6 years of never walking alone

Today is a celebration for two reasons.

It is the six year anniversary of the day I broke my neck. Every year I am proud of myself when I reach the 26th of May, another year under the belt.

And of course, the Scottish cup victory secured the double and sealed off a season that has provided so many great memories.

Throughout the challenges over the last six years one of the few things to have stayed constant has been Celtic’s ability to keep me motivated. If anything, I rely on that ability more and more as the years pass by.

I don’t know how I would have coped at times without Celtic to drive me on. It may seem cheesy, it may be clichéd but it is true, the club and the fans are unlike any other. A family.

I look back over the last six years and Celtic have been a massive influence every step of the way (no pun intended!).

When I was at my lowest, drugged up to my eyeballs on morphine and depressed by life, I remember that going to the football was my only regular motivation to get out of bed and live my life.

I discarded friendships, refused to socialise, spent my days angry and bitter while shooting down anyone who offered their support. I was not living my life, I was existing. I would come to life at the weekend then sink back into my rut until the next game.

My very darkest days came just a few years ago. Ironically, Celtic were going through their own depression under the Tony Mowbray regime. I only need to look back at those days to recognise how much times have changed for myself and also for Celtic.

Our regular starters included Gary Caldwell, Landry N’Guémo, Josh Thompson and Marc-Antoine Fortuné (£3.8m!!!). Christ knows I needed the morphine, it helped numb the pain of watching!

Now we have clubs across the UK and the rest of Europe envying us for having talents like Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper. We have enjoyed an incredible European campaign topped off with the domestic double. Changed days indeed.

Adapting since the accident has been a personal battle of ups and downs but I have never been in a better place than I am now. Celtic have mirrored that fight. From the successes under Strachan to the doom and gloom of Mowbray we are now back in the European spotlight and bursting with potential.

It is wise to remember the struggles but it is a journey to be proud of and we should enjoy every moment while we are on top, who knows what the future holds.

When we sing You’ll Never Walk Alone at Paradise it is much more than just another football song. It is about the heart and soul of what it means to support Celtic and is a message that guides me through year after year.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

It reminds me that I need my courage and strength to keep battling through life’s challenges.

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

It reminds me that during the toughest times I need to keep fighting because there is always an end in sight promising peace and respite.

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

It reminds me that I will always face challenges and I will have setbacks but I can’t let them stop me.

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

Most importantly it reminds me to stay positive because I am never walking along this path on my own.

For the last six years I have never been alone. I have had Celtic close to my heart at all times but the encouragement and backing offered freely by my fellow supporters has been just as influential. You may not realise your importance to me but I promise you that I would not be the person I am without you.

Thank you, each and every one of you.


My path to Paradise

I want to tell a story about my life growing up with Celtic. To have been carried through the turnstiles of Paradise before I could walk. To have been the only boy at school with the green and white pencil case. To have had my dad teach me the stories that make up our proud history. To have been so proud of Celtic that being Protestant was irrelevant. To have grown up understanding what being a Celtic fan is all about.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell that story. It isn’t my story to tell.

I was brought up by parents who tried to keep me away from either half of the old firm. They felt it was safer to guide me away from the bigotry and sectarianism. I can’t say I blame them, that was all they knew about the rivalry. Also, my dad believed in supporting your local team. Unfortunately for us that was Kilmarnock but I can’t disagree with his principles.

Things didn’t work out the way they planned. Just as it is with people, we have no control over who we fall in love with. I was attracted to Celtic at an unlikely time and for reasons that only Celtic fans could understand. It’s hard to explain without romanticising too much but as a young teenager I could tell there was something different, something more important about Celtic.

At that time success was not hand-delivered to the steps of Celtic Park. While Rangers had started the march to 9 in a row and were splashing the cash, Celtic were finding their feet again after near financial ruin.

Looking in from the outside I could see something special about Celtic. The style of football was attractive and exciting and full of spirit. Not always a winning style but they refused to change a philosophy of playing pure, beautiful, inventive football. A philosophy over 100 years old.

There was also something special about the supporters. The fans of other clubs turned up waiting to be impressed, waiting to be entertained. Celtic fans filled paradise to be the entertainment. They impressed the world. I didn’t want to be looking in from the outside anymore, I wanted in.

