Happy Birthday Dear Celtic View

Happy birthday to the Celtic View, fathered by Jack McGinn and born on 11th August 1965, 48 years young today.

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The View began life as a four page broadsheet. On the front page of its first issue the editor described one of its aims as, “… We shall provide information and talking points that the national press cannot give because of the much greater demands on their space.” The big talking point of the first issue was the appointment of Jock Stein to take charge of the Scotland national team for the World Cup qualifying campaign. Jock had been in charge of the squad for two ties the previous May, against Poland (a 1:1 draw in Chorzow) and  Finland (a 2:1 victory in Helsinki. Initially this was to be the extent of Jock’s involvement, but the SFA asked for his term as manager to be extended as long as Scotland still had a chance of qualifying for the finals in England and the club agreed.

Chairman Bob Kelly took the opportunity through the pages of the View to let the fans know that, “The most important aspect of our new agreement is that the SFA were willing to meet all our conditions if they could get their man. We feel we have reached an ideal compromise… if there is any conflict between the club’s fixtures and those of the association Mr. Stein will remain with his club.” Jock Stein is quoted by ‘Kerrydale’ as saying: “Naturally I am pleased with the honour but I want all Celtic fans to know that my interest will always be first and foremost Celtic’s interests. It was my football ambition to return to Celtic. Everyone can rest assured that I wouldn’t do anything likely to harm Celtic.”

The pictures on the front page were of the Scottish Cup winning team of 1965 and new signing Joe McBride who expressed his delight at joining the club from Motherwell.

Another new player had a small feature on page 2. “The youngest player on the staff is sixteen year-old George Connelly who joined us from Tulliallan and hails from Dunfermline.” Compare the modern day hype of any player with the litotes of, “For a very tall lad he is a skilful manipulator of the ball.”

The rest of the page was given over to a report on the very first Scottish Football Writers’ Player of the Year ceremony, an award won by Billy McNeill, a ‘Where Are They Now?’ column focusing on ex-Celt John McAlindon, at that time working on the groundstaff at Celtic Park, a puff for the Celtic Supporters Association and a quiz for younger readers. The accompanying text to the questions and the instructions for enetering reads like a Higher Mathematics exam paper. “In order that you younger readers will show carefulness as well as knowledge of your subject we shall look for correct spelling in all of your answers… You must write your answers in the order corresponding to the questions (1, 2, 3, 4). Then give your full name, date of birth, school and class number and home address…” The six prize winners (strictly confined to those under the age of 15) would receive a guinea. The board were obviously not going to part with them without a fight.

The View’s page 3 stunner was a large picture of “some of the trophies which adorn the sideboard in the boardroom,” and fans were informed that Stevie Chalmers shot a 77 at Milltown Golf Club in Ireland while over in Ireland for the Shamrock Rovers game, “very creditable as Steve had never seen the course before.”

The very first letters to the View appeared on page 3 as well. One was signed “Hopeful” of Glasgow who was allowed to air a grievance; he wanted some of the Pools money to be used to create a tarmac road on the approach to the turnstiles, fed up as he was of having to “wade through a sea of mud” to get to them. “And if this isn’t asking too much dare I suggest some improvement to the primitive toilet facilities.” By the time “Hopeful” got his wished for pissoir he had probably changed his name to “Despairing”, like the rest of us. The other letter was congratulating the Celtic View on starting up, the first of many congratulatory messages received on behalf of either the board or the View over the years. Yes folks, the seeds of Pravda had already been well and truly sown.

The back page message from Jock Stein looks forward optimistically to the start of the new season and there endeth the text, because the rest of the page is mostly given over to the August Celtic Pools winners and how much dosh they got. Very dull, unless you want to scan through it to see which of your neighbours you could tap money from that week.

Advertisements included one from Roberts Stores in Trongate offering a junior football pack of jersey, shorts and socks for 22/6- (That’s one pound and twenty five pence for post-decimal babies) and car dealer W.F. Kivlichan was offering a year-old Mini (one careful owner) for £410 (cost you £14,000 today… Not for the same Mini obviously, for the equivalent).

On the occasion of the View’s 40th, the club published a celebratory book. Manfred Lurker reviewed it for the fanzine.

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The Best of the Celtic View: the 100 covers that made you laugh, cry and cheer; by Paul Cuddihy and Joe Sullivan; Headline Publishing; 222 pages illustrated throughout; £19.99 hardback

How could we resist a title like this? The dear old Celtic View, brainchild and celebrated organ of the legend that was Jack McGinn, 40 years old and the raison d’être of the blatt you are holding in your hand right now.

What we have here is a mainly visual chronicle of how the View has chosen to reflect the major events in the history of the club during its existence. The editors have selected significant View covers and accompanied them with some text to put them in context.

These, the cover of the book gushes, are the 100 covers of Pravda that made us “laugh, cry and cheer”.

This book charts the story of the View chronologically, starting from the 60s when Jack’s organ sprang up for the first time. In the first few years of its inception the club’s in-house newspaper, which appeared every Wednesday, was a paragon of sobriety and understatement, unrecognisable concepts to a medium almost completely sold-out to tabloid values. League title wins in the mid to late 60s were celebrated with the journalistic equivalent of a Stanley Matthews-style manly handshake and headlines like “congratulations” or “the cup final”.

The Lisbon souvenir issue is positively over the top. It even has a couple of pictures and a splash of green on the front cover.

