David Leggat - giving it to you straight

Friday, 12 November 2010

GENTLE ATTACK ON CELTIC - BUT CREEP ROUNDS ON RANGERS

ROSE GENTLE has added her impressive and influential voice to the growing number of people of all faiths to stand up to the fascist bullies of the Green Brigade and their Bloodstained Poppy banner.

While Tom English, writing with passion and perception in the Scotsman, has launched a well aimed attack on the way Celtic have reacted to the whole affair.

Meanwhile, back in cloud cuckoo land - or the Scottish edition of the Times as it is officially known - an Odious Creep has used the row to turn on Rangers, and attack them for inviting military personnel to Ibrox.

Rose Gentle is of course the mother of Gordon - a Celtic supporting soldier - killed at the tender age of 19 while on active service in Basra.

Her campaigning vigour has made her a national figure throughout Britain, and her renown has spread to Europe, the Commonwealth, and across the Atlantic to America.

According to her, as quoted in the Daily Mail, Celtic chairman, The Baron Reid of Cardowan, should be writing to all the families who have suffered a loss to apologise for the infamous Bloodstained Poppy banner.

The subject of the investigation Celtic have announced through a club spokesman, with the promise of life bans if the culprits are discovered, has been what has caught of attention of the Scotsman's, English.

Now English has never shown any overt anti Celtic bias over the years he has worked in newspapers in both Ireland and Scotland, but he clearly feels the Parkhead club have failed to react with same speed and vigour to the Bloodstained Poppy banner as they have a number of times in the past three weeks to their perceived bias against the club by referees and the Scottish Football Association.

English, like Rose Gentle, wants to hear from either the Baron Reid of Cardowan, or Celtic chief executive, Peter Lawwell.

He also shows an impressive grasp of Irish history, pointing out the Sean South of Garryowen song which is a favourite, home and away, of the Green Brigade, pays homage to a man who had much in common with Adolf Hitler in his attitude to Jews. And that he didn't come from Garryowen.

Sean South that is. Hitler didn't come from Garryowen either, though he had plenty of supporters there.

Unfortunately no amount of rationale or historical fact will influence the terrorist supporters and zealots who sing in praise of the IRA and sully the Poppy.

The Poppy has never had any political significance. Or at least it didn't until these zealots highjacked it.

When it was adopted, the Poppy was - and for many continues to be - seen as a symbol to remind us all of the human cost of war.

And when it is worn, and when we join together in a silent and respectful act of Remembrance, what we are doing is paying heed to the words Rabbie, wrote about man's inhumanity to man making countless thousands mourn.

And so we move on to the one newspaper to try, in a tawdry way, to implicate Rangers in an affair which has nothing to do with them.

In the fast fading and increasingly obscure and marginalised Scottish edition of the London Times, their well known Rangers hating correspondent - known in the inky business as Odious Creep - produced an astonishing piece.

Now I know few people will be aware of this, due to the plummeting circulation - now in freefall - of the paper on this side of Hadrian's Wall since he joined it.

And as it is now behind a paywall, viewing it online costs cash few folk are willing to splash out to read Creep's drivel.

However, I am indeed indebted to an old Fleet Street colleague who now works for the News International organisation in London, for passing on Creep's witless words.

This is what appeared under his real name in Wednesday's Times.

"Rangers can sometimes hardly await their next opportunity to have military personnel parading on the pitch at Ibrox in full regalia. It doesn't take much calculation to know what's going on here."

Note the use of the word REGALIA, a description I have never heard used about what military personnel wear. It's UNIFORM,

However, to hoist Creep by his own petard, it doesn't take much calculation to know what's going on here.

Or to wonder why he made no mention of the fact the FA in England chose to have representatives of the three Armed Forces paraded on the pitch at Wembley and be presented to the England team before a recent international.

But more of Odious Creep and his flaccid organ - at least in Scotland - at a later date.

For the moment, the most powerful and relevant voice to join the debate about the Celtic supporters' Bloodstained Poppy banner, belongs to Rose Gentle.

And the angriest, but nevertheless sane and erudite pen, is that wielded by Tom English.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

SFA NOW IN REAL DANGER OF SINKING

YOU may recall I recently described the Scottish Football Association as leaking like the Titanic after the way its internal dealings were splashed all over a newspaper in the wake of TannadiceGate.

Now I must amend that. For it appears that what has happened relating to the Hugh Dallas alleged email has left the SFA holed with a leak the size of the General Belgrano after one of Her Majesty's vessels slammed a couple of tin fish into the dangerous enemy battleship.

When the Dallas story broke in the News of the World, under the byline, Charlie Lavery, I had my suspicion as to where it had originated.

