May 312012
 

As the future of Rangers Football Club continues to remain shrouded in uncertainty, the Ibrox club face several threats to their survival.

The future of the Ibrox club remains shrouded in uncertainty.

Rangers challenged the punishment handed down to them, by an independent panel commissioned to examine their case (accusing them of “bringing the game into disrepute”), at a Civil Court, and won. However, the Ibrox club may very well have proverbially shot themselves in the foot. In saying this, depending on the interpretation of the rules, they may have, in fact, fatally shot themselves in the head.

FIFA do not look favourably upon clubs who take footballing matters to Civil Courts, and they will expect the Scottish Football Association to punish Rangers accordingly.

Also, the judge at the court did not find Rangers to be innocent of any wrongdoing. In fact, he agreed with the SFA panel’s verdict of “guilty”. The court merely decided that a new panel at Hampden must meet to decide an applicable punishment.

This leaves the panel with a simple choice. Rangers Football Club are guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, and must be punished for this offence.

The panel will decide whether to increase or decrease their punishment, as the twelve month transfer embargo was found not to be an applicable sanction.

 

Three of the most likely options available to the panel are as follows;

1. To ban Rangers FC from the Scottish Cup for either one, or a number of seasons.

2. To withdraw the club’s SFA licence

3. To expel Rangers Football Club from the Association.

 

Number one would have, largely, very little affect on the future of Rangers.

Number two would certainly have consequences, but exactly what those may be is debatable.

Number three is the most severe punishment possible, and would ban the club from competing in professional Scottish Football, essentially forcing the club to liquidate it’s current form, losing their one hundred and forty year history in the process.

 

Stewart Regan replied to one of my questions.

Now, it was reported the other day that Rangers would not require an SFA licence to compete in the SPL.

However, the SPL rules state, “A2.5.1 – A Club participating in the League must be a member of the SFA.”

In light of this, I took a chance and proceeded to ask Stewart Regan, the Chief Executive of the SFA, the following question on Twitter tonight:

“@Stewart Regan While Rangers don’t need a sfa licence to play in the SPL, do you know if they need to be “full” members of the association to?”

Mr Regan, to his credit, did answer many questions from supporters of several clubs tonight, and replied to my query with one word, “@MaleysBhoys Yes”.

Now, this answer means one of two things. It is likely simple confirmation of the fact that they need to be full members of the association to compete in the Scottish Premier League, that or it is merely affirmation that he knows the answer to the question.

I then proceeded to ask what I thought was an obvious and critical follow up question:

“@StewartRegan so if a club has it’s licence revoked, can they still remain full members of the football assocation?”

Sadly, I did not receive an answer.

Perhaps Mr Regan does not know, or perhaps this is a question for legal teams to mull over, but I doubt both of these.

Personally, I’m sure Mr Regan knows the answer to this question. Whether he did not answer it because he did not see the question, or because he did not want to confirm the suspicions of many Scottish Football fans is debatable.

Put simply, if the withdrawal of Rangers SFA licence stops them from being regarded as FULL members of the Scottish Football Association, they cannot compete in the Scottish Premier League, or any of the leagues below it, in their current form.

This action would force the liquidation of Rangers Football Club 1872, and presumably lead to the creation of a NewCo (RFC 2012). This action would be the proverbial headshot.

Tick tock…

 

May 302012
 

“I’ve Seen”

*

A young Bhoy asked his father,

As they sat in the stand,

“Oh please tell me daddy,

Of this team who’re so grand,”

 *

So his father grinned,

From ear to ear,

As the lad sat quiet,

And waited to hear,

 *

“I’ve travelled the world,

Far and wide,

Over and over,

I’ve supported my side,

 *

I’ve seen them beat the Hibees,

And the Jambos too,

But there’s nothing sweeter,

Than beating the boys in blue,

 *

I’ve seen defenders make hard tackles,

And keepers make great saves,

Midfielders make incisive passes,

And strikers score beyond the waves,

 *

I went with them to Lisbon,

And to Seville,

While I watched my team,

Others watched the Bill,

 *

I’ve seen trophies come home,

And grown men greet,

As they stood there together,

On Kerrydale Street,

 *

I’ve seen so many good times,

And too many bad,

But given the chance,

I wouldn’t change what we’ve had,

 *

And whenever I’ve seen,

That league flag unfurled,

I’m reminded I support,

The best team in the world,

 *

And now as I sit here,

With my son at my side,

My soul is blessed with joy,

And my heart is filled with pride,

 *

For I’ve supported them since I was young lad,

And I hope still to when I’m old,

For they are the famous Glasgow Celtic son,

In the green, the white and the gold.”

*

May 282012
 

Rangers Football Club announced their intention to appoint administrators on the 13th of February, 2012.

The SPL club were subsequently deducted ten points as a result of this action.

Since then, the club have also been hit with a twelve month transfer embargo, preventing them from registering any new players over the age of eighteen for the next year.

Now, as you can see below, every Scottish Premier League side had until the 31st of March, 2012, to submit fully audited accounts to the Scottish Football Association, regarding all of their business finances dating to the end of 2011.

An article from the SFA's website, where rules are publicly listed.

 

All clubs in the lower divisions of Scottish Football had until the 30th of April, 2012, to do this.

Now, the submission of these accounts (by the dates listed above) is required in order for a club to be granted a licence to play in Scottish Football in the coming season.