Our other European Cup final is represented by a View cover from the day of the final, May 7th 1970, complete with distinctly upbeat messages from Bob Kelly, Jock Stein and Billy McNeill. This is one of the issues I remembered from my boyhood days. On one of the other pages the View had printed a map of where the victory procession would take place. Talk about confident of victory.

The issues from the 70s reflect a mixture of highs and lows, the most infuriating cover being one from 1971. No fewer than 100,000 people had paid to see the first team and the reserves in the space of a week. The club chose to brag about it; the fans must have been wondering where all the money was going.

During the 80s the newspaper format stayed the same, but you can tell that the Pravda style that became so infamous is beginning to seep its way into the articles. Jack McGinn is quoted in a feature on the renovation of the South Stand in the summer of ‘87. “Last year saw the transformation of the Celtic End – this year it’s the stand.” This was the kind of rhetoric that was starting to wind people up, especially fans who were standing in the ‘transformed’ Celtic End wondering what kind of parallel universe Jack and his cronies on the board were inhabiting.

The 90s was the View’s nadir. It hit the buffers on March 2nd 1994 with a front page lead about ‘Cambuslang – the dream comes true’. As Kevin Kelly stood in the middle of a toxic swamp with his arms outstretched like a manic scarecrow, even the View staff must have realised that nobody with half a brain was believing this stuff any more. Yet, even in this book there are no covers featuring the likes of Terry Cassidy, Patrick Nally, Gefinor, Stadivarious or the assorted futuristic ‘artist’s impressions’ of what Celtic Park was going to look like if we all kept faith with the Kelly and the cronies.

Jock Brown practically took over the View at one point, sniping back at his one-time mates in the media, but he doesn’t rate a mention either.

There’s definitely an air of truth and reconciliation about the club these days, so it would have been a laugh to be reminded of some of these pantomime villains that blighted us for years.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, even though I don’t remember cheering at too many of the covers (anybody who cheers when they see a Celtic View cover needs help). I did laugh in a GIRUY way at some of the 90s covers, and I may even have shed an inner silent tear when I turned a page and saw a picture of Martin Hayes grinning back at me holding aloft the Celtic scarf for his signing on photo shoot.

The early issues were more interesting than practically anything that was in the last 50 pages – lots of Henrik hagiography – and there were reminders of old View features that were a bit of a fix for a nostalgia junky like me. Who can forget the Celtic Boy feature, the terrible cartoon that used to take up about half of the front page or the Spotlight on a Fan feature? Bob McDonald’s European football round-up I can genuinely claim to have given me a lifelong interest in the game beyond these shores. Thanks Bob.

But what happened to ‘Pick A Team’ or, my own personal favourite, the £10 Star Letter, most of which started with, “Hats off to Jack McGinn and the Celtic board for…”

Nicely presented, loads of evocative pictures and even some undemanding text. Ideal for Uncle Tim’s Christmas.

MANFRED LURKER

BTW, the official birthday of NTV is 29th August 1987. If you want to read our very first issue the follow the link. Makes for an interesting contrast with the View. Wonder if “Hopeful” of Glasgow ever ended up writing letters to us.

http://www.ntvcelticfanzine.com/about%20ntv/about%20ntv%20contents.htm

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER

For the month of August we are offering a great deal on subscriptions. Take out a full price 12 issue subscription and get a second for just £10. Two subs for £40. All you have to do is buy one for yourself and take one out for a friend. (In George of the Jungle’s case he would have to make a friend first. He was devastated to find out that imaginary friends don’t count.)

In addition to the paper copy of the mag on sale at the stadium, subscribers who provide their email address are sent a colour PDF version on the morning of the game before it goes on sale and a full fat colour PDF with lots of additional features. Most issues are over 100 pages of the most interesting content you’ll ever read this side of the dentist’s waiting room. If you find this astonishing claim as difficult to swallow as a Jabba press release then check out some recent back issues on our website http://www.ntvcelticfanzine.com for details.

If you are an existing subscriber and would like to take advantage of this offer then simply add 12 issues to your existing sub and get the second for £10.

Click on the ‘subscription offer’ link at the top of the site to use Paypal or get in touch by mail at the usual address.

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IF…

It all started with Bjorn Borg. Now we’ve got Goteborg, Helsingborg and Elfsborg. Tonight Celtic will have to show that we will not be assimilated!

To rally the troops as we prepare to face IF, here’s why Manfred Lurker is offering his services around the Scottish league teams as a demotivational speaker.

(With apologies to Rudyard Kipling fans everywhere)

IF…
If you can keep it tight for the first twenty
And not get sent off early, like Big Dan*,
If you can satisfy the cognoscenti,
That you can mark up Elfsborg, man for man;
If you can play on when your leg is gammy,
Or if you have been knocked about the heid,
Or when the Swedes look like they might be jammy,
And fluke a goal to go into the lead:

If you can keep it scoreless until half-time;
If you have got a clean sheet at the break;
If you can keep the heid and no do daft-time,
And panic not despite all that’s at stake;
If you can boss the midfield like Joe Ledley,
And run around and tackle till you’re gubbed,
And even though Bangura’s not so deadly,
Keep him out the game until he’s subbed:

If you can match the Swedes until they’re shattered,
If you can make them take one on the chin,
If you can leave their players looking tattered,
And make them slowly lose their will to win;
If you can cross a ball into big Sammy,
And watch him head it past the ‘keeper’s glove,
Then hear the Celts up there go feckin bammy,
And belting out, “I Just Can’t Get Enough”.

