Friday, 24 April 2015

My blog on the SFA mess; What would a coward do?

That feeling in your gut that just won’t go away!

Let me make one thing clear here before we start. This isn’t about losing a game of football. When you support Celtic you take the good with the bad and defeat is all part of that. No, this is about interference in the proceedings which changed the very course of the game.

Let’s cut to the chase. In last week’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Inverness Caley Thistle, Meekings didn’t throw his hands up to balance himself. No, pictures & video footage clearly show his left hand glued to his side with his right arm and hand instinctively going up to block the ball. It’s an open and shut penalty with a red card-no doubt about it. All those with something to hide can procrastinate all they like with excuse after excuse, they’re only showing themselves up to be very silly people. The referee, as pictures show had a clear line of vision. He saw it and chose not to give it. His official chum Alan Muir behind the goal was actually on the pitch to get a better view.
We hear he said it hit Meekings on the face, yeah very good, if you didn’t see it how come you thought it hit his face when it clearly didn’t? If that was the case Meekings would have been laid out cold on the grass still counting his teeth!

The following and each day since, various flunkies have been rolled out in the media one after the other in an attempt to make light and find excuses for something there is no excuse for. All odious predictable lines in defence of McLean being thrust upon us, each one more sickeningly ridiculous than the one trotted out before it.  Celtic fans in turn inundated the club through various mediums urging them to take some kind of action, which they did. Doubt that would’ve happened had (once again) the support not pressured the club to do so! In fact the club sheepishly said in their statement that it was fan pressure that made them write to the SFA and they felt ‘duty bound’. It would’ve been encouraging had the club taken the initiative themselves. Then again we would’ve needed a pro-active PR department for that to happen.

How could six match officials miss such a glaring event? Are we really to believe that not one of the six saw it when fans 150 yards away witnessed it? Would a coward flag something up or look the other way? Would such people deserve our respect? Let’s be blunt, would they fuck!

This isn’t going away because that feeling you have in the pit of your stomach tells you something isn’t right here.  Fergus McCann smelt a rat when he knew Jorge Cadete was registered in time to play in the Scottish Cup semi final against Rangers in 1996 but the SFA said he wasn’t. Fergus pursued Jim Farry the SFA chief executive like a starving wolf for 3 years, eventually proving that the SFA deliberately withheld Cadete’s registration stopping him from playing in that cup semi that Celtic lost. Farry was bumped out his SFA executive post in shame.

That ousting and the proving of rank dishonesty at the highest level in Scottish football was massive, but you'll notice it's hardly ever brought up in media terms as an example of SFA wrong-doing! A bit embarrassing is it? What trust could we ever have in the SFA again? Then there was ‘Dougie Dougie’ lying at Tannadice in 2010 when Celtic were awarded a penalty only for referee Dougie McDonald to reverse the decision, but then found out to be lying in his official post-match report over the circumstances which led his penalty reversal. McDonald was removed and Celtic proved right once again. Therefore how can we trust any involvement in this SFA organisation? There have been many other unexplained baffling decisions involving Celtic over the years. Of course the ‘compliant’ media tells us to shut up, move on and stop being paranoid. Why would we show any respect to them?

As I write we are 5 days into our complaint with no explanation offered. That in itself is astonishing- but words of course can hang you! Deila and Celtic managers before him are reasonable men who just want to do their job under the demanding circumstances that go with the territory of being the Celtic boss because are our needs of success are almost instant. Yet, all of them are very much disturbed by certain unexplained absurd decisions against Celtic whilst managing the club.  

The fans started the initiative demanding the club represent their justified grievance and the club must see it through until we are given a proper & credible explanation to Sunday’s event. That’s if there is one to give. Meanwhile we’ll be watching events unravel and patiently waiting!        






Saturday, 24 May 2014

Lennon: Loving something too much!

Neil’s decision to leave Celtic is probably the most definitive decision he has ever made in his life. Tough as they come with much soul searching, but in the end the only decision because what he has been involved over the last four years has given him optimum joy with the best highs football could offer, but the job also left him with scar tissue that only his mind could sort out. Ultimately his head made his mind up.

