This is the way to start the season. A competitive match, albeit one which is no longer puts us in direct jeopardy, to open what will be a lush green Celtic Park for the first game of the season. Neil Lennon will correctly press his team hard tonight, Elfsborg are reportedly the fittest team in Sweden and are only a week away. That prospect, is enough to get the blood pumping.
Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras took the plaudits in Belfast last week, just as they did in the European qualifiers last season. They are players who can be relied upon to deliver for the team, but it’s the new guys who always attract the most attention in front of the Celtic Park crowd, and tonight, that is likely to mean Amido Balde.
I’m not going to waste your time listing the considerable number of great Celtic players who have taken more than a few games to settle into life at the club. If we see him tonight give him your support. There will be plenty time to judge next month.
I’m delighted to hear John Keane has been asked to unfurl the league flag this season. John was one of the ‘rebels’ who stepped in when the old board collapsed but few in the Celtic support know him, he declined to be photographed on the steps with the others. In many respects he was merely one of the many Celtic supporters who stepped forward when we needed them, but in one respect, John did a whole lot more.
In 1994 the Bank of Scotland informed Celtic that they had to bring their account back under the agreed overdraft limit that same day, or the bank would call-in the overdraft and appoint an administrator. We’re not talking Duff and Phelps-type administration either, the bank’s men would have shredded the playing staff in an immediate attempt to bring costs in line with income.
The old board had no money but John Keane stepped forward. Without any security from Celtic, or from the Bank of Scotland, he paid £1m of his own money into Celtic’s account, bringing the account back inside agreed terms. The bank could still have called in the overdraft and John would have lost his money. We covered it here last year, when aghast at the lack of anyone stepping forward elsewhere.
Within hours Fergus was on his way to Scotland and in the days which followed the old board agreed to sell their shares (with the worthy exception of Kevin Kelly, who told Fergus he could rely on the support of his shares without needing to pay for them).
John has attended board meetings and AGMs for the last 19 years; I can think of no better hand on the tiller. In future, when our history is written, he’ll have a page to himself. Unfurling the flag will be a proud moment for one of the most significant fans in our history.
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