Without anything else to divert my attention — thanks, International Break — I have been mulling the departure of Scott Brown, the only captain I’ve known at Celtic as a fan, while both navigating the five stages of grief and speculating about what this move might mean for Broony, as well as Celtic, in the future.
I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, and I don’t have any tinfoil hats that fit me well, but after processing the whole departure of the heart and soul of Celtic, I get the sense that Brown will be back: This player-coach stint at Aberdeen is just a warm-up and a “learning the ropes” for a future managerial stint at Parkhead.
It’s just a hunch, but there are precedents at play here.
The great Jock Stein ended his playing days at Celtic and later went on to manage Dunfermline Athletic and Hibernian before returning to Celtic and making history. The same for Tommy Burns, who left Celtic for Kilmarnock late in his playing career — serving as a player-coach (sound familiar?) for Killie — before returning to manage the Hoops.
So while I am brokenhearted at the prospect of next season without Brown, as well as sad at the prospect that he will not get a proper send-off thanks to COVID-19, I do think we have not seen the last of this Celtic legend playing a role for the Bhoys.
And who takes the armband from next season? One popular debate is that it is up for grabs between Callum McGregor and Kris Ajer. Both would excel at the role of captain, but I would give the nod to CalMac — not to take anything away from Ajer, but McGregor has done it numerous times in Brown’s absence and he has a long history as a catalyst to the club’s recent successes; a history I hope continues until he hangs up his boots years from now.
In the meantime, there are bhoys playing for their national teams today — Ajer and Norway are hosting Turkey, and Jonathan Afolabi, Luca Connell and the Irish are hosting Luxembourg. Mon the Hoops on International Duty!
I spent Saturday’s match against St. Mirren with about 15 of the most passionate and dedicated Celtic fans, cheering on the Bhoys in Green from 5,000 miles away.
Those at the Millbrae, California, pub called Fiddler’s Green early on that Saturday morning make up the San Francisco Celtic Supporters’ Club, or CSC, which meets at the pub every game and watches each game — win, lose or draw — with the same passion and conviction that the most ardent local supporter in the stands at Paradise musters for 90-plus minutes.
The only difference is this: We aren’t there in person. And some of those in the room, like me, unfortunately have yet to step foot in Paradise, though it is in our plans and in our dreams, if not always in our hearts.
CSCs like the San Francisco group make up the worldwide extension of the “12th man” on the field, and the chants of Celtic Park are echoed by the attendees in the room where we watched. In addition in Millbrae, an impromptu chorus during the game of “Boys of the Old Brigade” was sung, started basso profundo by one member, with those who knew the song joining in. At Callum McGregor’s penalty, some of us started singing the “Hawaii 5-0” theme song while it played at Paradise.
We’ll get back to CSCs in a minute.
Unfortunately, there is a microscopic segment of Celtic fandom — a minuscule, small-minded, and tragically misguided segment — that seems to think that somehow some of us can’t be real Celtic fans because we’ve never been to Paradise. That somehow, those who go to home-and-away matches are better fans, and a class above those who cannot make the games for whatever reason.
I seem to have missed that memo: I was not aware that loving Celtic was some kind of competition.
Of course, it isn’t. But you wouldn’t know it by the attitudes of by this tiny-numbered, and tiny-minded, portion of the support.
On more than one forum, I’ve been accused of a.) being less than a fan because I have never attended a game, despite the insurmountable barrier of 4,378 nautical miles and 10 hours of flight time between San Francisco and Glasgow, making attendance at matches, home or away, just a tad difficult; or b.) being a local poseur and not really a Californian, in reality a Glasgow kid in his mom’s basement (Note: My mother lives in suburban Miami and has no basement); and, best of all, c.) the “gotcha” that if I have only been a fan since the 2018-19 season (true, as documented elsewhere), I must be a fake because I praise Shunsuke Nakamura and it’s impossible for me to have seen him . . . as if YouTube and Internet connectivity have never existed.
I’ve dismissed all that, since it’s all world-class ridiculous on an astronomical level. And I know the vast majority of Celtic fans at home in Scotland recognize and appreciate Celtic fans abroad — those of us who make the popularity of the Hoops a worldwide phenomenon — and realize that we are brothers (and sisters) in arms in the cause of the Green and White.