Something that has hardly been mentioned over the last 3 days is Neil self admittance of depression he suffers from. Carrying the huge burden of always having to produce the expectations of what Celtic should be achieving long-term produces enormous pressure with this illness. I know well about this subject because it’s an illness that has been a bane of my life for the last 11 years when a personal happening laid me flat out, completely low, unable to operate at all in any sphere in my life. I’m sure the majority of us discover when in that hole - an inner strength appears just to get back to base-camp. If you are there just now then you can get out of it. Yes you can do it!

Unlike the vast majority of managers Neil in his emotional love of Celtic got involved in umpteen matters that other managers wouldn’t be interested in. From the Green Brigade issue, to interference in his work from those in Scottish politics (summits & new football legislation etc), to dealing with the latest off-the-park stuff involving Leigh Griffiths. Other managers can’t be bothered with all that-they just want to coach the team. To give an example, I don’t expect Henrik to be our next manager, but if he was he wouldn’t be interested in any of the above off-the-park stuff Neil got involved in. He’d body swerve it big time and answer, and answer only once, at any given press-conference “this has nothing to do with me, I manage the players, next question please”

Neil grew up with that ingredient we all have in our Celtic bloodline, the need and desire to defend everything that attacks Celtic or its attached best interests. That in my opinion wore Neil down. He couldn’t help himself because this Celtic thing that motivates all of us drove him on. In the end under this sustained involvement, as well as having to produce on the park under the PLC’s directive to qualify for the Champions League with 3 challenging ties very early on, informing him at the same time that every single player on his staff is for sale at the right price. That is also wearing and there is no doubt a feeling of being unappreciated in having to operate in the humdrum of this manner and constantly punching above his weight in Europe also took its toll.

The buying of players operated via the route of Neil identifying a list of player positions required. That list went to the football development manager and chief scout John Park (who until a new manager is appointed is currently in charge of the football department). John Park would scour the world looking mostly for good bargains, and why not. He would find out the length of the players contract, his assumed wage if he was to move to Celtic and then report back to Peter Lawwell with videos of the player etc. Neil would at this stage be introduced to the procedure and this is where it got complicated. Who had the final say? Neil was at times over-ruled and at other times not.

The problem you then have is, if players like Bangura or Balde for example are forced on you then you’re under pressure for them to produce in a system that Neil may not think they are good enough for. That being the case Neil simply used his managerial card and refused to play, not only the above two, but various others also during his time. Of course the upside to signing players the manager was advised on, but whom he had never seen in live action, is finding gems like Victor, Virgil, Emilio, Hooper and others to a slightly lesser extent.

The assaults, the bombs, the bullets, the attack on the pitch at Tynecastle, the taking of his child to primary school at the height of these horrible actions with a Celtic bodyguard, to the death threats sprayed on the street outside his home, to a largely unsympathetic Scottish media, all had an effect. At times immediate, but eventually wearing long-term all the same. Neil like any other human being has to wonder if this repetitive life of constant expectation of producing a Celtic side for European football under the ‘all players for sale system’ as well as the ‘off the park stuff’ was worthwhile for longer than 4 years. This has been in his mind for just under 2 years when his frustration was immense when he asked for £500,000 to buy a central defender to initially get past HJK Helsinki then Helsingborgs  in qualifying for CL group stages, only to be told, qualify first then we’ll see.

Discussions at the early part of the week just gone weren’t encouraging and serious soul searching kicked in. On Wednesday jostling over what was happening with Neil’s Celtic future made both his and the clubs position nerve jangling, as the club eventually realised managerial upheaval was about to happen. Confirmation of Neil’s decision to go was leaked (Keith Jackson in the Daily Record being the recipient of such knowledge) with Martin Reilly (Neil’s agent) shortly afterwards confirming this. In the next 5 hours Celtic and Reilly negotiated a financial deal with silence clauses inserted, with Reilly having a say in what Celtic’s official club statement would eventually read.

Neil operated on a one year rolling contract, which in general terms means that if another club had come in for Neil then they’d have to pay his wage of one year to Celtic as way of compensation. If Celtic were to sack him then the club would have to pay Neil a year’s wages. And if Neil was to walk out then the club would owe him nothing. And depending on the fine detail of his contract, there could have been a possibility that if Neil broke the above agreement unannounced then he could have breached his arrangement. That seems very unlikely in this case. The fact that during those 5 hours on Thursday Celtic negotiated a pay-off for Neil in effect means his parting was by ‘mutual consent’. Thursday moved faster than Celtic expected and Neil finally shook off that verbal line to his confidants over the last 2 years that “Celtic is a big club to leave”.