If that late goal then sees the Swedes attacking,
To score three times is what they have to do,
If you can keep them out and show they’re lacking,
The means to find a way past Charles Mulgrew;
If you can fill the final dying minute,
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
The next round will see the Hoops still in it,
And – which is more – you’ll qualify, my son!

*Majstorovic: red carded for hauling somebody down in the penalty box leaving us a man short and a goal down with 89 minutes remaining against FC Sion.

Champions League Qualifying Round 3
Results (Qualifiers in bold)

Maccabi Tel-Aviv     Isr     FC Basel     Sui     3-3 (agg 3-4)
Partizan Belgrade     Srb     Ludogorets Razgrad     Bul     0-1 (agg 1-3)
Steaua Bucuresti     Rom     Dinamo Tbilisi     Geo      1-1 (agg 3-1)
NK Maribor     Slo     APOEL Nicosia     Cyp     0-0 (agg 1-1)
Skënderbeu Korçë     Alb     Shakhtyor Karaganda     Kaz     3-2 (agg 3-5)
Fenerbahçe     Tur     FC Salzburg     Aut         3-1 (agg 4-2)
Grasshoppers Zürich     Sui     Olympique Lyon     Fra          0-1 (agg 0-2)

Tonight’s Ties
IF Elfsborg     Swe         Celtic     Sco     (0-1)
Legia Warsaw     Pol         Molde FK     Nor     (1-1)
FH Hafnarfjardar     Isl     Austria Wien     Aut     (1-0)
Viktoria Plzen     Cze     Kalju Nomme     Est          (0-4)
Sheriff Tiraspol     Mol     Dinamo Zagreb     Cro    (1-0)
Zenit St. Petersburg     Rus     FC Nordsjælland     Den     (1-0)
Metalist Kharkiv     Ukr     PAOK Thessaloniki     Gre    (2-0)
Zulte Waregem     Bel     PSV Eindhoven     Ned    (0-2)

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER

For the month of August we are offering a great deal on subscriptions. Take out a full price 12 issue subscription and get a second for just £10. Two subs for £40. All you have to do is buy one for yourself and take one out for a friend. (In George of the Jungle’s case he would have to make a friend first. He was devastated to find out that imaginary friends don’t count.)

In addition to the paper copy of the mag on sale at the stadium, subscribers who provide their email address are sent a colour PDF version on the morning of the game before it goes on sale and a full fat colour PDF with lots of additional features. Most issues are over 100 pages of the most interesting content you’ll ever read this side of the dentist’s waiting room. If you find this astonishing claim as difficult to swallow as a Jabba press release then check out some recent back issues on our website http://www.ntvcelticfanzine.com for details.

If you are an existing subscriber and would like to take advantage of this offer then simply add 12 issues to your existing sub and get the second for £10.

Click on the ‘subscription offer’ link at the top of the site to use Paypal or get in touch by mail at the usual address.

CELTIC PUNK ROCKERS TAKE NOTE
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New Season… Same Old Honest Mistakes

Our league season got underway on Saturday with a 5.15 kick-off time that induced widespread jet-lag style disorientation among the fans with a similar state of confusion on the pitch to begin with as the hairy-arsed Highlanders scored after two minutes.

The Staggies had clear intentions of pooping the party. 0:0 would probably have been plenty enough poop for them so they must have been cock-a-hoop with the extra poop plopped on the pile and they proceeded to pack the goalpost protecting positions with plenty of passion. Pity their persistence proved pointless as Anthony Stokes the Parkhead predator poked a pair past the packed palisade of the porridge-munchers.

Today’s match report is brought to you by the Sesame Street CSC and the letter P.

There were a few epithets beginning with the letter P being hurled in the direction of referee Willie Collum on Saturday. Collum’s eccentric interpretation of what constitutes a foul and his irritating habit of performing the pantomime act of calling over a miscreant in dark blue to theatrically gesture to the areas of the pitch where he has already committed assaults before administering nothing more than a final warning in the form of a stern wagging of the finger like Jo Frost at a pre-school borstal were bad enough, but this was compounded by his first honest mistake of the season (Anyone give me a price on it being his last?). His refusal to award a penalty when Stokes was Aussie-ruled to the deck when clean through on the County ‘keeper can perhaps be explained by offering the excuse that he clearly saw the incident from an unobstructed distance of a few yards. Had his back been turned and had it been Kirk Broadfoot… stonewaller.

Which brings us to the main topic of this post.

This season we’ll be running a feature in the mag taking a teary-eyed nostalgic look back at some of the Great Honest Mistakes of Our Time. In issue 219 we’ll recall one of the less infamous ones, although it’s one the like of which I have never seen before or since. It has almost been airbrushed out of history to the extent that when trying to find evidence to substantiate what happened I was beginning to think that either I had dreamed it after eating a toasted cheese sandwich before going to bed or I had been over-exposed to passively inhaling the smoke from some of the jazz fags used in the Jungle to calm the nerves of the more excitable spectators in that part of the stadium during Glasgow derbies.

March 1993 it was. Celtic beat a then still alive Rangers by 2-1. An uncharacteristically polished performance by a Liam Brady team that was floundering miles behind in the championship. John Collins scored a terrific goal in the 37th minute – a shot from distance that flew past the despairing Goram – that sent three quarters of the ground into a frenzy of joy. Collins and most of his team mates ran towards the Jungle to share the love.

