM
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From day one of rumours about him being our next manager I was raging. Fair enough he done an ok job in England, nothing special but guiding a poor Premiership side to the FA Final deserves credit and at that time that was the only credit he was getting from me.

He eventually signed for Celtic and I for one wasn't delighted at all and wanted him out as soon as possible. Honestly, I just never thought he was up to the task of rebuilding an aging, injury prone, inconsistent and low morale squad. The friendlies started, and as per expectations, poor results and poor performances followed. Already I was getting tore into him. His first major task came in the Champions League against a team whom few had ever heard of. I expected a narrow defeat due to the fact that a lot of big clubs tend to struggle against central/eastern European sides at their home venue and that we had a poor squad left by a great manager who sadly couldn't deal with the pressure he was under but he stayed there in the end and helped us win the Scottish Cup. Instead, we were humiliated, and by that point I really hated him. His next challenge, could he get his team to bounce back, or had the squad morale been completely wiped?

First day of the SPL, a disappointing performance with Celtic conceding 4 goals and taking it to the final minute to get a point. Celtic fans celebrated like mad when we leveled the score, but I certainly didn't. I thought it was the sign of bad things ahead. Things got worse when we had were later defeated by our arch enemies. By now a majority of Tims had lost faith and wanted Strachan out. The next test, could his team do it against the scum?

As the season progressed, it became clear that improvements had been made. The standard of our football had risen and a gain in team spirit was evident. Strachan’s team had risen to this challenge- we had matched and bettered the scum. Twice in one week, his Celtic mauled the Huns. Credit was due. Many fans felt that good times were ahead and much faith had been restored.

The season went on with us topping the league. Rangers appeared to be falling apart and a great Hearts side was playing the best football in the league- battling against us for first place. In came January and one of the greatest comebacks I have ever seen. Hearts showed that they were still on form, and were mauling us. We were 2-0 down within the first 8 minutes, but a brilliant Celtic bounced back to win 3 - 2.

One week later saw Roy Keane’s debut- and Celtic crumbled to a young Clyde team. Despite that result, Strachan’s team recovered: pumped the Huns; pumped every other SPL side; and won the league comfortably. In the course of the year, we also took the CIS Cup. Despite this success, questions remained: Could he do it in the Champions League?; did we improve or did we just beat an appalling Hun team?; could Strachan’s team be consistent? This was the next hurdle - with the demise of Eck - to defeat a Hun manager who appeared to be bringing big time excitement back to Ibrox.

Season 2 came and in we went: defeating the champions of England; sweeping aside a good Benfica side with some stunning football; and defeating the Danish champions. An unlucky loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford was followed with a dramatic return match as Celtic Park which saw Celtic clear the group stages for the first time. The tally for Strachan’s first season in the Champions’ League group stage was 8 goals for and three clean sheets. This was all the more remarkable given that the defence had been rebuilt in the close season. After many attempts, we were up where we belong- in with the big boys. We then later went out to the team who won it that year, conceding only 1 goal in both legs after a brilliant defensive performance. No way could we have gone on the attack in both legs as they would have destroyed us with their counter attacking football. We simply did not have the players to play sexy football. We didn't have the players to dominate a side who were full of skillful, composed and world class players who had played at the highest level their whole career. Much praise was due to everyone at Celtic for achieving this fantastic run: to raise their game from SPL to CL was an achievement in itself- and many clubs in poorer leagues struggle to do this.

Domestically, we continued to win ugly, playing some very poor football but getting the results that mattered. The Huns had been having a nightmare- with the “resignation” of Le Guen. Still when Walter Smith came in, they sealed up their leaky defence and the managed to close the gap. In the end, we won the league and the Scottish Cup, but all could see a Hun team which was clearly improved. The challenge had been thrown down. Anyway, Celtic, yet again were successful, despite winning ugly. We remained “the big bhoys” in Scottish football and were looking forward to European football with a restored reputation. Strachan had seen off yet another Rangers manager. LeGuen was well regarded throughout Europe and was reputed to have been wanted by many big clubs.

Season 3 was the real test… the big one- the one to show if he really was a great manager. Attractive football had been played, high scoring results were being accomplished and Celtic dominated most of their SPL games. In Europe, once again we were successful. We defeated a Shaktar side that had spent £20 million on two players, winning against the Champions of Europe at Celtic Park, and beating Benfica once more. Once again, Celtic were able to make the step from SPL to Champions’ League and into the last 16 we went again. We went out to a fantastic Barcelona team full of the world’s best: Xavi; Iniesta; Messi; and Henry. We did well to score two against them at home while only conceding one at the Camp Nou.

Domestically, our initially strong form faded. Embarrassing results followed in rapid succession. We failed to beat the Huns in four attempts. We could not beat Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup, we could not beat Motherwell at home. By New Year, the pressure was building. Having played more games, we were potentially thirteen points behind a Hun team who had a great chance of winning every tournament they were in, including the UEFA Cup. Morale was low and the form was largely disappointing, but somehow with the fantastic appointment of Neil Lennon and signing of Barry Robson, Strachan had made the right choice: fight and dig. It was needed. We then went on to win comfortably. We then went on to beat the Huns on two consecutive occasions- and winning the league on the last day of the season. Under all that pressure, Strachan's ability to bounce back had come through again. We all wondered when he first came, if he could: 1 - Do it in Europe; 2 - Bring us success; 3 - Put the Huns in their place; and 4 - Show commitment towards the club. Well, he has done all four, and he showed his commitment to Celtic people when his personal pain over the death of a Celtic legend was plain to be seen. He showed commitment in fighting through the tough days- when many were calling for his head. To win the league last season-under so much pressure- and in this manner, really touched me, it was the best league win of my time as a Celtic fan. As the first manager since Jock Stein to win 3 in a row, Strachan deserves much praise and respect.

Season 4, very attractive football is being played, top of our league, banging in the goals for fun at times, some fantastic and promising signings, more Champions League football and still in the chance for the domestic treble. We were unlucky in the Champions League this year with the first game missing a penalty and getting a good goal chopped off, second game with the opposition getting a free kick which shouldn't have been, 3rd game where Manchester United got 2 offside goals, 4th game, a game where we played brilliant but Manchester United finally broke down a defence who seemed disciplined and properly organised and last night we go put out by a team we dominated, missed 4 great chances against and had given away two unlucky own goals. It's the law of averages, it was sooner or later when Celtic were going to do very poor in the best competition in the world, it isn't easy for a team like Celtic to raise their game after playing against shit week in and week out. It isn't easy for a team who don't get as much money as a lot of other top class sides do.

Now onto the progress of players. Another one of Strachan's doubts in his game was if he could cope with the ability big players have. 2 in particular were Thomas Gravesen and Roy Keane, the first two big names we expected a lot from considering their past. Gravesen got off to a good start but then faded, went to Everton and from what I seen he would be considered as a disaster. Why the decline? Was it just one of them signings which weren't to be?

Roy Keane, a player who was world class, in his prime he bossed the best and in his prime he was considered the best. Fair enough the guy hadn't played in a while before his move to the Parkhead club we all love but his debut was contemptible. A Clyde side, a side that had played in the lower leagues most of their days, a team full of inconsistent football "kids". Keane was destroyed that night, not the only played that night don't get me wrong but a player of his calibre was focused on that night. As the season went on, slight improvement was made but none so spectacular, reasonable game against the scum but that was it in my opinion, Neil Lennon still the more effective player.

So 2 big name players underperformed, why is that? Can Strachan not deal with players with a lot of talent or was this just two unfortunate signings? Maybe a sign of bad days ahead as a team like Celtic can attract big names but if this keeps up, why would a big name player come to Celtic when the track record of big signings coming to Celtic is poor? They may bring a bit of success but that is team work not an individual effort.

Nakamura first came to Celtic with the technical ability and composure you would expect from a world class player and recognized as one of the best free kick takers in the world. His problem was consistency and playing in away fixtures, had a reasonable season first season, showed some class but at times he was annoying to watch. His second season with Celtic, he exhibited what he was really capable of. Scoring against a world class side twice under so much pressure, being one of the main reasons why we reached the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time and putting in some decent performances in the Champions League (with the one against Benfica being a superb performance). Domestically, he gained more consistency at home and away fixtures and scoring the goal to help us win the SPL. Promising news there for Strachan, one big player who went on to be a success.

Scott Brown, after a promising start, his form declined and we all knew what to expect from Brown, an industrious midfielder, when he put in a performance to remember against two International teams full of world class players, France and Italy. Not to forget, good performances in the Champions League especially against the current European Champions, AC Milan. Sadly his form dipped due to family reasons but to come back from an emotional period like that won't be easy. He did though, this season he has easily been one of our best players, creating lots of chances, scoring his chances and quite high up in the assist table for Celtic. Dominating our midfield, brilliant at breaking up moves and brilliant at getting the ball forward. Not the Scott Brown of Hibs, but has adapted to Celtic's style of football perfectly and is just as effective as he was at Hibernian.

Artur Boruc, Strachan has helped Boruc develop into one of the best goalkeepers in the world and one of the best Celtic goalkeepers ever and certainly the best in my time. Brilliant in the Champions League for us giving world class performances against world class sides such as AC, Manchester United and Barcelona and impressing for his country as well in the biggest two tournaments on the International stage (have never watched Copa America so can't make a comment on that).

