Sometimes I need a top up.
Residing in central California through choice, it’s easy to forget the size and scope of the club we all love to some degree or other.
The supporters club I visit is a few hours drive northeast, so aside from the nostalgic mancave, there’s no visible signs of Glasgow Celtic in my day to day life.
I’ve honestly gone years without meeting another Tim bedecked in the glorious hoops.
And that’s why it’s so heartwarming and refreshing to find myself back in the heartlands with visible support here, there, and everywhere.
Minutes into ‘the west’ came the first glance of the green and white, some random proudly strutting along in full ignorance of the small smile his attire had brought to this man.
Within hours I found myself indulged in an depth family discussion regarding the team’s affairs, plus travelling over in general. The impressive Ange was lauded.
Upon my first visit to the local shopping centre, a glance at the local sporting goods giants reveals two sets of hoops on display, similar yet each distinct.
The new Belfast Celtic entity has somehow gained prominent display space alongside the familiar Hoops, both vying for your attention and your hard earned.
Come Friday past, enroute to the usual haunt, I noticed a plaque on a wall celebrating a Belfast Celtic legend, and briefly pondered the fact ‘we’ had lost our own ‘something special’.
I console myself with the idea the extra hopes and dreams placed upon it’s Glasgow counterpart helped propel that club to the games pinnacle once.
Having settled down amongst quality company my eyes are reassuringly drawn to the club’s mini shrine all night long. It’s simple, a green Celtic cross with a pair of rosary beads hanging from it’s peak, with gold writing proclaiming ‘Glasgow Celtic, you’ll never walk alone’, something we’ve all realized by now.
This weekend that shrine meets some real Tims.
More real Tims, I should say. Old Charlie, with more fingers than teeth remaining, and knowing my late father’s sporting allegiance, correctly assumes I’ve followed in his footsteps and soon begins the history lessons that are so very priceless, tales worthy of being listened to before their teller departs once and for all.
Judging by the twinkle in his eyes, that’ll be a wee while yet.
“Been travelling over since I was 16, until my health could no longer allow in my 70’s” he proudly informs me.
“Jocks my manager, that’s the man for me” and its duly noted. These men are hard men who’ve witnessed the harsh edge of life more often than not, having come through hard times together. They are not prone to handing out anything. To earn their admiration and respect is truly something, it’s actually a rarity all can unite behind a single man.
Jock won the European Cup yes, but also the hearts and minds of the common people. I’m not sure which is more important.
I inform old Charlie great company shall soon arrive, there shall be willing ears galore for his memories, which puts a spring in his step. Come Saturday, many shall realize he’s a friend they just hadn’t met yet.
Woden’s day found me enroute to the picturesque Kilkeel, with a warning to leave the colours behind as it’s a mixed town. The Jubilee bunting confirms the tipoff was well warranted but I’m soon giggling. Under that bunting, hiding nothing, sits a Tim in a crisp top, it’s green and white shining like a beacon.
Unrepentant and unconcerned, the chap waits for someone, unaware he’s made me laugh, his confidence the sign of a growing wind of change in the north now the once oppressed minority has become the more educated and ambitious majority.
Thirty or forty years ago that top could have cost the man his life, but not today.
Nowadays its not bravado or provocation, it’s simple pride that drives him to display the shirt.
That and the fact it’s beautiful of course.
I type this days before some of us meet again at long last, and though there shall be one obvious absence, we shall raise a glass to him, I like to think he will be there in spirit.
Enjoying good company is priceless,,much like an electric car I shall plug in and fill up my tank, my Celtic gas tank.
In the heartlands, amongst other folk of the heartlands, one can easily see the bond between team and supporter, behold the size and scope of the club, and its impact on many lives. Glasgow Celtic remains a giant in many aspects, Walfrids vision grew wings and soared, once to the pinnacle manned by men only from the heartlands.
It’s spawned the finest team ever, alongside world class supporters to cheer them on. Some call the heartlands home, others like myself have moved on, but one things for sure.
It truly is a special place.