Amidst the celebrations it gradually dawned on us that the game had kicked off again and play was raging towards the Celtic goal. Referee Douglas Hope from Erskine had allowed Mark Hateley and company to restart the match with more than half of the Celtic team still whooping and hollering and performing victory dances in front of the fans. Collins wasn’t even on the field at the time.

With two or three Celtic players haring back to catch up, Trevor Steven was put clean through on goal but Pat Bonner saved. We can only imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t.

Despite a media blackout in the press and on the STV highlights show, the following Wednesday’s View had a picture of the aftermath of Collins’ goal on the front page. Much to my relief my sanity was almost restored when I found it on the Celtic Wiki.

To say I’ve never seen anything like it is actually a lie. We used to do it all the time in the school playground. Mind you, we never had a referee. More accurately, I’ve never seen anything like it before or since while watching proper organised professional football.

blog honest mistake

Full article in NTV 219. Nominations for future inclusions in Great Honest Mistakes of Our Time are now being taken.

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER

For the month of August we are offering a great deal on subscriptions. Take out a full price 12 issue subscription and get a second for just £10. Two subs for £40. All you have to do is buy one for yourself and take one out for a friend. (In George of the Jungle’s case he would have to make a friend first. He was devastated to find out that imaginary friends don’t count.)

In addition to the paper copy of the mag on sale at the stadium, subscribers who provide their email address are sent a colour PDF version on the morning of the game before it goes on sale and a full fat colour PDF with lots of additional features. Most issues are over 100 pages of the most interesting content you’ll ever read this side of the dentist’s waiting room. If you find this astonishing claim as difficult to swallow as a Jabba press release then check out some recent back issues on our website http://www.ntvcelticfanzine.com for details.

If you are an existing subscriber and would like to take advantage of this offer then simply add 12 issues to your existing sub and get the second for £10.

Click on the ‘subscription offer’ link at the top of the site to use Paypal or get in touch by mail at the usual address.

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Thank You John Keane and Happy Flag Day

A new season starts today with another opportunity to celebrate the unfurling of a championship flag. Doing the honours today will be Mayo man John Keane, someone to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude for helping to save our club at the time of its most dire necessity. He personally handed over a substantial sum of money to the Bank of Scotland in order to avoid the disastrous consequences of insolvency, and while he has never been someone who courts publicity, he will find out this afternoon that we appreciate what he did during those dark days.

It’s often salutory to remember how close the club came to ruin in order to maintain some perspective when relatively trivial issues cause disaffection these days. And so, here’s a trip down Amnesia Lane with an extract from Andy Murdoch’s partwork on Celtic in the 90s recalling the events of March 1994.

Thank you John Keane and Happy Flag Day.

On the Friday February 25th 1994 the Celtic board called a press conference. This was to be a dramatic announcement. Cambuslang was a reality. David Smith, Patrick Nally and Kevin Kelly faced the media to deliver one of the most astonishing addresses ever given to the Scottish football press. In a pronouncement to match the ‘Unsinkable’ tag applied to Titanic, Smith told an incredulous press pack that the funding for Cambuslang was in place thanks to a London-based company called Gefinor. There was to be a share issue which would finally allow fans to buy shares. The board, we were being led to believe, had come through against all the odds and these plans for our Brave New Celtic World would be ratified at an EGM.

Smith’s posture during all this was something to behold – sitting with his arms folded as tight as they could get, his delivery was determined to the point of contemptuous. Patrick Nally was his usual bombastic self while Kevin Kelly, meanwhile, sat with the best ‘I’m a very powerful business man’ look that he could muster.

Everyone knew it was a complete fairy story. Worse yet, it took about an hour to prove it. Gefinor were contacted. They denied all knowledge of finding money to give to the Celtic board. Superstadia, the company who were to design the new stadium, knew nothing about it, although they were adamant that, whatever it was, they would be building it. Their high powered, moving and shaking offices looked like some kind of dodgy taxi rank. The whole plan was ridiculed on the evening news programmes. It was to be the last misjudgement of the Kelly/White/Grant regime.

The following Tuesday Gefinor officially stated that they had nothing to do with the Celtic plans. They had held talks with Stadivarious, but nothing was agreed, or signed. An executive for the bank said that they were, ‘Shocked by the announcement of a deal’. It was all going seriously wrong for the board now.

Wednesday March 2nd was one of the strangest days Celtic Park has ever seen. The Celts for Change pressure group had declared an official boycott of the game. They were pretty confident that fewer than 10,000 people would attend. The board disagreed. Celts for Change stationed someone at every turnstile; they would compile their own attendance figure. When released the figures would differ by 2,000. But by then attendance figures were the last thing on the mind of the board members. The Bank of Scotland had received a request for payment from Middlesborough. They wanted the money they were owed for Willie Falconer. The bank refused.

They contacted the board demanding an immediate meeting regarding the level of debt at the club. In attendance for the board were Kevin Kelly, Tom Grant, James Farrell and Jack McGinn. The Bank put the club’s financial position to the assembled directors. They sat in stunned silence. What the bank was telling them bore little resemblance to what they had been told by David Smith. Basically the bank was ready to call in the receivers. Michael Kelly later said he thought this was a bluff by the bank.

Immediately after the meeting the bank released a statement saying that the club was in, ‘Immediate and dire peril of being put into receivership.’ An indication of how badly the club had been managed was the value of Celtic’s net assets – one sixtieth of (RIP) Rangers’ value; even Thistle were valued at four times Celtic’s worth!

Kevin Kelly called for the resignations of David Smith, and Chris White on the basis that they had misled the board regarding the financial situation. He announced that the club had entered negotiations with Brain Dempsey and Fergus McCann over the future of the club.

