Celtic's 'Green Brigade' abroadTrying to rouse myself for the day ahead this morning by catching a few snippets of news on the radio, one was immediately drawn to the tones of the vocally rampant Ray Stubbs, a figure who sadly no longer fronts the BBC's glorious coverage of the slightly eccentric BDO World Darts Championship when woozy early January comes into view.
It may have been before 8am, but Stubbs was brimming full of condemnation of Wales' assistant coach Raymond Verheijen, a forthright Dutchman who has let it be known publicly he is eager to succeed Gary Speed as national manager only a fortnight or so after Speed committed suicide.
Stubbs was joined by Bobby Gould, the former Wales manager, in condemning the insensitive nature of Verheijen's posts on Twitter about fulfilling "Gary's wish" to let him spearhead the national side's 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. Stubbs and Gould were both offended by Verheijen's public touting of himself for the job, but I did not particularly think the man was out of order.
He was praiseworthy in his support and admiration of Speed, but was only stating his desire to continue Speed's good work. Whether it is deemed to be in bad taste or not, it remains obvious that what causes offence is a matter of personal opinion, but it can be a costly business all the same.
The small pocket of fans who decided to bellow IRA songs at Celtic's Europa League match with French side Rennes at Celtic Park last month have encouraged UEFA to wallop the Glasgow club with a fine of around £12,700 for their antics. It may or may not be enough to dissuade the rogue element from dispensing with such songs. What cannot be disputed is that songs about the provisional IRA have surely had their day at Celtic Park or anywhere else, whether or not they are sung in sympathetic watering holes away from public consumption.
The issue of illicit chanting remains a political minefield and the fine seems tough on Celtic, but is intended to act as a source of embarrassment. "Clearly, it is very disappointing and a source of real regret amongst our supporters that Celtic's proud history of exemplary conduct has been tarnished in this way by such a tiny minority," commented the Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell.
As Kilmarnock's Northern Irish manager Kenny Shiels recently pointed out, if a pocket of fans walk into a football ground to sing songs about the IRA, there is not a lot Celtic can do to dissuade them. Celtic's acceptance of the fine suggests they would rather push the issue to one side instead of becoming embroiled in the rights or wrongs of whether not such chants are illegal, which they are probably not.
Scotland remains a country of contradictions. The police will walk alongside Orangemen and/or Irish Republican marches, which are deemed legal in Scotland, yet are happy to contact UEFA because they are offended by songs about the IRA. Eddie Smith, the police match commander, had his ear to the ground against Rennes, but it remains to be seen if he can keep up the good work elsewhere in Scotland. To suggest such stuff is limited to Glasgow is a myth.
Like Scotland's tartan army, Celtic supporters are not whiter than white, but the vast majority of them are good-natured, travel well and extend the hand of friendship on their travels. That being said, there is no room for complacency in the battle to rid football of toxic tunes that serve only to pollute the air.
The reporting of this item has again been mismanaged on the news agenda. The issue of sectarian singing at Celtic Park popped up in various organs when UEFA launched their probe before being dropped because it was the wrong description. There is a clumsy willingness to clamp Celtic to Rangers and vice versa. 'Illicit chanting' has nothing to do with 'discriminatory chanting'. UEFA's gripe with Celtic differs from their quarrel with Rangers.
Offensive songs about wars from yesteryear, and offensive songs about Roman Catholics/Protestants/Jews (delete where appropriate) are different matters, but try telling that to some commentators who are committed to packaging two vastly different clubs together.
Celtic's reluctance to appeal the UEFA verdict is probably right, because there is no moral one-upmanship to be gained by the club from discovering that such songs can be sung. It would be a useless, and unhelpful, argument to win.