Things haven't been too hot for my team, Glasgow Celtic, of late. But in your darkest hour, it's always helpful to remember how far we have come. I don't just mean Johan Mjalbby reminding us how much worse things were under John Barnes. My friend Graeme Murdoch, the art director of The Celtic Opus, came across this dog-earred picture while researching the limited edition book. It was taken at Partick Thistle before the namby pamby era of heated dressing rooms, physiotherapists and communal baths, when there was no Professional Fooballers Association to demand decent working conditions. Can you imagine Robbie Keane's reaction on being handed that brush and told to leave the place as you find it? Those were the days when Scotmen were a tough, wirey bunch - and small enough to fit into a teeny tin tubs. Perhaps the spartan conditions in the visitors' changing rooms was a form of psychological intimidation by the Jags. Did they also have hefty Maryhill matrons on hand to scrub backs? It's quite a thought...
Graeme recently gave a talk and slide show about The Opus, which was edited by another newspaper friend, Kevin McKenna, now of The Observer. It was striking to see the make-do aspect of football before it became the glamour game: the victorious team on the back of the coal lorry, the home made hats (now replaced by inflatables) and the kids being lifted over the barrier. Not many women, right enough, but the upside was no WAGs..
Graeme's one of the founders of Cultural Connect Scotland which aims to link the Scottish diaspora using photography. Their exhibition This is Who We Are was the result of a road trip across Canada linking communities with Scottish names such as Calgary (skyscrapers v empty beaches)and Airdrie (buffalo v Buckfast) He discovered a treasure trove of memorabilia at Celtic Park, with amazing images stored in boxes (not biscuit tins!) or simply scattered on the floor of forgotten rooms. Given the club's social and cultural importance around the globe, not just in Scotland and Ireland, it's extraordinary that it doesn't have its own museum and curator, like the Scottish Football Museum in Hampden Park. It would draw the crowds on non-match days, when there is now very little reason to head for Parkhead.
A C Milan and Inter Milan, who share a stadium, have a great museum which I visted a couple of years ago with my football daft friend Margaret Gribbon, whose granda was a Celtic scout. We particularly enjoyed the life-sized replica of Ruud Gullit. Now there's an idea...Henrick Larsson in wax would draw in the paying crowds surely. They might even raise enough to help Neil build a decent team.