Yet, the ‘what’s it like to live in fear’ chants created a paradox of sorts. Whilst the chants had a sinister undercurrent that were handled with a wonderful act of insubordination, the chants themselves could be turned back at the protagonists. It seems as though, with each passing moment of this truly unforgettable football season, the ones living in fear are those very supporters whose cruel mockery led to idiotic complaints about one man standing up to a crowd of faceless taunting.
The Rangers supporters are in fear of Neil Lennon, without a molecule of doubt. It was not supposed to be like this. The stage was set for Nosurname’s swansong, a parade of glory as he easily swept past another new Celtic team, ensuring a fitting retirement present that the whole country could celebrate. Except this widespread view did not bank upon a man who inspires so much animosity within the cloudy mist of society’s broken morals. They are fearful because Neil Lennon, of all people, could stop the dignified retirement party. Not only that, he could stop the party by assembling his own team, a team schooled in Celtic traditions, playing an exciting brand of football. The old order is being shattered like a broken mirror, causing Rangers to see a cracked reflection of what they once thought to be invincible.
Off the pitch, Rangers are the ones in fear. It was my first ever visit to Ibrox, and arriving five minutes before kick-off, it felt like I had stumbled into a forced, slightly embarrassing royal wedding party, where the home support were cheerily waving their mini union flags kindly supplied by the club in a week where being provocatively divisive was ill advised. They then merrily danced to Penny Arcade. In between chanting for the Celtic I looked up at the succulent lamb brigade, catching a nauseating glimpse of middle aged women dolled up and swaying like pathetic, trowel covered faces trying to recapture former glories. And this is the crux of the matter. Despite trying to create a false party spirit, the fear remained. Fear of the rebellious Celtic fans who are no longer the second class citizens that they were in the days where we could not get jobs in certain Scottish institutions because of our heritage. As the diaspora cast its net far and wide, the insular backwaters of Scottish society became an easier catch. We no longer sit back and accept our position in life, meekly offering gratitude to Scotland for accepting our families from generations past. With every dreadful beat of Penny Arcade, the fear remained. The longing to sing the songs that revelled in keeping us in our place, the yearning to remind us of the great hunger that still affects millions worldwide today. Those days, like the battles they yearn to recount in song, will soon be a mere postscript in their self-styled dignified but utterly shameful history. They wanted us to be kept apart in our own schools, and then criticised when we used this to educate in an effective and intelligent manner. No matter what we did, it was not good enough. The real issue here is that Rangers fans, and large facets of Scottish society, wanted us out. We were the immigrants who were not accepted, and they wanted us to go home.
For Celtic, season 2010/11 has been a watershed. Despite the expected backlash to Neil Lennon, we are now in a position where we cannot be bullied. For all those that may advise caution against Paul McBride, stating that he is a self-publicist, the point is being missed. A high profile, articulate QC is standing up to decades of bias from the SFA, highlighting once more that we are no longer willing to accept institutional bias, and reiterating the fear that is seeping through every bigoted pore of the more extreme factions of the Rangers support. Timmy is no longer in the corner with his head down; he is openly remonstrating against injustice, acts of defiance that stem from the manager himself. Even more so than Martin O’Neill, Neil Lennon has united a Celtic support that was fractured and devoid of passion under Mowbray.
Sadly, the rollercoaster of defiance that we have witnessed this season may itself be largely forgotten in years to come unless the league championship is won. To win any league title is a wonderful feeling, but to win under such pressing circumstances would be remembered until all of our dying breaths. To win the league after the manager has received multiple threats upon his life would not compensate for the fact that Neil Lennon’s being is encapsulated within a hate fuelled vacuum, rendering the rest of his days to be shrouded with the anxiety that there are those who seek to corrode his soul. However, winning the league would be the ultimate act of rebelliousness , an act that can never be shattered with the threats of death. Overcoming the odds instantly makes Lennon immortal, rendering those who are living in fear of him to be defeated. His ear cupping may have created feelings of fury, but for Rangers to receive no more cups after that ear cupping will ensure that Celtic’s season ends with the sweet sound of success. That will be their ultimate fear.