Dec 302012
 

A Look At Celtic, Scottish Football, And Ourselves

 

 

And so, 2012 is coming to an end. Undoubtedly, it’s been a more eventful year than most. We’ve survived the Mayan Apocalypse and the Scottish Media’s Footballing Armageddon. We’ve seen perhaps the most memorable Olympic games of many of our lifetimes, and seen significant steps made towards the continuing “Justice For The 96″ campaign. Closer to home, we’ve seen Celtic lift their first Scottish Premier League title under Neil Lennon, and the Hoops have since surpassed all expectations (especially those of @itvfootball) by qualifying for the last sixteen of the UEFA Champions League. Oh, and the behemoth of bigotry that was Rangers Football Club drew it’s final breath, much to the amusement of most fans of Scottish Football.

Returning to ourselves for a moment, we began the New Year in a similar style to how we had ended the previous one, as a small and very basic ProBoards site, with lively Twitter and Facebook feeds. In early February, having turned a year old only a few weeks previously, I set out to find someone capable of building us a new, improved website more befitting of the Celtic supporters for whom we try to provide a enjoyable and useful service.

A couple of weeks later, with the Hoops having recently won 4-0 at Tynecastle (the ground at which Neil Lennon was assaulted through all eyes other than those of a Scottish jury), Rangers Football Club entered administration, and were duly docked ten League points.  Amidst all of the ensuing hilarity, everyone at Celtic knew that they had to aim to win the League by more than ten points, so as to silence those who, for reasons of jealously and disdain, felt it necessary to brand the Club, and it’s manager’s, achievements as “tainted”.

Around this time, early in the year, we started a petition calling for the installation of some sort of memorial to Celtic’s first manager, Willie Maley, at Celtic Park. Within days, this reached the magic figure of 1888 signatures, and was sent in to the Football Club. This resulted in a meeting with Chief Executive Peter Lawwell, who assured us that this support would not be forgotten when the Club decided which figures from the Club’s past would be represented in the form of busts outside Celtic Park when the coming redevelopment of the area outside the Main Stand is carried out. This was, of course, a huge success from our point of view, and I personally look forward to the day when a child can look at this memorial and ask a parent or sibling, “Who was Willie Maley?”

 

 

Returning to football itself, as Winter turned to Spring, the Hoops suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Kilmarnock in the final of the Scottish League Cup. However, the event was somewhat overshadowed by the tragic death of Killie midfielder Liam Kelly’s father only minutes after the end of the match.

A couple of weeks later, a resounding victory by six goals to nil at Rugby Park sealed the title for Celtic, who were Champions of Scotland once again. Celtic fans filled three sides of Kilmarnock’s stadium, as goals from Charlie Mulgrew (2), Glenn Loovens, Gary Hooper (2) and Joe Ledley brought the title home. However, it would be some time until the team got their hands on the trophy itself. Glaswegian pawn shops braced themselves in case the trophy’s old holders decided it may be of some value, but thankfully, this was not to be the case.

A week later, Celtic were controversially knocked out of the Scottish Cup, at the semi-final stage, by Hearts, at Hampden. Having equalised dramatically in the final few moments, Celtic looked set to take the encounter to extra time. However, the Jambos were awarded a penalty in stoppage time by referee Euan Norris, who told the players Victor Wanyama had handled the ball. Funny that, considering television pictures show it actually struck Joe Ledley, and his Kenyan team mate was a yard or two away from the incident. The following picture, from “VideoCelts” highlights this rather beautifully, and we can chalk it up as another “honest mistake”.

 

Joe Ledley news

 

Moving on from that defeat, there was still time for a youngster named Tony Watt to score twice on his debut at Fir Park, before Celtic hammered rivals Rangers in what would become the final meeting between the two sides. Five goals from Gary Hooper on the final day of the season against Hearts at Celtic Park preceded the presentation of the Scottish Premier League trophy to the manager and his players. In this moment, Neil Lennon, and his young side, had been vindicated. Individuals within the media, and within the wider world, had previously questioned not only their abilities, but their integrity. Letter bombs, assaults, bullets, cowardly threats and widespread bigotry had not stopped the Irishman or his players, and Celtic were the Champions of Scotland once more.

Come the end of May, we concluded our fundraising efforts for the good people at the Kano Foundation. In total, with your fantastic support, we raised around £1100 for a tremendous cause. Most of this was spent on the charity’s first annual Christmas party for around eighty children. I have since been fortunate enough to attend their second Christmas party, which continued to bring a bit of joy and festive feeling to all of the children who attend. The fact that our site and it’s users helped to play a role in the start of this now annual event is something we should all be tremendously proud of.

 

 

Unlike many summers without football, the close season was not to be a quiet one. In June, Rangers ceased to operate as a Football Club, as the confirmation of pending liquidation consigned them to their fate. This meant that, for the first time, there would be no Ibrox club in the top flight of Scottish Football. Not only did this mean that the 2012/2013 season would be unlike any other, it meant that Celtic were the only side to have appeared in the top flight of Scottish Football since the formation of the leagues back in 1890. Of course, Aberdeen have also been a constant presence since their promotion to the top flight in 1904, but they were not founding members of the league system.

At Celtic, there was an exodus of players who were no longer considered to be required by the Football Club. This allowed the Club to reduce the overall size of the squad, whilst freeing up some potential wage money for new players. Efe Ambrose became our only permanent signing, while Lassad, Miku and Lubos Kamenar came in on loan.

Back with Maley’s Bhoys, we launched our new website, which we had been testing over the course of the summer. Since it’s inception, it has given myself, and the wider support through guest bloggers, the platform for us all to share our thoughts with Celtic fans worldwide through our articles and debates. At present, we have had over 125,000 hits on the site since it’s launch, and I must confess that I never thought it would be that many. We have also launched our fundraising efforts for this season, which have already seen almost £400 raised for Motor Neurone Disease Scotland.

