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The Football is important, but the Celtic experience is More Than 90 Minutes

12 November 2020


There are multiple historical facets to Celtic Football Club – charity, Irish identity/culture, Irish Republicanism, Catholicism, inclusivity, winning football and attacking football (The Celtic Way). These factors combine to create a passion within the faithful which generates a world famous atmosphere and dedication beyond the call of duty. Meanwhile, those from outside of such traditions are welcomed openly. The club play their part in terms of charity to a degree and the players take care of the footballing side of things, winning treble after treble. Yet it is the support who really carry Celtic’s values. Celtic is the fans, and the fans are what makes Celtic unique.

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It is on the terraces that you will hear the club’s once publicly political identity being championed by the faithful through ballad and song, a commemoration to those who gave everything in Ireland’s struggle for freedom and equality. Our fans have created some phenomenal football songs too, often adopting the musical traditions of the Emerald Isle with which many of us have been bequeathed since birth. The Celtic Symphony, World Club Championship Song, Willie Maley – tones with verse and chorus that would never catch on at other clubs.

Supporters clubs and pubs are the epitome of Brother Walfrid and the forgotten founding fathers’ dream, with a never-ending array of charitable events being backed with a sense of pride and responsibility. The annual UK record breaking food bank collections and raising almost £200,000 for Palestinian medical centres just reaffirms the fans’ collective commitment to the noble ideals of the mean who founded an institution to support the less fortunate.

To me, the football is one part of the matchday experience, the support is another. It begins with the pre-match atmosphere and banter in the pub or on the bus, it thrives in the stands in combination with seeing the game of football that we all love being played by a team representing all that we stand for, and it concludes with post-match discussion, Irish bands, sing songs, booze and bedlam. On European away trips, the pinnacle of Celtic supporting enjoyment and good natured carnage, there is much more to the beginning and ending… very unfortunately in my case (but that’s another story)

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Why am I discussing all this? Because Episode 39 of The Celtic Soul Podcast with Andrew Milne chatting to Adrian Hillman captured it all and more.

It encompassed the warm glow that goes with supporting Celtic. The story of the club’s recent footballing history, charitable commitment and Irish culture was told without either Andrew or Adrian realising. The anecdotes, the laughs and the madness of trips across the sea and across the continent were also relived. However, where there is sunshine there is sometimes shadow. That shadow brought a tear to the eye when Adrian revealed the tragic story behind the formation of his magnificent St Margaret’s Celtic Supporters Club. That trauma was turned into spiritual victory and is something that Adrian should be proud to have achieved.

Celtic plays such a big role in our lives. For the likes of Adrian, he tells us how he got up in the early hours of many mornings, organised the supporters bus through a landline phone, then headed with his comrades on the coach up to Belfast where the ferry and Celtic friends from across the 32 counties lay in wait. Another trip and another memory begins.

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Drink and other pursuits were explored on those trips, as Adrian regales us with superb tales of rebel tapes, ham sandwiches and a crate of cans. The friendship and good natured carnage with pals ripping into one another, being cheeky Bhoys in Newry and enjoying some of the greatest days of their lives rings through.

Being a football fan is such a release. It’s the working man and woman’s therapy. The game is loved by thousands and grips more. Chants are sung all over the world. Laughter on away trips and in pubs with like minded folk is second to none. Celtic has all of that, but so much more. We have unique songs, unique values, beliefs, passions created by more than football and thus dedication and atmosphere like few could comprehend. You can tell this by listening to Andrew and Adrian converse.

There are stories of madness, celebrations, visits to foreign cities, football memories of great Celtic games and sing songs, but also details of countless charitable projects that they have been involved in. There are family ties, bonds with the Irish support, cultural and political references and an overwhelming desire for another boat trip full of more laughs, and definitely more pints, when this pandemic is over.

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Where else would you get it?

This is what it really means to follow Celtic. Treat yourself, plug the headphones in if you are at work or shut inside during lockdown. This is what all of us have experienced going to games. The football is important, but the Celtic experience is More Than 90 Minutes indeed.

Hit play below to listen to Podcast

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Hailing from an Irish background,Liam Kelly was born in Bournemouth in 1996, with the good fortune of watching Celtic during the Martin O’Neill era. Still living on the south coast,He has a season ticket in the Lisbon Lions Stand and travels to European away matches when possible.
At the age of 19, he published his first Celtic book (Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support), which focuses exclusively on the Celtic faithful throughout the club’s history. Last year he published his second book (Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events), which has now sold out in Waterstones and Official Celtic stores. His third book (Walfrid & Bould Bhoys), which he co-authored with Matt Corr and David Potter, was published in September 2020 and is stocked in all official Celtic stores.

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