Aug 272014
Deila Must Be Given Time, But Radical Changes Are Required Elsewhere


Photo courtesy of EuroSport


Yesterday evening, Celtic Football Club were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League qualifying stages for the second time in three weeks. As N.K. Maribor captain Marcos Tavares saw his second half effort find the back of Craig Gordon’s net, the communal feelings of hope and optimism which had filled Celtic Park as the teams emerged from the tunnel an hour and half earlier were replaced with a tangible air of disappointment and anger. As I shall discuss at a later point in this article, these emotions were entirely justified, but it was not solely the scoreline or the performance which hurt the tens of thousands of fans alongside me, but the feeling that, as a collective, we had not only seen this happen before, but we had long since grasped the fact that the potential was there for it to happen again.

Generally speaking, the Celtic support are an optimistic bunch, especially on European nights. On so many occasions in the past, we have punched above our weight and beaten far superior rivals, with Celtic Park so often being the venue, but last night was different. The manner of this mood change was indicative of the fact that something is very wrong at Scotland’s biggest Football Club. Fundamentally, last night’s defeat was due to a combination of factors which perhaps differ in terms of their respective severity, but were contributory nonetheless. Anyway, let us begin with the football itself before peeling back the layers elsewhere.

Thus far, Celtic have played nine competitive matches under Ronny Deila, winning four, drawing one and losing four (considering the Legia match at Murrayfield as a defeat). During this time, we have scored sixteen goals, conceding ten. Of the ten which have been scored by our opponents, only two have come during domestic ties, whilst the other eight have been scored on the European stage, by the Polish and Slovenian Champions respectively. In four matches against the aforementioned continental opposition, Celtic have only managed two goals in reply, both of which came away from home thanks to an exciting youngster who, talented though he undoubtedly is, one would not have expected to carry his teammates at such an early stage in his career.

After all, Callum McGregor only made his Celtic debut in the first leg against K.R. Reykjavik this season. With four goals already to his name, our top goalscorer at this stage of the 2014-15 season is a twenty-one year old attacking midfielder who was learning his trade on loan to League One Notts County last season, not one of the strikers at the Club, but I digress.




Returning to last night, I cannot help but question Ronny Deila’s team selection, and I doubt I am alone in this regard. Never have I seen a Celtic midfield sit so deep in a European match at home against a side who were not someone you could consider to be a top drawer team. With the greatest respect to N.K. Maribor, who thoroughly deserved their victory, they are not a Barcelona or a Real Madrid. Why then did the Hoops set up and play for large parts as if they were aiming for a goalless draw from the outset? Are our attacking options really so lacklustre  at present that Deila felt this was our best chance of progression?

Well, when you consider the fact that Celtic are only scoring one goal on average for every ten attempts so far this season, it becomes clear that our offensive line is toothless, with the continual reliance on Callum McGregor again emphasising that point. However, this does not excuse the manner in which we played. Yesterday, we had the same number of attempts on target which we had in Warsaw – two – whilst allowing N.K. Maribor to become the first side to have more possession than us at home in a Champions League qualifier since Dinamo Moscow did so in 2009 (ironically, they also beat us 0-1).

Decisions such as resting almost the entire team at the weekend, starting Efe Ambrose ahead of Jason Denayer and playing Anthony Stokes as a lone striker must be weighing heavily on the manager’s mind today. When basic tactical issues – such as the inability of our wingers to deal with the pace of the opposition fullbacks or the bizarre reappearance of long high balls being directed towards a solitary forward who is less than six feet tall – are not being addressed in critical matches, one cannot help but be concerned. However, the manager cannot be blamed when only a minority of the side he fields – Craig Gordon, Mikael Lustig, Virgil van Dijk and Callum McGregor no less – play to a standard befitting of the jersey they are wearing. The fault there is that of the individual players who did not perform. Likewise, the loss of key figures such as Scott Brown and James Forrest to injury cannot be blamed on the manager.

I do believe that Ronny Deila must be given at least a season, if not more, in which to prove to us whether he is indeed the right man for the job. Quite simply, the majority of the criticism for both the Legia Warsaw and Maribor debacles cannot be laid at the Norwegian’s feet. He has inherited a squad from his predecessor, many of whom he clearly does not rate particularly highly for whatever reasons, be they related to a lack of ability, tactical nous or the correct attitude on and off the field of play. Fundamentally, the manager has to be given the financial backing and the time to stamp his own vision on the football on show.

