The Law in the Jungle

 

The fans in the standing area of Celtic Park have made it their mission to recreate the spirit of the Jungle, a section of terracing that became home to the noisiest, most fanatical and most passionate of our supporters. Most older Celtic fans will have vivid memories of bouncing up and down and singing in the Jungle. It was a part of the stadium that gave birth to legendary characters and stories, many of which were recorded by the late John Quinn in his book ‘Jungle Tales’ (Mainstream Publishing 1998). This one features an unusual protagonist sharing his memories of the night we won the league in 1979.

One of the perks of being a Polis in Glasgow is getting the chance of working overtime at football matches and, with a bit of luck, you might find yourself getting paid for watching your favourite team. That happened to me on very many occasions, but one of the most memorable was the Celtic v Rangers match at the end of season 1978-79. It was manager Billy McNeill’s first season in charge and at the end of a dramatic campaign Celtic found themselves needing two points to win the league in our final fixture. Rangers were also very much in the hunt and realistically only needed a point to clinch the title.

At that time I worked in the north of the city and a few days before the big decider my sergeant, who was a big Bluenose, told me, “You’ve won a watch wee man – you’re working at the game. Now, do you want the bad news? So am I, and I’m going to enjoy watching your team getting stuffed!”

The cop I worked with was also a Celtic fan and was told that he, too, was working at the match, although the chance of us working together was remote to say the least, if not downright impossible.

On the evening of the game the atmosphere in the city was electric, much more so than I had even experienced. There had been a build-up of tension for several days as the whole season hinged on this one result for both teams.

Anyway, when I arrived at Celtic Park I was told right away where I was working that night and I couldn’t believe it. My pal and I were paired together… and we were assigned to the North Enclosure – the Jungle. It was unbelievable, incredible, fantastic – for this was a night we prayed would be one to remember.

As we stood there keeping an eye on the crowds arriving and listening to the songs and the patter of the fans in the Jungle the excitement was growing by the minute. We could sense that this was going to be an extra-special occasion. Suddenly, I was aware of a presence behind me. It was our sergeant.

He resembled the Honey Monster from the TV adverts dressed in a Polis uniform – all six feet six inches of him. “Right you two, nae jumpin’ up and doon’ when the Gers score!” he joked. At least I thought it was a joke. If it was a joke it was his first. He had a strange sort of face. He was huge and his coupon was in proportion to his size but he wore a permanent frown like an undertaker and only his lower chin move up and down. He reminded me of a lugubriously over-sized version of Captain Pugwash.

It wasn’t long before the streetwise characters in the Jungle realised that my pal and me were Celtic fans. Perhaps it was our angelic smiles, or maybe that we were joining in with the singing – miming, of course!

Tomorrow we might have to give them the jail but that night an amnesty was in place.

The first half was a disaster and is better left at that. But soon the second period was underway and Rangers were a goal ahead. Worse still, that evergreen Celt, the late Johnny Doyle, had been sent off. The ten men buckled down, though, and fought back quickly, stepping up a gear. Roy Aitken equalised and shortly afterwards George McCluskey scored to put Celtic ahead 2-1. The excitement in the crowd was fantastic, one of the best atmospheres I ever experienced at a football game.

I suppose it was round about then that we were noticed, my mate and I. Let’s face it, the punters in the Jungle didn’t often get the chance to throw two Polis up in the air. But this was different, especially when they knew that the polis they were throwing about were just as ecstatic as they were about the score at the time. Once we managed to get our hats back from a wee wumman – she wanted to keep them at first on the grounds that if she hung them in her close it would keep the neds away – we were told by one of the jungle fans that our sergeant was trying to attract our attention.

There he was, out there on the track, pointing at us like Kitchener on those First World War posters. We were beckoned over to see him. As we went, hundreds of fans in the Jungle started singing, “Sergeant, sergeant, leave them alone!” This just made the big Bluenose even worse. He was seething by now. There were Celtic fans shouting encouragement to us: “Best of luck! Tell that big bastard where tae go! See ye at the next gemme!”

As we stood there in front of him like guilty men awaiting their verdict, we were given a lecture about letting the good name of the force down etc.

Then he delivered his judgement: “Make your way down to the junction of London Road and Springfield Road. Points duty.”

We were shattered. Right in the middle of the most important game for ages. As we trudged away he shouted after us, “I’ll see you both in the morning.” It sounded ominous.

Anyway, we took the long way round the track, hoping to savour the atmosphere a wee bit longer. Tomorrow was another day. Right now Celtic were winning a league decider against Rangers and we wanted to make the most of it. Besides, there were no motors about – everybody in the east end was at the game, or so it felt at the time.

As we approached the dugouts I glanced in at the Celtic backroom staff. Huge smiles were on every face, although it was still possible to feel the tension.

Then it all changed in a flash. In the few short strides it took us to pass the dugouts Bobby Russell made it 2-2 and all to play for again. It was going to be one of those nights.

We walked out of the stadium and into the car park. It was like night and day: bedlam inside and quiet outside. “Points duty at London Road and Springfield Road,” groaned my mate. “I cannae believe he’d dae this tae us.” But the big sergeant could, and he had, and we were out – away from the big game at a crucial time. It was desperate.

