I distinctly remember this night 13 years ago, on the 25th May 2005.
This was probably my most vivid, earliest memory of a football game. I often remember small incidents from sitting in the lower North Stand at Celtic Park, sitting on my Auntie Eleanor's knee. But nothing as evocative as that night in Istanbul.
I can't recall why on earth I was the only one watching the game, but I blatantly remember sitting in the living room, on my own, watching the UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan.
I had no favoritism, no bias, no expected outcome...I simply wanted to watch the 'big game'. Knowing me, I likely poured myself an orange juice, made myself a sandwich and sat down to enjoy the spectacle. (Yes, even at 10 years old I was a little extra)
I'll be honest and say I didn't know much about the teams, aside from the star players and, of course, my favourite - Steve G.
I loved the bones off Steven Gerrard; his fire, his technique, the physicality, the fact that he was a born and bred scouser, his handsome face, the fearless nature with which he played. I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to be with him, or be him to be honest with you.
(NOTE: I say I LOVED Steve G, because well sadly it has come to pass that he is now the enemy, I'm sure he would understand....That being said if I ever see him kicking about Glasgow then I'm definitely asking for a picture/autograph/kick about/marry me.)
Everyone knew the Milan team. They were simply sublime, with tremendous talent. This was a stellar final with the likes of Crespo, Maldini, Pirlo, Kaka, Shevchenko, Nesta, Stam, Seedorf and Cafu in the Milan ranks. Please note that I have mentioned 9 of the starting XI because Dida and Gattuso can fuck off! This is a football team that many could only dream of. These were the names that I knew were top of the range, best of gear, quality footballers.
Liverpool did have some quality, but I think it's safe to say that, on paper, they never quite matched up to the prowess of Milan. Sure, they had Gerrard, Alonso, Luis Garcia, Riise, but although every other member of the starting XI is adored by the Liverpool faithful, they were not as fearsome as Milan. Sami Hyypia, although adored by all who wear red, was above average. Djimi Traoré was the same, as was Harry Kewell, even Steve Finnan for Christ sake!
But what that team of relatively average joes, in comparison to the world class AC Milan, did will forever be etched in my memory.
So there I was, perched in my front room, watching AC Milan tear Liverpool apart. I rushed to my Dad at the half-time break, who for some reason would rather wash dishes than watch the final and I said, "Dad that's the game done. Milan are 3 nil up." He wasn't easily shocked my father, but I could see by his reaction that he was very surprised at the score-line. Like myself, he didn't expect it to be over so quick. But by the time the ref blew the whistle for half-time it was a foregone conclusion that the trophy engraver would etch the name "AC Milan" on auld big ears.
The volley from Maldini 50 seconds into the game, Shevchenko's goal that was flagged offside (and likely would have really been the final nail in the coffin, if it stood), the passing between the trio of Kaka, Shevchenko and Crespo who stabbed the ball past Jerzy Dudek to make it two and, finally, the best of the lot...that cheeky lob from Hernan Crespo from that inch-perfect pass from the greatest of Brazilian playmakers Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, more commonly known the world over as Ricardo Kaka. Milan were unplayable in that first 45. The game was over, or so the world thought.
"Milan now playing football out of this world, nobody can live with this." said Clive Tyldesley, the commentator on the night.
I remember returning to my seat, with another orange juice, as the game was ready to re-start. It's an odd memory to have, and recall so fondly in the realms of football. But I'll never forget that sound. As a Celtic fan, I felt truly emotional hearing thousands upon thousands of Liverpool supporters chanting, gloriously and proudly, to the sound of You'll Never Walk Alone. I couldn't help but join in. And from that moment forward, and for the sake of entertainment, I wanted Liverpool to win. Or at least give it their best shot. And by God did they do just that.
Captain extraordinaire, Steven Gerrard, rose above everyone else in the box to get on the end of a John Arne Riise cross in the 54th minute and I leapt out of my seat! He waved his arms in the air, commanding the supporters, the players, the manager, the backroom staff, everyone and their granny to give it their all. Before Liverpool's first goal, Xabi Alonso had narrowly fired a 35 yard shot past the post and Jerzy Dudek saved an absolute stinger of a shot from Andriy Shevchenko.
