Remember the Lubo 5-1 game?

If you want to refresh your memory then watch this:

The salutary tale that follows merely illustrates that even when they still existed it wasn’t always fun following the blue team in Glasgow.

Little Boy Blue

Talk about excited!

First comes Santa Claus with your presents, then you have a birthday the very next day.

Craig’s fingers tore feverishly at the wrappings as the temperature rose, the beads of perspiration on the wee baldy bit of his head reflecting the twinkling luminosity of the occasion. Like a shark in a feeding frenzy he launched himself wholeheartedly into the pile but seemed to be making no headway – almost as if he had five thumbs on each hand.

What makes these occasions worse is the audience participation thing. When you have a crowd cheering you on, encouraging you to do well, you hate to disappoint them. Craig looked at the five thumbs on his right hand. They had metamorphosed into a giant boxing glove. “Aw naw .. “ He looked at his left hand; no, not a boxing glove. It was a prosthetic hook that the character from Peter Pan would have been proud of.

The beads of perspiration were flowing just as the Buckie in his (now) empty teacup had done several seconds earlier. Mmmmm. It had hit just the right spot. He raised his left hand to wipe the sweat from his fevered brow and tore a four inch gash in his forehead that big Duncan Ferguson could not have bettered. “See me. Talk about unlucky!”

He raised his misty eyes to the audience for sympathy but saw only hazy outlines. A sympathetic suggestion saved the day. “Well, see if you can guess what the presents are then Craig.”

He picked up the first package eagerly. “Is it an umbrella?”

“Nope”. A serving wench had spotted his thirsty plight and replenished his empty vessel. The tawny nectar gazed up at him seductively with a look that said ‘Hurry up and kiss me.”

“Is it a watch?” He raised his cup to kiss the gorgeous contents but forgot about the boxing glove. “Aw naw. See me, talk aboot unlucky!”

1998 had indeed been a horrendously unlucky year for our Craig, what with his beloved Rangers just narrowly failing to … (This part had been blanked from his mind, a cunning psychological ploy which many traumatised victims adopt during times of extreme stress). Concentrate, concentrate. Whit wiz ah daein’? Aye, that’s right … “Is it a watch?”

“Naw, don’t be daft, it’s no’ a watch. Guess again.”

The mist began to clear from Craig’s eyes as the sniffles subsided and the package took on a more regular shape. It’s rectangular outline was now a dead giveaway. Confidence was growing. “I know, it’s a video!”

“Hooraaaay!”

Craig looked down at his grotesque appendages and discovered to his delight that his nose-pickers had been restored to their former glory. He thrust his fi ngers hungrily at the package and destroyed the wrapping instantly. A haunted, piercing scream from the depths of his soul was matched by his terrible, troubled face. His uncontrollable sobbing blew apart the thin veneer of normality which had masked his tortured soul for the last seven months.

“What is it son?”

A friendly face gazed into his gutted countenance as the 5-1 video was gently removed from his trembling hands.

“I suppose you lot think this is funny.”

“Aye!”

TAYTO

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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.

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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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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.

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deadline extended until close of play tonight.

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