What we had suspected was true. London Road junction was like Aberdeen on a flag day. Dead. As we stood there having a post-mortem on the night’s events and wondering what awaited us in the morning an almighty roar ascended into the night sky above Celtic Park. It meant only one thing – somebody had scored. But who, how and for which team? Even the songs that filled the air minutes later failed to determine the answers for us, for it was just an ear-bending incoherent babble.

Just then a Rangers supporter came running along London road heading away from the park.

“Who scored?” I enquired, trying to keep the tone of my voice as impartial as possible, which was not easy under the circumstances I can assure you. “Jackson,” he replied. “Colin Jackson…”

My mate and I just looked at each other. I swear we could both see each other’s blood draining away. All this, and points duty, and having to face that big sergeant in the morning, to say nothing of the abuse we would take from our other colleagues. When will this pain end, I thought.

But the Rangers punter hadn’t finished. Still running, obviously trying to get as far away from Celtic Park as quickly as possible, he shouted over his shoulder, “… Aye, f’in Jackson. An own goal the big stupit bastard!”

My mate and I went daft. Like wee boys we celebrated by jumping up and down, hugging each other in the middle of the road – empty, thank God, although at that point we weren’t caring. If our sergeant had seen us then it would have been the salt mines of Siberia we would have faced, not London Road.

It was still not over, however, and minutes later another roar blasted the night air. But this time we soon knew what had happened as a tidal wave of Rangers supporters poured out of the stadium. The streets were flooded with blue and white scarves and the tears of the fans. They were inconsolable. A point would have done them and made them champions. But the unthinkable had happened and they had lost. This time it took a wee bit longer to find out who the late goal hero was as no one in blue thought to volunteer the information to two beat cops on points duty. We later discovered it was Murdo MacLeod whose late strike had made victory – and the championship – certain.

It was another hour before we were told we could go home. As we both stood in the Gallowgate waiting for a bus a supporters’ bus pulled up alongside. A happy Celtic fan leaned out and said, “Where to boys?” Incredible as it may seem, from that crowd of 52,000 it was one of the lads from the Jungle who had been throwing us up in the air a few hours earlier. The bus sang its way through the east end before they dropped us off, hurrying home to see the highlights on television.

Unfortunately there had been some kind of industrial action at the studios and we never saw the goals until much later courtesy of Celtic Films. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise as viewers might have seen more than the goals. The Chief Constable, or my mother – I don’t know which of them I feared most back then – might have spotted me and my pal being thrown up in the air in the Jungle followed by the Polis equivalent of the red card.

What a night!

Name and rank withheld (in case we are up for promotion – somehow I doubt it)

 

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They Gave Us James McGrory and Paul McStay

There are those who will try and tell you that Paul McStay was never the player the press made him out to be, that he never fulfilled his potential and that he was the best of a mediocre lot. The same people will also tell you that Kenny Dalglish was rotten for Scotland etc. etc. etc.

It seems that whenever a talent of any kind emerges in this country the first reaction is to praise it and the next to try and show how clever you really are by picking fault with it. Australians call it the Tall Poppy Syndrome – build ‘em up so you can chop ‘em down.
While the quality of Paul McStay’s play undoubtedly fell short of his own incredibly high standards in the latter years of his Celtic career, that is not entirely surprising. After all, he had been carrying the team for ten years.

The Maestro, like Danny McGrain before him, was the class player who chose to stay with Celtic when his career and reputation would undoubtedly have fared better with a move elsewhere.

Paul McStay was big news even before his Celtic debut, being the star tum in an eventful Scotland v England schoolboy international at Wembley. Legend has it that scouts from as far afield as Everton and Leeds had been tracking him from the age of 11, and in 1982, shortly before he made his entrance on the Celtic stage, he became the one and only Scotland captain at any level to pick up an international trophy as Scotland won the European Youth Championship.

When the young Maestro made his first appearance in 1982 he was joining a team containing some of the finest talent in Britain. If the manager had been allowed to hang on to members of that team and build on it who knows what the history of the club might have been. But we are all too sadly familiar with the story of what happened next to Charlie Nicholas, Big Billy and the others.

Barely two full seasons into his career McStay was already the fulcrum of the side and the man most looked to in the crunch games. The team around him was a patchwork of the talented and the committed (Aitken, McGrain, MacLeod) and the talentless who should have been committed (Melrose, Whittaker). As his career progressed he would sadly find himself increasingly surrounded by players from the latter category.

Under Davie Hay McStay didn’t really reach the heights that were now expected and rumours soon began to abound that the Maestro would be winging his way abroad. Juventus apparently were interested and there was a fantastic urban myth that he had a clause in his contract forbidding the club to sell his older brother Willie!

Summer 1986 saw Scotland competing in the the World Cup finals in Mexico. Sadly, Big Jock was not there to lead the team, and it would have to be said that Alex Ferguson didn’t really handle the job too well (hardly surprising given the fact that it was a part-time appointment). Incredibly, he chose to overlook the Maestro in favour of aged slaphead Eamon Bannon, only to reinstate McStay for the final, violent clash with Uruguay.

The decision to drop him was surprising because McStay had been such an integral part of the Scotland set up since his debut in 1983. Indeed it was young Paul who started the World Cup campaign off with a brace against Iceland, the first a rare headed goal, the second a memorable long range effort.