I am indebted to what most reporters believe is the best connected-inside-Parkhead- Celtic-website, Celtic Quick News, for confirming that suspicion.

Celtic Quick News, which has been pushing this story, and trailing where it will develop, all week, claimed that the source of the Dallas tale was the Republic of Ireland based, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain.

In the past the News of the World  have used a number of his stories, and were happy to use his byline. However, I understand that a decision was taken at a high editorial level, to stop using Phil Mac Giolla Bhain's name in the paper.

Hence the apparent collaboration with Charlie Lavery, an old Sunday Mail pal of mine, who, if he didn't have to work on a Saturday, would surely be a Celtic season ticket holder.

Not that any other hack - however old and tired - can have any quibble with a good story, or with the newspaper which published it, providing the story is true and balanced, and its source is not someone who may be percieved by some to have an agenda.

The wider issue, and what must be of grave concern to the SFA's new chief executive Stewart Regan, is the fact that the organisation he presides over seems unable to go about its day to day business without leaks and accusations.

This is a problem which appears to have escalated since the resignation of embittered assistant ref, Steven Craven, followed by his wild accusations of bullying and victimisation. Charges which he levelled against the head of the SFA's refereeing department, former FIFA World Cup whistler, Hugh Dallas.

The timing of Dallas appearing to be in the cross hairs of those hidden snipers with Celtic DNA, has also coincided with  Regan  arriving as the new kid on the block.

Dallas has long been a hate figure for so many with Celtic leanings, and what has been obvious this week on Celtic message boards, is how they want his body. Professionally at least.

There exists a suspicion, which I have heard from others within the SFA, that this may be the reason why Regan is being subjected to an immediate onslaught .

Therefore there has to be a degree of sympathy for him. Though he did himself no favours by making the trip to Parkhead to see Peter Lawwell, instead of summoning his chief executive counterpart to football's governing body's Hampden headquarters.

Perhaps, as an Englishman abroad, Regan was merely being polite. He will soon find that such  courtesy is often seen as weakness in the often rancid world of Scottish football politics.

He was also out of morder in implying that anyone who had been at the SFA before him may have carried political baggage, and worked to an agenda. But he must be learning fast about the world he has stepped into.

Now, as  far as the allegation concerning any joke email, forwarded by Dallas is concerned, Regan he has issued a statement saying the matter has been investigated, and will be dealt the internally.

But he must hope  the nature and result of that investigation, and how he is dealing with its findings, do not somehow find their way to any foreign based freelance reporter, who would be only too happy to pass them on to the News of the World without worrying about whether or not his name appeared in the paper. Just so long as it was on the cheque.

Regan though may be cute enough to know the way these leaks work, and the fingerprints they leave, and as you read this, could well be laying an electronic trail to trace the leak.

If he doesn't, then Regan and the Scottish Football Association will sink as fast as that enemy battleship went down after the Royal Navy's daring attack.

AND......

ON a sombre note, I was saddened to hear of the death of former Scottish Football Association chief executive, Jim Farry, who also spent a decade as the secretary of the Scottish Football League.

Jim was a good and honest man, who was a great loss to the game in Scotland when he was hounded out of office by Celtic during Fergus McCann's reign. It was the one thing McCann did during his short and eventful time in the game, with which I disagreed.

Jim Farry was missed for many years, and his wise and steady counsel is still being missed today. He wasn't always right, but he was always decent, and even after he departed the SFA I often spoke to him for advice on some of the more arcane ways the organisation operated.

I do not think I ever put the phone down after speaking to Jim without knowing I had been given a valuable and generous insight, and had learned something.

My thoughts are with his family

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

ENGLAND BAFFLED BY CELTIC POPPY ROW

THE REFEREE debate which is a blight on Scottish football, will no doubt outlast the Celtic supporters' Bloodstained Poppy banner row.

Though I know which is the more important topic. And it is most certainly not the one which centres on a purely football matter.

However, both subjects were in evidence during Sky Sports excellent live coverage of the English Premier League game between Stoke City and Birmingham City.

The build up to the action featured a number of clips showing Stoke as the victims of a succession of absurd refereeing decisions, plus the reaction after those incidents of Stoke manager, Tony Pullis.

Pullis was rightly furious and reckoned that so far this season bad refereeing decisions have cost Stoke seven points.

It was a view Sky's outstanding Andy Gray agreed with.

However - and this is just one way things are different in England - nobody from Stoke was ranting and raving about any anti-Stoke conspiracy. Nobody claimed that refs who don't come from the Potteries hate the club.