I admit to being what you may call an ‘armchair fan’ for many years. Working seven weekends out of eight ruled out going to most games. If the chance to go did come along almost everyone in my social circle supported either Kilmarnock or Rangers.

So that was me. That was the Celtic story that I had to tell. Nothing remarkable, nothing like the one I wanted to tell.

And then I broke my neck.

My relationship with Celtic changed quickly and dramatically. Everything in my life did. After being in the hospital for over a year I came out to a life I didn’t recognise. I didn’t understand it and I didn’t know what to do with it. Paralysed from the neck down and I was unable to work, unable to go visit friends, unable to go down the gym or go for a run. I was left with a massive gap in my life. Celtic found me again and filled the gap.

I remember when I was struggling with pain, both physical and mental, it was too easy to lose my mind in dark places. The consequences of what had happened were too radical for me to comprehend, I needed escapism and Celtic provided that. I would lie in bed all night reading blogs about Celtic’s humanitarian roots, about iconic players and unforgettable games from before my time, about the glory days of European greatness and about the belief that a football club can be so much more than just that, it can be a way of life.

I now live for my days at Celtic Park. Getting to every game takes commitment from those who support me and each match day is physically gruelling, often leaving me in pain afterwards. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. It’s what motivates me when I am having a bad day and what provides the happy memories to battle depression.

So do I regret not being that boy with a green and white pencil case? Definitely not. I got to learn about and love Celtic when I needed them the most. I believe that was the way it was always supposed to happen.

The Passion

It’s been a while since I touched base with this blog. To be honest, I lost the passion. Not for supporting Celtic but for blogging about us. I don’t mind admitting that.

It’s no coincidence that my last post was not long after the Juventus game. For me, the season lost most of its sparkle after that game. I know many who feel the same and there is nothing wrong with that. We knew we would win the league, it would have been miraculous if any team could have pushed us to the wire. I only found real excitement on a game by game basis. Nothing changed at the weekends, I would still get up on a match day with butterflies in my stomach. Maybe this game would be a cracker, like the 4-3 Aberdeen game recently. After the game, regardless of the outcome I would forget about the league until the next weekend. I didn’t think about it much and I spoke about it even less.

I don’t think that makes me any less of a fan. I was just realistic enough to know that the best excitement was going to come match by match rather than a title race.

When it came to blogging I felt the work was being done by others. The main talking points have been the SFA, police harassment and RIFC (and all its many subsidiaries). Those topics just don’t get me going. I’m not suggesting that they are not important or that anyone else is wrong for being passionate about them. I just didn’t have any original thoughts. It wouldn’t have been me if I had just regurgitated the analysis and insight of those with greater knowledge.

The last couple of days I have found my passion again. It took 2 completely different sources of inspiration to reignite the flame.

Firstly, it was the party on Sunday and the family atmosphere around Celtic Park. Politics and corruption (same thing?) were put to the side for the day. Talk of the title meaning less this year was self-serving speculation from the fingers of lazy journalists. On Sunday I kept looking at the faces of the children brought along to join the celebrations. The future generation of Celtic supporters couldn’t care less about the politics of the game, we won the league and the children’s smiles stretched from ear to ear. Try explaining to those kids that without Rangers we don’t deserve to celebrate and enjoy the moment. Maybe we can remember the simplistic joy of winning by learning from the children on Sunday.

Secondly, another story about children. Well, one in particular. Yesterday we were told that Oscar Knox has beaten cancer. Most Celtic fans will be familiar with Oscar’s story. You can find out plenty more here if you want. It is easy to overuse the word miracle but not under these circumstances. For a child so young to battle almost impossible odds and win is incredible. To do it with a smile on his face is beyond words.
So how did that help bring back the Passion for Celtic? Twitter was buzzing after the news last night. Thousands who have helped with fundraising and many more who also care about the young fighter celebrated and it reminded me about the Celtic spirit. I had lost sight of it amongst the murky cloud of Scottish football. We are better than that and Oscar’s triumph brought us all together with a positivity I had been missing.

