The first Celtic fanzine

The Shamrock

shamrock fanzine

Not The View is proud to say that we are among the venerable old fanzines on the Scottish football scene. However, some twenty-odd years and over two hundred issues old as we may be, we ourselves were predated by some 26 years when it comes to Celtic fan publications.

“The Shamrock” was a supporters’ publication aimed directly at the real grassroots Celtic fans, and although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when it first appeared, its heyday seems to have been between 1961 and 1963. A5 size and consisting of 8-12 pages of typed text which looks as if it might have reproduced by means of Gestetner skins, it was a hard-hitting piece of samizdat that proved to be remarkably ahead of its time. The period from the mid-sixties until the departure of Jock Stein might have silenced many of the club’s critics, but when the Big man departed the scene many of the issues highlighted by this early fanzine reappeared to haunt a board no longer able to paper over the perennial cracks.

It was published by the Shamrock Celtic Supporters Club in Edinburgh totally unofficially and was sold outside the stadium on the approaches to Celtic Park. The lack of official sanction will come as little surprise to anyone who manages to get hold of a few copies; the magazine took a virulently anti-board stance and was almost rabid in its condemnation of perceived injustices suffered by Celtic at the hands of the SFA and Scottish referees. Needless to say, it was equally uncompromising when it came to matters relating to Rangers.

The magazine reflected the frustration felt by the fans at a time when Celtic had failed to lift a trophy since thrashing Rangers in the 7:1 League Cup final of 1957. One particular source of irritation at the time was the famous ‘Youth Policy’ – get a player for nothing, bring him into the first team then sell him for as much as you could get – felt at the time to be doomed to failure.

Though they did give credit where it was due, much of the criticism they directed at the players and the board was highly personal in nature (big Yogi and Bob Kelly were two favourite targets). however, it seems that the views they were expressing on these issues were indeed widely held among the fans at the time, particularly among the habitués of the Jungle. Quite possibly ‘The Shamrock’ may have been one of the understated reasons why the board were so keen to launch Pravda in 1965 as their official organ.

There were more than a few passing resemblances between this scurrilous rag of the early Sixties and NTV, its equally scurrilous counterpart of the late eighties. While NTV bemoaned the lack of investment in a playing squad which had won the double during Celtic’s centenary season, The Shamrock had been preoccupied with precisely the same issue in 1963. Following a cup tie against Eyemouth, which had been won by 3:0, its contributors were far from happy about the way things were going on the pitch: “This form will not take the team to the final. Murdoch and Divers were missed, but it’s a bad job if they don’t have reserves to take their places.”

As in the 80s, this kind of criticism was given short shrift by the Celtic directors: “It is plain to see how this great club has come down. You get statements like, ‘If you are not happy stay away’” (September 1963).

Like NTV, space for readers’ letters was prominent in each issue. In the days before the internet, phone-ins and hotlines this gave fans perhaps their only channel to air what they considered to be their legitimate grievances, often with the wit of the terracing so noticeably lacking in po-faced and worthy official publications. One supporter, a Mr. J. Langan of Glasgow, wrote: “I agree with Jim Lappin regarding the present Celtic team. It must be galling for a man who can go back to the great Celtic teams of the past … to compare them with the men who are wearing the colours today. There’s only one thing in his favour; he’ll not be kept long in purgatory after all he has suffered at Parkhead.”

The dilapidated state of Celtic Park and its environs was another subject which vexed both The Shamrock in 1963 and Not The View a quarter of a century later. Parkhead in 1988 might have been a working Victorian museum and a monument to a bygone way of boardroom authoritarianism, but at least we had the luxury of a concrete terracing to stand on. Contributors to The Shamrock were still standing on banking made up of compacted shale faced off with disused railway sleepers. Inclement weather must have produced conditions reminiscent of the front lines at the Battle of Ypres: “Is it not time that Celtic did something about their terracing and get it concreted the same as a lot of clubs, some of them with a lot less money than us? The terracing in the Jungle is especially bad, so hurry up and get cracking … The outside and inside of Celtic Park should be improved as in parts you are up to your ankles in mud on a wet day… If this is Paradise then we could do with a touch of the other place to warm it up a bit.” (1963)

Needless to say, Scottish referees were as popular with The Shamrock’s editorial staff as they were in the 80s. Laughing in the face of libel laws, the magazine dropped subtle hints within its pages that perhaps the Men in Black were sometimes apt to show a certain bias towards Rangers (“The Rangers gave their players a large bonus this week. Did I hear someone say what about the referees?” – 1963) while the statistically-minded were busy compiling evidence for a compelling argument that referees seemed more inclined to award spot kicks when the player tumbling to the ground was wearing a blue jersey: “Rangers have been awarded ten penalty kicks this season and have had none awarded against them. There is no need to comment on this as it speaks for itself.”

The Shamrock advocated something more than passive acceptance of what they regarded as a continuing reluctance on the part of the football authorities to give the Celts a fair crack of the whip: “It is about time Celtic brought matters to a head with the SFA regarding the bad decisions given against them and never mind trying to be gentlemen. Willie Maley would never have stood for it, but then he was a real manager.”

This was typical of the type of scathing criticism this forerunner of the fanzines reserved for the board, then under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Kelly. Articles and letters condemning the youth policy and the club’s unwillingness to spend money on players appeared regularly while the magazine also championed the cause of a certain Baillie James Reilly, a noted critic of the directors in his day, who wanted to usurp power within Parkhead and actively encouraged fans to join the fledgling Celtic Supporters Association, which at that time was perceived as a potential pressure group for upholding the interests of ordinary supporters.

Ideas mooted in the magazine for taking away some of the influence of the board ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous (one writer actually suggested that Celtic should have elected members from supporters clubs present at team selection meetings) but some idea of the general tone can be gleaned from this editorial from October 1963 which was entitled “So Have The Mighty Fallen”:

“The decline of Celtic has reached such a stage that it cannot be tolerated any longer. The supporters must organise and the lead must be given by influential business and professional men, although every supporter has his part to play and if they could get the backing of old Celtic players in support of Jimmy Delaney’s outspoken criticism then they would certainly be making headway. They have been given a lead by Mr. Reilly.

“They could call a mass meeting on Glasgow Green on a Sunday and deliver an ultimatum to the Celtic board to get a real team on the park or get out.

“Otherwise they could boycott the games and that would certainly make an impression. After all, the supporters are the only part of the club that cannot be done without. They can replace players, trainers and even Mr. Kelly, but the support cannot be replaced, so I say to them;
Why should YOU complain
Who lead the club
Who finance the club
At what the club may do?
Why should YOU complain
Who are the club
THE CLUB MUST FOLLOW YOU!”

The extraordinary thing was that The Shamrock’s agenda was to prove almost Nostradamus-like in its foresight. I only hope the fans who produced it were around to welcome the Bunnet to their beloved Parkhead.

MANFRED LURKER

For more on the Shamrock visit the Celtic Collectors Club website http://www.celticcollectorsclub.co.uk/shamrock.htm

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NTV issue 221

NTV issue 221

Out on Tuesday 22nd October.

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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