|The Pre-History of NTV|
|Once upon a time, a few hundred issues ago, there lived in the land of the Parkhead board some villagers who weren’t very happy. So one day they sat down at a typewriter and…|
In 1987, after a season when supporting Celtic was as enjoyable as appearing on that Japanese quiz programmes where contestants have to endure things like having their underpants filled with cockroaches, NTV came into existence.
The final straw was a defeat against mighty Falkirk at Parkhead on May 2nd. The league championship which had been won in dramatic style at Love Street the season before, had been generously donated to the Huns. They had dropped 25 points themselves that season but Celtic had failed to win 17 of 44 league games, including three Old Firm matches, all four against Aberdeen, draws at Motherwell and Clydebank and, one of the lowlights of this or any other season, a 4:1 humping at Dens Park.
The mood on the terracing was almost as ugly as the terracings themselves, yet the Celtic View continued to take the Marie Antoinette stance towards increasing public disaffection: “Let them eat pies”.
The very first edition of NTV appeared on the streets in time for the first Old Firm game of the 1987-88 season on August 29th. Put together using a borrowed typewriter, borrowed money and borrowed patter, it set out to be the antithesis of everything staid, boring, sycophantic, conservative, witless and sanitised the board’s official mouthpiece had become. Hence the title, Not The View.
Five hundred photocopied magazines consisting of 24 poorly pasted together and barely legible articles went on sale at the top of Janefield Street half an hour before the kickoff. They were sold out in ten minutes.
The mixture of constructive yet realistic criticism of the team, complete slagging of the Celtic board and some wild abuse directed at Graeme Souness and The Forces of Darkness seemed to strike an immediate chord with many of the punters who were standing beside us on the terracing. Letters encouraging us to keep up the good work started arriving at the PO box. Frankenstein’s creature twitched into life.
Incidentally, inspired by this sudden surge of fan power going on outside Celtic won the game 1:0; Billy Stark scored the winner and Souness gave us all a laugh by getting himself sent off!
Reaction to NTV 1 was, in the main, very positive. Sure, some supporters still regarded any criticism of Celtic as a complete anathema worthy of excommunication, but the encouragement we got gave us the heart to produce another issue, which came out in October. If the reviews we got in the national press were to be believed, NTV was already being regarded as the thinking fan’s emergency Rizla.
We opened up a fair percentage of the second issue to readers’ letters. Those of the “Hats off to the Celtic board” variety were notable by their absence, but the debate about Celtic becoming a public company was at last being given a proper airing.
With Souness having acquired the services of football’s answer to a threshing machine, Graham Roberts, to play alongside the aptly named Terry Butcher, not to mention Ally McCoist being up on some charge or other, we had no shortage of targets to aim whatever satirical darts we could contrive, but looking back, the most interesting butt of NTV’s sarcasm in that early issue was none other than Maurice Johnston.
As readers will recall, before he slithered into the Blue Room to put his X on his contract with Satan he was plying his trade with Nantes in France. If you want to know how the epithet “Le Petit Merde” was arrived at look no further than issue 2.
By the time NTV 3 appeared in December we had received around 300 letters of support for our stance on how things were being run at boardroom level as well as one (which we published) in support of the Custodians of the Biscuit Tin, personified in those days by Jack McGinn. Even then, it appeared that the board were at least beginning to realise that there a lot of very unhappy people coming to watch Celtic.
In response to mounting criticism of their shambolic handling of tickets for big games, for example, the directors organised two greetin’ meetings through the Celtic View where concerned fans were invited along to put their views to Jack McGinn and Chris White, a man who used to do a very poor impersonation of a football administrator. Chris was so impressed that he was reported in Pravda as regarding these exercises in people’s democracy as, “Positive and constructive forums.” This probably goes a long way to explaining why they were scrapped shortly afterwards.
NTV 4 hit the streets in February 1988 and was the first to appear in the familiar 36 page format with a three colour cover. Sadly we had to reflect on the behaviour of some racist arseholes and their abuse of the black Rangers player Mark Walters during the Ne’erday fixture that year. However, at least the issue was out in the open and once again showed that a fanzine could address things that others would rather ignore.
On March 20th 1988 Celtic were to play Rangers at Ibrox in what would be the league decider. In the previous two Old Firm games that season first one Rangers player (Souness) then two (Woods and Butcher) had been sent off. By a logical progression we worked out that not only would Celtic win the game but three Teds would be getting to use the rubber duck long before their colleagues. Therefore we gave out something in the region of six thousand red cards with the fanzine for the Celts in the Broomloan to wave at the ref in the event – however unlikely – of one of the Huns committing a serious foul.
