Head up, tributes up

Date: 4th November 2022

This week’s first blog brought to you by our Donald.

Head up, tributes up

I have spoken of statues before. It causes some consternation and debate amongst many as to whom is worthy of such an accolade. It can, many years later end up with people of the future trying to work out what the people of the past could have been thinking about when they decided to stick up a permanent reminder of what happened at the time.

There are easy enough ones – memorials.

Anyone likely to object to something to remind us of Ibrox, Heysel, Hillsborough? I hardly think so.

But people are a different kettle of fish.

Right now, legendary figures are ripe for the statue. Jim McLean got one, so did Alex Ferguson. He may even have two. Billy McNeil, John Greig have been celebrated by such an edifice as well. But the statue which ended up in the drink in Bristol was a figure of much praise at the time it was erected until we questioned how he got his cash – never mind how he spent it to benefit people. The balance of the scales was not in his favour in the times in which we find ourselves now.

But can we future proof our raising of bronze to our heroes and heroines?

Jim McLean and Alex Ferguson were guilty of practices which today would not be tolerated. Should that be put in the negative pile in the statue of balance equation? It is not significant now. Will it be in years to come? Will someone come out of the woodwork and claim that either of them was guilty of some heinous crime for which they ought to be exposed? What would make the population who have their statues in their midst, rise up in anger and tear it to the floor.

After all they were just fitba managers. It’s only a game.

Tell that to the brave former players abused at Celtic Boys Club, or the many who came forward to tell the SFA and the Child Abuse Enquiry of what had happened to them at other clubs running boys’ teams. As many try and equate responsibility of the abuse at the Boys Club to Celtic Football Club itself, there are some who have pursued the idea that people who were in significant roles at Parkhead must have “known” and are by that implication, guilty of covering it up. The most prominent of that campaign is to sully the memory of Jock Stein. In a move reminiscent of how people at various institutions within the UK have been asked regarding their interactions with Jimmy Saville, some are being asked of their responsibility towards the young who saw them as powerful guardians of their selves and whether their duty of care was unfulfilled. Has the statue of Stein attracted that ire?

I think you cannot rule out, given the emotions involved, that somebody somewhere is likely to deface in protest a figurehead erected someplace to Jock Stein. Ironically it is unlikely to be those who suffered but others with an entirely different agenda. Perhaps ironically is too soft a commentary. It is, however, safely in the shadow of Parkhead and therefore heavily monitored.

But McLean and Ferguson have never attracted such suggestions or allegations. The worst have been hilarious anecdotes shared by former players or bust ups during their time with the manager which have made people, think rather than re-evaluate.

It is prescient because Rangers have commissioned a statue of Walter Smith, the highly regarded and hugely successful manager of his time at the club over two spells. 21 trophies he brought them. Why would you not celebrate that?

A boyhood fan who showed you could graduate from the terrace to the dugout, there is much to celebrate. And so, they should. I cannot predict the future and nor should anyone try to. Statues and memorials mark a time so that future generations can ask questions. If we are found wanting in the future, so be it. If we cannot future proof our beliefs, then we are in a place our ancestors were too. Would I tear it down in the future if something untoward came along? I am an educator. Of course I would not, but I might use it to teach a valuable lesson – and it would not be to suggest we don’t celebrate achievement, but to contextualise all things.

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