Hinkel, the German Internationalist, had a reasonable start but soon faded and ended up as a catastrophe. The man frequently got ripped apart by SPL standard players and his link up play/support for his winger was poor. To be fair, he merited a lot more time to progress as he had not played proper football for 2 years due to him not being able (and to be honest no one probably could) fight for his place due to arguably the worlds best right back, Daniel Alves, keeping him on the bench. Anyway, time was given, Hinkel improved, a call up to his national side and some brilliant consistent performances had been given. So much better at tackling, attacking and supporting the winger and other players. It's quite clear this man has a football brain.

Samaras, instant hit, not really much else to say as he didn't need time. Robson , another instant hit, scored against a world class side, one of the main reasons why we achieved 3 in a row and still put in some great performances in Europe and in Scotland.

Caldwell, after a poor start he has gradually got rid of his mistakes in his game and went on to be an invaluable asset to the team and for the past 11 - 12 months he has easily been one of our best players. Brilliant performances in every competition he has been in and has now started to look like a top class holding midfielder, only problem there is, we need him in defence.

McGeady, always had the ability, just had to be more consistent with it and have a better end product, under Strachan he got that and McGeady himself thanked the manager and that tough time Strachan put him through actually had a point to it. It made him progress extensively. Wilson after being hit by injuries, the injury prone versatile right back has now been fitter than ever and showing what a class full back he was, showing he can put in a tackle and skip by players for fun at times, so much improvement has been made in the number of months he has been back in first team football.

Scott McDonald, instant hit but his general play and ability at times had to be questioned, he was greedy and his ball control let him down at times. Now, he isn't as greedy and his first touch has improved on with his ball control also being great now. Showed this by dribbling by players for fun at times and putting in a world class performance (a wonder performance) against the current champions of Europe.

Hartley, I am a critic of him but he has improved, he is willing to get on the ball more and get it forward. Fair play to the man who has his fair share of critics and compared to the rest of the team, doesn't have the ability they have. Still a few players in our team that need to improve but I am sticking with the saying "No one is perfect". Players who sadly departed from the club then went on to feature in arguably the best league in the world, the English Premiership with some actually doing not bad and others actually getting first team football.

I ain't clued up on the financial side of things, but the man has reduced the debt at the club by a large margin, he has reduced the total wage packet to a large extent, he has bought brilliant bargains such as Samaras, Nakamura, Maloney, Boruc, Caldwell and Hinkel and he has sold players and got good money from them.

Basically he stayed here through tough times and got us what we wanted, he took on the pressure and then applied it to Rangers. He has brought success and he has put the Huns in their place, He has improved our financially stability. He has brought Celtic a great reputation.

Guy is a great in my opinion and I don't see why he can't go on to be a legend .

In Strachan, I trust.
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Old 18-11-08 04:40 PM
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I've read some amount of nonsense over the years on various Rangers websites, especially their favourite, you know the one.. The sectarian hate site that claims to be non-sectarian while polluting nearly every thread with 'Fenian this', 'Taig scum that' and of course one of their favourites 'Tarriers'. All this while decrying the Pope of Rome, Catholic City Council and Blatantly Broadcasting Catholicism. They are obsessed.

This week we've had the usual mock-shock at some jibes made about Karma and Kevin Thompson. Apparently we're all scum, vermin, filth and all the rest of the perma-rage adjectives they can vomit up. These are the same people who repeatedly posted up images and videos of Larsson when he broke his leg, finding the whole thing rib-ticklingly hilarious.

These 'people' actually had the audacity to make up a song about their own Ibrox disaster, claiming Celtic fans were singing it, when it couldn't be further from the truth. This dignity we keep hearing about surely cannot stretch so far as to make up lies about something so tragic in their own history in order to point score over your rival football fans, can it?

Of course it can, look at their lies about Big Jock, a man who helped out on the pitch at the Ibrox disaster himself, a fact which is allowed to be denied on certain websites, to the degree where posting the image is instantly deleted by their admin. You have to laugh at their confusionism, right enough – This week they were using the fact their fans observed a minutes silence when Big Jock passed away as proof that Celtic should have held a minutes silence for the war dead, rather than an applause. This may startle them, but in the real world, away from nasty, hate filled on-line smear campaigns, Big Jock remains a Scottish and Celtic legend who commands respect from everyone within the game. Normal people are disgusted at their fans for using child sex abuse to point score over your rivals, and their entire support chanting 'There's only one Gary Glitter' was a new low. But we've already shown that you have no shame in that department with the lies about songs about your own tragedy at the Ibrox Disaster.

Have huns no shame? It would seem not. Most recently they have also prostituted the Poppy in an effort to bring Celtic fans down to their own gutter level. Surely such an important symbol which they claim to harbour nothing but respect for, is beyond their hate? No, you'd be wrong. Once Again. Most reasonable people see the Poppy and Armistice day as a time for reflection, to show their respects for the war dead. Not for these 'people'. No they have to flaunt it. They have to make up more stories about wearing one, much to the antipathy of 'Timmy', who duly is then put in their place by the 'bear'. They write letters of complaint to everyone from Satan to Santa Claus, begging, absolutely begging them to decry Celtic fans for having the audacity to applaud, to show their respects. Yes, at that point, instead of getting on with showing your own respects you write to every MP, and Journalist they can think of and en masse (possibly the wrong word!) with their usual 'bluemail' tactics. It is entirely to their shame that they have been allowed to use the Poppy to become a divisive symbol, in an effort to turn it into a competition about who is grieving more. It demeans the very memory they claim to hold dear, for the inanity of getting another cyberstick they can use to promote their on-line campaigns of hatred.

But it's always the same, with huns. Take the recent controversy over their newest, racist ditty, 'The Famine Song'. They claimed it was banter, hell, even their discredited Rangers Supporters Trust put out an edict to that effect. On websites all over cyberspace these racists claimed that they would continue to chant the song, no matter. Much as they claimed at the time about their other horrible anthem 'The Billy Boys'. Both times there were bold claims... They would take it to the highest court in the land. It would be laughed out of court. The solicitors office junior could win the case, or so we were told.

So what happened?

For a long time, nothing. Which goes to prove that so far as Scotland's Shame goes, most of the media in Scotland would rather lump themselves in with Rangers fans than speak out against the ghastly chant. No, they'd rather drag Scotland's name through the mud, yet again. Show Racism the Red Card (Scotland) were no better. Billy Singh, you have let yourself down as well as the anti-racism cause in Scotland. You know yourself that Silence gives consent, and while holding a season ticket for Ibrox, you stayed silent. Eventually, when you did utter a miserable whimper of recognition that it was racist, it was forced upon you by the intervention of the Irish government and has now been mentioned in the European parliament.

So how do the huns react? Do they phone their lawyer? Or even the lawyers office junior?

No, they capitulate. I would have more respect for them had they made a case, legally, for their 'banter'. But they didn't and for one good reason. They knew it was racist from the outset. They wanted it to be as offensive as possible. Their anti-Irish hatred blinded them to the fact they were highlighting themselves again as 'Scotland's Shame'. To use the vernacular, they shat themselves, to a bear.

So surely their supporters groups would now come out and condemn the song, or defend it? No, you'd be wrong again. The cry was 'Whit aboot Sellic!!!!'. Again trying to drag us down to their gutter, rather than hauling themselves out. With this ostrich like reaction, and again I include the media along with Scotland's shame, they are perpetuating the hunnish behaviour of their fans. It will go on and on, lurching to embarrassment after embarrassment for them. Barcelona (1972) didn't teach them, and all the worlds eyes from then until now, including Manchester (2008) are bearing witness to Scotland's Shame. No wonder Sir Murray cannot find a buyer.

Now, bear in mind the reason, they claim for TFS is that it's banter about Scots born 'Plastic Paddies'. I'm sure that confused the hell out of Noel Hunt when it was aimed at him throughout games against Rangers.

These racists claim that it's because Celtic fans 'go on and on about Ireland' citing songs such as 'The Fields of Athenrye' and 'Let the People Sing' and 'Boys of the Old Brigade' as examples. You couldn't mark their neck with a blowtorch! They actually had a banner; 'Where in Ireland is Glasgow' alongside thousands of 'red hand of Ulster' flags, while singing 'The Sash', 'Derrys Walls', and 'A Fathers Advice'!

They claim TFOA and LTPS are sectarian, again without any real reason, just because they're Irish, and that's enough reason for them to be offended. To them, and those in the media again lining themselves up alongside Scotland's Shame (again!), if it's Irish it's sectarian. The Boys of the Old Brigade is about recognised Irish Patriots and neither sectarian or offensive. Any attempts to claim otherwise are so absurd that the idiots spewing their bile on the net and phone ins should be roundly laughed at for their ignorance, and educated as to the history of the song. Not in Scotland it won't, no, not while our media are complicit in Scotland's Shame.

Now, I have a confession to make. I have intentionally over used the word 'hun' in this article.

