FORMER Celtic owner Fergus McCann has issues a statement thanking supporters and backers on the eve of the 20th anniversary of his consortium’s takeover.
CHARLIE MULGREW was still two days short of his eighth birthday when Fergus McCann completed his takeover of Celtic, so he can be excused for lacking any detailed recollection of one of the most significant days in the club’s history.
But, as he met the media to promote Celtic’s celebrations of next Tuesday’s 20th anniversary of the event, which they will recognise at tomorrow’s home game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Mulgrew certainly could not be accused of lacking appreciation of McCann’s influence in their success on and off the field over the past two decades.
As Mulgrew closes in on a third successive title win as a Celtic player, he is grateful to former owner, chairman and chief executive McCann for the environment he established in the east end of Glasgow after pulling the club back from the brink of bankruptcy and taking control on 4 March 1994.
“I was young at the time when Fergus arrived but I’ve heard a lot about it since,” said Mulgrew. “I vaguely remembered when the club were struggling and I know how good he was for Celtic.
“As a supporter and player, I’m really thankful for what he did for the club. The players who know about Fergus are appreciative of what he did. He turned the club around and played a big part in the Celtic we know now. At the time, I remember a lot of fans didn’t fully understand what he was doing for Celtic. But what a clever person he was. He transformed the place and we’re all very thankful for it now.
“It’s hard to believe he was booed once as he unfurled a league championship flag. You can’t imagine that happening now. But the supporters didn’t realise back then how great he would be for the club. He was accused of being a bit tight back then. But now? As a fan, I can’t thank him enough. Every time we run out at Celtic Park, a fantastic big stadium, you realise it was Fergus who gave us that. He did huge things for Celtic and I’m sure anyone who once doubted him realise now they were wrong.
“When you think now about clubs over-spending, he was ahead of his time and he knew what he was doing. There are a couple of clubs now who could do with a Fergus McCann. People didn’t have a clue what he was trying to achieve back then. Some people thought he was robbing the club and I think that’s why he was booed. Celtic were very close to folding before Fergus came in but look at the club now. That shows how clever he really was.”
Despite suffering their first league defeat of the season with the 2-1 loss to Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Tuesday night, Celtic are cruising towards what will be their tenth championship triumph in the 20 years since McCann brought the club into public ownership.
Most of that era, of course, saw Celtic locked in a power struggle with Rangers at the summit of Scottish football. While the Ibrox club continue to experience financial difficulties as they try to work their way back to the top flight, Mulgrew says he would relish a more sustained challenge from his former club Aberdeen next season. “They’re a strong team with really good players,” he added. “But we welcome the challenge next year. I’ve played up there, Aberdeen are a big club who have a lot of loyal supporters. If there’s a challenge there next season, we’d welcome it. There’s no reason why they can’t because they’ve got a great squad right now, which can be built on during the summer. If they do, it would certainly bring the best out in us and a strong Aberdeen would benefit the whole of Scottish football.” Although Celtic have been miles in front of their notional title rivals this season, currently holding a 21-point lead at the top, Mulgrew insists lifting the trophy will be as satisfying as ever.
“I’ve won a league with Rangers challenging us but if we win this one, it’ll mean just as much,” said the Scotland international. “It’s another title for me. When Rangers are in the league it’s neck-and-neck – but we only play them four times a season. There are other games to win and we’ve won them this season.
“It’s still massive for us to win the championship this year. It’s harder work than people give it credit for. You still have to win the games and teams every week raise their game against you.
“We’d love to get to 100 points this season, we want to get as many as we possibly can between now and the end of the campaign. We’re hurting after the Aberdeen defeat but there’s a determination now to start a new unbeaten run. That’s the way it has always been here, the manager is on top of you, keeping you motivated. We know exactly what he’s looking for on Saturday.
“Motivation won’t be a problem for us. We’re looking to bounce back right away with a win against Inverness. At a club like Celtic there’s always something to play for. Every time you put the jersey on, that should be motivation enough. The fans demand that and so does the manager.
“You have to win games for Celtic. The fans expect that and it’s up to us to stand up to that challenge. The league title is taken a bit for granted now because Rangers aren’t in the league. But it’s still hard work to get there. At the start of the season, Celtic are the team with everything to lose. The pressure is right on us, so it’s still a great achievement.”