THIS time last year was the last weekend of normality in Scottish Football. Normal in the sense that games were played in front of crowds at every stadium in the country at all levels, players got changed in dressing rooms across from each other and there were no issues over team buses.
A week later, football got suspended for five months as the Coronavirus pandemic took a grip on the world. Things have not been the same since.
This awful world we live in now sees people lashing out whenever they see people having house parties or even family members going into another house to visit another family member. Throw in drastically reduced numbers at funerals and weddings where hugging is frowned upon, and you get the picture of this new normal we’re being asked to go through whilst Governments worldwide try to tackle this virus.
Now football fans are coming under fire for congregating together without social distancing to celebrate trophy successes and being on the verge of becoming champions. A small number of St Johnstone fans gathered in Perth to celebrate their sides first ever League Cup success last weekend, followed yesterday by Rangers fans gathering outside Ibrox as their side took a giant step towards winning their first Premiership title since 2011. Both events drew in criticism from the wider public on social media, more so towards Rangers of course, as lockdown breaches were breached at a time where restrictions haven’t been lifted yet.
Of course, it was ill-advisable for a minority of fans of both clubs to be congregating together at a time when people haven’t seen close family members for a considerable period of time. With the vaccination programme in place, it is important that we all do our bit and make the necessary sacrifices to bring down the number of new Covid cases and, more importantly, hospitalisation cases and deaths. It’s really difficult and frustrating for everyone, trust me as a family man used to going here, there and everywhere with his wife and kids, this last year has been hell, but it will be worth it in the next few months when we can do regular things again like see our families, go to pubs and restaurants etc. We don’t want scenarios of going back into lockdown so it’s better to ride this out now rather than playing lockdown Hokey Cokey and have another miserable Christmas like the one just passed.
All that being said, it really is harsh that we feel the need to lash out at St Johnstone and Rangers fans. It really is a sick world where fans are being criticised for celebrating success, or in Rangers case being on the brink of ending a long wait for the title. For St Johnstone, these occasions don’t come along very often, in fact this is only the second time they have won a major trophy in their history. Their fans have missed out on the opportunity to be at Hampden to see their side victorious against Livingston in the Betfred Cup Final, were consigned to their homes to watch the big game as pubs weren’t even allowed to open and didn’t even get to see their heroes parade the trophy through Perth on an open top bus. Whilst it was against the regulations, can you really blame a section of their fans for wanting to go out onto the streets to celebrate their success?
As for Rangers supporters who gathered outside Ibrox before and during their 3-0 win over St Mirren, that drew in enormous criticism from the outside world. Again, they shouldn’t be there in the current climate as the country strives to get this virus under complete control, and the lack of social distancing amongst the many fans their was alarming. However, given what their fans have suffered in the face of administration, liquidation and demotion to the fourth tier, mismanagement on and off the pitch prior to Steven Gerrard’s arrival and ridicule from rival fans, can anyone really blame them for wanting to take in this moment? Yes they hadn’t technically won the league after beating the Buddies, therefore their celebrations are a bit premature, but it’s a matter of when and not if, with only one point required from their remaining six games, or today if Celtic don’t pick up three points at Tannadice. Therefore, you can understand why certain Rangers fans are keen to get their party started after a ten year wait for the title.
The criticism of fans celebrating success doesn’t just stop with St Johnstone and Rangers. When it was confirmed they won their ninth title in a row, a minority of Celtic fans also gathered outside their ground to celebrate the achievement whilst we were in the first lockdown phase. This was also condemned at the time, as was the case down south when Liverpool won their first title in 30 years, but again you can understand why fans wanted to celebrate their success outside the home of their idols. There was more condemnation for elements of the Bhoys support when they protested at Celtic Park after the Ross County Betfred Cup game calling for Neil Lennon’s sacking, though this criticism was more justified given some of them chose to attack the Police as well.
It’s a sad indicator of this horrendous world we live in that people have to criticise others for celebrating the success of their respective clubs. Unfortunately, the criticism is necessary rather than justifiable given the fact we are trying to get out of this horrendous life we all have to endure caused by the pandemic. Nobody in their right mind wants to lash out at people who celebrate their club winning, or being on the brink of winning, silverware, or indeed have a go at people who hold house parties and visit their relatives, that is not what life should be about. However, whilst this virus is still at high levels, we all need to play our part and adhere to the guidelines, however tough they are, in order to get ourselves out of this situation once and for all. With numbers now gradually coming down and more people getting their first dose of the vaccine, the light at the end of this long dark tunnel is getting brighter, so let’s put celebrations on hold for just a couple of months then by all means milk the achievements of your clubs success.
Let’s hope that this time next year we can appreciate fans celebrating together whenever they win something without having a go at them, and that they can be at our stadiums again on a regular basis. After a year without fans at grounds, bar the exception of a handful of test events, by god do we need this to look forward to!