As I write this, Rangers* FC are already 58 days overdue with regards to the submission of their audited accounts.

58 days.

The Scottish Premier League have never granted any clubs with “a period of grace” in this regard, until now. Today, it became public that the SPL have given the Ibrox club until the 15th of June to submit their accounts, despite the fact they are already so late.

Grant Russell, a sports journalist working for STV (aka @STVGrant), tweeted the following statement earlier.

“SPL can waive it’s membership criteria for clubs at board’s discretion. Never has for other clubs not meeting criteria.”

Now, without sounding “paranoid” here, how telling a statement is that?

Interestingly, a club does NOT need an SFA licence to be granted in order for it to be able to compete in the SPL, and therefore the SPL’s decision here is very important.

By the time Rangers* next deadline comes to pass, they will have been given 76 days “grace” by the Scottish Premier League, who have never allowed this before for any other club in a similar situation.

And so, it begs the question, is it one set of rules for Rangers*, and one set of rules for the rest of the clubs in Scotland?

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

 

 

May 232012
 

As I write this, it is only minutes after the end of BBC journalist Mark Daly’s much discussed documentary regarding the ongoing situation at Rangers Football Club, and the men who led Rangers towards the precipice on which they now find themselves.

The famous gates at Ibrox may have shut for the final time.

Before the documentary, Rangers’ use of Employee Benefit Trusts (E.B.T.’s) was well known, as their legality is now being questioned by H.M.R.C. through a first tier tax tribunal. However, less than an hour before the documentary was aired, the BBC released the following list of all of the known recipients of EBT’s at Ibrox over the years.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-18148818

Now, there are many names on that list that will, undoubtedly, leap out at you. For example, Sir David Murray, the man who claimed that he never received a single penny through such a trust, has been shown to have benefited to the tune of £6.3 million thanks to the scheme.

Notable players have also received vast sums, such as previous Rangers captain Barry Ferguson, and well-known goalkeeper, Stefan Klos, as well as over sixty others, including some laughable names like Alex Rae, Egil Ostenstad, and Billy Dodds.

Some of the other names on the list are, at least in my view, worthy of further discussion. Firstly, Campbell Ogilive, ex-Rangers director and current President of the Scottish Football Association, has been shown to have received almost £100,000 through his EBT. Now, surely his failure to disclose the ongoings with regards to dual contracts inside the club over the years puts him on a bit of a “sticky wicket”. This example of “turning a blind eye” has now made his position truly untenable, and Scottish Footballs fans will likely demand his imminent resignation because of it.

Campbell Ogilvie, current President of the S.F.A.

Secondly, George Adams, previous head of youth development at Ibrox, received a little over £30,000 through his EBT. Many of you may not have heard of this man (after all, he is hardly a household name), however, Mr Adams is the director of football at newly promoted Ross County, one of the teams who would theoretically have a vote in any decision to allow (or not allow) any NewCo Rangers back into the SPL. This is a conflict of interest.

Thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, the name of ex-Rangers player and manager Graeme Souness appears on the list. Now, Mr Souness left the club a decade before the alleged date when these EBT’s first came into use. In 2001, he was, in fact, the manager of English side Blackburn Rovers, and received a payment of £30,000 from Rangers through an offshore trust. Only a month later, Blackburn bought Turkish player Tugay from Rangers for over £1 million.

That hardly looks good, does it? I wouldn’t be surprised if this is not the last we all hear of this payment, let’s put it that way, but I shall say no more, as I don’t want to speculate.

Now, the documentary itself, while putting some very good and valid points across, did, at least in my opinion, poke a little bit of fun at “poor, old, Rangers”. Much was made of former lawyer Paul Baxendale-Walker’s role in the EBT scheme, and this involved an interview with the pipe smoking gentleman, who also happens to be a porn star, as well as a director of adult films, at his home.

Paul Baxendale-Walker

Later in the documentary, we also heard how Sir David Murray was so confident at one point in his life that he once told a friend he attempted to “befriend” (I think you can imagine what I mean) actress Joanna Lumley. Sadly for him, he was not successful.

And now, we come to one of the most shocking pieces of information the BBC revealed tonight. Andrew Ellis, director and shareholder at Ibrox, told the programme how his “friend” Craig Whyte had told him that he had a private investor involved with his upcoming bid to buy the club. While Ellis was told the identity of the investor must be kept private, Ellis did learn the man’s name at the time, as Craig Whyte told him that none other than Prince Albert of Monaco (yes, you read that correctly) was going to put his money into the Glasgow club.

Now, Whyte claimed “he saw Prince Albert most weekends in Monaco” when speaking to Ellis, a man with a history of being involved with the takeovers of football clubs. I’m fairly sure most people simply laughed when they heard this tonight, but did Ellis? No. Apparently, he “couldn’t have done any more” to ascertain whether or not Whyte was genuine, and simply took his word for it.

Add to this the fact that the “proof of funding” letter, supplied to the club by Whyte and “his backers” simply stated the figure of £33 million, without mentioning where it was going to come from, or who had confirmed the fact it existed. Sir David Murray, a supposedly shrewd, tactful businessman, accepted this as proof, and the deal went ahead. Perhaps he was desperate, but I digress.

Sir David Murray may not be laughing so much soon.

Finally, the BBC showed that David Greir, a partner at Craig Whyte’s chosen administrators for the football club Duff & Phelps, was involved with the potential Ticketus deal to fund the takeover as early as APRIL 2011. Rangers only went into administration in February this year, and as administrators, Duff & Phelps are meant to have no connections to the business they are about to run.

