The beautiful game and its youth…scarred

These days, we appear to live in an age of ‘the enquiry’. From one month to the next there is another investigation going on into some matter from past or present.

In recent times we’ve seen politician’s expenses fraud and phone hacking by media companies. There’s been investigations into policing across the UK with Hillsborough being very prominent above many other cases.

It doesn’t just stop with politics and policing though. The biggest story of all must be the ongoing devastation that is child abuse.

The endless amount of historical child abuse has ranged from celebrities to politicians to priests. There appears to be no end to this horrible saga.

With stories now emerging from sport, football being the current sport in question, we seem to have uncovered another horrible truth about UK society. The ordeal these young people have gone through is horrific.

As Celtic fans, we know all too well about the crimes of Jim Torbett. Despite this being one of the few such stories to have ever emerged in years gone by, it has now come to light that Celtic Football Club weren’t the only club in the UK to have any of their officials abuse children in the past.

It has long been a stick to beat Celtic with if you were a Rangers fan or indeed one of the New Rangers fans these days. The “Big Jock Knew” slur continues to get regurgitated every other day in their world as if Ibrox have a squeaky clean history.

What we have learned in the last couple of weeks is that these predators were everywhere. How each matter was dealt with at the time (if known) has varied from club-to-club, but now people are stepping forward and sharing their pain.

This truly is a sad period for football, but it is also an incredibly important time for those who were abused to be able to express themselves and try to shed some of the pain they have carried for too long. Given the way society has handled similar matters in the past it is of no surprise that football has fallen under this spell as well.

There are a lot of courageous people out there coming forward and sharing their grief after such a long period of silence. I cannot begin to imagine how that must feel.

Hopefully by sharing now, they can somehow salvage some of the happiness which they have been deprived of all these years. That is no consolation of course for what they have been subjected to, but it may be a step towards halting this kind of thing happening ever again.

Unfortunately, I think we may only have just scratched the surface of the matter. As sad as this episode may be, it all needs to come into the open in order help the victims and punish the abusers.

We simply cannot allow this kind of behaviour to continue in sport or in society. Children should not have to suffer in silence, feel ashamed to come forward or be preyed upon by such vile ‘human beings’.

I can only hope that with this being as wide-spread as it is, some of the scum that have used the Big Jock Knew slur for so long might take a look at their own back yard for once. That they might think twice about taunting people about such a tragic story which has affected so many people.

This is a real matter involving real people. The victims need to be heard and to receive sufficient support.

To use such material as an instrument to torment your rivals only brings you down to the same level as the abusers. Keep that in mind the next time you wish to taunt your opponent please.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Friday night lights

rugby-park-kilmarnock-general-view_3453658Celtic are back in action tonight in a rare live broadcast for Hoops fans on a Friday evening. However, it’s been another disappointing international break for Scotland fans like myself.

Gordon Strachan may have got a half-decent performance from of his players against England. That amounted to nothing though with three goals being conceded at Wembley.

Thankfully, I have Celtic to lift my spirits tonight. An away encounter with Kilmarnock to watch on a Friday evening is most welcome.

Mind you, there have been plenty of other football stories circulating to attract our attention this week. Aside from the Steven Gerrard rumour, the meltdown continues over at Snake Mountain.

With the strength and variety of damaging storylines coming out of Mordor these days, it has gone from tribute act comedy to a sporting embarrassment waiting to crumble die. I honestly cannot keep up with the plethora of threads that emanate from the other side of Glasgow not that the Scottish media report much of this.

On top of that shambles, the SFA are a hot topic once more. The Resolution 12 story is back in the fold after getting an airing at Celtic’s AGM during the week.

With FIFA already looking at the SFA (as well as the English FA) over Poppygate, UEFA are coming in at another angle. The latter is with thanks to the truth seekers who have fought hard for justice and transparency over rule breaches in Scottish and European football by the governing body of our game and their now deceased pet team.

There will be lots more to come from this. There will also be a lot more to come from Ibrox unless the establishment’s new puppy team implode before the shit really hits the fan.

Meanwhile back at the Rodgers Ranch, Brendan is tending to his flock of warriors. Tonight we can turn our minds back to the progress Celtic are making.

The league title is the theme for tonight and obtaining more goals and points to make that happen on the agenda. With 10 points between Celtic and Aberdeen, the Hoops are looking comfortable.

Hard work continues behind the scenes and that means fine tuning the talent currently at the club. There are still several fringe players whose futures will be decided throughout the remainder of this season, if not by January.

Might there be the possibility of one or two coming in? I’m not sure that is something Celtic are in desperate need of to see us through this campaign unless there are departures.

One player who has been mentioned as coming in is Steven Gerrard. Personally, I can’t see any advantage to bringing him to Celtic at this stage.