Nobody even hinted that the Football Association and the EPL's refereeing hierarchy are institutionally biased against Stoke City.

Pullis, for all his rage in the immediate aftermath of such wrong decisions, clearly knows that to talk of conspiracy would not only be as wrong as the decisions which have cost his club, but also make him and Stoke look foolish.

It is doubtful if the good men who are the directors of  the club of Sir Stanley Matthews would tolerate such nonsense, far less join in.

There was also the sight of both teams wearing a Poppy on their shirts, without any row breaking out about it being bloodstained.

Now, I lived and worked in Birmingham for a decade from the mid 1970s and know there are more people living there of Irish descent than there are in the whole of Scotland.  None of them seem to have any problem with the Blues wearing a poppy on the strip.

Likewise, through the length and breadth of England this weekend supporters in their hundreds of thousands will stand in solemn and respectful silence to honour the fallen in an Act of Remembrance.

And at the matches covered by Sky in England there will be no need for them to commit journalistic suicide by muting the sound of the silence being broken by booing and singing. For, unless some Celtic zealots infiltrate, there will be none.

There will be no debate in newspapers, on websites or radio phone ins. In fact, many of the English pals I have spoken to cannot quite understand what is going on up here over Celtic fans and their Poppy protest.

But I am indebted to one Celtic supporter who has penned a well written and thoughtful piece on the Celtic Underground site, under the name of Bhoy Ali.

He reveals himself to be a Muslim, and makes the comparison between the terrorist zealots who have highjacked that religion, and the extremists among  Celtic supporters who seek to highjack not just the club's fanbase, but the very club itself.

Bhoy Ali goes on to say that he knows and mixes with many Celtic supporters but cannot think of one who agrees with the Bloodstained Poppy banner, or with the minority of morons who have flooded the many Celtic sites with their bile.

As I said, it is a thoughtful and well written piece, and I commend it to everyone of every hue. Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim and non believers alike.

Not to mention the many English men and woman who find the actions of those who raised aloft that Bloodstained Poppy banner, so distasteful and bewildering.

Rationale does not always come from the most obvious place. But it is out there just the same. You've just got to look and listen. And stop and think.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

CELTIC BAN PROMISE

NO doubt Hugh Dallas will be watching with interest to see just how Celtic get on with their pledge to ban the supporters who shamed Scotland with their Bloodstained Poppy banner.

After all, Dallas was once sent sprawling at Parkhead  in the Celtic Shame Game , won by Rangers, when hammered by a missile which smacked into his head, narrowly missing an eye and causing a wound from which blood poured.

Later on that same day Dallas had his house attacked when he was inside with his wife and family. A brick was hurled and smashed a window on its way into the Dallas living room.

The Herald later reported - on September 5, 2000 - how the culprit, Kevin Dunn, appeared in court before Edith Ryan JP and was ordered to be of good behaviour, and had his sentence deferred for a year.

Dunn, in open court revealed, a fact also reported in the Herald, that he was a Celtic season ticket holder. Amazingly - due to sloppy journalism - there was no quote from anyone at Celtic back then about what their position would be regarding Dunn's season ticket.

Does he still hold one? Or does he attend Parkhead with a matchday ticket? Is he banned? Does anyone know?

There was also the incident involving Fernando Ricksen, who was hit on the head with a missile during, and wounded, another visit to Parkhead by Rangers.

Five years down the line there is no record of any Celtic investigation uncovering the culprit and banning them.

In the spring of 2008 an even worse offence happened when Rangers were at Parkhead. Keeper Allan McGregor went down injured in front of the Jock Stein Stand and the Ibrox club's doctor, Paul Jackson sprinted on to give him urgent medical treatment.

Dr Jackson was targeted by Celtic supporters in the Jock Stein Stand, and one missile smashed into his hand, the sort of injury which could easily have been permanent.

As yet, there exists no record of Celtic having successfully investigated this incident and handed out a ban from Parkhead.

No wonder there are many people out there who look at these historical facts and wonder what the chances are of Celtic uncovering the guilty men and women this time, naming and shaming them, and handing out public life long bans?

It is also perhaps significant  the official Celtic response came from an unnamed spokesman, and not from  the chairman, former Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Defence, The Baron Reid of Cardowan.

According to reporter Paul Drury in the Sun - his Parkhead credentials are impeccable - The Baron Reid of Cardowan is said to be furious about what happened. If that is the case then let him unleash his fury in public.

There have been few more stirring sights and sounds over the last decade or so, than that old political bruiser in full flow, as his language belongs to a more golden age of rhetoric. Even if you do not agree with him you have to admire his oratory.

