The day I discovered my seat is in a drip zone

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I always knew it would be something of a risk taking a seat in the lower tier of the Jock Stein Stand, in an area which is probably most kindly described as being weather adverse. However, the stand lurches just far enough over the bottom tier that I thought I could get away with it.  I felt it might offer just enough of a steel umbrella to shelter me from the worst of the elements.  My first four visits to Celtic Park this season suggested that I was in an ideal location and had made a supreme choice.  I have an unobstructed view of the entire pitch and a birdseye position to watch Celtic attack in the second-half.   This probably contributed to some slightly overcooked hubris:  those four trips have been largely dry, warm and on one occasion I even left a game with sunburn.  On the one wet night I experienced the rain had subsided enough before kick-off to deny the true nature of the situation and thus solidify my arrogance.

The weather forecast for Saturday was looking pretty daunting all week.  Wednesday night versus Alloa was a near miss, but it was becoming clear that Kilmarnock would truly test the resilience of my seating.  There was even a brief, crazy moment where I contemplated abandoning Friday night beers in Aulay’s due to the uncompromising weather front. Thankfully common sense prevailed in that regard and I was able to brave the conditions and get suitably (overly) drunk, but a marker had been laid down.  This was going to be a wet weekend.

I made the train on Saturday morning – hung over, windswept, but ultimately dry.  It would be the last time I would experience that feeling until Saturday night.  The rain must have started almost immediately, because by the time we reached Glasgow the service was on a 16 minute delay due to adverse weather conditions.  Even the brief walk from Queen Street to The Raven left my glasses resembling a broken kaleidoscope.  If there was an Olympic sport for rain then the way that it bounced off the pavement in Glasgow would surely secure yesterday’s experience at least a silver medal.

By the time I exited Dalmarnock Station and took my route along the Celtic Way the east end streets were slick with rain water and the floodlights from Celtic Park glistened in the dense grey distance.  The rain was relentless and I was looking forward to getting inside the stadium to my seat which would offer so much comfort and protection from this ridiculous Autumn afternoon.  I went through my current pre-match ritual of going to the bathroom to expel a couple of pints of beer before taking my seat in time for the teams entering the field.  When I had to wipe down my seat with a pocket tissue in Niles Crane fashion should have been the moment alarm bells began to sound in my head, but Celtic were entering the huddle and my thoughts were consumed with the hopes and expectation of sporting triumph.

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Barely had the first whistle been blown when it hit me.  A series of large, wet drips plunging from the tip of the Jock Stein Stand.  It was a cold awakening to a new reality:  it wasn’t the rain I had to worry about, but the excess rain clinging to the roof of the stand above me.  There wasn’t a relentless surge of drips, unlike the Celtic attacks on the field, but they would come every ten minutes or so and when they did you would feel the full force of them, like a Moussa Dembele piledriver from nine yards out.  And similar to Jamie McDonald in the Kilmarnock goal there was nothing you could do about them.

I think I came to the conclusion that these drips fell most prolifically during breaks in play.  Any goal-kick, throw-in, corner-kick was met with a ferocious splurge from the top-tier as though these drips were being dispensed from a firing range.  It was like a synchronised fall – three of them would come at once, one after the other.  BAM!  SPLASH!  WALLOP!  And they would get everywhere.  No matter how well concealed you thought you were from the elements, these menacing drips could reach you.  Be it on the face, down the back – these buggers really liked to get inside the neck of your coat – or wherever, they would leave every bit of you soaked.  They had the pinpoint accuracy of a Tom Rogic pass and significantly more menace.

These were not small drips either.  They were a remarkable size.  If the inflatable sex dolls which briefly dangled from the stand above me a couple of weeks ago were offensive then these engorged drops of rain were a permanent threat.  Judging by the number of seats in front of me which had become vacant at the half-time interval I suspect that a few folk were put off enough by these rogue interlopers to either seek higher ground or even throw in the towel altogether – though there would have been far greater uses for that towel.

As it was, Celtic were not as distracted by the monstrous drops of water from the Jock Stein Stand as I was and they pounded the Kilmarnock goal with a deluge of attacking opportunities, particularly in the second-half.  The flood gates were truly opened and there should perhaps have been even more to show for it in the end than six goals.  Despite Celtic’s stylish play in and around the Kilmarnock area they were restricted to ‘just’ the half-dozen, which was enough to dismiss the relentless rainfall and send a sizeable crowd home happy, if considerably more wet.