"Hello...Hello...Here we go...Steven Gerrard puts a grain of doubt in the back of Milan minds and gives hope to all the many thousands of Liverpool fans inside the stadium." - Clive Tyldesley
Vladimír Šmicer scored the second, with a long-range effort fired low into the left hand corner where Dida could not reach it. Liverpool had scored 2 goals in 2 minutes.
Now the third, was rather controversial and was never a penalty. In fact, it was a definite dive from Gerrard. But frankly I couldn't care less because the foul was given against Gennaro Gattuso, so happy days. Xabi Alonso, the sexiest of Spaniards, stepped up, the shot was saved but the follow up ended in the back of the net and it was 3-3.
I was on my feet. I was cheering. I was in utter disbelief and amazement. Pure joy was filling every part of my being. I had never seen resilience like it. From that moment on, I had succumbed to the magical and mythical legend of Liverpool Football Club.
Milan Baros brought Alonso to the ground in celebration, as every man in red piled on top of La Barba Roja (red beard).
Both sides were kept busy following the come-back to end all come-backs. Dida saved Risse's effort, Traore cleared a shot dead on the line, Jamie Carragher produced a fine, lunging tackle to put off Kaka in the box while Stam and Kaka, once again with a chance at goal, didn't quite get their heading technique right.
The first half of extra time didn't offer much, aside from a chance for Jon Dahl Tomasson who could not stretch far enough to get on the end of a Serginho cross.
The second half conjured up an incredible piece of goalkeeping from the Polish Dudek. His double save will, undoubtedly, go down as one of the greatest saves in football history. First, he saved Shevchenko's header from roughly 10 yards out, then from the rebound Shevchenko fired a shot again from 6 yards, only for Jerzy to push it over the bar. It was world class goalkeeping.
By this point I was entranced; captivated by a game of sheer triumph and tribulation, for both sides.
Penalties would decide the winner of this once in a lifetime European final.
Milan: Serginho shot over the cross bar
Liverpool: Hamann scores, despite having a broken toe
Milan: Dudek saves Andrea Pirlo's penalty
Liverpool: Cisse scores, sending Dida the wrong way
Milan: Tomasson scores, sending Dudek the wrong way by firing a powerful shot into the left side
Liverpool: Dida saves Riise's penalty
Milan: Kaka scores, to tie up the shoot-out at 2-2
Liverpool: Smicer scores, leaving it up to Shevchenko to score for Milan or they lose
"There will be no second chances, if Shevchenko misses" Clive Tyldesley
The Ukranian stepped up, attempted a rather poor Paneka-esque penalty, aiming straight down the middle of the goal. Dudek began to dive to his right, but managed to block the shot with a powerful left hand.
I sprinted around my living room; emulating the Liverpool players on my television screen. It was like an awakening for me. That victory taught me genuine life lessons about persistence, resolve, tribalism, team spirit, one-ness, self belief and leadership, among many other things.
This game, and that victory, holds such an important place in my heart and in my life that a picture of the victorious Liverpool team celebrating with the cup hangs neatly on my office wall. Throughout my life, if I've ever been in doubt about the things that I can achieve then I think on this night. How Liverpool played in that second half? How Steven Gerrard commanded every red man and woman in the stadium? How the fans came together? How Liverpool came back from the impossible to seal one of the greatest victories in a European Final? The moment I ever think I can't do something, I think of that night in Istanbul, and how a group of individuals made the impossible possible.
Tomorrow night, Liverpool will compete in their first European Final since the 2007 UEFA Champions League Final against AC Milan. They will face a Real Madrid team who have won the last two Champions League finals. Once again, on paper, Liverpool look the more inferior side. But's that's never stopped them before.
NEVER SAY DIE, REDMEN. NEVER SAY DIE.
I’m likely going to get slated for this, but here goes.
While living in America many folk asked me about my “soccer team”, they would ask:
"Who do you support?"
"Why do you support them?"
"Isn’t there a lot of trouble between them?"
"Why don’t you like them?"
"Who the HELL are the Harry Wraggs?"
"Oh, I’ve never heard of them before!"
(When I say support, I’m actually translating – American's tend to ask "who do you root for?’" – because that’s no weird)
Sometimes it was good to wind folk up and maybe over exaggerate some myths but other times, when I was being sincere in my responses, people just didn’t get it.
