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The Jungle terracing “Erra spearmin’ choongum anna macaroooon bars!"
This was the first sound I heard when I stepped into the hallowed place called The Jungle. I was 6 years old and my Grandfather had taken me into Celtic Park for the first time, and the sights, sounds and smells I’ll remember until my dying day.
The excitement had been building inside me since midweek, when I was told I would be going to see the team I had followed for as long as I could remember and when we got out of my Granda’s pal’s car and started to walk up to Parkhead cross I thought I would burst with excitement and apprehension. There weren’t many fans about due to my chaperone’s habit of getting into the ground at 2pm and taking up their usual position – slightly left of the halfway line, just about halfway up the terracing, second crush barrier in. This was to be my station for the next 6 years of my life, every time Celtic were at home.
The Jungle from the Rangers End
The next thing I noticed, as we walked along underneath the terracing to our spot, was the smell. There were 3 different smells competing to outdo each other for my attention. Urine, from the prehistoric toilets, just about masked the sweet odour of cigar smoke, which in turn covered up the smell of horse dung from the huge Police horses. We hurried on.
As we emerged into the terracing itself, I couldn’t believe how big the place looked. It was huge. Concrete seemed to be all around, and the park looked impossibly green and lush. The corrugated iron roof which covered the place looked to be thousands of feet above me and each end of the park was miles away. I felt so small. I was so small!
I was allowed to get a macaroon bar from the vendor and sat on the barrier happily munching away while my Granda and his mate George debated whatever it was that was going on in the world that day and more than likely arguing about who should be in the team. I think we were playing Aberdeen that day. For all I can recall most other things about it, I can’t seem to be sure if it was though. I think we won – a memorable occasion in the days of Fergie’s Aberdeen – but I’m not even sure about that. The occasion must have gone to my head! I sat watching the ground fill up and the songs and chants start and thought, “This will do for me”. I felt, even at that age, the pull of the Celtic family.
Joe Miller in front of The Jungle
As I got older, I started playing football on Saturday mornings for my school team, but even as I was playing I would be thinking of meeting my Granda and going to watch the Hoops. It was a ritual. Finish playing, quick shower, walk to my Granda’s, something to eat (usually sausage roll and beans – to this day one of my favourites), and picked up by George at 1:30pm. One school game I remember vividly was a Cup Final in which we were horsed 7-1. I was in tears but my Granda told me to cheer up, that Celtic would win 7-1 against St. Mirren that day. “Aye, right”, I said to myself, “Like that’s going to happen." I’ve actually just checked on this site and the date was 24th November, 1984. Scoreline? Celtic 7 St. Mirren 1. Unbelievable!
I grew older and, as much as I loved going with my Granda, I flew the nest and joined a Supporters Bus. Going to the Jungle with my mates was the ultimate buzz. We started off down the front, just beside the Rangers end, where we would try to start the singing and were ecstatic if even a small crowd joined in. We then progressed – some would say graduated, to the back of the Jungle to what my Granda always enigmatically called ‘The Glee Club’. I think I now know why. You could smell ‘the Glee’ off that particular area from 100 feet! It was brilliant though. Most songs were started from there and we really felt part of something. At some points you would feel as if the life was being squeezed from you, so tightly were you packed in, then suddenly, as the crowd reacted to an incident on the pitch, you would find yourself with a space all around you as the crowd swayed backwards and forwards. Just as suddenly you could find yourself carried away by a surge and have to fight your way back to find your mates. Great fun! The character the whole Jungle had was unbelievable; I don’t think I can do it justice with mere words. Tribal is probably as close as I could get. I’m sure the BBC commentators, who would be perched precariously on the long gangway high above the Jungle would agree!
The Grandest Team Of Them All in front of The Jungle.
I watched some great players from the Jungle. McLeod, Provan, Burns, McStay, McClair, Nicholas, McGarvey etc. My favourite though was Danny McGrain. Nowadays you’ll hear fans decrying just about every player at some point. I don’t think I ever heard anyone in the Jungle moan at Danny. He was outstanding, truly world class and a Celtic legend. I feel privileged to have seen him. I also have seen some wonderful games, from the sublime – The St. Patrick’s Day massacre against the huns in 1991 and the following weeks destruction of them again, to the ridiculous – the Rapid Vienna affair. I was actually only yards away from where the bottle was thrown and can remember the ‘Hooli, hooli, hooligan’ chant going up as the Rapid player writhed around as if he’d been hit by a train. The subsequent footage showing that the bottle missed him by yards didn’t convince UEFA though, and the result was null and void. The replay at Old Trafford was midweek and I wasn’t allowed to go. Celtic went out, and to this day I have an intense dislike of that team. I was so glad when Everton beat them in that year’s final. I watched Celtic destroy some teams – Hamilton were beaten 8-3, with Alan McInally scoring 4 – and get beaten by mediocre teams who shouldn’t have been on the same park. It was all part of the Celtic experience and the lows were balanced out by the euphoric high we all got when we won.
Out of the ashes, the new North Stand takes shape.
The tragedies at Hillsborough, Bradford and Heysel necessitated a change in football stadia in Britain. The Justice Taylor Report called for all seated stadia and clubs were powerless to resist. The change has brought a lot of positives; grounds are a lot more comfortable, there are better catering facilities, the views are undeniably better – bad luck in the old days if a 6’ 4” guy came in and stood in front of you at kick-off! – and there are a lot more families and young children going to games. And the smell from the toilets isn’t quite as bad! I can’t help feeling though that a lot of the spirit, the camaraderie and the passion has gone out of the game. It’s noticeable at all but a few games at the new (colossal and fantastic, it has to be said) Celtic Park, although we can still raise the roof like no-one else when we want to.
In June 1993 I was working in a bingo hall about a mile from Celtic Park. My Granda had collapsed at his usual spot in the Jungle the year before, at a game against Dunfermline, and three weeks later died in hospital. On the day he collapsed we lost and for the next three weeks we didn’t win a game. Just before he passed away we won. I like to think he was holding out for a victory. The Jungle was to follow my Granda into history and a game was arranged to bring down the curtain on a terrace to rival – and in my opinion beat into a cocked hat – any in world football. You can keep your Kop, the Stretford End, and the Curvas of Italian football. The Jungle reigned supreme. My boss in the bingo was adamant that I wasn’t getting the night off and I turned up for work that day hoping to get him to change his mind. No luck, he wasn’t for letting me go. As kick off approached I made my decision. What was it to be? Stay in this crappy job or honour the place which had been a home to me for a huge part of my youth? As I’m sure you’ll have figured out, there was no contest. I walked out and along the Gallowgate to the ground which still holds some of my best memories. They may have knocked it down, but the Jungle will live long in the memories of all those who were there.
In loving memory of James Anderson.
The End (1994)
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