Manfred Lurker (certificate holder 8838) looking back at the day the Jungle’s fate was finally sealed and an unlikely mascot hero for the people was born.
Above: Going round in circles. Just like the directors back in 1993, except their circles were of the ever-decreasing variety.
What do the following have in common: two go-karts trundling round the old Celtic Park cinder track at opposite ends to each other that couldn’t have been going any slower had there been men with red flags walking in front of them; two refugees from Billy Smart’s Circus – one precariously teetering on a pair of stilts – parading round the same cinder track alternately waving inanely and throwing cheap boiled sweets at a large crowd of football supporters; hordes of jammy-faced primary school children taking penalties into a premier league-sized goal against a ‘keeper slightly smaller in stature than Jimmy Crankie?
They were all attempts back in the 90s by those men of vision who were on the Celtic board at the time to provide pre-match or half-time entertainment for the punters (the thought of a raffle which resulted in giving the winning ticket holder money would have given them a heart seizure). An Open University lecture on the molecular structure of plant protein presented in Portuguese would have been more engrossing.
With this kind of track record in keeping us amused, what should we have expected from their biggish plans for making the last Saturday for standing in the Jungle (May 15 1993) one “not to be missed” as it was trumpeted in Jack’s organ?
One of the coveted certificates as sponsored by the Evening Times. Some went home with armfuls while others were bereft of any and left uncertified.
The best laid plans
If the plans for this big day as they were outlined in the View were to be believed then the emphasis was going to be on fun fun fun – with every expense spared.
The fans were going to be the stars of the show. We were encouraged to turn up in fancy dress and bring along large witty banners in order to crate a “party atmosphere”. Only our beloved board could misjudge the mood of the Celtic support so badly and so often – and by gum they had plenty of practice.
How many fans would feel like a party at the fag end of another wretched season to celebrate their favourite part of the stadium being taken from them that they would join in?
As it turned out, not many.
But first, the pre-match delights.
Supporters arriving early enough to gain entry to the Jungle were promised that they would be certified – as those of us who attended every game that season probably should have been. However, even this seemingly straightforward task proved to be beyond organising and while some were bereft of certificates, others waltzed off with armfuls of the priceless mementos, emblazoned as they were with the logo of the Evening Times, “everyone’s favourite paper”, which is now better known to our readers as one of the more prominent Sevco fanzines.
On the pitch two teams of supporters were showing off their skills – along with their beer bellies – as the Visually Impaired Celts made their Player of the Year presentation to John Collins. The cacophony of booing that followed this brief ceremony came along with the realisation that the green-blazered figure assisting them was none other than our esteemed chairperson Kevin Kelly. Quite a start to proceedings.
The mood improved somewhat before the kick-off, however, as Jimmy Johnstone emerged from the tunnel to wave to the fans and say a few words. Alas, the microphone would not have been out of place in the hands of Norman Collyer so Jinky’s message was largely indecipherable.
It was then up to the first team squad to take centre stage.
For the record the teams that day lined up in front of a crowd of just over 19,000 as follows:
Marshall, Smith, Boyd, Fulton (Grant), Wdowczyk, Galloway, Slater, McStay (Miller), McAvennie, Creaney, Collins
Mathers, Frail, Campbell, Wieghorst (Christie), Duffy, Paterson, Ritchie, David, Armstrong (Gilzean), McKeown, Kiwomya
Could the players raise their game – and our spirits – by turning on the style against Dundee?
They couldn’t and it wasn’t long before we were wishing wee Jinky had brought his boots with him and stayed on the park.
0:0 at the interval with the main lowlight of the first period having been a Jim Duffy penalty that saw the ball rebound back to earth off a commercial airliner making its approach to Glasgow Airport.
Who could possibly pick a winner from this selection? Note the absence of the parrot. Controversy ensued.
During the half-time pause we were to discover exactly how many of us had adopted the spirit of the Celtic View and turned up in fancy dress. Nine people were hauled out of the Jungle to be subjected to the patter of Tiger Tim and the inscrutable judgement of their peers. As each contestant was introduced to the crowd the most remarkable thing about the fancy dress competition was the incremental ferocity of the booing coming from the famous old terracing.
As it transpired, the source of this mounting hysteria came in the unlikely shape of a large parrot who was carrying a placard which read, “seats in the Jungle – I’m as sick as a parrot”. It was trying to climb the fence in order to join the parade but was being prevented from doing so by a hastily convened mufti squad comprised of stewards beefed up with a couple of Strathclyde’s finest. As tempers began to fray and feathers started to fly the crowd made it clear which side of the law they were on with an impromptu chant of “We want the parrot”.