A TV crew found David Smith at Glasgow airport; he was on his way to Celtic Park, and still trying to talk his way out of it. Things had been fine, he maintained, until the first 10 minutes of the New Year Glasgow derby against Rangers (currently being liquidated) and the cup defeat by Motherwell.

Smith and Chris White departed, selling their shares to McCann for a tidy sum, and Michael Kelly seethed off into the distance. Having sold his shares as well he was under the impression his cousin Kevin would sell too, and was deeply unhappy at Kevin’s decision to stay. Mind you, we were all a bit gutted that Kev was still there.

Michael Kelly would later describe the removal of the old board as, ‘The dirty campaign, conceived in vengeance, born in deceit.’ That may well have been the case, but the fact was that the family dynasty that had controlled the club for nearly a century had constituted nothing more than a gravy train for those lucky enough to be part of it. The members of those families considered the money that people like you and I paid to see Celtic to be their money. Anyone who dared try and ask for more was cast out, branded as greedy, unworthy of the Celtic jersey. And the worst part of it was that for too many years than we’d like to mention we all believed it. They fed us a mountain of garbage about the honour of wearing the jersey being worth more than money, and it was swallowed whole. Players like Dalglish and Nicholas were pilloried because they knew their worth and weren’t prepared to let themselves be short changed so that the directors could eat in the best places, and live in the best houses on the strength of the talent of others.

The situation was summed up in the leader article of NTV 48; ‘All we are left to do is regret the lost opportunities, the lost five years, the hundreds and thousands of pounds that could have been invested in the club instead of being wasted if these tiny, frightened men had, just once, put Celtic first.’

Five years? Try ninety.

By the end of Friday the 4th of March Celtic had a new team at the helm. The car park at the stadium was filled with jubilant fans, one of them yelling at the top of his voice the newspaper headline for the day – McCann’s the Man!

The Bunnet had dunnit. Fergus McCann was the CEO, Dominic Keane was a director, Michael MacDonald (stepson of Gerald Weisfeld) was also now a director. Curiously, the man who had been at the forefront of the whole thing, Brian Dempsey, was not. He claimed to have no interest in returning to the Celtic Board, although he would be investing a substantial sum in the club. However this money never appeared, and Dempsey’s relationship with McCann quickly soured.
The next day the team took to the field at McDairmid Park. It was only seventeen weeks since our last visit there, but in that time we’d gone through four managers and two boards. The ground was packed out with jubilant Celtic fans with many more watching from vantage points outside the ground. To signal a real change the team actually won an away fixture. Paul Byrne scored the first goal of the new era in the first minute, and that was enough to win the game.

We followed that with a 0:0 at Easter Road, noteworthy only for the first appearance as a substitute of a youngster called Simon Donnelly.

In between those fixtures we saw the departure from Celtic Park of the man, the myth, the legend that was Wayne Biggins. Having scored the grand total of zero goals for the team, Macari somehow managed to convince Joe Jordan to part with a sum of money for this most worthless of players.

The first home game under McCann saw Celtic Park hold its biggest crowd for several years for a match not involving the now deceased Rangers. Over 36,000 turned up to give the Bunnet an indication of what kind of support Celtic could get. Unfortunately the team gave a performance that underlined why some of those 36,000 had been staying away in the first place. A truly terrible performance ended with a 1:0 defeat.

Our next home game, a 2:1 win against Raith (Donnelly scoring both) was four days later, was played in front of 20,000 fewer spectators. Clearly it would take more than a better looking balance sheet to get people back through the Celtic Park turnstiles.

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER

For the month of August we are offering a great deal on subscriptions. Take out a full price 12 issue subscription and get a second for just £10. Two subs for £40. All you have to do is buy one for yourself and take one out for a friend. (In George of the Jungle’s case he would have to make a friend first. He was devastated to find out that imaginary friends don’t count.)

In addition to the paper copy of the mag on sale at the stadium, subscribers who provide their email address are sent a colour PDF version on the morning of the game before it goes on sale and a full fat colour PDF with lots of additional features. Most issues are over 100 pages of the most interesting content you’ll ever read this side of the dentist’s waiting room. If you find this astonishing claim as difficult to swallow as a Jabba press release then check out some recent back issues on our website http://www.ntvcelticfanzine.com for details.

If you are an existing subscriber and would like to take advantage of this offer then simply add 12 issues to your existing sub and get the second for £10.

Click on the ‘subscription offer’ link at the top of the site to use Paypal or get in touch by mail at the usual address.

COMPETITION

Still time to win an item of your choice from our NTV store (see link at top of page) visit our website and click on the competition link at the top of the home page or go here

http://www.ntvcelticfanzine.com/competitions/competition%20jul%2013%20new%20shop.htm

deadline extended until close of play tonight.

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What Is This Thing Called Celtic?

If you find yourself being overwhelmed by the cynicism so prevalent in Scottish football these days then read this account of a visit to South Africa by occasional NTV contributor Estadio that appeared in the fanzine a couple of seasons ago.

 

More than a club? If you know the history? The players? The fans? The origins?

How many games, how many goals, wins, losses, draws do we need to experience to get to the heart of its meaning. Or are the seeds that were planted and flourished now gone, blown by the winds of progress across the Clyde, over the seas and oceans and no longer of relevance to the world in which we live?

