Tag Archives: TAL fanzine

Football mourns the loss Of Atlético Chapecoense

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Today the world of football is rallying around the small Brazilian club Atlético Chapecoense after most of its players and staff, as well as the sports journalists accompanying them, were killed when their chartered plane crashed in the Medellin region of Colombia. Chapecoense had, against all expectations, qualified for the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the South American equivalent of UEFA’s Europa League competition.

chapecoenseblackribbonThe Brazilian FA have canceled tomorrow’s cup final and all matches this weekend as a mark of respect. Other clubs have called for solidarity with Chapecoense and requested that the club be exempt from relegation for a period of 3 years as it tries to recover from the tragedy. They have also pledged to loan players to Atlético should it elect to continue to fulfill its fixtures for the rest of this season. The Colombian side Atletico National that would have been their opponents in the 1st Leg of the final have requested that Chapecoense be declared Copa Sudamericana champions.

Some Celtic fans have also asked our club to stock the jersey of Atlético Chapecoense in the Celtic shops and to donate all profits from sales back to the Brazilian club. Every act of solidarity with the club and its fans should be embraced. In an era where greed has become the definition of football, there are still some acts of human solidarity that we as fans can participate in, with or without the consent of those at the top. Our humanity will always eclipse their greed.

Every incident that results in the loss of life is a tragedy, but some tragedies hurt more when those who died carried the hopes and dreams of the people, of thousands of fans, of whole families. The Atlético Chapecoense Football Club just a few days ago celebrated one of its greatest football achievements, and today it suffers the worst episode of its entire history.  TAL Fanzine extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victims and to the fans of Atlético Chapecoense.

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Hillsborough – The Tip Of The Iceberg

HJC_duckenfieldDavid Duckenfield, the commanding officer at Hillsborough in 1989 is not the only senior South Yorkshire Police Officer potentially now facing criminal charges and disciplinary procedures. It is no accident that this police force was central to the defeat of the miners in 1984/85, a force fetted by Thatcher and her government for defeating ‘the enemy within’ – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). After the Miners Strike and Hillsborough, these officers continued to be promoted up the ranks. Perhaps the greatest insult to the Hillsborough Families and the people of Liverpool was the appointment of Sir Norman Bettison as Chief Constable of Merseyside. Bettison (pictured below left) was a Chief Inspector at the time of the disaster and he led the ‘dirty tricks’ team from South Yorkshire Police who attempted to assassinate the characters of the victims, their families and the supporters of Liverpool FC.

JFT96SYcopsBy Phil Thornton

“Blaming Liverpool fans for Hillsborough is like blaming the passengers on the Titanic for hitting the iceberg.”

FA Cup Semi-finals were always frenzied games in the 70s and 80s when the noble art of the jib became almost obligatory and ‘to pay is to fail’ was a mantra for hardcore fans across the land. Those held at Hillsborough were notorious for the Leppings Lane and it was the same at Villa if you didn’t get the Holte End.

Let’s rewind to 85. A van load of us went to watch the FA Cup final between Man United and Everton. None of us had tickets. We all got in. This was only 11 days before the Heysel Disaster in Brussels. We bribed turnstyle staff,  jumped the barriers and then either bought stubs from grafters or placed pressure on the terrified security staff to open the gates onto the already overcrowded terraces.

We knew sooner or later they’d let us in and so it was. Once inside that shithole of a national stadium we strained to watch a game in a standing section that was so packed I could barely stand, never mind see Norman’s winner.

This was par for the course. Nothing unusual. You wanted to get one over on the snidey FA who only distributed a pathetic percentage of tickets for finals, as they hived vast numbers off to corporate cronies, pals and touts.

This was all possible because the ‘culture’ of the game in the 80s was always semi-militaristic. You hated ‘them’ and ‘they’ hated you and everyone hated the bizzies because the bizzies hated everyone. Mob survival was essential and although the violence was often sporadic and over-stated, nevertheless you were always aware that a kick off was probable at some point in the day.

Some people stayed sober, most drank or had a smoke, some got pissed and or stoned. Some got twatted. That too was part of the ritual.

So, those who continue to peddle this line about Liverpool fans being partly to blame for the death of the 96 at Hillsborough, then remember how you used similar tactics and that even if you had a ticket, you understood the semi final frenzy.

HJC_tv-footageBlaming Liverpool fans for Hillsborough is like blaming the passengers on the Titanic for hitting the iceberg. They paid for their tickets, they entered into a contract with the shipping line, they expected to be treated like valuable customers, they deserved to get to their destination. They hit an iceberg and drowned because of the negligence and incompetence of the crew and the company charged with protecting them. Even the odd stowaway didn’t deserve to drown.

