On Sunday 14 December 2014, just 11 days before Christmas, Celtic comfortably beat St Mirren scoring four goals or more for the first time since knocking six past Dundee Utd at the beginning of the season. It was one of the most satisfying and fulfilling days I have experienced as a Celtic supporter, yet this was not because of the four goals, good although there were, and it certainly wasn’t because of the weather, I was completely soaked to the skin. The fulfillment that day was the work I did for the Celtic charity or, its proper name the Celtic FC Foundation.
I was a bucket collector and coordinator on that day, arriving at Celtic Park at 11:00am when the wind and rain were at their peak. If you approach the ground from the North East side you may have seen me on the corner of the Lisbon Lions stand and the North stand. So what was fulfilling?
Certainly it was fulfilling and uplifting to be part of a club that, despite not benefiting from a £5bn TV deal still sees at one of its core objections to work within the local community where it has its routes. More fulfilling however were the people I met that day.
Standing as a coordinator in the wind and rain with fellow Celtic supporters jangling our buckets for whatever change people could afford so close to Christmas, I saw a small older gentleman carrying his bucket making his way around behind me. Late to go up to the collection party I thought I better check to ensure that this elderly gentleman knew where he was going. He most certainly did. As I approached I realised it was former Chairman Brian Quinn, in his late seventies and wrapped up to the elements. Mr Quinn had requested not to be where his place was reserved in the executive lounges but outside in the wind and rain with the supporters. When I asked Mr Quinn if he knew were he was going, he informed me that he did and also said “isn’t this wonderful. This is what our Club is all about”.
It certainly is what our Club is all about. The guy who came and put £5 in my bucket only to leave because he had a prior engagement and meant he couldn’t attend the match and was only coming to put the money in the bucket. That’s the Celtic Football Club that I’m proud of. In fact every supporter that day who put whatever pennies they could (and there was certainly a few notes) is part of the Celtic Football Club that I am proud of.
All of these factors lightened the heart on a wet cold day however there was one special moment, which really made everything I did that day worthwhile. Shouting and jangling my bucket I heard a young boy cry “where’s the man with the money?” No more that six or seven years of age this young boy was pointed in my direction by his dad, I knelt down to allow him to put his change in my bucket. The young Down’s syndrome boy was going into the ground to see his heroes but as he put his change in my bucket then asked for and gave me a huge hug little did he realise he was my hero that day.
Over the last period the volume of discontented Celtic fans bemoaning the lack of connection between the club and its fans has been increasing. The phrase I often hear is that the disconnect between the fans and the club has never been wider, that the club is further away from the ideals of its founding fathers than ever before and whilst history can often shed a light on the present, interpreting the actions of the past into the needs of the present is often done via the prism of our own perceptions. There are many things wrong with the club, on field performances and poor PR would be towards the top of my list. What people at the foundation do to fulfill our obligations of the past cannot, in my view, be questioned.
The great thing about being a Celtic supporter is the joy of the moment at a game and the pride we have in our history. We were formed 127 years ago as a charitable club. I was at the “Heroes of ‘86” event last night at Celtic Park, an evening when once again the Foundation used the celebration of our achievements on the park to fund the their excellent work off it. Overtime many things have changed at Celtic and in society, the work of the Celtic FC Foundation ensures that whilst we are still celebrating the joy of the moment of every Celtic victory on the park, off the park we can still celebrate its history in its continuation of the charitable ethos of the Foundation.