On the field, the team prepared for the new season with a pre-season tour of Germany, as well as glamour ties against Ajax, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid (this match was technically played during the season). Since then, despite some inconsistent league form at times, Celtic have shone, particularly on the European stage. In doing so, they have beaten the Champions of both Finland and Sweden, as well as Russian runners up Spartak Moscow, both home and away. They have also taken a point from Benfica at home, whilst losing narrowly to the Portuguese side in Lisbon. These European adventures also allowed us to start the increasingly popular “Maley’s Bhoys European Trip” Twitter pages (@MBBarca, @MBBenfica, @MBMoscow and now @MBJuventus).

However, the pinnacle of our achievements this season came against the greatest footballing side in the world, F.C. Barcelona. Having suffered a cruel last minute defeat at the Camp Nou, Celtic welcomed “Messi and co” to Scotland for the return tie only one day after the Football Club celebrated it’s 125th birthday at St Mary’s Church in the Calton.

And how the Club celebrated, as the Hoops became the only side other than Real Madrid to defeat the Catalan giants this season, winning 2-1 at Celtic Park. The Bhoy who made his debut at Fir Park only months earlier, Tony Watt, scored Celtic’s second with around ten minutes to go. In doing so, he gave the lads at “Hail Hail Media” the ability to produce this gem:

Another late winner, this time against Spartak Moscow at Parkhead would send Celtic to the knockout stages of the Champions League only weeks later. As we head into 2013, the Champions of Italy, Juventus, await us. Celtic are still involved in all four competitions, and with a young determined manager, a talented backroom staff and a team which continues to develop and grow, the future at Celtic Park is looking noticeably brighter than it was a few years ago.

The future of Scottish Football, in my opinion at least, also looks significantly brighter than it has done in some time. The top flight is the most competitive it has been for over two decades, and average attendances are, on the whole, markedly up. There appears to be an increased coverage of Scottish Football down south, and, rightly or wrongly, lower league sides are being given opportunities to have matches televised when they play “The Rangers”. Of course, how long this will last is up for debate. A potential reconstruction of the national game in order to help accelerate one new side’s progression up the leagues would be a disaster, and yet sadly it is being considered by those in positions of power. However, for now, I think most fans of Scottish Premier League teams are simply enjoying the footballing ride, and rightly so.

Finally, moving back to ourselves for a moment. Having carried out a survey of fans views regarding the catering on offer on match days at Celtic Park, I have since met with a representative of the Football Club and it’s suppliers, the Lindley Group. In January, a group of around twenty supporters will, along with myself, attend a subsequent meeting at Celtic Park concerning the issues raised by the members of the fan base.  We chased the much publicised banner from Seville and were disappointed to have to relent in this endeavour, but felt it was the only option available to us.

All in all, we continue to write, discuss, and question what sections of the Scottish Media tell us, and search for the truth that lies within. We continue to attempt to represent the views of the Celtic support as best we can, and to work with other sources of Celtic media. Also, progress continues steadily in the background on my book.

In summary, it has been an eventful year, and we’ve come a long way. I can only thank you all for your continuing support and wish you and your families all the best for 2013.

 

Dec 282012
 

A Brief Look At What Really Happened On Boxing Day

 

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On Boxing Day, Celtic travelled to the fourth largest city in Scotland to take on newly promoted Dundee on their home ground, Dens Park, for the first time this season. City rivals Dundee United faced St Johnstone at Tannadice at lunchtime, and due to this, as well as the influence of television companies, the Champions’ match was set to kick off at 7.30pm. And so it, did, with fantastic goals from Georgios Samaras and Gary Hooper meaning the three points would return to Glasgow with the visitors.

However, as I’m sure the vast majority of you will have noticed, our travelling supporters have been the subject of a fair amount of criticism since the event. For example, the ever reliable Scottish Sun had things bordering on a “full-scale riot”, as if the events were similar to those of Manchester in 2008, before claiming that there were “up to 200 believed to be involved in the shocking scenes”. Due to the tabloid press’ long history of sensationalism, I have instead chosen to speak to people who were in attendance at Dens Park in an attempt to work out exactly what went on.

Now, it is an undeniable fact that five people were arrested at the match itself. The inference on Twitter seems to be that four of these five were Celtic supporters. Today, it has come to light that at least one of these arrests in the Celtic support was made for singing relating to a pro-Republican song. So, all in all, that leaves a potential total of three people who were arrested for some involvement in violence.

You can then, potentially, take away the lad who was huckled away by police after leaving the stand as the support celebrated the Greek Gazelle’s opening goal. Whether or not he was arrested, or simply ejected from the stadium, I do not know.

Having spoken to people in attendance, I have heard several different accounts of what went on. The views of these individuals, whom I will not name, were different in some regards (perhaps affected by where in the stand they were located) but several of their tales corroborated well.

From these discussions, it is clear that there was some form of a scuffle outside the ground as people queued for entry. However, whilst this isn’t anything to be proud of, several people have described it as “nothing worse than you could see on a night out”.

Inside the ground itself though, the accounts take wildly different routes. A good few people have told me that they didn’t really see anything out of “the ordinary”, other than a couple of arrests, and fairly widespread drunkenness from some. People have reported that some folk were “just trying to pick fights with fans who were just there to watch the game”. According to a couple of reports, many of the ejections came from other people getting involved when stewards or police decided to eject someone else for being too drunk. I also spoke to one individual who was ejected for smoking, despite the fact he is not a smoker, and was merely talking to someone who was. One other report even cited a child (somewhere around the age of seven) crying his eyes out as the adult he was with was dragged off of the premises by police.