Football fans were never treated like customers. Not by their own clubs, not by the FA, not by the political class and certainly not by the police. Fans were there to be fleeced and brutalised in appalling stadia that remained in the poorest areas of our inner cities.

This bred an attitude of open hostility and whether some of it was deserved or not, the comparison with how fans were treated in other countries was testimony to how divided by ‘class’ Britain was and still is. It’s still them and us.

It’s still THEM and US.

HJC_CameronFor all their mealy mouthed platitudes, the likes of Cameron and his Tory pals will be saying very different things about the despised scousers in private. Jack Straw and Tony Blair will no doubt share the same belief that this would have all been better if, as Nick Robinson, said on Radio4 this morning, scousers had just ‘moved on.’

They always want us to move on and ‘draw a line in the sand’ when they fuck up but never the other way around. If you dare to expose their lies and corruption, their hypocrisies and failures, then YOU are branded a cynic, a spoiler, a militant, a rabble rouser, a malcontent, a subversive, a traitor.

They will use every tool at their disposal to demonise you, their pet media, their spies, their pals in low places and they will try to dig enough dirt to create a smokescreen which they can then hide behind.

It has worked every time. So far.

HJC_sun‘The Truth’ as published by Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper was a conspiracy of lies… The Sun newspaper will never rise again on Merseyside

Like many I don’t believe that ‘the truth’ – the full truth – about Hillsborough will ever be revealed and that the cowed media will have enough nerve to dig where the faceless men who work in nameless offices keep tabs on those who seek to uncover such facts.

To reveal the truth about the fit ups, the bribes, the murders, the lies, the cover ups, the stitch ups, the propaganda, the everyday dealings of those charged with ‘OUR’ national security would be to place their carefully orchestrated fantasy of One Nation Under A Groove at risk.

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We Have The Truth, Now We Want Justice For The 96…

Men hold a banner reading "We climbed the hill …
Fans hold a banner reading “We climbed the hill in our own way”

 

“In due course the CPS will formally consider whether any criminal charges should be brought against any individual or corporate body based upon all the available evidence.”

– Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter-terrorism division at England’s Crown Prosecution Service.

margaret-aspinall-hjcMargaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign
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It took 27 years but JUSTICE is almost done today with the jury returning a verdict of UNLAWFUL KILLING to the inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989. The truth has been confirmed, justice must now follow. In the words of Hillsborough Justice Campaigner, Margaret Aspinall, whose 16 year old son died in the stadium, those responsible for the disaster and subsequent cover-up must be held to account.
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“Thank you, thank you”

– Response from one member of the public gallery when the verdict of unlawful killing was announced.

“Justice for the 96”

– Chant repeated by relatives and friends outside the courtroom in Warrington, near Liverpool, after the verdict was announced.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone”

– Relatives and friends sing the Liverpool anthem outside the courtroom.

“I think we’ve changed a part of history now.”

– Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son James died in the disaster, outside court.

“We’ve done it”

– Trevor Hicks, the president of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose teenage daughters Sarah and Vicki died in the disaster.

“The FA reaffirms its deep sorrow and regret that these tragic events, which occurred at one of its fixtures, led to the loss of life of 96 football supporters on 15 April 1989…Ultimately, the inquests stand as testament to the struggle undertaken by the families so the truth might be brought to light…In looking forward, it is important we never forget.”

– Statement issued by The Football Association, the English game’s national governing body.

“Fantastic to see the reaction of the families outside the court! Very emotional as well. The truth is out AT LAST. Take note all the doubters!”

– John Aldridge, a member of the Liverpool team that played Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough on the ill-fated day.

“Finally, thankfully, justice for the 96! Rest in peace.”

– Former England striker turned BBC television football presenter Gary Lineker.

“Finally and way, way, way overdue, the truth prevails and justice is served. jft96.”

– Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen, using an abbreviation for the slogan “Justice for the 96”.

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“After so many years fighting for justice I am really pleased to see the verdict today, which confirms what we have been saying for a long time.“I am especially pleased for the families of the 96 who have sought justice for so long and with such dignity, as well as for the people of Liverpool and for football fans in general.

“Hopefully this verdict today will ensure that this kind of tragedy can never happen again.”

– Newcastle United boss Rafael Benitez, Liverpool’s manager from 2004 to 2010.