So it is really the children I have to thank for showing the way. We have a squad that has started us off down the road of 10 in a row. Years that will see those young faces from Sunday mature into adults and be responsible for continuing our legacy as the greatest fans in the world. I for one hope that their simple joy for winning is not tarnished by media campaigns and politics. For as long as I can get away with it I’m going to start acting like a kid again!

Just in time…

It’s funny how a comment from out of the blue can come at just the right time and tell you exactly what you need to hear.

Not a long-winded post coming up but I wanted to emphasise the importance of sharing our emotional connection to Celtic. A quick message can be powerful in a way we cannot anticipate.

I have received a message like that just recently.

Towards the end of last week I decided to stop blogging about Celtic. I want to spend time starting from scratch with a new blog about my life and the impact my accident has had on it.

I admit to feeling somewhat deflated with the unjust scoreline against Juventus coming so soon after another Hampden mishap. The ridiculous verdict from LNS was a reminder that we are swimming against the tide to succeed in a corrupt game. All that combined with some personal problems had me all but defeated. Plenty of other bloggers doing tremendous work sharing thoughts and opinions for our enjoyment.

The message came along at just the right time.

It reminded me that we are a strong community held together by one mutual passion.

Maybe it is a reflection on my state of mind but I feel all the debate and bickering about Scottish football has brought a grey cloud close to Paradise. Completely understandable but the message I received was the kick up the arse I needed. As a community we all have some level of responsibility to make a positive contribution. If we decide to neglect that responsibility then the cloud grows darker and moves closer.

The message provided the encouragement I needed to take some time and recognise how we have grown over the course of the last year or so.

A European campaign that generated praise across the continent was undoubtedly the highlight of the season. Jumping for joy in the stands and in the boardroom. The players blessed us with some great memories and a financial boost beyond the expectations of the most optimistic fan. Nobody knows when we will be treated to more European success which makes the highlights of this season all the more special.

A young squad has been pieced together on a carefully managed budget. The nucleus of the squad could be around for years while some of our best players are constantly linked with big-money moves, a compliment in itself.

An exciting young manager whose potential and ambition match his undeniable passion.

The 2nd of 10 league trophies will soon be in our hands while the possibility of adding the Scottish Cup is still very much on track.

This Armageddon carry on ain’t too bad!

I needed to be reminded about all this. The message I received was perfectly timed to do so.

We all go through spells when like me, we feel a bit flat. That is something worth keeping in mind as making any positive statement or message could make all the difference to someone as it did with me.

I like this quote from American theologian Frederick Buechner. If we all remember this our community will grow in strength

“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt”

Many thanks to the individual (you know who you are).

We are Celtic supporters, faithful through and through

For the final five minutes of the Juventus game I sat trying to decide how, or even if, I could write this post. The full-time whistle was blown and I had nothing more than some weak ideas based around the usual ‘better luck next time‘ clichés.

Then en route from the upper tier of the Jock Stein Stand to my car I overheard three separate conversations that angered me,

“I’m tellin’ you, that f*cking team don’t know how to pass the ball 10 yards”

“What a gubbin’, made to look like idiots in Europe. Bunch of clowns”

“F*ckin’ disgusting, turn up to watch that shit”

Every fan, just like the gentlemen quoted above, has the right to an opinion so I am going to cash in my chips now.

The first-half performance last night was full of the positivity and intensity I had been hoping for. In all honesty, I don’t believe we have played that well against SPL opposition this season. To go in at half time without leading seemed cruel. To go in losing seemed criminal.

I was expecting Juventus to take control of the second half ensuring a long 45 minutes of chasing shadows. Instead, we continued our dominance. I was sure it was only a matter of time until we restored parity and then go on to take a deserved lead.

The incisive attack by the Italians with 15 minutes remaining knocked the stuffing out our players, visibly gutted after pushing so hard. The 3rd goal was devastating but not wholly unexpected as desperation bred ill discipline.

I cannot question the attitude of our players nor their desire to win. A gutsy performance resulting in a scoreline which flattered the visitors.

This praise does not however grant exemption from criticism.

Criticism is something that players are paid plenty of money to deal with. It is unfortunate that sometimes criticism can be taken too far. During the game, around Celtic Park and on social network sites some of the comments were appalling.

Schoolboy defending would have been adequate to stop two of the goals. A lack of creativity at the other end restricted us to long-distance shooting, too often straight into the arms of Buffon. When a rare opportunity did arise inside the box no quality was to be found.

