Unsympathetic.

A woman of ninety-six died. I don’t need to tell you she was old. In another life she’d have made a decent teacher of French and English, who sometimes rapped your knuckles. But we acted in concert as if it was a surprise, with the odd bum notes. My worry was that football would be cancelled and I’d miss Rangers getting stuffed for the third time in a just over a week. As a destitute person—of the no dogs, no coloured and no Irish—I’m aware rich, white people are easily spooked by the indigent.

We poor whites ate much the same food as long as carbohydrates came in potato form and tea was called dinner. And watched the same television programmes like needy patients studying an eye chart. There was nothing more dangerous than the rich telling the underprivileged what they should be seeing.  

I was not even a ghostly presence when the would-be French teacher street stopped traffic at the bottom of Mountblow Road. Everything was first class and whitewashed but the pauperised and penniless waving flags. Traffic lights were all set to green. That was a given, as all the roads ahead were empty of traffic.

Most rich people thought the truly needy lived in other countries. They should be just like them and have rich children. Unhappiness was a sign of moral failure. It could be cured by Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management and conjuring up a decent Victorian meal of gruel for down-and-outs. Foodbanks as last resort for dirt-poor children. They knew the truly needy better than we knew ourselves and were sure to let us know what we were thinking.

The beggarly had to bow their heads and knuckle under, self-checking and wondering if a form has been filled in correctly. An unforced intimacy that left the moneyless without money, and doubting ourselves and wondering how the moneyed people would offer an appointment to discuss our lack of progress. We were not eligible for secret societies or funny handshakes. Better still to keep our distance. Hitler Youth modernist programmes were once in vogue, but fascism went out of fashion, only to reappear as a breach in etiquette, with the rise of the moron’s moron in the United States. The French and English teacher’s ancestors, such as Uncle Edward, were mostly grateful for concentration camps as long as the trains ran on time. Lest we forget, their family tree was amended during the first outbreak of world war, because they sounded too German, because it was German. Windsor has a decidedly church-bell-monarchical-English ring to heads of the Anglican Church. Statues and portraits of land grabbers, war mongers and mass murderers grow like elder under and surround the building of modern states  

The rich want to have a free run and run things for themselves. The stone broke didn’t break any banks or cause bankruptcy. The deceased’s unelected son has the God-given right to meet with other narcissists, psychopaths, sociopaths and other elected officials voted in by a happy-clappy minority. Even America baulked at electing Sarah Palin. We don’t trust in Liz Truss. The in-want are told their wants are unrealistic. We’re all in it together inside a Disneyland ideology of heroes (the rich) and the low caste. The rich have looked at the think-tank evidence that wherever there is a problem, they can add to that problem by subtraction. The contagion of poorness has a proactive cure, locking up the strapped, immediately, for their own good. The flat broke will fall into the party line or become deluded enough to think they have a solution and need spied on and locking up.

Collaboration and flag waving, the arsenal of impecunious democracy. The suffering, the pauperised the precariat, the music of Julie Andrews, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, the fashion that became unfashionable as Bob Dylan’s electric guitar. The old generation, the next generation of radical thinkers that think they can change the world. A bending of the knee to the rich and privileged. They owned the land and the suffering people on the land. And they still do, but in different ways, dressed as we’ve never had it so good. A harmless old woman, you may say. The empty-handed are still empty handed.  As Mahatma Gandhi says the greatness of humanity comes simply from being more humane. Royalty isn’t a call for inclusion, but exclusion and maintenance of the Union of privilege and status quo.

If you’re black send them back.

No Irish.

No dogs.  

Brexit.

Windrush Scandal.

No Refugees.

God Save the Queen.  

God Save the King.   

Ross County 1—4 Celtic.

We’re in the draw for the next round of the League Cup and it’s Motherwell away. There’s always that anxious wait to see if we get Rangers.

Celtic hit the bar twice in quick succession. A Welsh header from a corner and David Turnbull’s free-kick hitting the defensive wall and then the bar.

But we also scored two goals in the first half. An early scare with Ross County almost scoring in sixty seconds from a ball knocked on from a shy.