There has been widespread, if private, criticism from people I have spoken to who questioned why some of the people were even let inside the ground in the first place, considering they were “far beyond just drunk”. If police and stewards feel you are too drunk to watch the football civilly, then they should deny you access to the stadium, rather than allowing you to proceed inside before complaining about it later.

I’ve even, sadly, had reports from a couple of people, who say they heard a small group of individuals singing about the second Ibrox Disaster (I only highlight the fact that the 1971 was indeed, the second such event as twenty five Scotland supporters had also died at the stadium in 1902) both in at least one pub prior to the match and inside the stadium itself. Do not misunderstand me; this was not a stand full of Celtic supporters singing this, but there were, sadly, a tiny minority singing it, and that is utterly deplorable.

Now, if you take a group of people as large and varied as the Celtic support, you will, naturally, find differences in opinion. Some people will feel pyrotechnics have a place at Celtic matches, others will not. Some people will feel that it is acceptable to leave matches early to beat the traffic, others will not. Some people will feel that Adam Matthews is a better right back that Mikael Lustig, and others will not. These differences are an inevitability. Generally, even if I disagree with someone’s point of view, I respect the fact they have every right to hold it and discuss it, providing they can do so in a civil manner.

 

stein

 

However, if you think that singing about the deaths of sixty six people at Ibrox, then I have no time for you. Personally, if you think that event is worth glorifying, and you are reading this, then I’d like you to close the tab on your web browser and don’t bother coming back.

Some people will, of course, criticise me for writing this. I suppose this could be perceived as sensationalistic, just like the quotes from a tabloid newspaper highlighted above. The vast majority of people who attended the match on Boxing Day did not hear this singing, and that is not a surprise, because so few people actually indulged in it. It was literally only sang by a few individuals, but the fact it was sang at all needs to be highlighted, so it can be eradicated in the future.

To put it in context, until I heard the song for the one, and only time, in my life that I have actually heard it, I didn’t even know it existed. Even then, it was being sung by a few neds on a bus, who were met with scowls from the other supporters present, before being told in no uncertain terms to, well, shut up (somewhat less politely than that I confess). All in all, it’s simply incredible that there are still a tiny minority willing to sing about this stuff, but the minority is present, and that is something which should trouble us all.

Returning to Boxing Day night itself, we once again heard the distinctive bangs of fireworks coming from the away end. Much was written about this issue by many people within the support (including myself) recently, and my more detailed views on the matter can be found here. With regards to this match, I’ve had several people tell me they make them leap out of their skin when they go off, and others even saying a group of supporters next to them felt they would rather leave the match at half time and watch the second half in the pub due to the risk they perceived the devices posed.

The behaviour of some home supporters at Dens Park is also worthy of note. Firstly, Efe Ambrose was noticeably booed every time he touched the ball in the first half. There have been varying reports as to the reasoning and manner of this booing, with some say Efe was exclusively targeted (as it appeared on television) and others saying he was not the only one to be the subject of the abuse. Now, it would be very easy to jump to the “obvious” conclusion. However, there may well be a more innocent reason than plain racism for this treatment of the Nigerian.

One person told me he was booed because he scored an own goal at Tannadice to give the home side a point against Celtic, whilst another said Efe Ambrose claims he grew up as a Dundee United supporter? Personally, I don’t believe either of these to be a reasonable explanation, but if you know more than I do, and can enlighten me somewhat please feel free. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions there anyway.

 

samaras

 

 

Secondly, reports of home supporters scuffling with stewards, including one who “was sent tumbling down some stairs” have also come to light, although the chances are you won’t find them given many column inches in the Scottish press.

All in all, it is clear that this was not a black or white scenario. By that I mean that it wasn’t as bad as many people are making out, but that our support clearly weren’t totally innocent of poor behaviour either. I feel it is all too easy to blame the events in Dundee on alcohol. I myself was in Barcelona only a couple of months ago, when thousands of Celtic supporters drank rather a lot. However, there was no violence or bad feeling in my experience in the city (other than the occasional incidence of pickpocketing). No supporters fought amongst themselves to my knowledge, and the atmosphere, both in the city and inside the stadium, was truly excellent.

One thing that does trouble me about the events of the other night did not actually occur on the night itself, but in the forty eight hours hence.

In recent weeks, we have seen eight people arrested at Ibrox, as home supporters battled with stewards and police on the night they faced Annan Athletic. In the past few years, we have seen countless examples of Rangers supporters destroying property inside Celtic Park, with video evidence proving that not only did the police take no action to stop these criminal acts, but also that one of the fans was, in fact a serving police officer. Finally, “The Rangers” striker Francisco Sandaza recently told a Spanish newspaper that he was advised upon joining his new club that he should not bless himself before matches. Of course, “an Ibrox source” has denied these revelations, and that seems to be the end of the matter, despite the fact it is a sad indictment of a new Club which has, clearly, felt it necessary to continue to condemn open displays of Catholicism.

The differing manner in which stories regarding certain Clubs in certain sections of the Scottish press are reported is very noticeable. In saying this, I’m sure a quick search on Google could find you another blogger, who supports another team trying to tell you that it is, in fact, the opposite way around. Undoubtedly, things regarding our last match have been blown out of proportion in some veins. Regardless, that does not excuse the behaviour of a minority, and it is no surprise that both the Manager and Chief Executive of the Club have since condemned these actions.

If you are going to act like an idiot at a football match, and ruin the experience for other supporters, don’t bother attending. If you are going to pick fights with fellow supporters for no reason, or sing songs celebrating the tragic deaths of Rangers fans in 1971, don’t bother attending.

The debate around fireworks, kick off times, and heavy handed policing will go on. However, we must all remember that when we enter a football ground following our team, or pull on a jersey or a scarf, we represent not only ourselves with our actions, but our Football Club and, critically, it’s fan base as a whole.

