Great Scottish Writers, Douglas Stuart (2022) Young Mungo.

The same, but different. Most writers write the same book again and again. (I do that too). Publishers like that. It’s an easy sell, especially if your debut novel won the Booker Prize. Different characters, different haircuts, the same predicaments, with much the same outcomes. Write what you know. Young Mungo (Hamilton-Buchanan) is Shuggie Bain.

A rundown housing estate in the Dennistoun, East End of Glasgow (of course) after Thatcher destroyed the mining community, helped shut down many of the shipyards and what she thought of as lame-duck industries that made things. The workshop of the world has moved to China. Mr Campbell batters his wife after Celtic unexpectedly beat Rangers 2—1  and end their 45 game unbeaten run. John Collins and Andy Payton scored. Mark Hateley got a goal back near the end. The game took place in the 92/93 season. A meaningless fixture, but not for Mrs Campbell. She’s a good neighbour. (‘Her ankles were chalky blue from bad circulation.’) She looks out for Young Mungo and his sister, Jodie, but not their eldest brother, Ha-Ha, who’s gone feral at eighteen, and has already fathered a child with a fifteen-year-old girl. His mother was also pregnant at fifteen with him

Nobody looks after Ha-Ha, but he’s determined to make a man of Mungo. He’s too soft, too girly, and it’s bad for his reputation.

The cautionary tales lives at the bottom of the close. Poor-Wee-Chickie can only walk his dog early morning when the kids aren’t hanging about ‘the Paki shop’ to harass him for walking funny, talking funny, for being a wee poof. He’s seven or eight bolts on his door, but follows the world through his net curtains.

Young Mungo is fifteen going on sixteen. His sister Jodie is a year older than him, and mother’s Mungo. Somebody’s got to do it. Hers is a secondary storyline. The narrative switches to her point of view. Mr Gillespie, the Modern Studies teacher, is grooming and  fucking her over and has been since she’s been fifteen. (Like mother like daughter, but she doesn’t like sex with the paedophile, she endures it.) But he’s promised her great things. He’s promised to get her into Glasgow Uni and out of the East End and into the West End of Glasgow where English people live. 

Murdo joked with James Jamieson that he could rent his doo hut out for £45 a week to a single mother with three wains. James lives across the back from Murdo, but they’re worlds apart. It’s not so much what light through yonder window breaks, but whose arms and legs will be broken, rather than whose heart. Shakespearian rivalry. Gang warfare between the Montague’s and Capulet’s. Bernstein’s and Sondheim’s early musical scripts rivalry rang between Catholics and Jewish gangs in a musical called West End Story set in New York. East End story in Glasgow is the old I’m not a Billy, you’re a Tim. Catholic Bhoyston, an unconquered country linked by the bright lights and a narrow motorway bridge.

  James is a Catholic. He lives in Dennistoun. He’s got to provide his own bright lights, but also to keep them muted. His da is a widower who works in the rigs. He might even get him a job on the rigs when he too is sixteen. But he’s worried about him. He’s caught him out when the phone bill came in and it was astronomical—chat lines, which would have been something to be proud of, but GAY chat lines. His da wants him to sort it and fast. James has his own plans to run away. His dreams are Young Mungo’s dreams. They could run away together. But James tells him, he’s too scared. Too tied in with what his ma wants and needs. He’ll be there for her like Poor-wee-Chickie was for his ma. And he’s still there.

Mungo, like Shuggie Bain’s ma, like Douglas Stuart’s ma, was an alcoholic. Any notion of her bringing the wains up was purely accidental. Ha-Ha had that figured before he could reach out of his crib and chib somebody. He’d a keen grip on the Dennistoun reality of life being poor, brutal and then you die. Every man for himself. His ma wasn’t against him, but neither was she for him. She was too busy getting drunk and having fun. With sober interludes when she went to AA meetings. The promise of hope was the promise of failure. Mungo, like Shuggie Bain, tries to protect his ma.

But there’s a sense of jeopardy that was missing from Shuggie Bain. What kind of ma, the police asked Mo-Maw—without getting a reasonable answer—gave her wee boy to two men from an AA meeting, she’s just met and didn’t know, to take him for a fishing trip up North? They might be paedophiles. They were paedophiles not long released from Barlinnie Prison. It’s not far. James and Mungo cycle to it. For big families in the scheme, it provides alternative accommodation. What type of mother is Maureen, Mo-Maw?

The book begins with The May After. Mungo is wearing his cagoule and he’s going fishing with an older man, St Christopher. He’s an alcoholic with a room, one of 300 in the Great Eastern Hotel. Gallowgate was wiry, tattooed and younger, and he keeps the old guy in line. Mungo hadn’t strayed far from the half-dozen tenements he’d be born in. Scotland was a foreign country.

‘The men lumbered in the sunshine. They were weighed down with armfuls of plastic bags, a satchel filled with fishing tackle, and a camping rucksack. Mungo could hear them complain of their thirst. He had known them only an hour, but they had mentioned it several times already. They seemed always to be thirsty. “Ah’m gasping for a guid drink,” said the elder of the two.’

Working-class characters like Mungo talk in the Scottish dialect. This interests me, in particular, because I’m trying to get a feel for it on the page.

Poor-Wee-Chickie, for example, talking about ‘doohuts’ and James’s da. ‘He lives there, doesn’t he? I used to ride the mornin’ bus to work wi his father. He was a miserable big batstard. Didnae have the time of day for anybody. Wouldnae smile at ye if you bought him a new set of teeth.’

