Truth is not Negotiable

hillsborough justice 96

I think of an image and an emotion that has stayed with me for over 24 years.

I make no apology for being what is often described as a ” people person”. I like people. I find different individuals interesting and am often left in awe at what some “ordinary” and “unknown” people do with their time. I like meeting new people and hearing of their experiences and talents.

I love to hear of people doing well, achieving things and generally making a right good fist of life and family.

The flip side of that is that I can’t help feel a sympathy and an empathy with people who are going through a hard time for whatever reason, especially when their troubles are the kind of troubles that I cannot come close to imagining.

So back to the image in my head. It is February 1991 and my television is filled with the drawn, gaunt and haunted face of Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish, who is explaining why he has decided to resign as manager of Liverpool Football Club.

His team are top of the league and it is only two days after the famous 4-4 draw with neighbours Everton in the FA cup. Liverpool are chasing their 4th title in 6 years. In Football terms, Dalglish is a Merseyside God. In personal terms, he is burnt out and a mere shadow of the man that so often boasted a huge wide smile when scoring a goal.

Kenny explains that for the first time, he has had to make a decision which puts Kenny Dalglish and the Dalglish family before club…. and before football. He is clearly in trouble.

To this day, the overwhelming emotion that runs through me when I think of that image is…. Pride.

I was SO proud of Kenny Dalglish that night. He bared his soul, spoke with honesty and honour, revealed his pain, his failings and his difficulties… and made it obvious to all that his anguish and stress had had a knock on effect on his wife and family that he “didn’y like,” and so it was time to walk away from a club and a game that he loved dearly.

It was a dignified, honourable and brave decision and performance.

The reason for Dalglish’s dramatic and unexpected action can be summed up in one word.


Kenny Dalglish was the manager of the Liverpool team that tragic day – but he was the leader of a community – possibly a whole city and beyond in the days after.

A motion was placed before Parliament suggesting that he be knighted for his services to football way back then– and the services concerned were his playing skills, his management, and his immense presence off the field in those dark days. Had he and the club really lobbied to have the motion passed then I have no doubt that the king would have become a knight.

He went to funeral after funeral – famously going to 4 services in the one day – and took on an emotional routine and committment that could not have failed to have a long lasting effect on the most hardened of men.

It is for that reason – as well as his playing skills – that Kenny Dalglish will always be ” King Kenny” on Mersyside – and no football results or unsuccessful transfers will ever change that.

Yet Dalglish’s anguish and stress compares as nothing to what was suffered by the families and friends of the dead, and the survivors who managed to scramble out only to leave friends and relatives behind. That anguish was made all the greater when both the dead and the living were publicly demonised and unjustly damned for being the drunken and unruly cause of so many deaths.

Now, 24 years on we discover that not only was that demonisation unjust, but that there was a considered, deliberate, and specific plan on the part of officers of the South Yorkshire Police force to falsify evidence, doctor documents, alter statements and commit perjury – all in an attempt to villify the dead and the innocent — for their own self interest.

Think on this for a moment.

41 of those who ultimately died could in fact have been saved, and could be alive today. In each and every one of those cases the coroner’s report was hopelessly and factually wrong.

Virtually all of the evidence given by the police to – and therefore many of the conclusions made by — the Taylor enquiry– lacks accuracy and foundation and so cannot be relied upon.

The Police force deliberately and calculatedly fed false evidence and downright lies to the Sun Newspaper and so used that newspaper for the purpose of propogating not just a spin on events, but a wholly false story designed to cover up their own failings and misdemeanors, and to wholly mislead the public at large.

Further, the Football authorities, swallowed those lies line hook line and sinker with the result that the then supremo (Graham Kelly) amplified and broadcast the same story – and others like Boris Johnson, as editor of the spectator, were able to repeat the calumny as if it were absolute fact several years later.


The lies and the cover up engineered by the police that day changed football forever. I am not saying that grounds did not need improving and refurbishment, but remember that the same testimony that is now being demolished in this latest report, played a large part in Lord Justice Taylor recommending that grounds become all seated, causing clubs to spend fortunes in refurbishment, health and safety, risk assessment and so on.