The Celtic support is truly fantastic. It is a pleasure to make up a very, very small part of it myself. As those of you who are regulars on this site and/or on Twitter, you will know that I very rarely criticise any of our supporters, unless I feel there is a need for it. In fact, I’m generally someone who will leap to supporters defence, but some of the events outlined above, regardless of how badly they were portrayed in the press, were and are wholly unacceptable, and the people guilty of such actions only succeed in mildly tarnishing the good reputation of our support, which we have all worked so hard over the years to build upon.

If this is my final article of 2012, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families all the best for the year ahead.

 

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Dec 202012
 

Celtic Draw Juventus In The Last Sixteen

 

juventus

 

In the Champions League draw this morning, Celtic Football Club were the second runners up out of the proverbial hat (which was a big, UEFA emblazoned plastic bowl in truth) and were drawn against the current Champions of Italy, Juventus. The Turin side became the first team in history to win Serie A without losing a single match along the way, and I’m sure everyone would agree they will provide stern opposition to Celtic’s chances of progressing to the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time.

The first match will be played at Celtic Park on the 12th February 2013, and tickets for this match will be priced at £37 for adult season ticket holders. These tickets will go on sale at 9am on Saturday (22nd December 2012) and season ticket holders will have until the 15th January 2013 to purchase their ticket for this mammoth encounter.

The away leg is scheduled for the 6th March 2013 at the new Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy. The stadium holds a little over forty thousands spectators when full, and therefore it is estimated that Celtic will be given an allocation of between two and three thousand tickets.

Once again, for those of you on Twitter, we have started a new account specifically focused on this away tie, @MBJuventus. Following the success of @MBMoscow, @MBBarca and @MBBenfica, the account will provide information about flights, accommodation  the city, transport links, the stadium, tickets, places to eat, places to drink, places for fans to congregate and, well, more places for fans to drink, in all likelihood!

It is well worth following this account even if you are not planning to attend the away tie, as it will give you a unique glimpse of what is going on in the run up to the match, during the game itself, and the resulting aftermath. A new page, full of information regarding the city etc will soon appear under the “European Trips” tab at the top of our website.

If anybody has any questions regarding a trip to Turin, please feel free to contact myself and I will do what I can to help you.

“Italy! Italy! We’re the famous Glasgow Celtic and we’re off to Italy…”

 

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Dec 172012
 

The Reasoning Behind My Difficult Decision

Please See The Amendment Requested By The Seller

 

banner1

 

A few months ago, we began an effort to bring the Celtic banner which hung above one end of the stadium in Seville back to Celtic Park. The gentleman selling the banner, a supporter living in England, had listed the item for £400 (plus an understandably  significant postage fee due to the massive size and weight of the object) on eBay. When I contacted him initially, no bids had been made on the item and he agreed to take it down from the auction site in order to give us a chance to consult the support to see whether it would be possible to raise the required money to “bring the banner home”.

As the pledges began to fly in from all corners of the globe, I agreed a price of £500 (£450 + £50 for a courier etc) with the seller. Having then proceeded to speak to Celtic Supporters’ Clubs down south, I found a few willing to divert their usual route up to matches in Scotland in order to, potentially, pick up the banner and bring it up on a bus. These offers were hugely appreciated and, importantly, it allowed me to increase our offer from £450 + £50 to £500 for the seller, giving him a small profit on what he initially paid for the item after the final.

At this point, signs were encouraging. I contacted the Football Club who agreed that they would be happy for us to both display the banner at Celtic Park on match days, and store it inside the stadium between home games. We also contacted a few fans local to the banner’s location, who told us they would be willing to take time out of their own lives to go and view the banner (and verify it’s condition etc) before we began to gather any money in from the support. Once again, these offers, both from the Football Club and it’s fans, were much appreciated.

 

banner1

 

However, at this point the seller “began to have second thoughts” about the idea of letting the banner go. For around a fortnight, I did not hear from the gentleman, until this evening. He has now said that he would be willing to sell the banner, but only for £1000. He plans to repost the item on eBay for £1000 (+£100 P&P). This is, of course, entirely up to the seller. The item is his property, and I have absolutely no right to tell him what to do with it.

Regrettably though, due to the increase in price, I now feel that I must end “Maley’s Bhoys” attempt to “bring the banner home”. I have not taken in a single penny from supporters for this, although I know that a large number of you told me you would have been willing to donate money towards our goal. However, I am not willing to accept monetary donations from hard working people only to be told that the price is to increase. Taking into account what has already happened behind the scenes, I am simply not willing to set a target for our supporters, only to find out that it has been put up, time and time again.

At this stage, I must make a minor amendment to this article on request of the gentleman selling the item.

Initially, I had written the following line “According to the seller, the Football Club have declined the opportunity to buy the banner in the past.”

I must now change this slightly, and I apologise for this error on my part. The seller says he offered the banner to the Club, for free, in exchange for the Club making ticket offers to himself for particular Celtic matches in the future. 

Once again, I cannot verify this one way or the other, I am simply stating it before people begin to suggest it as an alternative. I must also thank somebody in particular, who shall remain anonymous, who offered to make a significant investment towards our initial £500 total.

I have no doubts in my mind that, as a fan base, we could raise £1000. However, I am simply not willing to take money from people, having agreed a price, especially around the Christmas period, only to have to ask you all for more. Setting an asking price is, of course, the seller’s prerogative but, to use a rather clichéd term, “I’m out”.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to you all for my failure in this regard. Nothing would have made me happier than seeing that banner at Celtic Park, waving in the Glaswegian wind, knowing I played a role in all of this. However, I feel that to continue our efforts, as things stand, would be taking advantage of you as individuals and, more importantly, as members of the Celtic support. Therefore, I can only offer you my apologies. Sad face.