This is a truly incredible conflict of interests, and Duff & Phelps do not look as if they are going to come out of this looking too clever, especially since they have recently filed a lawsuit against Craig Whyte’s lawyers, Collyer Bristow, suing them over the Ticketus deal. Ironic, considering that it is now alleged that one of their partners was involved!

As for Rangers themselves, as a football club, the future looks even more bleak than it has done previously, and that is saying something! Not only does Craig Whyte still own 85% of the shares; not only do Duff & Phelps look like they are in very hot water; not only doe the club have a 12 month transfer embargo; not only does their wage bill return to 100% in a matter of days; and not only does the SPL and SFA simply HAVE to take action now with regards to their behaviour…but there’s still the small issue of the “Big Tax Case” (First Tier Tax Tribunal), and a very angry Hector wanting a figure in the region of £50-75 million from them.

It really does look as if this is going to be a case of “When Will I See You Again?” for Rangers, as the “doomsday clock” ticks ever closer to midnight…

Tick tock goes the clock...

May 172012
 

For those of you who may have missed last night’s news, it was announced, late on, that the independent panel (appointed by the Scottish Football Association) had decided that the initial punishments imposed on Rangers F.C. by the previous panel were, indeed, correct.

Yet another blow was struck to the Ibrox club last night.

They found that the one year long transfer embargo, as well as the various fines, were both appropriate and deserved as Rangers* had purposely withheld payment to HMRC totalling approximately £13 million of PAYE, NI, and VAT since September 2011.

Now, as is often the case, news of this magnitude has, and will most likely continue to, lead to much speculation and rumour.

For example, “Will Charles Green just turn out to be another Bill Miller?”

Personally, I think we might be about to see another example of “walking away”. If not, Green may lead a group of individuals who may come to have worse reputations than Mr Whyte.

Regardless, one thing is clear. Rangers F.C. are in serious peril.

Ultimately, tonight’s decision may prove to be yet another nail in the proverbial coffin of the Ibrox club.

While some of their supporters attempt to fathom up news ways in which to protest and voice their disgust at this “biased decision” (at least as they see it), the rest of the fan base are preparing for the future.

I can only leave you with this thought…say you’re a businessman or woman; would you want to invest in a bankrupt club, which needs tens of millions of pounds merely to survive, which has no hope of making any money in the foreseeable future, and which may face an almost endless stream of court appearances and character assassinations, or would you rather spend your money elsewhere?

The end may very well be nigh for the “original” Glasgow Rangers*…

Tick tock indeed.

May 142012
 

Peter Dowds

Nowadays, when the Celtic support think of versatility in the current squad, two or three names spring to mind, namely those of Joe Ledley, Charlie Mulgrew, and perhaps even Victor Wanyama. One well known online dictionary describes “versatility” as “having varied uses or serving many functions”. Now, while none of you reading this were around to see the player who’s name tops this article, the word “versatility”, and it’s meaning, were around in the 1890’s, and so was Peter Dowds.

Peter Dowds

Believed to have been born in 1871, Peter Dowds grew up in the Renfrewshire town of Johnstone, and joined Celtic Football Club in its earliest days, in February 1889. Peter made his debut in both of Celtic’s first ever league matches. I say “both” because although he played in a 4-1 home defeat to Renton on the 16th August 1890, this match was later declared void as Renton were later expelled from the league by the Scottish Football Association, for alleged “illicit professionalism” (Scottish Football was, of course, still officially an amateur affair at that time). St Bernard’s were also banned from football for a time for this offence, but as they were not part of the league they were not expelled as Renton were.

Peter made his “official” league debut a week later, as Celtic defeated Heart of Midlothian 5-0 at Tynecastle. Peter, to his credit, even managed to get his name on the score sheet, as he grabbed the fourth of five goals that day. However, the two points the club picked up that afternoon would later be taken away from them, as Celtic were deducted four points for fielding an “ineligible player” in the form of goalkeeper, James Bell.

James Bell

In all, three teams were deducted points in the inaugural season of the Scottish Football League, as Celtic, Cowlairs and Third Lanark were punished for fielding unregistered players. Celtic finished third that year, with Dumbarton and Rangers being declared “joint champions” after finishing the season on level points, and drawing the subsequent play off tietwo each. For the record, Celtic’s point deduction made no difference to where they would have finished in the league. They would simply have finished closer to second than they did, but would have remained in third place regardless.

As time passed, and Celtic continued to progress as a Football Club both on and off the field, Dowds also grew as a footballer, and began to show off his “versatility” by performing competently in any position in which he was asked to play. During his time at Celtic Park, this included virtually every position excluding that of the goalkeeper.

During the 1891-92 season, Peter Dowds became the first Celtic player to play in every single match of one season. While the Bhoys finished second in the league to Dumbarton (champions alone this time), Celtic won their first Scottish Cup, as they defeated Queen’s Park 5-1 in the second of two finals, on the 9th April 1892.

The first final, held at Ibrox Park, was declared “a friendly” by the S.F.A. after both teams registered complaints due to “crowd encroachment”. In fact, even in over an inch of snow, over 40,000 spectators travelled to Ibrox that day, and due to the unexpected large numbers, it was almost impossible to keep the crowd off of the playing surface during the match. Celtic won “the friendly”, refereed by the then head of the S.F.A., Mr Sneddon, 1-0.