Why? Because these racist, sectarian bigots who have gone out of their way to be as offensive as possible, as detailed earlier, actually take great offence to the word 'hun' which they claim to be sectarian. Now this is flawed in oh, so many ways, but we'll stick to a few basics. Maurice Johnstone was a Hun, and Jock Stein was not. Fans from all over Scotland enjoy singing 'Go Home Ya Huns' to you, are you seriously trying to claim all the other clubs in Scotland are Catholic, and Rangers are the only bastion of Protestantism? No, this is yet another attempt to bring Celtic fans (and others) down to your level instead of trying to move into the 21<sup>st</sup> century all by yourselves. There is no religious motivation in calling you huns. Believe it or not, at Celtic we are proud to have Protestants in our support, our team and our history. Even if you want to take it to another level, Irish Republicans can claim the same. There's a rebel song you might enjoy, why don't you go Google 'You Tube – Brave Protestant Men'? You may even surprise yourself and start singing along.

In short, huns try to be offensive as possible, lying about all manner of things in order to do so, but get all sensitive at being called 'huns'. You couldn't make it up.

Let's finish with a little reminder. 1967. We know it still hurts.

Get over it, hun!
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Old 14-11-08 12:45 PM
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Since the internet has become a new source of news, it was always innevitable that traditional print journalists would turn to this new medium in a search for fresh stories/angles/perspectives.

This is understandable and even to be lauded since it would indicate that they recognise that the net gives voices to people who a decade ago would be unheard.

However, it has also become a lazy way for journalists to lift stories with little or no effort. Hang around a handful of messageboards, see anything vaguely newsworthy (if it's a slow news day then a random bit of photoshopping will do), copy and paste and that's the mortgage paid for another week.

Alan Carson lifted some pictures of Celtic's dressing room from this site and magically turned it into a a two page story. Much of his "journalism" comes from hanging around internet forums - nice work if you can get it.

Of course Alan does use these forums for his leisure time too.

Now to Alan on the FollowFollow forum. Yes, he lifts stories from there too.

Surely though, since Alan visits the site daily, he must have written plenty of stories about the online sectarianism which pervades FF, the bile over the Phil O'Donnel funeral, the Jock Stein slur, the Famine Song (it was in the news, Alan MUST have picked up something about that on his visits), the anti-Irish racism, the wishing death upon Graham Spiers & Gerry McNee, the laughing and joking about the brutal assault on Neil Lennon. No?

No, it seems Alan has gone native.

Liewell? Is this the standard of journalists in this country? Septic? Really Alan, are you five?

And then again, why hasn't Alan reported an online gloat about a murder? Why?


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Old 26-10-08 10:50 AM
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'Go home. Get back to your own country'. It's the classic mantra of the racist. And it's the latest mantra of the hate-filled hordes that infest the home stands at Ibrox and the away stands wherever Rangers fans follow follow their team. Although it's questionable whether they ever frequent any of these venues to actually watch Rangers FC play football. They seem, to many observers, far more intent on spewing forth all manner of hateful dirges that have no connection with football whatsoever.

And just when you thought you'd heard it all with the campaign to desecrate the name of the greatest manager that Scotland ever produced, a man who literally died for his country, they do what you don't think is possible: they manage to sink even lower. Now it's open season on the Irish and all of Eire's sons and daughters. Including those - of all creeds - who were disastrously affected by the potato famine (An Gorta Mór or An Drochshaol) in which at least one million people died between 1845 – 1852 and the population of Ireland was reduced by an estimated 20-25 percent.

The reaction of Rangers fans? Their latest 'banter' reminds us that the famine's over and asks Eire's children in Scotland, why don't you go home? Banter. That's how they're describing this. The Chief Executive of Rangers, Martin Bain calls it a tit-for-tat wind-up. In a letter handed out to Rangers fans before their home match against Motherwell on Sunday 21 September (more than seven months after this vile chant was first heard at Scottish football grounds) Bain failed to condemn the chant. Indeed in his opening sentence, hands wringing, he claimed it had been 'a difficult week for Rangers'.

So why had it been such a difficult week for Rangers? Well, because a nation has been racially abused by their fans and Rangers, it seems, find complaints about this an irritation. Bain, rather than condemn this racist bile chose to point the finger at others, claiming that folk sing about the Ibrox disaster and about a wish that one of their footballers would pass on whilst in slumber. Songs finding amusement in either subject are abhorrent and should be roundly condemned by every decent member of society. Indeed they are and they have been. However, by crying that 'he said this' or 'they said that', Rangers FC cannot deflect from the fact that this famine 'song' is nothing more than hateful racist bile. Yet, at the time of writing, Rangers were yet to condemn it as such.

Indeed, had you listened to the commentary of the Rangers match against Motherwell on the day this letter was issued, you would have been forgiven for thinking that what its contents had said was 'sing this filth louder than you have ever done before'. Because that's exactly what happened. Maybe that's what the Rangers racists thought they were being told. After all, Bain failed to condemn the song and in fact while at pains to point out that anyone caught singing it was at risk of arrest – Strathclyde Police being yet another organisation that had advised Rangers FC that the song was racist – it took Bain nine paragraphs of wailing, gnashing of teeth and finger pointing (he has no hair to tear out) before he eventually, and reluctantly asked fans to refrain from singing the 'song' in their best interests. Not because it was racist, not because it added to their reputation as Scotland's Shame, not because it was upsetting to a foreign country, but, it seems, in spite of all this. 'We will work on your behalf to deal with the continuing attempts to undermine your efforts and we are fully committed to defending your collective interests', Bain reassured the perma-raging hordes.

On the other hand, the internationally respected Kick it Out, one of the most reputable anti-racist bodies in the world said that the chanting of the famine song (as this anthem of racist hatred has become colloquially known) is the worst incidence of racism seen in Britain for more than two decades. In agreement is the anti-fascist and anti-racist organisation, Searchlight. Also voicing their condemnation has been the Equality and Human Rights Commission and, belatedly, Show Racism the Red Card Scotland (SRTRCS), whose reluctance to make a public statement on the issue for the past seven months has been, to say the least, mysterious. We will examine SRTRCS's role more deeply but suffice to say for now that they have publicly stated that this song is racist. On Thursday 9 October, Irish politicians became involved when Alan Shatter TD asked the Irish Foreign Minister in an official question at the Dail Eireann (the Irish Parliament) to investigate this racist song, claiming that it could have an adverse effect on Scottish/Irish relations.

A difficult week indeed! Well let's all cry for the racist Rangers! Let's forget about the century and a half old legacy of devastation wreaked by a potato blight that almost destroyed an entire nation. No, we have to feel sorry for 'the Rangers' because they've been reported to the authorities for singing racist filth. Bain tells you it's no more than a tit-for-tat wind-up. Every single organisation with expertise in this field tells you it's racist. I know whose opinion I tend to believe. And no, it's not because as a Celtic fan I have it in for 'the Rangers'. It's much more elementary than that. I believe the anti-racist organisations because I don't even need them to tell me that it's a racist chant. It's as plain as the nose on my face. It is racist. What is difficult to understand is how anyone could suggest otherwise. It is vile, it is extreme, it is shameful and it is as racist as racist can be. It includes that classic racist chorus about going home to your own country. Even a simple fool would be embarrassed to argue that this rot wasn't racist.

Which makes the story of SRTRCS's reaction to this evil chant all the more perplexing. This is a body which receives funding from a wide array of sponsors including the SFA, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and the Scottish Government (i.e. you and me, the taxpayers). SRTRC were first made aware of this song in the aftermath of its first mass airing in public – at the Celtic Rangers match of April 16 2008 at Celtic Park; a match which Celtic won 2-1 and was the catalyst that propelled the Hoops on to win their third title in as many years for the first time since the Jock Stein era (just thought I'd get that in while I was at it!). Within days SRTRC had responded to a vast number of complainants (in the hundreds), explaining in their emailed replies that they deemed the song racist and that they were in talks with Rangers, the SPL and the SFA . In other words, all of the relevant organisations were made aware by the body funded to examine racism in sport in Scotland that the famine song was racist before the end of April 2008.

Indeed before the end of the month (on 27 April), Rangers returned to Celtic Park to receive a repeat dose of the beating of 16 April and on this occasion, with nothing having been done in the intervening time, they chanted their racism with ever increasing gusto and on at least four separate occasions throughout the match. Obviously all ears would have been on the Rangers fans given the storm of protest after their racist display just eleven days earlier, yes? Well, if they were the SPL match delegate, Willie McDougall (ex-Rangers employee and associate of SRTRC), failed to include any reference to the Rangers fans' behavior in his match report. At least it is assumed so, as the SPL failed once again to act. Later that evening a Celtic fan from an Irish background was murdered in Govan in what police believed to be a sectarian killing. In the early hours of the same night, Aiden McGeady was attacked by Rangers fans while out with some of his teammates. And in the meantime SRTRCS and the Scottish footballing authorities still fail to condemn the famine 'song' in public.

Indeed it took another seven months for SRTRC to publicly state that the famine 'song' was racist. But in the process of doing so, they have called into question their integrity. The sequence of events leading to their eventual, one could almost say capitulation, begs the question whether SRTRCS are fit for purpose and whether they should be receiving public money. Although many complainants had deluged SRTRCS's email inbox over the intervening months, not even an acknowledgement of receipt of their complaint had been received, far less a statement of SRTRCS's position. The first public statement by SRTRC came in the aftermath of Bain's letter to the Rangers support and its content cast serious doubts on the organisation's integrity, being as it was an almost verbatim copy of Bain's letter. Not only was the language identical, the examples of other supporters' behaviour were the very same as those cited by Bain – i.e. the Ibrox disaster and the Novo 'song'. Quite what either has to do with racism - the sole remit of SRTRCS - is anyone's guess.