“Everton Football Club salutes the Hillsborough families and their total vindication as Fighters for Justice. Theirs is the greatest victory in the history of football.

“RIP, the 96. Good night, God bless. From us across the Park.”

– Statement issued by Everton, whose Goodison ground is on the other side of Stanley Park from city rivals Liverpool’s Anfield.

“This has been the greatest miscarriage of justice of our times. But, finally, it is over.”

– Labour MP Andy Burnham
HJC_badge
While it is certainly the case that the truth has now been established beyond question, full justice for the 96 and their loved ones has not yet been delivered. Today’s mealy-mouthed words of of sympathy and apology from politicians, police and media is not enough. These same politicians, police and press were only too willing to muddy the waters at the time and to blacken the characters of the victims by throwing doubt on the eye-witness accounts of the supporters who were at Hillsborough 27 years ago.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s apology and words of support are too little too late. What was Cameron’s position at the time of the disaster? He was a young Tory high-flyer who had been an adviser to Margaret Thatcher’s government. We do not know David Cameron’s personal view back in 1989, but we can say with some certainty that Thatcher was not sympathetic to the plight of the fans and their families and held a political grudge against Liverpool, a city that she and her government regarded as a ‘Red stronghold’ (and we are not talking football colours here). 
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We know that one of Cameron’s key political allies and a personal friend since his days at Eton and Oxford had little in the way of sympathy for the Hillsborough families and a low regard for the city of Liverpoool and its inhabitants in general. The London Mayor and Tory MP, Boris Johnson is the favourite to succeed Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party,  it was his apparent lack of empathy that struck home when, a full 15 years after the disaster, he described the people of Liverpool as having ‘a predeliction for welfarism’ and ‘wallowing in their victim status’. He also repeated the outrageous lies of the South Yorkshire Police and The Sun newspaper that the fans were drunken hooligans who had contributed to the cause of the disaster.
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It took Boris Johnson a full eight years to apologise for those words which were published in the Spectator as part of a piece on the kidnapping and murder of Liverpool man Ken Bigley by Al Qaeda in Iraq. Even then the apology was half-hearted and qualified by Johnson who lodged the unlikely defence that, ‘a big boy did it and ran away’. In 2012, in evidence to the Hillsborough Independent Panel, Johnson disowned the article, citing it’s real author as the right-wing journalist, Simon Heffer. However, Johnson was happy in 2004, as editor of The Spectator, to commission the piece from Heffer, which he then put his own name to. He is as responsible as editor and attributed journalist for that piece of writing as the person he commissioned to author it on his behalf.
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As Margaret Aspinall of the HJC commented after Johnson’s apology in 2012: “What he has got to understand is that we were speaking the truth for 23 years and apologies have only started to come today from them because of yesterday. It’s too little, too late. It’s fine to apologise afterwards. They just don’t want their names in any more sleaze. No, his apology doesn’t mean a thing to me.”[
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One of the key campaigners for truth and justice, Mrs Aspinall has said today that now  we know the truth, the people responsible have to be held to account. That includes the police, politicians and press that contributed to and repeated the lies about Hillsborough and its victims for the last 27 years.
96reasonsHJC

Who Fears To Speak of Easter Week?

The Proclamation –  declared on this day 100 years ago by Padraic Pearse on the steps of the GPO, Dublin, 24th April, 1916 – was the fuse that ignited the Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland

Pearse 1916

POBLACHT NA hÉIREANN

THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organisations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades in arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien Government, which have divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:

THOMAS J. CLARKE
SEAN Mac DIARMADA   THOMAS MacDONAGH
P. H. PEARSE   EAMONN CEANNT
JAMES CONNOLLY   JOSEPH PLUNKETT

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TAXI FOR DEILA!

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By Talman

It’s not simply because Sevco beat us in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup yesterday that Ronnie Deila should be shown the door at Celtic, it is the general decline of the team on the pitch that he should be held responsible for… But he’s not the only one.

The PLC board that appointed Deila is also culpable for the decline. Nowhere more so is this fall from grace apparent than in our performances in Europe in the last couple of seasons. Ronnie has presided over one of our most embarrassing periods in European competitions, that is the real indicator of his lack of ability and in the board’s failure to properly invest and build for the future.

For the last 4 years The Celtic PLC board has been treading water waiting for the team that now calls itself ‘the rangers’ getting to the top flight of Scottish football in order that those myopic pygmies who run our club can reignite their ‘Old Firm’ nonsense and lead the fans a merry dance to the usual sectarian undertones. Instead of investing for a future in Europe, we prepared for a future with Sevco… Celtic is a world ‘brand’ led by a parochially minded board of directors.