 

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Dec 172012
 

A Quick Article To Keep You All In The Loop

 

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Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I’d just like to take this opportunity to update you all regarding a couple of things we’ve  been involved in recently.

Firstly, we have now confirmed a date in mid-January on which myself, as well as a group of supporters (who have been kind enough to volunteer their time), will meet representatives from Celtic Football Club and their catering suppliers (The Lindley Group) at Celtic Park. This will be another step in our attempt to represent the support’s views with regards to the catering service available to them on match days.

With this in mind, if you have any stories or views that you would like to inform me of, please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this article and I will pass these onto the relevant people at the Football Club. Simply because you will not be in attendance does not mean your view is not important, so please get in touch should you feel the need to do so. I will, of course, report back with the results of this meeting after the event.

Secondly, as many of you will know, I have been in contact with a gentleman regarding the potential purchase, by the  support, of the large banner which hung above the Celtic end at the UEFA Cup Final in Seville. Initially, progress was rather encouraging. However, I have not heard from the banner’s owner for a couple of weeks now. This is, of course, somewhat disappointing. For this reason, things are on hold. If and when I do hear from the gentleman again I will update you all in due course, and I will continue to try to contact him.

For the record, whilst I asked for people to make verbal pledges of donations for the potential purchase, I did not take any monetary donations at any time. In hindsight, this may have been a very wise decision considering things seem to have come to a standstill of late.

Anyway, if and when I have any more information about these topics (or any others) I will pass this onto you all.

Thank you, and enjoy your night.

Dec 142012
 

A Link Across The Ages

 

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The Pyramids of Giza; The Hanging Gardens of Babylon; The Statue of Zeus at Olympia; The Lighthouse of Alexandria; The Colossus of Rhodes; The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. These ancient combinations of architecture, engineering and craftsmanship amazed the people of old. Stretching from Greece, across the sands of Egypt to where we find modern day Iraq, these truly were marvels of human endeavour.

Some of you may have noticed that I have only listed six of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” so far. The wonder I have yet to discuss is The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. Many of you are likely wondering “what on Earth does this have to do with Sevco?”, but bear with me. The Temple of Artemis, the remains of which can be found in modern day Turkey, stood for over a thousand years. However, in this time, it was completely destroyed on two occasions, before being rebuilt again.

Initially, a great flood destroyed the building of old in the seventh century BC, before a fire (started on purpose) destroyed the newer building in 356 BC. It is unclear exactly how the third building met it’s fate, as it suffered from disrepair, and attacks from Germanic tribesmen.

 

artemistempleremains

 

Nothing lasts forever. Not the Hanging Gardens, not the Colossus, not Rangers, and not Celtic. Whilst we all feel Celtic will last forever, this isn’t the case on the grand scheme of things. At some point in the future, all Football Clubs, and perhaps all of humanity, will meet their end. In all likelihood, this will be long, long after all of us have shuffled off this mortal coil. It could be thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. However, when we consider the fact that one day the Sun will die, we must remember that all things on Earth, Football Clubs included, are finite in the truly long term. In saying that, a million years is but a drop in the ocean in galactic terms, and thankfully Celtic show no signs of ill health at this point in time.

Rangers, on the other hand, have already met their fate. Like the great flood that destroyed the Temple of Artemis, a flood of creditors, repayment orders, and scandal engulfed Rangers Football Club as it took it’s final breath earlier this year. Now, if you look down Ibrox way, you will find that a new Club has been built in place of it’s predecessor, a second Temple, if you will.

However, the story of old tells us that the second Temple was destroyed by fire. Not only that, the fire was intentionally started by a man seeking fame and notoriety for his actions, Herostratus. Upon the discovery of his crimes, Herostratus was executed, and uttering his name was soon made punishable by death.

So the question comes, “Will a proverbial fire, ignited by a modern day Herostratus, engulf “The Rangers Football Club” and destroy the second Temple?”

When Rangers Football Club liquidated, the list of unpaid creditors was a lengthy one. These individuals and groups were owed money by the Club and, with the it’s death, came the loss of these debts. For example, the local newsagents would never see their £567.45. However, whilst there was little “Bhutta’s Newsagent” could do about this, that may not be the case when it comes to the largest private creditor of them all, “Ticketus”, who were owed over £26,000,000 by Rangers.

To begin, cast your eyes over a portion of page 5 from TRFC’s recent share prospectus document.

 

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The top list shows those individuals/groups who currently have a shareholding in TRFC of 3% or higher, whilst the second lists those individuals/groups who will hold a minimum of  a 3% shareholding in TRFC post-share issue. Amongst these names, you will have most likely noticed “Artemis Investment Management LLP”, but more on them in a moment. I would also like to bring “Hargreave Hale Limited”, “Legal & General Investment Management Limited” and “Insight Investment Management (Global) Limited” to your attention if I may.

Combined, these companies will hold almost 23% of the shares in TRFC post share issue (providing it is fully successful). Charles Green, the man Craig Whyte alleges he suggested to Duff & Phelps, stands to benefit hugely from this share issue. He paid approximately £50,000 for his 5,000,200 shares initially (one pence each), and yet now he is set to ask seventy times this price for fans of the new Ibrox Club if they wish to join him as a shareholder.

Now, moving onto a company known as “Enteq Upstream PLC”. If you were to check this company out online, you would be able to attain the following list of shareholders.

 

list2

 

One name that will jump out to some of you will be that of “Octopus Investments”. However, I would presume most, if not all of you, will not have heard of any of the other groups or individuals. Now, the accounts filed with Companies House by Enteq Upstream PLC tell a slightly different story with regards to their shareholders. You can see this list below.

 

list3

 

Immediately, you will notice the presence of  “Artemis Investment Management”, “Hargreave Hale”, “Legal And General Investments”, and “Insight Investment”, as well as the aforementioned “Octopus Investments”. Now, a quick look into the infamous “Octopus” tells us what most people already know.

