The early 90s, were dark times for Celtic fans, by this time I was working at sea in the merchant navy. In the tradition of life at sea, the profession was full of 3 breeds of folk, Glaswegians, Scousers, Geordies. All total fanatics about their respective teams, I had started training with a boy who ended up being a great pal of mine. His name was Mick, from a mixed religion marriage but raised in the Church of England.
Mick despaired over this because all the best teams in Merseyside where the catholic schools, he pleaded with his folks to change school to enable him to get on for county trials etc but it wasn’t to be. I had known him a year 4 months before he let slip his uncle was part of the Souness regime, and told me various stories about players and how they sneaked in from nights out on a Saturday morning, with tales that would make a certain ex-Celtic player with blonde hair from the Milton blush.
To his credit he did get me 4 tickets for a Glasgow Derby once at Ibrox, free of charge his Wee Ma a lovely woman got me them for the Bad End, unaware that unlike Merseyside derbies of old we all didn’t stand together in each others end!
Mick chucked the sea after a 6 month cruise round the Caribbean, met a girl and settled down. We somehow managed a night out in Liverpool one all day Saturday hitting Flannigan’s, seeing Peter Hooton from the Farm, then heading down Scottie Road!!!! (Scouse Gallowgate). During the drunken night, him and his wee pal Tony decided they would love to visit Glasgow, so we are in the car the next afternoon heading for a bank holiday Sunday night in the big city.
The problems started to arrive when the 2 guys from East Kilbride couldn’t put Mick and Tony up and they had to crash at my Ma and Da’s, no problem apart from the house rules.
1. No watching Father Ted (slagging the chapel off!!!) when the main man tragically died, I told my father and his quote was “Thats what you get when you slag the chapel!!”
2. No card playing its the devils work.
3. No Scousers in the house!!! (due to my Da being spat on by Liverpool fans in the 1960’s when we were robbed in Europe down there.)
With having family in London and the thrill and hard to purchase thrill of English strips me and the brothers always had an English team, for me it was Spurs because of Hoddle. Pope Paul was always Man city, alas Party bhoy our Gary was always Man Utd like my old man. So after a mad night in Bonkers we sneaked back to my folks with kebabs in hand, I put the lads in the Man Utd bedroom, granted it was pitch black and they didn’t see the Brian Robson posters with the Jesus eyes following them round the room.
So its bank holiday Monday in the house, a few misty heads and that was just my parents, my old man cigar in mouth had the lads breakfasts on, the boys entered the living room at 9am to a fry up, and can of export. They hadn’t spoken and my old man hadn’t asked where they were from, the ‘Cheers La’ from both when handed the beer had my old mans eyes nearly pop out his heed. I jumped up saying this is Anthony and Michael, which made him relax a little, little did he know that both confessed to wearing half and half r?ngers/Liverpool hats in the Kop. Breakfast and beers were finished and I asked the boys what they wanted to do before they left at 4pm to go back to lala land.
They fancied a tour round the stadiums of Glasgow, we jumped in the Oldco fan pal who couldn’t put them up’s car, and headed to Hampden. It was still the old Hampden and the Scousers were baffled by the roofing arrangement. I explained about how cup finals we always got our end blah blah blah. They were totally uneasy with the fact we didn’t get the covered end when oldco werent in the final and we were, I just shrugged my shoulders and said thats how it is up here.
So to Ibrox, Mick told of the good old days when his Uncle worked there and he enjoyed the food and fine wine, the driver who said he was at Ibrox every week took a panic attack saying he only watched the games on the telly. So I went up to the ex-Military type fella with white gloves on doing security and asked if the lads could have a walk around, the outside of the building. I was told no chance, I then explained who one of the lads was, ex-staff members nephew. The squeal of feck off still haunts me nearly 20 years to the day. So it was off we went in the car to a wee place in the east end we all know and love.
By this stage the Scousers being good left-wing minded folk like some Glaswegians were starting to regret their days of mix hats in the Kop, we pulled up on the London Road, at the time the Jungle was just being seated. we walked up to the main door, and started to walk round to the old school. It was at this stage a wee Irish Navy gaffer came up to us and asked who I was, I told him I had two boys Tony and Mick up from Liverpool doing a wee tour and explained what had happened at Ibrox.
To my amazement the wee man said “follow me”, he then just lowered a fence, and we started walking onto the pitchside at Celtic Park.
He then looked at our feet seen we had trainers on and said “go on the pitch if you want”, feck me I was off running right on to the centre circle, I made it back on to the pitch a year later when U2 played, but it was covered up and full of people.
To be stood on the pitch, where so many heroes of us all had stood, gazing into a terraced Jungle, still makes me smile to this day. The two Scousers never looked back, and even the Oldco fan came on the pitch, no words were said afterwards. Two guys were converted that day, it wasn’t done by graphs, media spin or corporate lunches. It was the lovely manners of a wee Irish man, who would find favour with the man there is a statue outside the ground of today. So after a sneaky Guinness in the Great Glen Bar in Rutherglen (now gone). The Scousers headed home baffled at the injustice, but thrilled at being on the pitch, not as much as me though.
Hail Hail The Parrot (twitter @machrie72)