After his return from Mexico rumours started that all was not well with Paul McStay. Burn-out some said: too many games too young. It was also suggested that he was an asthma sufferer who could no longer operate for 90 minutes (apparently he does have a very slight condition).

The season after was the first of the so-called ‘Souness Revolution’, as Rangers (the deceased)bludgeoned their way to the League title. Truth be told it was more a case of Celtic throwing it away as wrangles over money and new contracts, especially in the case of McClair and Johnston, became very public.

Throughout that season McStay was steady if not spectacular, but appeared in serious danger of falling into a rut from which he might never have reappeared. But in the aftermath of that disastrous season Billy McNeill came back, and Paul McStay emerged to show the world what he could do.

The Centenary year will be remembered for many reasons, not least of which was the stunning play of Paul McStay: a turn and a look before rolling a forty yard pass to the feet of the onrushing Chris Morris on New Year’s day to set up the first goal; a crisply caught snap shot to rescue a point against Hearts; the sheer authority of his performance at Ibrox during the 2-1 victory there.

At the end of that season he picked up both Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year awards. He had finally become the player he had threatened to be. Even the Blue Noses 9when they still had a living club) voted him the player they would most like to see sign for them in their fanzine.

At this point, with the world apparently at their feet, the club began its long, slow stumble into oblivion. Having won the double the club (manager? board?) made the fatal mistake of resting on its laurels. No new faces were added until practically the start of the new season (two players, both goalies), the wisdom presumably being that the squad was already perfect. Wrong! Age and injury soon ravaged the team and McStay and McAvennie were left to carry the team. Then McAvennie left.

By season 89-90 Celtic had been allowed to decay to such a degree that there is a good case to say that McStay stopped us from being involved in the relegation battle that year.

At the same time his own influence over the game was diminishing, largely due to the fact that the players he was now playing with were consistently worse than their predecessors (Examples: centre forward – McAvennie to Coyne to Jackie to Cascarino to Payton to Biggins).

That season itself had been an unmitigated disaster, starting with Le Merde’s U-turn and ending with the dreaded penalty shoot out in the Cup Final with Aberdeen. In between we had seen both club captain and vice-captain leave within a month of each other (staggeringly bad management) and at the tender age of 25 Paul McStay became the club’s longest serving outfield player and club captain.

His appointment was expected but not universally welcomed, despite the fact that within a year of becoming Celtic captain he would also captain Scotland to the Euro ‘92 finals (Big Dickie Gough coming back and being handed the armband for the actual tournament; loyalty Mr Roxburgh?).

The ‘Alphabet Of The Celts’, published around the time, commented that, “He might be a better player without the burden of captaincy”. Yes, and he might have been a better player without the burden of the nine other haddies he’d been playing with.

After yet anotller barren season in 1991 Big Billy was shown the door and Liam Brady took the plunge. Unfortunately it was three months before he had the chance to utilise the consumate talents of his club captain. McStay picked up the first serious injury of his career during the pre-season tour of Ireland. By the time he returned the team had shown signs of promise without any consistency and an inability to break down a packed defence had seen them flounder in the league and exit the League Cup at Airdrie.

McStay’s return was against Dundee United and he didn’t disappoint, spraying passes all over the park, appearing in attacking positions, helping out defence arid controlling the midfield. He continued in this vein for the rest of the season.

Sadly, he was denied another shot at the Scottish Cup on that cruellest of Hampden nights against the then existant Rangers.

The last day of the season saw Europe slip away thanks to a self-destructive performance against Hibs and the Maestro throw his jersey into the Jungle. We feared the worst.

Throughout the season speculation about his future had been rife. The contract signed in such optimism in 1987 had run its course and McStay was in no rush to make a decision. Certainly not with the shop window of Sweden ‘92 coming up.

The European Championships in 1992 was the first time Scotland had qualified for this competition, the last time only eight teams were to be involved.

Drawn against Holland, Germany and the CIS (the former USSR) the common wisdom was that Scotland would be lucky to emerge alive never mind make progress. However, the team confounded their critics to produce three performances of grit and skill, and at the heart of nearly every productive Scottish move was McStay. Against Holland he had the measure of Rijkaard, even out-jumping him on several occasions to win high balls. Against Germany he put McAllister through one-on-one with the ‘keeper three times in the first fifteen minutes (needless to say the media-hyped McAllister squandered all three chances) and against the CIS he capped a marvellous tournament with the opening goal, a typical 25-yard daisy cutter.

For six weeks in the summer of ‘92 every Celtic fan dreaded looking at the sports pages as team after team was linked with McStay (he certainly had talks with Udinese, a Bundesliga team and Arsene Wenger’s Monaco) but the player himself seemed remarkably unenthusiastic about the prospect of a move.

An incident from just before Sweden probably says more about his decision to stay than anything else. Haying been away from home for six weeks preparing for the Euros, Radio Clyde gave each player the chance to choose a song and dedicate it to someone back home. The Maestro chose ‘Missing You’ by John Waite.

Essentially he was a home bird and at that time his wife was expecting their first child, hardly ideal circumstances under which to up sticks and move. Maybe the welfare of his family came before his career.

His decision to stay brought immense relief to the beleaguered Celtic support who had been resigned to losing their best player and club captain, and his form at the start of the next season brought even more joy as he picked up just where he’d left off.

