Kev ‘The Gathering’

After reaching a milestone birthday this week. Kevin and the rest of the old skool CSC went on an outing to Paisley. In typical reunion style the old stories did flow. Kev takes us on his trip down memory lane.

I suppose we need to go back to the late 1970’s. Around ’78 or ’79. Around that time a lot of the trouble for us lads from Coatbridge centred on travelling on the train between Coatbridge and Glasgow. At each stop another group of Celtic supporters would get on and eventually certain carriages became associated with different areas, in the regular travel through to Parkhead. There’d be some stops, like Garrowhill, where you’d meet Rangers fans on the platform and it would kick off. You’d get benches thrown through windows and seats launched out, from inside the train. Lads jumping off onto the platform or lads trying to get into the train for a scrap. So that’s where my first experiences of football violence began. I was only a kid travelling on the trains to the matches but it felt like running a gauntlet between Coatbridge and Parkhead.

The next thing that sticks in my mind is the 1980 cup final at Hampden, when there was a huge riot after the final whistle. I can remember going on the Coatbridge supporters’ bus to that game. Celtic had won 1-0 and a couple of young lads had gone on the park and ran up the other end. At the other end, they stopped and kicked a beach ball into the net, and celebrated like it was them who had won the cup. That sparked a whole scale pitch invasion from the rangers end. With loads of older guys all on the park chasing these lads back towards the Celtic end but as soon as the Rangers supporters had taken to the pitch, it obviously sparked our end as well and the Celtic fans took to the field to face them down. One thing I remember clearly is that I looked up at the air above the crowd and it looked like a sea of midges or flies but was actually a sea of bottles, cans and other missiles that were in the air. There was that much being thrown. It was a mental atmosphere. I also remember seeing my first policewoman, on a horse. There was this mounted policewoman, riding a white horse through the crowd whacking people with her batten. The police restored order after some time.

            We returned to our supporters’ bus and tried to head for the safety of Coatbridge via Glasgow’s south side. As we were driving along we passed a few Rangers fans, which were waving their scarves and flags and giving us the two fingered salute. One of the boys stuck his arse up to the window and mooned at them. Next thing there seemed to be more and more Rangers fans appearing from nowhere, hundreds of them. The bus driver was new to the job, and didn’t know his way around Glasgow; he’d taken a wrong turning and was driving us back into the city, via, the route for Rangers supporters. Our bus got absolutely wrecked. Smashed   (Within a week, drink was banned at football etc…Pre cursor for all laws that were later brought in to curtail football hooliganism)

            I come from Coatbridge which is known as little Ireland. It’s a 90% Irish Catholic town and the whole town is Celtic mad. It’s inevitable then, that there would be a few lads that were well up for a bit of soccer violence. In the early days it was a bunch of lads that were quite family orientated. It was a tight unit. We went to the football together, drank together, socialised. The boys I went with from Coatbridge would have been my brother James, Gerry, Fudgy.

For a while it was just us, that tight little group but it was probably me more than the others who had a taste for more, and went on to become a CSC lad. It took me a few months to get to know people and get in amongst it with the CSC. They used to call me Kevin ‘the boys’. It was a kind of affectionate slagging of me because of my slightly different, Coatbridge accent. I was known to always turn up and say ‘Where’s the boys? What’s happening with the boys today? Are the boys coming?’ Hence the nickname. The Glaswegians always used to noise me up at first. We used to go to clubs together at weekends, the warehouse, fury Murray’s. We hung around the pubs at George Square, like Sylvester’s, which became the Berlin Bar. The Berlin became a bit of a stronghold for us. That’s where all the lads used to meet up before jumping on the football specials at Queen Street. We’d head off from Queens Street to places like Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh for matches and scraps.

During the 80’s there were times when there were more than 400 lads on those trains. In a big mob like that you obviously didn’t know everybody, so whether people would stand or run, it was an unknown quantity, until the fighting actually started. Some would stand their ground; some would get off their mark (run). It didn’t matter to me where people came from, as long as they were lads that were up for it. We had middle class, working class, guys with money and guys from really poor backgrounds. But all lads together. One of my pet hates, I remember, was when we tried to organise for the football specials in a more disciplined way, you’d still always have lads that just wanted to do their own thing. You know, we’d try to get people to stay quiet, maybe not get so drunk for particular games, don’t shout and sing and draw attention. Sometimes it worked but many times it didn’t. I hated arriving in places like Aberdeen, hoping to surprise them and the lads would just pour off the train and immediately burst into a chorus of ‘Celtic! Celtic! Celtic!’ which obviously drew police attention to us, and often scuppered our plans to surprise other mobs. I didn’t see the point of having no tactics, just jumping off a train and letting everybody know that you were there.

