In the mid nineties, as a forty something young man, his real football playing, (reasonable standard Saturday afternoon) days were ebbing away. His role within the team had regressed/progressed from mainstay centre forward through player coach to coach, to, in extremis; pull on the substitute strip as required, to coach. Personal circumstances and job location changes necessitated alterations to his rourine, meaning one’s coaching days were numbered and he had to pass on the reins of his team to another. His football playing was now restricted to Sunday League soccer and over 35s matches, releasing him to indulge, to a far greater extent, in his passion for watching his beloved Celtic play football in the magnificence that is Paradise.
My initial vantage point, (for it is I to whom , I refer above), at Celtic Park was from the lower Lisbon Lions but, having coached various teams team from the sidelines, I was naturally drawn to the Lower North Stand, for that side on view, all the while coveting a position behind Martin, Tony then Gordon in the South stand lower. Having an interest in coaching is not a desire that recedes quickly or easily, so I would find myself entering Paradise a good hour before kick off just to watch the players warm up and go through their training drills. A chance to glean any nuances that, were I to return to coaching, I could impact on my fledgling footballers.
I never did return to coaching but two things did arise out of this matchday experience. The first was my propensity to arrive very early to the Celtic Park environs, thereby obtaining the additional bonus of securing excellent parking just down Springfield Road. Such is the advantage of my parking position is that I can have Bournesouprecipe home within 20 minutes of the final whistle, wherein he can deliver his CQN match report at his leisure. (There will be more of BSR later, for he is a most important player in this tale). The second consequence of this habit forming behaviour of mine was that I got to see, close up and personal some the greatest, non Celtic, footballers ever to grace our hallowed turf.
On European nights I would scurry down to the front of the North Stand, there to witness the preliminaries of our continental guests, quite a collection of whom, one would rightly regard as world class, galacticos, supplemented by an array or European class luminaries. From this vantage point I witnessed the stars of Lippi’s Juventus, Mourinho’s Porto and Rafa’s Valencia through to Magath’s Stuttgart and Houllier’s Liverpool. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Bayern and Le Guen’s Lyon were forerunners to the might of Rijkaard’s Barcelona and Ancelotti’s Meelan.
These, dear reader, were heady days. As a spectating coach I originally was thrilled at the sight of such talents as Dugarry and Laslandes, Van der Vaart and Van der Meyde, only for them to be replaced by burgeoning talents of Carvalho, Postiga, Deco and Alenichev and the wonder of Del Piero and a young Trezeguet playing in front of reknowned stars in Buffon, Davids, Nedved and Thuram. How could we, Celtic compete against this measure of talent? In the Seville season we saw such as Kleb, Kuranyi, Gerrard, Smicer, Hamaan and Owen warm to their tasks before being banished to their respective homes defeated by the magnificent O’Neill, Seville squad.
Post Seville European nights, brought even greater talents to Paradise to test themselves against Celtic building an impressive reputation as a serious European force, particularly within the hallowed ground of Celtic Park. First the French and the German talents, augmented by the odd Brazilian arrived. So we had fabulous midfield of Malouda, Juninho Perambuco, Essien, Dhorasoo and Diarra eclipsed by Celtic before the Teutonic talents of Khan, Ballack, Schweinsteiger, supported by Pizarro, Lizarazu, Makaay and Santa Cruz were typically efficient.
Thereafter we witnessed the cognoscenti. Not only were these football superstars, in a truly world sense, but they also came to appreciate the magical aura that pervades Paradise on these European nights. The Dutch Barca of Cocu, Davids, Kluivert and Overmars were enthralled and enhanced by the discerning, magical talents of Iniesta, Xavi, Ronaldinho and Puyol. Not satisfied with that visit in March 2004, which had seen them vanquished 1-0, the Blaugrana returned revengeful in the winter of 2004, having replenished their magnificent squad with the additions of Deco, Guily, Eto’o, Messi and our very own King of Kings, Henke. It was during that earlier visit of 2004 however that I knew that I must gain that coveted seat in the South stand. As the rest of the Barcelona Illuminati were put through their paces pre match, the eye was drawn to the lone figure of Ronaldinho going through his own inimitable warm up of tricks and flicks, the ball constantly twirling and spiralling around his body, under his complete and consummate control. This display lasted for what seemed like an eternity as Ronaldinho performed, showcasing all his awesome ability within a few metres of those, lucky enough to be present, in the South Stand at 7.00pm on March 11th 2004. I had to; just had to, gain a seat in the Main stand.
