On the 14th of October a cloud that has darkened our great club is due to be lifted. That is the date upon which Tony Blair’s “attack dog,” Dr John Reid shall step down from his position as chairman of Celtic.
During my years supporting the ‘bhoys’ I’ve known some dizzying highs, along with some crushing lows. Despite the trials and tribulations that are associated with following any football club, the depth of my feelings for Celtic have never faltered. The reasons for this dedication are more than just ingrained tribalism. As a Celtic fan I do not just identify with the athletes who sport the four leaf clover on their chest, I also feel a great connection to the roots, or even the very ethos, of the club.
The knowledge that the conception of Celtic was fuelled by notions of compassion, and charity, should be a source of great pride to every member of the Celtic family. The fact that charity is still at the heart of the club, even in this age of balance sheets and bottom lines is a credit to directors past and present.
That one of those directors is Dr John Reid however, has been a source of unease to many of us since his appointment.
In its formative years, Celtic as a club was concerned with the support, and protection of the oppressed Irish Catholic minority in Glasgow. As the years progressed, Celtic became ever more inclusive (unlike some others) and the bonds many fans of the club felt with oppressed peoples throughout the world grew ever stronger.
With Dr Reid in position as a high profile Chairman, the public face of a club that had always stood with the downtrodden, was now the face of the oppressor.
In my expression of this viewpoint I am often lazily cast as either a bigot or an Irish Republican sympathiser. My disdain for the former Defence Secretary and his association with my club has nothing to do with the politics of the ‘Emerald Isle’. Rather it is my sincerely held belief that someone who was the very epitome of a “hawk” when it came to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, has no place at club that’s values and traditions were so greatly offended by those incursions.
In June 2009 Reid received his honorary degree from Stirling University “for his contribution to public affairs”. While the news outlets covering the event described him as ‘Dr John Reid Celtic Chairman’, the placards of the protesters derided him, as ‘Dr John Reid War Criminal’.
To see a club such as ours, so closely associated in the eyes of the world, with a man who played such a pivotal role in taking Britain into two conflicts that will go down in British political infamy, was an affront to the noble beginnings which define our club.
Many of you reading this may dismiss my thoughts on the ‘not so good doctor’ as irrelevant, that what goes on in the boardroom should be of no concern to those on the terraces, that it is on the pitch matters that count, or maybe that I am allowing my political ideologies to cloud my judgement. While I accept that at the vast majority of football clubs these points would be entirely valid, I genuinely believe that at Celtic, things are different.
The charitable beginnings, the encouragement of tolerance and inclusiveness, that runs right through the history of the club right up to the present day, is what sets us apart from others. It is what keeps us ‘faithful through and through’, irrespective of trophies collected and titles won. When we can find no hero’s on the pitch, it is enough to know that the club itself is assured of its hero status. That it is why as fans we must fight to keep Celtic grounded in its noble and admirable roots, and to my mind the presence of Reid ran counter to those.
The reason I am writing this article now is I believe it ties in with the soul searching currently going on amongst the Celtic support. While issue of sectarian/offensive singing has been tiptoed around by many Celtic fans, recent articles by the excellent Irish journalist Phil MacGiollaBhain seem to have brought the matter to a head. I am not here to draw up a list of which tomes I feel are acceptable, and which are not, I have faith that with proper debate and discussion the right conclusions will be reached. What cannot be allowed though, is that in cleansing the song list, our traditions our uniqueness are also washed away.
It is imperative that Celtic remain in touch with the core, founding values, established in St Mary’s Church hall by Brother Walfrid. With Reid’s departure, the club will move ever nearer to those values we hold so dear.
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