A very serious question arises from the similarities in the two statements and it is this: did SRTRCS consult with Rangers FC before releasing their statement?

And the football authorities are only conspicuous by their continued silence.

It is difficult to see, in the face of unanimous condemnation from all the major anti-racism bodies, how the Scottish footballing authorities can remain so resolutely silent on this issue. There is much talk and there have been many 'initiatives' launched with the expressed purpose of combatting racism as well as sectarianism and bigotry in Scotland through educating young people. But if it is problematical for an adult to understand why the governing body fails to condemn blatant racism it must surely be a deep mystery for a young person to resolve the difference between the authorities telling them one thing while doing something entirely different in the face of overwhelming evidence.

However, most youngsters will have mastered basic arithmetic and will know that one plus one makes two. This arithmetical logic can also be used when attempting to solve other problems and in this case we may be able to use basic arithmetic to answer for us on the SFA and the SPL's muteness. There is a perfectly simple answer to this problem staring us all in the face and it is this: The head of the SFA is Gordon Smith, the Chairman of the SPL is Lex Gold, the PFA Scotland Chief Executive is Fraser Wishart, the most frequent SPL match observer at Rangers matches is one Willie McDougall and the match observer at the Celtic v Rangers match on August 31st was Craig Brown. Have we all spotted the connection here yet? Yes indeed, all have a past association with Rangers FC, having been in previous employment at that club. Now there are a number of factors that can be taken into account when attempting to link otherwise unconnected facts and in the course of doing so coincidences can occur which can invalidate the connection. That is to say in some cases links between items can be explained away as purely coincidental. But even the top number crunchers on the planet would have difficulty waving away the connections described above. It seems that in this case one and one do indeed make two.

And if the links were coincidental, would we really have to wait this long for a member of the above associations – two of whom are major sponsors of SRTRCS – to condemn the racist chants of the Ibrox following? The weight of evidence is so vast that the inaction of the SFA and the SPL in particular could very easily be construed as having a pro-Rangers bias. So much so that it seems the club's ex-employees would prefer to see racism go unpunished than bring Rangers to heel. In fact, it seems they would prefer to allow a diplomatic incident to occur between our two nations than pronounce on Rangers. It is a truly shameful silence that we have had to endure on this issue.

In order to give fair hearing to the authorities, maybe we should attempt to define racism. It may be that all the anti-racism bodies have overlooked something and it is not them, but Rangers FC and the authorities headed up by their ex-employees that are right. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, do not define racism but they do define racial discrimination:

the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism[/url])

According to British law, racial group means "any group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin".

So, once more, the question is, when a group of people are asked to 'go home' as in, 'get back to your own country', which part of that statement is not racist, given that a racial group can be "any group of people who are defined by reference to their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origin"?

Let's not beat about the bush here. What the Rangers fans are chanting is racist. There is no amount of spin that can say otherwise. Which Scottish Rangers fan visiting Dublin, only to be told to get back to his own country, wouldn't be immediately defensive and claim a racist breach of the peace? The answer is none, and the reason is because that's exactly what would have occurred.

The time has come for action. If not by the Scottish football authorities then by others. The police have already said that the chant is racist, yet have failed to arrest a single person. In this day of CCTV technology, what is stopping them? And if they are failing to carry out their duty, should the Justice Minister be made aware in order to ensure that prosecutorial advice is being enforced? After all, it is the police themselves that say a racial breach of the peace has happened.

Surely the authorities and the government are not prepared to countenance our nation being labelled a 'racist backwater' by the international community, just so that the racist fans that follow Rangers can go unpunished? If so, is it any wonder that Scots-born families of Irish descent are indeed 'going home' in the face of this intimidation?

Maybe the fear is that by calling this for what it is, UEFA's ears will be pricked and Rangers FC will face yet further sanction from the European football governing body. No doubt UEFA will by now have had enough of this set of supporters and their continued criminality. Maybe this time, the punishment will fit the crime. It may also be that, should the Scottish authorities continue to fail in its duty to protect others from racial harassment that UEFA will have no option but to step in. That it has gone on for so long already is to the eternal shame of the administrators of football in this country, but that is not a reason for continued silence. So stop shaming Scotland by your inaction towards Scotland's Shame.

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Old 23-10-08 06:01 PM
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Show hypocrisy the red card
As a journalist you usually know you’re doing your job when people aren’t pleased to see you.
My family are pleased to see me, and my friends welcome me into their homes, so I don’t take it personally when people don’t want to see me and my press card.
Its only business it isn’t personal.
Billy Singh of “Show Racism The Red Card” (SRTRC) wasn’t pleased to see me at Tynecastle last Friday.
It is ok Billy this is business, nothing personal.

Read the full article here http://www.philmacgiollabhain.com/?p=79
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Old 17-09-08 04:18 PM
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For as long as any Celtic fan can remember, Rangers the club and Rangers supporters have continuously embarrassed both themselves, and Scotland with various displays of bigotry and racism. Much of their behaviour now provokes laughter as opposed to disgust, with many Celtic fans finding that they are more worthy of their pity than their anger. Most, if not all of their attempts at ‘slagging’ Celtic fans end up nothing short of disastrous, and trying to find the humour in their chants and displays ends up like trying to find a handsome hun, an impossible task.

Every once in a while though, the ‘occasional disgrace’ element shines through, and even those who would pity them are forced to stop in their tracks and recognise the very serious side of their behaviour. Over recent years, UEFA intervention has dictated that they must leave behind their famous songs about being ‘up to their knees’ in blood, not to mention their obsession with the Pope and the Vatican. It’s telling that in leaving these disgusting songs behind, a void was created which could only be filled with yet more songs of sheer hatred.

The problem Rangers and their supporters, as well as the rest of Scottish society, have to face up to, is that this is Rangers. When we talk of history and tradition, this is theirs. Hatred, bigotry, racism and sheer hatred of all things Irish and Catholic (and god help you if you happen to be both). That they have replaced songs of hate, with songs of hate, only goes to show that they in fact do not have any other history to celebrate, than one of hatred.

‘The Famine Song’, as it’s being called, is their latest attempt at a ’tit-for-tat wind up’ (copyright Martin Bain). A racist attack on the Irish community in Scotland , the chorus asking “Why don’t you go home?” now that “The famine is over”. There are of course various verses to the song, each more disgusting than the last.

That they have created this song, and that they sing it towards every player they deem to be Irish, or Catholic, or both, is not surprising. In fact, it’s precisely the sort of behaviour the world has come to expect from Rangers fans. The official reaction however does take things a step further, in that the club have joined the Rangers Trust in refusing to condemn the song. As opposed to warning their supporters that the song is racist, and should not be sung for that reason, they instead opted to inform their fans that “the interests of our supporters would be best served by refraining from singing the Famine Song”. Nice to see that they’re not just thinking of themselves.

Martin Bain also commented that “the absence of sanction or attention directed at any other club supports the contention that this is very much a one way street”. Mr Bain might perhaps like to read that sentence back to himself, and realise just how true it really is. It is a one way street, because there truly is not a team like the Glasgow Rangers when it comes to matters of racism, bigotry and sheer hatred. Martin Bain might also ask himself why it is that Strathclyde Police have informed him that Rangers supporters who sing this song are putting themselves “at risk of arrest”. Although no arrests have been made so far, this is as clear an indication as possible that there is an undeniable racist element to the song. Racially motivated abuse or acts of violence are a criminal offence in this country.

Compare and contrast with the songs sung by Celtic supporters. These songs are sung up and down the country every night, in bars, pubs and clubs. Bands tour the country with these songs. Walk into any branch of HMV, or log on to Amazon.co.uk, and you’ll find a long list of albums and CD’s for sale with the very same songs sung by Celtic’s supporters. I don’t recall many irish bands being arrested following a gig at the barrowlands.

This is the reality that Rangers, their supporters, and Scottish society in general seems to struggle with. Celtic and our supporters have a long, proud and legitimate history relating to Ireland. Ireland and Irish people are very much part of Celtic, and have been from the very day the club was founded. Rangers, on the other hand, have no such link, other than the sheer hatred they display towards all things Irish.

We can take comfort in the fact that the world is now, more than ever, seeing them for what they are. We must hope that Celtic Football Club are now prepared to do what they could, and should have done a long time ago, and leave the racist, bigoted half of Glasgow behind.

Hail Hail

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Old 04-09-08 07:05 PM
Squiggs Squiggs is offline
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On Sunday Celtic suffered a defeat at home to their bitterest rivals. However hard that game was to take - it is off field matters which have left the nastiest aftertaste.

As has become usual the visiting support gave us a rendition of The Famine Song, a charming ditty which implores those of Irish descent to "go home" since "the famine is over". Imagine this song being sung to a crowd comprising mostly of those of Afro/Caribbean descent since "slavery is over" - the condemnation would be deafening. So where is the condemnation of the Famine Song in our media? It seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

The Blue Order unveiled the Ambulance Chasers banner.

This year has seen the sad passing of both Tommy Burns & Phil O'Donnell.

Conspiracy theorists on the FollowFollow website would have you believe that the 2nd January 2008 Derby game was cancelled, not out of grief and respect, but out of dodging a difficult game due to injuries and suspensions. They coined the term "Steak Pie FC" since apparently Celtic FC enjoys funerals (it would seem the steak pie reference is down to the "fact" that steak pies are served at funerals).

