This week’s edition of the now 6 part Green and White of Govan series is changing tack slightly in that the focus will now shine upon one fan as opposed to a group or of a supporters club, as has been the case in the last few weeks.
Although this means a greater focus on one individual fan don’t think for a minute that this fan believes themself to be of greater significance or indeed some sort of ‘special one’.
This particular narrative could not be further from the actual truth as this fan, like the vast majority of the indigenous Celtic tribe, hails from a proud, industrious and community focussed working class stock which, in his case, was engineered the Govan way.
This fan also believes, wholeheartedly, in the power of the community, the collective and of unified significance over the individualist concept.
How do I know this?
Well, very easily actually, as I bumped into the fan in question for a few alcohol induced hours only a few weeks ago where I was able to pick the brain and decipher the psyche of a true Govan born Tim.
Additionally, it is under such circumstances that I have always felt the true measure of an individual is gauged as often once under the spell of ‘a wee swally’, myself included, the true character of one will out.
In this scenario, this fan in question was one of those who is quick to put the hand in the pocket, get the rounds in and regail the group with banter of the finest quality.
More significantly however, the true reason why I, and several thousands of others know that this fan is of the determined and collective type where the group is greater than the individual, is because of a key role he played in the 1993-94 era of Celtic’s proud, although at that time tumultuous, history.
Matt McGlone and the Celts for Change Revolution
I am referring here to Govan born and former St. Constantine’s RC primary attending Matt McGlone who must be considered an integral part, if not initial catalyst, for what many consider to be the Celtic fans most important communal achievement since the clubs birthing cry – as spearhead of the Celts For Change movement.
A movement which heralded in the ‘Rebel’ board members at Paradise by way of a successful, unified and dedicated ‘SACK THE BOARD, BACK THE TEAM’ campaign of fan activism which paved the way for an administration avoiding Fergus McCann era from 1994/95 season onwards.
In essence, the organised activism of the movement allowed for the laying of the foundation stone for the last 25 years of economically sound business practice which should, hopefully, futureproof our club.
For ‘Exhibit A’ of what happens to clubs who over speculate and are fiscally mismanaged whilst naive fans stand blindly by, there is a 2012 dated gravestone inscribed with RFC to go and observe.
In relation to the movement, for tooth and nail of the, at times, dirty war between the honourable Celts For Change group and the twitching corpse of a board who refused to let their positions go despite it being for the greater good of the team, please look elsewhere.
This short article will focus on Matt, a fan who has organised and popularised fanzines, wrote for the Celtic View and been a season ticket holder for decades with an away day scrap book to rival any supporters bus.
Personally, I’d recommend Matt’s own book, Emotionally Celtic, for an enlightening and engaging read of all things Celts for Change and then some.
It’s as unflinching as it is un-put-downable, to coin a phrase.
Matt McGlone – a Govan Bhoy
Matt was hand delivered by Nuns in St. Francis’ nursing home in Govan and raised for the first 8 years of his life in Drumoyne whilst his father would operate a salon, ‘McGlones’, in Linthouse.
As the auld saying goes,
‘Give us the boy for 7 years and we’ll give you back the man’
Certainly in Matt’s case, this appears to be true.
He talks openly in his book about the masculinity associated with such an upbringing whether it be by observing the tribal ‘GTR’ insignias of the feared ‘Govan Team’ or by personally knowing some of them.
Typical of many neighbourhoods with sectarian tension in the area, even the innocent act of walking to the RC primary school, St. Constantine’s at its old site in Uist St, would prove to be a character building exercise as it was normal for the Conny’s kids to have to dodge the occasional launching of a half brick which was playground bound from time to time.
Any childhood which is codified with unthinking bigotry, as is still witnessed today throughout Scotland, is bound to mature the individual at a quicker rate of noughts, for rightly or for wrongly.
Not long after making his Holy Communion at Conny’s Matt would be waving a temporary cheerio to Govan however.
Matt moved to the fast becoming ‘Govan-annex‘ of Pollok at 8 before setting off on his own adventure at 16.
He clearly never forgot his roots however.
For example, to this day he is still close friends with some of the key players of the Govan Tim and Celtic bus culture, such as the Govan Emeralds stalwart Tony Ford as well as fellow Govan Tim author, Stevie Murray (Ten men Won the League), not to mention that his current place of work is to be found in Govan where he operates a bespoke screen printing and publication business.