It was about 2 pm on a Saturday afternoon that I drove down the main highway and took the turn-off to the town of Bloemfontein. This had been a real goal of my visit to Africa; to see this place and the people who followed a team that had not only been specifically named after our club and adopted the hoops as their own colours but had also created a supporters’ phenomenon that was recognised throughout Africa as genuinely the best, demonstrably the most enthusiastic and undoubtedly the most faithful fans in the whole of the PSL. (Premier Soccer League).

For a Celtic fan visiting Southern Africa this was surely a definitive journey just to see why, right in the heart of what had been called the ‘Orange Free State’ – now just the ‘Free State’ – this community and team had blossomed.

Bloemfontein is not a small town. It is a modern thriving multi cultural metropolis with a profile similar to most inland conurbations in Africa, and as I marvelled at the order and integration of the peoples and streets I caught sight of towering floodlights in the not too distant horizon. Suitably impressed by the skyline and the ease of finding the ground I turned the van in its direction hoping to get a few pictures and possibly meet up with a few of the fans who I was told milled around the ground most days.

There were two grounds! Vans carrying supplies, maintenance personnel and ground-staff were parked in the tar-macadamed car park. Be-suited customers collected tickets for the next games came out of the offices and made their way to their waiting BMWs and similar saloons.

Nowhere did I see anything to identify either ground as belonging to Bloemfontein Celtic, nowhere did I witness the ambience of a football community at leisure and nowhere did I feel that this was anything more than a couple of grounds in the centre of a city going about its normal commercial business.

I was disappointed.

One was The Vodacom stadium – Vodacom being the sponsor of Bloemfontein Celtic and the other was Goodyear Park.

I pulled the van up next to a Police patrol car on my passenger side and wound down the window. The archetypal beautiful black girl at the steering wheel sat alone in the car, her own passenger window wound down.

“Which one do Bloemfontein Celtic play at?“ I shouted.

She looked at me and smiled quizzically.

I repeated my shout.

She answered this time, in that sort of way that gives meaning to ‘Africa Time’.

“Oh they sometimes play over there behind that stadium, not at either of these. That’s the Rugby Union Ground and the other one there is the cricket ground. But sometimes over there” she pointed at a point that I couldn’t see.

“Why do you ask?” she went on.

I explained.

She seemed to have given up on me and went back to talking to whoever on her radio, presumably tired out with effort of giving me all the information I needed to get to the ground.

My driver door suddenly rattled and outside my window stood another copper. He was smiling; smiling didn’t always mean that the smiler was happy, but I wound down the window.

“Just follow us” he said.

By this time the woman copper had approached my passenger door.

“Bloemfontein sometimes play here but their own ground is right across town. I’ve talked to the station and we’ve been told we can escort you there.”

“Just follow us” the man repeated.

On went the blue flashing light, on screamed the siren and like a scene from an African Taggart we sped through the plush centre of town and headed somewhere! I stuck as close as I could as traffic ground to a halt at the sight and sound of the approaching law vehicle; I cut corners as they skidded through the turns and I jumped lights as they did, attached to their rear bumper by an invisible but unbreakable thread. This was a wee boy’s dream, and this was a big Bhoy’s ambition.And then the whole scene changed.

Houses and roads gave way to shacks and rutted tracks, orderly streets and pavements disappeared to be replaced by thousands upon thousands of people walking, running, lounging and passing the time of day in another black township, another forgotten and neglected community, another frontier of survival, another sink of abject poverty.

We slowed down; the town name stood bright and proud, Siwelele it proclaimed and there was the freeze-frame of everything I had heard, everything I had imagined. There was a township with nothing but their football shirts on, hoops not so much worn as tattooed, a club which they had created and given meaning, and in return a club which gave them meaning and a cause, not a distraction but the reason for their smiles and the smiles of their reason.

There was the Gallowgate; a Gallowgate full of black folk.

“No dogs, no blacks, no Irish!”

I didn’t take too many pictures. It is difficult to take snaps when your eyes are welling up and your hands are trembling. I would take some but only when I had asked and they had agreed.

We drew up outside the main entrance to the ground. It could have been any street, any entrance. It was around the back, down the lane, across the track and opposite another thousand shacks, most without water, most without electricity but most teaming with a spirit of life and hope that smiled from their window, lit up their faces and screamed at me as the weans came running out the doorways towards me. Just to say ‘Hello’.

Was this what Brother Walfrid had seen all those years ago? Was this why he had founded the institution that we all identified with. Was this just the east end of Glasgow with black faces and empty stomachs that he had set out to eradicate? Was he here in spirit and was that spirit the inspiration that had prompted Petros Molemela to have given it the name ‘Celtic’?

The two coppers jumped from their land-rover.

Delacourt, the man introduced himself.

“Ahh but you should see it on match-day” he smiled.

I had never seen a whole person smiling till then. He almost enacted a full ninety minutes in a few seconds.

“It is the greatest scene in the world. The singing, the chanting, the dancing, the cheering. It is beautiful”.

I asked the policewoman her name.

I couldn’t pronounce her answer. She knew that and immediately said “but everyone has a problem with my name so they all call me Phyllis”

“Phyllis it is” I said “Can I take your picture?”

I gave her the hat that I had been given in Australia, a hat with many badges from worldwide CSCs.

“Please keep that” I said.

Delacourt got me permission to go inside the ground.

There was no game and no one else there. But I could hear the singing, I could see the swaying. This was their Paradise.

I took loads of photos, too many and boring for here, but there was their Janefield Street, their Celtic end, their jungle.

As I returned to the car park, the children came back.

