And We Are Off…

Date: 15th July 2017

I had a choice as a fan last night, Friday the 14th July – I could sit down in front of the TV or get along to Somerset Park and watch the derby game live – or as I did, tune into the radio.
As Kilmarnock visit us at home the choice was ours to get us a bit of the action.
We may have been a little upset at the rumour that the home side of the ground had been given over to our neighbours but the thought that we would make more money out of them – when they have sold out their ticket allocation – was going to keep us warm at night. It was only a rumour…
Ironically the number of fans that attend home games at Rugby Park has apparently dwindled over recent years so there may be cause for some kind of celebration – we can draw them back out to a game. Whether the fare during the season at Rugby Park can keep them is another issue and not for us or me to speculate.
If, however you are a fan of the Scottish champions there, originally, appeared to be no choice.
The doors were open on the same night as the Ayrshire derby at Linfield, and the camera crews ready to witness one of the most intense games at the beginning of any European campaign as the mainly loyalist area of Belfast and home to Linfield, welcome Rangers’ bitterest rivals in Glasgow Celtic.
The decision taken by Celtic, or was it the police or could it be UEFA – let’s make it UEFA because they constantly get things wrong – that supporters of Glasgow Celtic would not be allowed to enter the ground nor that the club would take up the allocation of tickets to be sold was a fair indication of something being wrong.
I have no idea if there is any precedence for an away team just not taking their briefs but if there is then perhaps it had more to do with European wars and conflict than tension on the Bogside but perhaps I just see the conflict in Northern Ireland as a mere skirmish now when it once was all out war. In the context of terrorism visiting the innocents of our nation perhaps full houses at both grounds would be legitimate targets for the terrorist cells amongst us.
Who knows but the relenting of the authorities to allow at least about 300 reported Celtic fans into the ground seemed like sense to me. Whilst the bottle thrown onto the ground – oh ironies of ironies a buckfast bottle, – and the subsequent bizarre booking of Griffiths, hiss offence apparently picking it up all seemed bizarre in the context. Griffith’s tying of a scarf on the goalposts a symbolic and obviously intended inflammatory gesture and response to being attacked shall come in for some criticism too, but it was a game that went off without serious incident and Celtic won 2-0; Griffiths might need to learn from Graeme Souness how to do inflammatory gestures… We can but hope to see the headlines and the future scribblers making stories out of that rather than the minority who tried to capture their 15 minutes of fame.
Down at Somerset Ayr United managed to continue a 24 year run as they beat Killie 1-0. The flare returned to Scottish football and Ayr United supporters have a history in this regard. Apart from that expect reports of some arrests, shockwaves through the Killie faithful and calls for Lee McCulloch to be installed as the favourite to be first for the sack in the Premiership.
With a full card today of fixtures in the Betfred Cup we know, along with the rain, that the summer is over, the season is on and all we need now is to start the moaning about constantly failing in Eur… Oh aye, the gang’s all here…

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