So far the most powerful words spoken about this affair which has damned Celtic, came from Billy Monkhouse, interviewed on BBC Reporting Scotland.

His son, Stephen, was just 28, when he was killed while on duty with the 1st Battalion, The Scots Guards in the dangerous Helmand province in Afghanistan. Stephen, his dad revealed, was a keen Celtic fan, who, when on leave, made a beeline to watch his team at Parkhead...if he could get a ticket.

There was also a poignant appearance from an old soldier on Reporting Scotland. A man in late middle age, resplendent in his Scottish British Legion attire.

He looked sad, and spoke of his disgust at how those who were his fellow Celtic supporters could behave in such a way.

Both of those interviews served to underline the point I made in my last blog about the number of servicemen and woman, past and present, and their relations and friends, who support Celtic, and who would have been appalled at Green Brigade's crass banner display.

As far as that banner is concerned I was interested by the phrase - Your Deeds Would Shame the Devils in Hell - as it seemed extremey erudite, and indeed poetic. The brainchild, perhaps, of a university professor?

But no, for research revealed  it is not original, but in fact is a line in from an IRA song well known by Celtic supporters.

Of course there has been a fightback to all the criticism the Green Brigade have had, and the popular Celtic supporters website, the HuddleBoard has even attempted to smear the world renown Erskine Hospital for Service People.

According to these delusional zealots, for the first few years after it was opened in 1916, Erskine refused to admit Roman Catholics. What utter nonsense. Poppycock!

For Celtic, the problem is wide spread and deep rooted, and has already led to an allegation - as reported in one newspaper - that their travel partners, Thomas Cook  have been in touch expressing displeasure about their sign being shown in the vicinity of the shamed banner, in pictures flashed around the world.

In England there has been much horror and disgust, best expressed on the Newcastle-Mad fans' website, where English feelings ran high, with one of the Toon Army saying  there is no chance of Celtic ever being welcome in the English Premiership with this sort of attitude in the stands.

St Mirren, who Celtic visit on Rembrance Sunday, are also aware of the potential for problems. Their general manager, Brian Caldwell has stated clearly in the Sun there will be no repeat of Saints forgetting what day it is... as they did when Celtic visited four years ago.

He has also made it clear there will be no kow-towing go any suggestion  the solemn minute's silence should be replaced by the so-called Celtic way of a minute's applause, as there was at Parkhead two years ago.

Last year at Falkirk, where Celtic played on Remembrance Sunday, booing and singing could be clearly heard during the minute's silence. Or at least it could on BBC Radio Scotland and on foreign television stations.

In an act of almost journalistic suicide, someone at Sky chose to censor the news and mute the sound. Something nobody else in any Sky control room did at any of the other matches they broadcast live throughout Britain that weekend.

On Sunday the game will be broadcast by ESPN, and it will be interesting to see what sort of journalistic standards they apply, and if they are in favour of censorship.

For, with the shameful Bloodstained Poppy banner row now extending to news outlets outside of Scotland, and even beyond Britain's shores, the world will be watching. And listening.

Monday, 8 November 2010

POPPY DISGRACE OF GREEN BRIGADE

LET me tell you you a story a pal's son - a serving soldier - told me about some of the brave guys and girls who serve with him on the front line.

It's about the football team many of them support. And the way they feel ignored and completely rejected by that club.

As opposed to the way they see their comrades-in-arm, not merely acknowledged, but actually feted by the club those mates support.

The clubs are of course Celtic and Rangers, with the welcome for serving servicemen and women at Ibrox warm and friendly.

On more than one occasion in the past year those boys and girls who put their lives on the line have marched out onto the pitch at Ibrox and been warmling received and applauded by Rangers supporters. Visiting fans have also joined in that applause.

It is a memory those soldiers, sailors and air force personnel will treasure for the rest of their lives.

According to my pal's son, it is an honour his front line mates who follow Celtic would love to be given by their club. But one which has not been forthcoming.

And, in the current climate, with the zealots of the Green Brigade  unfurling their anti Poppy banners at Parkhead on Saturday, one can only imagine what lengths this lunatic fringe would go to if Celtic ever did invite service men and woman to parade on the park in uniform and take a bow.

There is a real danger that unless Celtic take a firm and extremely public stand on this offensive issue, many will seek to say the club is dancing to the Green Brigade's tune.

There does appear to be an element of apprehension about what the Green Brigade may be capable of among the wider range of Celtic fans, for when I asked my pal's boy why his Celtic front line mates did not seek to gain publicity, he explained there was a fear among them.

Not, you understand, for themselves, but for their wives and children, girlfriends, mums and dads, and grandparents.