When we went through to Edinburgh, against Hibs, we’d get off at Waverley, the main station. Hibs had tactics, you’d never see them, and then you’d look up and see a little head looking down from a bridge above you. You’d know they had their spotters out. We’d be given a police escort to take us down leaf walk towards Easter Road. No sooner had you started walking down the road, than you’d just be pelted from all sides of the road by bricks and bottles from Hibs’ CCS mob that had been lying in wait for us. Sometimes you never even saw the people who were throwing the stuff at us that was Hibs. We had a lot of good scraps with Hibs. We respected them and they respected us. Well, most of them anyway. Hibs had a bit of a mixed crew.  A lot of what you could say neutral lads when it came to politics or Ireland which is fine, but they also seem to let some right wing influence in with them, some of these lads actually supported Hearts and they seem to be able to still keep their politics and join Hibs which were a bit off centre for us, they all came from different areas of Edinburgh, so some of them would have their own views of Celtic. Some were really sound with us; others weren’t. We were never really bothered about who liked or disliked us.

One of the games that were most significant against Hibs was, obviously, the CS gas bomb game, in 1987. About 40 of us decided to get the train through early. The football special wasn’t scheduled to leave until quarter past one, and we were supposed to wait for the rest of the lads, but we had a brainwave and decided to go through earlier instead. So we get off the train at Haymarket and walked to Easter Road, getting there at about 11.30. There wasn’t a soul around when we arrived in Edinburgh. We decided we’d go into one of the football pubs on Easter road and wait there for a while. There was hardly anyone in it when we went in. So were sitting drinking, and all of a sudden the door opens, and a mixed race lad with an English accent says ‘come on Celtic, outside.’ I don’t even know where this guy appeared from. Some of the boys took up his offer, and charged at the door. We went out on the street as the rest of us came at the door, throwing bottles and tumblers also a flare gets fired at the at the Hibs lads assembled outside. We were caught at the door and the manager and barman came to the door and pulled the shutters down. Within a couple of minutes we got the shutters back up and got outside, only to be confronted by the police. There was no one else in sight, and we couldn’t see our two lads who’d been left on the other side of the pub shutters, when the manager had pulled them down. The police took our names but then let us leave the pub. There was a bit of sporadic boxing between us, and we still only had our 40 odd lads. We got chased a bit, back the way, towards London Road, in the direction of Waverley. We got to this street with them chasing us, and all I could see coming towards us was another 300-400 lads. It was then that I though, we’re gonnae get done silly here, there’s even more Hibs coming.

Then I took a closer look at this mob of 300-400 coming from the other direction. There are two lads at the front wearing Bermuda shorts. I had just remembered that my brother and his mate had gone out that day wearing Bermuda shorts. I’ve went ‘yes, it’s Celtic!’ and Celtic came charging over the hill and it kicked off big time. We had Hibs backing off on their own patch on Easter Road. There was big clashes right in the middle of the road. These continued until the police actually put cars and vans in between us. It was a really serious clash before the game. We felt we’d done well. I think at one point I got decked, but I still managed to pick myself up from the ground, and go for it again. There was one Hibs lads standing in the middle of the road who kept shouting for Celtic to come ahead, so I ran up and smashed him one right on the jaw, he ended up going over a car bonnet. Next thing I knew, I had two coppers on me and was handcuffed. The police just said ‘you’re nicked.’ The funny thing was that the cops then turned to the guy who I had punched over the car and said ‘Are you ok Frank?’ and he said ‘yeah, yeah I’m fine.’ The OB was an undercover cop who’d been deliberately provoking Celtic to fight. I thought he was a Hibs lad. So I end up in the jail, I’m sure the cells I was held in were up near Edinburgh castle. I’m sitting in this cell, totally pissed off. I’ve been nicked, fighting an undercover police officer, not only that, I was gonnae miss the match as well and whatever else was going to kick off at it.

Not long after kick off, shortly after 3 o clock, there were sirens going off everywhere. I thought, must be ambulances, a police car, an accident has happened or something. I didn’t immediately associate it with the match itself. From then on the sirens were continuous; they never stopped, not for ages. They bought a lad in, and I’ve heard them asking him before they allocated him a cell, where he was from and what team he was with. The boy answered, ‘Glasgow, and Celtic.’ About 5 minutes later there was another lad, same again. Celtic boy again. Then another and he was Hibs. I’m thinking, what’s happening here? The games just started! Then suddenly there seemed to be a rush on in the police station, loads of people coming and going, but lots of lads being brought in. I heard a cop saying ‘Listen lads, forget the names, and just answer Celtic or Hibs.’ That’s an indication of just how many people were being arrested and processed by the police. After that people just kept coming in. Celtic, Hibs, Celtic, Hibs, accordingly. I still didn’t know what the hell was going on because they’d get me in a separate cell to other football fans coming in.

At around 8pm that night the police decided to release me. I made my way down to Waverley station and got on the train. As I’m travelling back to Glasgow, there were 4-5 Celtic scrafers, completely drunk… They were sitting in the carriage talking about how disgusted they were at the casuals and things that had happened that day. I got off at Queen Street and headed for the Cellar Bar (under Ingram Hotel) where I knew most of the lads would be. As I was heading there I passed a newspaper vender, selling early editions of the Sunday Mail and that’s when I first found out that the gas bomb had been thrown into the Hibs end. I suppose getting the jail earlier in the day saved me from getting busted like many of the other lads after the gas bomb incident. It was one of those crazy circumstances, everything started off good, and then there was the downside. There was no danger to life, in the end. It was about who was number one. We were out to prove that Celtic was the number one mob.

A lot of the guys are married now, settled down and calmed down. Some have passed away since the 80’s and 90’s, all good lads that we still remember fondly. Big Tony, Gary, Sean, Cha, Martin, Big Peter. Tony was a really good friend of mine, we used to socialise together and always backed each other up.

One story I recall involved Aberdeen’s Casuals. The ASC were a good mob. one of the first casual mobs on the scene in Scotland, if not Britain. They used to bring a big firm down to Glasgow on the football specials. There was another pub called ‘Sundowners’. We’d gather in bars like Berlin and Sundowners, on days of home games, from early in the morning. The baby crew, who were mostly underage, used to hang around the amusement arcade. They would scout around the city centre, checking the bus station and train stations for other casuals arriving. They’d watch the specials coming in and let us know how many lads were coming off those trains. On one occasion Aberdeen have come off the train at Queen Street. One of the baby crew came to the pub and told us, ‘that’s Aberdeen arrived.’ There was one lad there with me who was there for the first time. Aberdeen had come off the train and headed straight for George Square. We came charging out of the pub and went running in a line at them. The two sets of casuals have met in the middle of the square, all I’ve seen is a hand holding a steaky, coming over my shoulder from behind me and slicing into an Aberdeen guy’s shoulder. The boy that was there for the first time, and thought he was quite bold and game went white, backed off saying ‘You lot are nuts, you’re crazy.’ I don’t know what he expected. Aberdeen backed right off. I don’t think they were expecting people to be tooled up, but it’s important to tell the truth, and on this occasion, there were some lads carrying weapons. It wasn’t a regular occurrence as far as we were concerned. If you want to talk about mobs that were always tooled up, you’d really have to talk about Rangers. For years we’d fight mobs like Aberdeen and Hibs toe to toe, fist to fist. Then Rangers started carrying tools, and blades. A few Celtic lads had been stabbed and slashed by them. We actually heard that Rangers lads were making bets with each other about how many Celtic fans they could slash or stab in one day. Turning it into a competition.

            In the early days, for a home game where we expected other mobs to come to us, we could easily bring together 400-500 lads. As John O’ Kane commented in his book in the 1980’s Celtic ran the city centre, there was no competition in our own city for most of that decade. In the 90’s, with the rave scene gaining popularity, the pills kicked in. People were getting into other lines of business and making good amounts of money from it. So for a few years the hooligan scene was pretty small. Everybody was too loved up to fight. There was also the situation of the gas bomb where hundreds had had their doors kicked in, or the early morning knock, to be arrested by the police. You can understand how ecstasy and the rave scene seemed like a safer form of entertainment than football hooliganism. It wasn’t just Celtic that was affected by that, it happened all over. Various clubs’ hooligans got into music and drugs. The whole scene was affected by it.

There’s a funny story about Big Shuggy. He used to go the games with us all the time and was a really game lad. We were in the Clyde Bar on Queen Street station and there’s 10 lads who’d already been sitting in the pub, who we eventually sussed were Hibs casuals. They came over to us and said ‘Look we don’t want any trouble; we’re just in for a drink.’ They were playing Rangers that day. So we ended up sitting with them, having a drink, sharing a joke and a laugh. We were actually there, waiting on the football special because we were heading through to Edinburgh to play Hearts that day. After 90 minutes of drinking, the Hibs lads wished us good luck against Hearts, but just after that one of the baby crew came into the pub and told us there was a 50 strong mob of Hibs outside the pub. It transpired that one of the groups of Hibs we were drinking with had sneaked out to another pub next to the station where this bigger mob of Hibs had been drinking. The two faced liberty takers had pretended to be friendly and drink with us, while they were trying to plan an ambush. We ended up a little mob of us, kicking it off with them in the square. What I noticed with this fight with Hibs, was some of their tactics. They used to have a manoeuvre that the Zulu warriors used years ago. They called it the Bull, I think it’s called. It was the horns of the bull, they used to clasp each other, like in an arm lock, and when you charged into them, they’d try to circle you so that they trapped a few of the opposition mob in the circle and then leather them. So anyway on this day, when we had this encounter. Some of us had said watch what you’re doing, because we were aware that Hibs had some good manoeuvres up their sleeves, Hibs had locked arms and tried the bull on us, to try and trap one or two of us. Then the next thing, this guy just appears – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the film Quadrophenia with Sting as the bell boy and top mod Ace Face – well, that was my mate Shug.

Big Shuggy

He was the bell boy in the Copthorne Hotel. He charged out, still wearing his uniform and went straight into Hibs. He fought like f**k on our side that day, and for his troubles, he lost his job but it was total mental, having a hotel bell boy in full uniform fighting on our side.

Celtic were playing Man United, about 30 of us decided to go to Blackpool and commute from there to the game, at that time I was just married and, my now ex-wife decided that she was coming with me to Blackpool. She wanted a romantic weekend in Blackpool, but s**t happens, and she ended up with me, and all the lads. On the Friday we’d had a good night out, so early doors most of the lads decided to head through to Manchester.

Me, my brother James and a big fella called Hutchy from Irvine, in Ayrshire decided to hang back for a while and head for the promenade in Blackpool. We’re walking down the promenade towards the pleasure beach, and there are about 15 likely looking lads, in shell suits and tracksuits, came past us. They gave us the heavy stares as they walked by. I didn’t recognise anybody, didn’t know who they were. My brother turns and says ‘do you know who that was? That’s Motherwell!’ He says ‘I think they’ve clocked us as CSC.’ so we walked on a bit and my brother turned round just to check if they were still watching us, but they’d actually turned back and were now following us. My newly married wife became a bit concerned. To be honest she started to panic a bit. I was reassuring her, ‘don’t worry’, but also saying to my brother and Hutchy, ‘get ready’. I’d hardly finished the sentence, when big Hutchy had been punched by one of the Motherwell lads and went down like a tonne of bricks. Me and my brother we’re going punch by punch with them, while my wife is standing there, screaming. We’ve been backed off down the road a bit, but poor Hutchy is still lying there in a heap on the ground, completely out cold. I saw 5 Celtic scarfers across the road and I shouted to them that we were Celtic, and fair play to them, 2 of them came running across to help us, whilst the other 3 basically turned their back like it was nothing to do with them. It kind of indicates the split in the scarfers when it comes to casuals, half of them have got no problem getting stuck in alongside casuals, while the other half want nothing to do with us. So, we’ve been backed off down the promenade a bit and the police arrive. Hutchy was no longer there on the road, we found out about 30-40 minutes later, that he’s been taken by ambulance to hospital. With everything calmed down we headed for the hospital and were taken to a ward where Cutchy was still lying unconscious. What we didn’t realise was, that it wasn’t a punch that had felled Cutchy, he’d been hit on the side of the face and head, with a hammer and his jaw had been broken. I had been wondering at the time, why such a big lad like him, had gone down so easily after one punch… But clearly, it was the hammer hitting him that had knocked him out cold. That night when the other lads arrived back from the game, we told them what had happened and that Hutchy was in hospital. The lads were cracking up, Motherwell had taken liberties on us and they wanted revenge, but we didn’t know where Motherwell would be. We went to the palace nightclub looking for Motherwell, hoping they would be there, but instead of finding Motherwell, it ended up kicking off with Leeds lads, who we’d stumbled into out of the blue and it just went off. That was a bit of a night. Chairs and everything getting thrown. I remember being thrown down a flight of stairs at a nightclub, by a huge black bouncer. Next morning I’ve gone to a pub round from the hotel on the promenade. The rest of the Celtic lads came in. We’re all sitting there drinking and one of the boys comes into the pub and says, ‘Yes, we’ve found them.’ By that time, we’d been drinking, ‘Found who?’ and he goes ‘Motherwell, we’ve found Motherwell, they’re here.’ Some of them were hanging around their B&B breakfast bar with a Motherwell flag hanging out of the window. We decided, let’s have them. We went round and tried to goad some of them out of their B&B for a fight; then we just got fed up and steamed the B&B and smashed it up. The funniest outcome of that incident was when the next day’s local paper in Blackpool, claimed that it was Chelsea fans that had smashed up a local guesthouse. We surmised that the people in the hotel hadn’t understood our accents, and when we had been shouting ‘ Celtic! Celtic!’ they thought we had been chanting ‘Chelsea! Chelsea!’ So Chelsea got the blame for something that Celtic did. I suppose it makes a change for them, as they are always blamed by the Scottish press for whatever Rangers do. In conclusion though, Motherwell was totally out of order. They’d taken liberties. 3 lads on their own, one of them with his wife and those liberty takers attacked us. Not only that, they’ve put a guy in hospital by attacking him with a hammer. They had the numbers that they could’ve just slapped us and done us, but one of them had to take hammer to us. That’s taking the p*ss. We’ve also had some good rucks with Motherwell, away to them and in our own city when they’ve travelled through.