So, with all this in mind what were we to think of the Blue Orders banner? Since the definition of ambulance chaser is "one who seeks to profit from injury or death" the answer should be clear - shouldn't it?

Evidently not, when the issue was raised on Real Radio the station was swamped by an orchestrated email campaign with the bizarre claim that it was tied up with "incapacity benefits". Seriously. And in a further step into the Twilight Zone - Ewen Cameron bought it.

Then to the aftermath of the game. Neil Lennon, ex-Celtic captain and now Celtic 1st team coach, was brutally assaulted, left unconscious and required a stay in hospital.

The media reaction? A "hilarious" Sun cartoon laughing at it and various scribes lining up to say he should have known better than to go out for a drink after a Celtic-Rangers game.

Later a Huddleboarder (unwisely) posts the street where Rangers player Nacho Novo lives. The media reaction? A universal chorus of disapproval.

Strange .....

In the aftermath of the Manchester riots, Times columnist Graham Spiers wrote " This is a sensitive subject for Rangers. The club has begged Scottish reporters and editors to play it all down, because it "harms the image" of Glasgow and Scotland. Rangers themselves have hired a PR agency over the last two years, asked to perform what is euphemistically called "damage limitation" when it comes to these repeated embarrassments for the club. The PR boys have a tough job."

What a bang up job the PR boys do though.

However compare and contrast the reaction of the media to the posting of Novo's street name with this.

Now check this story.



3 held after death in city street

THREE men, all aged 21, have been arrested after a street disturbance in which a man died.

The 51-year-old died in Glasgow's Southern General Hospital after an incident in Paisley Road West last night. A post mortem was held today and the three men are due in Glasgow Sheriff Court tomorrow.

The media is quiet on this. A FollowFollow poster (still not banned at this time, over four months later) laughs at a sectarian murder carried out before his eyes. We know Alan Carson, ex-Sun journalist and now freelance, checks the site daily for stories. He even has a few posts to his name. How did he miss this scoop?

I wonder ....
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Old 03-09-08 10:09 AM
The Ref
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Here's the Ref's report on Sunday's game.

Let me start right off by saying Dougie MacDonald had a good game, I think he got all the major calls right, and we can’t be blaming the officials for this result (as I'm sure you all know).

Not unexpectedly the game started at a fair old pace and, having viewed the team selection for THEM, it was obviously going to be a physical encounter. 2 minutes in we had the first issue when Broadfoot pushed McGeady over off the ball, well spotted by the ref and, given the time and nature of the game a warning was about right.

7 minutes and Cousin leads with the elbow. Again spotted and penalised and a warning given.
Minute later and Thomson takes out Naka, free kick and yellow card. Spot on, well late, clearly deliberate, no arguments.

14 minutes Adam and Naka collide in the box with Adam coming away with the ball. No problem with that, both players coming from opposite directions arrived together and the clash was accidental. However, given that Adam spent the rest of the game falling over you have to wonder how he came out of that one with the ball.

21 minutes, Weir handballs in the middle of the park but the ball breaks to McGeady and a good advantage played.

41 & 43 minutes, Maloney flagged offside. First one was a good call not so sure about the second and for some reason Setanta didn’t show the replay from the side on view to check.

44 & 45, Adam twice goes down, the second time in the box, on both occasions I believe he dived and I’d like to have seen a card for the second one where he was obviously trying to con a penalty.

Half time and the biggest surprise is Cousin isn’t in the book yet.

47 minutes, foul on Samaras but the ball breaks to McGeady but this time no advantage played. I felt this could have gone on but it was a difficult call to be fair.

56, Cousin finally gets his card for persistent fouling.

62 minutes, Samaras yellow for foul on Bougherra. Wee bit harsh given how little he had done before but it was a poor foul.

67 & 68 minutes. Adam dives yet again and somehow gets his free kick then follows this up with a cynical challenge to prevent a break away attack. Rightly yellowed for this.

74 minutes. Cousin doesn’t get the message after his yellow and, just before he is replaced, picks up his second for yet again leading with the elbow. When was the last time he actually finished a game?

75 minutes. Big Jan straight red. When I first saw this I thought that’s a bit harsh but having watched it a few times now you can see why he went. He had a barge and a kick at Broadfoot and I think at that point he might have got away with a yellow but sadly he followed it up by having another go at him. I don’t think he left the ref with much choice which is disappointing given his experience in the game.

I’m sure there were other points too, and I’ve certainly made some other notes, but I get caught up in the games too you know – so if there is a particular incident that I haven’t mentioned and want an opinion on let me know.

Incidentally, well done to the boys with the, “Here’s what you could have won” banner, quality!

As always, please PM your questions to CovertCFC.
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Old 01-09-08 06:10 PM
Vengeance is mine; I will repay
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I am writing this article in somewhat surreal circumstances: it is currently 3.26 am. I am lying in bed. I am unable to sleep. I’m depressed. My football team has just been beaten 4-2 by their greatest rivals. At home.

Today, whilst at this game at the home of my beloved Celtic Football Club, I had the misfortune of sitting right beside the Rangers fans. For those of you who are unaware I shall try to give a very brief overview of the two clubs as this is central to understanding the point of my article. Celtic traditionally drew their support from the Catholic minority in Glasgow and from the Irish diaspora across the world, whilst Rangers are traditionally followed by the Presbyterian (Church of Scotland Protestant) majority. Celtic have, however, always been a club open to all – as our greatest ever manager’s faith, and the faith of many in our support testifies. Rangers, on the other hand, have remained exclusive for much of their existence – for example, they had a de facto policy of not signing Catholic players until quite recently. Also, the Celtic fans have tended to vote for left of centre political parties, and have often shown their support for various ‘oppressed’ peoples across the world. Conversely, Rangers fans are generally more conservative and can be characterised as both Monarchist and Unionist (with regard to Britain). The derby game between the two is often referred to as one of the most heated derby games in the world, often acting as a microcosm of the Catholic/Protestant sectarian divide that exists in the West of Scotland and the North of Ireland. The atmosphere can be poisonous.

Young Jewish football followers who grow up in Glasgow are one of the few groups that actually have a choice over what team to follow, rather than having the team picked for them by the context of their social, political or religious beliefs. When I grew up in the 90s, the Jewish support generally tended to be for Rangers as they were in the middle of the most successful period in their history (and the Jews I knew were glory hunters!). What I actually want to examine in this article is whether it is at all appropriate for Jews to support Rangers, an argument borne out my experiences at the games today.

It might come as a shock to some people that I would even propose this – after all it is fairly well known in Jewish circles that Celtic fans fly the Palestinian flag and Rangers fans fly the Israeli flag. Well this is first point that I shall deal with. As mentioned previously the Celtic fans have a history of showing support for peoples in the world seen as ‘oppressed’. Whether some of us like it or not, the Palestinians are a people that are seen as oppressed in the world today. Consequently, there have been some instances where Celtic fans have flown the Palestinian flag at matches. However, this is by no means a regular occurrence – it only takes one fan with a flag, and the flag to be picked up on TV for a label to stick. There is no comparison here with the number or Irish flags or even Basque flags that are flown on a regular basis.

The Rangers fans decision to fly the Israeli flag is an altogether more complicated issue. One school of thought suggests that it is merely a reaction to the Palestinian flags from the Celtic fans. However, in my opinion there is something deeper to it than that – sadly, these Rangers fans actually see Israel as being right wing and extreme, and therefore something they can identify with.

You see the event that pushed me over the edge today was having to sit beside 8000 fans doing Nazi salutes towards me for 90 minutes. I’m sorry but I didn’t come to the football for that. My family didn’t flee persecution in Europe for me to have to sit and put up with that in Glasgow in 2008. So my brother complained to the police. “I’m sorry sir, I understand your concerns but this is beyond my remit.” It is a sad indictment of Scottish society that this behaviour is ignored and, by extension, condoned.

The Rangers fans usual response to the accusation of Nazi salutes is that it is a ‘red hand of Ulster’ salute that has been mistakenly identified as Nazi; however according to the website of Loyalist FM, a pro Rangers, pro Unionist radio station in Northern Ireland, this is a complete fabrication:

“The red hand salute is merely a symbol which fans embarrassingly hid behind to condone the support of Neo-Nazis within Britain’s shores. It's time to educate the uneducated, make it clear to the idiots that this mythical Red Hand Salute does not exist and it has no place amongst a Rangers support that we are extremely proud of.”

Unfortunately this warning does not seem to have been heeded as the picture below confirms.
The general mindset of the Rangers fans can be summed up by one simple song that they sing: “We Are The People.” They see themselves as white Protestants who are superior to any minority. It is the sort of mindset which led to the despicable scenes in Manchester in May 2008, when the fans rioted during the Uefa cup final – they see themselves as untouchables who can do whatever they like. When the Celtic goalkeeper blessed himself in front of them at a game last season (something that players do the length and breadth of Britain every weekend) he was cautioned by police as it “could cause offence.” Well, I’m sorry, but in my opinion this says more about the offended than the perpetrator. The fact that they are unable to deal with someone who is different from them speaks volume. This, after all, is a club who went 115 years without signing a Catholic player (very similar in fact Beitar Jerusalem’s policy today on Arab players).

