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.
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"