But it didn’t last. By the end of the season he was a shadow of the player of 1992.

The years of carrying the team were beginning to take their toll, injuries were becoming more frequent and the turmoil at the club certailny wasn’t helping anyone.

He could still raise his game, though, as Bobby Robson and Sporting Lisbon found out at Celtic Park in 1993. Frank Connor, temporarily in charge, told McStay to get his passes in rather than take people on. The result was that Robson had to concede to placing two markers on McStay in an attempt to contain him.

The March takeover by Fergus and the rebels gave hope that we might see some players drafted in that could again bring out the best in Paul McStay. He did finally lift a trophy as captain and certainly some of his performances during 95-96 were vintage Maestro, but for McStay the takeover came two years too late. His knees and ankles were already shot.

Against Dunfermline in January of this year he scored in the hoops for the last time, a fierce shot from the edge of the box that left the ‘keeper waving at the top row of the stand as the ball shot past him.

At Dunfermline in March he couldn’t even run. He limped about the park for 90 minutes. It was painful to watch such a great player reduced to that.

His decision to retire was taken, like his decision to stay in ‘92, with his family in mind. All too aware of others who played too long – apparently Tommy Smith, the Liverpool hard case from the ‘70s, needed help to get out of bed every morning such was. the state of his legs – McStay again decided that there was more to life than football.

ANDY MURDOCH

Auapa Leones!

bilbao celtic badge

“San Mames is more than a stadium and Athletic Club de Bilbao is more than just a football club. Both are potent symbols of Basque pride (Real Sociedad and Osasuna notwithstanding) among a people whose language, culture and political aspirations often cause ire and frustration in Madrid but inspire intense loyalty on the football pitch.”
Simon Inglis

 

Glorious Beginnings

Although Athletic’s statutes were not signed until 1901 and the Bilbao team that won the first Copa de España the following year was called Club Viscaya, the proud Basques claim 1898 as the founding date and the first Cup as theirs and nobody in Spanish football, not even the Liga de Fútbol Profesional, is prepared to argue with them.

As Spanish Champions in 1902, 1903, 1904, 1910 and 1911, Athletic Bilbao were without doubt the force that dominated football in Spain throughout the early years. Furthermore, that early Athletic team in Rafael Moreno Aranzadi better known as ‘Pichichi boasted the first legendary goalscorer in Spanish football and to this day Spain’s top goalscorer each season is known as the Pichichi.

By 1913, the club was so successful and popular that they opened Spain’s first stadium San Mamés, which is quite rightly known as The Cathedral of Spanish football.

bilbao san memes 2The old San Mames, built by the members of Athletic Club de Bilbao after their fourth Spanish Cup victory beside a refuge for orphans and homeless people, the Casa de Misericordia, itself the site of a hermitage where the saint and child martyr Mames de Cesarea had been venerated. Because of the saint’s association with lions, Athletic Club were later nicknamed Los Leones.

Basque Dominance

The Lions continued to dominate Spanish football with five more Copas del Rey in 1914, 1915, 1916, 1921 and 1923.

It’s significant too that not only Bilbao dominated Spanish football but the Basques did in general. In the 1920 Antwerp Olympics in which Spain won the Silver medal most of the team was made up of Basques, and of the 10 teams that made up the first Liga in 1928, 4 were were Basque – Athletic Club, Real Sociedad, Arenas de Getxo and Real Unión de Irun, who in 1930 were joined by Alavés making half of the Liga Basque.
Mister Bowler Hat

Another figure worth a special mention in the story of Athletic Club and Spanish football is ex-Blackburn Rovers player Fred Pentland. He was tempted to coach Bilbao from Santander in 1922 by the succulent offer of 1,000 pesetas a month and was famous for wearing a bowler, smoking fat cigars and introducing one-touch football to Spain. In 1923 he led Athletic Bilbao to their ninth Copa del Rey title but moved on in 1925.

Many other clubs had English coaches at the time but Pentland’s bowler hat and that he insisted on being called Mr Pentland have gone down in history. To this day, the coach of any Spanish team is still referred to as ‘El Mister’ and for Athletic fans he is almost as legendary as Pichichi.

Pentland’s second stint in Bilbao brought the Liga-Copa double in 1930 and 1931 and two further Copas del Rey in 1932 and 1933, in which Athletic Club were also Liga runners-up – it was very nearly four doubles on the trot.

This period also brought the famed phrase ´Poco te queda bombín! Sólo tres minutos!’ – ‘Little time for you bowler hat! Only three minutes!’ – owing to the fact that whenever Athletic Club won the players would whip off his bowler hat and jump on it until it was destroyed. Pentland had a in standing order with a London haberdasher for 20 bowler hats a year but had to send for extra bowler hats for four consecutive seasons!

The Stand Against Fascism

Just as with FC Barcelona in Catalonia, Athletic Club is associated with the defence of the Basque cause against fascism and it was an ex-Athletic Club player, José Antonio Aguirre, who presided over the first legitimate Basque government at the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 – a government that was in power when Franco allowed Hitler to send his airforce to rain bombs on the Basque town of Guernika.