At the game today they sang a horrendously racist song which suggested that descendents of the Irish potato famine should go home. One could only imagine the reaction at a Spurs game if descendents of Holocaust survivors were told to ‘go home’.
I feel it is time I spoke about my feelings. I don’t understand how anyone with any sense of Jewish identity can bring themselves to support a team that finds itself tied up in such bigotry and sectarianism. The line often trotted out is that both teams are as bad as each other – well I challenge anyone to point to anything that comes from Celtic fans which is discriminatory.

Maybe next time somebody thinks about having some sympathy for the mighty Glasgow Rangers as they wave Israel flags they should look a little deeper before making their decision. Jewish people should have a duty to speak up when others around them are being discriminated against. The salutes seen below are really just the tip of the iceberg.

This article was written for the ideological journal for the largest Jewish Youth Movement in the UK. If you want more details please pm LiviCeltic.
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Old 25-08-08 11:38 AM
The Ref  
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Here’s our second Ask the Ref feature. Predictably there were some controversial decisions at the weekend and our in-house expert runs the rule over them. There were also a number of questions on other refereeing issues from fellow posters – because of space, some of these will be answered by PM.

Please note, if a question is asked in a thread it may be missed so if you really want an answer, remember to PM CovertCFC direct.

“Good weekend for the Hoops but a bit lucky too. Here are my views on the couple of decisions that might have been an issue.

Tackle on big Jan leading to his injury
This was a legitimate, if fierce, tackle on the big man and it was just unfortunate that he picked up the injury. Even he wasn’t looking for the foul and I don’t think he initially realised he was injured either, just one of those things.

Mick’s hand ball
Follows on nicely from last week’s issue of intent and positioning of the arm. In my view McManus did deliberately play the ball with his arm. From watching the replay, a view the match officials didn’t have obviously, you can see he moved his arm towards the ball and when it hits him his arm is not in its natural position for a player who should be attempting to head the ball. It did take a couple of replays for me to be sure so can’t blame the officials for not picking it up but it was certainly a lucky break. It probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game but we could have been looking at no goal and a yellow for a central defender with an hour to play.

Now a decision that definitely did change the outcome of a game. I’m sure you will all now be aware that a wrong offside flag led to the disallowing of what should have been a goal in the last few minutes of the game. Fair to say as Tims we have had a good weekend as far as decisions go. The poor assistant has been slated by the world and his brother and yes it wasn’t a good call. However, I’ve ran the tape back and whilst the attacker was onside at the point the pass was made if you run the tape on for half a second he is then in an offside position so it wasn’t as bad a call as is being made out.

Walter Smith described it as, “an astonishing decision”. Sorry Walter, last season’s game between your side and Dundee Utd had a few that could be described as astonishing decisions but this was just a bad call, they happen every week in almost every game.

One other incident that caught my eye was in the Killie v Hamilton game. This saw a straight red for a Hamilton player, didn’t catch his name, for a tackle from behind. For sure it was a poor challenge and deserved a card but a straight red? The ref was Crawford Allan, an experienced official, and a man I know who does not get caught up in games so doesn’t make rash decisions. This is more of a worry as I can only assume it’s been a directive to really hammer players for this type of challenge. With next week’s Celtic/Rangers game coming up that’s a bit of a worry if we don’t want to be playing fives!

So a good week for the Hoops as far as calls from officials goes, let’s hope it doesn’t ‘even itself out’ next weekend.

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Old 22-08-08 06:38 PM
The Ref
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Each week it seems the phone-ins and printed press are saturated with arguments and counter-arguments about the latest refereeing controversy. In our new feature ‘Ask the Ref’ we will be taking a closer look at these controversial decisions that seem to plague SPL games. To help us do that, we have hooked up with an ex-referee (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) who has officiated in Scottish League games and knows the game from the inside.

We start off this new feature with a question and answer session with The Ref. If you have any questions for our in-house expert, PM them to CovertCFC and we’ll try to answer them in future features (assuming they’re not plain daft)!

· How long were you a referee?

In total, 8 years – with 5 as a listed official able to do Scottish League games.

· How much training did you have to do, and how many rules exams?

Training for referees is minimal and almost all classroom based. You learn ‘The Laws’ (they don’t like it when you call them rules) pretty much parrot fashion, then you repeat them in an exam at the end of roughly 8 hours training. More recently there have been moves to try to incorporate video examinations, where applicants have to show they actually understand the law rather than just repeating it however this varies throughout the country.

Anyone who wants to know what ‘The Laws’ really are should check the link to the SFA:


It’s always best to know what you’re complaining about before shouting your mouth off: Billy Dodds take note!!

When you progress there is a fitness element which, to be fair, is quite tough. So if you’re lazy you won’t pass and will be stuck in the lower end of the scale.

· What was the most enjoyable game you did and what was good about it?

Strangely I don’t have a favourite game, although I have had a few I’d rather forget! It’s like going to work. When you’ve had a good day it’s not particularly memorable but when you have a bad one…..

· Which rule do people get wrong most often?

Now you’d expect me to say offside here and, yes, that is a big one but I find the “preventing a goal scoring opportunity” one is even worse – with many a ref getting it wrong, too. How many times have you heard, “He has to go he was last man”? This isn’t what the law says and two good examples have come up in recent games.

Our game with St Mirren rested on a penalty where the defender Haining was sent off. Regardless of the arguments over whether it was or was not a penalty it was awarded and Haining dismissed. However, did Haining ‘prevent a goal scoring opportunity’? You’d have to say no as big Jan still got his shot away, even if it was a totally rubbish one, so actually a yellow would have done. See? We do sometimes get a break!

The second was the Scotland v NI game in midweek. Healy through on McGregor, knocks the ball past him and is brought down. Clearly a penalty, no problem, but was it a goal scoring opportunity? I’d have to say no. Healy had knocked the ball way too far to catch it before it went out of play so, despite what Pat Nevin might think, a yellow was the right decision.

If you thought that was complicated then think about this one, if an attacker is playing a pass through for another attacker to run on to and an opponent handles the ball to prevent the pass he could legitimately be sent off regardless of how many defenders are behind him if it prevents a goal scoring opportunity.

· Do referees get frustrated with how little the media pundits seem to know the rules?

For sure. In some cases you could argue they do know the rules but like to apply them differently depending on which game they are covering, Scott Booth being a classic example of this.

As a referee the worst bit is seeing someone who was/is a player or manager going on about a decision that you know yourself was right. This media numpty can command an audience of millions to listen to them when they know no more about the laws than your average guy in the street. As a ref you want to get on the show: “Oh really smarty pants? Well, what about law X where it says this?” As it is they can spout on with impunity and the general public will take it as the truth as it was on TV.

· Do referees talk about what team they support?

Hmm, touchy subject this. If an official has ‘an interest’ in any club he is supposed to declare this on the annual renewal to prevent any conflict of interest. So, for example, if you found out a distant relative worked for a particular club you should declare this and you would normally not cover games involving that club.

However, I’m sure you will remember the infamous Andy Davis incident where, as assistant at Tynecastle, he awarded a penalty that only he saw for Rangers against Hearts. Mr Davis was a season ticket holder at Ibrox that season – though I can only imagine he missed most of the games as he would have been on the line most Saturdays ¬– so either he probably didn’t declare his interest or it was overlooked. In either case, I don’t think it was a good idea to let him then do the Cup Final the same season as this appeared to be a reward rather than a punishment.

· Are there any players or managers in the game who referees are wary of?

There are some you would rather avoid as they can be a bit nippy. Gary Pendry, WGS’s Assistant, is a bit like that, but there’s none that you’d actually be worried about. They can get a bit ‘excited’ at times but you don’t really feel under threat as there’s not really much chance of them chinning you in front of a big crowd and possibly TV coverage, too. Having said that, amateur football is the reverse where managers and players have little to lose so you have to be on your toes and try to avoid confrontations.

· Are the SPL referees worth their £800 match fee?

Put it this way, was Thomas Gravesen worth £40,000 a week? Given that the top guys in the SPL are all lawyers, doctors, accountants and so on (and you won’t get to that level if you’re not) it’s a bit much asking for £800 per game. I think a fairer system would be to average out the wages for all the players in the division and pay that as their fee which would probably be more than the £800 they were looking for. Can’t help thinking it would be better if the top guys were all full time but who’s going to pay for that?

· Are referees biased?

Of course they are: they’re human, just like everyone else. Having said that, most of them will try not to let this come through in their games. I’ve done Celtic games where I really wanted them to win but it didn’t stop me giving decisions against them.

Usually decisions are split second calls and you don’t have time to think if it’s good or bad for the team you support. Of course there are always exceptions to this and there are a number of individuals who are very much for a particular club or will give decisions as a means of revenge.

It seemed like Stuart Dougal took a dislike to WGS a couple of seasons ago and made a point of continually sending him to the stand: many think it was a personal problem and not related to football at all.

There is also the issue of why Barry Ferguson is never booked. It’s nearly two years since his last yellow card. No, I’m not kidding, two years! I’m sure he’s a lovely man really, but having watched quite a few of his games I’d have him in the book more often than not.

· Is the system biased?

Completely, totally and utterly. At the bottom end of the scale your progress is determined by local supervisors and you can be absolutely awful and still get on if your face fits. Conversely you could be brilliant and never progress if they don’t like you.