Indeed they are, and it goes to show loving something too much can actually drive you away from it. That in many ways is a sad reality.

Neil Lennon has done his managerial shift at Celtic and he was compromised a great deal over his four years. One main reason being, Celtic took the chance on the rookie Lennon and he was constantly reminded of that, with powers a non-rookie manger wouldn’t accept being dissolved. With all that said he couldn’t knock back the call. Who could?

The difficulty for Neil though was that the 'dissolved powers' he accepted when he took the position as 'rookie manager' was that the club never grew with him in terms of allowing him more leeway over his 4 years as he grew in stature as he gained more experience as manager. Conditions he accepted 4 years ago and not changing as time went on could only lead to a general demoralising mind-set. Cast your mind back to his 'Thunder' speech on the turf a few years back, full of vigour, emotion and desire, to his very quick and flat speech on the pitch on the last day this season. His body language apart from his lack of encouraging words said it all. 

The number two and now the number one at Celtic have left citing the same thing. "Time to move on and search for new challenges". Replaying that again, we have two people walking out of a club like Celtic with no other job to go to, who have constantly said how wonderful it is to be working at Celtic FC. These were two positions of power! Sorry, but all the sugar coated official statements and carefully set-up choreographed interviews with two Scottish tabloids the Celtic fans cant stand do not portray the true picture. 

Therefore, looking towards our next manager, I pose this straightforward question. Will anyone with great experience (non rookie) accept the buying and selling conditions that never changed for Neil over his four years? Would the likes of Moyes or Mackay accept that? I'd doubt it.
Neil supported the club, he wore the jersey. He captained the team and managed the club. What a legacy. What a man, and easily a club Legend. Pastures new and good luck to wherever Neil decides to leave his hat. His heart though remains with Celtic!   



Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Barca, Brown ,Neymar and all that.....

Barca, Brown ,Neymar and all that.....

Beating Barcelona twice in 11 months would be some achievement, particularly from a team whose spine was dismantled in the summer then replaced with lesser quality (apart from Virgil for Wilson, the only new face to start last night), yes it would have been quite a feat, same with a draw considering our player capacity compared to Barca’s.

What Lennon has achieved on the Champions League stage is a style of play keeping Celtic in the game when class acts are running about with the ball enjoying 75% of possession. Last night I thought every Celtic player stuck to their task and gave it their all, (red card apart, Brown played well) we’d be living in false dream expectation land if we thought we’d be expected to beat Barca each time at Celtic Park, therefore with what we had I wouldn’t expect more than what they players ultimately gave.

Yes we missed chances, as did the multi-zillion pound players from Catalan, that’s the way it goes and there’s no point crying over spilt milk. Excuses at missed good opportunities and ‘might have beens’ are futile, Milan was the same.

The talking point of the night was Scott Brown’s red card. Would we have remained unbeaten at home from Barca within 11 months? Who knows, possibly, then again! Scott Brown has matured as a player BUT he is not engaging brain at this level of football, particularly with referees warned by UEFA to make sure no fly kick-outs go unnoticed! Yes I had to go home and watch it on TV to make a proper judgement and you’ll notice the ref has a great view of it all. Being Celtic captain is a great honour as is the opportunity to wear the jersey. It was mindless to aim a fly kick at Neymar after fouling him and if Celtic are thinking of appealing this then please forget it, it would be embarrassing. Get real here, aiming a kick is a red card offence, no matter how soft anyone thinks it was.

For Neymar’s part his reaction was farcical, ridiculous & theatrical, but he used his savvy, cheating, cleverness, call it what you like to get Brown sent off. The Brazilian has a crime sheet as long as your arm for over-cooking it and when you prepare for a game involving him then surely you study that and take it into account. Pele recently offered advice to Naymar saying “Even when he is fouled he can make a spectacle out of it” Footballers like Neymar can have all the skill in the world but when you’ve ‘nae class’ then fans world-wide wont respect you.

Scott made it easy for the ref to make the decision and if in the cold light of day he doesn’t understand that and the management don’t take him aside then that’s even worse. Gavin Gunning did the exact same thing in Virgil Van Dijk’s direction at Tannadice recently and none of us complained at action being taken against him. We can’t have it both ways!

