As I get set to interact with a whole new section of the Celtic family I started thinking, ‘Why do I love Celtic Football Club?’
That is a question which I’m sure would bring out a host of different answers from all Celtic supporters across the world, with not one answer being any more valid or appropriate than the others. That is the beauty of this particular type of passion; it is unique to each of us. What is important to one will be of less importance to others. How I see the club, is not how you will.
We all know of Barcelona’s motto of being “more than a club” and on occasion it has been suggested that this should also apply to Celtic. Although cheesy, I think that there is a great deal of substance to that.
For those of us avid twitter users, you need never to look far to read of the work of various Celtic related charity organisations. The “Thai Tims” is a great example. The lives of those kids and their families are affected to such a wonderful extent, aided in no small part by a football club on the other side of the world. This makes me proud!!!
As a young kid growing up in the East End of Glasgow, Celtic was simply my football team. I don’t know why, but quite probably, like many of us, it was due to my dad being a supporter.
My earliest memory of football is Celtic. It was the end of the 87/88 centenary year. Although very faint, I recall Frank McAvennie’s late winner at Hampden to win the Scottish Cup. Follow that up with Joe Miller’s winner the following year and that’s where my love began.
The famous kit with that welcoming combination of green and white hoops is so iconic across the world. Growing up I watched many great players fill it. (As well as a few others who were rather Rafael……) My early heroes were Paul McStay, and despite his modern day attempts to criticise the club whenever possible, Andy Walker.
Then came the Tommy Burns era when “the Celtic way” was first introduced to me. The philosophy that winning wasn’t enough. You have to win with style, with ability and where possible, with flair. Paolo Di Canio showed all the passion and flair, Peter Grant had the fight and Cadete and Van Hooijdonk the goals. But it was the often overlooked hero of the Burns era who caught my attention and became my idol. Andreas Thom. Indeed the first ever personalised Celtic jersey I owned had THOM 10 on the back. His ability to link midfield to attack and create for the bigger “stars” made him an integral part of the team, yet he rarely got the limelight deserved.
Being a Celtic fan growing up throughout the 90s was tough. Not only did we have to watch, what we now know to be a less than genuine, Rangers juggernaut to 9 in a row, but we also had to deal with the likes of the Lou Macari and Liam Brady eras, with players such as Stuart Slater, Tony Cascarino, and Andy Paton. All players who I’m sure at some point in their career achieved good things, but they all found the weight of those hoops just too great. Then there was Raith Rovers!!
Please don’t mistake this as a timeline of the club. I mean, we all know the history……
No, I am highlighting this period as it is important in my love for Celtic. I know what it means to be at the bottom. That is why I can enjoy the achievements when we are on top. As a support there is no sense of entitlement. That is what separates us from our foes. We do not take to the field and expect that we should win everything in sight. We understand the need to fight for the right to be better than an opponent. Whether it’s Pierre Van Hooijdonk towering above the Airdrie defence or Tony Watt charging through on Valdes, we recognise the effort, the spirit and the desire in each of them.
And thus, we find the best thing about Celtic Football Club, in my eyes, you and me!
There are many different types of fans and to each Celtic means something different. I appreciate the possibly rocky road I tread in this point, however personally Celtic is purely about football to me. Yes I adore and am extremely proud of its charitable side, but I buy the jersey of the football players, not the T-Shirts of the coin collectors or mountain climbers. I am Catholic, but that isn’t a pre-requisite to be a Celtic supporter. I have no great political opinions, but if I did, I doubt they would affect my support of a football club. I am Scottish, with a penchant for Italian football and I firmly respect the club’s roots, however Ireland’s issues are of very little concern to me.
I am a Celtic fan, not a Rangers hater. They are our rival. I despise the fact that they cheated. They cheated people like O’Neill, Lennon, Larsson, Hartson, Sutton and many others. They cheated you and they cheated me. However I don’t live my life as a Celtic supporter to hate others.
One fact we can be proud of is that we do not hate. There are plenty other clubs around Britain whose support groups exist to hate others. Indeed we need not look very far from our doorstep for one.
We must be better than that.
We cannot indulge in the singing of songs or in public slanging of a sectarian nature. For every occasion I read of a Rangers supporter being arrested for a hate crime and thereafter display pride that our club is better, I cringe when I read of a Celtic fan involved in the same.
We are Celtic, open to all. The greatest way to defeat your enemy is simply to be better than them and as far as I am concerned, we the Celtic family in the main are exactly that.
And THAT is something to be proud of!!
So as we get set for a new season on the pitch and a new group off it, I look forward to the interactions with other fans, no matter how they see Celtic. As I said before, what Celtic means to me is no more valid than what it means to you. I admire the contributions of Mulgrew, Kayal, Commons and Ledley. I adore Samaras and have reservations over Forrest, Stokes and Ambrose. I think Hooper has gone backwards in recent seasons whilst I think Lustig is an unsung hero.
I know many people will have completely different opinions all round. That’s the beauty of football and indeed Celtic.
Heroes come and go, some stay in our hearts forever, but Celtic is the greatest club in the world because of one thing.
It is the thing that lifted Nakamura’s free-kick over the wall and threw Boruc to Saha’s penalty. It made Dida push that ball out to McDonald and carried Forster’s ball to Tony Watt. And that vital element is you, me and all around us. May that weapon continue through this season and many thereafter.
The Newton Sammy (@TheNewtonSammy)