Once you become ‘listed’ progress is down to reports from supervisors at your games. In theory this is on merit but there is still a bit of favouritism goes on here and there is rivalry between the various refereeing associations. If supervisor A finds his referee had a bad report last week from supervisor B and he’s covering one of his games coming up you can be sure that guy will be getting a bad report too.

Now the really biased bit in my view. The big chief for refereeing is Donald McVicar. He decides who his helpers will be and these are generally ex-referees, currently Messrs Dallas and Young to name but two who are coining it in for doing not a great deal. They also decide who the supervisors should be and the supervisors decide who the listed guys should be and so on. So they system is self perpetuating. If Donald doesn’t like you, retire now: your career is over.

To progress you have to have at least some ability and suck up to the supervisors as much as you can. Assuming you manage all this you’ll get near the top and then either work at Hampden with Donald or become a supervisor and someone can suck up to you.

However, what happens when the people at the top have a preference for one club over another? The only way you can get up to that level is to keep on their good side so you have to do the same. There’s no democracy here, these people are not elected and no one can remove them so if it’s wrong now think how much more wrong it will be in 10, 20, 30 years time. Incidentally when was the last time Mr McVicar admitted someone made a mistake?

· What is the funniest thing you saw as a referee?

Two things come to mind. One was when a supervisor called me on the Sunday to give me my report but he’d been so drunk at the game (he came to the dressing room at the end) he couldn’t remember the score and had to ask me. Presumably he was so drunk he couldn’t go out for a paper or work the teletext either.

The other was an amateur game many years ago where an attacker was chasing a long punt up the park. Thinking it was going long he got the head down and started sprinting, however he misjudged the flight of the ball and it hit him on the back of the head. This caused him to connect with his own knee and knock himself out! He recovered fine and had the cheek to ask me why I didn’t give a foul as he had clearly been taken out!

Look out for more from The Ref next week, and remember to pass on your questions to Covert CFC!
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Old 21-08-08 06:43 AM
Covert CFC
Vengeance is mine; I will repay
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The season is now underway and the football pages in the press and on the internet have hosted numerous pundits making their forecasts as to who will win the SPL or suffer relegation.

Since no right minded pundit would choose a winner other than Celtic or Rangers, the predictions have taken on an air of….well, predictability.

That’s not anything new and SPL football has often been decried north and south of the border as a result. When Terry Butcher decided to join our old rivals across the city, a certain Paul Gascoigne asked him: "Why waste your time Butch? It's a crap league with no competition, dominated by two Glasgow clubs."

Perhaps Butch had heard there were a lot of doors in Scotland and was pulled by his love of kicking them? And as we all know, Gascoigne eventually came to Scotland himself, changing his tune in more ways than one as he learned to play the flute.

Gascoigne’s poor opinion of the SPL has been echoed many times, both far and wide. The BBC’s Mark Lawrenson, the man who put the pun into pundit with his awful sense of humour, is set in his ways when it comes to describing Scottish football. He constantly states the European success of Celtic and Rangers is “remarkable given the teams they have to play against each week.” At least he is consistent; maybe that’s why he still sports a mullet after all these years?

Recently, even Cardiff’s manager Dave Jones claimed to be taken aback when Glenn Loovens chose Celtic over staying with his squad: “I’m surprised he wants to play in the Scottish division where, in all honesty, there’s only really two teams.” It’s perhaps no surprise he shares his name with a Monkee.

Now they’re not necessarily wrong in their views of the SPL, many of you might even agree with them. But like the guy who comes to your house at New Year without a carry-out and then drinks everyone else’s stash, they have a cheek.

Let’s take a look at the leagues around Europe over the last ten years. The most competitive yet probably the most discredited due to corruption, bribes and cheating, is Italy’s Serie A.

Juventus have won 4 titles, AC Milan 2, Inter 2, Lazio 1 and Roma 1. However, the negative football and lack of ‘competition integrity’ leaves few people pointing at the Italian league as a positive football example.

La Liga in Spain has seen 7 of the last ten titles go to the big two of Barcelona and Real (3 and 4 respectively). Valencia picked up 2 and Deportivo have 1 to their name. And this is the league where many of the best players in the world now play.

The famous EPL is no different. No amount of ‘Grand Slam Sundays’ and proclamations that the English top division is the best in the world can gloss over such stunning fixtures as Wigan v Derby, Reading v Birmingham or this season, Hull v Stoke City.

The English champions over the last decade have come from only three teams; Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. Considering their troughs of money, that might as well read Microsoft, Coca Cola and Apple.

Even then Arsenal are already financially detached from the big two and Liverpool, who have spent £71million net under Rafa Benitez, are only 8/1 to win the league this year. And that’s with Torres and Gerrard.

The fact is Man Utd have 6 titles whilst Chelsea and Arsenal have 2 each. Anyone wanting to bet a tenner on Spurs, Newcastle, Sunderland or West Brom, or anyone else for that matter outside of the top two, is due to be a tenner lighter come the end of the season.

Germany? Holland? Both countries have also seen a single team win 7 championships in the last 10; Bayern Munich and PSV respectively. Only Werder (1), Dortmund (1), Stuttgart (1), Feyenoord (1) and Ajax (2) have produced any variety.

Still it goes on. In France the last 7 titles have been won by Lyons with Nantes, Bordeaux and Monaco picking up 1 apiece. Belgium’s Jupiler league has been won 5 times by Anderlecht with 2 each going to Brugge and Genk, leaving 1 for Standard Liege.

And anyone who saw the pre-season match between Celtic and Porto was in all likelihood watching at least one team who will win their league again this season. Both have won 6 out of ten with Rangers (4) Sporting (2), Benfica (1) and Boavista (1) providing limited opposition.

This all means that in the past decade across 9 countries, 52 titles have been won by just 9 teams. In fact, all 90 championships have been shared by just 33 teams.

So when the pundits talk about two-horse leagues and lack of competition, they should remember it’s all relative. All of these European championships are dominated by the clubs with the most money in their own leagues. The quality of players and the level of the football improves as the money available rises. But the truth is it’s not just the SPL which is predictable. Don’t tell Mr Lawrenson though, his mullet might not recover.
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Old 15-07-08 03:40 PM
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A gradually building impatience among the ranks of the Celtic support – if the annals of CelticMinded.com are anything to go by – will hopefully be deflated slightly by the news today that the Greek international striker Georgios Samaras has signed for Celtic.

Samaras arrives at the club permanently on the back of a loan spell which saw him play a crucial role in Celtic’s dramatic title win, a role which has not always been fully recognised. The striker made 21 appearances for Celtic in the second half of the season and scored six goals – five of which came, often decisively, in the league campaign. That most of his appearances came from the bench makes this a haul he can be justifiably proud of.

His arrival initially seemed to be significant not because of what he personally could offer, but because of what his arrival offered others already at the club: the competition for places seemed to spur JVoH and Skippy on to greater feats, and – to begin with at least – it seemed this rivalry for places was a Godsend for a team struggling for ideas through a bleak winter. Furthermore, his debut at Kilmarnock offered a tantalising glimpse of the talent this 23 year old undoubtedly has: a slow, easy stride into the Kilmarnock penalty area was followed by a very cool finish as Samaras rolled the ball beyond the helpless Killie keeper.

Given the form of JVoH and Skippy – a partnership which yielded 51 goals – Samaras was destined to be used as a substitute for most of the remainder of the campaign. From there, though, he still managed to chip in with some vital goals. Notable among these were his winner against ICT, his clinical finish to see off Hibs, and his vital goal – the only goal of the game – against Aberdeen (where his outrageously disallowed goal was ignored by the press in favour of a similar effort by the Dons); the winner against Motherwell in a game which was not for the faint-hearted was a key moment in our title win. Samaras also helped out the team with some crucial assists – and it was, let’s not forget, his knock back to Gary Caldwell in the first Huns game at Celtic Park which led to that all-important winner.

Samaras himself seems incredibly happy with the move, stating today the move was, “the best moment in my career, so far.”

It’s the ‘so far’ part that interests me; here’s hoping he has greater highlights coming soon.

Welcome to Paradise, Georgios.
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Old 18-06-08 08:49 PM
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We poor demented Celtic supporters are often derided for being 'paranoid'. We claim media favouritism for Rangers and see conspiracy around every corner – copyright the Laptop Loyal.

When you look at some of the coverage on the websites of Scottish newspapers though, you do wonder whether they are employing specific, biased tactics, or just idiots.

Here's a case in point. In a quiet week on the transfer front, and with no Scottish involvement in the Euro Championship Finals, Rangers have made their first big signing of the summer. It is a transfer which ties with others as the third most expensive in Smith's second period in charge, with only Cuellar and McCulloch costing more.

More than that, the transfer is history-making, with the player in question crossing the so-called Old Firm divide not once, but twice. Of course, we’re talking about the arrival in Govan of one Kenny Miller, completing a journey from Derby to Rangers which apparently took him ‘over the moon’ in the process.

Now, when you consider that Rangers’ season starts earlier than Celtic’s due to their need to play Champions League qualifiers, you would think there would be a greater degree of urgency in examining and reporting on Smith’s preparations. Think again.

Let’s look at the internet coverage provided by that esteemed quality newspaper, The Herald. Peruse the football pages of their website last week (Saturday 14th June) and you will find the momentous Miller transfer is their fifth news item. Only fifth in a Glasgow paper? It would seem perfectly natural in the circumstances to assume that some astonishing developments have taken place in that football-mad city if Miller is so far down the news agenda.

