Sunday, December 8, 2013

Celtic riot - Tom English: The damage done at Fir Park

Given that those earnest young men of the Green Brigade are so fond of issuing statements, it was somewhat curious that they didn’t reach into their bottomless pit of indignation and release a missive that made it clear that they had nothing to do with the damage done to the seats at Fir Park on Friday night or the flinging of the smoke bomb into the goalmouth occupied by their own man, Fraser Forster.

Many assume that the people who brought us the self-indulgent, self-pitying banners of recent weeks were also responsible for the vandalism and stupidity of the wrecked seats and the thrown smoke bomb. If that was an unfair assumption – and Twitter has been awash with such certainty – then you have would have expected a statement.

Maybe it’s on its way, although they might want to address the story of yesterday which claimed that IRA slogans were written on some of those broken seats beside stickers carrying the Green Brigade motif.

In their efforts to highlight their persecution by police, where exactly does smashing up seats and daubing terrorist wording on them fit into the gameplan? Their protest against the Offensive Behaviour at Football bill and their objection to the club’s criticising of the way they are going about it was captured in another message on another broken seat on Friday night. “F*** you Lawwell” it read. Such an eloquent contribution to the debate.

In their next statement, they might explain the contradiction in their long-held claims of unfair treatment by police. If they are persecuted, as they say they are, then there wasn’t much sign of it on Friday night as this group of neds was allowed to smash up seats without a single policeman stepping in to stop them. Where were the police when needed? The Green Brigade bleat on about heavy-handed treatment. A heavy hand would not have gone amiss on Friday night. At most grounds yesterday if a fan stood up for long enough he’d get an instruction from stewards or police to sit back down again – or else. These Celtic louts were not just allowed to stand but also boot and smash seats without any of their supposed persecutors saying a word.

Given the events at Celtic Park, the Falkirk Stadium, Fir Park and New Douglas Park in recent weeks you have to wonder if there is some kind of unofficial competition going on among the supporters of Celtic and Rangers – and also Motherwell after their own antics in the game against Albion Rovers last weekend – to discover the nation’s dimmest fan. Let’s think about this. The Green Brigade bring opprobrium on themselves for their banner in the Champions League game against AC Milan. At this point, in the wearying tit-for-tat between sections of the Old Firm support, some dullard in the Rangers end at Falkirk decides to bring the focus back on to his own club by throwing a flare that destroyed part of Falkirk’s plastic pitch, an act that his club had to apologise for, admit embarrassment over, and make amends for with a payment to cover the cost of repair.Not to be outdone, some Celtic fans seized the initiative in the search for Scotland’s thickest supporter when they disgraced themselves at Fir Park.

What was interesting was the level of disgust from Celtic fans over the behaviour of those vandals at Motherwell. There was a similar level of exasperation among Rangers supporters in the wake of the incident at Falkirk. On Twitter you will always find extremists who are prepared to defend any action by “one of their own” no matter how harmful the behaviour might have been to their club – deflection tactics are in the DNA of these people – but we also saw a body of fans rising up against the actions of their fellow supporters. The message seemed pretty clear. They were fed up to the back teeth of these small number of idiots causing grief for the majority.

Celtic, as a club, have been too indulgent of this Green Brigade mob, too quick to celebrate them and thank them and swell their ego and create the monster of self-absorption. They have pandered to them for too long. They have listened, like we have all listened, to songs about IRA men in that corner of Celtic Park for years and have done next to nothing. But, once a banner is raised – just a visual representation of what they have been singing about for the longest time – only then do the club speak out in shock and horror, as if that kind of thing wasn’t the norm from that section of the ground.

In the summer, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said he’d had enough and had decided to break up the Green Brigade. He then back-tracked. If he didn’t know it then, then he surely knows it now. These fans don’t deserve his faith. Quite frankly, his tolerance of the supporters who continually land the club in bother is an insult to the overwhelming majority of those who back the club to the hilt – the real fans. They are embarrassed and angry. In growing numbers they are calling for the disbandment of the Green Brigade before they mortify the club any further. By indulging the minority, Lawwell, pictured, is doing a disservice to the majority.

A section of the Celtic support now think they are above the club, that normal behaviour rules don’t apply to them because they are the mighty Green Brigade, protector of the match-day atmosphere at Celtic Park and defender of their Irish identity, which, in song and in their visual displays, they seem to see as beginning and ending with war – or terrorism. These bhoys should take a trip to Ireland sometime. They’ll find that there is just a little bit more to the place than singing songs about Bobby Sands. When displays of republicanism are the sole manifestation of your Irish heritage, as it seems to be with these fans, then it betrays a desperately grim and narrow view of what it is to be Irish. Quite frankly, if they weren’t so pathetic they’d be laughable.

You would hope that Celtic have truly had enough of them this time. The Green Brigade might make a lot of noise but the people that Lawwell should be listening to now are those respectful fans who want this garbage to stop.
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