Pat Joke Isn’t Funny Any More
It has of course not always been like this. As a youngster living in England I took a certain pride that this diminutive, tricky Chelsea winger was ‘one of us’. I was too young to appreciate his indie coolness but he certainly stood out – for all the right reasons – as someone different to the norm. His affection for Celtic was as well stated as it was reciprocated.
Back in early months of 1988 “Celtic daft” Pat – ever eager to polish his left-field reputation – granted an interview to Not The View (Issue 4). In a question and answer session the Scotland international spoke of his pride in supporting Celtic and laid out his anti-racist credentials. He told of the sick racist chanting he had heard from Rangers fans when he played against the Ibrox club in a friendly. Nevin admitted too his disgust at the racist element among the Stamford Bridge crowd, but insisted it was a minority problem and most Chelsea followers were “brilliant”.
Ironically this particular edition of NTV revealed that racism was far from confined to Ibrox or the Kings Road. In an angry editorial the NTV team fiercely condemn the racist abuse recently aimed at Rangers’ Mark Walters from a section of the Celtic Park support. There’s no excuses, just a passionate attack on the morons who shamed and betrayed the reputation and roots of our club. It was a typically admiral stance from a fanzine which to this day retains the same zero tolerance against bigotry as it did in it’s very first issue.
In the following years Nevin would return to the pages of NTV with the occasional Christmas message for the fanzine’s readers and his fellow Celtic fans. In 1990, after his departure from Chelsea to Everton, the Merseyside club would guest in a summer friendly at Parkhead. The pre-match build up saw Pat pop-up in the Celtic View, telling us about his adoration for Jimmy Johnstone and his excitement at the prospect of playing on the hallowed Celtic Park turf.
But after failing as Director of Football at Motherwell Pat also had a new career in the Scottish media to consider. Could you be a Celtic supporter and still enjoy a high-profile and lucrative broadcast career in Scotland? Seemingly, the answer for Nevin was ‘No’. Before you could say ‘Lights, camera, action’ the Bhoy Pat became Nevin the Hi-Bee.
It was a sudden reinvention which left Celtic fans scratching their heads. Just how did this happen? Well, it appears Pat – his moral compass warped by the magnetism of a media career – could no longer tolerate sitting beside the likes of you and I. The songbook of the Celtic support was simply insufferable and he had no option but to move on. Pat was made of a finer moral fibre than those of us who take our seats in Parkhead. He was better than us and while such a stance enhanced his media standing he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to remind us of this superiority.
Nevin said: “I found myself sitting in the stand with my son, who had started to take an interest in football, hearing the song ‘Ooh ah, up the RA’. I could not accept bringing up my son alongside that, so I was driven away from the club that I loved. I was very disappointed about that.”
He mourns the loss of the Jungle and subsequent impact on the Celtic Park atmosphere. He describes how as an opposition player he became aware about the regular contentious decisions awarded to Celtic by officials. He recalls his shock at the willingness of the Parkhead faithful to accept the brand of football provided by Martin O’Neill. A style of football he describes as a ‘slightly more sophisticated’ version of Wimbledon. Make your own judgement about what that description says about Nevin’s credentials as a “football expert”.
At the turn of the millennium Nevin embarked on his ultimately disastrous reign as Motherwell’s Director of Football. He was tasked with turning the Lanarkshire club into Scottish football’s third force. Instead he saw them to the brink of administration before eventually walking out. But the Steelmen weren’t the only club Nevin was eager to desert.
Nevin tells Purden of a visit by Celtic to Fir Park and how his attention was drawn to the noisy visiting support. The man who just a couple of page previously was mourning the demise of the Jungle, said: “I heard the IRA chanting……it came as a real punch in the face.” He added: “This was just about the time my son was getting into football…He loves Chelsea but wants a Scottish team…by that time I thought it’s not going to be Celtic.”
He said: “Before the game had started I thought ‘This is it, one hundred per cent’….everybody around started talking about Iggy Pop and David Bowie…it was just a bunch of working class lads who I could hang around with. The ideology of the play was another pull for me…even if you leave Easter Road after getting beat 3-2 you still see people walking out happy, they turn to their pals and say ‘Did you see that flick?’ or some goal or some silky bit of skill…you wouldn’t get that at Celtic Park now.”
For Celtic supporters though there are more serious concerns about Mr.Nevin. If Pat was really so sickened, so upset at these chants from some of his fellow Celtic fans why didn’t he protest? Why didn’t such a self-styled man of principle stand and fight his corner? He would hardly have been a lone voice. Indeed, given the relatively recent ‘ Bhoys Against Bigotry’ campaign the club would surely have welcomed such a high profile supporter (ambassador?) for their work.
If Nevin’s morals prevent him from supporting Celtic it seems strange he now supports a club where some fans believe ‘refugee’ is a fitting term for abuse and homophobia is regarded as terrace banter. It’s equally surprising he has no issue with his son supporting Chelsea. A support who in the midst of the recent Anton Ferdinand/John Terry controversy despicably chanted: “Anton Ferdinand, you know what you are.”
Not for a single second would I suggest Nevin condones any of this. I’m sure it sickens him. But he hasn’t walked away from Hibernian. He hasn’t stopped his son following Chelsea. But why would he? After all in the 1980s when the Londoners were gaining an unenviable reputation as being among the most racist fans in football Pat had no qualms about taking their shilling. Likewise, he had no issue taking the money of the Nazi-saluting thugs that make up a section of the Motherwell support.
What would Nevin gain from adopting the same defiant stance he took against Celtic with these clubs?
Nothing. Hence his allegiance to Hibs and Chelsea remains solid and unquestioned. In contrast his denouncement of his Celtic roots have allowed for a blossoming media career. That he is slandering your reputation in the meantime is irrelevant. Indeed he seems to revel in it as it is clearly the key to opening many doors.
During the BBC’s coverage of the 2011 Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Motherwell, Nevin and host Rob McLean condemned and apologised to viewers for the “sectarian” songs of the Celtic support. In many ways it was an unprecedented move by an organisation which – in its own silence and employment practises – had more than played it’s part in allowing anti-Catholicism to fester unchallenged in Scottish football and wider society. More pertinently their “apology” was based on their own lie.
Recalling the incident Nevin told the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee: “The song went something like, ‘As a young man, I’m going to join the IRA – provisional wing’. It offended me and I do not want to hear it at a football ground. I was shocked and surprised that Celtic Football Club and a great number of fans complained to the BBC.”This isn’t an article about the rights and wrongs of such songs but whatever Boys of the Old Brigade is – including add ons – it is not sectarian. Whether Nevin’s evidence is correct or not, at the very least, it highlights the dubious nature of the BBC’s claim of “sectarian” chanting. A claim so disingenuous in fact that when the BBC received the complaints Pat was so “shocked and surprised” about they ordered its Outer Party to quickly re-write the Newspeak dictionary to include the term ‘PoliticalSectarianism’. They literally had to invent an offence to justify their original accusation.
Nevin’s involvement in this sordid episode perhaps represents the low point thus far in his self-mythologising at the expense of Celtic fans. What 2012 will bring us is anyone’s guess. But it is inevitable we will no doubt see and hear a lot more of Nevin and I doubt he’ll restrict himself to making basic errors about football. Perhaps we’ll even see him at the Barrowlands when The Charlatans tour their ‘Tellin’ Stories’ album in June. A band with that name, playing that album is surely right up his street.