So I have devised a way in which I think I can make the global populace understand how football in Glasgow works. It may even be an indication of the team that you would support (or for the Americans out there – root for!), if you were visiting our 'dear green place'.
THE THOUGHT PROCESS
This idea came to me while I was watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (great movie, I would highly recommend it) and playing Harry Potter trivial pursuit with my Mum – as you do! We all have something we geek out on, so don’t judge.
My Mother has never watched anything Hobbit or Lord of the Rings related so I spent most of my time explaining that there are Dwarves, Orcs, Hobbits, Elves and Men.
Now while I was explaining all the ins and outs of who's bad and who's good, who desires what, who likes who, and why do we not like them – it got me thinking.
Similar to The Hobbit, the Harry Potter franchise and its characters, belong to a distinct group. In the world of Harry Potter, students belong to a house. There are 4 different house groups at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, namely: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.
Students at Hogwarts are placed into a house by the sorting hat; now the important thing here is that the sorting hat doesn’t select students based on the qualities they possess, but by the qualities they admire.
I may have lost some of you, but I promise I’ll turn this around.
Like the Hogwarts houses there are 4 main football clubs in Glasgow. And each one possesses its own unique qualities and values. We have Celtic, Partick Thistle, Queens Park and Rangers. And believe me, they all share a commonality with a Hogwarts House.
GLASGOW, FOOTBALL AND MY HOGWARTS HOUSE THEORY
CELTIC FOOTBALL CLUB - GRYFFINDOR HOUSE
Brave, daring and the lion mascot kind of helps too; Celtic shares an affinity with Gryffindor house.
Not only is it the house everybody wants to be in, but it’s the house (that in the movies at least) seems to always win. That's a common theme if I've ever heard one.
PLEASE NOTE THE BLOG IS CALLED CELTIC UNITED SO THERE WILL BE SOME BIAS HERE.
“And Celtic *coughs*, I mean Gryffindor lift the house cup!” – Professor Dumbledore, The Great Hall, 1991
In 1967 Celtic took Europe by storm, playing “pure, beautiful, inventive football”, they came back to Glasgow as heroes becoming the first British team to lift the European Cup. It was bold and fearless.
Celtic had done what no British football club had done before and they did it with a team that consisted of 11 men who lived within 30 miles from their home ground (Parkhead).
Celtic Football Club is recognised as a strong representation of Glasgow's, and widely Scotland’s, Irish community. The club itself was founded in 1888 to serve the purpose of providing charity to the Irish immigrants who set up new homes in Glasgow’s East End. As history will tell you the Irish community is one which serves as a minority in Scotland, and the new immigrants were met with hostility and aversion.
Courage in the face of hardship, poverty, exclusion, bigotry and prejudice is the quality which best describes Celtic Football Club. And as such, it is simple to sort Celtic into Gryffindor house, a house which wholeheartedly supported the inclusion of muggle-born students at Hogwarts School.
SIDE NOTE: A 'muggle-born', or a 'mud-blood', are words that refers to a witch or wizard who is born to two non-magical parents. Also note that these are derogatory terms used in the Wizarding World. Mud-bloods and muggle-borns are deemed to be lesser than a 'pure-blood', which is a term for a witch or wizard who claims to have no muggle-borns in their family tree. I realise if you're no a fan of the franchise then this is probably a lot of information to digest but it is relevant to Celtic's origins as a club who stood for the Irish 'outcasts' in Glasgow.
Comparisons can be drawn between the muggle-born community in the Wizarding World and the Irish immigrant community who made an attempt to integrate into Scottish society in the late 19th century as both were met with strong opposition.
(In the Wizarding World a giant snake - Basilisk - was sent to petrify them. In Glasgow posters were plastered over the walls of most work places stating 'No Irish Need Apply'.)
PARTICK THISTLE - HUFFLEPUFF HOUSE
This one’s easy.
Partick Thistle would, without doubt, be sorted into Hufflepuff house.
“You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true,
And unafraid of toil.”
The Jags haven’t won a major trophy in 47 years; last wining the League Cup in 1971.
To be a Thistle supporter requires patience, resilience, think skin, stickability and a sense of humour. Anyone lacking these qualities should never aspire to be a Thistle fan.
The traits of a Hufflepuff are simple: be hardworking, friendly, honest, and loyal. Take a jaunt to Firhill and you will find this in abundance.