A cartoon depicting the 1892 Scottish Cup Final

Peter Dowds played in both matches, in different positions, alongside Willie Maley, the man whom this website is named after. Dowds also had the honour of kicking off the second match, as Queens Park won the coin toss, and elected they would like to play with the wind behind them in the first half, leaving Celtic to start the match with the ball. The wind played a big part that day, as Queens Park when in 1-0 up at half time, only to concede five in the second half when shooting the other way.

“The Scottish Referee”, a publication from the 11th April 1892, describes the celebrations around the country as follows, firstly referring to those in Coatbridge, and then those in the East End of Glasgow:

“In the second half, when it was intimated that the Celts had scored three goals in ten minutes, you might have heard the cheers at Ibrox.”

“Truly the East End was a perfect turmoil until the very early hours of Sunday, and many of the crowd won’t be able to get over the rejoicing racket for days to come.”

At the end of the 1891-92 season however, Dowds moved south to the professional leagues in England, and played for a time with both Aston Villa and Stoke City. In May 1894, Peter returned to Celtic Park and re-signed for Celtic, who had just become Scottish League Champions for the second consecutive season.

Peter Dowds' unmarked grave.

Sadly though, Dowds was not the player he was previously, as his health began to deteriorate rapidly. Despite featuring in his first match since his return to the club against St Mirren at Love Street, he faded almost entirely out of the side thereafter, until Celtic announced he had “chest trouble” in November. He played his final match for Celtic in a friendly against Manchester City, before retiring from the game soon after with consumption (also known as tuberculosis). Ironically, “experts” later claimed that the thick fog which surrounded the match against Manchester City had somehow added to the severity of his illness.

Peter Dowds died less than a year later, in September 1895, in only his mid-twenties, having played forty nine times in total for Celtic Football Club, and having scored twenty one goals during his spells there. He also picked up one international cap for Scotland during his short career.

In 1931, Willie Maley lamented “To the present generation, Peter Dowds is not even a name, but to old timers he was the greatest ever, at home in any and every position, the equal of a Doyle or a Kelly in defence, of Madden on the right, of Campbell on the left, Cassidy at centre…” He is buried in an unmarked grave in Abbey Cemetery, Elderslie.

 

May 142012
 

14th May, 1988. Celtic 2, Dundee United 1.

Picture the scene. The “old Hampden” in the sun. Granted, Celtic weren’t destined to defeat their opponents by seven goals to one as they did in 1957, but nevertheless, this was still to be a famous day in the history of Celtic Football Club.

The cover of the programme from the 1988 Scottish Cup Final.

Celtic had already faced their opponents three times during the 1987/88 season, having been beaten once at Tannadice, won once there also, and drawn at Celtic Park. While Dundee United had finished the league season in fifth place, twenty five points behind champions Celtic, they were still formidable opponents to face in a Scottish Cup Final.

In saying this, while Dundee United were regular Scottish Cup finalists, they weren’t often Scottish Cup winners. They had lost in the final in their last five appearances there, all within the last fourteen years at the time. In fact, Celtic had beaten them only a few years earlier, as they won the 1985 Scottish Cup Final 2-1.

However, while this match was to have the same scoreline, it was to be very hotly contested, and would take one of another one of Celtic’s now infamous comebacks to steal the trophy from the Tannadice side at the death.

As referee George Smith (born October 1943) blew his whistle to signal the start of the match under a blistering sun, no less than 74,000 people packed the terraces at Hampden Park to witness Scotland’s show piece cup match.

Early in the match, a clever pass from Paul McStay set Frank McAvennie free on the right wing, as Celtic shot towards to the goal at the end of the ground housing supporters of their opposition. McAvennie caught the ball and delivered a scintillating cross with his right foot, setting up a gilt edged chance for Joe Miller at the back post. However, Miller couldn’t even hit the target let alone break the dead lock, as he headed the ball weakly into the ground and the goalkeeper proceeded to gather the bouncing ball. Archie MacPherson, commentating on the match for a television company, described it as “a dreadful miss”.

In truth, that was the best chance either side had in what was a fairly dull first half of football, where each side attempted to gently feel their way into the game, without risking much in doing so. However, the second half was to be a much livelier affair all round, as the teams returned to the field under the Scottish summer sun.

Early in the second half, McKnight (a late replacement for Pat Bonner who was injured) saved a clever free kick from Bannan, as he struck the ball low from around twenty five yards out. Interestingly, especially for those younger readers who (like myself) have no memory of this man ever playing football, the other player addressing the ball as the free kick was taken was none other than Mixu Paatelainen.

Only minutes later however, a long ball sent over the top of the Celtic defence would lead to the opening goal of the afternoon. The long diagonal headed pass was chased keenly by the young Kevin Gallacher, grandson of Celtic legend Patsy Gallacher, who beat Roy Aitken for pace and only touched the ball once, striking a superb right footed half volley past McKnight in the Celtic goal. As the Dundee United supporters celebrated, some of them may have started to believe that this, finally, was about to be their year.

Sadly for them though, it was simply not to be. This was, after all, Celtic’s centenary season, and whether it was fate or sheer stubborn determination that inspired Celtic’s comeback matters not.

As the Dundee United fans continued to rejoice at the thought of their 1-0 lead, Celtic’s players set about trying to find an equaliser from somewhere. Almost immediately, the industry of Joe Miller won the Hoops a corner, from which Mick McCarthy sent the ball sailing over the cross bar.