A whole family came up to me and introduced themselves. (note here spellings etc are approximate)

“I am Maledi, it means beauty, she is Tandi, that is love, Palesi, flower, Garezi, peace and Busega, importance”

I drove back to a little shack that I had sped by earlier.

This is your local greengrocers.

And the three smiles are Brenda, Lenan, and Fortunate in the middle.

Fortunate asked me to make sure I told lots of visitors to come and see them. Lots of Celtic supporters to come and see them and to come and stay with them!

The owner’s name is Michael.

I went in to thank him for allowing me to take the picture, and since he didn’t have any bananas left, I bought something that he was probably going to throw away.

Michael was on his way to a shebeen (yes that’s what they call their drinking places – and not just in Bloemfontein, in all townships – to spend the few rand I paid with. I hope you enjoyed your um*umbothi Michael! (I’ll explain that some other time).

There is poverty here beyond belief. But there is no self pity and no lack of industry. Everything is re-usable, recyclable, reinventible and most of all everything is available for everyone to make what they can of it.

As for the football itself. Well I didn’t see a game. But ask Bill McIntosh at the Johannesburg Celtic Supporters club. Ask about their trip, the welcome they were given; about being announced to the crowd, about taking pride of place in the centre circle; of how the crowd identified with Celtic from Glasgow. Ask him what memories Bloemfontein Celtic left with him.

I am sure that in other places I will talk long about my times at Siwelele and in other townships. But without doubt the sounds, sights and experiences centred on Bloemfontein Celtic will live me with forever just as the stories of the East End of Glasgow and Brother Walfrid have reverberated for so long.

Perhaps we are no longer in need of his legacy here in Glasgow. Perhaps it is only right that the seeds of his vision that saved and inspired so many in the hovels of the likes of The Calton, the Gorbals, The Garngad, Coatbridge, Croy and Cleland have been caught by that breeze and settled in a place that has a greater need. Perhaps we are now no more than a football club that will survive or fail on the pitch and in the boardrooms of the money men and perhaps we have all in our own insularity underestimated just what Andrew Kerrins started all those 122 years ago.

In years to come Bloemfontein Celtic may be more than a club, may be supported by the greatest fans in the world and may have a history that is unique. Against all odds they make take on the aristocrats of whatever competitions are put their way; they may be underestimated, condescended to and even conspired against. Maybe for a short time their star will shine brighter than all the other stars and in the shadow of those rays, the investors, asset strippers, and manipulators will move in.

And maybe then Brother Walfrid will perform his magic again and up will spring another Celtic, in another time and another place, with the same old eternal objective, the same old eternal principles.

Someone once said to me on CQN that we place too much emphasis on our history, our roots and our mythology. He also used that old aphorism that history repeats itself, the first time as farce and the second as tragedy.

But there are histories that repeat themselves as echoes of virtue; maybe we need to be even prouder and place more emphasis on those.

I know what I consider a success.

That’s a great thought.

Hail Hail

Estadio

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Watch out for regular updates on Siwilele in the subscriber editions of NTV during the coming season.

SUBSCRIPTION OFFER

For the month of August we are offering a great deal on subscriptions. Take out a full price 12 issue subscription and get a second for just £10. Two subs for £40. All you have to do is buy one for yourself and take one out for a friend. (In George of the Jungle’s case he would have to make a friend first. He was devastated to find out that imaginary friends don’t count.)

In addition to the paper copy of the mag on sale at the stadium, subscribers who provide their email address are sent a colour PDF version on the morning of the game before it goes on sale and a full fat colour PDF with lots of additional features. Most issues are over 100 pages of the most interesting content you’ll ever read this side of the dentist’s waiting room. If you find this astonishing claim as difficult to swallow as a Jabba press release then check out some recent back issues on our website http://www.ntvcelticfanzine.com for details.

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deadline extended until Saturday.

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Lateral Movement Is It?

Bloem Celtic fans in action.

Celtic v Elfsborg and Euro Round Up

After the first legs of the third qualifying round it looks likely that five teams have booked their place in the play-offs already. In the Champions section Steaua Bucharest won 2:0 away at Dynamo Tblisi although it wasn’t quite as comfortable as the scoreline suggests with the Georgians having a goal disallowed and missing a penalty that would have seen them take the lead just after the hour.

Shakhter Karagandy beat seeded opponents BATE Borisov home and away in round 2, as did the team they were drawn to play in Q3, Albanian champions KS Skënderbeu. The Khazaks won 3:0 and by the look of things they would appear to be a bit more competent than their UEFA ranking of 263rd suggests (that’s below St. Pat’s Athletic and the New Saints). Viktoria Plzeň easily swatted aside Estonians Kalju Nomme with a 4:0 victory in Talinn.

In the non-champions route,  Metalist Kharkiv of the Ukraine equalled Steaua’s result on their travels away to PAOK Salonika, one of the best results of the round considering the Greeks were seeded. A penalty for handball and a mental aberration from the home goalkeeper Jacobo would appear to have sealed Salonika’s fate.

Also in that part of the draw, Zenit beat Nordsjælland 1:0 in Denmark leaving the side from Farum needing snookers if they want a chance at a rerun of last season’s participation in the group stage.

Lyon won 1:0 against Grasshoppers of Zurich, whose manager will definitely not be for the high jump as his team hit the post twice against the Frenchmen, while Eindhoven have probably done enough against their neighbours Waragem from Belgium to see them through, leaving the  Salzburg v Fenerbahçe tie the only one in the non-champions route still level at 1-1 after the first leg with the Turks at home in the return.