There’s a trade-off here (and other parts of the book) with dialect, which is always an approximation. For consistency, ‘wouldnae smile at ye if you bought,’ would read ‘wouldnae smile at ye if ye bought’.

Glasgow humour injects humanity into the characters. Parts don’t need to add up, because in community living they don’t either. Gallowgate, for example, likes talking on the pay phone to random people he’s never met. It’s a useful skill for a sociopath and convicted paedophile. But in Shuggie Bain, his ma also loved to chat on the phone. It was how she kept in touch with the world. Her trait became his trait. Same but different.

I could use terms like this is a more rounded work than Shuggie Bain, but I can’t really be arsed to remember if it is. In both of Stuart’s novels life is breeched and broken. The leading narrator tries, and fails, to sellotape a palatable future together with his mother, but there is no sticking point. Only a continued sense of failure. There’s more a sense of danger to Young Mungo. And that adds to the frisson of the follow-up novel. The truth is I just like it better. Read on.         

Kilmarnock 0—5 Celtic

Celtic go with the same team that started against Ross County. Reo Hatate is still been given time to recover from his injury. And Startfelt wasn’t risked on a plastic pitch.

The Kilmarnock game plan wasn’t to lose a goal. They did after seven minutes. A wonderful pass by Greg Taylor in behind the defence. Maeda squared the ball. Kyogo with his first touch of the game, he scored the first goal of the game in off the post and finished up in the net with the ball. A five-a-side goal, played on a five-a-side pitch.

Turnbull had four shots on goal. Three of which sailed over and one which came off a defender. He was replaced (or rotated) in the second half and Mooy came on to stroll the last twenty minutes. But ironically it was Taylor who had one of the best chances of the first-half, waltzing through the defence but trying to cut the ball back to Kyogo with a shot on goal being the better option.

Jota scored a wonder goal against Aberdeen. He scored another today. 25-yards out, he hit it first time into the top corner. 35 minutes in and the game and the Kilmarnock game plan is ripped up.

 Jenz, I think, it simply better than Starfelt so the team is stronger. He was up against Kyle Lafferty, who plays with his elbows and was finally booked for it in the second-half. Jenz managed to chip in with his second goal in his second game at the end of the half to make it 3—0 and effectively game over. He got away from Lafferty and on the half turn, swivelled and put it into the corner. That goal, and his performances so far, puts him ahead on Starfelt with goals scored for the club, but more importantly in the pecking order.

Starfelt came on, early in the second-half for Jenz, and scored his first league goal for Celtic in the 76th minute to make it four-nil. O’Reily’s corner. Carter-Vicker’s header. Walker palmed the ball out to Starfelt who took two tries before bundling the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box.

A misplace pass by Taylor led to one of Kilmarnock’s only shots on goal in the first-half. Lafferty tried to chip Joe Hart. It will happen at some point this season, but the Northern Irish international hit him with the ball.

  Giakoumakis came on—with Kilmarnock having a ten-minute period when they got up the park—and showed that whatever Jenz can do he can do better (he’s been doing it longer) scoring with an overhead worldy in the 82nd minute.

 Abada, who scored a wonderful goal last week, also came on and had a few shots at goal. Forrest, on the other wing, kept it simple. With Champions League qualifiers no longer with us, we have a full squad ready to go. Postecoglou emphasis is on when a player gets his chance he must seize it—and with two or three games on the horizon that will happen sooner rather than later.

The Tender Bar (2021) Amazon, screenplay by William Monahan based on a memoir by J.H.Moehringer (J.R.Moehringer) and directed by George Clooney.

https://www.primevideo.com/detail/0LKB4TVGOKF41EW4RDDQFCHTNB

A lot of big hitters in this movie. I wasn’t sure about it, but I gave it five minutes and watched to the end. It jumps between 1973 and 1986. Daniel Raneri (with very long eyelashes) plays J.R. Maguire, a kid returning to his grandad’s house in Long Island. Tye Sheridan plays an older J.R.

His mum, Dorothy Maguire (Lily Rabe) has a mattress attached to the roof of their car and all her worldly belongings. She’s going home, but carries with her a sense of failure. Her marriage to ‘The Voice’ (Max Martini) has broken down and he refuses to pay child support. Grandad (Christopher Lloyd) is grumpy and put out, his house is already filled to overflowing with his children and grandchildren. J.R’s mum is upset, but the young J.R. admits to love living in grandad’s house. It’s full of fun, mostly, in the figure of his Uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck).

Uncle Charlie Maguire gives him the sit-down talk most fathers baulk at. He tells him he should always have a car and a job and a girlfriend—and you never hit a woman—and a stash in your wallet where you put a little something away in case of emergencies. Uncle Charlie knows about these things, he runs a bar, The Dickens. Anyone that has watched Cheers will know that kind of bar, filled with interesting characters that offer monosyllabic advice that you could take or leave and where everybody is your friend.

Uncle Charlie also tells J.R. he’s been watching him, and he’ll never be much good at baseball or sport, in general. Perhaps he should think of being something else when he grows up. He asks if he has any ideas. At that age, my ideal job was being a bin man or playing for Celtic. People were always telling me I was shit at sport, but I never listened. I tried to prove them wrong until my knees got arthritic. J.R. has a singular vision. He wants to be a writer.

J.R. begins straight away. Uncle Charlie has a look at his work and tells him he has got talent. But he needs to read. Uncle Charlie has a cupboard filled with a stash of books for him to dig into. J.R. also needs to get lucky.  Not the kind of geek luck that got him into college at Harvard, or even the job at The New York Times. Writers are supernatural being.