When football resumed in 1939, Athletic Club’s successes just like Barcelona’s were seen as a blow to the regime and what’s more Athletic Club’s successes were based on their cantera (youth team) policy – the club to this day will only field Basque players – and in 1941 Telmo Zarraonaindia, more conveniently known as Zarra, made his debut for the club. In the following 13 seasons Zarra went to score 294 goals including 38 in 1950-51 season, a tally equalled by Hugo Sánchez in 1989-90, but to this day unbeaten.

Franco banned foreign words in club names so Athletic Club so it was Club Atlético de Bilbao that won the Liga-Copa double in 1943 and further Copas, now renamed the Copa del Generalísimo, in 1944 and 1945.

Other Copas del Generalísimo followed in 1950, 1955, 1956, which was also another Liga-Copa double season, and 1958 but, just like with Barcelona, the sixties and seventies were a relatively fallow period as hegemony both football and politics had
The Return of Democracy

In the first Basque derby between Athletic Club and Real Sociedad on the December 5 1975, just two weeks after the death of Franco, Athletic’s Iribar and Real’s Kortabarria walked out onto the pitch carrying the Ikurriña, the still illegal Basque flag, and democracy brought with it another period of success for Athletic Club.

Under Javier Clemente, the club won the Liga in 1983 and bagged the double again in 1984. However, whilst remaining amongst the three Spanish clubs never to have been relegated to Segunda, the last two decades have been increasingly difficult for Athletic Club, an unquestionable ‘grande’ of Spanish football.
Traditional Values in the Modern Game

The increasing globalisation and commercialisation of football, particularly since the Bosman ruling in 1996, has brought more international stars to Spain and for Athletic Club, who have remained true to their ‘cantera’ policy, success has been difficult to come by and have been happy to finish the season mid-table when not involved in relegation battles.

However, a survey in the nineties revealed that 76% of Athletic supporters wanted the club to remain true to its roots and perhaps the words that club president José María Arrate wrote in the introduction to the club’s centenary book best sum up the sentiments that many of us would like our clubs to uphold.

‘Athletic Bilbao is more than a football club, it is a feeling – and as such its ways of operating often escape rational analysis. We see ourselves as unique in world football and this defines our identity. We do not say we are better or worse than others, merely different. We only wish for the sons of our soil to represent our club, and in so wishing we stand out as a sporting entity, not a business. We wish to mould our players into men, not just footballers, and each time that a player from the Cantera makes his debut we feel we have realised an objective which is in harmony with the ideologies of our founders and forefathers.’

Quoted in Phil Ball’s excellent book on Spanish football ‘Morbo’

 

 

 

 

Tales From The Crypt: Charles “Integrity” Green

crypt green

 

PUBLIC NOTICE

The Curator of the Crypt hereby gives notice that CHARLES INTEGRITY GREEN is hereby interned in the Crypt forthwith. For services to haute couture, financial probity, giving jobs to grotesque hacks from Airdrie, construction in Qatar and being such an all round bloody good bloke even the Curator himself wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy.

Abandon all taste ye who enter here.

Signed

The Curator

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The curator will have to watch what he writes here. Charles is a lovely man of that I am in no doubt. His dignity and his natty sense of dress make him an admired man – nay, a respected man – throughout this land and beyond. And yet wherever Charles goes trouble seems to follow.

From Sheffield to the Middle East, from Qatar to Bonnie Scotland this well meaning fellow just seems to attract trouble.

I first became aware of Charles Green when I was heading over to Celtic Park to watch Celtic’s final match of the 2011-12 season. Rangers – then merely in Administration- had for the previous three months been for sale. I don’t need to remind you of the various people who had shown interest in buying that club following the St Valentine’s Day 2012 incident.

They came from Bonnie Scotland, the came from Singapore, they came from Dear Old Sharks of Sale and even from New York (well actually Charlotte, North Carolina but bear with me) and all walked way or were rebuffed by Duff and Phelps. Rangers spent more time in the insolvency Last Chance Saloon than sailors on shore leave do in brothels.

Even the dimmest of dimwits on Radio Clyde (Gordon Dalziel) suspected that the game was up. And then here is this Yorkshire accented fellow called Green speaking on the radio announcing that he was looking to tie up the purchase.

Stuart Cosgrove – who was presenting the show and, unusually for Radio Shortbread, he was not a man in thrall to the then dying club – said he liked the sound of him. To Cosgrove he seemed like the epitome of good honest Yokshiremen with their good honest broadband and their Indoor League presented by Fred Trueman (before he snuffed it).

To me, though, he reminded me of another Yorkshireman, albeit not a real one. One George ’Integrity’ Whitebread – a Harry Enfield character of the early nineties – who said what he liked and liked what he bloody well said.

crypt enfield
A parody of a rude, crass and egotistical money-grabbing bullshitter from Yorkshire: not to be confused with Harry Enfield’s George ‘Integrity’ Whitbread pictured above.

 

So who was this caricature Yorkshireman who wore the stylish beige suits and the hangdog expression?

Well he’d been a professional footballer right enough. For Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers. He was so good he never got a game in the first team for either. A drop into the lower leagues with Alfreton Town was followed by a return to the big time of the Football League Division 4 with Barnsley where he made no first team appearances. His career finished at Cheltenham – not then a Football League Team after a big money transfer of £500 from Goole Town.

Having conquered the world of professional football on the field, Green, the man of Integrity, turned to the less murky world of venture capitalism before he returned to the Football World as Chief Executive of Sheffield United in 1996.

