30 Apr 2012

Old Firm: huddle or bouncy bouncy, that is the question…

I left Parkhead (because that’s what I still call it, I am just evil like that) deeply troubled on two fronts.

First off – does the Green Brigade actually ever get to see any football or don’t they care much?

Second – do they all rehearse for that astonishing chant and response thing that goes on from one end of the ground to the other?

Ibrox was loud, deafeningly so and pretty much for the entire match – but yesterday’s game was every bit up with that and probably exceeded it for creativity.

To the Green Brigade first off. I think surely even Rangers fans would have to hand that corner of the ground full-marks for time and effort with their huge Four Horseman banner apocalyptically predicting doom and judgement for Rangers. The faces of Neil Lennon and Craig Whyte on the riders – the Celtic manager and disastrous last owner of Rangers.

In fact the name Craig Whyte was chanted more than Neil Lennon at this end-of-season Glasgow derby and celebration of Celtic’s championship win.

But among the banners, flags and all the rest of it I formed the distinct impression that those in with the Green Brigade neither see very much football through the flags, and chanting and waving and you name it… nor probably care all that much. And hell – why not? They certainly add to an already supercharged atmosphere.

But as with Ibrox a few weeks before, for an outsider there was a lot of noise – a hell of a lot, from both sets of fans – every English ‘supporter’ in the land should take note and recognise how quiet things have gone in our game down south. Coming from Parkhead and driving west to Glasgow airport later in the day I was listening to the Spurs game from White Hart Lane – might as well have been played in a library by comparison.

And what’s this echo chanting thing where one end of the stadium sings a couple of lines and – with total precision – the other end sings the next two. Who organised it? How does it start? I mean, how do they know? It’s only been happening this season they tell me.

“We have rehearsals Monday and Wednesday at 7pm. Don’t be late,” twittered one green wag when I asked.

Well if you’re an outsider you’d be convinced they did.

And outsideryness confers all kinds of responses not shared in Glasgow. To me, of course, from the other end of the ground high in the Jock Stein stand, the Rangers fans were superb. Sure, they went pretty dead for a while as the first and second goals went in. But then, two and three nil down they belted out their songs until the end and nobody left.

It’s possible they couldn’t leave because of the police operation – but I reckon they wouldn’t have anyhow.

It’s true, a lot of the songs are about such uplifting stuff as paedophile-laden insults against Celtic and taking the mickey out of the Irish famine. And on it goes. Celtic too have their own chants, and the whole lot can, and is, condemned by both sides as horribly sectarian, and now illegal and all the rest.

All of that’s no doubt true – though the latest laws against naughty chanting seem to me about as much use as the Cones Hotline.

And it’s equally true that as an outsider you frankly don’t care much whether one side’s chanting pro-IRA stuff as the other chants anti-Catholic ditties. For starters you can’t hear the words. To me it’s all part of the atmosphere. And I have to say I failed to spot one single Celtic supporter showing any kind of offence taken as Rangers fans banged on and on about, well, whatever…

Not so edifying, any racist abuse. Rangers have today complained to Strathclyde Police that one of their players has received racist abuse on social networking sites. That’s one that offends – or should offend – anyone from any strand of British culture and if it happened, action should be taken.

Action too against the Rangers morons filmed on YouTube apparently destroying the loos in their end as –¬† at one stage – a lone copper wanders in in his hi-viz, stands there and moves on. What else could he do on his own?

But in the seats  Р(and how appalling it is that we still have all-seater stadia and not sensible organised standing areas that the fantastic German league has) I have to say things seem rather wittier than over at Ibrox. No criticism, just a style thing.

Celtic fans sing the famous Rangers’ Billy Boys song (now in theory banned because of its reference to being up to our knees in Fenian blood etc) to the words ha ha ha ha etc. That took me surprise. It’s loud. It’s funny.

Which leaves the huddle. People kept asking me if I’d do it. Like they’d asked about the bouncy-bouncy before Ibrox. In both cases the answer is yes – you don’t have much choice.

So Celtic score, sixty-odd thousand around me are doing the huddle and I’m supposed to stand there saying: “So sorry chaps, one has to defend one’s journalistic objectivity but please – do feel free to huddle away.”

Yeah, right.

For those outwith the cauldron of Glasgow football, the huddle is simply turning your back to the ground, bending over, arms round the people either side of you and jumping up and down. Pure mass stupidity. Must be worth it though as the Rangers section did a pretty good huddle too at one point, I seem to remember. And imitation’s the sincerest form of….etc

The bouncy-bouncy? Well you just jump up and down – bounce – whilst announcing the rather obvious fact by singing ‘bouncy bouncy bouncy ra ra ra etc’ rather a lot.

I’m up for both anytime. Mind you, with my team, our finest outpouring is a lengthy song about a disastrous journey to – yes – a racecourse. Few things could be less relevant to football than The Blaydon Races.

So I’m in no position to poke fun at either set of fans who have one really impressive thing in common – noise. If it was the last such Glasgow derby in a while (possible) or ever (impossible) it certainly went out with a bang – and on the whole a pretty good-natured bang at that.

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