Celtic supporters cherish their history and so should appreciate the story of Lance Corporal Willie Angus. He was celebrated at the Scottish Football museum last year, and rightly so.
A picture of him standing proudly in his Celtic jersey – he was at the club from 1911 to 1914 – was included in the Footballers on Parade exhibition, which opened last November.
Observing a colleague lying close to German lines near the French village of Givenchy in 1915, Angus slid out of his dug-out to rescue the stricken lieutenant, in what was to all intents and purposes a suicide mission. Though badly wounded he survived and earned a Victoria Cross. When asked why he had risked death to carry out such a mercy mission, he replied: “I have to go back to Carluke. I cannot return if I left someone from Carluke to die here.”
It is a powerful glimpse of heroism; the type thousands wanted to take some time out to remember on Sunday in Dingwall. Sadly, the minute’s silence before Ross County v Celtic became another exercise in willing it to be over quickly.
The image of Lance Corporal Angus crawling across a broken land is an affecting one. But then it shouldn’t be a matter of trying to force people to see why they should be grateful for such personal sacrifices.
It isn’t about ordering those Celtic fans who chose to disrupt the minute’s silence to find empathy for actions or beliefs that they might not have any empathy with. It is about hoping they might at least permit others, including fellow Celtic supporters, to observe a minute’s silence that in the Highlands, particularly this year, held a special resonance.
The announcer at the Global Energy stadium made specific mention of the disaster a few miles away on the Cromarty Firth, 100 years ago next month. More than 400 were killed when HMS Natal capsized after faulty cordite in the ship’s magazines exploded. Scores of wives and children were on board for a Hogmanay party. The announcer made a request that the minute’s silent tribute might be heeded in respect of such a local tragedy. It wasn’t.
It was just a minority to blame. But a minority in an away support of around 2,500 is considerably more noticeable than a minority in a crowd of around 40,000. Perhaps the SPFL might have to think about ensuring Celtic play at home at this time of year, to avoid a situation in which a hard-core of undesirables are able to impose themselves so wilfully on the proceedings.
They clearly regard disrupting a minute’s silence as some perverse badge of honour. Celtic fans were aghast when a minority of Hearts fans disrupted the minute’s silence before a Scottish Cup semi-final ten years ago following the death of Pope John Paul II. Back then Peter Rafferty, president of the Affiliation of Celtic Supporters Clubs, said: “It’s a bit sad that you can’t even allocate one minute to the memory of a huge figure on the world stage. In this day and age, it reflects very badly on Scotland.” Indeed it does.
But it’s also refreshing to read comments posted on various forums by those Celtic fans who care deeply about the image of their club. Those who recognise that Celtic owe their very existence to taking time to care and think of others, to help those less fortunate rise out of poverty.
To Celtic’s huge credit, they quickly issued a statement apologising for the few who have chosen to “embarrass” the club and the “overwhelming majority” of supporters, again. They realise they cannot abdicate responsibility.
Like it or not, fans represent the clubs. When they step out of line as they did on Sunday, it shames Celtic, something Ronny Deila acknowledged later. It wasn’t just a matter of a few moronic shouts and jeers throughout the silence. Outbursts of pro-IRA songs were also heard afterwards.
But it is also a question of personal responsibility. Otherwise, when Celtic play on Remembrance weekend, we will be forced to re-live this cycle of cringeing through what, for many, represents a sacred few moments.
It is about respecting the wishes of those who might happen to regard the minute’s silence as the most important 60 seconds of their year.