There’s a story-book romance with Sidney (Brianna Middleton). She continually dumps him. And there’s a kind of in-joke that fiction sells, but there’s a market for memoirs. And here we all are with J.R.Moehringer becoming an international bestselling author, with a film being made of his words.

For those of us that write (millions of book published, ironically, on Amazon every year) it would be nice to bask in this nostalgic afterglow of God-given success. Hopefully, my next novel, Beast, sells more than ten copies. Enough to buy a can of Coke. I’m a fan of fellow American writer, John Steinbeck (1902–1968) and he tells us two truths that make more sense to any aspiring writer:

 ‘You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.’

Most importantly of all:

‘The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.’

I watched the film. Now I’m going to do things in the wrong order (it should always be book first) and read the book, The Tender Bar (2005). Read on.

Why Barry Ferguson is right.

I know there are Rangers’ fans like Brian Thompson out there that borrow a ladder and rollers for painting from a die-hard Celtic fan, but throw them into his tenement forecourt in the rain when their team gets beaten. And I did fling a piece of blue chalk from the pool table through to the lounge bar and hit Thompson on his grinning face after an Old Firm game. As the Celtic anthem It’s a Grand Old Team to Play For, ‘If you know your history…’

I used to be able to name the Rangers’ team. Now I’d be hard stretched. 14th June 2012, Rangers’ shares sold for three pence in the pound, and they were overvalued. Liquidators set up their stall outside Ibrox. There only concern enriching themselves, and people like them, and gorging on the mugs ready to buy a ticket for the now defunct Rangers Football Club.

We need Rangers for the good of the Scottish game we were told. I wasn’t buying that one either. Success built on a brand of sectarianism and hatred of all things Catholic. And I’m not even a good Catholic, but they branded me as one of them. The Orange Order ordering jobs for its members in shipyards, and parading through the streets, pissing up closes and breaking stain-glass windows. Protestant manses spewing anti-Irish hatred. Leaders of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh promulgating eugenic messages of Irish men having monkey-like brains, not being able to work complex machinery, and Irish women having low morals. Their children cretins and a prohibitive cost to the state—that cannot be met and should not be paid. The Masonic Order linking the civil service to the judiciary—Queen’s Counsel, Donald Findlay— to the boys on the beat, telling they who to beat and why. Singing The Sash, ‘Up to their knees in Fenian blood/ Surrender or you’ll die…

Our media falling over themselves with the Rangers’ rebranding during the Souness/Smith era. Chairman David Murray: ‘for every pound Celtic spent, I’ll put up a tenner’.

David Murry, like any good businessman, paid little or no tax to the British government, but he supported them with flag waving and big talk. A pyramid scheme with other people’s money from which he got out early enough not to be caught and found liable. Bringing in the England captain and a slew of internationalists, including Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup.  Signing Mo Johnston in July 1989 was a message from the boardroom. Fuck you.

During the Rangers’ wilderness years, when Celtic won so many treble-trebles, it even shut Charlie Adams up and wiped the smirk from the face of Kris Boyd. It was like a fan asking George Best, ‘where did it all go wrong,’ while he was lying in bed with a million quid in notes, another Miss World, and yet another magnum of champagne.

There is a story going about, by the likes of Brian Thompson, we wish Brendan Rodgers well and hope Eddie Howe hits the ground running at Newcastle. Fuck you.

Steven Gerrard wins one trophy in nine and he’s touted as the messiah, and next Aston Villa manager (as a stepping-stone to the Liverpool job).  

He won the one that mattered and stopped Celtic winning ten-in-a-row.

It was a hard one, I’ll admit it. Pubs were closed. Covid meant many Rangers supporters broke the law in the same way they trashed the streets of Manchester with impunity during their run to the Uefa Cup Final. At least that brought a smile to my face.

Few Celtic fans had heard of Ange Postecoglou. My fear was the appointment of John Kennedy. He was there and he was cheap. He was the managerial equivalent of Graeme Stuart Murty as Rangers’ manager. If you can’t remember him, that’s a bonus. A bit like remembering John Kennedy was meant to bring stability to a Celtic defence that shipped goal after goal from free-kicks and corners.

The countdown went something like this. All John Kennedy had to do as interim manager, with the league already gone, was win the Scottish Cup. Then it was just beat Rangers.

The problem with John Kennedy, the Celtic equivalent of Murty, wasn’t his coaching pedigree. A new manager needs to have a ready-made list of players he knows are good enough and ready to go. Kennedy was same-old, same-old.

Chief executive Dominic McKay resigned, which was hardly good news, but didn’t cost us anything. And for supporters on the ground doesn’t really mean anything. We know the only voice that matters is supposedly the ninth richest man in Ireland. And Dermot Desmond doesn’t come to Paradise very often. Shares from his Manchester United windfall from Glazer left enough to buy Celtic and have cash left over, but not to splash. Only little people do that.

Ange Postecoglou brought in Kyogo. He knows the Japanese league. The Yokohama F.Marinos striker Daizen Maeda is linked with a move to Parkhead.  We got lucky with Jota. And I’ll even fling in Liel Abada. I’m not keen on Carl Starfelt. Aaron Hickey, like John McGinn, were the obvious ones that got away. But we’re linked with another wonder boy at left back from the J-League. But it might not be enough.

Rangers posted a loss of £23.5m last week. Wonderful news. We all suspect that those figures are a bit like a blonde and drunk young girl asking Leigh Griffiths if he’s just here to help her up the road. More to come.