Calum McGregor got our opener. He’d held his hands up to show he was unmarked from a corner. Turnbull picked him out. His shot was deflected but went in. Twenty-one minutes gone. A changed Celtic team with Liel Abada and McGregor the only players to remain in the team that beat Dundee United on Sunday. Abada patrolled his usual right-wing beat, but McGregor played a more advanced role, with Aaron Mooy dropping deeper and taking the ball from defence.

Giorgos Giakoumakis missed Sunday’s game. He’d a point to prove, and he usually does, coming up with a goal. He’d a bit of a tussle with Alex Iacovitti and took a few knocks going down injured after a poor first touch. But he got his goal near the half hour mark. Tony Ralston was the provider. A lovely touch on the edge of the box (the full back was in the striker’s position) and he laid it off. Giakoumakis dipped his shoulder and took the ball into his right foot and curled it into the bottom corner. Like the United match, it looked like game over. The Greek striker hobbled through the remainder of the half. He was unlucky with three headers, the last one on the brink of half-time. Three goals for him the season. He’s always looking for more.

Ross County had more of the ball in the second half, but Celtic still dominated. The goal the Staggies scored in sixty-seven minutes was a shocker for the Celtic defence. A long punt from the keeper, Eastman, into the Celtic box. Substitute, Carl Startfelt came on for Welsh, who went off injured. The Swedish International was too easily beaten in the air by Jordan White. Iacovitti took time off from fouling Giakoumakis to wander into the six-yard box and stoop down to header it into the goal. Moritz Jenz was nowhere.

Daizen Maeda restored the two-goal lead five minutes later. McGregor had a shot from the eighteen-yard line spilled by the keeper. Maeda was there to pounce.

Sead Haksabanovic came on for Maeda. His first dribble, he ghosts past Johnstone, his touch and cross of the ball nearly gave us another goal. Even in the short time on the park he looks a class addition.

Just on full time, James Forrest nicked a fourth. Ralston made it (two assist and McGregor having one) with a cutback to Forrest in the box. He too looks sharp.

The worry for Celtic is we still get bullied by big centre forwards. But this is less of a worry in Scottish football because we have more of the ball. In Europe, teams don’t go back to front. Transitions and losing the ball at the back and midfield is the big worry. But out team, our squad is lighting fast.

Team that will play against Rangers: (my guess). No real shocks. Hart, Taylor, Juranovic, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Hatate, McGregor, O’Riley, Jota, Kyogo, Maeda.

I’m no fan of Startfelt. Jenz has strolled through a few games, but I think Postecoglou prefers Starfelt (what do I know?) Similarly, Reo Hatate edges out Turnbull. The Japanese player is quite simply wonderful and looks to have extra time on the ball, which can be a problem when he loses it. Kygo is on fire. He’ll start ahead of Giakoumakis (that is no longer a debate). Liel Abada scored a hat-trick at Tannadice. He’s made a good case for starting, but Maeda’s closing down work and his pace means he’ll start ahead of the young Israeli. Postocoglou has taken Maeda wherever he goes and obviously rates him highly. Jota, certain started and ace in the pack. Forrest is down the pecking order. Hasbanovic—we’ll wait and see. I guess he could be another cracker. Celtic to win 4—1 against our Glasgow rivals. HH.

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.         

In Ange we trust.

As the song goes, Celtic, Celtic, that’s the team for me. I’ve no great interest in what other teams do or who they play or sign—apart from Rangers.

Even if it’s tiddlywinks, I want Rangers to lose. They’d won the league by 25 points, and stopped us winning the ten. One of the highlights of the season was watching Ryan Kent miss a sitter in the closing minutes and Aaron Ramsey missing that penalty. I joked that my pal’s dad had died, but at least he’d lived long enough to see that. It was a season when Rangers’ fans felt they did well reaching a European final and winning the Scottish Cup.

But when they were giving out awards it was Ange Postecoglou picking them up. Hard to believe, we were chasing Eddie Howe as our new manager and it just seemed a matter of getting the deal over the line. He walked away, citing concerns about having concerns. Ange Postecolgou came in. I’d never heard of him. Most of us agreed he’d need time to rebuild. He didn’t cite concerns about not having his own backroom staff. He was willing to work with the dross that was there. We’d give him time. I was even uttering strange things like he’d have at least a season, or maybe two, in which he wouldn’t be expected to do much, and spluttering into my pint that Rangers were still shite. I was hoping somehow we’d turn it around. In our pre-season games there was little evidence that would be the case. In the qualifiers for Europe, and in Europe, generally, we were out of our depth against mediocre teams (like us).

We lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, Kyogo came on as a sub, played wide, but did nothing of note in the few minutes on the pitch (shades of Henrik Larrson coming on as a winger against Hibs). We were chasing Rangers in the league. It was a race I didn’t expect to win. But the equivalent of muscles-memory of the mind sets in. Odsonne Edouard left for Crystal Palace. I was glad about that. Ryan Christie to Bournemouth. Kristoffer Ayer went to Brentford, where he’d be reduced to talking a good game. He was fine when he didn’t have to defend.

Now here we are again. I’m far more optimistic. We’ve signed seven new players, which include mainstays, Jota and Carter-Vickers. The Portuguese winger dazzled last season and this pre-season. Carter-Vickers in pre-season hasn’t looked great. He got bullied for the second goal against Legia Warsaw, for example, losing a bread-and-butter header I’d expect any centre-half to win and getting turned far too easily. That’s nit-picking. He too has been a success. But you’re only as good as your last game is a truism.

Joe Hart has been a great signing. He’s made vital saves. He’s our number 1, keeper. But we know he’s going to lose stupid goals, when he’s trying to play sweeper-keeper. It’s just a matter of how many and against whom. Teemu Pukki almost caught him out in the friendly match against Norwich. The ex-Celt is not the quickest, and not the best, as we all know. Hart might beat him in a footrace, but I’d rather not find out during a match. Joe Hart, vice-captain, Certain starter.  

  Benjamin Siegrist, of what I remember him, was decent for Dundee United. He’ll push for the number-one spot. Uncertain starter.   

Greg Taylor started against Norwich. I wasn’t a fan of the former Kilmarnock full back. But over last season I’ve come to appreciate him. He wasn’t Kieran Tierney. Emilio Izaguirre when he first came into the team was also a revelation. Taylor is not at that level. And now he has serious competition. *Certain starter when season begins.

Josip Juranović will not be going over to play on the left as he did at Ibrox because Ange doesn’t trust the likes of Liam Scales, for example, to do a job. The Croatian has established himself as our first-pick right back. Certain starter.

Scottish international, Anthony Ralston—and I never thought I’d say that without laughing—is backup. But he too will be pushing for a starting spot. Uncertain starter.

Argentinian, Alexandro Bernabei, I think looks to have more attacking flair than Greg Taylor. *Certain starter as season progresses.

Celtic supposedly paid around £6 million to Tottenham for Cameron Carter-Vickers. A snip based on last season’s performances (and not this pre-season). Certain starter, under Ange.

I heard Carl Starfelt was injured while on international duty with Sweden. He’d miss the start of the season. I wasn’t bothered. Like Ajer, Starfelt is decent when he doesn’t have to defend. He’s too easily bullied by muscular forwards. Most of the goals we lost last season came from free kicks and corners. The most common argument I’ve heard is we’d the best defensive record in the league. We also won the league. Therefore Starfelt must be better than mediocre. He isn’t. But he’s good enough for now. But Ange trusts him. Certain starter.

Christopher Jullien is still at Celtic. For how much longer? He picked up the captain’s armband in the pre-season friendlies. But he’s an uncertain starter. If any club fancies him, he’s free to go.

Back-up to Carter-Vickers and Starfelt has been, until now, under-twenty-one Scotland captain, Stephen Welsh. He’s no better than Starfelt, and often worse. Uncertain starter.  

 Moritz Jenz from Lorient is we hope better than Starfelt and will leapfrog Stephen Welsh into the team. Loan deals like Jota and Carter-Vickers gives us a chance to try before we buy. Uncertain starter, for now, but his time will come. And if he’s good enough, we’ll keep him. Win-win. Uncertain starter, for now.

Callum McGregor, the Celtic captain, and Scottish Player of the Year plays most games. Simple. Never stops. Certain starter.  

Reo Hatate came into the team and started with a bang. Goals against Rangers are often a great way to introduce yourself to adoring fans. He didn’t disappoint. But the end of the season he was disappointing. He was never rubbish, but didn’t shine. Pre-season he’s looked at back to the level he was when we hammered Rangers 3—0, and that old joke, they were lucky to get the nil. This was the pivotal moment in the season, when we leapfrogged them in the league. We did it in Celtic style. Hatate was the man. Certain starter.