Capacities were reduced, income was reduced, expenditure was increased, bank loans were undertaken, interest incurred and costs rocketed. In some cases, hitherto successful clubs had to sacrifice on field success to finance the steps necessay for compliance. Some have never recovered in the footballing sense.

Now of course all of that pales into insignificance against the loss of 96 lives and the grief that has endured ever since that fateful day. Further, many of the stadia that have now been upgraded were in dire need of demolition or refurbishment, and there can be no doubt that the modern stadia that we have today offer far greater safety and improved facilities for the spectator.

However, the fact remains that the report that brought all of that about was based on lies, damned lies and yes false statistics and reports prepared by South Yorkshire Police Force.

The point here is that lies have consequences – consequences which go way beyond the purposes envisaged by those who do the lying.

Now that the truth is out, there are calls for prosecutions, there are calls for justice, there are calls for retribution, all of which will make some people sleep very uneasy in their beds tonight. Yet the truth is that no one can undo the consequences of the lies and the cover up, because there is no system in place to take back time and undo what flowed naturally and consequentially from those untruths.

And there is the point – truth. Truth is not a negotiable instrument. It can’t be cashed in for a few bits of truth, a lie or two and a compromise. No, Truth is absolute.

Whatsmore, when the police or some other colective body of individuals seek to suppress the truth – by way of cover up, lies, obfuscation and deception – someone, somewhere will smell it and recognise it for what it is… eventually.

Those who have control or in authority are entrusted with those positions and that power, on the basis that they will act with honour. That word, honour, is a kind of old fashioned word and is perhaps a bit out of use. That is to be regretted, because without honour a police force, a football club, an official body, an individual has lost its way in society and serves no purpose whatsoever unless it can regain that honour, and the honour concerned cannot be awarded by any third party – it has to come from within.
According to many, including a former home secretary and a former Chief Constable, the only way that the “system” under which we live can regain its honour with regard to Hillsborough is to seek out, discipline and prosecute the wrongdoers who were responsible for the lies and the cover up.

They are calling for the application of society’s rules without fear or favour, without deviation or compromise. That is how you act, and are seen to act, honourably.

That principle applies to any situation where there has been wrongdoing and an attempt to cover it up.

Further, hopefully the newspaper industry will take a good look at itself and consider how one of the most popular publications in the land was deliberately and cynically used to peddle what turned out to be innacurate, self serving criminal propaganda, and how it did so in an attempt at sensationalism and ever larger copy sales.

Kenny Dalglish might no longer be employed in football or by Liverpool FC, but amidst the family that he holds so dear, and among the people of Liverpool (both Red and Blue) he will always be King Kenny purely because he acted with honour— even when it was very very tough to do so.

hillsborough celtic banner
Brogan, Rogan, Trevino and Hogan


Celtic 1 Ross County 1


It wasn’t exactly the reaction the manager wanted after last week but this performance was pretty indicative of his time in charge of Celtic.

Everything, right down to Kazim-Richards’ new hair extensions, was difficult to watch today (It’s a shame I wasted the Samson references on Scott Brown).

The changes made to the starting 11 from Sunday’s cup exit were baffling. A flat atmosphere matched the stale performance in the opening encounters, although Roberts did look lively, if not terribly effective.

Kazim-Richards initially looked like a player who was all too aware, at last, of his limitations as he skulked away on the left flank, but he later got himself more involved in the match – much to the dismay of the rest of Celtic Park.

Griffiths had Celtic in the league with a superb finish on his right foot. He has had a brilliant season and it’s unthinkable where we would have been had he picked up a long-term injury. What else needs to be said?

Rogić was a welcome addition to the team and contributed some positive passing before Ross County inevitably started to grow into the match and each attacking move from Celtic petered harmlessly out.

It wouldn’t have taken a genius to work out that Liam Boyce is a Celtic fan at heart given the manner in which he refused the gifts of the Celtic defence. He should have had County deservedly back on terms before the interval when he squandered a free header six yards out. Static defending all-round.

Roberts’ only substantial contribution came when he brilliantly set up Rogić to spurn a guilt-edged opportunity.

The second-half belonged to Ross County who had several chances to bury Celtic after Murdoch had fired them level from a badly defended corner. The very least they deserved. Shalk had a good long range effort and should certainly have finished a great counter attack from an opposition corner. Gardyne also let Celtic off the hook – notice the lack of Celtic players mentioned thus far.