 

list4

 

Now, I have no intention of indulging in speculation in this article. All of the information above is fact, and it is readily accessible to anyone who wishes to research it. It is clear that, on some level, Octopus, the owners of Ticketus, and some of the new investment groups in TRFC can indeed be linked. Perhaps this is simple coincidence? After all, the business world is vast. Perhaps not?

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions, but don’t forget the story of The Temple of Artemis, which fell first to flood and then to fire, before it was to take it’s final form.

Dec 122012
 

Thoughts On The Pyrotechnic Debate

 

 

Earlier tonight, Celtic defeated Arbroath thanks to a single goal from Welshman Adam Matthews. During what was, in truth, a fairly flat affair on the coast of the North Sea, the debate on the use of pyrotechnics, particularly smoke bombs, was reignited (no pun intended) as the devices made an appearance on the away terracing. Due to the stale nature of the match itself in large parts, several supporters took to Twitter in order to voice their views regarding the use of the “pyro”.

Many of you will know that the Celtic Disabled Supporters’ Association recently published a statement on the use of smoke bombs at matches, requesting that the devices be consigned to the history books due to the ill effects they can have on individuals with respiratory problems. This statement, for anyone who missed it, is available here.

So I suppose it’s left to me to sum up my feelings on the issue, having retweeted the opinions of several supporters during half time and the match itself (both the pro and anti-pyro lobbies).

Firstly, looking at the “positives”, I must admit that personally, I think smoke bombs (and pyrotechnics in general) can add a lot to the colour and atmosphere at a football match. They can be particularly impressive when used as part of a display, such as the example at Ibrox pictured below. On the few occasions I’ve been near one when it has been set off, the atmosphere has taken a noticeable step up in response to the event.

 

 

There is also a certain notoriety attached to them; they are illegal after all, and a lot of people do enjoy pushing the boundaries with regards to the law (rightly or wrongly), whether it is by trying to be served a pint at the age of seventeen, or, in this case, by setting off a smoke bomb at a football match. However, as season tickets can be withdrawn for such an offence, it is perhaps no surprise that these devices are never set off at home matches.

Secondly, a look at the negatives. Celtic Football Club is, of course, a Club open to all. Anyone who has attended a Celtic match will have seen disabled supporters in and around the stadium itself. In recent decades, accessibility has improved for many of these supporters, and this must be applauded.

Whilst at an under seventeen’s match at Ibrox last season, I came closer to the use of smoke bombs than ever before. Previously, I had never found myself particularly close to them, so this was a new experience for me. Whilst, as I have previously highlighted, they added greatly to the atmosphere, I must also highlight the fact that I noticed an immediate, negative effect with regards to taking a simple breath.

Rather naively, I presumed that pulling my scarf over my face would make a difference, but it had little or no effect. One of my friends, who is in his early twenties and fairly fit, found himself struggling to breath to such an extent that he actually left that area of the stand for about ten minutes until the smoke had cleared.

It is also worthy of note that not all of those who may be negatively affected by a smoke bomb are individuals who are visibly disabled (for example those in a wheelchair). Countless supporters suffer from conditions such as asthma, as well as more serious conditions, and, in my opinion, the well being of these fans must be taken into account by their fellow supporters.

All in all, whilst these devices do have their benefits (at least in my eyes), these benefits are vastly outweighed by the potential problems they can create for other individuals within the stadium, regardless of who they support. The illegality of pyrotechnics also brings with it the chance of punishments for the Football Club itself.

Even as a young man, I’m afraid I just can’t agree with the “no pyro, no party” mentality. They do add to the atmosphere, but nobody should ever be put off attending a Celtic match because of the potential for negative affects towards their health (nail biting finishes and Celtic’s occasional dodgy defending aside). For this reason, I feel it’s time we made a concious decision, as a support, that their time has been and gone.

Please feel free to leave your opinions in the comment section below.

 

Dec 082012
 

…Think I’ll Buy Me A Football Team

 

 

Those are, of course, the immortal words of Pink Floyd and, as you’ll see here and on countless other sites, they have a stark relevance to the ongoing saga down Ibrox way.

Late last night, “Rangers International Football Club PLC” (henceforth known as TRFC for simplicity) released the details of the prospectus relating to their upcoming share issue. Within minutes, many of the so called “internet bampots” began to dissect the one hundred and twenty two page document and, within minutes, they began to highlight several points of interest.

Before discussing a few of these points in more detail, I’d like to take a moment to remind you, and the Ibrox faithful (if any of them happen to be perusing this article), just who we are dealing with. Charles Green, current Chief Executive and major shareholder in TRFC, has a notable record with regards shares issues. In the mid-nineties, Mr Green became the Chief Executive of Sheffield United; then a Club on the up, consistently challenging for promotion to the top flight of English Football.

However, this would all change under the stewardship of Mr Green, as his Club, and it’s supporters, began to suffer. During his tenure and whilst Sheffield United were still performing fairly well, Mr Green decided that the Blades would become only the sixth English Football Club to float shares on the British Stock Market.

Within months, after repeated calls from Sheffield United supporters, the Department of Trade and Industry began to investigate the aforementioned share issue. They found that Mr Green was guilty of misleading investors as to exactly what they were buying, and to it’s exact value. On his final departure from Brammall Lane, Charles Green left the ground under police escort, such was the bad feeling amongst supporters towards him.

Around a decade later, Mr Green was to be involved in another share issue, when he found himself on the board of a steel company based in the Middle East, known as “Panceltica Metals”. Despite questions regarding the timing of the share issue (which was to be carried out just after the global credit crunch struck) from those in financial circles, Mr Green pressed ahead. Within a year, the company, which previously had an annual turnover of over £50,000,000, entered insolvency.

