The Bitter Cauldron
My old man would have loved Celtic’s destruction of Rangers at Ibrox yesterday; not only the fact that the side completely dominated their opponents on their own patch but also for the fact that Celtic played some excellent passing football. For Celts of his generation growing up in the years following World War Two there was little to cheer as Celtic stumbled along with only sporadic successes to offer their huge and committed support. It is astonishing to recall that between 1920 and 1965, when Jock Stein arrived at Celtic Park, the Hoops won just 5 championships. In that same period Rangers won 25.
Celtic in the decades after the war were a useful side at times but occasional displays of brilliance were all too often followed by inconsistency and the sale of star players. It took a man of Stein’s calibre to harness the true power of Celtic and give a support desperate for success some glory to savour. That era made all the pain of the post war era worthwhile. Celtic swept to dominance under Stein and conquered Europe with a style of play which rejuvenated attacking football after the defensive dominance of sides like Inter Milan held sway.
For my old man, seeing Celtic win and win with style lit up his working week. For thousands of working class Scots, life in the factories, docks and building sites was hard and the football stadiums of the country were the theatres they attended to escape the drudgery for a while. It was there they met their friends, had a drink and sang their songs. It was there the drama on the field made them forget their troubles for a while. When the team was struggling they’d stick with them stoically knowing that the good times would be enjoyed all the more. When times were bad he’d stand on the terraces of the old Celtic end and shout, ‘Come on Celtic! Intae them!’
Yesterday was one of those great days you get now and then following Celtic. Not only did the team play with verve and skill, they simply ripped Rangers apart with their pace and movement. Yes, Rangers are a ragged and sorry side at the moment but no game is easy in the bitter cauldron of Ibrox. It seems the home support have not changed their song book in the last 100 years. It saddens me to hear the bile which poured from the stands occupied by the home support. From the outset it was clear that the boil of bigotry has yet to be lanced and we were treated to the ‘Billy Boys’ and other such ditties as well as truly awful chants about paedophilia. Sometimes I despair that the reasonable Rangers supporters are either swept along on this hateful tide or cowed into silence by the more coarse types among their support. There seems to be a real lack of self-awareness among a support which doesn’t seem to care that watching millions on TV thinks of them as relics from the dark ages.
As the game turned against the home side and it became clear that Celtic were there to do a job, things turned uglier. We had a racist gestures aimed at Scott Sinclair, a fan on the pitch trying to get at Scott Brown and various objects thrown at Celtic players. One image shows Leigh Griffiths holding up a battery which had it struck him could have done serious damage. As Celtic tore Rangers apart in the second half it was too much for many among the home support who left the stadium in their thousands leaving huge swathes of empty blue seats. For some the sight of 7000 Celtic supporters celebrating in the Broomloan Stand was too much to take.
For some reading these words would merely convince them that no Celtic supporter would write anything positive about the Rangers support. It is up to each reader to decide on my motivations for writing about these things but it remains my honest opinion that there is a huge issue at Ibrox with sectarianism. In all my years following Celtic I have never heard the sort of bile present among the Rangers support. You will, of course, get the odd idiot among all football supports but it is nothing when viewed against the sheer scale of bigotry among elements of the Rangers support.
That being said, one Celtic supporter tweeted a picture of three Rangers supporters who had intervened to save his friend from the violent intent of other Rangers followers. There are decent folk following Rangers who must be heartily sick of the poisonous song book and Neanderthal behaviour of some of their fellow supporters. These decent fans need to find their voice and somehow try to win their club back from those who disgrace it with seeming impunity.
For Celtic supporters the side’s performance yesterday confirmed that Brendan Rodgers is building something special at Celtic Park. The exciting young team will be augmented further in the transfer window for another crack at the Champions League. It is in the summer months that some of the most important games of Celtic’s season are played and the side will need to be ready for them as the rewards of making the Group stages are so important to the club. There does remain the possibility of a domestic treble to be dealt with first though and the incredible prospect of completing the domestic campaign undefeated is tantalisingly close.
These are great days to be a Celtic fan and the club should learn that it is important to build from a position of strength. Too often in the past the Board have not invested in the side while it was on top and paid the price. With Brendan Rodgers at the helm of the side you feel that it won’t happen this time around. Celtic is on the march again and the supporters are loving it.
My old man would have loved it too and on days like yesterday I could still hear echoes of his voice roaring the team on as he did in those days long gone…
‘Come on Celtic! Intae them!’