Are you sitting comfortably?
Good, then I’ll begin.
The first time I sat down on a proper seat at a football match was in January 1969 at Celtic Park against Partick Thistle.
Celtic won 8-1. We had a flask of soup with us and my well-organised aunt even had a tartan blanket to wrap around my wee legs.
Of such memories genuine happiness is fashioned.
Being in the stand was a real treat.
My match day experience until then had comprised of being securely positioned on a crush barrier by my grandfather.
In my teenage years I was a denizen of the Jungle.
The Taylor Report meant that all seated stadia in Britain became the norm at top level football matches.
The renovation experts at Firhill on Monday night probably weren’t born when the Hillsborough disaster happened.
Seats were brought in for the safety of spectators and wilfully breaking them is a criminal act.
The line in the sand is simple enough and it is this: if criminal damage is part of your matchday experience then you, I’m afraid, are part of the problem.
Not FoCUS officers or Peter Lawwell or Anglo-American global capitalism.
You’re the problem.
I have used flares and smoke canisters as part of mountain rescue operations.
They’re dangerous things and need to be handled with care.
If you think that it is defensible to use pyrotechnics inside a sports stadium then once more I’m afraid you’re the problem.
It would be a crass mistake to conflate this type of idiocy with the legitimate opposition to the calamity that is the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.
Celtic fans have bridled for many years at the “Old Firm” tag and with some justification.
If they don’t like journalists affixing this conjoining term then they shouldn’t behave like louts, especially if the opposition is Sevco.
Yet, the structural engineers at Firhill were validating the contention by the Ibrox chaps that they are the same club.
I have noticed that there is a Pavlovian response to any criticism of the behaviour of Celtic supporters if the critic is deemed to be of the same stripe.
Apparently, by pointing to the truth a great betrayal is committed.
Deny, deflect, minimise and mitigate are the responses.
First there is denial that anything untoward happened.
Then, if that doesn’t work, ‘whataboutery’ is deployed and the greater sins of the other lot are thrown up.
If outright denial isn’t an option then the extent of the problem is diminished – I saw several spiky exchanges on social media on Monday night about just how many seats had been destroyed.
Finally, if all else fails, pleas in mitigation are made.
Some of these can be particularly lame.
On seat wrecking it was claimed that it wasn’t wilful damage, merely over exuberance.
If you find yourself pointing out a truth that people don’t want you to tell then you’ve stumbled upon the only truth worth telling.
The person stating inconvenient truths is often personally attacked by chaps who are heroically anonymous on social media.
I have experienced this myself and the clear objective of these unknown warriors is to silence the critic and therefore make the criticism disappear.
Attack the messenger and the message has no conduit.
Well, if they think that strategy works on me they really should consult with their fellow yobs in Govan.
If it’s ‘no pyro no party’ then it’s no party I’m afraid.
Other people just want to watch a football match; your permanent absence will be noted and appreciated.
The danger to people with respiratory problems from smoke bombs is self-evident.
Moreover, there is a clear risk to health and safety from flares in a stadium.
In the 1970s I went to Celtic Park with friends and we all had flares, but the seventies really was the time that taste forgot, and I just wanted to be fashionable.
Sadly, the tank top was also de rigueur…
I have never tried to break a seat in a stadium.
Actually, I’ve never tried to break a seat anywhere.
However, I suspect it is rather difficult to do accidentally.
Subsequently, some effort and deliberate intent probably went into the seat wrecking at Firhill.
If you think that is ok, permissible or understandable then you are part of the problem.
If you agree with me that it is criminal damage and anti-social behaviour then please say so, in any way that you can.
For too long the decent silent majority of Celtic fans have not spoken out for fear of the adverse reaction of the uber faction.
Like drunk driving, the greatest motive force in turning that murderous lunacy into a minority sport was when it became frowned upon by society.
Determined enforcement of the law was important but, quite simply, ordinary decent people deciding that it was wrong reduced the drunks on the road to a delinquent minority.
The troublesome element within the Celtic support is tiny, but other fans making excuses for their behaviour guarantees more of the same in the future.
Most people turn up to a game and leave the seat they were sitting on as they found it.
They cheer on their team and gently advise the referee that he may have made an entirely understandable officiating error!
For the record, I have a brilliant time at soccer matches in Scotland, as I do at GAA games here in Ireland
I never feel the need to destroy the fabric of the stadium or to take along the contents of my mountain survival kit and send up a flare or pop some smoke.
Partick Thistle is a great club and they shouldn’t have to order new seats this week just because they hosted the Glasgow Cup between Celtic and Sevco.
If you can’t see the unarguable logic in my previous sentence then you are, indeed, the problem.