 

Now, before we go any further, I’d like to pose two questions to you:

1. Would this track record make you feel confident in investing your own, hard-earned, money?

2.  If Mr Green is considered the best choice as the public face of his group of investors, what sorts of skeletons lay in the proverbial closets of the Yorkshireman’s financial backers?

 

 

Anyway, moving onto the prospectus itself, where shall we begin?

Well, first and foremost, say you’re a supporter, let’s see just where your money would go. Now, TRFC aim to raise £27,000,000 if the share issue is a fully unbridled success. Charles Green is currently on an annual salary of £360,000 (plus bonuses and expenses). The prospectus states that he will be entitled to a bonus of 100% if the Club wins promotion from the SFL (although this doesn’t specify whether this refers to SFL3 or out of the SFL altogether…which is rather odd for a man who says his Club will never return to the SPL).

Regardless, there goes at least 1.33% of the money raised from TRFC supporters (which could double to 2.66%).

Next, there is Brian Stockbridge, who will receive £200,000 per year, equivalent to another 0.74% of the potential money raised in a share issue (which could double to 1.48% in the same manner as Mr Green’s). Imran Ahmad will also receive £350,000 per annum (plus bonuses) for his role as Commercial Director.

We then have several non-executive directors who receive as follows: Malcolm Murray (£60,000 – despite the fact he isn’t employed by TRFC), Ian Hart (£40,000), Walter Smith (£50,000), Philip Cartmell (£40,000) and Bryan Smart (£40,000). Totalling all of this up, the Club will spend a minimum of £1,140,000 on the salaries of those previously mentioned. This figure doesn’t include any bonuses, and will make up over 4% of the funds raised in any share issue (per year). Dependent on bonuses and the exact meaning of the document, this percentage could be somewhere between 6-7% per year.

Beyond this, the Club plan to spend £5,500,000 on upgrades to Ibrox, £4,500,000 on the acquisition of land, and other projects totalling £3,000,000. These plans account for another 48-49% of the money raised by a fully successful share issue. Another £5,500,000 is scheduled to go to more upgrades to Ibrox and more projects in a year. There goes another 20% or so.

The rest, around 25% or so, according to TRFC, will be used for “cash flow purposes”. Of course, it is worthy of note that some of this money will likely be used for cash flow, and then replaced with revenue gathered at a later stage (i.e. upgrades to the stadium scheduled for twelve months in the future).

 

 

Moving on, we once again return to the role of Charles Green (amongst others). Returning to the Pink Floyd theme for a moment, the song continues “…new car, caviar, four star daydream, think I’ll buy a football team”.

At present, Mr Green owns approximately five million shares in TRFC. He paid £50,000 for these, at a price of one pence each, meaning that (pre-share issue) he owns 14.96% of the company. When TRFC hold their share issue, Mr Green will retain his current number of shares, although the percentage of the company which he will own will decrease. To put this in context, Celtic’s current share price is a little under thirty nine pence, and the Club is not only financially stable but succeeding on the European stage. Now, it is of note that prices vary not only on the performance of a company, but on the number of shares in existence. For example, if there were one hundred billion shares in Barcelona, they would likely be cheaper than shares in Elgin, if Scottish Club only had fifty shares in existence.

If, for argument’s sake Mr Green was to have bought his five million shares in the upcoming issue, it would have cost him £3,500,000. Even more recent investors attained shares for a fraction of the price which the fans of the new Club will pay. Whilst some of them will not be able to resell shares immediately (due to some year long restrictions), all those who invested in the new Club prior to the share issue will be in for a very healthy profit in the future (if and when they decide to sell on).

All in all, it is clear the a minority stand to make a lot of money. Despite what Mr Green and his companions may try to tell you, they are not involved with TRFC for any love of the new Club; they are where they are today in order to make money. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, but at least Fergus McCann was honest when he put his money on the line.   When you consider the fact that Craig Whyte has claimed he introduced Charles Green to Duff & Phelps (whom we know Whyte has connections to prior to his purchase of the old Rangers) things continue to become increasingly murky and incestuous.

 

 

The Club’s financial summary of the last three months, as well as it’s overall valuations, don’t make for the best reading either. When you ignore the goodwill earnings which have been regarded as a profit for the new Club, you find that the Club has actually lost a few million pounds. For the record, the reason these “goodwill earnings” should be ignored, sizeable as they are, is because they represent a false view of reality. Simply because Charles Green picked up a few assets at a reduced price does not mean that these are a “true” profit. Just because the new Club pull figures out of the air, it does not mean they are necessarily correct.

And now, on a day where TRFC celebrated their “one hundred and fortieth birthday”, speculation remains rife as to how rosy the future really is for the new Club. Of course, you don’t need to be a genius to work out that TRFC are much closer to one hundred and forty days old than one hundred and forty years old, but nonetheless many are still worshipping at the Altar of Green. Funnily enough, many of these people previously attended the Church of Whyte, and the Temple of Murray.

The continuation of this “we’re a new Club when it suits us, but we’re still the same Club as before at others” mentality may well lead to a rather rude awakening one day for the Ibrox faithful. Whilst their leaders continue to talk of persecution and others being against them, perhaps it is no wonder that most of them would see this article simply as another example of “Timmy” trying to bad mouth their Club. However, they do say “you can take a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink”, but in this case I feel a new saying may be more appropriate.

“You can try to open a Bear’s eyes, but it won’t make any difference if the Bear is blind.”

