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Ugly Scenes

ugly scenes original

 

Dear NTV,

Those photos that you published in the last issue (NTV 258) of Rogic celebrating and Dembele scoring are brilliant. Not so much for the photos themselves – good as they are – but the background!

Those Sevvies behind the goal remind me of one of those giant paintings by Pieter Breughel. The closer you look, the more weird looking characters you spot and the more back stories you discover.

Among my favourites is this group:

ugly scenes 1

The bewilderment of the guy in the cap and all of his fantasy bubbles popping at the same is matched only by the incomprehension of the staunch-looking fellow in the middle, trying hard to see some alternative future in the far distance where his team isn’t mediocre but failing miserably.

The sadness in the sunken eyes of the bald chap in the foreground epitomises the helpless despair of a man beaten into submission by one Moussa Dembele goal too many.

If you want to compare this to an original to see what I mean then look no further than this detail from one of Breughel’s masterpieces featuring a group of grotesque looking Flemish peasants watching a travelling circus pass through their village. I believe the original title is “Wat doet de keeper met Tom?”

ugly scenes 2

Yours in the Rijksmuseum,
Hertz Van Driver

Lookalikes

looklike mcgrain and the master

loklike sviatchenko and annie oakley

looklike nichol and father jack

looklike mccann and squidward

Poetry Corner

 

walk-on

Dear NTV,

My name is Andrew McLean and I have been a Celtic fan for over 10 years. I believe that being a Celtic fan is special, so when I was accepted to Glasgow University I was thrilled to know that I was moving to the city my club call home, Glasgow.

I attended my first ever European game at Celtic Park when Celtic defeated Zenit 1-0 and the experience was unlike anything I have ever felt before.
Recently I wrote a poem which was inspired by my experience at that game and it would fill me with great pleasure and immense pride if you were to publish it in a Not the View issue.

The poem is called “A Paradise, green and true” and it is dedicated to both my late Great Uncle John and my favourite football team. I hope you enjoy it.

A Paradise, green and true.

A thick humming hymn of air,
From clenched fists of prayer,
Spreads from Glasgow’s East.
Hear vocals from God’s bequeathed.
Behold man’s strength and more
Causes song and age-old folklore.
Sets of knuckles like stadia struts
And Saturday’s surge sports all but –
Blood bound brothers soon bound to be bloodied.
Pumped to four fists of this city
Cold, their voices like mists.
Each man in the crowd a troubadour,
Of the blood and men that ran before
Through Glasgow’s veined arms.
Clyde muscled but not being blue,
The cranes are gone now, but for a few,
So they built a Paradise, green and true.

Kind regards,
Andrew.

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