Should Zenit, Lyon, PSV, Fenerbahce and Metalist (surely there’s a case for renaming the Glasgow newco ‘Mentalists Kinning Park’?) go through their reward will be a tie against one of the clubs already in the non-champions play-off group, either Arsenal, AC Milan, Schalke, Real Sociedad or Pacos de Ferreira of Portugal. Guess which one out of those five they’ll all be praying to get.

Back in Celtic’s half of the draw it was a reasonably good round for the seeded teams. Only one of the seeds lost in the first leg and that was Partizan Belgrade who went down by 2:1 in Bulgaria to Ludogorets Razgrad. Having only managed to beat their Armenian opponents on away goals in Q2 the Serbians will be doing well to get through this one.

APOEL Nicosia were the seeded team in their tie – they reached the Champions League quarter finals two seasons agao – but only managed a 1:1 draw at home in Cyprus against NK Maribor, the equaliser for the Slovenians coming from Tavares. Not sure if it was Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch or Tiny, but as they say in the Ljudski, “It Only Takes a Minute Girl…”

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Seeded Legia Warsaw spent most of their match on the back foot against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde, going behind after half an hour to a goal from the home side’s Nigerian striker Daniel Chima, but they grabbed an equaliser with 20 minutes to play and will doubtless be satisfied with that precious away goal. This will be a close one next week.

The remainder of the seeds were all playing theur first leg ties at home and all of them achieved 1:0 wins. The closest of these match-ups in terms of coefficients and rankings was that between Dinamo Zagreb and Sheriff Tiraspol. On that basis the Croatians should be most pleased with their evening’s work which saw them score the winner in the last minute.

The difference in coefficient between Austria Wien and their Icelandic opponents is actually closer than the two aforementioned teams but the wonderfully named FH Hafnarfjardar are ranked at 227th in the current standings, a difference of 123 places. Which is almost identical to the difference between Basel and their Israeli opponents Maccabi Tel Aviv, although the difference in coefficient favours the Swiss by some 45 points. On paper it should have been a comfortable tie at the St. Jakob, and although reports suggest that the home side dominated the match,  they’ll still be disappointed that they couldn’t add to their advantage. What the home sides all have in common is that they were faced with teams who set out to achieve at best a 0:0 draw. The unseeded sides will all have to score at least one goal in the return. Interesting to see how many of them will achieve that against their higher ranked opponents.

Which brings us to Celtic v Elfsborg. The Swedes too came with the intention of not conceding, playing for long spells with nine or ten men behind the ball, and at times hey weren’t too fussy about how they went about nullifying the Celtic threat. Giorgios Samaras in particular was chopped down cynically whenever he got near the away side’s goal. The Swedes ended up with 5 yellow cards against their names and were fortunate the Portuguese official allowed them to finish the match with eleven men still on the field.

Which side will be happiest with the Hoops’ 1:0 win? After Basel (56.758) – and the untimely demise of BATE Borisov – Celtic were the 2nd highest ranked team in the seeded half of the draw (31.838). Elfsborg (coeff 9.545 incidentally) probably wanted to play someone else but they had clearly done their homework, looked to exploit what they saw were weaknesses in Celtic’s team and are now making confident noises about progressing with a home win.

By contrast, Celtic had played only two competitive games before last night, both against part-time opposition. Especially early in the match it was clear the Bhoys were less sharp than the Swedes, now some 16 games into their league season. Therefore this is a result that could have been a lot worse. Against Helsinki this time last year we had to endure the early concession of a European goal at Celtic Park to a side that were nowhere near as good as Elfsborg, so it was another plus point not to have done that again, albeit there were times when it looked less than likely with some of the unorthodox and improvised defending going on.

Elfsborg have a good record at home on their artificial surface, but thinking back again to last year’s qualification campaign, both away wins were achieved on such surfaces in Helsinki and in Helsingborg. According to Solly, our Swedish scout in Stockholm, Elfsborg have a good support by Swedish standards and they play attacking football at home. In his view they are a better team than Helsingborg on their own ground. We’ll see in a week’s time whether Celtic class of 2013 can use this to their advantage and emulate last year’s result in Sweden.

Champions League 3rd Qualifying Round 1st Leg

FC Basel     Sui     Maccabi Tel-Aviv     Isr     1-0
Molde FK     Nor     Legia Warsaw     Pol     1-1
Ludogorets Razgrad     Bul     Partizan Belgrade     Srb     2-1
Dinamo Tbilisi     Geo     Steaua Bucuresti     Rom     0-2
APOEL Nicosia     Cyp     NK Maribor     Slo     1-1
Celtic     Sco     IF Elfsborg     Swe     1-0
Shakhtyor Karaganda     Kaz     Skënderbeu Korçë     Alb     3-0
Austria Wien     Aut     FH Hafnarfjardar     Isl     1-0
Kalju Nomme     Est     Viktoria Plzen     Cze     0-4
Dinamo Zagreb     Cro     Sheriff Tiraspol     Mol     1-0

FC Nordsjælland     Den     Zenit St. Petersburg     Rus     0-1
FC Salzburg     Aut     Fenerbahçe     Tur     1-1
PAOK Thessaloniki     Gre     Metalist Kharkiv     Ukr     0-2
PSV Eindhoven     Ned     Zulte Waregem     Bel     2-0
Olympique Lyon     Fra     Grasshoppers Zürich     Sui     1-0
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deadline extended until Saturday.

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