The club surely knows the importance of the CSCs, and whether it’s San Francisco or Johannesburg or Vancouver or Tokyo — or any of the 91 CSCs around the globe — we know that we are part and parcel of Tommy Burns’ iconic quote, “They’re there, and they’re always there. And God bless every one of them.”
Every one of them: From the decades-long season-ticket holder to the newest fan who just found Celtic yesterday. From the fan who travels to every away game to the fan who watches halfway around the world and may never see a Celtic game in person.
The passion is the same. The green-and-white scarf doesn’t shrink to fit inferior fans, and all who truly love Celtic are worthy to wear the scarf.
Every one of them: And those fans are everywhere.
Faithful through and through.
’67 in the Heat of Felton appears on a regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule, often with game observations following Celtic matches.
The final scene in the Robert Redford movie “The Candidate” has the newly elected Senator Bill McKay asking the campaign manager, “What do we do now?” This question, of course, runs through the film like a thread, with the McKay character — new to politics — asking the campaign manager what to do throughout the film.
Celtic easily handled Motherwell on Sunday; some might have thought of a 2-0 victory as a letdown after conquering Rome in the victory against Lazio on Thursday, but the bhoys played great and got the three points. Unfortunately, the next game for the Hoops isn’t until Nov. 23 against Livingston at Parkhead.
“What do we do now?”
Now that there’s no Celtic football for a fortnight, this question always rears its ugly head during the international break. Each time, I take a deep breath, line up what games are played internationally and hope I can somehow pick them up on the wild and wooly world of the Internet.
I can’t wait for that big showdown between the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand on Thursday. No, I’m not being sarcastic.
But Thursday aside, here’s a list of things to do — or at least a list of what I usually do — to get your fill of Celtic football during the two-week break.
1. Thank God for YouTube
Got a favorite game? Favorite player? Thanks to the modern technological miracle known as YouTube, you can watch games past, or collections of highlights of players past and present. Want to see Henrik Larsson’s greatest hits? All of Shunsuke Nakamura’s goals for Celtic? At about 5:40 is Shunsuke’s first goal against the Rangers, and given the chance I would loop this video, spending all day watching Nakamura make Allan McGregor look like a fool. Want to see the Holy Goalie? A collection of Artur Boruc’s best saves — if you turn down the techno music (unless that’s your thing) and can overlook some of the special effects — is a joy to watch.
Go crazy in the search on YouTube. There are several games that are worth watching, as well as a variety of documentaries that are worth a watch (especially the documentary about Tommy Burns, which is very moving and worth the watch even if it’s for his rendition of “Mack the Knife”).
Even the Lisbon Lions victory in Portugal which brought the European Cup to Scotland in 1967 is on YouTube. Start to finish. And, having seen it, oh, about 300 times so far — it never gets old — it’s always worth a watch during the break.
2. Get the Broony DVD
Captain. Leader. Legend. And now, he’s a DVD star. With much fanfare, Celtic has released a video celebrating the current Celtic captain entitled — wait for it — “Broony”. Narrated by actor Martin Compston and featuring tributes and anecdotes from current and former players and managers — and Celtic fan extrordinaire Sir Rod Stewart — it also has exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. The DVD takes us through the early years right up to the moment when Scott Brown became the first Scottish player in domestic football history to lead his team to The Treble Treble!
3. Hang out at The Celtic Noise
One of my favorite online hangouts is the forum known as The Celtic Noise. It’s a place where you can go and banter about the Bhoys in Green, and discuss just about everything else under the sun (oh yes, the forum dwellers at The Noise — of which I am proud to admit I am one — have opinions on everything). During international breaks, the conversation may get a little slow, but it is a chance to catch up on the myriad of topics. It’s work a look, and definitely worth joining and making your voice heard on all things Celtic. And everything else, for that matter.
4. Go outside
OK, so that’s easier said than done where I am, on the Central California coast, rather where you might be, for example, in Scotland. Temperatures here are not yet into the freezing zone — that’ll come around Christmas — and the weather is still pretty bright and sunny. However, if you get the chance to get outdoors, do so. I’ll be walking around the redwoods if someone needs me.
Remember, Celtic is back on the 23rd at home against Livingston. Revenge is in the air. My calendar is marked — is yours?