The Blades had played in the first couple of seasons of the English Premiership before slipping back a tier in 1994. They were ambitious and so was their new Chief Exec. A share flotation was launched on the Alternative Investment Market ( AIM) in London and some money was spent on players. Fancying himself as a football coach and not just a philanthropic entrepreneur Green involved himself in team selection and eventually sacked Dave Bassett. The parting of the ways was so amicable that Green offered to settle matters in a nearby car park. When Bassett agreed Green developed a touch of the vapours.

By 1998 he’d irritated Bassett’s replacement, ex Ranger Nigel Spackman, with his continued tinkering in team affairs as well as the decision to sell a couple of players, including club talisman Brian Deane, without the manager’s consent. No money was earmarked for replacements and the club was bleeding cash.

Green quit in 1998. The World of Football and the fans of Sheffield United wept at their loss.

crypt truemanAnother straight-talking Yorkshireman, the late Fiery Fred Trueman, fast bowler for the England cricket team and presenter of Indoor League, a show that featured lots of Yorkshiremen playing popular indoor sports from the region such as darts, shove ha’penny, bar billiards and asset stripping distressed companies by organising share issues, trousering large amounts of money and buggering off to a chateau in France bought with the proceeds. “I’ll si’ thee.”

 

Green decided Yorkshire wasn’t big enough to contain his now legendary acumen as his empire spread. It got to Qatar via Jersey and a construction company called Panceltica of which Integrity Man was Deputy Chairman and chief mouthpiece.

Floated on the AIM in March 2008 the company was promoting a new technology using lightweight, steel framed buildings for houses and apartments. Boasting to the Daily Telegraph that the new technology was ’like putting together a Meccano kit’ at the time of AIM placing the contract couldn‘t fail, could it?

By July 2009 the company which had contracted Panceltica to do the work had terminated the contract and a month later the Qatari operation went into liquidation with those who’d bought the shares now holding nothing but worthless share certificates.*

What Green did next isn’t known to me but by the spring of 2012 he had become interested in the ailing Rangers company. What his relationship was to Craig Whyte, Duff and Phelps, Ticketus and various unnamed ’backers’ from the Middle East, Malaysia and Singapore in that time few know- whether we ever will is I think open to debate. But by the end of May Green and his droning voice, bad suits and dreary coupon were familiar as he tried to arrange a CVA to prevent Rangers being placed into Liquidation – all history of the gallant boys in light blue being lost in such an eventuality.

When the company did go into liquidation Green in the first of many amazing volte faces confirmed that the history had been saved. A gullible press – perhaps convinced that John Brown couldn’t be right – ignored their own prophecies of doom and swallowed every morsel from Green’s truculent gob as though it were nectar.

It was hard not to laugh at Green when he claimed that Rangers were victims of bigotry, that Manchester United and other EPL sides would welcome the now Zombie Rangers into their league, that Real Madrid and Barcelona were similarly in thrall to Green’s new plaything and his toe curling Christmas broadcast on Rangers TV.

But there was something altogether less palatable about his decision that his club’s fans should boycott their Scottish Cup tie with Dundee United, his buying into the less savoury aspects of the original Rangers’ history and his use of what could at best be described as Politically Incorrect and at worst racist language to describe a black footballer from Green’s earth shattering playing career and a Pakistani business associate.

When Craig Whyte revealed that he had evidence that Green had been involved with Whyte during the period when Rangers had been in Administration Green’s defence was a curious one; he’d lied to Whyte to get what he (Green) wanted.

A few days after promising ‘No Surrender’ Green resigned and it was reported that he would be selling his shares to a convicted fraudster.

On the day he resigned from his role as Rangers Chief Executive a concerned ‘Born on Shoreham Street’ posted on the Blades Mad website, ’He isn’t coming back here is he?’.

No need to worry Born my old mucker. He’s in the crypt. Possibly at some stage in the future he’ll be confined to its naughty step as well.
JIM PAYNE
*See page 32 of Private Eye 1315 of June 2012

 

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Earwig on El Bungalow, Psychics and Respectful Pasta

The price of Alfredo Morelos is going up at a weekly rate of inflation not seen since the days of the Weimar Republic…

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… partly as a result of joining this motley crew honoured in a tweet by Bet 365. Which prompted this reply from Noza Render…

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Yes, dear reader, I am gutted that the likes of Bobby Lennox and Henrik Larsson cannot find their way on to a list of Rangers strikers. Indeed, even the mention of their current hero’s nickname strikes fear into my soul. El Bungalow (followed by several exclamation marks), so called, perhaps, because, like Mister Render, there’s nothing up top?

At least Noza seems to understand that 25 is quite a high number, a talent for numeracy that isn’t shared by everyone who cheers on El Bungalow on a Saturday.

Like Duncan here, who thinks that the expression “We Are The People” consists of three words. Three words that he would ejaculate should El Bungalow ever invite Duncan to have fajitas with him.

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Imagine the confusion should ever Duncan, El Bungalow and Born a Blue Nose here ever dine out at a fajita restaurant and then have to split the bill three ways. Born a Blue Nose is evidently under the impression that an eight point gap can be closed in two games. 2 x 3 = 8 you see.

