The Govan Emerald (1984)
As Celtic’s iconic manager who revolutionised the game, Jock Stein, once famously stated, the game of football really is nothing without the supporters.
Sure, you need the players, the refs, the infrastructure and then some, but these are merely mechanical cogs in the machine – and this machine, the game of football, requires an engine akin to a heartbeat and it is here where the supporter plays the key role.
Just like an engine or a heart, treat them well and they’ll return the favour right back by the pumping of the lifeblood of the game by way of lifetime support, gate receipts, merchandise, consumerism and most significantly, by producing a spine tingling matchday atmosphere of award winning capabilities.
At least this is the way which I view the vast majority of fans who belong to Celtic, and for this edition of the Green and White of Govan, it is a section of these amazing fans who will be the focus.
Govan Tim Buses
One of the Supporters buses of Govan, the Govan Emerald, will be focussed on for this piece. However, the reader should be made aware of the sheer scale of Celtic buses in general which have left from Govan over the years.
Within merely more than a mile from Ibrox stadium, there has existed no fewer than 11 Celtic Supporters buses over the decades. For example, The Windsor which was convened by Alex Ferguson’s father, the Dava, the Stag, Uist Street CSC (known as Conny’s as a reference to St. Constantine’s chapel hall where the bus took off from), the Govan Harp, the Brighton, the Neptune, the All Saints, the Welcome Inn and the current day Old Govan Arms (TOGA) and previously mentioned Govan Emerald bus.
If you know of anymore, please do get in touch.
At a point in the near future the extent to which the core of Govan has never been a Rangers area as measured by volumes of supporters buses or Rangers pubs will be examined in greater depth.
But for now the focus lies on a Celtic bus.
The Govan Emerald Bus
Enter the Govan Emerald Supporters bus as convened by Tony Ford and other founder members since 1984.
The bus currently begins their home and away day haulages from the Tall Cranes pub just down from where Craigton Rd meets Crossloan Rd as positioned in the greater Govan area south of Elder Park.
The Emerald is a very successful Celtic bus which catered for no less than 73 Tim souls of mostly Govanite stock for Seville in 2003.
An achievement of many for the Emerald that could only happen because of the dedicated and indominable souls like Stevie Murray (former treasurer) Jimmy Mulligan, Rab McGhee, Gerry Boyle and the previously mentioned Tony Ford that got the Emerald up and running back in ’84 and have turned it into one of the most instantly recognisable Supporters buses at Celtic Park and beyond.
The Emerald is also the occasional home of a man of local legend who ought to be more well known to the wider Celtic community, Tam Joyce, a Winey bhoy who in the early 1990s popularised the Pete St. John tune, ‘Fields of Athenrye’, amongst the Celtic support whilst at a function in Dortmund with the Emerald.
After he began to belt it out the rest of the attending fans joined in and it was brought back to Celtic Park where the rest is obviously history.
The song was of course well known by the Celtic support but had never been one which was popularly sung from the terraces until that time. Over the years there have been numerous fan forums which have also stated this and there was even a 1996 article in the Herald confirming it.
Govan Emerald – Open to All
One thing which often distinguishes true Celtic fans from the also rans is the extent to which we have a ‘doors open to all’ policy.
Think here the rapid acceptance of big name players signed from Rangers over the years, such as Alfie Conn jr who was signed in 1977 or, more significantly, the way we create long lasting rapports with groups of fans from all over the World, such as Villareal, PSG or Santos Laguna, who previously had no ties to Celtic FC, whether political or cultural.
Some of the good Tim folk of Govan are directly responsible for this.
For instance, the Emerald bus and their professionally run camp ensure that this rapport building exercise has been maintained to the highest degree over the years.
Consider that they have long standing connections with fans groups aligned with Borussia Dortmund and PSG, to name but some, from the continent.
This has resulted in the mutually beneficial sourcing of matchday tickets and recommendations to fans from both teams over the years in relation to cheap and decent accomodation.
Indeed only last month, where Celtics counter attacking masterclass humbled Gerrards men 1-0, a group of PSG fans were catered for by the Emerald before nestling in the Tall Cranes pub for the full post match experience.
Tony Ford highlights the extent to which the Emerald bus, like many from across the land, also adopts a ‘No Fan Left Behind’ policy. Something which is understandably central to the core value of inclusiveness for Celtic.
This is exemplified in both small and large gestures made by the Emerald.
For example, whether it be a Celtic fan or two who may be walking home post match on the same course as the Emerald bus, space permitting, the doors will open and the fan will get a cushier ride home than he or she had initially thought.