 Swiss Ramble’s audit notes (taken from The Daily Record, often a suspect source). Celtic ‘are in good shape financially, despite the pandemic, thanks to their sustainable model’.

Money talks are wee Fergus McCann knew better than most. The man with the bunnet posted a bond and said he’d take out £50 million from the club. He did as he said.

That’s the equivalent on the Champions League money at the end of this season. Rangers win the league and all those debtors will quietly fade away. Loss and they’re in deep financial shit.

At the start of the season we all soberly agreed Ange Postecoglou would need time to re-build a team. It made sense. But really, we’re frothing at the mouth. Give them fuck all. I’d guess it’s fifty-fifty. It could go either way this season. And it will go to the wire. We’ll bring in new players. Rangers won’t. That’s why the five points lost to Livingston hurt so much. We just need to keep winning. Europe after Christmas is a bonus for us, but a necessity for Rangers.

Do I want them to qualify and improve the Scottish coefficient in Uefa competitions? If you need to ask that you’ve not understood what I’ve been saying. Barry Fergusson is Brian Thompson in another life, but sometimes he’s right. I just hope he’s flinging the paint bucket out of his tenement window to make my Christmas complete.

John Burrowes (2005) Irish: The Remarkable Saga of a Nation and a City.

I qualify for an Irish passport. My Da was born in Belfast, but lived his life in Glasgow, and fought in the second world war for Britain. When he married my mum, he moved to Clydebank. John Burrowes is telling us something we already know—many of us have much the same story.

How many? Most folk find statistic boring. My Da was born in 1923. The Irish Free State was formed in 1921, with the six counties still part of Britain. Susan McKay 2021 writes, Protestants outnumbered Catholics by a ratio of about two to one in Northern Ireland… A hundred years later almost half the population is Catholic, there are fewer Protestant than Catholic schoolchildren, and the only cohort of the population to which Protestant are in a significant majority are the over-60s. Demographics tell their own story of No Surrender being outflanked by other means.  

The story of Northern Ireland is one of betrayal. The colonisation of Ireland by the English was piecemeal and ‘plantations’ were established in the North, with the richest land for Protestant immigrant settlers loyal to the Crown. Oliver Cromwell, ‘The Great Protector’s’ troops were ruthless in killing men, women and children who opposed his forces. The best Irish estates went to his followers. We all know about William of Orange, but few people acknowledge that he had the backing and blessing of the Pope at the time at the Battle of the Boyne.

This is all background stuff from sources outside Burrowes’ ‘saga of a nation and a city.’ But when we talk about Glasgow we need to speak of the Irish Holocaust.

‘The Great Famine of 1845-51 was to inflict on the Irish misery and degradation so abject that in proportionate terms it was unequalled anywhere else in the world. More than two million were wiped from the face of the land, either dying from starvation or fever, and fleeing to whatever country would accept them.’  

The Great Replacement Theory sprouting from the lips of the moron’s moron Trump and his ilk has its roots in eugenics and religion. You’ll find it in the triumphalism of little Englanders who hark back to the age when Britain was a superpower with a controlling and hegemonic interest in most nations. We were the industrial workshop of the world. Britain made over ninety percent of the shipping with Glasgow at its hub. Trains were exported to these nascent and newly industrialising nations faster than we could build them or lay track. Glasgow was one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, outstripping London. The English gentleman was regarded as the apex of civilisation, worth several foreigners. At the base of the eugenic triangle were Negroes and Irishmen, regarded as workshy and of the lowest intelligence, unable to work machinery without supervision.

Burrowes quotes from Fredrick Engels the father of Communism.

‘Those Irishman who emigrate for fourpence on the deck of a steamship on which they are often packed like cattle, insinuate themselves everywhere. The worst dwellings are good enough for them; their clothing causes them little trouble as long as they are held together by a single thread; shoes they know not; their food consists of potatoes and potatoes only; whatever they earn beyond their needs they spend on drink. What does such a race want with higher wages? …Drink is the only thing which makes the Irishman’s life worth having…’

The Church of Scotland also promulgated hatred and division, regarding the Roman Catholic Irish as a pestilence an ‘Alien Race’ from which the best of Glasgow, the Flower of Scotland emigrated to avoid.

‘the great exodus of the Scottish race was going on,’ Reverend Mair declared to the General Assembly in Edinburgh.

‘Their places were taken by a people of a different race and a different faith, and Scotland was divided into two camps – Scottish and Irish.

In the great Glasgow conurbation there were now at least 450 000 Irish, almost every fourth person. In some areas, it was every third person. The figures speak for themselves. In 1881 there was some 327 000 of the Irish population in Scotland. In the year the report was compiled in 1921, there was 600 000…the Irish population had increased by 30 percent, but the Scottish population had only gone up six percent. Thousands fewer Scottish children were on the educational rolls…

The moron’s moron came out with the same crap. Burrowes points out,  Reverend Mair’s made up his own facts, which sounds familiar (you can have your own opinion, but not your own facts). The fertility of the Scots and Irish were broadly similar, unlike in Northern Ireland, nowadays, for example. And representatives from the Church of Scotland, at the General Assembly in 2002, in a report labelled, ‘Secteranism,’ apologised for their distortions and lies.