Neil defended him, but again in the cold light of day, Neil cannot continue to ignore his captain’s unnecessary involvement, there are plenty of examples, recently with Balotelli in Milan giving away the free kick for their first goal or Scott’s involvement last night. Brain over brawn always wins the day. Time Scott got clued up!       




Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Issue (140) of the 40 page Alternative View magazine is out now.

Issue (140) of the 40 page Alternative View magazine is out now. On sale in the shops, available at home games and on subscription via PayPal (next day delivery) or by cheque or postal order.

The magazine is packed with-up-to-date stories, articles, columns, fans Q&A & our usual sprinkling of, okay large doses then, of irreverent humour.

Eddy Tor kicks it off with a 4 page editorial on players’ attitude & mentality in SPL games. Deals & reductions Celtic have to offer fans next season. The reality we face regarding players who’ve made it pretty clear they see this season as they’re last at Celtic. Other players who should move on & Neil Lennon’s frustration at under-par performances! Plus it would be very wrong for the Celtic board to take Lennon for granted regarding his own contract at Celtic as well as offering a reasonable budget to work with to improve his squad.

Liam Alane has written an excellent 4 page piece with extensive pictures on what went on in the Gallowgate via an eye witness on Saturday March 16th and how the attitude of the police was well over-the-top in comparison to another ‘not asked for permission march’ in Glasgow on the same day.

Bryan McManus offers a well written 2 page article as to why as Celtic move successfully forward, the various elements in the press, media & radio phone-in broadcasts continue to peddle negativity.

News n Views stories are various covering (1) Terry Butcher’s window smashing act & how Lennon would have been treated in comparison. (2) Whether or not SKY TV really need the SPL at all. (3) The truth is at last outed in Celtic offering Owen Coyle the Celtic job, which they told us was NOT the case, prior to Mowbray’s appointment. (4) Why Neil Lennon is having to do the Club’s PR job for them instead of the PR man. (5) And why our youth team with Champions League matches on the horizon each year offers us no time to enter a Colts league. Eh that last bit was sarcasm.....

Columnist Colm Currie offers his thoughts on Celtic’s ever changing form with an excellent 2 page article.

Phil Mac Giolla Bhain looks forward with an insightful 3 page article and where the squad have to be for Celtic’s next big date. Which is this coming July when we kick-off in the first of hopefully 3 tie qualifying ties towards the Champions League group stages.                

Marcas O’Greachian our resident Dublin wordsmith offers a hard-hitting 2 page article looking at Davie Provan’s view & attitude to him having Rangers back in the SPL at any cost & why Provan isn’t interested in ‘sporting integrity’ regarding them.  

Stevie Meighan was our man in Turin and over 3 pages he explains his humorous journey, missing his plane then getting a cheap job at Prestwick Airport, mixing with the Turin locals, and why on his European travels entering the Juve stadium really was an accident waiting to happen for Celts fans.

Following on from the excellent ‘Paddy Ashes’ in our previous issues Tirnaog once again offers an excellent 4 page piece titled ‘The Celtic Spirit’. You’ll easily find yourself and your family in there.

Our fans Question & Answer section ‘Shooting from the Lip’ this month features Celts fan and tireless worker for the WeeOscar4life campaign Andy Fisher. Like his good work in the campaign he doesn’t let down here either in a interesting straightforward look at all things concerning Celts fans.

Plus we have a nice wee advert from a pub in Benidorm where if Celts score in the first 6 minutes you are guaranteed a free bottle of beer. Free half-time pies also on the menu.

Alternative View is available via PayPal. £18 for 6 months subscription, or 12 for months £33 in the UK. Price includes all postage & packing. Ireland & Europe is £25 for 6 months. Australia, USA & Canada is £33 for 6 months. Alternative View subscriptions are also available by cheque or postal order to Alternative View, Box 491, 103 Byres Road, Glasgow. G11 5HW  

 For next day delivery via PayPay please visit your PP account then go     


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Celtic’s Champions League exit: We have to know where we came from to realise where we are!

Our disappointment exiting the Champions League last night was softened by what happened at Celtic Park three weeks ago. Of course in the true Celtic mind and spirit, many of us trotted down to the bookies yesterday to take advantage of some ridiculous bets on offer. Why, well because that’s what we do when living with eternal hope. Me, well I had Celtic to win 2-1 (25/1), 3-1 (100/1) and 4-1 (125/1) okay £6 exited my pocket so I’m back to the Lidl brand of Rice Krispies!