For all of our work, Juventus demonstrated the two traits essential for success at this level. Disciplined defending and clinical finishing.
We were sadly lacking in both departments. Whether that be down to naivety or possibly even overconfidence, it was a big lesson for all at the club. One they would be foolish to forget.

The manager cannot escape criticism after gambling on Ambrose who adopted kamikaze defending to single-handedly cost two goals.
Still can’t get my head round that managerial decision. Especially when Matthews was left on the bench. With the versatility of Matthews, Lustig and Mulgrew a number of options were available aside from playing Ambrose.

No point dwelling on shocking refereeing, gamesmanship, time wasting and constant wrestling in the penalty area. These things need to be accepted when playing European football. Rightly or wrongly we need to either stop complaining or adapt our game. We should know by now that it’s not going to change.

Taking all the above into account I believe it was still a very strong performance. To have more possession than a passing team like Juventus is unusual. We also limited them to 5 shots on goal compared to our 15. Most impressively our pass completion % was higher than theirs. Considering we played the majority of the game in the Juventus half and on the attack that statistic is very encouraging.

Failure like last night’s can often crush losers. It can also inspire winners so maybe we should spend a little less time looking at why we have slipped up and instead focus on where we landed.
Making it to the last 16 of the Champions League was our reward for 7 wins and 1 draw from 10 games in Europe this season. Don’t allow that achievement to be overshadowed by one bad night, it deserves better.

Che Guevara once said “live your life not celebrating victories, but overcoming defeats”

We should only indulge in the first if we are willing to tackle the latter.


The Italian Job


In one month managers, players and fans across the continent, representing the greatest teams in the game, will be hoping to avoid Celtic in the last 8 of the Champions League.

I say with complete confidence that we will beat Juventus.

Am I blinded by loyalty? Possibly so but I dare you to question the conviction of my belief, my confidence is unshakeable.

We have discovered how to play away from home, just in time, but I believe this tie will be won under the floodlights of Celtic Park.
On the 12th of February we will attack Juventus and we will defeat them. Our team should fear nobody.

We have a remarkable track record when playing at home in the Champions League.
Our performance this year has not been down to luck. You only need to look at our history of home performances in the competition.

We made our debut in 2001 with a 4-3 victory over none other than Juventus. 3 wins from 3 games was unexpected but it set the standard for the years to come.

In 2003 the stars of Bayern Munich were unable to break down our fortress.
Victories over Anderlecht and Lyon ensured we were undefeated at home for another campaign.

In 2004 we were not expected to beat Shakhtar Donetsk, yet we did. We were to provide a bigger surprise in the next home game by holding the mighty AC Milan to a draw.

In 2006 we rattled Europe again. Victory over FC Copenhagen was followed by giving Benfica a thrashing. We finished off the group by dramatically defeating Manchester United.

In the last 16 AC Milan came to Celtic Park again but failed to leave with the win they expected.

Going into 2007 and we were still the underdogs, but we were unplayable. We beat Benfica and Shakhtar Donetsk before going on to defeat Kaka, Pirlo, Inzaghi and the rest of AC Milan’s superstars.

In 2008, yet again, nobody could defeat us at Celtic Park. Only a late goal salvaged a point for Manchester United. Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez the latest batch of Europe’s best to be brought down to earth.

After all that, why were our chances written off again this year?

7 points out of 9 at home. The script had us down as the whipping boys but we knew better and the rest of Europe should have known better by now.
Barcelona seemed unbeatable yet the greatest team in the history of the game could do nothing to stop our young squad from recording another famous victory.


Surely the very best in Europe fear Celtic Park now. They must get it.
Only Barcelona can boast to have beaten us.

23 Champions League games at Celtic Park and only one club has managed to win. A record like that is not the product of good fortune or a lucky streak. We should be admired across Europe for year after year of sensational home performances.

That record should worry Juventus. If not, more fool them.
That record should fill you with pride. That record should eradicate any fear of any opposition.

Celtic continually defy the odds when playing at home in Europe

I have no doubt that it is down to the support. It is because of the 60,000 strong army that refuse to lie down.
We Celtic supporters are the extra man that other teams don’t have and can’t handle. Do you think we would have beaten Barcelona playing in an empty stadium?