In saying this, Dundee United did continue to threaten as Celtic pushed forward, as over and over they attempted the long diagonal pass to the young and pacey Gallacher, forcing McKnight to leave his area and volley the ball into the stands on one occasion.

Only minutes later, Celtic won a free kick about thirty five yards from goal. It was taken by Burns, who found Mick McCarthy in the box, only for him to see his looping header cannoned off of the crossbar. This was incredibly unlucky from the Celtic players’ point of view. However, it was to be no where near as critical as a header at the other end of the field only minutes later.

Dundee United won a free kick on the right hand side on one of their increasingly rare forays forward as the match wore on. The ball was delivered fantastically well into the box by McKinley, leaving the defence helpless to stop it reaching Bowman. Unluckily for Dundee United, this was to be one of the moments that haunt football fans for decades, as the player looked almost certain to score, before heading the ball into the turf and over the bar, just as Joe Miller had done in that same penalty box during the first half.

McAvennie celebrates of of his goals in the Scottish Cup Final

This mess was to the first one two integral “turning points” in this tie, as Celtic continued to up their game and began to increasingly dominate the match, particularly in the midfield. A long ball was played from the defence, and Billy Stark rose to win the header, and found a Celtic jersey. As the ball was returned to him, Stark over hit his pass into the box, and it arced out onto the right wing, where it was meet by Anton Rogan. Rogan quickly controlled the ball, and beat his man, heading for the byline. Once he got there, he chipped a lofty cross into the box, over the goalkeeper and several defenders, before it was met in the air by Frank McAvennie, who headed into an unprotected net from all of two or three yards to draw the match level with fifteen minutes remaining.

In the next few minutes, as Celtic pushed for a winning goal, both sides had chances, as Miller sent a shot straight at the goalkeeper at one end after some stunning build up play, while Bannon snatched at a shot from the edge of the area to send it high and wide at the other.

And so, as not only the match but the competition entered it’s final moments, and the teams tired in the heat of the afternoon sun, Frank McAvennie slid the ball to Chris Morris on the right hand side of the box, and Morris won Celtic a crucial corner kick, in the final minute of the match.

As the ball flew into the box, it was met by a Celtic foot, causing the goalkeeper to dive. However, it was blocked by a defender, and the ball broke to McAvennie, who struck it home from less than ten yards. Once again, Celtic had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with late goals at Hampden Park.

Roy Aitken and Anton Rogan show off the Scottish Cup at Hampden Park

Celtic withstood the small offensive backlash Dundee United mustered in stoppage time, and added the Scottish Cup to their centenary season trophy haul, alongside the Premier League, forming a famous double for the club from the East End of Glasgow.

The passion and delight on the field was matched only in the stands, as thousands upon thousands of joyous Celtic fans celebrated their historic win. As captain Roy Aitken lifted the famous old trophy, everyone involved with the Football Club could relax for the first time in a long while. Celtic had marked their centenary year in a fitting fashion, and a manner of which the Club’s founders would have been incredibly proud.

As the celebrations continued on the field, Tommy Burns was interviewed for the television cameras, and the words he spoke that day have gone down in Celtic’s history forever more. Once he had said hello to his wife, his children, and someone he knew who was ill and in hospital at the time, he said:

“You’ll not realise how much I wanted this. When people look back in a hundred years time, we’ll have been the team who done the double.”

“That’s what’s so special about them right there Jim (as Tommy turns and points at the Celtic support, scarves raised and flags fluttering as they belt out “You’ll Never Walk Alone”), that’s what’s so special about them. They’re there, and they’re always there, and God bless every one of them.”

“If we’d have been another team we’d have got beat one nothing today. They didn’t allow defeat against Hearts, and they certainly didn’t allow defeat against Dundee United today. They’re absolutely incredible.”

Celtic celebrate a historic victory in the afternoon sun.

I don’t really think there’s much more I can add after that, other than to thank you all for taking the time to read my five articles describing Celtic’s 1988 Scottish Cup triumph. If you missed any, they’re all freely available in the “blogs” section of the website. I hope you enjoyed reading them, and all feedback, both positive and negative, is more than welcome. 

 

 

May 122012
 

Whether it was through today’s newspaper reports, or through the wonders of the world wide web, it is likely that many of you have already came across this story. It is also likely that most of you will know who the children involved are, and why they are in Scotland at the moment. For those of you who do not, feel free to scroll down to the bottom of the page, where you will find a summary of who the “Good Child Foundation” are, and what they do.

The children arrive at Celtic Park for the first time.

On the Daily Record website today, there is an exclusive story stating that the children from the Thai Tims were scheduled to visit a primary school in the city (St Paul’s Catholic Primary School), to meet Scottish children of their own age, something they had done only the previous week (at St Francis of Assisi Primary School). The story then goes that, due to a complaint from a parent regarding their first school visit, the Thai Tims were asked not to wear Celtic shirts, or sing Celtic songs during their next trip by Glasgow City Council, as it was a breach of their rules banning football colours in Glasgow schools. The trip was then cancelled altogether.

This is simply crazy. I cannot summarise my feelings towards this story in a more concise manner.

What sort of narrow minded individual would feel the need to complain about the shirts that a group of visiting children wear in a Glasgow school? The Thai Tims are without doubt the most friendly, and the most enthusiastic group of kids I have ever been lucky enough to see perform. The excitement and “feel good factor” that they produce is positively infectious, and I have no doubts that they would make even the most cold hearted of people smile if they were given a chance.