On December 7th 2004, Carlo Ancelotti brought his, eventual beaten finalists, A.C. Milan, to Celtic Park on Champions League duty. I recall wondering aloud, “How can we, (Celtic,) cope with them”? The talent evident within the Milan ranks was spectacular. This was a seemingly endless array of true world class footballers. There was Cafu, Nesta and Maldini stretching, as Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka, Rui Costa and Ambrosini effortlessly passed intricately between each other. Hernan Crespo and Andrei Shevchenko gleefully blasted ball after ball into the Lisbon Lions stand rigging.
Once season 2004/2005 was completed, the planets aligned or the football gods conspired, something mystical occurred, I’m not sure what but Celtic FC, finally acceded to my yearly requests for relocation to the South Stand upper when they offered me my current seat in ES2, just to the right of the Press pack. From this position a new predilection was to form in the EC67 psyche, one that was to have profound effects, on not only himself, but also on a great many Celtic supporting associates. By coincidence others factors were also emerging from their early gestation periods to lead to an amalgamation of loosely connected events that conspired to produce a very interesting phenomenon.
<The new Eurochamps vantage point offered a completely new set of circumstances. When in the North Stand one would arrive at the turnstiles, enter the stadium and head to the pitch side. In the South Stand a whole new series of opportunity offered themselves. Before one got to the stadium you had to traverse Kerrydale Street, pass the old school and head up past the queueing crowds outside the ticket office towards the imposing Celtic Park main entrance. People did not merely pass on into their allotted positions within the confines. They stopped, conversed, people watched, created an ambience. On arrival at Kerrydale Street, one can often discern a distinct atmosphere, something in the air; a feeling. You could detect a positive or, indeed a negative vibe, just from being there.
This was different.
Once inside the ground, The stadium experience from ES2 offers a glimpse into the world of celebrity. The player’s lounge is immediately behind you, often populated with injured or suspended Celts eager to support their team mates. To the left of the player’s lounge is the Sky Studio, while to my immediate left is the press area. This area is a joy to behold when the hoops score, as the collective noun for a group of MSM churnalists, is surely a scowl, such are the contorted visages of the assembled hacks when good fortune favours the bhoys. Further to the left is the Director’s box, wherein one can espy any visiting dignitary, while all around are sat Celtic staff of various note. I have often pondered, before their promotion to the coaching squads, why I had a better seat for watching the game than Danny McGrain and big John Kennedy. With the staff of visiting squads dotted around the area ES2 there is always something to keep one occupied throughout the Paradise experience.
There is however an unfortunate downside to this as ole Eurochamps predilection for celebrity spotting has been transferred outwith the stadium to all surrounding areas and has indeed become a bit of a preoccupation as he casts his gaze far and wide , scanning the vista, ravenous for any glimpse of passing celebrity, no matter how fleeting the view or how lowly cast, the fame of the “personality” may be. I will admit to certain days of, having witnessed the great and good, exit the school gates, to walk the gauntlet to the promised land of the front door, thrusting myself forward, there to view, up close and personal, such luminaries as Kevin Bridges, Billy Connolly, Dermott Desmond, even the magnificent Sutton and Larsson emerging from the school gates. Brian Quinn, big Pete himself, Caesar, Tommy Boyd and countless others have exited through those same gates as they make their way into Paradise.
In an altogether different place Celtic supporters of various hues were developing their own Celtic experience. A young Paul Brennan was creating a global phenomena in the guise of Celtic Quick News, an internet blog that, for the first time ever, IMO, offered discerning Celtic supporters the chance to debate all manner of things Celtic and be offered well-considered, cogent, free thinking reflection on our position within Scottish football. This, in itself, was a terrific development. A totally brilliant innovative addition to the whole Celtic experience. However, it did not stop there. From this remarkable starting point a whole slew of Brother Walfrid, worthy initiatives erupted. CQNers developed an online persona. They developed various offshoots, the Friday night quizers, the Pablophanque music mob, the magnificent Kano foundation, the Fleagle horsey guys just to mention just a few.
