Monday, October 9, 2017

Gordon Strachan


I've fallen out of love with international football for a while now. In a general sense, tournaments bore me by the quarter final stage, the faux nationalism annoys me and the widespread corruption by FIFA makes me think I am watching a Mafia court case when taking in certain games.

In terms of Scotland, I was done going to watch them by 1990. That was after going to see Scotland play Poland at Hampden and witnessing incessant abuse of two Polish players who just happened to play for Celtic. I've probably been to six Scotland games since then and the record is lost 5, won 1, with the solitary victory actually coming at Wembley. I think most people reading this will know my views on the SFA as an organisation and I know all about the discrimination and treatment of Celtic players in the past too. I also have absolutely nothing in common with anyone who chooses to go to a football match in a kilt.

With all that being said though, I still want Scotland the team to win when they play. I also went to the pub to watch both the last two Scotland games for the first time in yonks.

Recently on Twitter, I responded cheekily to a tweet by a girl who said something along the lines of "If I ever split up with my boyfriend, I'll never want anyone else" So you can imagine the type of reply and when she saw it she responded "Who hurt you?" My reply to that?

"Probably Gordon Strachan the most"

Now I have met Gordon Strachan loads of times. We grew up on the same street, his parents lived in the same house for years, he returned to my scheme on loads of occasions and I've attended loads of local events he was part of. I also met him a lot of times when he was at Celtic, both at the park and in the area when he would visit his dad at the local golf club.

When he became manager at Celtic, I was having a bad time with my health. I resolved to write a book about his first year at Celtic. Average Joe Miller did a brilliant book cover (Trainspotting type theme) and I even got Adrian Chiles to do the foreword (if you remember back then, he and Gordon were a double act on MOTD2) and off I went to games and press conferences reinvigorated after a health scare.

It was two months later that I completely abandoned the idea.

My thought was that I could write about his first season, throw in some old Muirhouse stories, and finish with the sort of cult book (no typo) that I would end up writing many more of in years to come. Thing was, I had no idea what Gordon Strachan was like at press conferences. I discovered really quickly that he was only interested in engaging with one journalist (Jim Black) and anyone else who asked him a question was always looked at as if they just asked to sleep with his wife.

Over the years at Celtic, it became so bad that by 2008 he used the same golfing analogy ("From tee to green we are fine, it's just the putting that needs work")  8 weeks in a row. Now, I know what you are thinking, I am glossing over his 3 leagues, 1 Scottish Cup and 1 League Cup at Celtic and you are right, they were great. As were some of the Champions League nights where the likes of Milan and Man Utd were beaten.

There are lots of other factors though and I don't just mean Artmedia.

His treatment of Chris Sutton, Alan Thompson, Jackie McNamara and Bobo Balde was a joke. He even blamed Jackie for that reverse in Bratislava despite the fact he had signed for Wolves a month previously.

His football was eye-bleeding at times and resulted in Celtic losing 10,000 season ticket holders whom the media branded bigots because they didn't like Gordon Strachan. I should say at this point, I am speaking for myself here, I know not everyone doesn't like him. I was taken to task on Twitter last week by a son of Tommy Burns for my views on Strachan and I know there is a side to Strachan that he will have seen that very few others do and I appreciate completely his friendship with Tommy. However, you cannot overlook the likes of his petty treatment of Aiden McGeady and the lengths he went to to get him out of Celtic. (Just look at all the "replacements" he signed never mind the singling out for constant abuse)

The problem is, Gordon Strachan is a product of his environment. I've asked a few folk from the area recently and they have all agreed: Pretty much everyone from the area is like Gordon Strachan. In Muirhouse, men of 6ft5 have small-man syndrome and not a genetic problem in sight.

When Gordon took the Scotland job, I did think he was the man for the job. I know he loves coaching and developing players and the lack of week to week press conferences would definitely suit him. Yet, all the old traits came back and another generation was damned. The first campaign was awful. A victory over Ireland at Celtic Park should have made progress fairly straight-forward yet Scotland managed to finish fourth in the group.

At that point, a PR campaign was launched to keep him in the job. His comments had fallen in line with SFA top brass ("We need a strong Rangers") and he was given another crack. Reality being, he lost Scotland the group in the first four games. I don't say that lightly. This was a winnable group with a truly awful England side as top seed. Yet as Brendan Rodgers Celtic tore up Scottish football it seemed that the only one who wasn't watching was Gordon Strachan. Indeed, Griffiths only got a game when Strachan thought he was done for and then the likes of Armstrong and Forrest were suddenly thrown into a Scotland team that thought qualification was as likely as an SFA admittance of being wrong.