When an ordinary Scottish Championship team like Sevco can pass the ball around our players as if they were Barcelona – as they did in the first half yesterday – you know that the writing is on the wall for the manager and his coaching team. That was a pisspoor performance from a pisspoor Celtic side, which is led by a pisspoor coach.

Pish: John Collins & Ronnie Deila
Pish: John Collins & Ronnie Deila

There are some very good players in the current Celtic squad that are undervalued by the manager and underutilised as a result. I am convinced that a better coach would have achieved better results with different tactics and deployment of good players currently languishing in the development squad, on the bench or sitting in the stand. And there are players favoured by Deila who have failed miserably on the pitch this season, but have incredibly kept their place in spite of loss of form.

As one wit commented on the TAL facebook page, Ronnie may even be bringing us to the brink in league terms as well, ‘He could be in danger of losing a one-horse race!’ That really would be an ignominious ‘treble’ for the manager to achieve and is not a prospect that the Celtic support is prepared to contemplate over the remaining matches of the season. Ronnie should go and go now, no hanging around until the end of the season in the hope that scraping the league title will win him any respite with the fans. Take ‘gardening leave’ and make way as soon as possible please.

Your taxi is waiting…

CabForDeila

 

Supporting Celtic: Class Consciousness & Political Identity

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Frank Devine is a graduate in Economic and Social History with Politics from the University of Strathclyde and a contributor to the ‘Celtic Minded’ books.  This blog is a transcript of Frank’s contribution to the series of History Talks organised by the Irish Heritage Foundation in Scotland.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity

By Frank Devine

Introduction

This presentation is not about Celtic players, managers, directors or coaches. The focus of this paper will be on the Celtic supporter, on ‘Celtic Fandom’; specifically, I want to examine the Celtic phenomenon in the West of Scotland, particularly within the clubs key supporting heartlands of Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity will examine the local and global dimensions of the Celtic support and, despite the long-standing hostility and antipathy towards the club from many within Scottish football; this stands in contradistinction to how Celtic and their fans are viewed externally out-with Scotland.

Part Two will examine “Celtic Culture and the West of Scotland” and the Celtic supporting fanbase in the clubs historic heartlands while also highlighting the clubs historical and contemporary relevance within the world wide Irish Diaspora.

Part Three will focus on the centrality of the “Match Day” experience to the Celtic support and will highlight why Celtic is more than 90 minutes on the field of play to their huge army of supporters.

Part Four will examine the “Social and Political Consciousness” of the support and what makes the Celtic fan base unique in Scottish and British football, arguing that the supporters unique political, cultural, religious and social dimensions are made unintelligible without a proper and appropriate acknowledgement of the ethnic and cultural roots of the clubs core supporting fan base in Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

The Celtic support, however, does not exist in a vacuum, and profound changes in the Scottish political dispensation have been fully reflected among the Celtic support; indeed, it might be convincingly argued that the support has been a key driver of some of these changes within the Scottish body politic at a popular cultural level.

Social Consciousness, Class and Political Identity

Since 1887/1888 Celtic Football Club has been the sporting champions of the Irish Catholic working class community in the West of Scotland. Beyond being a ‘typical’ or ‘standard’ football club Celtic has an intrinsic political character which is evident in the social and cultural basis of its support in its historic heartland – which is the Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas of the West of Scotland. By the time of Europe’s second biggest football final held in 2003 in the Spanish city of Seville, Celtic’s support demonstrated its magnificence in the shape of a reported 80,000 (45,000 without tickets), travelling from all over the globe to Spain receiving the ‘Fair Play’ of the year awards from UEFA and FIFA for its outstanding behaviour as well as for creating a carnival around the event itself. In the words of FIFA, “For their exemplary fair and cordial conduct at the UEFA Cup Final in Seville”.

“Celtic Culture” and the West of Scotland

Celtic has a huge fan base throughout the Irish diaspora. However, the core of the support continues to reside in the West of Scotland, particularly in the Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire areas. Bradley in 1995 in his ground-breaking study “Religious and Ethnic Identity in Modern Scotland: Politics, Culture and Football”, highlighted that while there are hundreds of Celtic supporters clubs scattered throughout the Irish diaspora, as well as in Ireland itself, that there are 250 Celtic supporters clubs in Glasgow and another 125 Celtic supporters clubs in Lanarkshire comprised of between 20 and 100 members.