The blog blossomed. The notion of what it meant to be Celtic supporters was beginning to be crystallised. The realisation of the Celtic family and what that meant began to grow. Largely because of Paul Brennan creating CelticQuickNews. We grew in many ways. The mobilisation of support to bring a stricken friend home from Australia captured many hearts, rightfully so. Later would come the Wee Oscar appeals, Mary’s Meals and The Ben Nevis huddles. In another development a group of CQNers headed by Taggsy, BlantyreKev and Johnnybhoy had created the CQN Golf Charity Day. Sannabhoy had created the Kano Foundation and others had realised the value in putting our community to good use, in a multitude of ways, to help others less fortunate than ourselves. All had a similar resolve, all selfless, all well intentioned.
I have been fortunate to meet many CQNers through attending some of these events. For example it came to pass that The Battered Bunnet, saddled with me as a golf partner at Aberdour, introduced me to the creator of CQN, Paul. Already barely able to able to contain my admiration I was introduced to Paul’s dad Martin, a beautiful man. My introduction to the CQNers , previously only known through the blog names, continued throughout the evenings, and subsequent mornings at the Cedar Inn. BlantyreKev, Taggsy, Johnybhoy, Curly or Lurcy, Rubicon, DougC, even BRTH and Burnley78. All made my acquaintance, before over breakfast, I encountered the colossus, that is DontbrakkbackinAnger. Having read this man’s comments over the years of lurking on the blog, I was afraid to approach such an insightful heavyweight in conversation, as I was so in awe of his intellect. Breakfast with DBBIA was an inspiring experience for me, as was our subsequent car journey back to Glasgow. The journey only lasted about 90 minutes but was replete with continuous conversation over a vast array of subjects with never an awkward pause to despoil the journey. Some of the most selfless men you could imagine, Gordon J, BJMac, Sannabhoy and Oldtim were all present as one by one the names on the blog had faces added to their moniker.
These were true Celtic men, part of a movement, part of a family. One was proud to be accepted as one of them, no less so today than away back then.
Paul has indeed facilitated a truly brilliant, creative phenomenon in Celticquicknews.
Celtic people had begun to make connections. All of a sudden we knew the people behind the names on the blog. That’s Sannabhoy that runs the Kano Foundation. Who would ever have imagined that the massive contribution of BlantyreKev came from such a diminutive frame? BJMac is a genuinely charming fellow and Rubicon just exudes quality. Forgive me if I , inadvertently omit stellar CQNers but, the greatest gift CQN afforded me was the opportunity to reconnect with Bournesouprecipe. Best man at his wedding, I, being a total plonker, had somehow managed to lose touch with the man who had been my friend since 1968. Recognising BSR’s literary and comedic writing style, through CQN, I managed to re establish our friendship, so now we attend all Celtic matches together.
I like to get to the game early, Bournesouprecipe likes to arrive one minute before kick off. Something had to give. As I do the driving BSR has had to change his match day experience to arrive early, so as to indulge my, now established pre match celebrity watch.
I recall seeing the big cars, with the blacked out windows, entering the security guarded gates of the old school. Who was in these vehicles? Who exited these school yard walls? On a good day you may see injured squad players ambling through the crowds, happy to stop to be photographed with the fans. One day, Jim McInally was standing next to BSR and I, when along came the world-class Danny McGrain for a chat, (to Jim, not us). Not long had elapsed before an excited middle-aged man approached ex Celt McInally with his mobile phone, “sorry mate, any chance you can take a photie of Danny an me? Ta mate”. Oblivious to the identity of the celebrity snapper, the delighted souvenir hunter departed leaving Mr McInally to good humouredly ponder that there are ex Celtic players and there are ex Celtic legends. Soon friends, made at the various CQN events, would arrive to quiz me over my latest sightings, gently ribbing me of my hero worshipdom. I once made the mistake of stating that I had seen Dean Park, much to my ribald associates’ delight. ( no offence Dean). Oh how they laughed when I incorrectly identified a passing Rock star as the lead singer of The Verve, when indeed it was Glasgow’s own Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. I didn’t even know the name of The Verve guy as I gesticulated excitedly in his general direction.
