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HAPPY BIRTHDAY FERGUS McCANN – THE MAN WHO SAVED CELTIC

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Event Date: 26 February 2021

 

Fergus McCann was a bhoy from Croy. Born on February 26 1941 he grew up following the team and travelling on the local supporters’ bus. He saw some terrible Celtic teams, but he also saw the great days of the 1950’s as well – the Coronation Cup and the 7-1 and other splendid moments with fine players like Fernie, Collins, Peacock, Evans and of course the irrepressible Charlie Tully.

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The son of a Headmaster (Fergus himself had a magisterial look about him and had a distinct resemblance to the first Headmaster that I ever worked for), he went to Canada in the early 1960s and made his money there. He was a millionaire, but never lost interest in the club that he had grown up to love, the love that was under severe pressure in the early 1990s thanks to chronic maladministration and gross under-investment.

Stories about the Club being “half an hour away from extinction” in March 1994 are possibly a little rhetorical, but there can be little doubt that the position was serious, and it was Fergus McCann who saved the club in a breath taking coup which deposed the old Board, took over the club and immediately set about rebuilding the ground.

It was all carried out with grim determination. The stadium rose to be one of the best in Europe, success on the field was not immediate but it was real by 1998, crowds rose and a sleeping giant was awakened. The whole reconstruction of the ground was in total contrast to Hampden Park which took about 20 years to redevelop and is still not always loved and admired in the way that Celtic Park is. The determination of Fergus McCann (including a share issue to help finance the project) was the key factor.

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A conversation has to take place now with Scottish Rugby about incoming CEO, Dominic McKay to get him in before July when he officially takes over from the departing Peter Lawell. The clear out should also include members of the board, our head of recruitment and some of the coaching staff along with a large chunk of the current playing squad who have failed miserably this season to even challenge for the title.

But all this upheaval will not help during the summer with European campaigns kicking off mid-summer with a backdrop of uncertainty of how and when fans will return and the whole season book sales issue and the clear out may take longer than we like for the stability of the club. We may also have to wait till after the Euros for the announcement of a manager, coaching team or director of football which seems to be the in word at the moment.

Celtic’s PR and Media team have been poor this season in communicating with fans about the failures on and off the park, now is the time to reverse that and start meaningful communication with the Celtic support to tell us what the plan is to rebuild our great club and the rebuild time scale to insure Celtic become the most dominate club again in Scotland and set out a blueprint for progression in Europe and a plan for the development of young players which has always been at the heart of Celtic’s core structure since Jock Stein’s rebuilding of the club in the sixties.

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Without McCann, one shudders to think where Celtic would be now. If Maley was the man who MADE Celtic, McCann was the man who SAVED Celtic. Incredibly on one occasion when he was unfurling the League flag of 1998, he was booed by some idiots in the support. It was at that point that I understood the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the sense that humans will try to destroy the thing that has saved them!

But such hatred and jealousy of McCann was not universal, and most people appreciated what he had done. As the years have passed, more or less every Celtic supporter has come to realise just what a debt of gratitude we owe to the unpretentious man who enjoyed the nickname of “The Bunnet”. Like another “Bhoy from Croy” ninety years previously, Fergus McCann was “just an ordinary man”.

As he said he would, he stayed five years and returned across the Atlantic in 1999. He had done his job, and Celtic fans must be grateful to him for what he has done. He is now 80. Many Happy Returns of the day to Fergus McCann.

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Born in 1948, David Potter first saw Celtic at Dens Park, Dundee in March 29. It was a 3-5 defeat, which equipped him admirably for the horrors of the early 1960’s. He had “followed” Celtic for a few years before that and recalls having been called upon to impersonate Jock Stein and receive the family silver teapot which had to do for the Scottish Cup as it was presented on April 24 1954, after he and his father had spent a nerve wracking afternoon listening to the radio!  Since then, he has “followed” every Celtic game with bated breath, and has written extensively about the club in magazines and books. His favorite team was that of 1969 (which he rates marginally better than 1967) and his favorite player was Henrik Larsson.

His ambition for Celtic is for them to keep on winning silver in Scotland and to be something in Europe once again. His other interests are cricket and drama. He is 70, a retired teacher of Classical Languages, married with three children and five grandchildren. He now travels on the Joseph Rafferty bus from Kirkcaldy. He also loves Forfar Athletic.

 

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