We have a midfield more than capable of winning the title, double and treble. Had European football been on the cards after Christmas I might have understood, but that remains an unlikely possibility.

Right now Celtic need to carry on the charge with the team we do have. As I said before, we have a lot of fringe players who will need to either need to get an opportunity or move on temporarily or permanently.

This size of squad is not sustainable particularly if you want youth to flourish. So expect some exits as this team continues to grow.

As for Rugby Park tonight? Three points please Bhoys.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Scotland the brave?

On Saturday night I sat down and watched the Scotland v Lithuania game on TV. Once again I put myself through the kind of torture that can only mirror what it’s like to follow a lower league club.

That hopeless desire that one day you might just experience something wonderful with that inevitability that you never will. In that respect, Scotland are a lower league international side. 

International football, of course, is a different beast to club football altogether. The analogy is pretty close though.

The qualifying campaigns are long, drawn out affairs and in Scotland’s case unfulfilling. Having failed to reach a finals since 1998, the national side remain way off the pace.

After Saturday’s lucky draw at Hampden there appears to be no sign of that changing. Scotland always seem to come up short when they need exactly the opposite.

Gordon Strachan was a good appointment for the national side. He’s a good coach and was an iconic player so he fits the bill in terms of an international leader in my view.

The trouble is, Scotland were lack some exciting players on Saturday night. They have a good variety of talent playing at a decent level in England but there weren’t many on the park that I would have considered as star players.

Robert Snodgrass was probably the only guy I’d put in that category that started the match at Hampden. There might be a few who have moved with rather large price tags or command larte salaries but nobody got my heart racing against the Lithuanians. 

Lithuania are ranked around 70 places below Scotland, but Strachan’s players struggled to create chances let alone score goals. There is the basis of a good Scotland squad,but you need players out there providing a bit of inspiriation.

There are plenty of guys out there who haven’t even been capped and could do a very good job. When their time will come remains to he seen.

I might be slightly biased in my analysis,but not one Celtic player started. Leigh Griffiths, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney were all on the bench.

Are we really saying none of these guys were good enough to start against Lithuania at Hampden? And what about the other Celtic players yet to get a sniff at a Scotland squad such as Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor?

Of the Celtic outfield trio, one, two or all three should have started given their form this season. Coming off the bench is all well and good but I think Gordon set up wrong for this match.

Scotland should have hammered out a solid home win at Hampden. With a more attack minded team, Scotland could have ended this game early.

Intead they were chasing an equaliser. Had they gone on the front foot sooner, Strachan could have switched things and rested players for the next game.

Away points will be hard to come by in England, Slovenia and in Slovakia on Tuesday. We can add Lithuania to that list if Saturday’s match is anything to go by.

Winning home games is essential. Scotland won’t win the group, but they should be doing everything to ensure they amass the highest amount of points possible to see them into a play off position.

Realistcally, that is Scotland’s best hope. Just managing a draw against Lithuania was lucky, but it was also damaging to our campaign.

You don’t get much of a chance to recover in qualification. There are few games in which to make your mark and Scotland always seem to be dragging their heels.

The qualification process is far from decided. At this stage though, it was a blip that Gordon Strachan could have done without.

There will be more dramas ahead. As a Scotland fan of many years, I know that all too well.

Stevie Mac

Sinclair breaks Hearts

Just when it was looking like a draw, up stepped debutant Scott Sinclair to send Celtic fans wild. Tynecastle is a hostile environment and it rarely produces a dull match when Celtic come to town.

Sunday’s opening league match away to Hearts was always going to be a tough start for Brendan Rodgers. Celtic took the lead though in just 8 minutes as James Forrest pounced onto the loose ball Callum McGregor had been relieved of inside the penalty box.

It looked like a penalty but play continued to allow Celtic their first goal of the domestic season. Hearts were up in arms about Stuart Armstrong interfering with play (though not at the time of the incident) but whether the rules say he was or wasn’t,  McGregor was fouled for a penalty that wasn’t given so let’s scratch that one shall we?

Talking of penalties, Hearts equaliser came courtesy of a Jamie Walker dive. There was no contact with Kieran Tierney and by his own admission the referee owned up to getting that one wrong. 

Will Jamie Walker face retrospective discipline for cheating? Not unless he changes his name to Derk Boerrigter.

One glaring opportunity that Hearts should have equalised with was the free header ex-Celt Tony Watt had. Not only was he unmarked by Mikael Lustig, the goal was wide open for him. 

Nae luck wee man. Thanks for missing though.

Later on there was another penalty shout for Hearts. At best it would have been very soft and not giving it was the correct decision, most likely aided by the Hearts spot kick awarded in error earlier in the match. 

Like Wednesday night against FC Astana though, this match produced a winning moment from the bench. I don’t know if ‘Mystic Mick’ McManus saw this in his crystal ball, but Scott Sinclair seized his opportunity to win the match for Celtic. 