However there is a point to all this celebrity spotting nonsense. My desire for tenuous celebrity association meant that several of my CQN friends always knew where BSR and I could be found, should they wish to find us. As chance would have it Celtic FC were in the process of honouring three of our club’s greatest “celebrities” or legends, in the form of erecting statues in their honour. Brother Walfrid, Jock Stein and Jimmy Johnstone stand proudly in front of our magnificent stadium. Many Celtic supporters made the journey up Kerrydale Street just to gaze upon the triumvirate and have their pictures taken beside these three men embedded in Celtic history and folklore. It is a connection seen time and again. People of like-mindedness communing at a place of terrific resonance in their lives. A place where one feels all the warmth and comfort of being part of something unique and special. Part of the family, the Celtic family.
As a group, however, we are not immune to the odd irreverence or general pisstake. So as we gathered in 2011 before our three sculptured heroes, speculation grew as to who would be the fourth person to be exalted and immortalised in stone or bronze. Various half serious suggestions soon gave way to the more ridiculous, personal preferences and soon our very own CQN blogosphere stars were nominated as genuine possible recipients of this magnificent accolade. Your own personal statue outside Paradise. Bournesouprecipe was, of course, nominated for his humourous contributions to the blog but was quickly dismissed as he himself felt that the pressure to perform and be funny, at all times, would be too great a burden to bear. Paul was an obvious choice but our leader’s humility would ultimately preclude him from accepting the award. BRTH was also nominated but then it was pointed out that the upkeep of his monument would be too onerous to maintain. This of course, refers to the fact that any statue of BRTH could not be considered lifelike or realistic unless there was a constant diatribe emitting from it and we felt sure that the technology did not exist to replicate the verbosity of the original.
Finally agreement was reached on the name of the CQNer most likely to be honoured for time in memorial at the gates of Celtic Park. The man who dissects life’s complicated issues and reduces them to manageable, easy to understand statements,so best for the readers of the great CQN blog to make sense of. The man who succinctly encapsulates all that goes on in Planet Football in Scotland and explains to us less knowledgable folk in words of few syllables. The man of spectacular footwear and haute couture. Magnificent haberdashery and timeless elegance and a pretty nifty golfer into the bargain. The unbelievably gifted Battered Bunnet.
There was however one tiny,but possibly, insurmountable problem; the Glasgow weather! The Battered Bunnet is not a man to be rained upon, never mind hail hail, wind and snow. How would we cope? How would he cope? How best to keep his fags dry? I have, dear friends to confess that it was I who solved this latest conundrum. Were we to erect a statue celebrating the magnificence of The Bunnet, ( I, possibly erroneously, consider myself close enough to him to allow me to refer to him thus), then we must also protect and preserve the monument. We must provide shelter for The Battered Bunnet statue in the form of a Gazebo.
One may note that at no time has the precise location of the statue of our esteemed friend, TBB, or indeed of the protective, Gazebo, been mentioned. The exact nature of the Gazebo has also hitherto been omitted. There is a reason for that and it will be revealed in Part Two of The Ethereal Entity. Suffice to say that since big Jock’s statue was unveiled in 2011, when like-minded friends arrange to meet, they simply agree to convene at the Gazebo.
em>EC67So it came to pass that in 2011, into the CQN lexicon, came, the Gazebo. People arranged to meet there before games. This Ethereal Entity, this figment of a few fertile imaginations, this indescribable creation, known only to exist within the minds of some fairly unstable characters, took hold. People blithely referred to it as a real entity, something concrete,( not literally, obviously one would not wish for a soulless concrete Gazebo. That would just be ridiculous), as if it were a real thing. Not once was the actual existence of the Gazebo questioned. Normally intelligent, sane CQNers would attest to the existence of this invisible construct in conversation.
Debate raged as to the social structure contained within the non-existent feature. Was there a bar, was it a licenced premises? If so, who obtained the licence? Would the Gazebo be governed by local or national statute? Was it profit-making and if so, how best would we share in the good fortune? Obviously we decided that any profit derived from Gazebo activity would be directed towards nominated charities, in line with Brother Walfrid’s ethos.
There was the heated debate about whether or not smoking would be allowed within the dimensions of the cerebral construct that was the Gazebo. The anarchic wing of Gazebonian regulars felt that as there was no formal constitution governing the institution of the Gazebo, then members were at liberty to suspend the societal norms, dictated to us, by an increasingly authoritarian government, whereby we could create our own socialist commune where one was free to indulge in the inhalation of whatever noxious chemicals one wished, should you wish to do so. It says much for the persuasive powers of The Battered Bunnet, that he being the only smoker in the group, managed to gain the majority vote on allowing visitors to the Gazebo to smoke as and when they pleased.