Thistle fans will be there lose, draw or lose. I’m joking! There are some occasions when Thistle win. But the unpredictability of the club is what makes the supporters come back for more. One week Thistle will lose heavily to a team sitting bottom of the table, and the following week they’ll beat the league leaders.
Or the classic; they’ll hammer a team 5-0 one week, then the following week lose by the same scoreline to the same team. But who cares!? Regardless of the score line, no matter where they finish in the league and if they never win a trophy again; those loyal, cheerful, patient and dogged Thistle supporters will always be there to cheer on the mighty Harry Wraggs (Jags)!
QUEENS PARK - RAVENCLAW HOUSE
This one is even easier.
“Intelligent? Knowledgeable? Witty? …. You must be a Ravenclaw.”
Indeed, there is only one house sufficient enough to host The Spiders.
They are the pioneers of the Scottish game, indeed the global game as we know it! Inventors of the cross-bar, the free-kick and the half-time break (which ipso facto created the perfect opportunity for a half-time pie and bovril). AND THAT'S WHY WE LOVE YOU QPFC!!
Innovators of the passing game, they had a huge impact on the technical movement, style and science behind our beautiful game.
Easy one for the auld sorting hat.
RANGERS FOOTBALL CLUB - SLYTHERIN HOUSE
“Those cunning folk use any means, to achieve their ends.", said the Sorting Hat.
Indeed, the wee bunnet was right! They did try everything. "Got themselves locked up in Azkaban for it" (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban reference for you there).
No look, nobody went to jail but Rangers did get sent down to the third division for financial doping.
Students from Slytherin are known for three main traits: cunning, resourcefulness and ambition. The ambition shines through among Rangers supporters in that they willed their team on to make it back to the top division with three promotions in just four years. Ambition is also highlighted in the Rangers supporters claim that they are the most successful club in the world having secured 54 domestic league titles (a feat that the old club achieved).
I spoke earlier about muggle-borns, mud bloods and pure-bloods. Well Slytherin's founder Salazar Slytherin valued and favoured pure-blood students above all else. In fact a muggle-born student representing Slytherin House is considered to be pretty rare.
The comparison to be drawn here is that it has been well documented that Rangers Football Club had for many years operated an unwritten rule whereby the club would not sign any player who was known to be a Catholic. Not only were the club not signing Catholic players but if players of the Protestant faith had been found to have married a Catholic then life at Ibrox, the club's stadium, would be made awkward for them and many players left under the hostile conditions.
This seedy and common practice used up until the 1980s really draws comparisons to Slytherin's high value of pure-blood students and exclusion of muggle-born students.
And there you have it folks my Hogwarts House Theory, that will probably land me in the looney bin for even attempting to draw comparisons between our national pastime and children's fiction.
Write some comments below and let me know what you think.
Also I reckon J. K. Rowling has spent some time on the terrace, so if we can get this wee article to her that would be magical! Or it could be a terrible nightmare in which the greatest writer of our generation rips my work to shreds.
Look, I'm not a bad person. I know that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players to have ever graced this Earth. But I am fully prepared to say that I can't stand him one bit.
His journey from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United is one I remember well. As a young 8 going on 9 year old kid I remember waking up to Match of the Day on Saturday morning and looking on at this curly haired, bronzed, unstylish looking fella. I remember scoffing as they said he would replace David Beckham as Manchester United's new number 7. DB wasn't necessarily my hero, but I just thought 'Who the hell is this kid?'. (YES, I WAS A SASSY 8 YEAR OLD)
Anyway, it's needless to say I was wrong to scoff. He was a tremendous player for United. Simply sublime. But I never caught the Ronaldo bug. Everything about him annoyed me. And still does to this day.
His constant asking for fouls, his constant moaning when a player never passed him the ball, his daft wee faces he pulled when he missed a shot, his stupid run up to the free-kick, the way he takes too many touches, his greediness, his over zealousness, HIS GENERAL GREETING WEE FACE.
I was fully aware that watching Ronaldo, was watching one of the best in the world. But he would never be in my good books.
Allow me to explain why.
Since I was young my Dad and I would watch snooker. We loved it! And still do. Daddy and daughter time consisted mostly of watching Ronnie 'the Rocket' O'Sullivan or the Wizard from Wishaw or Mark Williams The Welsh Wonder or The Golden Boy.
People don't ever really believe me when I say I love snooker. But I was raised on it.
As a treat my Dad would take me to his bus garage to play a couple of rounds. I was so small I could barely see over the table. But I loved it!
You are probably wondering what on earth Cristiano Ronaldo and snooker have in common. To be honest not a lot! However, that being said there is a distinct correlation between the stories my father told me as a child and my distinct dislike for the Portuguese power house.
I mentioned before a snooker player named 'The Golden Boy'.
This snooker player was incomparable. A Scotsman from Edinburgh who goes by the name of Stephen Hendry.
Hendry was the best in the game. The Ice Man; no one could match his nerves of steel. During the 90s, the decade in which I was born, Hendry won seven consecutive World Championships and was named World Number One in 8 years between 1990 - 1998. Hendry is the all-time record holder for the number of ranking titles won (36). He won six Masters (including five consecutively) and five UK Championship titles. His 18 Triple Crown tournament wins is the joint-highest of all time (equaled only by Ronnie O'Sullivan).
Yet the great Hendry was booed everywhere he played.
Hated. Despised. Loathed.
Hendry, like Ronaldo, craved success over everything else.
Hendry, like Ronaldo, was not the people's champion.
And before Hendry there was Steve Davis.
Steve Davis, otherwise known as the Romford Robot. Why was he known as the Romford Robot? Because that's exactly what he was.
Davis was famous for being boring. The only interest he brought to the game was his formidable play. He wasn't a character by any stretch; the man was dull as dishwater.
Davis was another one who won every tournament under the sun. His likeness to Stephen Hendry is uncanny. Or rather Stephen Hendry's likeness to Steve Davis was uncanny as Davis came before Hendry.
During the 80s Davis dominated the sport. He won the World Championship six times and was ranked World Number One for seven consecutive seasons (sound familiar). His career achievements include three Masters and a record six UK Championship titles. He won a total of 28 ranking events (fourth on the all-time list behind Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Stephen Hendry).
But just like Hendry and just like Ronaldo, he was booed everywhere he went. From Shanghai to Sheffield the crowds taunted and hissed.
Now, the important part isn't that these great performers were booed. But what is important is that they didn't care. As long as they won, as long as they took their prize money, as long as they got the sponsorship, as long as they lifted the title and claimed the fame then they didn't care a jot.
All three of these performers are mavericks of their sport. They are the best in their field; they can do things that others can't even dream of doing but they WIN EVERYTHING and that is why they will never be loved.
The sportsmen and sportswomen I love are perfectly flawed. They can hit the best shots, see the right pass, land the perfect dart, run the correct play and never win a thing. It is also likely that I will root for them because they have been somewhat deviant. They might have a weakness, or an impurity. They maybe a failure in life the minute they leave their stage.
But I will love them.
I won't love them regardless of their flaws, on the contrary I will love them for their flaws, weaknesses and failures. For me, its just relatable more so than the robotics of a Davis, or a Hendry, or a Ronaldo.
I understand how blessed I am, how blessed we all are, to watch Cristiano Ronaldo play football.
But it's in my nature to root for the people's champion, and he's just not it.
I have always championed the athlete who has failed in life; their name might be splashed all over the tabloids because they've been involved in a bust-up in a local pub, or they've taken drugs, or they've cheated on their significant other. I have respect, love and appreciation for the individual who can admit they have fucked up in life, and in sport, but are completely honest when they say that they are okay with it because they love the sport they do (did) and just to have played to the masses is enough for them.
Its enough for them to go out and entertain and show people what they can do, even if they never win a thing.
Jimmy White is the snooker player that always comes to mind when I think on this because he will always be remembered as the greatest snooker player to have ever lived who never won the World Championship. White was an alcoholic and a drug addict yet he will always be affectionately known as 'The People's Champion'. When the World Championship comes around everyone wants to hear Jimmy White's stories, everyone wants a picture with The Whirlwind and, put simply, he's the guy you want to see on the BBC when the big tournaments are on.
The athletes I adore played not for titles, or fame, or wealth but because there wasn't a single thing on this Earth that they were born to do other than their chosen sport.
And I suppose in a way, maybe Ronaldo was put on this Earth to play football but it almost feels like those external factors (the titles, the fame, the wealth) are so crucially important to him, and that is the exact reason why I can't align myself with this incredible footballer.