On these nights the fans become part of the team. We will be on the attack before a ball has been kicked. By the time Juventus hear the first whistle they will be on the back foot and they will understand why the best in the world come to Paradise and fail time and time again.

Juventus may be Serie A Champions but the Champions of the English Premier League and the Champions of La Liga have fallen at our doorstep. It is Juventus that should be fearful.

When we defeat the Italians it should not come as a great surprise. Every team in Europe should fear coming to Paradise. If they don’t, then they will. They are not coming for a game of football, they are coming for a war. 60,000 foot soldiers standing behind our leader and his 11 captains.

Our strength will not be matched. The very best in Europe have tried and failed. Juventus are next to try and like the rest, they will fail.



Spartak’s time to face the thunder

Wednesday the 5th of December 2012 will be remembered as another emotional night in our clubs great history.

Our young and inexpensive squad have exceeded expectations in the Champions League. One game to go and we have a great chance of progressing to the last 16.
Considering we were billed as the whipping boys of this group it it can already be deemed a successful campaign. Fighting for the Europa League place would have been no disgrace in such a group. Post-Christmas European football was secured last month on that very special night against the best team in the world.

Defeating Barcelona on our 125th anniversary, 60,000 fans shaking the foundations of Paradise, was a truly emotional night. Brother Walfrid, Jock Stein, Tommy Burns and freinds would have been watching down, having one almighty birthday party! If the performance in the Camp Nou turned heads then all of Europe was now staring at us with a new found respect.

Soon there will be no talking about negativity, team selection or tactics. All that goes out the window when emotions take over. One more night of drama fast approaching. Are you ready to relive the emotional high you felt at the end of the Barcelona game?

Mark Twain said “any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary”.
I get that, true emotion is involuntary. The uncontrollable euphoria that bursts into life and rocks Celtic Park. There is no control, no thought process, no boundaries, no inhibitions. I believe that this is when we are truest to ourselves, living in the moment with no restraints. Logic and reasoning can confuse us but instinctive emotion cannot lie.

Think back to the happiest moment of the season, for me it’s the delirium that erupted after full-time against Barcelona. I had no hang-ups, complete liberation from worries, living in that moment with nothing but joy. Words cannot do justice to that feeling, it must be experienced, embraced and safely stored away in the memory to be enjoyed again and again. The more often we allow ourselves to relive these memories, the fresher they remain.

We are so close now, no holding back the excitement. Life is short of experiences so special, embrace it. Times like these are not blessed upon us to be wasted on worrying or negativity, so just let go and enjoy the ride.

Trust me, I know from my experience that your life can be turned upside down in seconds. When that happens these memories are sacred.
When I have been at my lowest, lying alone and motionless in a hospital bed, these are the memories that pick me up. They raise my spirits. They remind me how wonderful life can be and motivate me to fight on and and enjoy what lies ahead.

The time building up to the game, during the game and after the game should be cherished. Our great club is on the brink of providing another experience to be treasured. Embrace your involuntary emotions, life is for living and there is no greater sense of being alive than when your mind is surging with unrestrained joy.

Not long now until a procession of green and white marches towards the floodlights. We must engage emotionally with the spirit of the team to have a positive impact on the performance. Make a conscious effort to turn up and help the team win, not just observe the event. Satellite vans will surround Paradise ready to beam images around the world. Images of a night guaranteed to push and pull emotions to breaking point. A night ending with overflowing joy inside our famous stadium and beyond.

Let the emotion take over, let your inhibitions vanish, let the world see true passion, let the world see that we are Glasgow Celtic and there is none like us, LET THE PEOPLE SING……


Something from before the first Benfica game – Keep calm, it’s only football


I feel privileged to say that I have been humbled by a 4yr old.

Almost all Celtic fans will have some awareness of Oscar Knox and his incredible story. From those who vaguely recognise the name to those with a deep personal interest. On the 17th of November 2012 I was fortunate enough to be part of a night that will stay with me forever.