A few of the Thai Tims enjoy that well known Glaswegian cuisine, the McDonald's happy meal!

They have already performed at Celtic Park, Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow’s City Chambers and the Titanic Museum in Belfast, as well as several other smaller venues. In every location, they have been given a rousing reception, and have been praised by everyone who has been lucky enough to see them. They are harmless, innocent children, who love making people smile, and who love a particular football team, nothing more. If you are honestly offended by their presence, just because they happen to wear particular colours or support a particular team, then I genuinely feel sorry for you.

 

Now, you may say that I am making a mountain out of a molehill here and, to an extent, you may be correct.

However, I feel this story is yet another sad indictment on our society and some of the people who live within it. Not only was someone narrow minded enough to even think that these children shouldn’t have been wearing football colours or singing football songs, that individual (or individuals) was moronic enough to formally complain about it.

Forgive me for being sceptical here, but had the children been fans of Real Madrid, singing Real Madrid songs and wearing Real Madrid colours on their trip to the city, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Not only would the complaints not have been made, but the council would have laughed them off if they were. This is exactly what they should have done on this occasion, but the lack of common sense regarding this issue has been staggering.

Oddly, the council had no issues when the children wore their colours on a visit to the City Chambers.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council was quoted as saying, “We would be delighted to have the children visit any one of our schools. It would, however, be entirely inappropriate for them to wear Celtic strips while singing Celtic songs.”

Nonsense. If, for one reason or another, you decided you did not want your child to be witness to Celtic colours or Celtic songs then you should simply have made a request for them to have been taken to another part of the building to do something else at the time of the children’s performance. For the record, the Thai Tims do not only sing Celtic songs. They also sing Irish songs. However, I’m fairly sure the idiot who complained about the children’s colours probably sees these as the exact same thing.

All in all, the Club, the fans, and the charity itself are doing a fantastic thing for a group of children and making the dreams of a lifetime come true for them, even if it is only for a few weeks. They are doing nothing wrong, they should not be made to feel like they are doing anything wrong, and they certainly should not have to be told by the city’s council where they can and cannot wear their Celtic shirts in a city which hosts countless “Orange Walks” every year.

Regardless, I hope with all my heart that the Thai Tims thoroughly enjoy what remains of their visit to Glasgow, and I look forward to seeing them sing one last time on Sunday at half time.

Neil Lennon surrounded by the Thai Tims

 

Summary

The “Thai Tims”, as they are colloquially known, are benefactors of a charitable organisation based in Thailand known as the “Good Child Foundation”. Essentially, they are a school which offers education for all children, including those who suffer from Downs Syndrome, in a safe and friendly environment. Without this school, many of these children would simply not receive much, or any education.

Now, the school itself happens to have a strong connection to Celtic Football Club, as one of the founders is a Celtic fan. The attitude towards inclusiveness the “Good Child Foundation” possess is also something which connects them to Celtic, as they are, of course, a club who have been open to all from their earliest days.

The connection the children felt with the club and with Scotland increased dramatically after the sad death of nineteen year old Reamonn Gormley. He had volunteered at the school during his gap year, making an almost unending list of friends during his time in Thailand. However, he was murdered only last year, in Blantyre, Scotland.

The outpouring of grief in Scotland could only truly be matched in Thailand, where the death of Reamonn had a tremendous impact on everyone who knew him. His death inspired donations to the Foundation from Celtic supporters around the world and touched the heart of so many.

And so, due to popular demand from the Celtic support, the Club began fundraising for money to bring the children across to Scotland, so they could visit Celtic Park, as well as several other cities and landmarks.

May 122012
 

April 9th, 1988. Celtic 2, Heart of Midlothian 1.

Unsurprisingly, this would prove to be Celtic’s toughest test of their Scottish Cup campaign so far. While the sides had already met three times that season, and Celtic had impressively taken seven from a possible nine points against their Edinburgh opponents, everyone associated with the Club knew this was going to be a tough match to win. In fact, Hearts would go on to finish second in the Scottish Premier Division that season, two points ahead of Rangers.

The programme supporters bought that day.

And so, under blue skies at Hampden Park, the tranquillity of your average spring day was soon broken by the sights and sounds of over 65,000 Celtic and Hearts supporters making their way to the game, and packing themselves inside the ground.

As the match kicked off, Celtic, while faced with perhaps the toughest of opponents available to them at the time, were undoubtedly slight favourites, having gone undefeated in their last thirty matches. However, Hearts had already scored three times against the Hoops that season, an average of one goal every time the sides met, so it would have been a brave man who bet on the match remaining goalless.

In truth, Hearts were the better side in the first half, which (ironically) was goalless. It was a tough, physical battle, without much “football” really being played. While Hearts threatened from the first minute forcing a save out of Celtic goalkeeper Packie Bonner, Celtic were described by one newspaper reporter as being “too intricate, too pernickety.”

Tommy Burns and Billy Stark were said to have been bright performers early on though, as they attempted to build attacks and support those with the ball. Celtic’s best, and only, chance of the first half was, in reality, more of a “half chance”. A long cross field pass from Chris Morris was chased valiantly by Andy Walker, but he could only watch as the Hearts goalkeeper bravely decided to come out of his box and volley the ball away to safety. This was the only time a Celtic player really managed to get beyond the Hearts’ defensive line in the first period of play.