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This Orwellian doublethink maybe helps ease Born’s angst, an unease that disappears during the week but resurfaces whenever results don’t go the way of El Bungalow and his team mates. The slightest hint of a reverse sees Born and his brethren, such as Bluethruandthru surfing their sea of sludge with advice for their rookie manager. For who else but a rookie would have failed to go for the juggler in order to strengthen the team during the transfer window?

earwig jugglerAnd as if not pairing the juggler with El Bungalow wasn’t a hanging offence in itself, along comes Connor to hit the nail right on the head…

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I’m not entirely convinced by the argument that speeding up the chanting will necessarily bring success. That said, it might get the pulses quickening, and that’s very important when you’re dealing with a reanimated corpse of a football club.

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So it’s either chant things quicker or let’s go down to Ibrox, hold hands and try to get in contact with the dead at one of the occasional Psychic Nights they have. I might suggest that Dave King and the concert party are actually trolling their own supporters but no, it’s a serious thing and not a suitable subject for parody. Not least because I wouldn’t want to bring religion into it. Amy here might think I was using a sectarian slur…

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For in Amy’s dimwit world there are Kaffliks and there are Parodies, and she probably thinks that all the Kaffliks support Celtic and all the Parodies support Sevco – and when you put it that way there’s a germ of truth in that statement.

As I’m sure the Parodies would agree as they gather round for their seance to get in touch with their dearly departed share certificates and debenture seats, death is no laughing matter, so thank goodness your humble correspondent has discovered a wordsmith to rival the Sevconian loonball I featured in a previous column who gave us these immortal lines in his ode to the Ibrox manager: “There’s something about both your eyes that are blue”… “You are like a grandson from the World war that Rangers won, we will get the battle fever on and build those ships to sail you to the Somme.”

Here is the one and only Melody Beckford to offer some words of comfort should you ever wake up in the night and weep softly into your can of export thinking about the brave angle above – whether concave or convex – Princess Di. Take it away Melody:

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Be like Melody, dear reader; move your mashed potato or spaghetti out the way when you’re eating from you Diana plate.

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Toodloo the Noo
The Earwig

 

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The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre

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Scottish Cup 3rd round, 1991,  and there we were in Forfar, up to our armpits in bridies muttering, “Haven’t we been here before??” It wasn’t the only similarity we would encounter on this cup run.

Happily Forfar didn’t cause any problems this time round and an easy 2:0 victory was recorded. The main talking point after the game was the Forfar fans’ (or should that be “fan’s”?) constant chanting of Terry Hurlock’s name. Rather than admitting to being Huns without the bus fares the locals would doubtless claim that they were just winding us up. Aye right!

St. Mirren were the opponents in the fourth round (a young Paul Lambert featured on the bench). The tie was moved to a midweek slot to accommodate TV – a rare event in Scotland at the time – and first half goals from Coyne, Miller and an o.g. from McWhirter were enough to see Celtic through safely to the last eight.

So, the quarter final draw, and more deja vu as the audible gasps together with the thud of SFA officials hitting the deck in fainting fits could only mean one thing; the big Glasgow teams had to play each other in an early round for the second season in a row.

Rangers, at Celtic Park, with the tie due to be played on St. Patrick’s Day no less.

The build up to this one was naturally very subdued with no one being too bothered about who was going to win… Oh all right. Everyone was going mental!

Not only was our season on the line again, but Rangers were going for the treble. Celtic were due to play them twice in two weeks and recent form suggested that the Hoops were in for a hefty beating – in some cases quite literally.

The more superstitious among us were dismayed to find out that Celtic’s lucky mascot in the Scottish Cup, Chris Morris, was injured. He’d never lost a game in this competition in regulation play. The more football minded among us were dismayed because this meant that Mark McNally might be involved. In the event the more experienced Grant was picked in defence.

If there was any hope to cling on to it was the fact that Rangers hadn’t won a cup tie against the Hoops at Celtic Park since 1905. They also had Scott Nisbet playing in defence.

The game itself started in an unusually quiet manner, both teams dispensing with the traditional early practice of blootering the ball – or the nearest opponent – as far as possible in the direction one happened to be facing at the time. But it wasn’t long before the shrill tone of the referee’s whistle was announcing the first episode of that afternoon’s foulfest as Walters got to show off his silky skills by dextrously clattering Joe Miller into the stand.

Andrew Waddell was that day’s man in black. A pathologist by profession, he was officiating his first Glasgow derby and was about to witness some pretty pathological behaviour from Souness’s stiffs.

Six minutes in, Celtic took the lead when Wdowczyck lofted a free kick to the far side of the Rangers penalty area. Gough was odds-on favourite to get it but his former Dundee United team mate Coyne got the vital nod. The ball broke to Gerry Creaney who managed to blast a shot past Woods and into the corner of the net. It was one of the best goals he ever scored for Celtic and truly typical of the player. Give him an impossible angle and an awkward bouncing ball and he’d fire it in almost every time; give him a one-on-one with the ‘keeper and he’d fall on his arse.

Rangers were not impressed by this unexpected turn of events and came roaring back. Bonner had to come for several dangerous crosses and Trevor Steven saw a header float just wide.

Things took a turn for the worse for the silenced blue hordes shortly after that. Steven, the man Rangers looked to in midfield, caught his studs in the turf while attempting to foul Joe Miller, who was having a rare afternoon of good form on the right wing.