Celtic broke down the left hand side after a Hearts move broke down. The ball was chased down by Leigh Griffiths who, after fending off his pursuers, squared the ball long and low to the onrushing Sinclair who finished neatly inside the box.

What a start for the English winger and what an end to a fiesty match. Celtic deserved their victory, even when you take into account all of the right and wrong decisions.

Robbie Neilson, a good young coach, sadly had a touch of the Jim Jeffries about himself post-match. Being a sore loser and not understanding the rules of the game only makes you look like a bit of a fanny, so only whinge when your facts are solid.

On the subject of fannies, Sportscene was back last night and in glorious er…SD. We were told of this new time slot and promised longer coverage.

What about the Scottish Championship coverage though? Why would they ever have dropped that segment for this season I wonder?

Still no post match interviews from Ibrokes for the BBC. I guess Sportscene will need to try even harder though I doubt their two bob mixture fund will stretch any further.

The Scottish Premiership’s first timers might have failed to speak to the grovelling BBC, but it wasn’t because they drew with Hamilton Accies at home. It’s all historical, though given their history only goes back to 2012, not that historical.

Elsewhere the Dons drew with St Johnstone in a 0-0 thriller. Having gone out of Europe to Celtic’s old foes Maribor midweek I thought Aberdeen would come out of the traps at the weekend.

So none of Celtic’s so called ‘contenders’ managed a winning start. I guess that’s because only Celtic have a £4M player on the bench eh Robbie?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Shades of the recent past

Next season the Scottish Premiership welcomes a new club to the top flight. The tribute act by the name of The Rangers will take up one of the twelve positions in the Scottish top flight for the first time in their short history.

We widely acknowledge that they wish to be known as the Rangers that liquidated in 2012. However, we simply won’t allow it.

Even though the SPFL and the SFA attirbute all of the liquidated club’s honours to the club that took their place within Scottish football, many will contest this forever. It may well be futile, particularly given the support they are given within Scotland by the football authorities and the media.

Recent stories across the web have emerged that the Scottish media won’t go near any story regarding The Rangers these days. To be honest, we probably didn’t need to be told that, we already had that idea even though it is regularly dimissed as ‘paranoia’.

This does not bode well for next season. Because already, The Rangers have all the backing they desire from the media and the football authorities so that they can get on with trying to survive.

Does this sound familiar? A helping hand to stay in the top flight?

I’ve never had any doubts about how badly Scottish football and it’s authorities have damaged the game. Even after all that has happened in recent years, tax cases, EBT’s, refereeing scandals, peoples lives threatened, the demise of one club…we are still in the same rut.

I’m sorry to say it but The Rangers entering the Scottish Premiership is a bag of trouble already. It looks as though they’ve secured everything the liquidated club had.

Not just the facilities and the honours. The media and the authorities.

I fear for Scottish football. Dark days are looming.

If you cannot rely on the Scottish media to report the issues that plague the game and you cannot trust the authorties to run the game in a fair and transparent manner what is going to happen? I dread to think, I really do.

Celtic might be searching for their new manager, but they best keep and eye on matters within the Scottish game. I suggest the rest of Scotland’s football clubs do the same because you can already see the landscape changing and not for the better.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Is there a big game this weekend? Let’s hear it for the bloggers and freelancers!

I hope everyone reset their paranoia counters to zero last weekend? No? Well you must be overclocking by now given the mount of anti-Celtic stories in the Scottish media this week.

Because there have been no “Celtic and Rangers” stories to write about in the media for so long now, it’s easy to spot the torrent of anti-Celtic stories there have been recently. All in the week leading up to the second ever meeting between the Hoops and the tribute act across the city.

If it hasn’t been about the so-called ream of players al set to leave Celtic Park, it’s been further speculation about the Head Coach or the CEO that has populated the back pages this week. The media still haven’t let go of the O** F*** tag either and have been positively purring with jubilation at “The Rangers” getting promoted to the Scottish Premiership and winning the Pathetic Cup.

Apart from the usual garbage there was a story printed by the Scotsman newspaper only yesterday about Scotland’s oldest clubs. On that list was Rangers 1872, a club they seem happy to endorse as the same one which started over in 2012 following liquidation.

My debate isn’t about the 1872 v 2012 question. That argument will rage on until it is archived along with all the other wrongdoings of the 1872 club thanks to the endless bias in Scotland.

It is more about the timing of the article and it’s pertinence to the two clubs playing in Sunday’s semi final. There was no need for this story to be printed.

The fact Celtic aren’t on the list isn’t an issue for me either. In fact I’m more bothered why Third Lanark weren’t listed.

It’s typical of the media to carelessly throw something like this into the mix like a grenade in a room full of people. Something which saddens me to the core about Scotland and it’s media.

