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THE OLD FIRM, LEMMINGS AND OSTRICHES

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Back in November 2014, as work began on improving the text for the Statement from Celtic Supporters, which duly appeared in the Sunday Herald on January 25th, opinions were sought from a number of Celtic supporters, including Mike, who lives in New Zealand and is a regular contributor to CQN Magazine. On reading the initial draft – the one mistakenly featured today on BBC’s Football Focus, Mike emailed back some of his thoughts. On the eve of the Scottish League Cup semi-final against the new Rangers, it is worth having a look at what Mike had to say back in November…

Thanks for the ad draft. Good points and made me a smile but I fear it will not alter what a lot of people will say or think. Outwith the real football fans it is seen a minor point and even among football fans expressions like Old Firm will creep back in through use in the media. If you say something enough people will believe it. For example, I bet lots of people actually do think that Lemmings commit suicide by jumping off cliffs and ostriches bury their head in the sand.

After a while an expression or event becomes so common that people just use it without even thinking why. For example, plenty of Catholics celebrate Guy Fawkes and I have seen the “hokey cokey” danced at Catholic school functions, despite the anti- Catholic connotations in both.

I avoid using the expression ‘Northern Ireland’ as much as I can. When I was younger we tended to say the six Counties for that part of Ireland. If someone asks me something like “what country is Lurgan in?” I will say the north of Ireland. However even in the Irish community itself down here (New Zealand) Northern Ireland is used regularly and I would get odd looks if I said the six Counties.

You have to put up with ignorance lots of the time.

Many people will likely put the ‘Celtic – Rangers rivalry’ thing to it and dismiss it as the usual tit for tat stuff. Just a thought – would other clubs fans be interested in it? That way it could say funded by Scottish Football fans rather than just Celtic fans. If you could remove the emotional aspect it becomes less hostile and divisive. And more obvious that Rangers are a new entity.

As well as being a Celtic fan I am a Scottish Football fan and I suppose a bit of a ‘trainspotter, anorak’ type. When I left Scotland in 1983 I had seen every professional club in Scotland and visited every ground in the country with the exception of those of Brechin, Forfar and Queen of the South.

When I made a visit home in 1988 for Celtic’s Centenary celebrations I went down to Palmerston Park one Wednesday evening to see a Reserve Division West game so that I could tick off one more venue. After that clubs started moving to new grounds and new clubs were brought into the leagues.

Now when I make a trip home as well as getting to Celtic games I try and get to grounds I have not been to before and see some of the new teams. When I was back in January 2011 I took my son to a wintry Paisley to see St Mirren v Peterhead in the Scottish Cup. That ticked 2 of my boxes – the new St Mirren ground and the previously unseen visitors.

On an earlier trip home I had done something similar when I went to see the new Airdrie at the Excelsior Stadium. At that game I met an old school friend. A dyed-in-the-wool Airdrie fan. We got talking naturally about what had happened to his old club.

He admitted to being a bit embarrassed as to what had happened with the Clydebank takeover thing but he just wanted to be able to go to see Airdrie so he had learned to accept it. However there was no doubt in his mind (and I am sure in the minds of other people) that this Airdrie was not his old Airdrieonians.

Speaking as a football anorak and with no Celtic influence, there are now 3 Scottish teams I have not seen – Ross County, Annan Athletic and Rangers. There is no “malice” in that statement – no trying to be smart or funny- simple genuine (pedantic) football fan thinking.

I’m not looking forward to that semi final at all. Everything to lose and little to gain. Almost as soon as the draw was made I had emails asking if we would be showing the game live. I had people talking about “gubbing” Rangers, one guy wondering about possible double figures! Ridiculous!

If Celtic were playing QOS or Raith Rovers then there would be no talk of big scores. But that is going to be the mindset of many. I hate pre-match gloating or boasting. Never tempt fate. A few examples spring quickly to mind.

A few years ago gathering in the pub to see Celtic v Rangers when Kenny Miller had re-joined them and just could not score. In the stands there were banners mocking Miller and in the pub plenty of ridicule form the patrons when he touched the ball. Result? Rangers win 4-2 and Miller got a hat trick!

Walter Smith’s first game back in charge – Celtic romping the League, Rangers playing rubbish. Banners and chants mocking the Rangers signings. Commentator Jim Craig saying that without doubt the worst ever Rangers team he has seen. Celtic all over them. Result? Celtic 0- 1 Rangers.

And the last ever Old Firm league game at Ibrox. We all watched that in the Dogs Bollix bar in Auckland. The bar owner had made up jelly and ice cream cocktails, everyone gloating about the impoverished Rangers – out of the league race, out of the cup. How we were going to thrash them and win the League at Ibrox. Next thing you know they are 3 -0 up.

Doubt it will be the case but I hope we have a very low-key build up- at least from the Celtic camp.

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