Have Rangers completed their £700 million plans for expansion? Have the Chelsea, Man City and West Ham fans who instigated all of the violence in Manchester during the UEFA Cup Final finally been unmasked, restoring in the process the reputation of Rangers fans? Has Rangers’ European Finals record been amended by UEFA to read only one 1 riot instead of 2?

Erm, no.

The Herald leads with the 4-1 trouncing of France by the Netherlands. Well at least that is news and anyone who saw it will have thoroughly enjoyed it (apart from those of a Gallic persuasion). Items two and three consist of a feature on Chris Hoy (the leading Scottish cyclist for those of you who only ‘Eat Football’) and a mostly blethering homage to the paper’s own chief sports writer.

Item four, more important than any £2million transfer to the SPL runners up, is Artur Boruc. No, he hasn’t started a riot by waving to a supporter again – just an aside but could the Queen start a riot with all that waving she does from the inside of cars? Is she a hit and run riot starter? Back to Boruc. Apparently the ‘news’ is that retaining his services MUST be Celtic’s priority. Is that really a story worth greater priority than the actual transfer of Miller?

More to the point, is the retention of McGregor by Rangers NOT a priority? The Want-My-Holey Goalie has been the subject of substantial transfer speculation in the past two weeks (actually since January if truth be told). Tottenham and Newcastle are among his suitors with £6million the figure being quoted. And the vibe coming from the UEFA Cup runners-up is that he is not for sale – at least, they blush, not at that price.

OK, so what is the coverage like elsewhere? The Daily Record does indeed make the Miller transfer the top story on their website – right next to an opinion poll on whether Celtic should sell Donati! How about an opinion poll on whether Miller would be welcome at Rangers? Wouldn’t that be newsworthy and relevant? Alas, the outcome of that poll would be too predictable and unpalatable.

What about The Scotsman? Their contention is that Miller’s signing is ‘not a universally popular signing due to his unproductive spell with Celtic’. Really? What about his unproductive spell at Rangers? Or Derby? Or throughout his football career even?

They do have a point in raising Miller’s goal-scoring record but Google the words ‘badge kissing taig’ and I can assure you, the subject of Miller is right at the top. And no, it doesn’t come from a Chelsea, Man City or West Ham website.

In any case, if Miller is so unpopular because he often lives up to his nickname of ‘Misser’, shouldn’t Smith’s decision to buy him come into question? Anyone care to predict the Scottish press view of Strachan should he decide to buy Alan Gow?

The Evening Times? Apparently Miller is one of a TREBLE of strikers Rangers will be buying (leaving the previously much praised Boyd, Darcheville and Novo as the three men-in-tears no doubt – apologies to Alexandre Dumas).

And so it goes on, each of these papers reporting the Miller transfer on their websites: sometimes with accompanying positive spin, other times with negative items about Celtic. Never it seems on the real issue – why is there such widespread revolt from the Rangers fans on this transfer?

Is it because there is a sectarian element due to Miller’s past connection with Celtic? Or is it truly only because he is a poor man’s headless chicken, in which case, what is Smith playing at?

So what lies behind this coverage, tactics or idiots? Neither answer casts the press in a positive light and we will all have our own opinion as to which is the more likely.

Celtic fans can take some comfort from the one fact the media will not be able to avoid next season – their team are the Champions.
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Old 09-06-08 09:51 PM
The Mighty Atom
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First there was a final, then there was no final, then there was: The crazy world of Gordon Smith, CEO.

What now have we to make of these latest utterances by Gordon Smith, on the subject of whether he did, or did not, offer to reschedule the Scottish Football Association's seasonal showpiece finale?

Today, in response to Rangers Supporters Trust mouthpiece David Edgar's dark mutterings about his team's perceived mistreatment at the hands of everyone remotely in a position of authority, Smith has again felt the urge to involve himself in the issue of fixture scheduling.

This time, the languidly coiffured pundit turned SFA chief executive, has deftly flip-flopped back to his original position – confirming that he was indeed prepared to move the Scottish Cup final, the most prestigious jewel in the SFA's crown, to facilitate an easing of Rangers' fixture log jam. Whether this press intervention serves best to placate the slobber-mouthed attack dogs of the RST, or further encourage their debased wallowings, only time will tell.

That Smith is so keen to trumpet his efforts at hawking his cup final mutton is puzzling enough, but the fact that on May 24th 2008, he denied, to the listeners of Radio Clyde, that the SFA had offered to do any such thing, makes it not just puzzling, but slightly alarming.

You will no doubt recall that on May 7th 2008, George Peat, and Rangers' media partner the Daily Record, cooperated in a tabloid exclusive detailing the SFA's dismay with the SPL's intransigence over the so called fixture problem, and confirmed that, as far as they were concerned, the cup final was a moveable feast. The SPL resisted the leverage and saved face (the season had already been extended by one week, in an unprecedented, if laughably doomed, SPL accommodation of Rangers' Champion's League ambitions). Where Queen of the South's interests were being served in all of these machinations is yet another story.

So, what are we to make of it all? Why the bouncing from one position to the other, a move that can only mean the chief exec has not always been fully open and honest with the SFA member club representatives, the Scottish media and the country's football fans?

Gordon Smith was appointed SFA COE on June 1st 2007. From the very outset, the former Brighton and Hove Albion hotshot peppered the woodwork of Scottish football with his good intentions. That his professed ambition to deal with sectarianism within the Scottish game was hamstrung by the untimely publishing of 'It's Rangers for me', a book in which he admitted that, at school, he saw Catholics as the 'enemy' and always tried harder when playing against them, can be dismissed perhaps as misfortune rather than misadventure. His unilateral move to adopt video evidence was maybe a little more foolhardy, setting him, as it did, full square against the wishes of newly appointed UEFA president, Michel Platini.


Smith also launched a crusade in support of referees, against a rising tide of complaints and back chat from club managers and unruly players. Then came 'McCurrygate', and the near comical and absolute defence of the referee's integrity – precisely one week before news of the reverend's membership of that other secret society – the car park shaggers – hit the tabloid front pages with a dismal splat.

Given these failures and faux pas, and Smith's obvious incompetence in fulfilling his other work-a-day duties – the unprecedented failure, for instance, to find a sponsor for the competition that is the glittering star in the SFA's sparkling firmament (you guessed it – the Scottish Cup! Step for a hint, Gordon. You'll have a hard job selling the thing you've been trying so hard to give away) – it would be easy to write-off his yoyo-ing on the subject of the Cup Final as just another example of his fecklessness.

But still, the suspicion remains that there are other factors at work. That Smith was willing to suborn his role as SFA Chief Executive to his campaign to ease his former club's burden, even when such an intervention was completely outwith his remit, leaves a sour whiff of partiality in the air.

Employees of the SFA aren't only required to be impartial. Just like their referees, they are governed and judged by stricter criteria – the need to be seen to be impartial. In lobbying the SPL on Rangers' behalf, Smith has once again failed in his duties.

There have been rumours of late that Smith longs to return to the gentler times of his TV and radio punditry. Don’t ignore those whispering voices within, Gordon – they are telling you what you most need to hear.
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Old 21-05-08 07:49 AM
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I didn’t make it to Celtic Park today. Judging by my reaction to watching the news coverage after getting home tonight, that’s probably no bad thing – the atmosphere looked tremendous, we surely know how to bid farewell to one of our own, and the sight of this big lummox howling in the middle of it all would have been just too much. Funerals always do it.

Tommy was the first player I ever had my photograph taken with. That is my earliest memory of Celtic, and it will stay with me until my own time has come. Tommy Burns gave me that memory. I still have that photograph.

Times like these inevitably set one off thinking about ones own mortality. It’s a natural reaction when you lose a family member – and we have perhaps now lost the most loved and respected member of the Celtic family.

I remember being 9 years old, and watching my daddy crying because Jock Stein had died. I couldn’t figure it out…here was my dad, the biggest, strongest, bravest guy I knew reduced to tears because of a football manager? Who wasn’t even our manager any more? Strange.

That same wee bhoy sat watching the news tonight, and shed his first real tears for Tommy Burns since last Thursday. And he knows why, now, after all those years.

We all loved him. Why? Not because he was a Celtic player. Not because he was a Celtic manager. Not because he was a Celtic legend. We loved him because he was a good man. He was one of us, and he never ever forgot it. In his own words “a fan who got lucky”. You make your own luck in this life – Tommy made his, but never forgot to be thankful for all that he’d been given. Tommy was generous – both of heart and time. He loved us as much as we loved him, and that just made us love him all the more.

Big Jock. Wee Jinky. Bobby Murdoch. Ronnie Simpson. They’re just a few who have been taken from us in my lifetime. But Tommy’s passing has hit me harder than all of them, and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of my fellow posters on CelticMinded.

Most of us (but certainly not all of us) are of a generation that uses the internet every day now, it is second nature to us. It draws us together on this forum, from New York to New Zealand, from Dublin to Dubai and all points in between. We talk of all things Celtic, and all things non-Celtic too. We share laughter, we share joy, we share passion. But we also share sadness too.

Tommy Burns is the first of a generation’s heroes that we’ll never see at Celtic Park again. Today, a lot of big wee bhoys and ghirls bade him farewell with a tear in their eye.

Goodbye Tommy Burns. God bless you and keep you close.
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