This kind of behaviour is every bit as irresponsible when dealing with supporter rivalry as any supporters misbehaving themselves. And yet, the fuel the media add continues without any real moderation.

Another issue that cropped up recently was the warning issued by Police Scotland regarding celebrations around the Easter Uprising. Even from 400 miles away I was astonished by this approach.

Given that Police Scotland are already on the blacklist for harassing Celtic fans, this is a step too far. The people behind this should bookmark this moment in time for future reference.

I mean aren’t we forgetting something? Like the Orange Walks that are paraded through the streets of Glasgow for weeks, year on year right in the faces of those who are offended by their very existence.

Lets not forget what these marches symbolise. You would think that after several decades the police and politicians would be able to handle this more even-handedly but of course they can’t can they?

However, I digress. Something which I’m sure I’ll do again in the near future.

So what positive Celtic stories have I perused this week? None in the press, that’s for sure, so let’s hear it for the bloggers and freelancers out there speaking the truth and talking sense (mainly).

Be it negative or positive, it is generally always ‘real’. Good topics, proper facts and open to the audience.

The Scottish media will tell us otherwise of course. Blogger bashing by these jokers who get paid to write whatever sells is the kind of reaction you expect when you question their ‘integrity’, of which they have none.

There are some great bloggers and freelance journalists out there though. They all vary in terms of content and tone but it is all good stuff.

With so few in the media that are worth following it is important to get untainted views elsewhere. Yes, you could argue that a self indulging Celtic fan blogging about “The Rangers” is biased or from their own perspective.

What you can say about that though is it is ‘their opinion’. Whereas in the media, it is written as gospel as though it actually happened.

So for the remaining days leading up to Sunday’s semi final at Hampden expect the worst and further trash to sift through if you can even bear to read it. As for now, I’ll keep tuning into my favourite blogs for which there are many.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Title twists

When I was writing my preview for Tuesday’s game at Dens Park, I wondered if this would be another of those ‘turning points’. Well, it wasn’t and Ronny Deila ended up with the same result when Paul Hartley brought his team to Celtic Park in March.

I didn’t see the game and I’m glad I didn’t either. Otherwise my wife would have been as just disappointed with our anniversary celebrations as I would have been with a 0-0 draw!

Worse still, Celtic blew their game at hand by dropping two points. This was a good opportunity to put daylight between ourselves and Aberdeen.

Instead, Derek McInnes will be encouraged by this slip up. He knows that if Aberdeen beat Celtic after the split they could potentially be 2 points off top spot.

With other points likely to be dropped by both teams, this makes for a nervy finish to the current season. If you’re a neutral or even interested in Scottish football it makes for good viewing.

In fairness to Dundee though they’re trying to secure a top six place. On recent performances I’d say they are on course but the truth is there are four teams in total battling it out with St Johnstone, Partick Thistle and Ross County also in the mix.

Celtic play Motherwell at Fir Park for their final match before the split. Mark McGhee has hauled the Lanarkshire club up the table to a very respectable 4th and his team will remain in the top six.

That won’t deter Motherwell from upsetting Celtic’s title chances though. We’ve been there before and they’ve also been the ones to spoil the show in the past.

Before that challenge on Saturday though, all eyes will be on Tynecastle on Friday night. With Hearts hosting Aberdeen, all Celtic fans will be hoping the Dons will drop points un the capital.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d much prefer Celtic to be winning this fight on their own but it is clear that this team haven’t got it in them right now. Too many players aren’t turning up in matches and at this point in the season you need a concerted effort by everyone.

If someone hasn’t been injured, they’ve been off form. That isn’t an excuse, that’s just football.

I never expected Celtic to win all of their remaining matches. In fact I even said that if we dropped points it doesn’t mean we’ve lost the league.

What I am concerned about is the attitude and character of the players. We saw against a dominant Hearts side at Celtic Park what sort of result could be achieved even though we weren’t as good as the visitors for most of the game.

Don’t think for a second that the towel is being thrown in though. This will be a battle to the death despite how unconvincing our performances have been.

The Scottish media have rallied around the promotion of the Championship winners and the ‘boost’ it will give the top flight. Well from my perspective it seems to have been doing just fine judging by the title challenges of the last two seasons.

Of course we welcome all newcomers to the Scottish Premiership. Just don’t belittle the battle that has been going on in the last two seasons between Celtic and Aberdeen by suggesting the arrival of the new Ibrox club are here to solve all that is wrong with our game.

Scottish football suffers through the mismanagement by its authorities and a self-serving biased media. The pro-Ibrox revival is hard to miss given how many folk are licking their lips across Scottish football and the media.

As I say though, it’s nice to have newcomers to football. We’ll give them the proper treatment when the time comes.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac