Everyone and their granny has spent the last week lavishing praise on, generally fawning over, and paying tribute to good ol’ Fergus McCann for not only rescuing Celtic from near death but instilling financial prudence into Celtic’s work ethic off the field.
Even Dermot Desmond. Yes, the man of few words has also said his piece this week. You could probably count on one hand the number of public statements Desmond has made in the last 20 years.
Despite shying from publicity and more often than not taking a vow of slience, the Irishman has received far less praise for putting far more money into Celtic than McCann. When will we be marking his 20th Anniversary?
I don’s subscribe to the hero-worshipping of McCann (despite sharing a surname).
Am I grateful that he spearheaded the team that saved Celtic? Of course. Only an idiot would think otherwise.
But McCann also walked away with something estimated to be in the region of £40m. For five years work. 15 years ago. Imagine what value that would be now? Did he deserve the pay-out? Maybe, but let’s not be kidded here – he was a shrewd businessman who saw an opportunity. I find it preposterous than an already wealthy man took that amount of money with him. Worst still, he’s a Celtic fan like you and I.
Figures banded about at the time said he’d invested £9m of his own cash and got five times the return.
Some say, it was £1m of his own dough, with £8m borrowed. A high risk strategy or a cunning plan by a clever, feisty businessman?
When I learned, at the time, of the sum he set off into the sun with I can’t say I was too pleased. I’m still not. If he had doubled or trebled it, fair play. But he pocketed five times this. There was no parting financial gift. If it were me, I would have donated money back to help with the team – the core of the club.
How often have you dreamed of winning the Lotto? How big was the win? When Colin and Christine Weir of Largs won £161m my first thought was – “I’d give Celtic £50m for the transfer market”. Of course, that’s after I’d sorted my family out and bought an Island.
That sum is off the scale in terms of what we, as ordinary people, could fully understand.
£45m fifteen years ago is unimaginable wealth to the ordinary guy in the street. Even nowadays it’s a ridiculous amount of money. And let’s not forget – McCann had made his fortunes elsewhere. Why, as a Celtic fan, would you not give a good wedge to the club you love? I’d happily donate £15m to help the cause, unless you think £30m wouldn’t see you through to the next pay day?
I am by no means ungrateful for what McCann did but the lavishing of praise doesn’t impress me. I totally get how near Celtic was to going out of business. I can remember the caring attitude towards me by Rangers fans at the time. There was a lot of hugging and counselling from them – it was almost becoming an obsession. (I’ll now take my embedded tongue out of my cheek).
He also introduced “Bhoys Against Bigotry” which to me was the prelude to The Offensive Behaviour Act. He set out to sanitise Celtic Park and that’s one thing I believe he succeeded at. Every one of the 53,000 sat in fear of being banned from Paradise for having a sly fag, smelling of drink and of course, using any form of sectarian words. The police then were heavy-handed and some of the Celtic support, most of whom were plucked from the middle-classes, turned into snitches. The cultured has changed. It’s gone.
McCann sought to turn Celtic Park into your typical American baseball arena. He wanted it filled with families chewing gum, sipping Coke and munching hot dogs. The working class man was confined to the skelf-ridden bleachers.
What I found ironic at the time was that Celtic had launched an anti-sectarian initiative when most of it’s fans come from Irish Catholic backgrounds and had been subject to the very thing they were to campaign against.
To be fair Celtic has done extremely well and will continue to do well because of financial prudence. Sometimes, I just wish they would loosen the purse strings. Give us a marquee signing; speculate to accumulate. Take a risk for God’s sake. But they won’t. McCann’s aim was to ingrain this in Celtic from the day the he took over to the day he left, and his legacy continues.
I applaud Fergus for what he did at the time and that’s not lost on me but spare me the the razzamatazz and the cheerleading.
There are others more deserving of it. Like the fans who really did save Celtic, and build the stadium.
Our monument is what we leave to our children and their children. It’s all we ever cared about.
[calameo code=001382993c21aafe16e49 width=550 height=356 view=slide mode=viewer]