Final scores:
Celtic 6-1 Kilmarnock
The Drips 1-0 JJ

Playlist:
Okkervil River – Away
Wilco – Schmilco
Jack White – Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

A wet Wednesday night watching Alloa when we waited 83 minutes for a goal

A wet Wednesday night watching Alloa when we waited 83 minutes for a goal

Often the inevitable can be comforting.  Like when you’re watching Ghostbusters 2 for the 473rd time and you know that no matter how gloomy the prospects look for little baby Oscar he’ll be rescued from the clutches of the evil 16th century Moldavian tyrant Vigo by the determined ghostbusting quartet.  Or when you go into a bar and order a pint of Guinness and you know that the wait for it to be poured and for it to finally settle into its marvellously creamy headed state will seem eternal but it will be so worthwhile, because apparently it really is true that good things come to those who wait.

Other times the inevitable can be quite dispiriting.  The way that a Saturday morning hangover always follows a Friday night out, or that realisation the moment you start to drunkenly talk to a girl that no matter how well it may be going you are eventually going to say something ridiculous, make one joke too many or simply fall over.  Sometimes all three in quick fashion.

There were many inevitabilities floating around this BetFred Cup quarter-final match on a wet September night:  1)  Celtic would win;  2)  There wouldn’t be many people in attendance;  3)  It would be cold;  4)  It would be impossible to be drunk enough to make it truly worthwhile.


On that last point I gave it a pretty good attempt, though much like Tom Rogic’s shooting throughout the game it was wildly off target.  After my typical pint of Caesar Augustus in The Raven on Renfield Street I had made plans to venture out to the hipster gentry of the West End, where I hoped to make my first visit to the Williams Bros operated bar Inn Deep, on Kelvinbridge.  The rain was lashing down at this point, more prolific than Celtic attempts on goal later in the night, so it wasn’t possible – or at least not sensible – to enjoy what looks like an absolutely beautiful outdoor seating area right by the river Kelvin, but this bar has a charm to it.  Cocooned away below street level it is intimate, scenic (at least I imagine it would be on a nice day) and it has several Williams Bros beers on tap.  Remarkably a Caesar Augustus out here, a mere eight minutes away from Buchanan Street on the subway, is 70p cheaper than at The Raven, so four of them and you just about break even on the cost of your subway ride.  Throw in a Joker IPA and you’re in profit.  The Joker pairs wonderfully with the sticky and spicy BBQ wings.

The best thing about spending an afternoon hanging out in a craft beer hipster haven in the West End is that you can listen to American students talk absolute bullshit (I think in this case it was one American student plus two friends who had come across to visit her.)  I heard descriptions of black pudding being “not quite a dessert – more like sausage, but with a lot of blood” and haggis, apparently, is “similar to meatloaf with added spices.” Boy are they in for a surprise.

The train out to Dalmarnock was a lot more subdued than the last time I travelled to Celtic Park.  The whole place was noticably, though unsurprisingly, quieter than it has been all season.  There was no queue to get through the turnstyle, no clouds of smoke to cough and splutter through in the toilet, not even a significant line for the half-time pie or when I decided to grab a pre-match hot chocolate – which proved to be a big mistake on my part; the 90 minutes which followed would have been better survived blindingly drunk.

We all knew that Celtic would win.  That’s the case most times when you go to Celtic Park.  In a league season upsets can happen, games can be drawn, but this was League One Alloa:  it was a case of how many Celtic would score rather then if they would.  Only as the match unfolded in a ghostly quiet stadium – save for the ever boisterous standing section – it became clear that, rather, this was going to be a question of when we would score.  Alloa were organised, Celtic were wasteful.  More shots found the empty rows of seats in the Lisbon Lions stand than troubled the opposition keeper.  It was developing into a dire affair.

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However, like Ghosbusters 2, this was one of those scenarios with a comforting inevitability about it.  It was surely only a matter of time until Celtic opened the scoring, it was just that as the clock ticked ever closer towards the end and Celtic played their 94th sideways pass of a seemingly endless build-up to a goal the mind began to wander.  I was becoming less focussed on the game and more focussed on questions such as:

Wouldn’t it be hilarious, even for a little while, if the United States actually elects Donald Trump as President?
Now that Angelina Jolie is a single woman again, do I have a chance?  
Has anyone actually ever been to Alloa?  
Would you rather have the power of invisibility or the ability to bring about world peace?  Oooh, or, would you rather never suffer another hangover again?  
People like to point out that none of the examples cited by Alanis Morissette in her song ‘Ironic’ are actually ironic, but isn’t that the whole point of the song?  (ie. ‘Ironic’ is ironic?)  
Why can you not “have your cake and eat it?”  It’s YOUR cake, what else are you going to do with it??
They say that “love is free”, but aren’t all of the other emotions?
We know that Adam Scott the golfer is better at golf; and we know that Adam Scott the actor is better at acting; but which Adam Scott is better at doing his taxes?

Meanwhile, others around me were becoming agitated as the game reached its final quarter with the score still 0-0.  There was a moment late in the game where yet another wayward Celtic shot found itself nestling in the sparsely populated stand behind the goal and a group of young boys spotted an opportunity to take a photograph of themselves with the match ball.  As they struggled to get to grips with the wet ball and the camera facility on their phones they were met with a hail of abuse from the rows behind me, urging them to “get the fucking ball back on the park” amongst other colourful demands.  They hastily did, and were suitably chastened enough not to attempt such malarky again – even when it was 1-0 and the cries were instead to “keep the ball!”

As it was, just as the terrifying prospect of another thirty minutes watching Celtic trying to break down a stodgy Alloa defence loomed large over the evening, comforting inevitability won through in the end as James Forrest finally ended the scoring drought on the 83rd minute and Moussa Dembele added a second not long thereafter.  The resultant full-time whistle and exit had me on a train to Argyle Street and back in the city centre within little more than twenty minutes, and I was up at Nice N Sleazy’s with a post-match pint in hand less than an hour after full-time.  If only it could be like this every week.

Inevitably it won’t be.

Final scores:
Celtic 2-0 Alloa Athletic
Tedium 1-0 JJ

Playlist:
Comedy Bang!  Bang! ep # 446:  Scrounging and Lounging
Spotify Discover Weekly

The day where we faced an unfamiliar foe

It has been a long time since we have experienced anything like this in Glasgow.  As much as you think you can prepare yourself for it nothing really can.  You walk into the stadium and the atmosphere is white hot. You can feel the beads of sweat forming on your forehead as you stand there completely immersed in it all.  Even though you try not to think about it – about the fierce enemy you are facing – you can’t help but focus on it.  It is right there staring you in the face.  It is loud and boisterous and colourful and angry; it wants you to know that it is there.  It has waited for this day for a long time and it is keen to shine.  But you are stubborn and you don’t want to look directly at it, you want to focus on the task at hand, you want to think about Celtic.

Even when the game kicks off your mind is on it.  You can’t help it; its searing energy is right there in your face.  No matter where you look, whichever area of the field you try and focus your attention on, this rarely seen rival is doing its best to divert your attention.

It was difficult to ignore the hot September sun.  From the moment I got off the train at Bellgrove I could feel it blazing from above.  Inside Celtic Park it was even hotter.  There were many things I expected from yesterday’s game:  a few goals, an intense atmosphere, a better half-time pie than my last visit, grown men in Rangers shirts somehow thinking that singing songs about paedophelia is an acceptable thing to do in society.  But one thing I certainly wasn’t expecting was to come away from a football game in Glasgow in September with sunburn.  My face was almost as red as Joey Barton’s surely was.

This was an almighty, fiery occasion.  There was a constant wall of sound accompanying a tapestry of every colour imaginable around the ground.  Observing the sea of red, white and blue flags across the ground in the away end, the elderly gentleman from Donegal sitting next to me remarked that he “didn’t know we were playing France today.”  We weren’t, but it was a young Frenchman who stole the show as Moussa Dembele netted a hat-trick, with every goal greeted with a booming, searing reaction.

That unfamiliar foe wasn’t going to do down without a fight, however.  There was still the long forty-five minute walk back to the city centre during which even the decision to go coatless offered little protection against the balmy elements.  It was a sticky and sweaty affair, and never was a post-match pint savoured more eagerly than when I reached The Raven.

Final scores:  Celtic 5-1 Rangers
                          September sun 1-0 JJ

Playlist:          Okkervil River – Away
                          Suede – Coming Up
                          Justin Townes Earle – Midnight At The Movies
                          Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark