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Saturday, 30 July 2011

More Than a Club

More Than a Club

Season 2010-11 is one that will stick in the minds of most associated with Scottish football. For those of us of a Celtic persuasion however it is one that, due to some scarcely believable occurrences, will resonate within our club for many years to come.

Events on the pitch were mixed. Some wonderful football was played, a swagger that had been missing for too long showed signs of re-emergence. We had new heroes to embrace from as far afield as Honduras and Israel, closer to home a diamond of a striker was unearthed from the rough of the English Championship. In May we once again celebrated in the Hampden sun. However the crushing blow of European failure before the season was properly under way was a tough one to take, and of course on that ill-fated evening on a sodden Inverness pitch it became clear that the Championship flag would fly in the West for another 12 months.

It was matters off the pitch however where attention focused and the media glare was brightest. Our manager was lied to by one of this country’s “top” officials after a penalty bungle at Tannadice. The mainstream media missed no opportunity to deride Lennon as a “rookie” manager, and the portrayal of him as some snarling beast, barely able to contain himself was as appalling as it was inaccurate. Then of course we had the two events that made the blood of any ‘right minded’ individual run cold. It is a flawed society indeed that is no-longer shocked by mere death threats, but that is the situation we find ourselves in, it was only upon learning that we lived in a world where our manager had been the target of a viable explosive device that we experienced true shock. The image of a tracksuited Heart of Midlothian fan storming the Tynecastle technical area, with PC plod trailing in his wake, to launch a physical attack upon Lennon was beamed around the world. We now feared for our mangers safety and his sanity.

However when I look back on the season past it is not bullets or bombs, goals or defeats that stick in my mind. The moments I will take from 2010-11 are the ones that reminded me that as a Glasgow Celtic fan I really am privileged to support ‘more than a club’.

In a Scottish Cup tie we witnessed our ‘boy captain’ grow into a leader of men. With a swing of his left boot, McGregor was left clawing at thin air and the bhoys and ghirls in the Broomloan stand were sent into raptures, he then turned, raised his arms, and with barely a flicker of emotion stared down king rat himself. In one moment the armband around his bicep became a perfect fit and Celtic fans all around the globe rejoiced in doing ‘the Broony’.

Then on the last day of the season, with the title was gone, and with helicopter Sunday effectively a non-event, something extra-ordinary happened. Like the Tynecastle attack these pictures were shown by the worlds media, these were not images of hate however, what the world saw and heard was 60,000 people ‘doing the huddle’. Despite the fact that our great rivals had beaten us to the prize we all crave the most, the Celtic support rejoiced. It was breath-taking and it was unique.

People who do not share our allegiances mock us when we talk of ‘the Celtic way’, our insistence that winning is not the be all and end all, that it should be done in a certain style is derided by those out with the Celtic family. One of the reasons Gordon Strachan was never universally accepted by the support was his failure to grasp this, he was convinced we only cared about winning. Last season proved him wrong. Strachan’s reign may have been trophy laden but it lacked soul, the Lennon era has not yet yielded great silverware, though it will surely come, but the connection between club and supporter is back.

 Heavyweight (in all senses) hacks like James Traynor pour scorn on us when we ask that our manager is ‘Celtic minded’, but even deep down they must realise that our club is different. The normal rules don’t apply. Last season we reaffirmed our uniqueness.

It is unlikely that any of us will ever know if it’s a ‘grand old team to play for’, but we can be damn well sure that it is indeed a ‘grand old team to see’.

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