With that in mind, we come to what I now believe to be the crux of the issue, the hierarchy at Celtic Park.




For two seasons now, the Celtic board have played chicken with their European opposition en route to the Champions League group stages, and finally they have been caught out. Some of you may recall that as the Club celebrated it’s 125th birthday in November 2012, we beat Barcelona – Lionel Messi and all (it’s not like it isn’t mentioned enough already) – making our way to the last sixteen before falling to Serie A Champions, Juventus. Although that victory may now be a source of some slightly twisted humour, it most certainly represented how far Celtic had come under the stewardship of Neil Lennon, from losing to Ross County at Hampden to bettering the best side on Earth at home a fortnight after pushing them close away. And yet, less than two years on from that historic night, our team are a shadow of their former selves.

With the lucrative departures of Victor Wanyama, Gary Hooper and Kelvin Wilson netting the Club approximately £20 million from transfers – not to mention the intake of the same figure again (if not slightly more) from a run to the last sixteen of the Champions League – this was the time for Celtic to invest sensibly in the playing squad in order to slowly but surely continue to strengthen it in the medium to long term.

This did not happen.

Last year, we scraped into Europe’s premier club competition by the skin of our teeth, securing the vital financial benefits which accompany it, labouring past Elfsborg and Shakhter Karagandy by a single goal on each occasion. Critically, had it not been for some fortunate deflections or the woodwork, one of these sides would have knocked us out. With the benefit of hindsight, it is sometimes easy to forget how nerve-racking these fixtures were, with stagnant, lethargic performances eventually being heroically salvaged.  We were then comprehensively beaten by each of our group stage foes, save for a solitary home win against Ajax of Amsterdam. Once again, having seen how close we came to elimination during the qualifiers, the summer of 2014 was an opportunity to provide the manager with money to invest sensibly in the playing squad.

This did not happen.

Subsequently, having dispatched a fairly poor K.R. Reykjavik side without much difficulty, we all watched Celtic slump to a truly horrendous 4-1 away defeat to Legia Warsaw. In 1937, Celtic lost 8-0 to Motherwell a week after famously winning the Scottish Cup Final before the largest crowd a European club match has ever (officially) seen. This remains the heaviest defeat in the Football Club’s history, but had it not been for two squandered penalties and a remarkable last ditch save from Fraser Forster in Poland, Legia would have come fairly close to breaking a record which has stood for almost eighty years, such was the poor level of the Celtic performance. Having then been dispatched once again by the Poles at Murrayfield, we were then given a remarkable reprieve by a UEFA due to Warsaw’s inability to adhere to the rules, and found ourselves with yet another opportunity to invest in the playing squad in order to increase our chances of making it to the “promised land” of the Champions League group stages. These results were not so much a wake up call as a blaring foghorn to a ship rapidly approaching the rocks.

However, once again, this did not happen.


Photo courtesy of the BBC.


As I write this, we are yet to spend a solitary penny in terms of transfer fees this summer, with only days to go until the end of the transfer window (although Scepovic appears a possible purchase). We have brought in one free agent (albeit potentially a very shrewd one should he stay fit) and four loan signings (one of whom is still on the injury list and another who only arrived today), whilst waving goodbye to the best goalkeeper we have seen in years and pocketing another £10 million in the process. In fact, in the last three seasons, we have taken in £43 million from transfers whilst spending only £15.5 million on players, more than a third of which subsequently went on bringing Efe Ambrose (often an enigmatic liability), Amido Baldé (whom we rarely see), Leigh Griffiths (someone plagued with attitude issues) and Derk Boerrigter (seemingly unable to shake his injury concerns) to the Football Club. Perhaps then our scouting network should come in for some criticism too, as even the likes of £2.4 million signing Teemu Pukki have yet to bear much fruit.

Now, allow me to state that I have no desire to see Celtic spending money they do not have. As we have seen across the city, reckless expenditure can lead to disaster and, eventually, death. However, there is a world of difference between sensible, sustainable levels of investment and driving head on into an abyss. Yes, Rangers Football Club ceased to exist, but their financial mismanagement cannot be used as an excuse for us to hoard money which we appear to have no intention of spending. Equally, the aforementioned end of our rivals of old, amusing though it certainly was, does not and should not make our results of late acceptable.