One of the other points this squaddie made to me was one that I have long believed to the the case. You don't ask the guy next to you in the trench, or the girl guarding your back on patrol in enemy territory, what school they went to.

Celtic supporters have a long and honourable history of service to the Crown in the cause of freedom. The sacrifice made by many of a Parkhead persuasion has helped to win the freedom those in the Green Brigade chose to abuse in such a tawdry fashion.

What they are guilty of may be thought by many as something similar to Fascist and Nazi beliefs their Celtic supporting predecessors fought against. Many died defeating it.

This Green Brigade group have a long history of acting in the same manner as what used to be described as the Loony Left, and frankly I have never seen any difference between the extreme left and the extreme right.

Celtic have been left embarrassed again by the actions of this group. Now, according to a spokesman, Celtic will investigate just how the offensive banners got into the ground. Which is a mystery, as many a visiting fan will tell you they are searched ,and any banner they may have is confiscated if the stewards decide it is offensive.

Perhaps the stewards did view the Green Brigade's banner and decide it was okay.

However, it is not a comment from a Celtic spokesman we need. What is required is some bold words from Celtic chairman, The Baron Reid of Cardowan, who once stood just one step down from the head of the Armed Forces, as Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Defence.

Baron Reid of Cardowan, by speaking out in the sort of strong language he often favours, would also take a huge step towards slapping down and silencing the zealots of the Green Brigade if he announced that at Celtic's next home game, a group of Celtic suppporting boys and girls from all three branches of the Armed Forces, will be invited to parade in uniform on the Parkhead pitch and take a bow.

This would give the many Celtic supporters who have children, grandchildren other relations or friends, in those Amed Forces, and those who have served themselves, or whose fathers, grandfathers and uncles won them their freedom, the chance to drown out the Green Brigade.

Surely that old political bruiser The Baron Reid of Cardowan, is not afraid of taking such a bold action?

The boys and girls who serve on the front line with my pal's son, and who support Celtic, would welcome such an invitation.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

REFS DO GET IT WRONG SOMETIMES

EVERYONE who follows football knows referees everywhere in the world do get it wrong sometimes, and often on more than just the odd occasion.

All teams suffer from a referee who sees something nobody else has, or who rules the wrong way in a borderline case.

After the initial rant and rave against the ref, all in the heat of battle, cooler heads prevail, and clubs and their fans accept that these things happen. Nobody fires off letters to the governing body demanding answers for everything that goes against them.

Such was the case at Paisley when home town born boy, Craig Thomson, reckoned by the Scottish Football Association to be a top man, blundered badly... twice.

Both of the decisions he made went against Rangers, at a time when, after having seen Celtic score nine 24 hours earlier, the supporters of the champions were looking for their team to not only win, but also eat into the goal difference advantage Celtic were able to build against a woeful and totally gutless looking Aberdeen.

In point of fact they managed to reduce that goal difference by only two, when, had Thomson got the only two big calls he had to make in the match, correct it would have been four.

Thomson blundered badly, denying Rangers a perfectly good goal on the stroke of half time, and then awarding a penalty for handball against Steve Davis, whose hand was low at his side, and who actually tried to move it.

On ESPN, Craig Burley was adamant that neither Stevie Naismith or Kenny Miller had fouled St Mirren's Craig Samson when the keeper punched the ball in to his own net.

Whatever Thomson thought it was he saw, it was not a foul by a Rangers player on the Saints keeper.

Burley was less sure about the penalty award. He started by saying Davis' hand was in what he called a neutral position, then added he was far enough away to have gotten his hand out of the way.

When he returned to review the incident again, the former Celtic and Scotland man sounded less sure. He repeated the same words, but his tone was far from firm and certain.

But these are the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which every team everywhere has to endure, and move on from.

On Saturday at Parkhead, where I was on duty, Celtic used the 16 minutes when they held a man advantage over Aberdeen after their former player, Paul Hartley, needlessly conceded a penalty, to race to a three goal lead.

Afterwards Mark McGhee was at a loss to explain the actions of his captain, who is such an experienced player, and who is so vital to a young Aberdeen side.

Referee Alan Muir also helped the ehome team with the second of three penalties which he handed to Celtic. That came seconds before the interval and Dons keeper Jamie Langfield was convinced he made no contact when Shaun Maloney went flying.

For my vantage point it was difficult to tell, and I have not yet caught up with it on television.

However, it does show how referees can impact on a game, even when when one team is clearly better than the other, as was the case with Celtic against Aberdeen and Rangers visit to St Mirren.

No doubt Thomson will review his actions on DVD, and if he is honest with himself, will realise he made a howler in thinking there had been a foul on keeper Samson, and that Davis did not appear to be guilty of deliberate handball, and deserved the benefit of the doubt.