On a larger and much more significant scale however, it is the Emeralds continual charitable connections which highlights it’s true ‘open to all’ core.
The Emerald, Charity and the Celtic
For example, for numerous years now the Govan Emerald has been raising awareness and thousands of pounds for the KANO foundation charity which endeavours to provide free entry to disabled and vulnerable kids at Paradise since 2010 onwards.
Additionally, the Emerald have strong supporter connections with the Ardoyne area in North Belfast which has enabled the Govan Emerald to bring dozens of youngsters over the Irish Sea for their first taste of Paradise.
As reported in the Irish media, the Emerald, in connection with the Celtic Foundation, were able to initiate ‘sponsor a child’ programmes and have a fundraising concert in the Tall Cranes so that the youngsters could have a weekend in Glasgow, all expenses paid, inclusive of a matchday ticket, free breakfast and a stadium tour.
All in the name of charity and inclusion – two core values of Celtic which are central to the Govan Emerald also.
Although the two examples are on a fairly grand scale and are the result of efficient planning and long term in scope, the Emerald also ensures that there are several less formal fundraising activities taking place also.
For example, via matchday ‘whip rounds’ and collection plates either on the bus or in the pub post match for an entire host of local issues such as families struggling with the financial burdens of bereavement amongst other issues which place great financial difficulty on members of the local community.
Remember, this is Govan, a proud parish which, through no fault of its own, has suffered extensively due to at least two generations of state neglect and the Tory sledgehammer approach to de-industrialisation and welfare state shrinkage.
Poverty and their inhumane cycles stalk areas like Govan like the wolves of a forest and it is often community spirit and local fundraising, such as that facilitated by the Emerald, which makes the daily difference to many.
Although these fundraising and charity examples are specific to the Emerald, I feel that it highlights a side of football fan support which rarely, if ever, sees the light of day in the mainstream press or dominant social narratives where fans and supporters buses are usually criminalised or always viewed with suspicion by Scotland’s, so called, ‘finest’.
The Emerald and Celts for Change
The Emerald should also be referred to as a ‘thinking man’s bus’ in the sense that, over the years, despite obvious loyalty to the Hoops and all that is Celtic, this has not been ‘blind loyalty’, and neither should it be.
For instance, in the dark old days when the fiscal mismanagement of Celtic resulted in a much needed and organic response in the shape of the Matt McGlone sparked ‘Celts for Change’ vehicle, the Govan Emerald were quick, and rightfully so, to go against the conservative ‘party line’ adopted by the Celtic Supporters Association and the outdated Board, and brazenly backed the Celts for Change avalanche which of course would eventually help usher in a better age for the Celtic.
Specifically, the Emerald would be denied matchday tickets in an attempt to get them to ‘know their place’ and were expected to shut up in their vocal support of the Celts for Change movement by the clubs hierarchies.
This did not work.
Instead, the Emerald, ticketless for the games, still ran a bus and took their banners to Celtic Park and set up shop in the infamous Springfield Vaults bar just outside the ground.
Listening to the game on the wireless – auld school – still creating an excellent atmosphere, still making their presence felt and, most significantly, still supporting their team the right way, which of course meant acting in solidarity against the closed and short sighted board which was soon to be a thing of the past.
We all know people who are more akin to ‘sheep’ in their soulless pursuit of toeing party lines despite an obvious need for critique and activism. The only thing worse than a ‘sheep’, in this context, is a green and white one – the Govan Emerald this is not.
As 2019 approaches this will mark the Emeralds 35th anniversary as an ever growing fan community which has charity and inclusion at its heart.
I have no doubt that a fundraiser night or celebratory function will be held in honour of the Emerald, most likely in the Tall Cranes pub.
The pub, much like the supporters bus, is one defined with an ‘open to all’ culture as previously mentioned.
So, look out on social media come the time next year, and pop along to revel in the 35th anniversary party which will undoubtedly have a far reaching impact on both the local community and wider Celtic family through the Emeralds ingrained ethos of charity as defined by their fundraising.
Finally, if nothing else, let this piece help to change the distorted social narrative that exists and regards football fans as a group somehow to be viewed as criminals or as ‘gangs’ who belong to deviant subcultures as is often the case as reported by our lazy mainstream media and through our often blinkered Scottish Criminal Justice System.
As the Govan Emerald exemplifies, enough is enough with this nonsense narrative.
Charity, Community and the Celtic – that’s what the Govan Emerald is really all about.
Thanks for reading
Next Weeks Edition
– Fans Edition continued
– The Brighton Bus