Just to get to the level of the last 16 in the Champions League can take decades of years when building a team more or less from scratch, indeed a last 16 that Manchester City have never dipped their feet into with their gazillions of wealth! There is not a British team left in after ourselves, Chelsea the holders didn’t even make to where we were, and have a glance at Liverpool failing in the Europa Cup.

All clubs mentioned above have swathes of wealth. We operate on pocket money compared to them. Its right at this point where we have to be realistic at where our expectations begin to compete at this level of Champions League football!

Neil Lennon moved in after Tony Mowbray, dismantled his team with haste, did well enough in the Europa Cup last year, has now just to be confirmed as lifting his 2nd SPL title and has taken us to where we are today on the CL stage. That’s a good place to be. That’s also an excellent place to be when re-building for the next round of Champions League qualifiers beginning on July 16/17.

Yes Victor and Gary have no wish to sign longer improved contracts at the Club. Fine. They’ve been great for us and we deserve to take that extra profit on them - because as much as their own dedication has brought them to a different level, so has the coaching and the CL stage Celtic have provided for them along with the opportunity to mature at a big Club. Let’s be clear here, it’s the SPL they’re wishing to leave. Leaving Celtic is part of that. If Celtic were in the English Premiership they’d be fine staying with Celtic.

Celtic’s recent model of scouring the world for relatively unknown players has been a tremendous success. John Park is the man who heads up that system, and although there have been a few disappointments, the success have easily outweighed the ordinary.

What now for Neil Lennon? The last thing anyone should think, even attempt to do with Neil is to take him for granted. Lennon is Celtic through and through and also gets involved in other Celtic matters off the park that other managers aren’t interested in. He doesn’t do the “We’ll take it on the chin and move on” chat. No, if it matters to Celtic’s welfare, even although it’s outside his remit of being a manager, his Celtic spirit takes over and involved he gets. Doing that brings you extra grief, as does this country’s incessant want to pillory him. That takes its toll and it’s not natural for anyone to be constantly in an ‘under attack’ situation. Although he does handle it remarkably well.

What I think would upset Neil the most is not being backed with his team building plan and the type of player he wishes to bring in to improve and strengthen the squad. That would be paramount to his thinking, because believe it or not, banging your head off a brick wall is not what any manager wishes to do on a regular basis. In saying that Neil is a very clever guy and he realises the financial parameters that Celtic work within. Gone are the days of £6m signings of Sutton, Hartson & Lennon himself.

I’m not despondent in anyway. We’ve punched above our weight at CL level and it’s been an exciting journey of discovery. If the Club are completely in tune with Neil’s ambitions for Celtic then we have plenty to look forward to and more!     



Monday, 4 March 2013

Fergus flying the Atlantic 19 years ago today with the final piece of the jigsaw!

Discontent amongst Celtic fans was rife and it was getting worse in the early 90s when disgruntled fans were losing all faith in the Celtic Board. No investment, a very poor squad and a crumbling ground with debt getting out of control with the Celtic board at the time not wishing to pay it off. Fans were having meetings, the Shettleson Town Hall being an early venue with ‘Save our Celts’ rallying support. Unfortunately they disbanded, the work required to see this through was unknown, but it was going to have a big effect on peoples’ lives.

There are a thousand stories of grief, laughter, tears, immense commitment, disappointment, arguments, losing hope, constant re-building of motivation, but above all a belief/faith in this ‘Celts for Change’ campaign from people I hadn’t previously encountered before. To this day 19 years on I don’t know where that energy & drive came from. Well, I’m a believer, so maybe we were guided a bit from above?

 I’ll take a hop-skip and jump through events leading to today March 4th 19 years ago. November 1993 I placed an ad in the paper. It said “If you care about your Club turn up at the City Halls in Glasgow” on a date about 3 days later.

About 30 people turned up. ‘Celts for Change’ was born. Another advert was placed for December 2nd and the same 50 capacity hall was booked. In between Brendan Sweeney, Davie Cunningham & John Thompson made CFC the initial gang of 4. These were pre-internet days everything was done with leaflets and word of mouth. 500 people were queued up around Candleriggs and onto Argyle Street. My heart was in my mouth and I was cacking it big time.

