The things we do for love (of Celtic)
This wee tale was inspired, not by the 10CC song, but by a response from ATOB to one of my recent posts. She outlined the lengths she went to to ensure she saw a particular Celtic match before going on holiday.
It got me thinking that we’ve probably all, at some point, gone above and beyond to see a game.
My story begins shortly after Celtic clinched the Centenary year double in 1988. My wife and I flew to Australia for a six week holiday – as I have lots of family over there.
We had an overnight stay in Hong Kong that neither of us particularly enjoyed due to the oppressive heat and humidity. One memorable feature of our stay was the sight of many local teenagers wearing a T-shirt which consisted of a Union Jack brick wall crumbling away to reveal the red flag of China – a celebration of the imminent ending of UK rule over the colony.
At the time I felt that it was quite a sinister image. I wonder if any of them has fond memories of it now!
Five weeks later we were sitting on Bondi beach with a copy of the Daily Record ( I know, I know, but I was desperate for news) and it had the fixture list for the new season. I was gutted to see that our opening game v Hearts was taking place at the exact time my plane was landing at Heathrow Airport.
At this point, Operation Fly The Flag was created.
Firstly, I discussed with my wife that it seemed a very long time since we had seen our Mums and extended family. She agreed that this had been hard. I then reminded her how uncomfortable we had felt in Hong Kong and wondered if she felt, like me, that perhaps the best thing to do was to abandon the overnight stay and make the long journey home in one go. It only took 10 minutes for her to come to the same conclusion.
And so off we went to the offices of British Airways to make the necessary arrangements. We had to accept losing the £100 hotel fee as we were cancelling so late – a lot of money for us in 1988 but a price I was prepared to pay.
And so it was that on the evening before the game I boldly walked into the local pub to the amazement of my friends who knew through my mum that I wasn’t due home until Saturday night. I was then able to take my place in the Jungle the following day to see the bizarre sight of a Daimler car making the short journey from the tunnel to the end of the Jungle (containing Mrs Jock Stein IIRC) to raise the flag – ironically to the tune of the British Airways TV commercial “ We’ve won the league again – fly the flag!”
So there it is, my example of going the extra mile, or, in my case, the extra 10,500 miles to see the Celts.
I considered it very worthwhile, particularly as it completed the historic Centenary Year celebrations. Unfortunately, despite a 1-0 win against Hearts, who had been runners-up the previous season, it would not be a great season and it took a Joe Miller goal in the Scottish Cup Final to prevent the Foe Malign from capturing the Treble.
Finally, I’m sure many have a tale to tell about a particular game. I’d encourage as many as possible to share it with everyone and give the Three Amigos a well deserved break.