Andrew Rafferty with A Celtic State of Mind – Destination Paradise

“How are you getting to the game?”

It’s a familiar question that thousands of us are asked every time we talk about going to see Celtic. Home or Away, domestic or in Europe, every match, every fan, every journey has its own story.

Through the years I’ve been to plenty of games, although I cannot genuinely claim to have an eventful experience to share about getting to or from any of those.

What I do have to share is how my journey has changed over the years.

I grew up in Cumbernauld in the late ’70s and early ’80s (the Celtic Da’ alert). I was never a member of a CSC and never travelled on the countless buses which zoom up and down these roads, full of hopes and dreams fulfilled or dashed by the efforts of 11 men in green and white.

It was my dad who took me to my first games. Like so many of us, we hear the calling through our family. They look after us, they shepherd us. They make sure we are safe and enjoy the game, the experience. The only problem is, neither of us can remember the first game he ever took me to!

From Cumbernauld, it was a drive into the East of Glasgow. In and around where the Forge Supermarket is now. It partly explains why my dad now has his season ticket for the old ‘Rangers End’ and why I always try to get tickets for there now as well.

Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind with PROFESSOR PHIL SCRATON here:

Vans and Cars and Trains and Buses

I said I never travelled on a supporters’ bus. That is not exactly true. One of my dad’s friends had a battered old transit van for his work. For every game we went to, he would clear out all the tools out the back and off we would go. 3 or 4 dads with their kids bouncing around the back: no seatbelts, of course. The rebs blasting out the tape deck. Destination Paradise. First our dads would take us into East Janefield, then as we grew up a bit, the men would head to the Jungle and us boys would be left to our own devices.

And then I got a little older.

At this point there was no M80 bypass around Stepps, never mind the extension to bypass Moodiesburn and Muirhead. All the buses to Glasgow went into town via Alexdandra Parade. I knew the route well as my granny and papa lived just off the Parade.

So, with a loose group of friends and acquaintances, we started going to the games on our own. No adult supervision. First it was Saturdays, then it was midweek matches. Down the hill off the Parade, past the Loudon. Did we really know what it was? And keep going. Then over the wasteground, dodging abandoned beds and sinkholes, and into the Jungle. Finally.

Then things changed again. After more than a few years abroad I moved back home and settled in Bridge of Allan. That meant a train to Queen Street and a walk/taxi/bus out to the famous old ground. Midweek last pints in the station bar after the charge into town with pals who were going back to Cumbernauld and other directions. I was often the only Celtic fan to get out at BoFa after seeing hordes be disgorged at every other station.

And now I live in Rutherglen and the travel plans have changed again. I am close enough to walk now if I want and sometimes I do that if I’m on my own.

If I am heading to the Standing Section with friends, then I will get a taxi to meet them in Tollcross for a few scoops before wandering up. If I am taking my boys then we drive to my dad’s house near the ground and three generations of Celtic fans walk up to the game, with hopes and dreams renewed.

We look after each other. We enjoy the game. We travel home and prepare for the next game.

Destination Paradise.

Stay safe.

Andrew Rafferty

Watch Sophie Millar’s stunning rendition of ‘Come Back Paddy Reilly’:

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