Lies cost lives. Many of the passengers packed together on the deck of the overcrowded ship,  Londonderry, fleeing famine on 1st December 1848, for example, thought they had escaped certain death. Many of them travelling from Sligo to Glasgow. Atlantic-gale-force winds and waves, and the engines struggled to cope. 200 passengers on the deck, including children were forced into the hold—for their own safety. Fearing flooding, hatches were closed. Screams and shouts encouraged a ship’s officer to cover the entrance and exit of the hold with tarpaulin to keep down the din and to keep it watertight. The noise stopped as the passengers suffocated. Because of the storm the ship changed course towards Londonderry. Steam and the stench of death rose out of the hold. No survivors. Cattle were better treated, because they had value.

The creation of Celtic in 1888 by Brother Wilfred in the East End of Glasgow is covered here. He modelled the new club on the success of Edinburgh’s Hibernian. Much of the ground being cleared by volunteers. Many of the players being nicked from Hibernian, who played a friendly against the newly formed club to help raise funds, which more fans attended than the Scottish Cup Final. The rivalry with Rangers was a slow burner. But it’s still burning. I still hate those bastards

In ‘Billy Boys and Tim Malloys,’ Burrowes describes the gang killing of James Dalziel (Razzle Dazzle) a runner and collector for illegal bookmaker, Pat Donnachy, and one of the best dancers in the area. The Briggait Boys from the Gallowgate invaded the Parlour Dance Hall, where Razzle Dazzle led his gang, The Parlour Boys. This was the era of No Mean City.

Billy Fullerton of the ‘Brig’ton Billy Boys’ was the kind of true blue commemorated in football chants. He worked for Tommy Gilmour, bookmaker, boxing promoter and manager, who also happened to be Catholic. Fullerton died penniless, in a single end, his funeral attended by tens of thousands, including Tommy Gilmour.

Marching season commemorating the Orange Order parading through Glasgow to remind Catholics who was in charge still goes on. It’s happening now. But whisper it, the poison has begun to seep away. Burrowes reminds of us a time when tens of thousands of Catholics and Protestants rampaged through Partick, meeting their Catholic brethren in street combat, which brought Glasgow to a standstill with rioting. A mate reminded me of the time he used to ease open his window on Kilbowie Road and fire stink bombs with a sling into the throng below. Members of flute bands now are joke figures. We no longer choke on our Cornflakes but snigger as they pass. The school system that educates Catholics and Protestants separately, however, continues. The joke is on us. No one has the political courage in secular Scotland to tackle this historical anachronism.  

John Burrowes gives an idiosyncratic and entertaining look at our past. What remains are the areas of urban poverty he names such as Calton and the Gallowgate. These areas where life expectancy is around ten year’s less than richer areas such as Bearsden. Round up the usual suspects. Whatever index you choose, we lose. Catholics and Protestants having the wrong kinds of children, poor children. In some things we’re number one and remain much the same. Glasgow’s miles better. Fuck off.    

England 0—0 Scotland.

Scotland fans celebrated this 0—0 draw like Rangers’ fans invading George Square and mistaking it for the centre of Manchester, where they went on the rampage a few years ago. I got into the spirit by being late into the Albion, drowning my sorrows before I was sorry, and having to play catch-up by downing a pint in a oner (well kinda). It’s thirsty work hating the English. Before the game, we thought Steve Clarke had got the team selection wrong. No Rangers players, the Scottish Champions in a Scottish team. O’Donnell, who I admit has a suspiciously Irish Catholic tang to it, was playing (not that one), the diddy that plays for Motherwell, but played for Clarke at Kilmarnock.  My argument was O’Donnell was good at taking shys. It’s not much, but Steve Clarke’s cunning plan was to revert to type and turn Scotland into Kilmarnock. Go long and defend in numbers. It worked great.

Lyndon Dykes won every high ball. In the first few minutes, he and Che Adams was making the English backline nervous by being in their faces. We were on top. Inexplicably, we had the kind of defending that has marked Celtic’s season. At a corner John Stones was left a free header—it bounced off the post.

European Cup winner Mason Mount also slashed across goal after being played in by Raheem Sterling. The ball being given to the European Cup loser by Scott McTominay, who temporarily forgot he was a Scot. He flapped a bit after that mistake, but then upped his game to Kilmarnock levels.

That was about it for England. Harry Kane didn’t feature before getting subbed late on. Phil Foden, touted, and rightly so, as one of the most exciting talents in world football, was outshone by the likes Billy Gilmour (even though he’s an ex-Hun—I’m sure glad he’s at Chelsea and not Rangers).

Even the diddy O’Donnell had us lapping up his performance. He almost scored from a Kieran Tierney cross in the first half. The England keeper Pickford got a block, but the ball went up in the air and it looked as if Che Adams might header it in—but he didn’t.

England dominated the early period of the second-half, and this was the way many of us believed the game would pan out. But Scotland held firm and didn’t look to concede and slowly, like Manchester City in the European final, they began to run out of routes to goal. Dykes shot at goal had us all on our feet (that’s the kind of lie short-sighted people use who can’t see their feet) when he beat the England keeper. But somehow Chelsea defender James got a heel onto the ball and kept it from going over the line. Bastard.

Scotland didn’t exactly pile forward, but we grew more comfortable, and dangerous when getting forward. Adams had a chance to hit the stand or goal, and being an Englishman in a Scottish jersey, he opted for the former. (He did have a good game, although Dykes, with lesser ability was more effective.) No one is the Scottish shirt let us down. Our fans celebrated at the end. And we tried to work out how (a) to get home and what pub was still open (b) how we can just mix out on the qualifying rounds by losing a late goal, or getting a draw when we needed victory. The kind of glorious victory in defeat Scotland as excelled at over the years. It’s been a long time since we went down to Wembley and ripped up the turf and ate it, just to show how tough we were. C’mon Scotland—but don’t expect too much.    