The concierge quickly arranged a bigger hall for 450 with fans packed in. The energy in the room was dynamic. We had a huge banner which said ‘Back the team, sack the board’. Street campaigning, rallies, leafleting, demonstrations, meetings, more meetings, more of all the above went on spinning on a constant wheel of Celtic emotion.

Moving on-a meeting of around 1,000 fans was held in the Govan Town Hall at the end of 1993, it was partly televised, it was electric, debates from the table to the floor were constant. We were all trying to find a common ground and was heated. Colin Duncan attended all the meetings and sat at the front with his son. The 4 man CFC committee were at breaking point and all under pressure from our families reminding us that they existed also. I asked him aboard to help. Then there were 5.

The leaders of the Celtic Supporters Association of that time 93/94 were totally opposed to us, as were the Affiliation of Celtic Supporters. Both organisations backed the old board to the hilt, comfy seats and all and despite our meetings with their leadership as we went about explaining the critical state of the Club. It all fell on deaf ears. I’ve mentioned ‘leaders’ twice in the above regarding both organisations, because fans from within the above groups started to challenge their leadership to back us. Stand up the Kirkshaw Kangaroos CSC from Coatbridge, they ferociously challenged the Celtic Supporters Association to back us. Official backing never ever came but it did from individual supporters clubs within the CSA overall.     

We visited Dundalk in January 1994 in between constant meetings and rallies around Scotland. We needed their backing. The 5 of us were wilting a bit organising everything, we needed a jag of support. We put our points forward to the delegates from 52 member clubs of the Association of Irish Celtic Supporters groups who had travelled from all over Ireland to the town’s Imperial Hotel. All of us spoke, the bhoys had found their finest hour, and from nothing we were becoming public speakers, albeit the basic type. They were magnificent Davie, Brendan & Colin. John hadn’t made this trip. We got the backing of all 52 member clubs and we were filled with adrenaline to carry the fight on. The Irish Celts had given us the encouragement when we needed it most.

A particular demonstration was held outside the Bank of Scotland Head office on George Square (now the site of the Counting House pub) with about 350 waving banners outside saying ‘Bank of Scotland, stop backing a bankrupt board’. The police were all over the place. Davie & I went into the bank and brazenly asked for the manager. ‘He’s not in said the girl’. Hmmm we replied ‘We think he may be, if we can’t see him the 350 outside will come into the bank and open an account for a £1 then all come back in and close it down’. Banks don’t like chaos. She looked at Davie & I as if we were escapees from the local asylum. Minutes later we were sitting having tea and a custard cream with the second highest guy in the Bank of Scotland.

He listened intently to our case and we were at least pleased with that. Taking another hop, skip and jump we finally convinced the fans to bhoycott the Kilmarnock home game on Tuesday March 1st 1994. To get to this stage took one helluva effort from the guys. We were all just surviving on adrenaline with our tanks about empty. Moments of laughter were few and far between but at least we were together and from that comes a strength. When their heads were down I tried to lift them. When mine’s was down they did the same.

This Bhoycott had to work. At this critical point we needed victory for all the effort the bhoys had put in. Everyone had a family hanging on in there with us along with thousands of Celts fans who had magnificently stuck with us.

Hugh Pym was the ITN correspondant who covered it (he’s now on the BBC news nightly and a top guy). We called him ‘Pym the Tim’ and he chuckled at it. He was young. One day he said to me “Matt, who handles all your PR? It’s absolutely brilliant”. We were all standing together and we just burst out laughing at the same time. “We do it ourselves big man, the 5 of us” A wee golden moment during a tense time.

Through bucket collections the fans had chipped in, we paid for banners, placards, posters, the hire of halls etc and we just about had enough left to hire a company called ‘Scotsearch’ a market research company. None of us at any point ever had a problem with the fans who went to the game that night. It was their Club and their choice. We pleaded and never demanded. We asked for one game of pain for a world of gain.

Scotsearch had 25 people covering the gates. 8,225 fans attended the game. 1,905 were in the away part of the ground. That meant 6,320 attended the game.

That season Celtic had around 7,000 season ticket holders. Therefore how many people had actually paid into that game?

The Bank of Scotland took notice and ordered the board in & told them £1m had to be paid into Celtic’s account by March 4th by noon. Chris White, Michael Kelly & David Smith weren’t up for doing that and all three ran for the hills taking what they could from a dying Celtic. I don’t do hate, but for the critical precipice they took Celtic to for their own self-gain, they’ll remain unforgiven!  

Jimmy Farrell, Tom Grant, Kevin Kelly & Jack McGinn stayed in various small background roles for small periods, and although they had been part of the old set-up at least they never pillaged on the way out and kept their shares in the new set-up for a while at least. With another hop, skip & jump it then moved to Fergus who flew across the Atlantic overnight from Scotsdale, Arizona to Glasgow via London between March 3rd & 4th.
Make no mistake about it, the bank wanted £1m by noon today 19 years ago and a further £3.5m by the following Tuesday.

Fergus and David Low actually ran down St Vincent’s street from the Clydesdale Bank with money transfer paperwork (pre-internet days) to the Bank of Scotland in 110 St Vincent St at 11.52 with 8 minutes to spare.
We had previously booked the City Halls on Monday March 7th for another rally but turned it into a victory rally instead. It held 2,500 but easily had 3,000 crammed in with several hundred outside. We had outstanding bills for hall hiring, £500 a pop, posters, banners etc and appealed for a bucket collection. We were about £750 short and Michael McDonald who along with Willie Haughey & Gerald Weisfeld were also interested in taking the Club over but had lost out to Fergus, heard about our shortfall. Michael stepped forward & wrote a cheque to the bank to save the CFC committee from owing the bank at the end of the campaign. That was class.   

There are thousands of trial & tribulations stories during the ‘Celts for Change’ campaign of 1993/94 and the above is at least a flavour of the journey.

‘The game is over the Rebels have won’, rang out from the steps of Celtic Park about 10.30 on that night of March 4th 1994.
Davie Cunningham, Brendan Sweeney, Colin Duncan & John Thompson all played a magnificent role in ‘Celts for Change’ and without them it just wouldn’t have been possible. From the five of us two relationships hit the skids both heavily linked to the CFC campaign efforts. Three sons have also been brought into the world via those new relationships who wouldn’t have been here today.

Finally, Brendan Sweeney said to me at the end of the campaign “All we need from this campaign is our memories together, when we’re all sitting about when old men thinking about it all” Never a truer word! Hail Hail.  

* Via Twitter today there have been many nice messages posted to my page for all the ‘Celts for Change’ bhoys. They are all very much appreciated and will be passed on. Thank you.   

Friday, 1 March 2013

David Murray’s EBT wide boys & the bungling incompetent SFA!

Thursday was one of those days when you get off to a bad start early on - and the rest of the day generally doesn't get much better, and it didn’t. One of my three sons is up from London and we’re both having a day mountaineering in the Cairngorms. At Queen Street Station I’m trying to buy one of those ‘Grab a bag’ crisps at WH Smith. There is no assistant in sight and I’m faced with one of these robotic check-out machines, can it weigh a 50 gram pack of crisps? No it can’t and the robot tells me to find an assistant.
As I turn around to look for a human - standing there right behind me is the former Conservative Party leader Annabel Goldie, she has the same problem (amongst many others). Over comes a sleepy looking guy and he sorts her out first. Beaten by a Tory wow that was a bad start for me! My train is 11 mins late in leaving and I’ve an 8 min changeover to make at Perth. My education at Lourdes Sen Sec in Glasgow tells me I’m 3 minutes out & I’ll never catch it and will have to wait in Perth for not far off another 2 hours. No I’m not having that!

20 minutes from Perth I ask the Scotrail guy, “I’m catching a connection at Perth to Aviemore, do you think the connecting train will wait a few minutes?” In his finest gruffness he says “Trains don’t wait for people mate”. Okay, I can see I’m dealing with eloquence here and I have to turn up the volume. “Its Scotrail’s fault I’m in this position, therefore can you not radio ahead and ask them to wait for their customers coming off this train”        