However, at the other end, Celtic’s defensive line, as well as Hearts’ attackers, were significantly busier than their counterparts. McPherson, one of Heart’s midfielders, missed two opportunities with his head and was denied later in the half thanks to a last ditch tackle from the ever reliable Celtic fans favourite, Tommy Burns. Hearts also had a weak appeal for a penalty turned down by the referee, but in truth, it had been a fairly dreary first half in Glasgow, where so often it’s the weather that’s dreary and the football that’s enjoyable. On the 9th of April 1988, at least in the first half, it was the other way around.

Players battle for possession in the hotly contested semi final tie.

Thankfully though, as the teams returned to the field of play after the interval, the quality of the match, and the excitement surrounding it in the terraces, was only going to increase. With around fifteen minutes gone in the second half, Hearts scored a rather bizarre goal, even by Scottish standards. An overhit corner bypassed everyone awaiting it in the box, before the ball was the sent back into the area, cleared, then sent in once more, and headed out by a Celtic player. The ball then bounced just outside the corner of the box, where Hearts player Whittaker swung his foot at it sending it high into the air. This was, with no mistake about it, a cross.

As the ball arced in the sky time seemed to slow, and it looked destined for the gloves of Bonner, before suddenly there were a flash of maroon as one of the Hearts players, who had remained inside the box during all of this, leapt for the ball. In truth, he never got anywhere near it, and all he achieved instead was to take out the Celtic goalkeeper, allowing the ball to drop into the unprotected Celtic net.

The decision to let the goal stand sent the end of the national stadium housing the Hearts supporters into rapturous celebration, while it infuriated the members of the Celtic support who felt that there had clearly been a foul on the goalkeeper. However, regardless of many a verbal protest, the goal stood, and Celtic found themselves a goal behind with only half an hour left to play.

While the Celtic support voiced their frustration, the Celtic bench took action to try and remedy the situation, with Billy McNeill deciding to replace Joe Miller with Mark McGhee. Minutes later, Paul McStay picked up the ball in midfield and set off on a powerful run. He played a magnificent “one-two” with Mark McGhee as he made his way into the opposition box, holding off a defender with ease and sent a pass along the ground across the goalmouth, straight towards Frank McAvennie, who snatched at his shot and sent it wide. Some would debate to this day that it may, in fact, have been easier to score. By this stage, McStay had put in such a performance with no return for his efforts, leaving commentator Archie MacPherson asking his audience, “What does Paul McStay have to do to get something out of this game?”

However, Celtic were starting to put sustained pressure on their opponents, as the clock ticked ever closer to the ninety minute mark. Minutes later, Paul McStay, who was now running the centre of midfield at Hampden almost single handedly, passed the ball out wide to the left wing, and Mark McGhee. McGhee quickly beat his man, and sent a delightful cross into the six yard box. Once again, the ball looked bound for the Hearts net, if only a Celtic head could meet it. Walker jumped and missed, leaving McAvennie to connect with the ball and…send it over the bar. It is probable that McAvennie thought Walker was going to get the ball, and therefore didn’t expect it to come to him, but that is still no excuse for missing the target entirely.

Walker and McGhee wheel away to celebrate Celtic's late winner.

And so, as the clock continued to tick ominously for the Hoops, the match became more and more frantic, as Celtic continued to press for a vital equaliser. With only minutes remaining, Celtic won their ninth corner of the match to that point thanks to some clever wing play from Chris Morris.

As Burns floated the corner into the packed Hearts box, the excitement and nervousness around the ground was palpable. In this intense atmosphere, someone was bound to make a mistake on the field, and it was fortunate for Celtic that the mistake in question was made by Hearts’ goalkeeper, Henry Smith. Smith ran out of his goal, far further than you normally see goalkeepers come, in an attempt to win the ball. In fact, all he managed to do was to take himself out of the game for a few vital seconds, as he flapped at the ball and fell to the ground, leaving substitute Mark McGhee to control the ball, and somehow fire it home through a crowd of bodies.

Celtic had done it, or so many would have thought. They had forced the match into extra time, which now looked like a certainty. However, there was to be another twist in the tale of this match yet, as the tie entered stoppage time at the end of the second half.

The Celtic supporters in the crowd at Hampden had barely stopped celebrating their side’s equalising goal, when Celtic won a throw in, deep in opposition territory on the right wing. The throw in was quickly taken and Frank McAvennie, criticised for his earlier misses, was about to make up for them all. He chested the ball, turned, and without even letting it bounce, sent a high inviting cross towards the goalmouth. Goalscorer Mark McGhee jumped to contest the high ball with Henry Smith, who barely got off the ground and flapped at it (again), allowing the ball to drop for Andy Walker, who proceeded to hammer it into an empty net from all of a yard, sparking chaotic celebrations on the terracing.

Journalist, Bob Ferrier, described the last minute victory in his newspaper column as “Unbelievable, incredible, wicked, cruel, unjust – it was all of these and more but it was also a fact.” He then goes onto say (rather beautifully I think), “Even in the long history of last minute victories – and survivals – this result was quite astonishing, and never has any team dragged itself off the Hampden field as shattered as were Hearts…”

All in all, Celtic had once again managed to emerge victorious, as they made it thirty one matches undefeated in a row (although they would go onto lose 2-1 at Tynecastle only a week later). The Hoops had booked their place in a Scottish Cup Final in their centenary season, and this wasn’t to be the last story of a dramatic ending at Hampden Park that year.

