It would probably be in everyone’s interests if I could get the Guy Fawkes puns out-of-the-way at the beginning of this blog post. So, with that in mind: Celtic blitzed Inverness with three second-half goals in a crackling atmosphere at Celtic Park in a performance where the Celtic attack sparkled, with a rocket from Tom Rogic particularly making the crowd oooh and aaaaah while Patrick Roberts dazzled like a Catherine Wheel as the Inverness defence disintegrated in a cloud of smoke. After a drab opening 45 minutes where Caley Thistle managed to extinguish the home side’s attacking flame this game exploded into life following the interval when Griffiths sizzled and Stuart Armstrong was red-hot. Celtic have as good as thrown this SPFL title race into the bonfire, etc etc.
My experience at Celtic Park this season has largely been that the folk in surrounding seats will not talk to you, and you don’t talk to them. It is almost like an unwritten agreement where, unless you know someone (or are going to the game with someone,) you don’t make contact with anybody in the seats around you. You can wrap your arms around them when doing the Huddle, but that’s it! Despite that I have been able to characterise a number of people in my section. There is the guy in the row in front of me who looks like a walking midlife crisis with greying hair swept back, he appears to be a student of the game. The elderly gentleman in front of him begins to grow impatient if there hasn’t been a goal inside the first fifteen minutes and invariably demands that the ball is “blootered up the park.” There is a woman a row or two behind me, whom I have yet to muster the courage to turn around and look at, who screams for anyone to SHOOT the moment they are within 45 yards of goal and is absolutely scathing when the ball inevitably lands several rows away from us. I have been picturing Rab C. Nesbitt’s ‘Mary Doll’.
The two seats either side of me generally tend to lay empty most of the time, save for maybe the games against Rangers and Aberdeen earlier in the season. There is a regular in the seat on the other side of the empty one to my left, however, and I will always remember, remember the fifth of November as the day that he chose to break the unwritten agreement of no contact. (Dammit, sorry, that one just came to me.)
He hasn’t uttered a word all season. At least I think this was the same guy: underneath all of the multiple layers of clothing he had covering virtually every inch of naked flesh on his being it was difficult to tell; he genuinely had the appearance of a man who was about to tackle Ben Nevis. But today he was in right chatty form, from the very moment I arrived in my seat prior to kick-off.
“Blah blah blah blah blah lineup blah blah” is what I think he said. Turns out he is Northern Irish and I had forgotten to bring my Ulster translation device with me. I had no idea what he said. I was able to decode the word ‘lineup’ and having seen the team selection on Twitter before heading out to the game I speculated that he was maybe quite surprised by it,
“Very attacking, isn’t it?” I guessed. How wrong could I be when it’s Brendan Rodgers?
“Blah blah blah blah blah three or four goals blah.” His accent was impossibly strong and I had immediately switched to my default setting in situations where someone is talking very quietly or in a manner I can’t understand: I nod and laugh. He could have been telling me that he feared we would lose 4-0 with such an attacking set-up and I was standing there with a grin as wide as Emilio Izaguirre’s starting position. For all I know he may have decided that this moment, on a freezing cold November afternoon at Celtic Park, would be the first time he would talk to another human being about the horrible death of his wife and children and the family dog in a sickening car accident and I was laughing along at every word because I can’t understand the Northern Irish accent.
“Blah blah Scott Sinclair blah blah blah.”
WHAT ARE YOU SAYING??
It was a trial, and while I wasn’t putting my utmost effort into finding out what he was saying I was trying nonetheless to converse with the guy – even if we did end up communicating in a mangled form of the English language whereby he would make a statement and I would make a counter statement which vaguely related to what I thought he might have been saying.
I can only conclude that my strategy must have been working, because at various intervals during the game he would lean across the empty seat between us and poke me on the arm to produce another incomprehensible observation.
“Blah blah blah blah blah midfield.”
“Aye, Scott Brown has been superb.” At one point I’m sure he nodded and laughed.
Northern Irish accent 1-0 JJ
Celtic 3-0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Edwyn Collins – Gorgeous George
Gene – Drawn To The Deep End
Compulsive Gamblers – Crystal Gazing Luck Amazing
Wilco – Kicking Television, Live in Chicago
Lambchop – Flotus