Scotland 2—2 Austria

Watching Scotland play is a duty rather than a pleasure. I was brought up in an era when fitba was on the telly you watched it. If Celtic was playing Clydebank at Parkhead I’d go to the game and rush home to see if I was on the telly with the other 17 000 crowd haunting Paradise. I didn’t go very often. Obviously, watching every single game when Scotland played in the World Cup in 1974 and 1978. We beat Brazil and there was that Archie Gemmill goal against Holland when we nearly qualified for the next round. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hLuv5AlXWE

It was great being on the road with Ally’s army. I didn’t go anywhere, but the idea was a good one. I’ve only been to one Scotland game at Hampden. I was accompanying some adults with Learning Disabilities. They were looking at me and I was looking at them. And I know what they were thinking…

Obviously, I’m a Celtic man. So I gave David Marshall the once over. Celtic flung £5 million at a Greek keeper that couldn’t catch a pound coin if you handed it to him. So signing Marshall on a free transfer takes me back to Hampden with those Learning Disability adults. Marshall made a couple of good saves here. But he was at fault for the first goal.  Grillitsch hit it from about 30 yards.  Marshall palmed it to his right. The six-foot-seven Austrian powerhouse, Kalajdzic, swooped and scored from the rebound in the 55th minute. Kalajdzic had another goal disallowed two minutes later for a push on Tierney. Scotland got lucky there, because there was little contact.

Tierney was Scotland’s best player. Captain Andy Robertson plays in front of him. I don’t think that works. Both are full backs. I think it’s either/or, not both. And Tierney is simply better. Celtic rather that wasting £20 million on duds should have kept him for another season. He’s sorely missed.

On the other side of the defence, we had the Belgian phoenix Jack Henry. Playing Henry allowed Clarke to push McTominay into central midfield. The Manchester United played had not a bad game. Henry in comparison is Mr Potato head, six foot five and he can’t head a ball. He’s not one I want to keep at Celtic. But he’s good enough for Scotland. Strangely, a Scotland team without any of the Champion’s players. We even had my namesake, O’Donnell, playing at right back (I’m better than him, but slower, a lot slower, and can’t take shys). O’Donnell proved his worth by taking the free-kick from which Hanley equalised on the 71st minute.

The Austrian backline played high, the ball scooped in behind. The Austrian keeper, Schlager, had the option of coming for the ball but hung back. Hanley didn’t. Schlager also made a basic goal-keeping mistake on the cusp of half-time. He passed the ball to Lyndon Dykes, perhaps time-wasting, knowing Dykes doesn’t score many goals. But Dykes found Christie and the Celtic forward hit the keeper with it. It’s not been a great season for him either. I’ll miss Christie when he leaves Celtic.

I’ll mention Stuart Armstrong because he also played for Celtic. Scotland are good at draws and the game looked to be petering out to a 1—1. Then a nothing ball was thrown into the box and Kalajdzic from the penalty spot, with the ball slightly behind him, powered it into the net. Marshall had no chance with this one.

I didn’t rate Scotland’s chances. With ten minutes to go it looked like another defeat. Armstrong played his part by going off a substitute. This allowed Celtic stalwart McGregor to come on and John McGinn to push forward and play up front with Adams (an Englishman winning his first cap for Scotland).

Kalajdzic’s goal was a beauty. But John McGinn’s was even better. You may remember that Celtic let McGinn go to Aston Villa. And he’s a Celtic die-hard, his grandfather player with Celtic. And I played with his McGinn’s uncle, Johnny Gibbons, in the school team. (I may have peaked too early here). Gibbons’ sister and McGinn’s mother played in the netball team. Some thought that’s where I belonged. The goal McGinn scored was probably offside, but even Scotland needs a bit of luck. Another bog-standard cross into the box. It wasn’t very high. McGinn did an overhead kick and it soared into the corner. The kind of winning goal that you dreamed about when playing school fitba—even though it wasn’t the winning goal. Scotland had to hang on for a draw. I wonder what the odds are for Steve Clarke being the next Celtic manager?

Clarke brought on ex-Rangers player McLean to run about for thirty seconds, which was an improvement on bringing on McBurnie. Next up Israel (again). We play them every second game. That’ll give me a chance to sympathise with El Hamad for not being good enough for Celtic. And to call for Bitton to be give a free transfer. He’s nearly as bad as Henry. If I’ve missed mentioning any Celtic player let me know (James Forrest doesn’t count. And we all know where Griffiths is at, but whose box he’s in is anybody’s guess).  

Why we blew ten-in-a-row—answers posted on the internet.

As Jock Stein was fond of reminding us, ‘the game is nothing without fans’. One of the compensations of Celtic blowing the league and Rangers winning it is there’ll be nobody there to see it. Winning the league during lockdown or even the quadruple treble was just another day. No going to the pub with your pals. No mass celebrations. No mass street parties of the kinds we remembered after stopping that mob from winning ten-in-a-row all those years ago. Back pages of the tabloids will be filled with players celebrating, but the next day moving on to the next weather front. It didn’t have so much resonance. I won’t say let Rangers’ fans enjoy it, I’ll say, ‘fuck them as usual’, but it’ll soon be over, just as this season has been over since December, and it’ll be relatively pain free.

The other aspect of there being no fans is would we have won more points with the much quoted 60 000 in Paradise and the multitudes that follow, follow to every away ground in Scotland?