The highlights of the match in question, along with Archie MacPherson’s commentary, can be found by clicking the link below, which will take you to footage of the match available on YouTube.

Celtic v Hearts, Scottish Cup Semi Final Highlights, 1988.

 

This is the fourth in a series of five articles, describing Celtic’s famous Scottish Cup Campaign in 1988. The previous articles can be found in the “Blogs” section of the website, while the final article, regarding the Scottish Cup Final itself (v Dundee United) will be published tomorrow.

 

May 112012
 

UPDATE: This article was written before the Blue Knights and Brian Kennedy held their press conference this afternoon. They confirmed they offered £5.5m for Rangers up front, rising to around £11m dependant on European performances and a CVA being granted. While I’d be sceptical as to whether or not this plan could have worked, especially considering UEFA have recently confirmed a CVA carries with it a three year ban from European competition, it does highlight a few interesting points.

We found out that, plain and simply, Craig Whyte wants nothing to do with Paul Murray.

We found out that “the best lawyers in Britain couldn’t work a CVA now…it’s too late”.

We found out that TBK and BK considered the big tax case as “irrelevant”…I suppose we should just all ignore it too then!

And finally, we found out that TBK and BK have very, very little faith in Duff and Phelps, and are not entirely sure “what their plan is.”

We also have an Evening Times journalist on Twitter having spoken to one of Charles Green’s former associates, who wished to remain anonymous,  quoting him as saying “don’t let that man anywhere near Rangers or football.”

Wow.

Regardless of the outcome, today has highlighted the fact that this saga is coming to the “sharp end of the stick” now. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how it develops.

 

As has so often been the way of things when it comes to the curious case of Rangers Football Club, today has been a day on which the story has become even stranger.

The future of the Ibrox club remains surrounded by uncertainty.

We’ve had the Scottish Football Association publishing the detailed findings of their independent panel, as Rangers prepare to appeal their 12 month transfer embargo, as well as the monetary fines handed down to them (the full document is available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/93212354/SFA-Rangers-Note-of-Reasons).

Personally, I particularly like the paragraphs 66-68 on page 31 of the document, which read:

“66. That shortly before 19 September 2011 Mr Ken Olverman was aware that Rangers FC were due to make a payment to HMRC in respect of PAYE income tax, National Insurance Contributions and Value Added Tax. On making enquiry with Mr Craig Whyte about said payments, he was not authorised to make the payment which was therefore not paid on the due date. Upon his expressing his concern to Mr Craig Whyte, Mr Ken Olverman was in due course instructed that payments to HMRC were to be suspended and withheld. At the time of the first withheld payment in September 2011 Rangers FC’s financial situation was such that it could have made the payment due to HMRC.

67. That in the course of his subsequent communications with Mr Craig Whyte about the payment of these social taxes due to HMRC, Mr CraigWhyte stated to Mr Olverman that non payment of the sums due was a tactic or negotiating ploy intended to improve the position of Rangers FC in any attempted negotiation with HMRC of a settlement in “the Big Tax Case”.”

68. That between September 2011 and February 2012 Rangers FC withheld in excess of £13,000,000 from HMRC due in respect of PAYE income tax, National Insurance Contributions and VAT. As at the date of the Tribunal determination the said sums were still outstanding and due.”

Now, there’s some interesting information for both the public, the tax authorities, and football’s governing bodies to discuss.

Another snippet of information that came out today was that Rangers Football Club were informed of the identities of the members on the SFA’s independent panel who looked over their case prior to their hearing. This meant that, without taking an enormous leap of faith here, it is likely that Mr McCoist knew fine well who the individuals involved were, even before he started calling for them to be named in public, leading to threats of violence being made against them, their families and their property.

Ally McCoist called for the members of the independent panel to be named publicly.

We’ve also had the much discussed Blue Knights (featuring Brian Kennedy) publicly pulling out of the race to buy the club, again. The bid they claim to have put forward was to be £5.5 million up front, with a total of £11 million.

Now, we are told that there are two bidders remaining in the race for the Ibrox club (again…I find myself saying that word a lot when it comes to matters involving Duff and Phelps), one of whom has been named unofficially as a group led by the former Chief Executive of Sheffield United, Charles Green.

Mr Green (no, this isn’t a terrible remake of Resevoir Dogs) does not currently hold a position with any active companies, according to STV, and has been described as a “hatchet man” on one footballing website, with regards to his time at Sheffield United.

It is also worth noting that Green’s last active company, Formation Group PLC, also used employee benefit trusts. However, we must highlight there was nothing illegal about their use of them.

While people are still hastily sitting at laptops and desks around the country trying to find out more information with regards to Mr Green, it is clear that he was not popular with the fans of Sheffield United when he left the club.

So now comes the important question for Rangers fans, if your club are going to have a future, do you mind it being Green? After all, you scared off an American with a reputation for turning around struggling businesses…or was it your club’s books that did that?

With regards to Mr Whyte, it came to light today that while Ticketus paid Rangers FC £24 million, only £1 million (in two payments of £200,000 and £800,000) ever made it into Rangers’ accounts via Collyer Bristow.

Oh yes, and for anyone who has forgotten, there’s still a small matter of the Big Tax Case to come yet…

This story has a very, very long way to run yet I feel.

The verdict of the Big Tax Case is still to be announced.

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