Roberts continued showing his reluctance to pass but, in his defence, was occasionally left with very few offers. Still nowhere near an excuse. Brown and Bitton, meanwhile, were completely shown up by Jackson Irvine who Rran both of our international centre-mids into the ground today.

Kazim-Richards had a chance to break his goalscoring duck against teams not comprised of electricians and PE teachers. Call me unreasonable, if you will, for expecting a Turkish international striker to be able to score from 6 yards out but maybe I should take into consideration which Turkish international striker we’re dealing with.

Ronny was finally bayed into using up his last two subs after 80 minutes when he took off Rogić for McGregor and the air of resignation prevalent all game briefly lifted. It morphed for a few seconds into frustration in the form of boos all round the stadium. Utterly nonsensical.

Enter, Kris Commons, but the man who can turn a single point into all three didn’t turn up.

The match fizzled out in the end. I slated the Staggies for their tactics in the Semi-Final but they were made to look outstanding today and should have left Celtic Park with a comfortable win. As for Celtic…

Another awful day. With the manager halfway out the door maybe Peter Lawwell should take some advice from Macbeth, it being Shakespeare’s anniversary and everything: “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.”

Interms of the new manager debate here’s my two cents worth. Whoever comes in will have a hard task to make it into the Champions League which is why I think it’s time we brought in someone with an in-depth knowledge of the Scottish game (Hartley, Michael O’Neill, Alex Neil) or has managed in a similar predicament i.e. Gurban Gurbanov of Qarabag. No point expecting the likes of Mackay or Keane to be able to live up to the demands of a club with over-reaching expectations.

Throwing money and “investing in the squad” isn’t the answer. Plenty of money has been thrown at duds. The players we have brought in for lower values have proven to be the most successful. This is a highly ineffectual system which John Parks has to answer for. Why can BATE Borisov qualify for the Champions League with a squad full of Belorussians yet we feel the need to poach Premier League rejects or rising stars?

I would argue also that these are not “inferior players” as some supporters like to argue. There are a few who absolutely should not be in a Celtic jersey but this is a developing team with some real talent. Our focus should be on signing from our own league so as to avoid players like Cole, Kazim-Richards, Pukki or Boyata.

As Captain EJ Smith said in April 1912, I don’t envy the man charged with turning this ship around.

Player Ratings:

Gordon 6 – Reliable but largely untested. Doesn’t have much of an offside case against the County attacker for the goal.

Lustig 6 – Got up the flanks well and brilliantly cut back for Roberts in the second-half. Quality at times but expect more from Sweden’s first choice full back.

Mulgrew 6 – Decent performance. Took up good defensive positions but not exactly commanding. Struggled with injury in second half.

Sviatchenko 7 – Not his best but still the one solid performer in that team. Often had to clean up Bitton and Brown’s horrendous passing. Outstanding defensively although his lack of pace left him of position on occasion.

Tierney 6 – Another reliable performer but, again, not his finest hour. Final ball lacked and was caught out of position on the break on a few occasions.

Brown 4 – Continues to be outplayed by opposition midfielders. At fault for gifting possession away and didn’t make any positive contribution of note.

Bitton 5 – Only achieves higher marks than Brown as he refused to hide and at least tried to contribute to forward play. Still a miserable performance.

Roberts 5 – Refused to play the sensible pass too often. Talented dribbler but no substance behind much of it. Defenders had him sussed out all day. Botched a couple of great chances. Poor afternoon.

Rogić 6 – Didn’t look at his liveliest and should have finished Roberts’ cross but gave the County defence something to worry about offensively. Wrongly subbed.

Kazim-Richards 3 – Not a footballer.

Griffiths 6 – Outstanding strike for his 38th goal. Not exactly given much to work with thereafter but he’s indispensable.
McGregor n/a – Had enough time to do something but Celtic lost all momentum by that point. Looked lively enough but no notable contributions.

Commons 3 – Only two noteworthy actions but they were enough to give a rating. Was greedy and selfish as he tried to make what looked like a personal point to his manager with a thirty yard pot shot and another from an impossible position. Poor attitude if so.