This is not surprising in that the club was formed specifically for this community. Glasgow Hibernian, Duntocher Hibernian, Mossend Celtic, Carfin Shamrock, Garngad Hibernian, Possilpark Celtic, Govan Harp, Whifflet Shamrock, Coatbridge Hibernian, Columba, Dumbarton Harp, Coatbridge Hibernian, Blantyre Celtic and many other clubs are likely to have been the original team of choice of many of the forefathers of the tens of thousands that today fill the various stands at Celtic Park in Glasgow. However, by the end of the nineteenth century the vast majority of the supporters of these clubs, and of the other Irish clubs that had been formed throughout the Irish immigrant communities in Scotland at that time, had begun to coalesce around ‘Glasgow’ Celtic, the most sturdy and successful of all of the clubs formed at that time.

Although it is now well over 100 years since the formation of Celtic the popular culture surrounding the club remains a primary manifestation of communal solidarity and identity among working class Irish descended Scots. Moreover, it is this culture that makes Celtic unique as a football club and as a social institution. It is a particular manifestation of Irishness among the world wide Irish diaspora and, as might be expected from a people deriving its heritage and origins from Irish history the support is marked by an anti-establishment ethos which is often viewed with hostility in Scotland.

StAndrewsCelticBrakeClubMatch Days

On the morning of ‘The Game’ supporters congregate in thousands of houses throughout Greater Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Bank employees, the unemployed, social workers, bricklayers, teachers, production workers, insurance salespeople, shop workers, office workers, as well as a range of other occupations, come together under the one banner: a community is constituted. The vast majority of Celtic supporters, including those that sit in the expensive seats and the corporate boxes at Celtic Park, are working class or no more than one generation removed from a working class lifestyle. Indeed, given the reality of the Irish diasporic experience it would be fair to assert that the vast majority of Celtic supporters have never been to a Celtic match but connect with an emotional pull towards the ethnic dimension of the club.

Before and after matches Celtic supporters crowd into premises popularly viewed as Catholic, Irish or Celtic pubs throughout the West of Scotland. In fact one internet website – celticbars.com – suggests that there are over 1700 of these establishments world-wide in over 70 different countries which is an astonishing number of bars supporting one Scottish football club; however we all know that Celtic is much more, than simply a football club. In Glasgow licensed premises over the years that have attracted Celtic supporters include, Bairds Bar, Traders Tavern, Waxy’s Dargle, The WeeMans, Rosie O’Kane’s, The Sqirrel Bar, The Emerald Isle, The Hoops Bar, The Foggy Dew, Lynch’s/The Old Barns, Mulvey’s, The Tolbooth Bar, The Empire Bar/Costelloes, The Braemar Bar, The Caltonian, Mulvey’s and the Tolbooth Bar, most situated in and around the historic Celtic heartlands of Glasgow Cross, The Calton and The Gallowgate are packed with thousands of Celtic supporters, many of whom have made the pilgrimage from Ireland and further afield as well as from other parts of Scotland. These bars are instantly recognisable to anyone who walks through the Gallowgate district of Glasgow’s East End as well as a number of other places. Some have the Irish tricolour flying from the premises and some are pained in the green of Celtic and Ireland.

The same is true of licensed premises in other parts of Glasgow, for example in The Gorbals, Govan, Govanhill, Blackhill and ‘The Garngad’ as well as in other parts of the greater Glasgow area including Clydebank, Paisley, Greenock, Dumbarton and Port Glasgow and indeed, any number of other areas. In Lanarkshire Celtic supporters have in the past, or continue to congregate in, a huge number of clubs, pubs and bars long viewed as Celtic bars. These include – or included in previous years – such premises as the Commercial Bar – now the Priory Bar – and Finbars – now John Carrigans – and Mick Flynn’s in Blantyre, The Clock Bar and The Big Tree in Coatbridge, Franklyn’s Bar, McCormick’s Bar and Saints and Sinners in Bellshill, Tully’s Bar and the Railway Tavern in Motherwell. Other Celtic supporters will meet up in – or used to meet up in – Kelly’s Bar in Cleland, The Big Shop in Glenboig, the Era Bar and the King Lud in Craignuek, Doherty’s, the Auld Hoose and Hemingways Bar in Hamilton. Carrigan’s, The Hibernian Club, Carfin Vaults and McAuley’s bar in the Celtic stronghold of Carfin, as well as dozens of other pubs and clubs throughout the ‘heartlands’ are packed with supporters. Therefore and this is the important part, the ‘Celtic Culture’ goes well beyond the confines of Celtic Park and into the homes and communities of its historic support. Indeed, one can imagine this community also coming together in bars in Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Toronto and a hundred other places dotted throughout the world. Celtic lives beyond the ‘Fever Pitch’ atmosphere of a Saturday or Sunday afternoon or a Wednesday evening.