But then again, human beings are are not machines. And refs, despite what Celtic supporters may say, are human, and therefore they make mistakes.

Thomson certainly made two, and Rangers won 3-1 instead of 4-0. That's just how it goes. No dark plots, no politcal baggage and certainly no hidden agendas.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

SOUND OF SILENCE BROKEN AT LAST

FOR the past three weeks Lord Reid and Peter Lawwell have been doing a fair impersonation of Simon and Garfunkel. The sound of silence from the Celtic boardroom has been deafening.

Now, at last, the statement issued by Lord Reid, the Celtic chairman, about his club's latest running row with the Scottish Football Association, has broken that silence.

What that pillar of the British and Scottish Establishment - he is a fomer member of the British Cabinet as Home Secretarty and Secretary of State for Defence - had to say on the Dougie McDonald, and the wider refereeing issues, was released to the media late on Friday afternoon.

By which time manager Neil Lennon had already been drawn back into the controveresy by answering media questions at his regular Friday lunchtime press briefing.

Lennon is the man I sympathise with most over the position he has been left in during this whole affair. Now, I am well aware this may not be a popular view with a section of my regular readers.

However, I would ask them to step back and try to view all that has gone on, in a calmer way than is normal.

The immediate aftermath of that Sunday afternoon at Tannadice called for an equally immediate reaction from the Celtic manager - in much the same way as the Nani goal for Manchester United against Tottenham Hotspur led to Harry Redknap's outburst.

However much anyone may disagree with Lennon's comments, only someone on the fring of sanity would deny him the right to make them, or would fail to understand his ire.

The affair then moved on to linesman Steven Craven's allegations against referee McDonald and  wild bullying claims aimed at refs' boss Hugh Dallas, taking TannadiceGate into uncharted territory.

At which point the focus moved and became a matter for the club - Celtic - and the authorities - the Scottish Football Association - to sort out at the highest level.

At the SFA, chief executive Stewart Regan acknowledged this as he entered the fray and made a number of public statements as well as facing he media. He was also willing - if  reports are correct - to actually go to Parkhead to talk to his opposite number there, Lawwell.

What followed was Regan's next statement when he made what I believe to be his unwise comment about how he, as a recently arrived Englishman, was carrying no political baggage and had no hidden agenda.

It was only the day after this appeared in the nation's newspapers - of every political hue - that Celtic, in the shape of chairman Lord Reid - SFA president George Peat's counterpart - and not chief executive Lawwell, Regan's opposite number, who issued the first official Celtic public comment from the boardroom.

Throughout all of the time when the sound of slilence ruled, my impression was that the Celtic board were actually failing to offer Lennon any protection. Remember too that he is a young manager, and however streetwise and bright he is, he was walking through a mine field.

The sort that, during his long career at the top of British politics, governing this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as a member of the British Establishment, Lord Reid has had a great deal of experience in handling.

There was also the drip drip of anti-SFA  statements and allegations about refereeing bias against Celtic going back half a century, which came from almost everyone with a Celtic background, short of those within the boardroom, who, with a quiet word, may have been able to have halted it in a minute.

The culmination came when Gary Hooper crazily claimed referees were against Celtic because they are one of the biggest clubs in the world, finally setting the alarm bells a-jangling within Parkhead, and phone calls were made to media outlets - as revealed by Radio Clyde - begging for the interview to be withheld.

Then came Lord Reid's statement, which has been interpreted by the Daily Record, as meaning the Celtic war with the SFA is over, though the extremely well-connected within Parkhead website, Celtic Quick News, has appeared to suggest the opposite to be the case.

Whoever - if indeed anyone is - may have  been briefing the Record and Celtic Quick News, on what Lord Reid's statements means, may well be seen as spinning selectively, leaving some observers with the impression they are telling different organisations what they want to hear.

It is indeed a tangled web which has been woven in the last three weeks, with many reputations - and not just those of Craven and Dougie McDonald - having been damaged.

My belief is, in some ways the man to emerge with the most credit from it all - and there is not much to be gained by anyone - is Lennon, who has been honest and up front, and, until late on Friday afternoon, all on his own.

I wonder if he listens to Simon and Garfunkel's the Sound of Silence as he drives in to Lennoxtown for training every day.

Friday, 5 November 2010

JUST WHAT DID SFA BOSS REGAN MEAN?

STEWART REGAN appears to have given succour to the wild rantings and ravings of those with a Celtic DNA who believe the world of Scottish football is weighed against them.

The new chief executive of the Scottish Football Association has no doubt acted and spoken from the best and most noble of motives.