Suddenly Scotland were playing well.  Throw in the added bonus of John McGinn playing in the top flight again and Callum McGregor banging them in for Celtic and the future actually started to bright. So bright that Scotland put the play offs in their own hands. So what does he do? Goes back to a tired formation and picks his pals again. Even when the midfield is being overrun and Slovenia have equalised and looking likely to score again? He does nothing. With pacey, in-form players on the bench who can score goals regularly, he opts for none of them and the dream dies once again.

Thing is, I know Gordon Strachan won't give a shit about this blog. I am fan who never played the game professionally so my opinion doesn't count in his eyes. No, because he has the wealth of knowledge provided by Mark McGhee and Calum Davidson so why would us Kestrel drinking, devil dug owning monsters matter?

I don't see where Scotland go now. I fear he stays or, worse, Malky gets the job but whoever it is, just give us back our game, please, Mind you, as long as the SFA exist, I see nothing changing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

PSG epitomise reality



I'm old enough to remember and to have attended the Neuchatal Xamax games in 1991. Liam Brady decided, in his wisdom, to go with a back three in Switzerland that badly exposed a defence that was already shakier than a Frank De Boer coat peg and we were battered 5-1. European football was changing then. We just didn't know it. Most fans expected us to still turn the tie around at Celtic Park, despite a reduced capacity, and hope sprung eternal when we were awarded a first minute penalty. Charlie Nicholas sent the penalty sky high and brought us back down earth with a bang.

Last night was always coming. From 2001, when we first took part in the group stages of the Champions League, every year since the gap has got a little bigger. Barcelona in 2012 was probably our last strong punch in a tournament that now belongs Oil teams and Oligarchs. I was in Dubai in the summer of 2015 and saw first hand the wealth behind a lot of these teams. This isn't a different ball game, this is a different sport.

There was a clamour to buy a centre half before the deadline but in reality who would have made a difference last night? John Stones at 49m? Virgil Van Dijk at 80? This was a team that cost almost a billion euros to assemble. They are about join Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the elite of world football. (Fucking incredible we get two of them in our group) And by elite, I mean they can and will leave everyone else eating their dust, including the chronically boring EPL.

We've have seen Celtic lose six and seven in Barcelona and now five last night to PSG. Whilst it still majorly hurts, there is really very little we can do about it as long as we play in Scotland. That's a reality that every supporter needs to get in check. I'm not advocating a move to the EPL, I'm not for that at all, just trying to meet the new boss, who may well be the same as the old boss, it's just now he  has Emirates or Qatar on his shirt.

I wouldn't want Celtic to sell out to the oil barons. I love our identity, I love our supporters (apart from maybe that one Bam last night) and I love that fact that we have guys like Tony Ralston coming through the ranks and already fighting for the jersey. I guess you could say I'm an idealist or a romantic (or maybe just plain daft) but I think games like last night are the price I need to pay to retain all that.

It was also still better than that night in Switzerland.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Lies, damned lies and The SFA



I've wanted to blog a few times this week but was stopped by those who slaughter "Bloggers" yet claim to hate the MSM. (Sarcasm, come on in) Right now we are getting to the heart of the battle to save Scottish football.

On one side there are the supporters who paid into a rigged game, Celtic FC, The SPFL Board(bar one dope) and a few people within the game who want an inquiry but fear the same treatment that Ally McCoist ensured Eric Drysdale and his family got back in 2012. There's also the sad reality that at least four clubs in the top flight of the SPFL live in hand to mouth and put money above pretty much everything (especially when it comes to spending it)

On the other side is The SFA, The MSM, Sevco, Fans of Rangers(IL) and Sevco, various bigots who run football clubs and all being led by Daryl Broadfoot (Not now officially employed by The SFA but on a retainer from The SFA) who has been tasked with firefighting this thing for The SFA (Probably should mention Chris McLaughlin here who, although banned from Ibrox and not paid by The SFA, is doing his level best to ensure there is no inquiry and is praying for a total whitewash and lifting of his ban from Ibrox)

Let's deal with this nonsense that fans are "sick of all this". You would only be sick of this if you had a vested interest in there not being transparency in Scottish football so who gives a flying fuck what they think? Propping up a corrupt game makes you as culpable as those who corrupt it every day so you can spare us the crocodile tears. I know it is irking certain parts of the media gravy train that this isn't going away but if they had done their job properly, we wouldn't be here now.

I've listened with interest as Daryl Broadfoot has attempted to build his profile again and wondered why? On a good earner from the SFA and part of his new PR company it may seem that he has played a blinder and to a certain extent he has but don't be fooled by his jokey demeanour on Sportsound. He is working every day to ensure no transparency in Scottish football.  And you can be damn sure he has a vested interested in that.

Stewart Regan is a man who just wants this drawn out as long as possible. Of course he is highly culpable in this sham but he is also acutely aware he is in a job with a salary and profile that he will never get anywhere else so the longer this goes on, the happier he is.

And what of Celtic? I've known for a long time that Celtic have been all over this. I've told people this when they have asked me and was usually met with scorn. I can understand the scepticism in the same way that I can understand Celtic not making every utterance public. Celtic, internally, can drive me mad at times but I've said it before and I'll say it again, Celtic want this as much as we all do. They play a long game and try to be measured (sometimes too much in my view) but ultimately the statement on Saturday was clear and concise as to the position.

The question is: So what now? Sadly, I've never believed any fan-led movement will bring the change we want in Scottish football. Because the only thing clubs would act on is a long boycott of their grounds and that's never going to happen. This has to come from within the game and I was delighted to see Celtic vocalise that. This is not a Celtic v Rangers (IL) thing though, This is a justice thing and a few folk would do well to remember that.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Anyone but Celtic-Available on DVD&Stream

You can now buy the DVD of Anyone but Celtic. (If outside the UK and Ireland, stream is better)

http://www.ls86productions.com/anyone-but-celtic/

This marks the end of the ABC project, two years after it began in Carluke.

I've said enough in the book, in the film and on here, it's time to shoot it out there into world forever.

I just want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout the project, without you, it's nothing.

To all the haters? See you for Armageddon. (@tay2armageddon)

http://www.ls86productions.com/anyone-but-celtic/

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Boo Bhoys enjoy the silence



In a climate of continual chat about how you should support Celtic, it was nice to see two of the Boo-Bhoys silence their critics last night. James Forrest and Nir Bitton played massive parts in Celtic's progress into the Champions League play offs. Supporters know, every generation has players who get it in the neck from the fans more than most. In my lifetime I can remember Pierce O'Leary, Paul McGuigan, Derek Whyte, Mike Galloway and Peter Grant, to name but five, who all got it. None of these players were ever going trouble the Ballon D'or judges but all of them gave everything they had.

I was talking on @HomeBhoys on Tuesday about how when players got barracked in a game, this normally ensured greater support for them in the next game (Similarly I always remember fans being even more keen to go on a Saturday after a Wednesday defeat) Many moons ago, The Jungle used to chant the name of every player in the team before a game. It was routine. If I think about it, I can still hear it. Indeed, it was also how you knew the team back then (One Packie Bonner, there's only one Packie Bonner, One Chrissy Morris, Anton, Anton...)

Davie Provan, not brought up in the Celtic tradition, always spoke about how the affinity between the players and fans was what drove the team on (Why else do you think we go the reputation for last minute goals?)

In recent years, Calum McGregor was a target. Ronny Deila said it really affected his game as he got scared. Think about that, a Celtic player scared of his own fans. Nowadays, it's Forrest and Bitton. Some of the comments aimed at Forrest after the first leg against Rosenborg would have seen a ban from Follow Follow never mind be befitting of Celtic supporters whereas the collective gasp on Twitter when Bitton came on was akin to a vaping convention.

Yet, guess what?

Bitton strolled through the game at centre half and Forrest scored a goal so good that it dropped Rob McLean's bitterness to a new level.

The moral of the story is, a lot of us forget, we aren't the coaching staff or judges on some sort of Football Factor, we are supporters and it is time a lot of us remembered that.

Or shut the fuck up.

Friday, July 21, 2017

'Anyone but Celtic' the DVD-Out August 1st



http://www.ls86productions.com/anyone-but-celtic/

Click on the link above and you can pre-order it (UK and Ireland only)

Rest of the world can find a stream on the same page.

There is also an updated book on sale from August 1st which contains a brand new chapter after a meeting with the primary source.

The DVD has 30 minutes of extras on it.