Ronaldo is not flawed; he's robotic. In many ways, he is perfect. And it just doesn't float my boat.
Third Lanark Athletic Club was a professional football club based in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded in 1872 as an offshoot of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, they were one of eight founding members* of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) in 1872 and the Scottish Football League (SFL) in 1890.
The remains of Third Lanark's home ground sits undisturbed in the south side of Glasgow. The pitch at Cathkin Park is still marked out, however no regular football is played on it.
Third Lanark were one of the founding members of the Scottish Football League in 1890. Yet there is little memory of their existence since their bankruptcy in 1967. What remains of the ground is the crash barriers from the terrace and a forest of trees surrounding three sides of the field. Please bare in mind that this is a stadium that would regularly hold 50,000 fans. The main stand was dismantled soon after bankruptcy and there is nothing around the stadium or within the city remembering a team that played here for more than half a century. That's a slight untruth; as there is in fact a small sign at the entrance of the park (pictured above) but it is plagued with historical inaccuracy and this annoys me hence the reason I stand by my previous statement that there is no fitting remembrance to the once great side. (Cathkin Park was the home of Third Lanark between 1903 - 1967, not as the sign suggests. It was, in fact, Queen's Park home - the second Hampden - between 1884 - 1903).
Third Lanark won their first league championship in 1903 – 1904. The Hi Hi's won the Scottish Cup twice in 1889 and 1905. The club was still playing at the top level and attracting large crowds until a few years prior to their rapid dissolvement. Only six years before their collapse they were third in the Scottish First Division behind Rangers and Kilmarnock. They even built a new stand, to accommodate more supporters, in 1964 – three years before financial mismanagement and collapse.
The club deteriorated under the deliberate neglect of chairman Bill Hiddleston. Hiddleston was a local glass merchant who made the decision to make the club so unattractive that no one would wish to play for them. He sold the clubs best players, mostly on the cheap and sometimes for free. Those who remained were rarely paid on time, if at all. There are stories that the manager Bobby Shearer would collect coins that had slipped through the turnstiles to make up the players wages. The facilities were poor; there was no guarantee of hot water in the bathroom. It was well-known that away teams brought their own soap and lightbulbs for the changing room.
Hiddleston's policy lead to poor attendance which caused the club to disintegrate. His master plan was to sell the land on which Cathkin Park was built to be sold for housing.
The new stand that was built in 1964 left the club in debt, and after a number of complaints, the club were investigated and a Board of Trade inquiry found large-scale corruption. This including defrauding the club lottery. The lottery, a £200 weekly prize, was rarely paid out. Likely lining the pockets of the four directors at the club, including Bill Hiddleston. Hiddleston managed to evade prosecution as he died of a heart attack the year of the inquiry. Ironic for a man who never truly had a heart.
However, the ground had been sold. It had all, seemingly, gone to plan. But when the ground was sold to local builders it was discovered that planning permission could not be granted and so the land was turned into a public park and the old terrace remains to this day.
Just over 30 years later and some interest was sparked up again. In 1996, an amateur football club was set up under the name Third Lanark. The new club has every intention of restoring this famous name to senior football and are in the hope of returning to play regular football at Cathkin Park.
Since 1996 the club has expanded to include a youth set-up and a girls academy. The team wear the original colours, and have an overseas benefactor leading the charge of their long-term plan.
*Original eight: Clydesdale, Dumbreck, Eastern, Granville, Kilmarnock, Queen’s Park, Third Lanark, and Vale of Leven
The curious tales of the armchair supporter. (Note: there aren’t any)
Guys, do me a favour? See that hard earned money you make, please spend it on yourself! Life’s too short, you can’t take it with you. Go and see the world, take the car to the coast, make memories. Forget about sleep, family and friends - they’ll be there when you get back and you can sleep when you’re dead. People often say to me ‘how do you afford all this travel?’ It’s simple really, I don’t spend money on clothes, or 'looking good', I’m not really one for material things - go fucking live your life. For all we know you only get one.
For me football is life. I spend hundreds of pounds going to football games and I love it! The stories I have and the memories I’ve made are PRICELESS. Find that thing that makes YOU happy. Share it with the person/people who make you happy. Be SELFISH!! Genuinely. Being selfish every now and again, trust me, makes you a better person, a better friend, a greater listener and a brighter communicator in the long run. Believe me when I say the people who love you want you to have the best life. If that life is leaving them for a couple of days to enjoy the things you enjoy, they will love you for loving you.