The repeated failure of those in control of Celtic to back not only Ronny Deila but Neil Lennon before him with an appropriate level of funding is bewildering. In the past, I and many others have said “Celtic Football Club is a business”, but the opposite is also true and critically so, “The business is a Football Club”, and its success is inextricably linked to success on the field of play.

Granted, it is not easy to attract players to Scotland when truly exorbitant wages are often available elsewhere. The lure of potential Champions League football is often one of the few trump cards we possess when it comes to garnering an individual’s interest in signing for the Club, but without it this task becomes all the more difficult indeed.

It may sound somewhat clichéd, but Celtic is not and has never been an “ordinary” Football Club. As an entity, it means so much to so many people, whether they live within sight of the stadium or on the opposite side of the globe. Thousands upon thousands spend large amounts of their hard earned cash each year through their love of the Club; following the team across Scotland and Europe; buying tickets; purchasing shirts; running supporters’ clubs (some of whom travel large distances); filling their tanks with petrol and their stomachs with overpriced rubbish; but a love of Celtic is not only a financial investment for supporters, it is an emotional one.



Without the fans, Celtic Football Club would be nothing more than a corporate shell. The supporters are and forever will be the soul of the Club. We all have an emotional attachment to the Club which we cannot simply turn off or ignore, and in recent seasons it could be said the hierarchy have taken advantage of this fact, allowing the standard of football on offer to fall notably whilst continuing to ask the support to shell out the likes of £70 so their children can have a kick-about on a pitch which was subsequently ripped up and is currently being sold in cubes, a couple of inches across, for £49 each.

The lack of public relations which the fan base can relate to is staggering, with the likes of John Paul Taylor and Tony Hamilton being very welcome and notable exceptions.

The Celtic support are never happier than when their emotional and financial investments are rewarded by footballing success, and conversely when they are not, they have every right to complain about it.  Nobody expects Celtic to win every match they play. After all, the entire basis of the sport is that any team can, on their day, beat any other team – that is why it is loved the world over – but when advertising emails drop into your inbox in the hours following a painful defeat, or attempts are made to justify various pricing schemes by using a Twitter hashtag such as “#Because”, I for one cannot blame those members of the Celtic support who have become disillusioned in recent years.

For the sake of clarity, I do not wish to portray every aspect of Celtic Football Club as a negative, this article is simply a reaction to recent events. Like many others, I am frustrated, disappointed and angry.

The Club’s charity foundation is magnificent – as are many of the individuals who work in various roles at Parkhead – and “The Celtic Way” would be the envy of many, but this only matters for so much, the success or failure of the football itself will always be the driving force which affects supporters’ mood above all else.

I do not think I am one to jump to conclusions (perhaps some of you may disagree with me there), but I can no longer ignore the feeling that change is now required at Celtic Park. All of the views expressed above reflect that feeling, but they are of no more importance or significance than those of any other Celtic supporter. Running a small website does not give me any more of a say than anybody else, but it does give me a platform to praise Celtic when I consider them to be praiseworthy and vice versa when I feel criticism is required.  For these reasons,  I would be interested to hear what you all think of the current situation at the Club.

In closing, I would like to reiterate my belief that although last night was indeed a comedy of errors, with the manager and the players having to shoulder some of the blame, it was the result of poor decisions stretching back over a significant period of time which really came back to haunt us. A result like this has been coming, we have danced with the devil and lost, and now poor attendances, early Thursday and Sunday kick-offs, and an increasingly disgruntled feeling within the support will likely follow in the months to come.

Radical changes are required at Celtic Park, both in terms of personnel and mentality. There is nothing to be gained from replacing one individual with a clone, and thus what I have discussed is much easier said than done. For example, I don’t think it would be too much to ask for Celtic’s majority shareholder, Dermot Desmond, to actually attend the Club’s Annual General Meeting this year.

In a decade which should have heralded in a great period of dominance for Celtic, as we pushed forward and left the rest of Scottish Football light years behind us, we have instead chosen to sit still, seemingly content with relative mediocrity. Caution has replaced ambition and drive. The continual desire to improve which should permeate every aspect of the Football Club is now sadly lacking in some quarters, and until it returns, our progression will be hindered. It’s time for a rethink.




