“I am now going to tell him (Herrera) how Celtic will be the first team to bring the European Cup back to Britain. But it will not help him in any manner, shape or form: we are going to attack as we have never attacked before. Cups are not won by individuals, but by men in a team who put their club before personal prestige. I am lucky – I have the players who do just that for Celtic.”
Jock Stein 23rd May 1967
I may not have been part of the Lisbon Lions that day. Heck it was three years before I was even born, but, with the above quote Jock Stein laid down what was expected of a Celtic player.
In my previous post, I spoke of my earlier focus on Celtic. I grew up in a Celtic family. The team colours were all over our bedrooms. The Irish tricolour hung proudly on Gary’s wall. My room had pictures of Celtic players past and present and a cut out of Pope John Paul II taped to my desk (for the record, as I child I attended Church of Scotland services as part of my non denomination education).
The years in between the Dunfermline and Dundee United games had been unkind to me, maybe it was actually me being unkind to the years as it was my choices that screwed them up.
My addiction had gotten much worse, I had found myself in prison and I was really badly screwed up. Remember as screwed up as I was, my whole family had been torn apart by my addiction and lifestyle. Me in prison was a break for them.
I got out of prison in August 1990, and went straight back to what I knew. It was quite some time before I actually went back to Celtic Park. Mostly because paying the admission meant less cash for drugs. Yep it was that simple.
I was working as building site security guard getting £1 an hour (yes that low) and I was desperate for more cash.
Through this time my brothers Gary and Darrin, were stewards at Celtic Park. It was not as regulated at that time and the brief was to assist and to observe the fans. They enjoyed it and I had asked a few times for Gary to get me in. For obvious reasons he didn’t.
My nagging eventually worked and Gary eventually suggested me to the guys that headed it up. For some reason, wherever our Gary is, people respect him and listen to him. Strange I know.
I returned to Celtic Park – as an employee.
My first game I turn up at Celtic Park and meet with all the others the stewards in the upstairs of the old Celtic Pools Office building. It’s the 25th November and Celtic are playing Rangers. What a start!
Billy McNeill is the manager.
We had not been playing that well and I don’t think mulch was expected of Celtic that day. I was given my position – up at the back of the old Rangers end guarding the very steep back steps.
We lost 2-1!
At the end of the game, stewards and police were positioned down the very steep back steps. Policeman – steward – policeman -steward. All of them quite tall – except me. I was 5’7″ but appeared minuscule compared to the others.
The Rangers fans were mostly good humoured leaving, but one particularly large and obviously quite drunk guy took exception to me and lunged straight at me.
The police and stewards either side very quickly grabbed and redirected him down the stairs. To their credit the other fans shouted abuse at him, some even calling for him to pick on someone his own size. Haha.
Anyway – the result of that was it was decided I was too wee to work there so I got moved to the main stand. Celtic lost that day, but I won.
My next game as a steward as against Hibs on the 1st December 1990. A wee bit of a different time, both for the fans and for me. We routed them 3-0 that day and I got to stand in the main stand and watch it. My responsibility was to supervise the door between the main seating and the press / director’s area -but only before – half time – and after games. The rest of the time I got to watch the game. The synchronised marching up and down the stairs was introduced during my time – but not yet.
It was fantastic. I loved it. I was being payed £12 a game to watch Celtic.
Only a few months into my stewarding career Celtic were due to play Rangers twice in a week, March 17th and 24th 1991- Scottish Cup and league. Our performances against them had not been great.
March 17th became known as the St Patrick’s Day massacre. We beat Rangers 2-0 with 4 players (3 for Rangers and Peter Grant) being sent off. The papers labelled it a shame game.
We also beat Rangers 3-0 the following week 3-0.
Celtic finished 3rd that season. It was a major highlight for me I what was becoming an even more difficult part of my life. within 12 months I would be on Methadone (abusing the programme the way I abused everything) and my life would be hell. But I kept going at least for a while as a steward. paid to watch the Celtic.
I have referred to the excellent Celtic Wiki page for some information on these posts.
This POST is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
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