April 24th 1965 – The Start of an Era

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Jock Stein taking over as manager at Celtic NTV has been featuring a short series of articles in this season’s issues commemorating what was to prove a momentous year in the history of the club.

Part 2 of our stroll down Amnesia lane looked back at the climax to the 1964-65 season which ended in an unlikely Scottish Cup win on April 24th.

David Potter describes events in his book ‘Our Bhoys Have Won The Cup’ in a chapter entitled The Dawn of the Free.
Thus it would be Celtic v Dunfermline Athletic in the Hampden Park Final on April 24th.

This was a particularly ironic pairing for it inevitably brought back memories of 1961, and that particular result which seemed to symbolise all the suffering of the lean years. The sheer power of Pat Crerand had made Celtic seem world beaters in every respect bar one, and it was the vital one of goalscoring. Feckless finishing and lucky goalkeeping had made that night one of the most frustrating of anybody’s life, and the Pars had run up and scored two goals, both well taken but at least one gifted by sloppy goalkeeping, to make it Dunfermline’s greatest ever night, but Celtic’s worst.

But now we had Stein.

This would make the vital difference, we were told, but it did not seem that way as League form continued to be deplorable. Falkirk hammered Celtic 6-2, admittedly a weakened Celtic without McNeill and Clark, and then on the Saturday before the Final, when no excuses were possible on the grounds of injury or anything else, Partick Thistle beat Celtic 2-1 at an ominously silent Celtic Park.

Yet on that same day, Dunfermline also lost in a game which mattered and which probably cost them the League Championship, a point raised by the more perspicacious of Celtic optimists before the Final.

The day of the Final also contained a dramatic finish to the Scottish League Championship. It all boiled down to Hearts and Kilmarnock. Dunfermline had lost it the previous week; Hibs and Rangers had fallen by the wayside, and unless Hearts lost by 2-0 at Tynecastle to Kilmarnock, they would be League Champions. Hearts would in the event live up to their tradition of blowing it on the last day by doing just that – losing 2-0 to Kilmarnock.

All this however was of precious little concern to those 108,000 people who gathered at Hampden Park to watch the following two teams take the field:

Celtic: Fallon, Young, Gemmell; Murdoch, McNeill, Clark; Chalmers, Gallagher, Hughes, Lennox, Auld.

Dunfermline Athletic: Herriot, W. Callaghan, Lunn; Thomson, McLean, T. Callaghan; Edwards, Smith, McLaughlin, Melrose, Sinclair.

‘We’ll forgive every thin, Cel-lic, every thin, if ye’s jist win the dae’ screamed a desperate Glasgow voice in my ear as referee Hugh Phillips of Wishaw started the game.

Celtic were playing towards their own supporters, although in truth, there were enough of them at the other end as well, and green and white favours seemed to outnumber black and white ones by about 20 to 1. The weather was fine – a bright spring day with more than a hint of a breeze.

The Pars drew first blood as Melrose hooked a ball from the edge of the penalty area after the Celtic defence had failed to mop up a throw in and goalkeeper Fallon had been caught off his line. Time 15 minutes and then Celtic began to surge forward, playing the sort of football that would become their hallmark in years to come.

On the half hour mark, inside forward Charlie Gallagher picked up a loose ball and shot from about 25 yards. The ball hit the bar, and the cries of frustration from the packed Celtic end were strangled when it was seen that the ball, caught in a capricious gust of wind, did not fly over the bar, nor bounce back into play, but shot straight up in the air. The bar was still shaking with the vehemence of the shot as the ball came down, and the ever alert Bertie Auld kept his eye on it and headed in from about six inches out.

It was one of the strangest goals ever seen at Hampden Park, but totally deserved, you felt, before about thirty strangers of all ages and sexes jumped on your back in ecstasy.

1-1, but then just at half time a cemetery silence descended once again on the Celtic End amid the odd call for the sacking of Queen’s Park’s public address system man.

It was bizarre the way Dunfermline went ahead again. A soft free kick had been conceded outside the box. Melrose shaped to take it, but instead tapped the ball to McLaughlin. At that very instant the P.A. system announced a message that nobody heard but might well have gone down in infamy. The Celtic defence’s concentration fatally wilted, and everybody hesitated as McLaughlin hammered a great goal past Fallon.