Matt O’Riley played in that number-ten role when Tom Rogic didn’t. Usually, they switched like doppelgangers, with one getting sixty minutes, the other thirty minutes, or thereabout.  A terrific acquisition. He has added goals to his game. Certain starter.

David Turnbull played every game for Celtic under Ange, until he got that injury, just before the League Cup final, which Kyogo won for us. Turnbull has had a good pre-season, scoring two goals. Sharp and strong. Goal scorer. Ready to step in and stake a place. Uncertain starter, for now.

  Daizen Maeda starts most games under Ange. He’s played at centre-forward, most recently when Kyogo was taken off against Legia Warsaw and Giorgos Giakoumakis wasn’t available for selection. But Ange prefers to play him on the wing. Usually it’s the left wing. His pace troubles defences, but his closing down work is also a stand out. He scores goals. Certain starter.

Jota has a problem when Maeda starts on the left, because he’s pushed to the right wing. Maeda is all pace. Jota is an old-fashioned winger. He ties defenders in knots and scores for fun. It was a long and protracted deal with Benfica, with shades of the Eddie Howe haunting us.  Bargain buy at £6 million. Certain starter, on right or left wing.

Kyogo Furuhashi hit the ground running. Apart from his injury, he’s not stopped running since. His speed of thought and movement would give any defence problems. The first and best of the Japanese internationals to arrive. Certain starter.

Giorgos Giakoumakis was the opposite of Kyogo. He hit the ground not running. Then he took the ball off Juranovic (I think it was against Aberdeen) in the last minute and missed a penalty which cost us two points. Without actually being Albian Ajeti (or Pukki), he’d all the makings of a dud. But he scored twenty league goals. When Kyogo was out, we didn’t miss him. The Greek international did the business. Uncertain starter, for now.

Under Neil Lennon’s tutelage James Forrest could do no wrong. He was brought through the ranks. Made his debut in season 2009-10.  He was hitting twenty goals a season and has more Celtic medals than anyone at the club and has now signed a new contract. It’s hard to believe he’s not fifty-five. But for the first time in his Celtic career he’s not an automatic pick. Jota is ahead of him. Arguably, Liel Abada is also ahead of him. Uncertain starter.

Liel Abada scored a stack of goals and assists. Let’s for a minute consider the way he sneaked in behind the Rangers’ backline and scored at Paradise. Even now, it brings a smile. He’s ahead of Forrest, but not Jotta or Maeda. He will get game time, most often as a substitute. Uncertain starter.  

Aaron Mooy plays for Australia. Ange knows him and brought him in. Whether he is to replace Tom Rogic or to sit in as a defensive midfielder for Callum McGregor is unclear. Maybe a bit of both? I’ve not seen him play. Uncertain starter.  

 Yosuke Ideguchi (Guchi) the Japanese internationalist picked up an injury early in his Celtic career. He’s not been able to find a spot in the congested Celtic midfield. A very decent showing in our pre-season friendlies. Uncertain starter.

James McCarthy was said to have struggled in training when he arrived. Might be lies. He has struggled to get into the Celtic team. Not sure he adds much. But that might change, as it did with Giakoumakis. He’s been brought on very late in pre-season games, usually to replace McGregor. Uncertain starter.

Mikey Johnston, remember him? Tricky winger, could go outside, could go inside? Scored goals? Had that wow factor? Looked rotten in pre-season matches. He’s still got an outside chance, but he’s fading fast.

Scott Bain. Backup keeper, for the backup keeper. Ball boy. Uncertain starter.

We’ve got enough to win the league. Games against Rangers will decide the title. They bullied us in two games last year, both of which we lost, one, admittedly, in extra-time. We can’t let that happen again. The real beauty of winning the title is no qualifiers for the Champions League. £40 million in the bank. We’ll play some fantastic teams. We’ll take some terrible doings, but it’s not that I don’t care, the glory is being there and we’ll get better. We won’t win the Champions League and we won’t win the treble. But I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t imagine winning the league this time, last season. Eddie Who?

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.

Celtic 0—4 Bayer Leverkusen.