Every sale helps us do independent projects like this.

Thank you
Paul

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pipe up Peter

When the draw for the game against Linfield was made, I scanned the usual airlines and looked for a deal. Pretty soon I realised that we were a while away from getting a confirmed date and I just don't have the dough to go for a week or anything like. When Linfield were our confirmed opponents, it became obvious quickly that it was going to be on Friday the 14th. I went on Easyjet and saw a flight to Belfast for £28.99 over, £34.99 back on the Saturday afternoon. Then it dawned on me, we are playing Lyon on the Saturday afternoon. So I hesitated and in that time, it was announced we would not be taking/getting an allocation for Betty Windsor Park.

Hmm.

I know some folk have an image of the stadium and the area surrounding and probably saw good reasoning in this but most of that reasoning doesn't apply. One day I was in Belfast, this was probably four years ago, after a night in Larne. My mate who looks after me in the north, Gary, always takes me wherever I want to go and we decided to go to west Belfast. We did all the usual things, a pint in The Rock, various murals and even had a chat with the Mayor of the time. After visiting a guy in the RVH, we got back in the car and I nodded off for 10 minutes or so. When I woke up, all around me I saw union flags, red, white and blue kerbs and even a U.V.F. mural in the distance. Gary was just parking the car up and I looked at him like any Fenian bastard would having just pulled up into a bastion of Loyalism (Boucher Road to be precise) Now anyone who knows Gary, knows he wears Celtic gear almost everywhere he goes. So there he was, breezing out the car, Celtic tracksuit top on, not a care in the world. And guess what? No one batted an eyelid. This shocked me at the time but Belfast has changed a lot since I started going there in the 90's. Then, you stuck pretty much to places like Ballymurphy, Turf Lodge and Andy Town (sic).  Not that I am suggesting everything is fine now, it never will be as long as the British occupy the six counties, but I saw a lot of comparisons with the time Ireland played at Windsor to qualify for the 1994 World Cup back in late 1993 and, quite frankly, they were ludicrous. When Ireland played there, there was a war on. I can't be any more concise.

It is 2017 now and Ireland is a very different place from 1993. Of course, the sectarian hate-fest provided by the Orange Order still rains over the six counties but then look at the ongoing situation in Palestine and I don't remember anyone saying we shouldn't play there last summer. All this centred on Celtic pre-match. There were suspicions that the club made the choice to not take tickets and this was backed up Linfield and the PSNI (Hold on, I'm getting there) Now, I've never had any dealings with Linfield but there hasn't been a police service in the north of Ireland that has been a bastion of truth and so I'll take anything they say with a pinch of salt. My own sources at Celtic are adamant that the only way they were getting tickets for that away leg was if the tie was switched to Celtic Park first. Brendan Rodgers did not want that. Over-cautious? Think back to a year ago...

There were a couple of operations meetings at Windsor Park that had Celtic officials bewildered. Quite simply, Linfield said one thing and then did another. This is what led to the announcement at Noon on the day of the game that there would be Celtic section for existing ticket holders. Like you, that majorly pissed me off. I could have been there. You could have been there.

Cut to the game itself and as we strolled around the park, bigots threw batteries and bottles. For some reason, the referee deemed that a bookable offence for Leigh Griffiths. You will always get a bonkers/corrupt Ref but are we really going to just accept the one match ban?

The home tie was played last night although you'd barely know it given the coverage since. A banner went up. Some folk didn't like it, others loved it and Celtic put out a statement about it. I won't moralise about it, I would not listen to me if I was an angry young man just as I didn't listen to folk like me when I was an angry young man. I did know though that as soon as it went up, UEFA and Celtic would go ballistic.

I think we all did.

Just as all on Twitter threatened to collectively lose their minds, there was some comic relief although it was about as funny as the actual show. "Celtic Travel" (one guy in an office basically) released a price for a day trip to Trondheim. £489. When I saw it, I felt like a Doctor Who fan who hates women.

Then as encore, Celtic announced we would be charged £25 for the Rosenborg game. This after we watched the bulk of the academy side against Lyon? Come on, eh?

The overriding thing in all of this is, where are our leaders? The SLO appears to be answering for most of the club right now as everyone else seems to have lost their tongue. Nameless statements won't fly these days and neither will the complete lack of communication with a support who are getting restless about the increasing lack of transparency at Celtic.

Peter, it's time to talk to your public.