The simple answer is YES, we would have won more points. Nobody doubts that. But Rangers have had an exceptional season. So to compare like with like, it’s not that that killed our dream.

The idea that these kinds of things go in cycles makes a kind of nonsensical sense. It’s a bit like believing in fate. Before Jock Stein Rangers were dominant. We won nine-in-a-row, twice. But they did it too. Wim Jansen brought in a little-known winger from Dutch football, and the rest as they say is history. Rangers were the dominant team, with loads of money, and yet, somehow we found a way past them. As Rangers have done this year.

Having the right manager in place is a good starting point. Neil Lennon came in and won the league, completed the treble, but we were already on the slide. It made sense to appoint him as a stop-gap manager. He didn’t cost anything. He had the tools having been at Parkhead before. He knew what it was all about. But many of us weren’t sure. When he did the job and won the league and completed the job, it was obvious even to us doubters that he would be the appointed one.

Anyone that’s looking at John Kennedy and seeing played one, won one, will see a familiar pattern emerging. When Lennon’s team went on a winning run of five games, it was hardly scintillating, but then we got the usual pish about us being back on track. We’ll get that with Kennedy. He’s our Graeme McMurty. A backroom re-shuffle that doesn’t take us any further forward. When Celtic win a few games and especially if we beat Rangers (which I think we will) then we’ll hear the usual stuff about the players being fitter and more tactically aware. I don’t really get it, as if full-time professionals who are wired up and every breath measured and every kick quantified are hardly going to be unfit. There’s nowhere to hide nowadays. Jim Baxter on his benders or wee Jinky in his rowing boat – these guys trained every day, but they couldn’t hack it now. But you’ll hear it every time. They’re unfit. Or they’re fitter with the new manager’s regime.  

Celtic lost so many games because they can’t defend. I don’t think it surprised many of us when Ross County scored with a header, again. We’ve got a goal-keeping problem. A left-back problem. A right-back problem. And the central pairing is so bad we brought in Shane Duffy. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s been that way for years.

Biscuit-tin mentality. We’re a selling club. Buy cheap. Sell and prosper. You know the players I’m talking about. Kieran Tierney is the obvious example. But we recently sold a player for £11 million and I can’t even remember his name. He was no great loss. I look across at Ibrox and don’t think there are many big sales that would keep them afloat.

The promised land of Champions League is one sure-fire way of paying all the bills. By making the wrong choices, and buying in players that just can’t cut it at Celtic, we’ve opened a door for Rangers and invited them into the promised land. They’ll be able to pay their bills and have that wee bit extra to pay their debtors. They might even do what Celtic did and splash out on their falling apart infrastructure, upgrade it and make it venue for other sporting and entertainment fixtures. Rangers were almost totally reliant on the fans coming into the stadium, even with lockdown, and season book sales.

It’s all about the money. We were so far ahead we didn’t spend the money we should have spent. Now we face a mass player clear-out. I’ve not got a problem with that. Teams always evolve or they die. Ours is already on life support. We need a new manager and six or seven new players. We’ll probably get John Kennedy and one or two new players to fill the gaps left by others leaving at the end of the season.  We’ll think small again and remain small.

Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong this season. I sometimes think managers, like players need a bit of luck. Lennon’s luck had run out a long time ago.  I wasn’t the only one to say he should be sacked in November last year, or even before that with anther Champions League qualifying debacle. I don’t even think that would have made much difference, but it would have allowed a new manager to come in and prepare for next season  (Judas, Brendan Rodgers’s argument).

For Rangers everything that can go right has gone right (apart from losing to St Mirren and being put out of the League Cup). That won’t last. As league champions they’ll need to play their players more money. There’ll be unrest. They’ll even start missing penalties. Wee niggley things.

It wasn’t that long ago that Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe was quoted for the England job, in the same way that Stevie G is quoted for the Liverpool job. Let’s not forget his Rangers team before lockdown were losing home and away to teams they were expected to beat. Same team. Same players. What’s different? I’d say, quite simply, they’d all the luck going and the biggest factor by far is they don’t lose goals. They defend well. Ironically, John Kennedy who was appointed to sort out our defence (on the basis he’d played centre-half for a few games all those years ago and has a few coaching badges) has helped oversee a shocking number of goals lost. Most of them at free-kicks of corners. Bad coaching? The wrong kind of players? All of the above.

Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for a reason, when we had a chance to invest in a squad of players we blew it. We cut corners on quality. You get what you pay for, or in our case, don’t pay for. I guess to end on a high-note, the one that didn’t get away, David Turnbull. We could build a team around him. And we’ll need to dig up a Wim Jansen – pronto.

The Ibrox Disaster, BBC 1 Scotland, produced and directed by Craig Williams

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000qvk5/disclosure-series-3-stairway-13

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00cxfvh

Sixty-six Rangers’ fans died and another 145 were injured in the Ibrox Disaster after the New Year’s Day Old Firm game ended in a 1-1 draw. Rangers’ equaliser came at the end of a game watched by 80 000 supporters. Fans on the way out of the ground on Stairway 13 heard the crowd roaring and turned back to be met by a surge of jubilant supporters leaving the ground. Barriers gave way in the resulting crush. Thirty-three of the sixty-six dead were teenagers. Five of them teenage school friends from the town of Malkinch in Fife. One of the victims was a girl, eighteen-year-old Margaret Ferguson. The youngest was Nigel Patrick Pickup of Liverpool, age nine.

Mist was falling and ambulances, police and fire engines were delayed by the crowd leaving the stadium, unaware of the tragedy. Eye-witness accounts such as eighteen-year-old, First-Aid assistant, Ian Holm told us he wasn’t even sure what happened and he was inside the stadium.