However, he has still to discover that every action and every word is pored over and picked at with the sort of forensic manner which the old Kremlin watchers used to apply to statements from the Soviet Union.

The first mistake Regan made, if what was widely reported was correct, was going to have a meeting with his Celtic counterpart, Peter Lawwell at Parkhead.

Regan is the top dog at the SFA and if  Lawwell wanted to see him then it is the club representative who should have been invited to Hampden.

And even if any meeting was instigated by Regan, then Hampden and not Parkhead should have been the venue. At worst a neutral venue, but, under no circumstances, should Regan have headed for Parkhead, thus giving the impression he was dancing to Celtic's tune.

Next we come to what he said in the interview which appear in the newspapers, and in particular to the demand from Celtic for an independent investigation into the Tannadicegate affair.

According to Regan his probe was effectively just that, for, and again in his own words, he had just arrived as the SFA chief executive and, as an Englishman, arrived with no political baggage or hidden agenda.

Those words may actually damn Regan and reveal what many people will no believe is his view that Scots, working at the SFA, do have political baggage and do work to a hidden agenda.

I am sure Regan meant no such thing. But it is what many at Celtic, both within the club, among those who have been associated with Celtic, and almost all of those who support Celtic, believe and have articulated.

Therefore, in saying such a thing, the appearance is that Regan is kow-towing to that rampant paranoia.

Of course, my belief that Regan did not mean to imply bias within the SFA may be wrong. Perhaps that is exactly what he meant. Some will certainly think so.

His words, when weighed and picked over with a forensic toothpick, will mean what people want them to mean, with Celtic supporters believing they prove they have been right all along, while those at the SFA may well feel insulted and wronged.

To be fair to Regan, he has endured a baptism of fire, walking straight into the still to be explained Allan McGregor situation, where it took 13 days for the Rangers keeper to be reported for what he did at Pittodrie, the clear implication being that whoever did the reporting, timed things so that McGregor was banned for the Old Firm game.

Regan showed a quick and reasoned grasp of the facts in that situation and acted with speed to ensure that did not happen.

The Tannadicegate affair has been a much more complicated thing for him to try to resolve as the drip-drip-drip of poison which has been landing on the SFA's head, has cranked up unacceptable pressure.

What Regan has done, and what is to his credit, is to get proper chief executive powers from the SFA board in order that he can steamline the committee system. Or at least that is what appears to be the case from what he has said in today's interview.

Once again though, his words are open to interpretation, and they carry more than just a hint of David Brent style Office speak babble.

Regan has come to Scotland from Yorkshire Country Cricket Club. Yorkshire folk revel in being blunt, to the point and calling a spade a bloody shovel.

But then again, maybe that is just what he was doing when he spoke about being an Englishman with no political baggage or hidden agenda.

If that was what he meant, there is sure to be unrest within the SFA. Celtic though will feel vindicated and be cock-a-hoop.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

CELTIC TUNE HITS A BUM NOTE

ONE can only wonder if the ghost of Sir Alexander Gibson is stalking the boardroom and dressing rooms of Parkhead and Lennoxtown.

And ponder if the legenadary conductor of the Scottish National Orchestra is even joined by the spirit of Sir Henry Wood, the man who founded that most British of musical institutions, the Proms.

For it certainly may appear to some, that there is a presence within Parkhead, wielding the baton and orchestrating a symphony  in Major  moan.

Gary Hooper was the latest soloist to step up to the mic and blether about how put upon Celtic are. In doing so, we saw things move from one end of the scale to the other.

Billy McNeill had used his column in the Sun to once again claim that referees have always had it in for Celtic and that the club never got any 50-50 decisions, and that this situation stretched back over 50 years.

It's the second time McNeill has used his Sun column platform to sing this song, the first co-inciding with his appointment by the club as a Celtic Ambassador.

So much for the Old Bhoy. Next up on the songsheet was Gary Hooper, the recently signed Englishman, who, as a striker, has impressed.

His verse to the old chorus was a new one. Celtic, according to Hooper, are victimsed by referees because they are a big club, and as such are the target for refs who are just itching to give a decision against a big club.

That's a lyric I do not think anyone has ever heard before. The usual verdict, from smaller clubs in England and throughout the world, is in fact the opposite, and that big clubs, with huge and vocal supports, get more than their fair share of the decisions.

There is also another glaring flaw in the Hooper song. A bum note, if you like. It is quite simply, if that were to be the case, then Rangers too would suffer from being a big club against whom referees can't wait to give a decision.

Which is hardly in harmony with all the other songs the Celtic support has been singing for as long as I can remember - just short of the half century of McNeill's recall.