The result was truly a sight to see. One tackle in particular, perpetrated by Roberts, was the signal for a sea of red cards being brandished from the Celtic parts of the ground, just as Souness was warming up to come on as a sub. It has to be said that even the Man in the Iron Moustache himself was seen to smile – or was it a grimace?
Celtic went on to win the game by 2:1. Obviously the unnerving sight of all those red cards had a devastating effect on the Rangers players, several of whom were unsure whether or not to stay on the pitch. In fact one of the few people not to show Roberts a red card that day was the referee.
As season 87-88 drew to a close, not only had Celtic won the league they had also reached the final of the Scottish Cup thanks to an amazing last-minute winner against Hearts in the semi-final courtesy of Marco van McGhee. To celebrate we had intended to give away a flexi-disc single. The backing track was laid down and the song was penned – a Beastie Boys-style rap number – before, sadly, our impresario was called away to tour the States with the band he was working with at the time and the project fell through.
Undaunted, and to make it up to the music world for the loss of this putative classic, we went instead for balloons. Thousands of green and white balloons. In fact there were more balloons at Hampden that day than you’d find at a Rangers home game. Check out the video of the game. You’ll see them floating all over the place.
This issue also saw Chapter the First of The Book of Wisdom, a section of the bible hitherto unearthed by scholars but one which became a standard text to be read at fundamentalist Malcontent prayer meetings. Relations between the fanzine and the Celtic board of directors, such as they were, had always been abysmal, but by the start of NTV’s second season they began to deteriorate markedly.
With the Centenary Year celebrations by now in full swing the board had done nothing of any substance to honour the memory of Jock Stein, the man on whose success they had been dining out for so long. In an attempt to redress that omission we commissioned a bust of the great man with the intention of offering it to the board to decorate their recently-opened Walfrid bunker complex. Not surprisingly they knocked it back on some spurious pretext and it went on display in the People’s Palace, where it was presented by Sean Fallon. Not until the Bunnet arrived was it accepted into its rightful place where it now has pride of place in the boardroom.
By October 1988 the failure of the directors to strengthen the team following the previous season’s success was beginning to have dire – but predictable – consequences. After a disastrous start from which the team never recovered, Celtic lay in eighth place in the table having secured three points from a possible twelve. All the old faults were glaringly exposed but no more money could be prized from the Tin.
Nonetheless, at last the fanzine was afforded some recognition in the Celtic View. We were described as “Malcontents” for the first time, and so proud we were to call ourselves thus, on the front cover of NTV 8 no less!
Were we downhearted in those days? Bloody right we were, but at least we could still play our joker and have a laugh at the likes of Jim Melrose and Paddy Turner in “They Embarrassed the Hoops”. Ah yes, They Embarrassed the Hoops. This was originally intended to be a light-hearted retrospective on the less than distinguished careers of some of the duffers who have played for Celtic over the decades – remember “Bob Kelly and the Easybeats”, the popular epithet for the then Chairman’s “youth policy” back in the 50s, or the post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by thousands in the wake of John Dowie or Paddy Turner?
In fact it became one of our most popular features ever. After featuring the likes of Frank Munro, Ian McWilliams and Willie Garner it was eventually dropped for a variety of reasons, not least the death threats from ex-players anxious not to be immortalised in those particular pages.
By the end of our first year or so in publication we were able to produce an issue with a colour cover (wow!) and text that was almost completely readable (whatever happened to those halcyon days? sarcastic ed). It was Apollo 9 to NTV 1’s Wright Brothers string and canvas machine. But the reasons for actually starting the fanzine were still evident in abundance.
The great Jack McGinn himself once said that football was “all about opinions”. Well, we started out with the opinion that Jack and his fellow board members were hopeless, but over the years of their tenure in charge we were forced to revise that opinion… to “utterly and completely hopeless”. As it turned out, we weren’t alone in holding that opinion, which might explain why we’re still going many issues later. We certainly can’t think of any other explanation.
A lot has happened in the intervening years of course; others took up the cudgel, the Bunnet came and went, the shares have been bought and sold. But without wanting to get too sociological about it, we’d like to think that when future Campbells and Woods sit down to write the next volume of the history of those turbulent years, this particular wee piece of samizdat played its part, even if it was only to make ordinary fans realise that Celtic was not the preserve of a few on the board, but a club which belongs to us all.
We have basked in the reflected glory of Celtic’s successes – and look forward to lots more to come – and we have suffered some unspeakably bad experiences supporting our team, but throughout it all we’ve tried our best to be a tonic for the troops. To thank everybody who has helped over the years with contributions and with selling the magazine would take up a whole issue on its own. It was the fact that so many ordinary fans were prepared to get involved that helped make NTV a true fanzine, a concept that football’s Suits will probably never really understand.