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A day in Dublin with John Hartson

Event Date: 22 December 2023

A year on from my last visit to Peadar Browns with John Hartson we returned for another evening of Celtic chat with plenty of questions from the audience. There were plenty of familiar faces in the audience once again this year.

My own club St. Margaret’s CSC were there in force as were the bhoys from Peter Scarf CSC, Linwood who travelled over for the show and insured that the flow of Guinness was constant.

Another familiar face was the famous Dubliner Scatman who was home from Germany and as we learned during the questions and answers he is no fan of Celtic’s current chairman, Peter Lawell.Dundalk, Glasgow and Swansea were also well represented on the night.

A big shout to Aidan Brown for the invite back his bar again this year. Big John was in great form when I picked him up in Dublin airport. John is sports fanatic. His first love is football and as usual Celtic took centre stage in our conversation on the way to the hotel in Dublin City close to the venue.

As it was international weekend we chatted about the Ireland management situation as Stephen Kenny’s time in the Irish hot seat neared the end after only two wins over Gibraltar for fans to celebrate in a very disappointing campaign. One of John former team mates, Neil Lennon is for the job as I write but nothing has been confirmed yet by the FAI.

Wales is never far from John’s mind so both the Football and Rugby team were chatted about before we got settled in for the afternoon in the hotel. As a Celtic fan most of my focus when I am in John’s company is to get his opinion on the current state of play in and around Paradise. You can forget about how many clubs John played for in England but I was reminded when a West Brom fan introduced himself in the airport and John spent 10 minutes chatting about his 18 months at WBA.

We went to the Camden Bar for a bite to eat before watching Ireland v Norway under 21 game. The game finished 3-2 to the Norwegians. Their team included Celtic’s Holm in midfield.

The bar has the biggest screen I think I’ve ever seen in a pub and must be great to be able to watch games on the TV regularly. The manager of the venue recognised John straight away from his appearance on Off the Ball which was recorded in the Camden a few months back.

It’s not only fans of clubs John played for that want to meet the big man. A group of Derby fans in the bar who were on a stag party wanted a team picture with John and he chatted to them about their club. He knows his stuff does our John but I suppose you have to when you work in the media.

Back in the hotel and we meet two ladies in the lift. Two Celtic fans from Glasgow over for there Mam’s 80thbirthday. They were delighted to meet John and chew the fat with him about all things green and white.

The reception was very warm when we arrived at Peadars with everyone enjoying a few pre-show pints and taking time to chat to John, get an autograph and some pictures with the Celtic hero who scored 110 goals for Celtic, 9 of which were against Rangers which always gets fans on their feet when I invite him onto the stage.

I have been lucky enough to interview numerous Celtic players and managers over the years and have shared the stage a good few times with John but there is something special about being in a cosy warm pub surrounded by good people when it is a dark cold and wet night outside.

We took our high stools on the stage with the SPL trophy sitting proudly between us with the green and white ribbons reminded us of how many times we have been champions over the past few decades. John himself won the league trophy 3 times during his time at Celtic. What a great move it turned out for him after failing a number of medicals including one at Rangers and as he joked one at Crystal Palace.

I quizzed John on the recent ban implemented on the Green Brigade. John hopes that through dialogue that an agreement can be found between the board and the GB to see them and the Bhoys back in Celtic Park on match days creating the fantastic atmosphere that we have all come accustomed to over the years.

John spoke about the return of Brendan Rodgers to steady the ship after Ange Postecoglou moved south to take over Spurs. He also spoke passionately about his time at Celtic, the current season so far including how hard it is to compete in Europe and the difference in the quality gap since he lined up with Sutton and Larsson under Martin O’Neill against the best in Europe.

John did not only beat Rangers, he beat cancer and his gambling addiction. It has been 12 years since he has had his last bet and he got a great reaction when he told the audience about his battle with the bookie. John also shared some funny tales about his time at Celtic and his former team mates.

There were some great questions from the audience including one in John’s native language. John is fluent in Welsh and it was nice surprise for him to hear the question from a fellow Swansea native.

Thankfully John translated for us. When members of the audience took to the microphone to ask questions they also shared some stories of meeting John in the past and spoke about there own memories of watching John in the hoops. Goals against Liverpool, Celta Vigo and off course Rangers got plenty of lip service.

Ballad singer, Gary Lawlor took over for a sing song when the conversation finished on stage but not off stage as John continued to chat to Celtic fans until he slipped of back to his room before Gaffer took him to the airport at 4am for a red eye and another show in Cardiff.

Another former Celtic striker and Dublin native, Anthony Stokes also popped in on the night.

It was a great night with a great guest, great stories  great company on and off stage and finished off with a great sing song and a few pints of plain.

Andrew Milne is Editor of More than 90 Minutes & host of the Celtic Soul Podcast

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