None of my mates thought we’d win tonight (perhaps I should use mate, singular). A draw would have delighted us. We can’t score goals and concede at every opportunity. One win in six games. Against a Dundee United, mid-table Scottish team, we looked vulnerable. Against a German team with far better players, we feared we could face the West Ham scenario again. We feared a thrashing. The return of our captain, Callum McGregor a godsend. Kyogo Furuhashi leading the line an unexpected blessing.

In the first few minutes it was end to end. Leverkusen had a goal disallowed for offside. Kyogo rounded the keeper, Hradecky, and looked sure to put Celtic one up. Tah came in on the Japanese international’s blind side and put the ball out for a corner. The Finish keeper was hard to beat all evening—only something exceptional would get past him.

Tom Rogic has a shot that the keeper puts over the bar. Adam Montgomery plays a ball across the Bayer box but Liel Abada doesn’t get on the end of it. Twenty minutes in and even, the much maligned Carl Starfelt, has a descent effort that the Bayer keeper is forced to save.

Twenty-five minutes in and Parkhead is silenced. David Turnbull is caught in two minds clearing a ball on the Celtic touchline. Bakker nips in front of him and plays a diagonal ball across the six-yard box. Hincapie beats Hart, but Montgomery gets a foot to it, but directs it into the net.

Celtic punch-drunk. Commentator Chris Sutton remarks some of our home town players were hiding and it was difficult to argue with him. Unfortunately, Ralston wasn’t hiding. He gifted Bayer the second goal ten minutes after their first. Dithering on the ball in front of a static back-line. Wirtz one-touch finish made it all look too easy. Celtic on the ropes until half-time.

Celtic went for it at the start of the second-half. Kyogo almost pulled a goal back, holding off a defender and bending a ball in at the post. Hradecky got his fingertips to it. Bayer’s keeper followed that up with a good save from Jota. Ten minutes into the second half and Celtic look as if they might have a goal in them.

Thirteen minutes in and Turnbull goes down in the box, after a challenge from ex-Celt Frimpong. Not a penalty. Frimpong didn’t have the easiest night. He created a couple of gilt-edged chances, but Celtic’s best player, Jota, generally, got the best of him—when attacking.

Seventeen minutes into the second-half and it is game over. Leverkusen get a penalty, when the referee decides the ball hit Cameron Carter-Vickers’ arm and booked the central-defender.  Alario makes it 3-0.

Bayer with a game against top-of-the-table Bayern, at the weekend, bring on around six or seven subs (I lost count). Kyogo finds time to miss another sitter, before he’s taken off. Abada misses a good chance too.

Giakoumakis makes his debut for the last fifteen minutes, but barely gets a kick. Hart makes a world-class save from a downward Shick header with a few minutes remaining. The Bayer substitute the ripped Scotland to shreds can think himself unlucky not to score.

Amine Adli scores the fourth goal, four minutes after the ninety, running beyond a static Celtic defence and hammering the ball into the top corner past Hart.

Celtic were simply outclassed, found wanting all over the pitch. Hart and Jota get pass marks. Kyogo? That’s a tough one. Four chances, no goals. Turnbull sold a goal and just didn’t play. Ralston also sold a goal. You could see his effort, but sometimes effort isn’t enough. Hradecky showed him how it should be done. Sheer class, attacking and defending. We want to play like Manchester City, but we can’t defend and aren’t scoring. This was as close to our first team as you’ll get. Certainly, Christopher Julien is better than Starfelt. I’m better than Starfelt. But the problem doesn’t lie with the Swede international. Good teams find it easy to score against us. So do mediocre teams. Livingston, bottom of the Premier league at the time, beat us 1—0. The good news is I’m sure we’ll beat Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Not totally sure, but pretty sure. They’re wide open as well. And if we can score three or four, we might get better than a draw. If we can hang on to Rangers’ slipstream we’ve an outside chance of the league because they too are stuttering, just not as badly as us. In the Europa league we’ll be lucky to pick up more than a point.

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.    

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.

but, yes to writing in 2021.

Don’t wait for God to put his hand on your shoulder—unless you’re the Virgin Mary—that’s not going to happen any time soon. Start writing now. All you need is you.

Yes, I procrastinate, which sounds like masturbate, or maybe only to my sick mind.

