A Celtic State of Mind – How can we respect our dearly departed without it descending into farce?

Every year, a Christmas hamper arrives at the residence of Celtic Ambassador, Davie Hay. Part of the fabled Quality Street Gang in the late sixties and early seventies, Davie went on to manage the Hoops to league and Scottish Cup victories in the eighties.

But the festive gift does not come with a greeting card from Celtic Park; it is sent from Stamford Bridge, where Davie starred for Chelsea following an impressive showing for Scotland at the 1974 World Cup finals.

Davie is still part of Celtic’s fabric, as are several other ex-players in coaching, media or hospitality roles, but there are a great many with a real disconnect to the club they once represented.

It is a stark reality, but one I have encountered first hand in interviewing a number of ex-Celts over the years, that some never return to Paradise after they leave. Many will have their own personal reasons, but sometimes they have just never been asked back.

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Celtic lost a number of ex-players in 2019, most recently Duncan MacKay, who the club arranged a minute’s applause in memory of prior to yesterday’s game against Rangers.

The tribute was predictably marred. When it became clear that the visiting fans were refusing to participate in even polite hand-clapping, they were booed by some sections of the home support, which simply added farce to the embarrassing disrespect being shown live around the globe.

The applause is a relatively new concept under such circumstances, having replaced the traditional minute’s silence because the imbecilic among football crowds couldn’t keep their mouths shut for all of 60 seconds. But now even applause can’t be respected, how can we remember our dearly departed without it descending into disgrace?

As well as Dunky MacKay, we have lost Billy McNeill, Stevie Chalmers, Harry Hood and Ian Young over the last 12 months, not forgetting Tony McBride, who was on Celtic’s books during the early Quality Street Gang era but who never made the breakthrough.

These losses are deeply felt throughout the wider Celtic fraternity, and fans are always keen to show their final respects in what could be described as the spiritual home of many of their departed icons. Although an outpouring of sorrow can be demonstrated in song, silence or applause, there is another way that could do ex-players and their families justice…

Having wandered through the Superstore prior to the Rangers game, I couldn’t help but notice the racks of third kits lined up like forgotten wardrobe relics. The silver and pink affair seems to have been purchased only slightly more often than it has been worn by Celtic (never). It has been an unmitigated disaster of a strip from the outgoing New Balance design team.

Rather than releasing an unsightly third kit that becomes a difficult sell, why don’t the club work with their next manufacturers and shirt sponsors in producing a blackout kit, similar to Puma’s Borussia Dortmund effort?

This third kit could be worn as a tribute following the passing of any ex-player, with commemorative embroidery, and match-worn shirts could thereafter be auctioned with profits benefitting an ex-players’ fund.

Furthermore, I’m certain that sales of such a replica kit, if profits were also going to ex-players in need or the families of those who have passed away, would ensure a healthy return on a commercial line that has become viewed as nothing more than a blatant cash-in.

Not only would this eradicate the besmirching of tributes for ex-players who have passed away, it would also give their families something back from the club and supporters that they represented before the floodlights finally faded.

Paul John Dykes

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