The reason I'm relating this story is that it's relevant to what's going on in Scottish football at present. The main sufferers through the Cheating Years were the supporters, paying for tickets, season tickets and merchandise. The managers, players and directors weren't touched at all; they still got their vastly-inflated salaries no matter what. That's why it sticks in the craw to hear ex-, and current, Celtic men saying that the stripping of titles is a waste of time and that it doesn't matter; it bloody well does!
Let's have another illustrative story. When I worked in Glasgow I knew a teacher whose ex-husband was a sports broadcaster on Radio Scotland. (I never did find out exactly who this ex was. I was scared to ask in case my face betrayed my disgust when she told me!) Anyway, at another school, I met another teacher who was friends with the first one; they'd gone to college together. She remembered having this friend and her husband round to dinner once. In case we get mixed up, let's call the teacher with the radio presenter ex 'A' and the other one 'B'. Teacher B's twelve-year-old son was present at this dinner party and Teacher A's husband asked him what team he supported. 'Rangers,' he replied. A few days later, Teacher B's son was announced by Mr. A as the winner of a competition on the radio; a competition he hadn't entered. His prize was a football signed by the whole Rangers team.
Teacher B thought that this had been a nice gesture and was shocked that I found it a disgraceful one. Hundreds of kids would have sent their answers in, having bought a postcard and a stamp, and would have been waiting excitedly to find out if they were going to win. Not one of them, however, was in with a chance and it took me ages to convince Teacher B of the gross unfairness of this. If she and her son had a shred of decency, they would have sent the ball back. I don't know if they ever did.
It's the same situation with the Cheating Years. If there was a shred of decency at Ibrox they'd be volunteering to hand over those titles. Strangely, (or, probably more the case, predictably) our media don't see it that way. It's in the past, they cry, time to move on. That's not, however, what they were saying last year about Celtic. They probably think that everyone's forgotten; but I haven't and you'll remember their hypocrisy too when I jog your memory. It was the Centenary of the start of the First World War and our agnivores thought it was a suitable time for Celtic to offer to share their champions title of 1914-15 with Hearts. The story was that Hearts were missing key players, who had gone off to France to be slaughtered, so Celtic had an unfair advantage. No mention at all about it being 'won on the pitch' or that it was in the past! I wonder why.
As it turned out, Most of these Hearts volunteers spent much of the season at a training camp and they were able to take part in the majority of Hearts games. But, according to the agnivores, Celtic's title win of a hundred years ago shouldn't count because they had an advantage through no fault of their own. Meanwhile, titles and cups that were won only a matter of a few years ago through blatant cheating should be allowed to stand because they were in the past! No wonder we're paranoid, eh?
If no other team wants to benefit from these tainted wins being removed, then they should just be erased from history, with no winner shown for that season. And before anyone says that there's no precedent for such a thing; there most certainly is! Readers of my book 'A Toast to Charlie Hanrahan' will be familiar with the debacle of the 1909 Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Rangers. Rather than risk another draw, and another riot, the SFA decided that there would be no winner that year and thus it stands in the history books.
In yesterday's Daily Record, one clown had this to say in the comments section, "Keep up the attacks, DR, but it won't stop us laughing at the Celtic meltdown." Unbelievably, this is under a story where the Daily Record is asking Rangers' opponents in cup competitions during the Cheating Years if their wins should be stripped. Only one player was asked from each team of the time and, to a man, they don't want these wins taken from Rangers. I wonder how the DR went about choosing which players to ask? Not surprisingly, most of the men asked grew up in Glasgow and its environs. No prizes for guessing what team these characters grew up supporting. No doubt they'll claim it was Partick Thistle.
And while deluded sections of The Peeppul think that the media have it in for them, the real deflection is continuing apace. 'Celtic at a crossroads' says one headline in the Record. Pish! To the Celtic fans that are agreeing with the agnivores' assessments, it's time to take stock. While the Record has finally decided to point the finger at David Murray for the demise of Rangers they refuse to tell the whole story; he practically brought down the whole of Scottish football. Silly money had to be spent at Celtic, and at other teams, just to try and keep up with Murray's Rangers; the consequences are still with us. Scottish football is still coming to terms with reality and Celtic is part of this. It's going to take time and effort to clean these particular Augean Stables but that's the most important thing facing Celtic and Scottish football at the moment. A clear message needs to be sent that our authorities are not going to sanction cheating and clubs need to live within their means. There's nothing wrong with an overdraft or credit from a bank but it has to stay within a reasonable limit, not soar out of control on the basis of fantasies. Unfortunately, with this work ahead of us, Europe will have to wait. Don't take the bait of the agnivores and turn on our own club; there are far more important things to be concerned about. Don't do the Huns dirty work!
A reminder that my new book, Catalyst, is now on sale. I did as much research for this book as I did for 'Fear and Smear' so, hopefully I got the details right. I had to find out things like the guy that supplied the ship to bring arms from Libya for the IRA and even who was on the cover of Smash Hits in November 1979! I hope it's a good story and that it gives you something to think about.
Paperback £11.99 available here.
Kindle version £1.99 available here.