Spectators helped police carry victims onto the pitch and pavilion. A general appeal went out for first aiders. Fifty-three bodies, still in their club’s colours, were laid out on the pitch.

In the aftermath, Lord Provost Sir Donald Liddle wept at a press conference. He declared, ‘It is quite clear a number died of suffocation’.

This wasn’t the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 with ninety-six deaths and 766 injured were the police and ambulance services were culpable.

Kenny Dalglish, brought up a Rangers’ supporter, but part of the Jock Stein’s  Quality Street gang of youthful player replacing the ageing Lisbon Lions, was in the stand that day. He was also a player-manager in the Heysel disaster in 1985 and manager of Liverpool at Hillsborough  

A Rangers’ director did use the tactic of victim blaming, something Dalglish as player and manager never did. Stairway 13 ‘was an accident waiting to happen’ concluded one spectator at the game, but no worse than you’d see at Falkirk or Tannadice.

2 died in a crush in Stairway 13 in 1961, 70 fans injured; in 1967, 11 injured; 1969, 30 injured.

Rangers were cleared of culpability in a public enquiry. Sheriff James Irvine Smith was said to have lost friends when he concluded:  ‘The said accident was due to the fault and negligence’ of Rangers F.C. and paid damages to a victim. Sixty other civil cases were brought and settled by the club.  

Aberdeen 3—3 Celtic.

I know we’ll get that old line, for the neutral this was a cracking game. A great advertisement for Scottish football. I’d have taken a bog-standard Celtic victory. I know 27 league games to go. We’ll get the standard fare of no need to panic. I’m not panicking. Listen, I was at Love Street that day when Celtic needed to score four or five and we needed Albert Kidd to dig us out of a hole of Heart’s own making. Even early in the ten-in-a-row season, we’re looking at dog’s chances.

Rangers, from what I’ve seen, aren’t going to roll over this year. We need to be better and we need to be better fast.

Be careful what you wish for. Scott Bain in goal was a good start, but like Barkas, he didn’t make a significant save. Two of them were penalties, just before half time, and the extra-time of full-time. You don’t expect keepers to make saves then, but you kinda hope. The other goal, the second for Aberdeen was another Shane Duffy moment. You know the script and we’re getting the jokes, Shane Duffy is an Effie Ambrose waiting to happen. But we’re not laughing. Bring back Effie.

McGregor was in for Scott Brown. And McGregor gave us hope, when we were one down, with one of those dancing feet goals that dragged us back into the game. Good to see Rogic involved. Good to see the Australian back in the team.

Elyounoussi, after his cameo, against Milan, started here. He’d a poor game. But let’s look at the positives, he did get on the end of a cross and got us a penalty. A winning penalty- I’d hoped.

Come back Johnny Hayes (I’d have kept him and played him). He’d Frimpong in his pocket until the ninetieth-third minute when the Celtic youngster finally ran past him.

In a four-four-two and with Frimpong playing full back, we hoped he’d be able to run into space. But although he got lots of the ball, again and again he came inside. Leaving us no width.

Just when we seem to have the left-back position sorted with Laxalt, the right-back position is our weakest point in attack and defence.

McGregor might have dug us out of a half-time hole, but it was the return of the Griff that fired us ahead –and had us thinking we’d win.

Ajeti is a goal scorer, but he needs to hold the ball. He didn’t. He mumped and moaned, looking for fouls.

Griffiths, came on, as he did in the game against St Johnstone, before the international break, and turned the game. He made space for himself in the box. And his strike into the top corner was a thing of beauty.

Game over—I wish. You’ve got to allow for Duffy, wandering out to the left, like a cow returning to pasture. Still in control of the ball. Then that flick. We all make mistakes. But what was it we kept saying about Effie, in the big games, then the Irish Ambrose came to the fore. Ryan Hedges, who was Aberdeen’s best player, scored from a rebound. An almost save, we seem to plagued with almost saves.

Aberdeen’s first penalty—which was a penalty—was a clumsy tackle, that wasn’t even a tackle by Ntcham on Ferguson. Ironically, Ntcham was having one of his better games before that incident.

There was talk, after the international break of the games against Rangers, AC Milan, Aberdeen, Lille, Aberdeen and Motherwell defining our season.

We all know what happened against Rangers. AC Milan was a defeat, but it wasn’t total capitulation. Aberdeen today.

We’re 3—2 up, going into added on time. We’ve dropped back, but we’re patting ourselves on the back, thinking we’ve been lucky here. All teams need a bit of luck.

The game against Lille doesn’t matter than much. I think we’ll beat Aberdeen, comfortably, at Hampden. I’m not sure about Motherwell away. I’m pretty sure Rangers will keep on winning and winning.

I hate saying it, but we look far more less likely to win than them. Here’s hoping, we take any dog chances we get between now and the end of the season. Shane Duffy has been a nightmare. The Greek keeper, an empty jersey, but here’s hoping he turns it around. Frimpong is only eighteen and showing signs of insecurity, taking the easy pass, going backwards in so many ways.

The return of the Griff has been great (anonymous against Milan, but I don’t mind that). Rogic has class. We need more of class. We have the best players in the league—by far—but we make so many amateur mistakes.

In the games that define our season, we’ve lost two and drawn one. Commentators were already adopting that gloomy voice and telling us the last time Celtic lost three games in a row was under Neil Lennon. Ten-in-a-row? I’ll use another cliché. A big ask.