He looks like he doesn’t like my question, and my look tells him I have no wish to hang around a frozen Perth station for ages. He does his job and we make it on the connecting train. Result yes. My only one of the day (I even took time to help an aging Canadian lady from Toronto en-route to Inverness with her case. For fox sake I’m asking, how about a bit of karma coming my way now?) I look into Twitter and I notice Chris McLaughlin from the BBC is tweeting that there will be no ‘stripping of titles’ from what was RFC. I’m seriously trying to lift myself after that when I get two tweets within seconds. One from a Rangers fan who says“He hopes I disappear up that mountain” along with a few other scorns on my character. Good wishes ranged from “Don’t jump off when you hear the news Matt” and also from a buddy @mijass in Edinburgh saying “Have a nice day with your lad, you’ll be glad you’re out of it today (Lord Nimmo Smith’s report), but it will be waiting for you when your back)” The weather was poor in the Cairngorms and our trip wasn’t safe to proceed with after 2 hours, so down we came and to one local pub hosted by a few Celts barmen to the good. Therefore here I was in the Cairngorms to give my head a good hoovering in some alpine air with my son I haven’t seen for 6 months and all I’m left with is this Nimmo Smith’s report. 

Therefore down to business and time to go through Lord Nimmo Smith and his two QC’s, Charles Flint & Nicholas Stewart findings. One thing was for sure, these guys will go by every inch of the law, which always comes before the incompetence of others, in this case the Scottish Football Association. Out of their depth is too mild a phrase to use for this organisation. I’ll cut to the chase on the important mechanics of this because it’s the fine detail that undoubtedly matters.

The Commission stated “Rangers FC did not gain any unfair competitive advantage from the contraventions of the SPL rules in failing to make proper disclosure of the side letter arrangements, nor did the non-disclosure have the effect that any of the registered players were ineligible to play and, for this and other reasons, no sporting sanction or penalty should be imposed on Rangers FC”

Okay, so in the above it’s crystal clear. RFC ARE GUILTY OF CONTRAVENING THE SPL RULES.

The commission added “We take the view that the nondisclosure must be regarded as deliberate, in the sense that a decision was taken that the side letters need not be or should not be disclosed. No steps were taken to check, even on a hypothetical basis, the validity of that assumption with the SPL or the SFA.”      

The above paragraph is very important, because what it tells you is that RFC majorly ‘chanced their arm’ here and the SFA in their best Dumb & Dumber act didn’t have a structure in place to insert the word ‘loans’ into their rules. Even although there was a rule about side letters in contracts. The biggest dumb act of the SFA, aided and abetted by the SPL under various chiefs was that RFC did disclose the EBT’s in their annual accounts via their board, a board to which Campbell Ogilvie was a member of, and who approved these statuary accounts. Even although he said these EBT’s were not within the scope of his remit at Rangers. The SFA are where the player registrations are stored after being sent from the SPL. Yet they did not even notice these EBT’s in their accounts throughout all these years. Very peculiar!

The reason RFC got away with this ‘chancing their arms on loans’ is because neither of the above governing body picked it up. And by the time it was brought to their notice - all the prime witness in this investigation Sandy Bryson, the SFA’s Head of Registrations, could say when under questioning, “Was that a player, once registered with the ruling body, remained registered with them until such time as his contract ended or that player left their club’s employment.”

Therefore, even though the absolute details of his contract had been deliberately kept from the SPL, and at the point of registration at the SFA, and or any other breach that had occurred, that registration, once accepted, would stand. Its clear here that the SFA by sheer incompetence screwed up. Nimmo Smith after being in knowledge of that evidence knew fine that if the SFA hadn’t done their work properly then how could he judge against what they themselves had set-up!    

The independent commission therefore went by that slackness, loophole if you want, via the SFA registrations procedure. It was almost as if Nimmo Smith & the 2 QC’s were saying ‘If you guys are too thick to make rules correctly then what do you really expect us to do, they’re your rules!’      

For Rangers part in all this they operated a secret £47m fund that nobody knew about. Yet one look at their accounts showed it there. They were fly and devious and not once did they attempt to ever ask for legal advice on it. They knew the SPL/SFA weren’t the brightest tools in the box and despite what way Nimmo Smith and his two QC’s viewed it or interpreted it, RFC in my and many peoples’ opinion, did gain ‘competitive advantage’ with these loans. They attracted players to Ibrox over the years because of that very fact, players who would never have went near them.

Since the findings, the triumphalism from Ibrox has been sickening. As is the same line from their ex-players. As is their selection box of gimps in the media.
RFC were found guilty on three counts. That’s the verdict and they are as guilty as hell on sporting integrity. Integrity, now there’s a word which they’re finding real difficulty in spelling