YOU deserve to be happy. Never forget it, never doubt it.
I will continue to travel around the world via the confines of the football ground. Because, I fucking love it!
You, do YOU. Find your happiness. Spend the money, it’s YOURS. YOU earned it. YOU should spend it on YOU and never feel guilty or ashamed to do so.
Money doesn’t make the world go round, but it gets you from A to B. From Glasgow to Madrid, from Prestwick to Hamburg, from Glasgow to Gatwick. From what you wished you'd done, to 'oh, we did that last February'. From where you'd wished you'd been, to 'oh, we've been there and seen that..'.
Travel fulfils the soul. It injects the mind with all kinds of positive energy. Your world is bigger than the town you come from.
Please keep in mind it’s not always possible to travel, I know this more than anyone. The trips I’ve had to cancel, the plans I’ve had to stop researching, the tears I’ve shed because I can’t afford it. However, you can watch that YouTube travel vid, and you can read that book about Canadian sports teams. Also, there are tons of things you can do around your city. Stories you never knew! Things that make you, who you are. Things that will open you’re eyes. So make sure you travel around your own city because it will impart wisdom like no Netflix show or YouTube video ever can.
Open your eyes. Get out of the house. Move away from the TV. Expand your mind. Explore you city, explore your world, explore your passion. Explore your happiness. Explore YOU.
On a recent trip to London I received a message from my cousin, whom I have spent many football adventures with. He asked me "Why do you go to the game when it’s on the telly?". Put it this way if I didn’t go to the game I could never have said I was at Wembley the day Harry Kane became Tottenham Hotspurs highest Premier League goal scorer.
If I didn’t go to see the Philadelphia Eagles last Autumn at Lincoln Financial Field, then I could never say I’ve seen a team that’s won the Superbowl. I was part of that season. Albeit a small part.
If I didn’t wake up at 5am to stand in a queue, in a field, for 6 hours to wait to get into Wimbledon the year Andy Murray won the tournament for the first time then I couldn’t say I was a part of that either.
If I didn’t go to see the Red Sox play against the Kansas City Royals in October 2016 then I couldn’t say I seen David Ortiz play in his final season of baseball.
Don’t be an armchair supporter. Get out there and get involved.
Sean Hanlon is my best friend and I love the boy to bits. Sean doesn’t make all the money in the world, but he’s living his best life because he does what HE WANTS. Call it selfish all you like, I call it self preservation and happiness. He sets an example to myself and others that you don’t have time to waste searching for your best life. He works all week and more often than not gets up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday or Sunday to travel to some other city in the UK to watch men, more well off financially than him, kick a ball round a field for 90 minutes. Now for some of you that’s the height of nonsense, and I understand if your not a fan of the beautiful game, but you can’t knock the boy, he found the thing he loved and he pursues his passion every weekend, and even most week days.
I was recently asked by my friend Emma, "How do I think having a season ticket (at Celtic Park) has influenced my fandom?" And my answer was simple:
"It's just being there, that's what it's all about."
I told her how important it was that I was able to say that "I was there when..."
I was there when Nakamura scored THAT free kick against Manchester United, I was there the night we won THAT penalty shoot-out against Spartak Moscow, I was there the day Henrik Larsson played his final game in Paradise - I cried onto my Dad's shoulder. Being there means that I got to see all those special wee moments that gave me pure joy. I explained that these moments, and the stories that make up these special moments, are the one's that connect us. It doesn't matter what age you are, what gender you identify as, what sexuality you are - if you're a Celtic fan (or a fan of any other team) then you will always have a connection to someone, no matter where you are in the world, if that person has the same passion for your team.
This may be the best it ever gets for me. Traveling to grounds on the cheap may well be the greatest luxury I ever have. I intend to take it! Rather, I intend to enjoy it.
Fuck sitting at home watching the game, I'd much rather be in the stands; making memories, seeing the world, meeting new people. Life is a gift, and if you are lucky enough to have your health then it is not something that should be endured from the couch.
Supporter of Glasgow Celtic, member of United Glasgow FC and a keen writer.
"The day that I decided, you're the best team I ever seen"