Aug 172014
Celtic Supporters Celebrate Their Past And Look To The Future



Jim Craig and David Potter join Fergus McCann and others at the graveside of Celtic legend, Jimmy Quinn.


Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of attending the latest in an increasingly long line of events hosted by the “Celtic Graves Society” to commemorate Celts, both players and staff alike, who are no longer with us. Having been to a number of these now, the increase in the number of attendees has been a joy to behold, and I am sure the popularity of such gatherings will only lead to more and more people coming along in future.

Fergus McCann’s presence at both Kilsyth Cemetary and later at Celtic Park were very much appreciated by the majority of the support, and having helped to save Celtic Football Club in one of its darkest hours, I believe he was due each of the warm welcomes which he received.

As for the man we gathered to remember, I have no doubts that Jimmy Quinn would have been a footballing sight to behold had any of us been fortunate enough to have seen him play. Finishing his career with 216 goals to his name in 331 appearances for Celtic, he remains the Football Club’s second highest league goalscorer, second only to the indomitable Jimmy McGrory. Rightly so, he is often remembered for his sensational 1904 Scottish Cup Final hat-trick which dragged the Hoops back from two goals down to deny Rangers their second consecutive triumph in the tournament. However, there was so much more to the man who helped Celtic to a then record breaking six Scottish League Championships in succession, and I would urge anyone with an interest in the subject to read some of the litany of work which has been written about his exploits over the years. Trust me, you will not regret it, for the man was a Celtic legend worthy of a title which is perhaps banded about too often in the modern day.



Celtic Line-Up (Substitutes in brackets)


A few hours later, everyone at Celtic Park and all of those watching on television or computer screens around the world were treated to the best Celtic performance of the season so far. Few would have predicted such an assured performance and dominant scoreline prior to kickoff, especially when one considered that Dundee United have already registered victories against both Aberdeen and Motherwell so far this season, keeping clean sheets on both previous outings. However, those bold, optimistic few who predicted a big home victory were proven right in remarkable fashion, as Celtic drove their way forward to a six-one win. Goals from debutant Jason Denayer, Kris Commons and Stefan Johansen gave the Celts a three-nil lead at half time. Two of these three scores came from corner kicks, but one of the most fluent passages of play came in the run-up to Jo Inge Berget’s shot which crashed off the crossbar. As is illustrated below, clever interplay between the Honduran full-back Emilio Izaguirre and the Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen propelled the ball up the left wing, before a deft pass through the heart of the Dundee United defence from Anthony Stokes set up Berget, who was unlucky not to score his first Celtic goal.



Berget chance.


Critically, the team showed a determination and desire which has been missing at points during earliest days of the 2014-15 season, and this was reflected in the rousing standing ovation received by the home side as they strode off the field at half-time. Subsequently, instead of resting on their laurels and playing out the remaining forty-five minutes in a conservative manner, the Celts continued where they had left off, almost adding to their tally within minutes of the restart. Again, when the goals did arrive, two came from set pieces, with Anthony Stokes free kick beating everybody in the box and Jo Inge Berget powering home a header for his first Celtic goal sometime later. Finally, with only moments left in the tie, a breakaway started by Jason Denayer and James Forrest led to a second goal for Berget.



Berget’s second goal.


With every passing fixture, it is becoming clear that Ronny Deila is gradually beginning to stamp his mark on Celtic not only in the squads which he selects, but in the manner his sides attempt to play. These are likely the first small steps towards a distant footballing vision for the new Celtic manager, but after Saturday’s performance, few within the fan base will not be feeling more positive than they were a week or two ago. All in all, it was a fine day all around in Kilsyth and Glasgow, and now focus turns to Slovenia and Maribor. If the mood within the Celtic support is anything to go by, the players and coaching staff will have been buoyed by yesterday’s display as we all have. We can only hope that our reinstatement to the UEFA Champions League qualifiers will pay off.


Celtic celebrate one of six goals against Dundee United (Photograph courtesy of the Daily Mail).