The half time whistle went soon afterwards, and everybody felt that this was rough justice. Celtic had played better football, had had more possession of the ball, and yet these two Dunfermline goals had given them a 2-1 lead.

Half time was spent in a curious state of introverted pessimism and everybody was wishing they hadn’t come and that they’d never heard of football or Celtic, for there was that sickening promise of another disappointment, one that would be hard to handle psychologically.

But this was a different-Celtic team. This one had passion as well as skill. The days of the cavings-in had gone, and within five minutes of the restart, they were level again. It was that left wing pair of Lennox and Auld again! Auld had released Lennox, then had charged into the penalty area to receive the return pass, to hammer home a low shot at the very instant of being tackled.

It was now that we began to have our alternate dream and nightmare scenario, as both teams served up what would be described by all the papers as a great game of football.

If anything, Dunfermline upped a gear once they got over the shock of the equaliser, and on at least two occasions Celtic were indebted to John Fallon for saving them. He may have been partly to blame for the first goal, but he made up for it now as first Edwards, then McLaughlin shot for him-to save brilliantly. Then Celtic began to take command for a spell, as the feeling began to grow once we were in the last quarter of an hour that the next goal would be the winner. Nine minutes remained as Lennox’s speed won Celtic a corner on the left at the Mount Florida end. Charlie Gallagher took it, sent over a perfect ball and Billy McNeill appeared from nowhere to head home, taking radio and TV commentators as much by surprise as he did the Dunfermline defence.

This was indeed story book, B(h)oys Own stuff, full of romance and joy with plucky winners and gallant losers.

But journalists and historians have tended to ignore the truth when they talk about Celtic’s meeting with destiny and so on. The truth was that we had nine undignified minutes to live through. Nine minutes of sweating, praying, pleading, bowel churning, bladder bursting, promising to attend Church every Sunday for the rest of our life, agony to live through.

Fortunately the players on the park were calmer than we were at the top of Gangway 25 as Bertie Auld pretended to trip over and stand on the pile of policemen’s coats as he shaped to take a corner kick.

Hugh Phillips eventually gave way to the pressure of 100,000 hysterical voices and pointed to the dressing room. Now we could talk of Captain Courageous, of the old Celtic Cup Magic, heroes of the hour, and the glorious uplands of our august destiny.

Why, somebody even said we could maybe win the European Cup – ‘maybe no’ next year, but the year efter that’, and we all slapped him on the back as we shared his unfettered joy. We cried as they ran towards the Celtic End with the trophy, some whose childhoods had been flawed and underpriviliged but whose young manhood would now be rich with the joys of triumph. Introverted, sad children suddenly became alert, cheerful, confident young people, and life would never be the same agalll.

There was an appointment with history in one sense. Rangers’ victory over Dundee in the 1964 Scottish Cup had meant that for the first time since 1922 Celtic had slipped behind in the table of Cup winners. Now we were back level again, for we had won the Scottish Cup for the eighteenth time. The pendulum had swung back.

amnesia 65 final team celebrating

Celtic 2 Sevco 2

waving hankies

This was a disaster waiting to happen. The one that we dared not lose. And we lost it. Ironically, it was the Zombies that put the final nail in R0nny Deila’s coffin.

Today we were outplayed in the first-half by a Championship side. Appalling. However, even though Celtic played much better for the rest of the contest, I had absolutely no confidence that we would do it.

Sometimes the Footballing Gods are against you, however this mentality shown today is down to the manager, who picked this afternoon to have one of his worst tactical showings to date.

Sevco were allowed to play with the ball in front of us but they didn’t muster a single shot after the interval until McKay’s screamer in extra-time. I can live with that, but so often we were left devoid of ideas on the counter-attack. Any average fan could have spotted that, yet the guy who’s paid to fix it just waited.

For all that this will be hailed in the media as some kind of world-shaking beating, Celtic could have won this game. We had the chances to win it. But it’s time to look at the bigger picture – Deila apologists pay particular attention.

Today marked the ultimate step backwards. Last season was a good year, it’s fair to say, so let’s draw comparisons.

Last season we had two crucial away games at Pittodrie. We won them. This season – Beaten twice.