 

Dec 072012
 

Celtic Reach The Last Sixteen Of Europe’s Elite Competition

 

 

Less than forty eight hours ago, Celtic Park held it’s breath. With Barcelona and Benfica drawing 0-0, Kris Commons’ penalty was to be crucial. As it rattled off the bar, I’m sure more than a few hearts were in a their owner’s mouths, both inside the stadium and around the world. Thankfully, it went in. Thanks to the false goal celebration triggered midway through the second half though, Kris Commons has since admitted that he thought Barcelona were beating Benfica at that point. Anyway, it matters not now, and the Hoops find themselves amongst Europe’s elite. As many have pointed out, it is now acceptable to say we are part of that elite, and a tremendous amount of praise must go to everyone at the Football Club for this achievement.

Celtic’s success will not only benefit themselves though. Each of the other eleven Scottish Premier League sides will receive a payout from UEFA at the end of this domestic season, with £1.5 million to be handed to the SPL to divvy up as it sees fit at that time. Sadly, despite much speculation, it appears that the figure of £235,000 extra for every club thanks to qualification for the last sixteen is fictional. “Solidarity Payments”, as they are known, only apply up until qualification for the group stages.

Anyway, putting this to one side, congratulations have been rolling in from (almost) all sides of Scottish Football, with a selection from the SPL displayed below:

 

 

However, the plaudits did not stop there, with another mixture below:

 

 

Of course, this small sample wasn’t totally representative of the views held by some in this country, as the poor bloke running Ross County’s Twitter feed found out. As he says, “classy”:

 

 

Now, to answer Mr Alexander’s query. Yes, I am actually interested in what Ross County have to say, in the same manner in which I am interested in the thoughts of Dundee United and all other Scottish Clubs. However, I would also point out that Ross County, a side who went on an incredible forty match unbeaten league run not too long ago, and a Club formed in 1929, have a much bigger, and a much more relevant say than a Club less than a year old, in the Third Division, who seem to wish to create division and hatred between themselves and everyone around them at almost any opportunity.

Returning to Scottish Football as a whole though, it has been fantastic to see so much support flood in for Celtic’s success thus far. In the same light, it was brilliant to see Celtic wishing the likes of Hearts, Motherwell, and St Johnstone all the best for their trips to England, Greece, and Turkey earlier this season. Whilst we all compete domestically on a weekly basis, our national European coefficient effects us all. As the years pass, I for one hope we’ll see more clubs like making forays onto the European stage once more.

Until then, we can only thank those who have congratulated Celtic once more, and simply smile and wave at those who seem to have other things on their minds…

 

Dec 042012
 

A Guest Article By Rian Watson

 

 

Celtic’s remarkably indifferent form on the domestic front must be put to one side as they prepare to take on Spartak Moscow in a make-or-break clash for their Champions League campaign. The Hoops’ destiny will be partially out of their own hands however, as they must better Benfica’s result on Wednesday night to progress to the knockout stages. Although Celtic aren’t in control of their own fate, they do leave a part of it in the well capable hands of Barcelona at the Nou Camp, which isn’t a bad option to have.

 

Unai Emery wasn’t even in charge for half a season before being sacked by Spartak Moscow.

 
The general consensus for the last match of the group stage is that Celtic must avoid defeat to Spartak Moscow in Glasgow, with a victory not being crucial, and all the while remain optimistic that Barcelona can do what they do best.Spartak Moscow travel to Celtic Park having endured somewhat of a crisis in the past month. Unai Emery, who had only taken charge of Spartak on the 13th of May, was sacked on November 25th after a poor run of form for the Moscow club. Valery Karpin, the man who led Spartak to a runners up position in the Russian Premier League last year, is now temporarily back at the helm. He first took charge of Spartak Moscow in April 2009 after succeeding Michael Laudrup.

Although Karpin declared his resignation from the managerial post on the 18th of April 2011, after leading the club to one of the worst starts to a season in their history, he maintained the position as coach until his successor could be found. In Spartak’s last four matches they have drawn once, against Volga, and been defeated three times; 3-0 against Barcelona, 5-1 in a local derby against Dinamo Moscow (Emery’s final game in charge) and 4-2 to Zenit St. Petersburg, with each defeat occurring on home soil. Barcelona’s thrashing of Spartak meant they were eliminated from European competition altogether, but Celtic players and fans alike must remain cautious. The pain of Celtic’s victory at the Luzhniki Stadium will still be fresh in the memory for the men from Moscow, and the possibility of denying Celtic a place in the last 16 will seem a sweet assertion of revenge.

 

Valery Karpin managed Spartak for 3 years from 2009-12.

 

There is only so long that the undeniably talented team that is Spartak Moscow can be left licking their wounds, before picking themselves up and getting back to winning ways. The tie will surely be too close to call, for even the most optimistic Celtic fan. The Hoops maintain a fantastic home record in the Champions League, and defeating (arguably) the greatest team in the world at Park Head proved this. However, recent results for Celtic are probably leaving the fans scratching their heads. Since Celtic battled for a famous victory against Barcelona, they’ve drawn 1-1 at home to St. Johnstone, defeated Aberdeen 2-0 away, lost 2-1 away at Benfica, been beaten at home 1-0 by Inverness, defeated Hearts 4-0 away and drew 1-1 with Arbroath at home.

This mixed bag of results gives us absolutely no indication as to which Celtic side will turn up to face Spartak Moscow in the decisive game of  the group. Lennon will most likely stick with the same line-up that he sent out to play Benfica, although Celtic’s star player Victor Wanyama will be banned from the tie after picking up a booking in that tie and Scott Brown may remain doubtful for a starting place after his recent injury woes.

The Celtic manager will also be hopeful that James Forrest can win his race to fitness and at least make an impact from the bench, as he did in Russia to devastating effect. No matter what team Neil Lennon sends out, the Celtic faithful will be right behind them and Celtic Park will undoubtedly be rocking once again. If ever Celtic needed their 12th man, it will be then. The Europa League beckons for either Celtic or Benfica, but neither will want to settle for it.

 

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