According to what many with Celtic DNA have been saying for all of those years, Rangers have had more than the lion's share of refereeing decisions, while Celtic have had an equal number against them.

Hardly the lyric which Hooper gave a rendition of. In fact, almost the opposite.

When you are writing a musical - as Richard Rodgers and Larry Hart, Cole Porter, and the Gershswin brothers showed, setting the mood for the suspension of disbelief is the key to it all.

Whoever is writing the current words and music for a show which has beeen running for years and has every chance of warbling away for years to come, is off key, and flat.

Sir Alexander Gibson and Sir Henry Wood would not approve

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

REF McDONALD NOW BLAMED FOR SANTA STORY

NOBODY who I have spoken to in the aftermath of Rangers defeat in Valencia has expressed any view other than, the better team won.

It is a weight of opinion which has been heartening to hear, coming in the wake of the Scottish Champions' 1-1 draw with Inverness Caley at Ibrox, a point, which many Rangers fans agreed Caley were worth.

Too often too many people who claim to support a team in Scotland - and many who are involved at the top level with big clubs - prefer to bleat about external forces costing them.

We have even heard one whinge from a Hearts director about the dangers of match fixing in Scotland. What utter bunkum and balderdash.

But, in recent years this is just the sort of thing we have come to expect from Hearts, a club which has lost its way, and the respect of many.

The recent shennanigans surrounding Dougie McDonald highlight the dangers of such rampant nonsense.

Good grief, one newspaper even ran a story about there being complaints about him appearing on the wireless and revealing there is no such person as Santa Claus.

If that is not ridiculous then perhaps someone out there will tell me just what is?

Thankfully the Champions League trip to Spain by Rangers allowed us to return to football matters. I sometimes wonder if some of the conspiracy theorists ever actually go to a game, or sit quietly at home and watch one on the box, as I did this week.

As usual, the Sky coverage was superb, with anchorman David Tanner providing just the right sort of balance of colour and questions to pundit Neil McCann. Tanner is clearly studying the creme de la creme of football anchormen, Richard Keyes.

The game too was magnificent. A contrast in styles and approach, though anyone who thought Walter Smith merely parked the bus was not paying attention.

In fact Rangers played with a combination of the attacking style they displayed at Ibrox against Bussaspor and the Spanish side, and just a hint of the caution they adopted at Old Trafford.

That much was in evidence when the best chance of the opening spell fell to them, with Stevie Naismith so very unlucky when his fine skill on the run ended with a shot which took the merest deflection and hit the post, coming out rather than going in.

Naismith suffered another frown from the brow of Lady Luck when, with Valencia two goals ahead, he met a Madjid Bougherra cross with a text book downward header which stranded the keeper, but again hit the post, and once more bounced out instead of in.

There was also the moment when Naismith - he had another superb Champions League game - elected to pass to Kenny Miller to set up a chance which Miller should have blasted with his right foot instead of cutting back onto his left , giving Valencia time to close in on him, so that his shot went straight to the keeper.

Those were three big chances - two of them a whisker away from going in - and in a place such as Valencia, that is as many as a team such as Rangers can hope to create.

Valencia's breakthrough goal actually came about, in a way, due to the excellence of goalkeeper Allan McGregor, whose reputation with Rangers and Scotland continues to grow.

Had the keeper not somehow managed to get a hand to the shot, Sasa Papac, on the line, would most certainly have cleared it.

The highlighting of these instances should not be interpreted as a carp against the result. But what they do underline is the narrow margins which exist at the rarified level of the Champions League, and they also serve to illustrate just what Walter Smith means when he says that in these matches Rangers require circumstances to be favourable.

Smith knows such circumstances are unlikely to prevail in his team's favour in every Champions League match, and that even when they do it is not certain Rangers can benefit.

The game against Valencia at Ibrox was the classic example of this when Rangers fine play created enough chances to have won the match. Had one or more of two misses by Miller, two by Naismith and one from Ricky Foster, gone in, the circumstances of the group would have been altered.

For the defeat in Spain would not have holed Rangers chances of reaching the last 16 of Europe's elite tournament, below the waterline.

However, and this is the basic truth of the matter, both Valencia and Manchester United have better teams and bigger squads than Rangers and were always going to prevail in the end.

The Ibrox target was always to first, improve on the two points gathered from last season's inglorious campaign, and then aim for a place in the Europe League.

The first aim has been achieved with five points harvested, and Rangers now stand on the brink of their second target.

Which of course would see them playing in Europe after Christmas is over, and Santa has retreated to Lapland.

Now, just how will Dougie McDonald be lined up to carry the can for that?