Last season we dropped into the Europa League and put in a decent display culminating in a post-Christmas knock-out tie against Inter. This season, not even a single victory at Celtic Park and beaten home and away by Molde.

Last season we had a January transfer window in which we strengthened and galvanised the team in order to get over the line. This season we weakened it and we’re still not home and dry yet.

The reason for all of this is simply that Deila has lost the squad. They’re basically a talented squad that any competent manager could have won a domestic trophy with this season.

But Ronny Deila isn’t any manager. Penalties is a hard way to lose it but, as unpredictable as they may appear, the mentality of a side is what ultimately wins on these occasions. Look at Hibs in the first semi-final; they knew they had a goalkeeper who had been unbeatable all game – so did Dundee United.

Celtic just never seemed to have the belief that they were going to win it, even when the Zombies were there for the taking.

There’s no question now that this was the final straw for Deila. He will definitely not be in charge next season and it is doubtful even that he will get the pleasure of lifting that league trophy, assuming we win it.

It’s amazing what can happen when a club has everyone pulling in the same direction. I hope everyone is on the same page at Celtic now as well.


Player Ratings out of 10:

Gordon 8 – Probably the only reason we got to penalties. Didn’t put a foot wrong. Superb first half stop. Blameless for the goals and made a good save in the shootout but could have maybe done better with McKay’s penalty.

Tierney 9 – Fought tooth and nail to get us back into the match. Captain material from this young man.

Mulgrew 7 – Good display from Charlie. Thought he was finished in the Hoops but recent displays have convinced me otherwise.

Boyata 4 – Looked like a rabbit caught in headlights whenever he was on the ball. Substituted early on with an injury. Probably for the best.

Lustig 6 – Solid and industrious. Ran the channels for ninety minutes although end product should have been better.

Bitton 5 – Once again never looked to create or defend. Put in a shift but his passing was truly dreadful at times. Pretty useless after injury set in.

Brown 3 – For a captain, in a match like this, to perform like that is unacceptable. Couldn’t pass wind, couldn’t tackle, useless on the break. Just a shocking day.

Mackay-Steven 4 – Couldn’t get going. Anonymous until subbed.

Johansen 4 – Stinker really but had his moments. Worked hard but, again, wasteful final ball.

Roberts 4 – Had the beating of his man for most of the first half. Can pass a ball but chose not to on too many occasions. Predictable and spent by the final whistle.

Griffiths 5 – Good out-ball for Celtic. Had chances and looked lively but couldn’t get support from his team-mates. Unlucky today not to score with two efforts that hit the woodwork.


Sviatchenko 8 – Today might have been so different had he started. Solidified defence and dragged the team back from a goal down.

McGregor 6 – Grew into the match in extra-time and came close. Superb ball into Rogić which may have been the difference.

Rogić 7 – Made a superb contribution and caused the Sevco defence all sorts of problems, not least the goal. Didn’t deserve to miss the penalty although he missed it before he’d even placed the ball.



Le Petit Merde

More than twenty years on since the grizzly events surrounding Maurice Johnston’s signing for Rangers, JB Banal looks back in a spirit of reconciliation. After two decades of contemplation and reflection, he’d still like to string Johnston up to the ceiling by his nipples.

Click on the links to read why…

Unforgiven – Part 1

unforgiven johnston-scarf

“The formalities were completed on the Thursday evening when Johnston signed a two and a half year contract. He described it as, “The best day of my life” and at the time swore he would never leave, picturing himself signing new deal after new deal.”


Unforgiven – Part 2

unforgiven 2 mo-and-billy
Positively beaming, he declared in front of the cameras that he had rejected other offers in order to come back and play for his beloved Hoops: “I always wanted to play for Celtic and I still do.”


Unforgiven Part 3

unforgiven 3-johnston-devil

Johnston (who sat throughout much of the press conference with his tongue literally embedded in his cheek), looked about as comfortable as a laboratory frog that’s been connected to the mains as he made his contribution to the afternoon’s proceedings: “I am absolutely thrilled”, he said, sounding absolutely petrified, adding, “My admiration for the club is huge,” which was something else he’d kept to himself up until that point.

The Twilight Zone

A pre-liquidation era repeat of a classic episode…

twilight zone 1
twilight zone 2
twilight zone 3

Tales of the Macabre Vol. 1

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