Aug 112014
As a result of the news highlighted in the headline above, I have returned our website (which has recently been offline for maintenance and updates) to the public domain for a few days in order to publish the following article. I have attempted to summarise certain areas discussed within the article into the bulletpoints below for those of you who do not wish to read the following piece in its entirety.
However, in order for me to do this news and the events which have led us to this point justice, I have written the article below in an attempt to be as open as I possibly can be regarding the catering situation at Celtic Park, something I have been unable to do for sometime at the request of those involved with various contractual matters. Also, having read the article, I would ask for your thoughts and opinions on any and all matters discussed therein (here or on Twitter), as the views of the Celtic support are critical in this regard. I will also answer any questions and of you may have on Twitter as best I can. Thank you.
Please note, if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article and have not done so on our site previously, it will not appear until an administrator has been online and confirmed it is not spam. This may take a few hours in some cases.


Catering Improvements Promised For This Season?


  • Centerplate UK will now operate kiosks and say they are committed to improving match day experience
  • The UK branch of the American company recently acquired The Lindley Group
  • Centerplate UK will provide significant investment at Celtic Park
  • Refurbishments to be completed sometime around the end of this month, having been delayed by the Commonwealth Games
  • Much improvement has been promised, but whether or not this comes to fruition remains to be seen


In the coming days, Celtic Football Club will confirm that they have recently signed a new stadium catering contract with Centerplate UK (the UK branch of an American company), having previously worked with The Lindley Group for the majority of the last decade.

Over the last eighteen months, I have met with representatives of Celtic Football Club and The Lindley Group on numerous occasions, as well as arranging several larger scale supporters’ meetings, in an attempt to highlight our concerns regarding the continually poor standard of catering on offer to paying spectators at Celtic Park.

Around the turn of the year (2013/14), I made the decision to no longer attend any such meetings in which representatives of The Lindley Group were going to be present. I did so for the following reasons:

1. Having spent hours upon hours discussing supporters’ concerns – both in general terms and with regards specific incidents (in detail which extended to the relevant match days, kiosks and timings in question) – I felt such concerns were falling on deaf ears more often than not. This culminated in one discussion which saw me explaining an incident whereby a father was forced to take his child home only minutes into their first Celtic match together after the child began to vomit repeatedly, having previously eaten a catering product which his father claimed was still frozen at points in the middle.

Subsequently, I was told by a senior member of The Lindley Group that as no incident report was filed by the father on the day, they could not take any action as there was no proof that the event ever took place. I considered this to be wholly unacceptable and, whilst I refrained from simply getting up and walking out of the meeting, from that point on I felt I could no longer maintain a healthy working relationship with The Lindley Group.

2. I knew Celtic’s contract with The Lindley Group was set to expire at the end of the 2013-14 season, and had been told the Football Club intended to put any deal for the following season out to tender. In this sense, I felt a victory of sorts had been achieved.

3. Representatives of The Lindley Group told me in no uncertain terms that issues such as pricing could not be altered mid-season, and thus no amount of arguing by myself could change that in the remaining months of the season. I therefore felt there was nothing more I could do until the summer.

Before continuing, for the sake of clarity, I must take this opportunity to mention the two employees of Celtic Football Club with whom I met regularly, David Stothers (General Manager) and John Paul Taylor (Supporters’ Liaison Officer). Speaking personally, I cannot praise either of these two gentlemen highly enough with regards their professionalism over the last eighteen months. During this time, they have both been incredibly helpful, accommodating and honest with myself and all of the other supporters involved at one stage or another. For this, I owe them and the Football Club my gratitude.

Returning to the matter at hand, whilst meeting occasionally with the aforementioned representatives of Celtic Football Club as the 2013-14 season gradually came to a close, I largely left the catering subject alone, simply waiting for The Lindley Group’s time to run it’s course.

However, during the summer of 2014, I became aware of Celtic’s intention to sign a new catering contract with Centerplate UK – Centerplate having acquired The Lindley Group a little over a year earlier with the aim of combining their UK operations and rebranding this conglomerate as Centerplate UK.

Now, as I’m sure you will understand, my immediate reaction upon hearing this news was one of disappointment and frustration, having spent the last year actively attempting to dissuade Celtic Football Club from having any future involvement with The Lindley Group. I also had the impulse to immediately tweet this information. However, at the request of Celtic, who had both legal and contractual issues in mind, I respectfully refrained from doing so.

Of course, now that the contract has been signed and I have informed the Club of my intention to do so, I can publicise that piece of information, as well as offering as frank an account of what has gone on over the last eighteen months as I can.

In truth, I still hold several reservations regarding the connection between Centerplate UK and The Lindley Group of old, albeit there has been some significant changes in the structuring of the company’s hierarchy and the new contract requires Celtic’s caterers to meet much higher standards than that outlined in their original agreements with The Lindley Group. I must also highlight that Celtic are treating Centerplate UK as a new company.

However, reservations aside for the moment and having seen more detail regarding Centerplate UK’s plans for Celtic Park, I am quietly hopeful we will begin to see things improve in the first couple of months of this season.

With the significant level of investment in facilities being made by Centerplate UK, various kiosks – the vast majority of which will be given a makeover both aesthetically and functionally – should offer Celtic supporters a broader product choice than that which was available in previous seasons, with everything from soup and stovies to fish and chips on offer, and even Domino’s Pizza if you happen to have access to the lower tier of the North Stand.

Kiosks within the upper tier of the North Stand and the South Stand as a whole will be the first to see such improvements, with other areas following in the coming weeks. Both parties had hoped to see such refurbishments completed across the stadium prior to our first home game, but the presence of the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony at Celtic Park has delayed this process slightly. As an aside, it is noteworthy the upper tier of the Lisbon Lions Stand will be the last area of the ground to be addressed as it is not currently open for most home matches.

Certainly, if the rhetoric from Centerplate UK is to be believed, queues at Parkhead should begin to move faster, customer service improve and product quality rise notably. Should these improvements happen, I have no doubts that they will be roundly welcomed.

However, one matter of potential concern which I am afraid I cannot elaborate upon at this time is that of pricing, despite having asked the question during my last meeting at Celtic Park. I suppose then this will only become clear on Saturday 16th August when Celtic play at home for the first time in the 2014-15 season.

I have previously asked Celtic, in conjunction with Police Scotland and their stewards, to provide me with a list (agreed on by all parties) of food/drink items which fans are allowed to/prohibited from bringing with them into the stadium in order to clarify such matters. I have yet to receive such a list, but I will be attending a meeting in the next few weeks where this matter will be addressed. I shall publish this list once I have attended this meeting and received it. For those supporters who are not in a financial position to purchase products inside the ground, or simply for those who do not wish to, I felt this was the least I could do on their behalf.

I have also spoken with the Football Club once again regarding plans to potentially use much of the leftover food from match days in order to help the homeless people of Glasgow. Initially, such proposals were rejected by The Lindley Group, who cited both health and safety regulations as well as several other logistical matters among their reasons. However, Celtic remain open to ideas and are committed to putting some level of planning into action in the relatively near future in conjunction with Centerplate UK, who have been more receptive to the idea than their predecessors, which is encouraging.

As for my own role up until this point in time and any future involvement of mine, I will leave that to yourselves. Many of you may recall this whole saga spawned from an online survey which I, perhaps naively, never thought much would come of. I certainly did not expect thousands of people to reply and subsequently to be writing about it eighteen months on.

Now, whilst I am ready and willing to continue to attend meetings with the Football Club in order to relay any concerns which supporters may have to them, I am also aware that I have no divine right to do so. I hold no official role and possess no official mandate, I have simply worked on the back of a survey which was very strongly supported in an attempt to accelerate some level of change and improvement at Celtic Park.

With a new contract signed and a significant level of investment forthcoming in accompaniment, a change of sorts has come, but whether or not any rise or fall in standards will be apparent remains to be seen. With this in mind, I feel I must ask you all for your thoughts. If a significant number of you wish me to continue as is for new season then I will, but if the majority of you would rather see someone else take up the reins then I shall happily allow them to do so.

In closing, I sincerely hope that both Celtic Football Club and their new partners Centerplate UK listen to the views of the Celtic support and accommodate them as best they can. For too long, football supporters have been served up varying levels of dross at matches across the country purely because the stereotype which dictates that football food is generally poor allows caterers to drop their standards in order to increase their profits.

Nobody expects fillet steak or lobster at Celtic Park, only reasonably priced, well prepared products of a good quality. When fans of all ages and backgrounds are handing over their hard earned cash on a regular basis within an enclosed retail environment, I feel that is the least we should demand.

Thank you.

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