Oscar was born with a chromosome disorder known as Jacobsen Syndrome. A condition so rare that it affects only 1 in 100,000 children. There was something else very unique about Oscar from day one. He was born with the heart of a true fighter. Oscar battled against this unfair start in life and he won. Years of determination and hard work paid off for Oscar and he started attending ‘mainstream’ playgroup as he turned 3.
Only a couple of months later the unimaginable happened. Oscar was diagnosed with High Risk Neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. As with Jacobsen Syndrome, this cancer is found in only 1 in every 100,000 children. The staggering odds of being diagnosed with both are 10,000,000,000 to 1.

Celtic supporters and players have taken Oscar to their hearts and last night, a fundraising auction and race night, was yet another example of just how real that connection is.

The Celtic Family filled every corner of the Kerrydale Suite to help raise funds for Oscar’s brave fight against neuroblastoma. Not a word was spoken as images of Oscar stunned all those mesmerised by what they saw on the large screens. So astounding is this young boy. His smile, genuine and pure, instantly lit up the room. The expression of a child who clearly understands how much he is loved by his family and who thrives on it, taking nothing else for granted. Playing in the garden with his Mother, Father and Sister he carries off the innocence of an untroubled youth. Remarkably, his mannerisms remained constant as the setting would shift to that of a hospital. Trully inspiring resilience.

The videos of Oscar and his incredible family touched all in the room resulting in a collective pride of purpose. This was to set the tone for the evening. It was not to be one of pity but a celebration to honour such a remarkable young soul. This evening would be a success. It would be a fitting tribute. It would be a statement of respect. Importantly, it would generate an energy befitting the fun and loving nature of Oscar.

There was a buzz of excitement in the air as hundreds cheered their horses over the finishing line. Time was taken by guests of honour to speak about their affection for Oscar, their love of Celtic and what the Celtic family means. The kindly donated auction items sparked an outpouring of generosity (helped along by a touch of friendly rivalry and plenty of booze). The fun carried on until the early hours of the morning as strangers became family and Brother Walfrid’s legacy continued.

A remarkable amount of money was raised but this is not over, it does not stop now. Oscar is fighting and if he is fighting then the Celtic family must fight side-by-side with him.

Tom Boyd said something at the beginning of the night that we should all remember. When being questioned about the pride he feels being regarded as a legend amongst the Celtic fans he was quick to point out that he, and other Celtic greats, won trophies and medals. He recognised that on a night like last night you realise what a real legend is…..

Oscar is a genuine legend.

Find out more about Oscar here

Money doesn’t talk, it swears.

There has been plenty of debate recently, in the media and among supporters, about this years attendances and the cost of supporting Celtic. The situation is not exactly “Armageddon” as many in the media (and the walking dead) are fantasising about but clearly still an issue amongst fans.

It would be tough to argue that the extinction of Rangers has not had an effect on the SPL. With the disappearance of old firm games, and our main competition, I believe we feel it more than anyone. Combining this with the fact that many people are struggling through another year of financial strain is resulting in a more opinionated debate than usual.

Times have changed and each individual’s circumstance is different. Ranging from those fortunate enough to splash out on season books for the whole family to those who must pick and choose one or two games a season. Money is tight for many and what is being done with any spare income is being allocated with more consideration. Plenty of activities that are more cost-effective are available and tough decisions must be made. One thing that will never change is that Celtic fans WANT to support the team as much as possible.

Is it time for Mr Lawwell and his team of money men to deal with this situation?

It is worth taking a closer look at the current situation at Celtic. It is also important to remember that the pricing policy was put in place before any European success guaranteed a bumper financial year. The policy was based on last year’s financial results and having a look at them I don’t feel Celtic can be heavily criticised.
Group turnover was down yet again to £53m, the lowest since 2001. This resulted in a financial loss of over £7m compared to a marginal profit the year before. Debt to the bank has now increased by over £2m.
Season book prices were frozen for the fourth year running, ranging from £387 to £609. Match day tickets remained generally unchanged with the cheapest coming in at £23 ranging up to £29 for the most expensive. Considering the financial position at the time I believe that freezing ticket prices was reasonable.
As I said, those figures do not include any champions league money which was the stuff of wet dreams when the pricing policy was made. Next year will be a completely different story and the ticket pricing should reflect that or there will be no defence.