Steven was carried off to a sympathetic chorus of “Dig a hole and bury him” from the Jungle. On the way up the tunnel he passed assistant manager Walter Smith who was sporting a ghastly blue shell suit and white trainers ensemble that made him look like a pensioner who had been adopted by the Aberdeen casuals as a lucky mascot. His loss took the creative thrust from Rangers and Celtic, with McStay in top form, took control of this crucial area.

The answer from Souness was to trundle Big Bertha out and begin the aerial bombardment. The contrast in forward lines took on a familiar look. Predating Blackburn’s SAS (Sutton and Shearer) Celtic were fielding the MCC (Miller, Coyne and Creaney. Rangers were relying on the HUB (Hateley’s an Ugly Bastard).

In truth the game was one for the Doug Baillie raw meat enthusiasts rather than admirers of the Dutch national team, due largely to the interminable stoppages for fouls and injuries, but just before half-time Celtic got another break. With the clock ticking down to the interval Celtic were awarded a foul after Hurlock – the kind of player that often had opponents reaching for the garlic and crucifix – had grounded Creaney for the umpteenth time.

The kick was dead centre of the pitch but a good 35 yards from the goal. It seemed obvious that Wdowczyck would float it into the box just as he had earlier in the game. Not a bit of it.

The distance he took for his run up would have done justice to a fully laden Jumbo jet on the runway at Glasgow Airport. Starting from just outside the centre circle he raced up a leathered the ball with everything he could muster. Instinctively, Hurlock put out a leg which succeeded in sending it in a majestic arc over Woods and into the net.

Celtic Park went into full-on berserk mode. Poetic justice had been meted out to a player who should never have been allowed out onto the same pitch as the likes of McStay and Collins.

Hostilities paused briefly when Maurice Johnston, who until this point had given us very few chances to hurl abuse in his direction, slithered his own way into Waddell’s notebook for dissent, which matched his descent the year before.

As the half-time whistle blew we could scarcely believe what was happening.
The second half started with Rangers playing in predictably determined fashion (wouldn’t you be determined if you had to pick bits of tea cup out of your head following a Souness rant?) and after a torrid eight minutes Johnston was put through on goal only to be hauled back by Grant. Referee Andrew Waddel, not a renowned Celtic sympathiser, duly awarded the free kick but let Grant off with a yellow card, judging that Elliott was the last man rather than Pointy Pete.

It looked like being a vital break until Grant lined up in the defensive wall for the resultant set piece before charging at the ball like someone rehearsing for Pamplona. It was another bookable offence and he was promptly dismissed.

Calamity.

Rangers squandered a number of chances in the following ten minutes, most notably a sclaff by Huistra from ten yards out, before Celtic steadied. Paul Elliott typified Celtic’s attitude on the day when he stopped a Ferguson shot with his face and slumped to the deck spitting out teeth, blood and the remains of his half-time pie and bovril. A rub down with Brian Scott’s magic sponge and he was back on the pitch a few minutes later looking for Soapy with an ominous glint in his eye.

Then the real fun started. Tommy Coyne, dropping back to help his beleaguered team mates, clipped Hurlock, who clearly didn’t subscribe to the old adage that if you dish it out you should be prepared to take it. He lashed out at Coyne with his elbow – he was approximately three feet away from the referee at this point – and got a straight red for violent conduct. Incredibly, he hadn’t even been booked until then.

At which point the roof fell in on Rangers and their players seemed to lose whatever sense of self-discipline they had.

If Hurlock had been contemplating a quiet fifteen minutes in the bath playing with his rubber duck he was in for a surprise. Coyne was involved in the next incident as well. He tackled Walters and won the ball. The Rangers winger, who had been well shackled by an unusually sure-footed Anton Rogan, had two good attempts at removing der Bomber’s kneecaps before finally settling for a well placed elbow in the teeth. Walters had been booked for yet another foul on Coyne in the first half, but there was to be no second yellow. Once again it was a straight red.

Next to go was Hateley, at that time almost as much of a hate figure among the Rangers supporters as he was with us. He got himself involved in a handbags sketch with Rogan. Both were shown yellow cards but as it was Hateley’s second he too took the long walk towards what was becoming a busy Rangers early bath tub.

With their opponents reduced to eight players Celtic threatened to run riot but unfortunately Creaney was unable to convert two great chances; a header from six yards or a one-on-one with Woods. It would have been a memorable hat-trick.

However, spirits weren’t dampened in the slightest. A famous victory had been achieved, one that we imagined would surely give Celtic the heart to march on and claim the Scottish Cup for the third time in four years. (1)

As if to emphasise the turning of the corner the Hoops won against Rangers again a week later, this time by the even more convincing margin of 3:0 in a match that was also shown live on TV.

In anticipation of Rangers being unable to drastically alter their style of play NTV gave out 6,000 red cards to be waved at offenders.

Nesbit duly obliged.

It was the last time Celtic faced a Rangers team managed by Graeme Souness, or as one of his players affectionately called him, The Beast (copyright Jan Bartram 1988). He walked out on them shortly afterwards to take charge of Liverpool after Kenny Dalglish decided he’d had enough.

 

(1) How wrong we were!

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Get the full story of season 1990-91 through the jaundiced eyes of NTV. Free PDF file from ntvceltic@hotmail.co.uk if you make a donation to a foodbank.