Alas, in a scene that could have come straight from Les Miserables, the voice of an enraged citizenry was denied by the forces of reaction as the police and the Parkhead stewards joined together to overtly suppress free expression for parrots. Despite frantic feathered gesticulations in the direction of the pitch the crestfallen creature had to trudge wearily back to his cage.
While this was happening, what appeared to be hundreds of small children had appeared on the field and had begun taking penalties against each other.
As the winner of the fancy dress competition was announced – a ten year old dressed as a tiger – the booing from the Jungle resumed with a renewed ferocity, not as a response the fancy dress winner (if memory serves it was a nice wee costume) but fuelled by the injustice so recently meted out to the hapless parrot.
As an aside, I had considered entering the fancy dress competition myself. The idea was to arrive at the stadium wearing a sack and carrying a board. I decided against it on the grounds that it was probably too cryptic for the directors.
With the hallowed Celtic Park turf now swarming with schoolchildren in a frenzy of penalty-taking (they seemed to be multiplying by the minute) together with a motley assortment of people in animal costumes, sanity was briefly restored when the Lisbon Lions appeared from the tunnel to wave a last farewell to the fans in the Jungle.
And there endeth the half-time entertainment. The pitch was slowly cleared of ex-players, costumed exhibitionists and primary school penalty kick experts and we all settled down in anticipation of a football feast fit to grace the final 45 minutes of the season in front of a legendary terracing space that was soon to be consigned to the history books.
It didn’t quite turn out like that. Celtic scored twice through Paul McStay and Frank McAvennie but the performance was so downbeat that when substitute Joe Miller came on to replace McStay the fans in the Jungle struck up a chorus of, “We want the parrot!”
The parrot shortly before asserting his right to participate in the fancy dress competition, an idea that didn’t go down well with the stewards.
Kelly’s eye of the tiger
Intriguingly, someone wearing a large tiger costume who had been spotted cavorting gaily in front of the Jungle during the half-time circus, spent the entire second-half watching the match from the directors box. It was later revealed that this had been none other than Celtic’s Doctor Doom, Michael Kelly, all along. Rather than laugh along with the joke being played on us – here’s me waving at you and playing the fool but actually flipping you the finger and treating you like mugs – it was sinister to think of him donning a disguise in order to mingle with the fans. It was like something the Stasi might have done. When I moved to the Celtic End I would never be able to stand beside anything that looked like a fire hydrant, a small tree or Scooby Doo without eyeing it with anything but suspicion.
The big reveal. Oh how we laughed.
One consolation was that within a few months the doctor experienced at first-hand just how endangered tigers were as a species.
The football duly petered out for another disappointing season and the players trudged off, but the day’s entertainment wasn’t over yet. There was still the banner competition to be judged.
Stadium announcer Tiger Tim reappeared and exhorted us to, “Hold up all those banners!”
Scanning the crowd for something that might find its way onto the front page of the following Wednesday’s edition of Pravda, he was evidently not having a fruitful search.
“Come on, get those banners up… Come on… There must be somebody out there with a banner?”
Indeed there was. One. It was hung on the fence right at the front and was as obvious as a slug on your wedding cake. It read: “Kelly must stay – NOT!”
It was the only banner in sight with a witty message and it was studiously ignored. *
One final contribution to the afternoon’s festivities laid on by the directors is worth mentioning. A large grey balloon was tethered behind the goal at the Dalmarnock end. It was something called “The Concept Elephant”. Had it been pink in colour it might have passed for some kind of surreal subliminal message about the new stadium in Cambuslang. Instead it simply stood there, waving gently in the breeze. In truth, watching it was preferable to looking at events unfolding on the pitch.
The ‘Concept Elephant’. Nobody was too sure what the concept was.
And so the curtain finally came down on what had been another spectacular extravaganza courtesy of Kelly Productions Ltd. As a reward for the stoic suffering of the club’s long-suffering supporters the board gave away two – count them ladies and gentlemen – season tickets for what was to be the new all seated Jungle. Their generosity was as boundless as their ideas for rescuing a doomed business model.
Of course it was a mere coincidence that when it came to redeveloping the ground the Jungle was first to be gutted, seeing as it housed some of the fiercest critics of the board who were becoming increasingly vocal – and not just about the civil rights of parrots.
* It was brought to our attention later that Kevin Kelly was greatly amused by the one and only banner held aloft in the jungle that afternoon. Apparently he turned to the person sitting next to him in the comfy seats – a chap dressed as a tiger – and chortled, “look, they’ve put the ‘not’ in the wrong place.” The Celtic View reported some time later that the three people involved in making the banner were subsequently tracked down by Kev and, in an unusual spirit of board Glasnost, were given a guided tour of the stadium, a meal in the Walfrid and the chance to meet Kev in person. And all for one lousy banner! By then we had produced 43 issues of unremitting abuse and had never been offered so much as a free Parkhead pie or a new tammy for George of the Celtic End!