That comment really made me think. As the night wore on and I watched him go about his duties, puffing out his cheeks and generally looking as if he was carrying the whole of Paisley on his shoulders, I had a mini-revelation as a Celtic supporter. What I saw on his face was pain. A very specific pain. I recognised it from personal experiences, from friends, I had seen and felt it more times than I cared to remember. This may sound terribly naive, but I had never conceived that the kind of pain that this beautiful curse of supporting Celtic sometimes brings, is something that supporters of the ‘wee daft clubs’ feel. This devotee of the humble St. Mirren, cared, feared and hurt for his club just as we do for ours. I felt a strange mixture of guilt and joy. I felt guilty for a few reasons. The first was that, well, this guy’s club has REAL problems and I’m moaning about being knocked off the top spot as being akin to potential relegation. I felt guilty because I had assumed that guys don’t care about their club the way I, and people like me, care about the famous Glasgow Celtic. They do. Okay, there are far fewer of them, but they feel it just as intensely. Okay, their club may not carry the socio-cultural gravity of ours, but if you boil it down to what those 11 guys do on the park, we feel the same things and our hurt or joy is not more valid than theirs.
But, it was in seeing the turmoil of a non-Celtic fan, that made me think about just how special our club is and how fortunate I am to be a part of it. I thought about that magic article written after Wednesday by Mr. Happy on Etims, “Pass The Parcel”. I thought about the solace that we can take in our heritage as Celtic supporters in times of hurt. We’ll point to the times in our history when we’ve triumphed against the odds. We’ll say “Keep the faith, we’re still Celtic”. Just being ‘Celtic’ in itself having a great significance not only in victory, but also in defeat. We take solace in the fact that we are part of a great community, a great history and a great family. We see the big picture with regards to our incredible club. We get perspective. I call it ‘The Celtic Perspective’.
But what does the St. Mirren fan do? He can’t talk about the triumphs of ’57, ’67, ’88 and so on. He can’t fire on a 4 hour long DVD of the history of his club. He can’t watch endless re-runs of the most beautiful goals scored by the shining stars of the game who have worn his club’s jersey. He can’t marvel at the worldwide community that his club has forged. He probably hasn’t, as I have, seen his team’s strip worn on 5th Avenue in New York, and heard testament of similar stories from far-flung corners of the globe. All he has is the here and now, the pain, the harsh realities of supporting a provincial football club. We, on the other hand, are spoiled for this kind of glory.
So, with this perspective, I turned my mind to the reaction to Wednesday night’s defeat. Now, supporters react to Celtic all but throwing away the league title in different ways. It’s safe to say that initially, for varying lengths of time, we all want to curl into the foetal position in the vague hope of waking out of this living nightmare while screaming “Why God why?!”, even if we don’t all actually carry it out. But once this initial horror has passed, we will each resort to our individual attitudes. Some are hopeful, some resigned, some philosophical and some start to take solace in just being Celtic. Those people have perspective. They have the Celtic Perspective. Others, unfortunately don’t have perspective. These guys turn into the worst kind of sensationalist, knee-jerk, blame-culture ‘fans’ that would be more suited to a top 3 EPL club. I saw them online and I heard them on radio phone-ins. So, to the contemptible pond-life among our support who were calling for Neil Lennon’s removal as Celtic manager, I say this: You know nothing of the game. And if I didn’t know better I would suspect you know nothing of the club. Save for a couple of small margins, Celtic could have won a domestic treble this season. This was in Lennon’s first season as a senior manager and was played out against a backdrop of hatred from all directions, of the SFA and Scottish media endeavouring to degrade him, of terrorism and attempts on his life. He has galvanised us and united us. The Club has found something that has the potential to be great and we should be embracing it entirely. It will bear fruit, of that I’m certain. Nobody should turn on our team or manager at this stage. Their frailties are clear, but they are few, and I’m sure Lenny sees them too. And he will deal with them. We obliterated teams on many occasions this year with some quite breathtaking play. After a harsh early season lesson against Those Born Of A Jackal, we bossed them on what felt like a weekly occurrence. There were some great, iconic moments as Celtic supporters this season, and even if we’re not holding that trophy next Sunday, I will applaud and cheer Neil Lennon for the extraordinary efforts he has made this season, with hope in my heart.
At the time of writing, it seems less and less likely that we will be champions this year, although I will keep the faith. However, if we do lose out, keep the Celtic Perspective. Remind yourself we took a massive step in the right direction this year. When your friend, brother, sister or wean are staring at the ground, dejected, put your arm around them and say “Hey, don’t worry, we’re still Celtic, and we’ll be back”. For me, that will always be something to cheer about. And I know that this willingness and ability to find joy, even in the most painful defeat is the part of The Celtic Football Club that nothing or no-one will ever beat.