November 30 2017

In the first contribution to our new ‘Opinion’ section Scots Poet Thomas Clark reflects on his Grandfather’s love of football and what supporting a club means to people. As its St Andrew’s Day we felt it appropriate to commission a piece in the Scots language.
We hope you enjoy and we welcome any feedback on the piece or offers of new writing for this part of the website:

A Rangers Man

Tae cry ma mither’s faither a Rangers supporter wad hae been tae diminish him. Like cawin him wee man, like forcin him intae a shirt that had shrunk in the wash. Naw, try again; he wis mair than jist a Rangers supporter. He wis a Rangers man. A True Blue,  a Teddy Bear. A bluenose fae the day he wis born tae the day he died. Replica tap on the coffin, Follow Follow at the funeral. The hale twelve yards.

Ma ain faither, on the ither haun, makkit nae sic heidy demonstrations o his love affair wi Celtic. He wis quieter aboot it than ma grandfaither, but his commitment tae his team wis nae dout jist as steidy. In thae days, supportin a team wis yin o thae things fowk had tae dae, jist tae gie ither chiels a haunle on them. Gin yer pals wir gonnae file ye awa in their heids, faur better it wis unner Tam Clark, big Celtic man than Tam Clark, scroungin wee jakey.

Leuk. No every feud winds up wi faimilies o Hatfields an McCoys. Fact o business, ah never even saw ma faither in the same room as ma granda, never mind them shoutin the odds at each ither. This wis no The Jerry Springer Show; these were no fowk wha were open wi their feelins. Aw that existit wis a gap – tottie tae begin wi, wappin bi the end – an whit it meant wis that the twa haufs o whit ocht tae hae been ma faimily micht as weel hae bided in twa sindert universes. Tae me, as a bairn, it wis – like aw things – a mystery. Ah didna ken ocht aboot fitba or religion or onythin that wisnae tae dae wi He-Man. Aw ah kent wis that ah had twa faimilies insteid o wan, switchin in an oot like the wee gadgies in wan o thae fancy clocks. An a faimily that’s anely there hauf the time… weel, that’s no really a faimily at aw.

Scots Poet Thomas Clark

Nou the interestin narrative here, ye’ll nae dout ween, shoud hae been that age-auld fecht. Ma faither an grandfaither gawin at it in the kirk, each yin grabbin a howk o ma soul an yerkin me back an forrit atween the aisles. That’s mony fowk’s story, but it wisnae mine. Neither ma faither nor ma grandfaither wis ower interestit in whit ah did wi masel; naebody ever bocht me ma first peerie shirt, haundit me ower ma first muckle turnstile. Insteid o aw that, ah wis left tae ma ain devices, muddlin throu yon kind o benign neglect that passes for a rearin in west coast Scotland, whaur naebody peys ye a second’s thocht till yer arm’s hingin aff bi a threid.

In mony weys it wis the best thing that couldae happened tae me, that, jist bein let alane. When ye see the baggage that some weans wind up cairryin, ye aften wunner if the best a faither can dae bi his son is tae lea him the hell alane. But even at that it took an awfy lang time afore ah stapped seein fitba as pairt o a grand suite o impediments – drink, drugs, gamblin, poverty – that kept the fowk on ma scheme fae ever gettin aff it. Tae me, it wis jist anither trick. Yin mair ploy tae stap us linkin airms wi the people we’d maist in common wi.

It’s a divided warld we’re leevin in nouadays, an ill-divided yin, an oor earliest introduction tae the gallus tribes o Us an Them is aften throu fitba. Lang afore we’ve ony kind o notion o politics or religion, we ken aw the basics – the reds versus the blues, City versus United, Oor Guys against That Lot. This is true o fitba generally, no jist o Rangers an Celtic. Even the maist hairmless o rivalries primes us fae an early age tae see colours first an people second. Tae seek oot difference in the maist siblike o bodies.

“The arc of the moral universe is long,” said Martin Luther King, “But it bends towards justice.” Every generation o supporters that comes alang thinks that they’re aheid o the gemme, the maist enlightened an open-minded yet. Ma ain lot, we’re awfy big on this beautiful game business. Fitba as a global language, an aw that. But whit does ony o it actually mean? Whaur are we daein better than oor faithers? Ah mind hearin Harry Redknapp talkin aboot fitba in the Fifties; how, when he wis a loun, fowk wirnae sae partisan aboot their teams as they’ve come tae be noo. His faither aye took him tae West Ham, but gin West Ham wirnae at hame, they went tae Millwall, an if they wirnae at hame, it wis Leyton Orient. This idea o follaein an individual club, which seems sae vital tae oor experience o the gemme, jist wisnae that important tae him. It wis the fitba that mattered tae young Harry Redknapp, no West Ham FC. Cry that notion auld-farrant gin ye like, but tae me it seems like we’re losin that capacity tae enjoy the gemme for the gemme’s sake, that nouadays we’re ayeweys choosin sides. Whether it’s El Clasico or the Swedish Second Division, we’ve got tae, we’ve jist got tae hae somethin personal ridin on it. An if some poor sowel is watchin the Warld Cup Final but disnae mind wha wins, we cannae help but feel they’ve missed the point.

Nou, there’s a lot o awfy bad stuff gaun on in the warld, an God knows ah’m no sayin that the wey we watch fitba is the problem. But whit ah am sayin is that the wey we watch fitba informs how we react tae the problem. That fitba maks it easier for us tae jist pick a side an start in swingin than tae try an get doon tae the nub o the thing. An jist tak a leuk aroond ye, mun. Tell me that’s no the hert o oor trouble.

Wad ye like tae try a wee thocht experiment? Imagine a bairn growin up follaein baith Glesga teams, gaun tae Ibrox yin week an Celtic Park the ither. Or aw three teams, mebbe; or pap Queen’s Park in tae complete the set. Weel, that widnae wirk, some fowk will say. Awricht then; but how no, ah want tae ask? Whit is it that maks this sae unthinkable a proposeetion? Whit’ve we got tae lose?

Efter thoosands o years o binary genders, it’s anely nou we’re gettin near a place whaur fowk are able tae able tae say aye, but naw. Tae tell the lave o us that the twa options on oor menu dinnae wirk for them; that they’re baith, or neither, or something awthegither different. For mony, yon’s a challenge tae oor wey o thinkin that we’re still gettin oor heids aroond. But the places that it will tak us tae, whaur things are jist a bittie less us-and-them, this-or-that, wan-thing-or-anither, are shuirly wirth the journey.

The greatest gifts we ever gie oor bairns are choices. No jist the choice atween wan bunch o numpty fitba players an anither, but the choice even tae reject oor notions o choice, tae tell us that the wey we’ve ayeweys done things an thocht aboot them – that’s no for them. An if fitba is yin o the mair trivial arenas in which we deal wi these issues, it’s nanetheless important. Gin fitba is whaur mony o us learnt aboot division, it can also be whaur oor bairns fund oot thegitherness.

So this Seturday, get yersel on the train, the bus, the Underground. Head ower tae Ibrox, tae Parkheid, tae every point unknown. Tak yer weans if ye’ve got them; tak yer mates if ye hivnae. An mak shuir an gie the ither side’s shoes a wee mile or twa. It’s a smaw thing, aye, anely a chuckie oot the dyke. But wis there ever a dyke yet that was made o owt but stanes?

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