Some of the bars frequented by supporters often have a Glasgow/West of Scotland based Irish ‘ballad’ band playing before supporters depart for the match – while other bars will have bands booked for after the match. Bands such as ‘The Blarney Pilgrims’, ‘Foggy Dew’, ‘Celtic Connection’, ‘Athenrye’, ‘The Shamrock Rebels’, ‘Galtimore’, Charlie and the Bhoys’, ‘The Wakes’, and ‘Shebeen’, as well as solo artistes like Patricia Ferns, Gary Og, Paddy Bonnar and Gerry McGregor are all well known in this culture that makes Celtic absolutely unique in Scottish and British football. Ballad Bands from Ireland, such as the ‘Wolfe Tones’, the ‘Young Wolfe Tones’ – sometimes referred to as the ‘Continuity Wolfe Tones’ – Spirit of Freedom, The Irish Brigade and Tuam are regular visitors to Glasgow and the West of Scotland and these bands are hugely popular amongst the support and they are regular fixtures at Celtic supporters social events, annual dances and ‘player of the year’ events.

These bands perform songs and ballads that have been sung by Celtic supporters for generations; songs such as ‘The Celtic Song’, ‘The Coronation Cup Song’, ‘The Ballad of Johnny Thompson’ and ‘The Willie Maley Song’. The bands also perform a wide range of tunes and ballads relating to the historical and contemporary political situation in Ireland. ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’, ‘Kevin Barry’, ‘Let The People Sing’, ‘The Foggy Dew’, ‘The Merry Ploughboy’, ‘The Broad Black Brimmer of the IRA’ and ‘Sean South of Garryowen’. These are all hugely popular ballads that are synonymous with the Celtic support. Songs such as Sean South of Garryowen has been popular amongst the Celtic support since the 1960’s while the Boys of the Old Brigade has been sung at Celtic Park since the 1970’s.

StAugustinesLangloanCoatbridgeJimmyQuinnBannerBut this rich tradition of folk song goes back much further than the 1960’s. In fact this community singing of Irish songs and ballads has always been a defining characteristic of the Celtic support. The Man In The Know, a highly sympathetic and 100% partisan commentator for the Irish Catholic community newspaper of that time in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, The Glasgow Observer – which had 26 local editions in Scotland – commented in the 1920’s of the Celtic support assembled for a match at Ibrox Stadium that:

“The Celtic brake-clubs (supporters’ clubs) members are reasonable sentient human beings, are models of decorum and possess official testimonials to their blameless behaviour…The Celtic supporters are fond of singing and to this no one could reasonably object. On Saturday the boys sang to their hearts content. They gave us so many rousing choruses; Hail Glorious Saint Patrick, God save Ireland, Slievenamon, the Dear Little Shamrock, and the Soldiers Song. “…. When Cassidy’s goal made victory sure, it was fine to hear the massed thousands at the western end of the Ibrox oval chanting thunderously “On Erin’s Green Valleys’..”

The Man in the Know was far less complimentary about a now defunct football clubs’ supporters from the south side of Glasgow.

“On the Dalmarnock terracing on Saturday there was congregated a gang, thousands strong, including the dregs and scourings of filthy slumdom, unwashed yahoos, jailbirds nighthawks, won’t works, burro-barnacles and pavement pirates, all, or nearly all, in the scarecrow stage of verminous trampdom. This ragged army of insanitary pests was lavishly provided with orange and blue remnants…. Practically without cessation, the vagabond scum kept up a strident howl of the “Boyne Water” chorus. Nothing so bestially ignorant has ever been witnessed, even in the wildest exhibitions of Glasgow Orange bigotry……”

Before games much of the support board coaches organised by hundreds of Celtic supporters clubs. Originally known as ‘Brake Clubs’, they were previously organised throughout the catholic parishes of the West of Scotland. The Catholic parish has traditionally provided the basis for the evolution of many Celtic supporters clubs in the West of Scotland and further afield. The “Garthamlock Emerald”, “Mossend Emerald”, “Commercial Bar No 1 Blantyre”, “Claddagh Blantyre”, “Bothwell Emerald”, “Bellshill and District”, “Bellshill Brigada”, “Starry Plough”, “Son of Donegal”, “East Kilbride Athenry”, “Tom Williams Port Glasgow”, “St Brendan’s Linwood”, “Easterhouse Emerald”, “Garngad Celtic”, “Linnvale Shamrock”, “Notre Dame Motherwell”, “Nine In A Row Motherwell”, “Che Guevara Kirkmichael”, “Whifflet Saint Mary’s”, “Phil Cole Coatbridge”, “Chapelhall Shamrock”, and “Saint Mungo’s Shamrock” amongst them (although supporters clubs coaches have come under considerable pressure in recent years with increasing numbers of supporters opting for private transport to matches).

The communal singing and playing of recorded songs in licensed premises, the coaches of supporters clubs – the Celtic supporters club coach was often the vehicle – pun intended – whereby many young Celtic supporters became socialised into the ‘Celtic culture’ and educated into the songs and ballads of Celtic and Ireland – and in private transport, comes to a crescendo as thousands of supporters from Scotland, and from Ireland, England and beyond fill the stands of Celtic Park. It’s my central argument that supporting Celtic Football Club generates an enormous wave of communal solidarity among the fans, and indeed, that it is this ‘feeling’ of community that assures Celtic FC of the ‘passion of a people’.

Social and Political Consciousness

Given the cultivated evolution of a social conscience within Catholic education in Scotland, the Irish national origins of most of the Celtic support as well as their history of economic, social, religious and political marginalisation that has characterised much of the experience of the Irish in Scotland up until very recently, it is unsurprising that Celtic fans have long identified with Irish nationalism as well as working class and radical issues and causes.

The Celtic support (as well as many of the club’s officials and playing staff), were vocal, not only in their opposition to the detention of Irish political prisoners in the 1890’s but also to Britain’s involvement in the Boer War in the 1900’s. Celtic supporters, officials and playing staff also actively supported the Catholic petition for Catholic schools in the early twentieth century. In 1926 Celtic supporters barracked an opposing player who reputedly ‘scabbed’ on striking railway workers during the General Strike of that year. It is consistent with a Christian and Catholic ethos, as well as a left wing and socialist ethos, a view shaped by a concern for others, that the flags of the Basque Country and Palestine (people also perceived as being ‘oppressed’, are occasionally seen being flown by Celtic supporters on match days. The political and social consciousness of this support has been characteristic of the club since its very foundation. “Rebellion’, arguably, is part of the DNA of the Celtic support.

FRONT - TAL 36-mediumThe politics of the Celtic support is one of the things that make Celtic supporters distinctive in Scotland. In a wide ranging study into the attitudes of football supporters in Scotland in the early 1990’s one writer recorded an eighty-five per cent approval rating for the Labour Party among Celtic supporters. We can address the contemporary transformation in Celtic supporters voting attitudes in a moment. In 2001 up to 10,000 people – in the biggest pro-Irish demonstration in Scotland since the 1930’s – most, if not all of them Celtic supporters – attended a demonstration in Glasgow to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Irish Hunger Strikes of 1980-1981. Similar huge numbers were brought on to the streets of Glasgow for the 30th Anniversary of the Hunger Strikes in 2011. To this very day the environs of Celtic Park on match day are a definite no go area for right wing, racist and fascist groups and Celtic supporters have been to the forefront of numerous attempts to combat the street presence of these groups in Glasgow and Lanarkshire in particular over the past 20-30 years. The anti- fascist and pro Irish republican TAL Fanzine has been distributed among Celtic supporters for decades and remains popular among a militant left wing cohort among the Celtic fan base. Of course, on the negative side there remain Celtic supporters who are ‘sectarian’ just as there are black people who are ‘racist’ whether in Africa, the USA or indeed, any of the countries that make up the UK or in Ireland itself. Racist and sectarian Celtic supporters would find no tolerance from this platform. Just witness those Celtic supporters who corrupt the meaning of Celtic and Irish songs by interjecting abusive or swear words or throwing in rhyming chants that completely distorts what the song or ballad is attempting to convey. It’s my view that the vast majority, as well as the core Celtic support, has always rejected such views.

Even apart from their national origins and cultural and religious make up, it might be appropriate to consider Celtic supporters as constituting an ethnic bloc considering their largely similar views on a range of pertinent political, social, cultural and religious views. This ‘culture of Celtic’ brings together many different people who share in the Irish and working class nature of the club and its traditions.

Contemporary Considerations

republicans-for-indyScotland, particularly Glasgow and the West of Scotland, which is the primary focus of this presentation, has underwent fundamental political, social, cultural and generational change over the past 12 months. Constituencies where the vote for the Labour Party could have been weighed rather than counted have fallen to a re-invigorated Scottish National Party (SNP), which was decisively defeated by a margin of 55 per cent to 45 percent in the Scottish Independence Referendum last year. However, in that vote in September, many of the strongholds of the Labour Party, where the ‘hard core’ Irish descended Catholic, Celtic supporting vote decisively opted for the Independence option, was followed in May by every single Labour Party seat in Glasgow and the West of Scotland being wiped off the face of the political map in the biggest transformation in Scottish politics in decades. This transformation is also fully reflected throughout ‘Celtic/Irish in Scotland’ cyberspace in a huge shift away from the Labour Party and a huge shift towards the SNP and Scottish independence (this despite many of those who opted for the independence option and the SNP vehemently denying that they are nationalists). I spoke to a Scottish Catholic educationalist about this, a man who holds a senior position within one of the biggest Catholic high schools in Glasgow. He claimed – rather vigorously, it must be said – that he no longer supported Celtic and that the Celtic support, particularly the younger element organised around the Green Brigade and other left wing elements of the support, had been ‘indoctrinated by university educated 40 and 50 year old Trotskyist entryists’ who were writing Green Brigade and other ‘Ultra’ Celtic supporters groups statements for them and who were hell bent on destroying the Celtic fan base in the same way that the Militant Tendency had attempted to take over the Labour Party in the early 1980’s. He also claimed that 30 and 40 year old drug taking, alcohol swigging, working class and unemployed ‘don’t give a fuck’ especially male, ‘rebel inclined’ and ‘cultural Catholics’ were the backbone of the SNP vote. It was one of the most disparaging and patronising attacks on working class Catholics that I have ever been exposed to. In reply I expressed the view that I felt his analysis of the Scottish-Irish working class was grossly simplistic and that there was no labelling of an entire working class community in such a manner when they were still supporting the Scottish Labour Party. I said we would need to agree to differ and offered my hand in friendship which was refused because, “You said my analysis was simplistic.”  The conversation was left there.

Conclusion:

The core Celtic support has an attachment to the club that has political, cultural, ethnic and religious dimensions. In a popular study of the Irish in Scotland in 2003 Burrowes describes what Celtic means to tens of thousands of people and provides a perceptive insight into the culture and ethos of the community that has built and sustained Celtic:

Celtic FC is their greatest triumph and is about showing what a deprived and impoverished community in a new country could, with determination accomplish..

Celtic is a special football club and their supporters constitute a unique, atypical and relatively cohesive component of West of Scotland society. The club is the sporting champion of the Scottish-born Irish descended working class. Since its formation in 1887/1888, Celtic has functioned as repository of cultural, political and ethnic identity for the Irish in Scotland.

NoSheepAtHampden

Of myths and legends…

BurnsMcCann

This is one of the photos currently doing the rounds, which purports to show two ‘Celtic legends’. Tommy Burns was certainly a club legend, but can Fergus McCann really be described in such terms?

20 years on and there’s a load of hogwash being written and uttered about the Scots-Canadian businessman who invested in Celtic and saw a return of £37 million on his initial outlay. He walked away from Celtic a considerably richer man than when he arrived. No shame in that, he put his money in and he wasn’t doing it for charitable reasons, despite the tripe that is being written on some blogs and websites.

McCann is probably the most right-wing, conservative, anti-republican person to ever have headed the Celtic Football Club. He hypocritically eschewed politics in the stands, but he joined and was chairman of his local Conservative Party branch while he lived in Glasgow. He lied to supporters groups during a period of sectarian and anti-Irish violence against our fans and he financed and supported those ‘anti-sectarian’ groups that are the most vociferous and critical of Celtic supporters and which, even today, seek to further criminalise our community.

If you want to find the link between what happened then and what is happening now with regard to the club’s anti-political stance, the Green Brigade and the criminalisation of Celtic supporters, look no further than Fergus McCann. He set in motion the corporate monster that is Celtic PLC today. I had no love for the old board, but I certainly do not regard McCann as a ‘hero’ or a ‘legend’. He was a businessman with an undoubted affection for the club, but who saw a healthy profit from his investment in Celtic.

In a world where profit for profit’s sake and the greed of bankers and the wealthy elite is celebrated, it is perhaps fitting that we are being duped into believing that this financier who now lives in a tax haven is some kind of club legend.

There is probably no better picture to illustrate the myth that has built around McCann, because Tommy Burns and Fergus McCann did not get on… not at all.  These were two very different ‘Celtic men’ with opposing views of the club’s history and future.