It’s been a rough last couple of days if you’re a Celtic supporter. When the swarm descended upon Ibrox on Saturday, in flagrant defiance of local lockdown restrictions, I joked that, much like their fathers before them, they had come too soon.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be merely a further 24 hours before the league was finally lost. Another insipid Celtic performance, as we stuttered to a 0-0 draw at Tannadice, ensured that the dream of ten in a row was finally dead.
If we’re being honest, any lingering hopes we had of actually getting back into the fight probably died after we lost the New Year game against Scotland’s newest professional club.
I don’t want to dwell on them too much, other than to say that the way some of their fans acted over the weekend doesn’t surprise me at all, nor does the total lack of response to it from either the police or the Scottish government. I do not know, nor care, what team Nicola Sturgeon supports, but a lot of my fellow Celtic fans now have her tagged as yet another corrupt authority figure, whose deference to Rangers takes precedent over the fair and balanced application of the rule of law. I honestly don’t know what the SNP hopes to achieve by pandering to this mob. The thugs who defied lockdown to revel in bigotry over the weekend would never vote for them in a month of Sundays anyway.
However, in watching the scenes that unfolded at the weekend, I actually took some encouragement as a Celtic fan. I was reminded of exactly why I support Celtic, and why we will, on a fundamental human level, always be better than them, regardless of the current state of play on the park.
What was the Celtic fans’ reaction when we won the first of the quadruple treble a few years ago? Was it to sing sectarian songs, was it to kick in the windows of the nearest Rangers’ shop, was it to go online and troll every single Rangers supporters page we could find?
No it wasn’t. Most of us were too busy celebrating with each other and getting pished.
I believe that the solid majority of Celtic fans are motivated primarily by a love of Celtic, a love of good football and an affection for the charitable, compassionate and humble ethos on which our club was built. We of course have our lunatic fringe, but so do all clubs.
With Sevco however, much like their progenitor, Rangers, a large part of the culture that goes into the club is built on hate, ignorance and misplaced notions of supremacy.
Just look at the marauding mobs we saw over the weekend. If they weren’t smashing shop windows, they were harassing passers-by, spouting sectarian filth, and in one case taking matters into their own hands, in the most disturbing way imaginable.
When Celtic win a title, the first instinct for the vast majority of our support is to celebrate and bask in the glory. For our rivals, it seems that for a significant number of their support, the initial instinct isn’t celebration, but acts of aggression, triumphalism and hate.
Historically, this has played out on the pitch in the past too. Statistically speaking, if you look back at games between Celtic and Rangers over the decades, in times of weakness, poor Rangers teams have been able to fire themselves up to beat better Celtic teams far more often than we have been able to motivate ourselves to beat them when they are on top.
What does that tell you?
For me, it shows that they hate us far more than we hate them. It’s no coincidence that this trend has dropped off in the last couple of decades as both Celtic and Rangers teams have come to consist of far fewer supporters of the respective clubs.
To be honest though, I would rather lose to them on the football pitch than become consumed by hatred as so many of their fans seem to have been.
Celtic are a team built on hope, not hate. We are team built to help immigrants and the impoverished in Scotland aspire to greater things, not to lord it over them with 17th century notions of superiority.
We are better than that, and we always will be.
In the end, the Ibrox Tribute Act may have won this season’s battle, but the war goes on. It is a war that may know no end, but it is one where I fully expect it won’t be too long before we return to ascendancy.
After all, hate, arrogance and belligerence can only carry you so far. Rangers reached a level this season that exceeded all but the most optimistic fan’s expectations. We never got out of second gear.
This season was a humbling experience, but it is one we will learn from, and evolve.
So right now, its ok to be hurting. Its ok to criticize the team, the management, the board. It’s ok to be angry. But never forget, being a Celtic supporter means you are part of something much greater than a football match, a championship or even a political movement. Supporting Celtic is our culture, its a fundamental part of who we are. Never be ashamed of that, and never let the hate of others bring you down.
We are better than them, and in time we will prove it once again.