As part of this business comes the printed fanzine, the Alternative View, which runs advertising for The Old Govan Arms (TOGA), one of Govan’s Celtic pubs, to this day.
Additionally, despite being a resident of elsewhere, it’s not for nothing that Matt chose a ‘Govan bus’ at his first available opportunity to attend an away game, at a mature age of 14.
Specifically, the ‘Donnelly’s Bus’ would be Matt’s away day weapon of choice.
The Donnelly’s Bus
Although known colloquially as the Donnelly’s bus, it’s real name was the Govan South West CSC (photo) and was more noticeable than most due to it being a double decker bus with an open section at the back lower deck where the pole was to be found, corralled by the Committee Men of the bus.
The name Donnelly’s was taken from the name of the pub owner, the establishment itself known as ‘Fairfields’.
This is the modern day site of the TOGA where a supporters bus still runs from.
Matt’s first memory of the bus culture of Celtic, honed humbly in Govan, would consist of a marathon trip to Pittodrie inclusive of an overnight stop over.
This was on a bus where there were no doors at the back of the bus ensuring a baltic commute to the North East coast before staying over in Stonehaven where Matt tells me it was 6 to a room with only 4 beds on the go.
It was pure survival of the fittest ensuring an almost Darwinian experience was had by all where the stronger would survive and the others, well, there was always the option of kippin on the floor I suppose.
Double decker, no doors at the back, stop over with less beds than bodies – few away days exist like this anymore!
However, despite this or perhaps because of this, the banter was flying and the character was carved all whilst the bus was rattling to the Tim tunes of the day and this Pittodrie bound bus of Govan bhoys were perhaps all the better for it in the end.
Who needs ‘Health and Safety’ when you have away day ‘High Spirits’ instead?
Govan Grit and the Celts For Change
I believe it to be moments such as those described above that, as well as a sense of class based masculinity, some defining characteristics of the individual are created.
If Matt, like many other Govan born Tims, is represented by the stone then it was the Govan experiences discussed previously – the sectarian tension, the young team tribalism, the pub/bus cultures – which acted as hammer and chisel to sculpt out the character.
For example, Matt mentioned that it was growing up in Govan that gave him three defining character traits which would stand him in good stead for the journey of life as an outspoken Tim.
Determination, attitude and spirit.
It is at this point that I genuinely wonder if indeed the Celts for Change movement, which would always needed to have happened, would have happened as directly and as successfully as it did however, if not for the Govan core to the McGlone character.
Whether or not this is true will never be known as this is a past event and I am posing a hypothetical here, but there is something to be said that, when we consider the extent to which Celtic FC has been indebted to the community of Govan from inception to the current day as has been detailed in the previous weeks, then I am not in the least bit surprised that a Govan Tim was a central figure within a defining period of the clubs history.
The cultural DNA of the cubs history appears to be indebted greatly to a Govan Tim genome.
For example, whether it be in the shape of Govan providing two Lisbon Lions in Jim Craig and Joe McBride or the constant supply of 60 plus players drafted into the team from Govan based St. Anthony’s amateur side (The Ants) or, in this case, in providing the man who would become the catalyst for the Celts for Change movement.
Not to mention that Govan Town Hall was home to around 1200 Celts for Change activists at the movements height.
I could batter the keys of this keyboard endlessly in the pursuit of capturing what exactly it is about the Celtic that makes us from time immemorial fanaticos but it would be useless as I could never actually better the words of Matt himself in this regard.
So, fittingly, I believe it best to draw this piece to a close with Matt describing Celtic and our love for it in his own words.
‘Celtic and their traditions mean everything to me. The reasons they were started, the culture they created, the important principles in life which are part of us all. The identity they have created within us…it has formed us into the very people we have become today’
McGlone, M. ‘Emotionally Celtic’ pg. 14
Whether a true Tim from Govan or beyond, this unbettering encapsulation of what it means to be Celtic, put simply, really says it all.
From Conny’s to the Donnelly’s and from ‘Once a Tim’ to the ‘Alternative View’ fanzines, this proud Tim from Govan has had a life defined by Celtic and its culture.
Not forgetting that Matt was intertwined within the eye of a messy but necessary revolutionary storm and lived to tell the tale whilst the post revolutionary team grew from strength to strength to stop the ten in ‘98 and dominate the domestic game post millennial.
Hail, Hail tae ye Matt.
Thanks for reading folks.