Carlisle Vs Wrexham:

A group of us decided to down to Carlisle for the Carlisle v Wrexham match. We had a good relationship with the Wrexham casuals. Guys like Neil, Pinch, Pun and a few others. We took 4 car loads down for that match. Shuggy had already gone to Wrexham 3 days before and travelled up with Wrexham for the game. A few more of our lot made their own way down on the train. We got to Carlisle about half 20 in the morning, parked the cars and went into a pub called the Red Lion, near to the train station. We were getting a few funny looks from people who were sitting in the corner of the pub. They didn’t look like anything, just regulars from that bar. I went into the train station to check on train arrivals. Just as I’m doing so, a train pulls in, and there, with his head out of the window, was Shuggy. Wrexham had arrived, or so we thought. Wrexham’s mob weren’t on the train; they’d decided that without the numbers to go on a football special, 40-50 of them only, would travel up by coach for the match. Shuggy had taken the train up by himself, knowing that we’d be at the station to meet him and expecting a mob of Wrexham to pour off the train with him! It was only shortly after Shug arrived at the station that Carlisle appeared, and kicked off with us. As we came out of the station, we’d seen a bus passing by a side street then go out of sight, then pass another side street, with about 100 Carlisle lads chasing after it. Some of the windows had been crashed in, so we thought Wrexham must’ve arrived. We ran up the hill from the station, turned the corner and Carlisle’s casuals are walking back towards us, but obviously baffled as to who we were. So we just steamed into them, our 20 CSC. Even during the fight with them, I can still remember the bewildered looks on their faces. They hadn’t put Wrexham and Celtic together and still couldn’t figure out what the fuck we were doing in Carlisle. Some of the Wrexham lads were jumping out of the smashed back window of the bus heading towards us as well. One of their boys, who knew us, shouted ‘It’s ok, they’re Celtic, and they’re with us!’ In the end we got herded onto their bus by the police, and we got a big cheer as we boarded the bus, from all the Wrexham lads. The police then decided that we were to be taken to the ground for the match, even though there was still 2 hours to kick off. We also found out later, that the Red Lion bar near the station in Carlisle is the English border crew’s main haunt. The police take us up to the ground 2 hours before kick-off, and put us in a terrace which I can only describe as, a cow shed with chicken wire and barbed wire across the front. We were bored in there, until people start arriving at the game. Then more and more of Carlisle’s firm have started coming in and making cut throat gestures at us, and telling us that we’re going to get done after the match. With Wrexham and the rest of the Celtic lads that had arrived in Carlisle, we decided to head into the city centre. It seems also that the lads from Glasgow who’d arrived by train had also immediately kicked off with Carlisle in the station. During that fight, Peter and Shug had been separated and trapped in the train station, when Carlisle turned on them, they ran into a cafe inside the station, grabbed as much as they could to fight with, weapons etc., and Carlisle just steamed in the cafe where people had been having a quiet drink before their trains. We didn’t see those lads that day again, but I think it went alright for them, as they emerged from it, pretty much unscathed. The police eventually caught up with us, we were surrounded and they bought in horses. There was no way they were letting us roam freely in their town centre that night. They put us in vans telling us they were putting us on the first train to Glasgow. Those of us who’d come by car, were taken to our cars and told to get into our cars and head straight home. To be fair to them, the old bill handled the situation pretty well. They were surprisingly well humoured throughout, joking and laughing with us, and asking us what the hell we were doing down there! A few of them were asking us what Celtic Vs Rangers games were like. They were curious more than annoyed with us and basically they just wanted us out of Carlisle and were quite happily to do it amicably, with a laugh and a joke. They told us laughingly, ‘get back across that border, and don’t come back!’

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