We agonised over the effect the weather would have on our construct. Bournesouprecipe was set the task of Gazebo security. Were the forecast, (not a Jobo report on weather conditions), indicating particularly high winds, then a team was sent to Paradise to ensure that our structure remained in place, such became it’s prevalence in one’s hearts and minds. I do recall that on one occasion adherence to Gazebo duty had been slack, requiring a crack team of abseiling kayakers to retrieve elements of said edifice from the banks of the Clyde, not far from the ole whisky bond.
With the importance of the Gazebo to our Celtic support growing, the responsibility for its upkeep, became an increasingly important issue. Maintenance was required to ensure the greatest Gazebo experience for those wishing to visit. So it was that an impromptu timetabling exercise took hold. Myself and Bournesouprecipe usually opened up the Gazebo a good hour before kick off. BJMac was always an early entrant, usually with a swathe of youngsters , from out in the sticks, eager to be introduced to the Celtic way. BJMac often had to leave early to make his way his place in the stands, there to unfurl the Kano Foundation banner, but rarely before introducing us to yet another stellar name from the blog, or a friend from across the seas.
The naming of members of our unique Celtic family is an interesting concept in its own right. Gazebonians were not merely known by their Christian names, given upon their birth. No we named and categorised by our birthright. Therefore, Brian was BJMac, Carluke, “shamrock”, North Stand and I was, Eurochamps, Alex, ML3. South Stand upper. As the Gazebo community grew so did one’s required skills of recall.
The Gazebo has always had an Open to All, policy, whereby each and every member of the Celtic family enjoyed equal status and warmth of welcome. Therefore as the great BJMac departed maybe the DougC family would arrive or the O’Donnells, off the east coast. Some people just assumed responsibility. So it was that Goldstar10 became our very own ticket master, organising the group for away days. More importantly, the group shared responsibility for specialised ticketing, e.g. If one had visiting family they could rest assured that a ticket would be secured for the appropriate area of the ground. Some times old aquaintances would wander past, before stopping to enquire, “are you guys on CQN, ( usually a bit of a give away, each of us sporting our CQN badges), is this the Gazebo”? So it was that the Gazebo grew as like-minded people. I met MickTT for the first time, at the Gazebo as he gave me brief for a ticketless friend of mine from London, who had travelled up midweek for some European tie. Auldheid and BRTH wandered through to tell us of the latest updates re matters of import like resolution 12. Many CQNers pass through but always last to leave is the Tabtastic Battered Bunnet assuaging that last nicotine hit til the very last moment.
Many have enquired as to the exact location of the Gazebo. There is a straightforward answer to that logistical query but not necessarily the correct one. For the Gazebo is a movable feast not least on away days and celebrations when it can be found, by Hampden in the No.10 hotel, in Fife at Aberdour on golf days, in the Kerrydale Suite at CQN events, on all corners of Celtic Park where bucketeers converge and many more locations.
Now this may be a watershed moment for some but to take the following paragraph literally is really missing the point. The Location of the Gazebo originates from the top left of Kerrydale Street, at the edge of the old carpark, diagonally equidistant from the entrance to the old,ticket office, the pedestrian exit from the old school and the central gap in the rails for entrance to main door to Paradise. The fact that this location was deemed perfect for anyone with a penchant for celebrity watching is entirely incidental. It is/was an excellent spot to meet like-minded individuals. Now that the magnificent modernisation of the East end of Glasgow has provided us with the entrance to our great stadium we deserve, we are situated at the top of the Celtic Way. However to accept this last paragraph as gospel would be an error.
For this is the point. The Gazebo is not a physical construct of wood or bricks and mortar. It is a cerebral construct bourne in the hearts and minds of the people of the Celtic Family. It is the embodiment of men, women and children who hold the same values that Brother Walfrid espoused, that Paul67 through his blog continues to champion, that Sannabhoy and the Kano Foundation daily replenish. It is that spirit that glows within the very soul of our Celtic family. The willingness to hope and help, the compassion and comfort we afford each other, even just the hand offered and the smile reciprocated. The Gazebo is located wherever and whenever people of the Celtic family congregate. It is the kindred spirit that binds us together as only one who feels it would know and it sets us apart as an ethereal entity, as one in Celtic, with the commonality of goal that will preserve us, come what may.