If only we could be rolling in the money pit of the English Premier League. Newcastle are a shining example of how to take advantage of this with ticket prices starting at £15. They can now boast an average attendance of over 50,000. The 3rd highest in the premiership.

We have clever money men looking after the club and that is precisely their job, to look after a while the club. I am sure they must have looked at the option of reducing prices, forecasting turnover based on selling a higher volume of tickets at a lower price. It seems like the sums did not add up. Regardless of whether you see them as greedy or not, they want to protect the financial position of the club by maximising income. If they could have done that by reducing prices then they would have.

Now that the pricing policies are in place and many fans are speaking with their wallets these money men are faced with a new problem, empty seats.

Empty seats make no profit so surely they are working tirelessly to sort this. Apparently not. It seems like they are stuck inside their box and are unwilling to look outside it. Not just Celtic but all football clubs in Scotland need to be looking at incentives and offers to entice the supporters back inside stadiums.

Free tickets to schools and youth groups is a no-brainer for me. Worse case scenario, Celtic pay the price of printing tickets and posting them. What would happen is that it helps fill the stadium and many of these kids end up getting merchandise and/or food. It all helps. At the same time we are helping to grow the future generation of Celtic fans. Yes, many of these kids have parents who could afford to take them but they are not doing it. Not the kids fault. Celtic lose nothing out of this as these seats are sitting empty.

The Kano Foundation do great work in this area and it is important not to undermine this.

That takes us to the issue of supporters who would love go but simply can’t afford it and parents who want to take the children but are in the same boat. Assuming that the pricing structure is not changed mid-season some other kind of assistance must be offered. These are people who may well be able to afford season books next year if prices are reduced. Celtic should be careful not to alienate a massive cross-section of the fan base by doing nothing to help now.
It is trusted to more insightful and intelligent people than myself to work out how to do this, but it must be done. This season was always going to be pivotal for Scottish football and Celtic must set their stall out now. They must take care of the fans who have always taken care of them while nurturing the next generation.

I don’t know the answer for this season but given our forecasted financial position for next year ticket prices must be reduced then. The list of possible offers and incentives is endless but these empty seats must be invested in, suggestions on the back of a postcard….


On the edge of glory

There is little unsaid about Celtic’s performance in the Camp Nou. Praise is flowing in from all directions, quite rightly draining the dictionary of superlatives. I refuse to allow any dwelling on if, but and maybe. Nothing but pride. I believe that I witnessed something special last night, a turning of the tide for Celtic. A performance that could pave the way to great things.

Last year Chelsea went to Barcelona with their wealth of expensive household names. Just like Celtic last night they had only 28% possession, that’s what happens when great teams play against Barcelona. Chelsea were camped in their own half, backs to the wall defending wave after wave of attack. That’s what happens when great teams play against Barcelona. Chelsea chased shadows and fought for every touch of the ball. That’s what happens when great teams play against Barcelona.
That night was also to be settled by a goal in injury time but it was not Barcelona who were celebrating.
Chelsea went on to win the Champions League. It is a very fine line that can separate teams when playing at the pinnacle of world football. It is that same fine line that our young management and players now find themselves treading.

Celtic were represented last night by a team with an average age of just 24 and assembled for under £12 million. To put that into perspective, Barcelona’s desperation last night saw them throw on a substitute striker with 10 minutes to go in a final attempt to break us down. That striker cost them £35 million. One substitute ‘worth’ three times the entire Celtic team.

These XI ambassadors for Celtic were on a huge learning curve. By the 94th minute they looked like they had experienced something that could set us on a path to great success. Nothing to do with learning tactics, technique or skill. By the final whistle these men looked like they knew what it means to be a Celtic player.
During the hardfought battle they went toe to toe with the best team in the world and we saw something that has been missing for years. Steel and determination, total commitment to the cause and a lung busting fighting spirit. It felt like there was a burning desire and a hunger in every player. They pushed themselves to the limit and by the end of the game they understood the last 125 years.

It is important now that these players realise what they have accomplished and do not dwell on what could have been. It is a painful thing to do to but watching that Barcelona team celebrating should fill our players with pride. The greatest team in the world overjoyed to score a goal in the 93rd minute against a team of young men who earned the respect of a continent.

They need to remember one important thing about this European campaign, this really is just the beginning.