Do something you enjoy with yourself without the need for paper hankies. Having a sick mind is an advantage, because you’re going to have to tell lots of lies. That’s what fiction is, without having to be elected American President. But the nearer the truth your lies are, the greater virtue you create for your characters. Believable characters must roam the land like prehistoric dinosaurs, leaving behind a trail of disruption.

Conflict is where your characters live. If someone else mentions that you must kill your darlings I’m going to hunt them down and treat them to one of my readings. Sincerity is what you find in yourself when you’ve nothing else left. Buried treasure unearthed and you’ve been forced to share again and again until it becomes boring.

Worthless treasure isn’t treasure. Fool’s gold is easy to find. It’s on the page in that first draft. Your eyes glitter. You open the swag bag, ready to pile in the awards.

Forgive and forget yourself. Write like a dog running after sticks. Slabber if you like. Nobody cares. Don’t let your smooth baby brain slowly harden into a border guard.  You just need to get that stick to mix metaphors with it and beat back your inner critic. You need to get words on a page pronto.

Don’t interrupt yourself with somebody else. When you’re having an affair of the heart, the worst thing you can do is pick up your phone. Listening to the siren calls. That’s like saying ‘I do’ at your wedding, then sloping off to fuck the entire front row, and some of the back row too. We don’t want to seem too picky. We want to be nice.  Yeh, we’ve all done it. Social media owns us, but not completely—yet.

You only live once, but in writing you can live as many lives as you like. You can do what you want, you can be what you want. Being believable is Sir Gawain setting out to find the Holy Grail. It will always be over that next hill. You’ll make mistakes. Go the wrong way. Other knights will challenge you to duels. Chancers will spring up and tell you they know the way, the true path, all you have to do is follow them.

Imagine being like Ted McMinn (the Tin Man), the Rangers’ winger, who wrong-footed himself and wrong-footed defenders by not knowing himself what he was going to do with the ball next. It doesn’t matter. I played football for over forty years and was rotten. But write as if every game matters, because it does at the time—I’ve not got the medals to prove it—and it might be your last. You need to turn up, with your three quid dues in your hand.

My characters aren’t rich or famous. I’m not going to be rich and famous either. And I wouldn’t know what to do with it, but I might feel less guilty about leaving the bathroom light on overnight and wasting electricity. I’d still be guilty of causing global warming and deforestation in the Amazon, before Amazon owned the world.

Take responsibility. You know your work is finished when you can’t bear to look at it one more time. You’d rather spit it in someone’s face and apologise for how terrible it is. Given half a chance you’d be quite willing to sell out to a huckster with a shivering monkey on his shoulder turning the handle for an organ grinder offering peanuts, and then by sleight of hand taking them away.

Humility and humanity don’t rhyme except in the heart. There’s nothing wrong with you when you listen and see. When you don’t listen, you don’t see. Buddha is just a jade statue of a fat guy sitting about doing no work, while you’re banging away on the keyboards ready to produce The International New York Times bestseller that everyone really needs to appreciate now.

Pour yourself into who you are and your writing, not what others think you should be. Writing is meant to be fun, but I played football mainly in the rain and freezing conditions and on gravel parks that took away the skin of my legs and scarred me. I’m not going to say I loved it, but when I think about it now, it makes me smile. I am going to say I loved it, because I can change my mind.  I can therefore claim maturity, even wisdom.

Writing gives you a sense of achievement. For a somebody that’s nothing much. We’ve all heard it before, the media figure that lists their achievement then at the end adds, blithely, I just thought I’d write a book.

We all know about Alexander the Great visiting Diogenes with inked parchments of his International New York Times bestseller tucked under his arms. And Diogenes asking him to stand out of his sun.

Yes, us writers own the sun, moon and are but fragments of stars. Get your parchment, pens or keyboard out and make great use of them.  Do it now.

The world doesn’t need another post-script—but here it is.  

You’ll be a lot better prepared for existential questions like when a neighbour, Frances, was complaining that her grandkids got too much, and that children in Africa haven’t got any toys, or even enough to eat:

Alfie (aged seven) said, ‘Doesn’t Santa go to Africa gran? You said he goes everywhere’.

It’s your job, as a writer, to make sure Santa gets to Africa. Write on.   

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.