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The Big Clubs: A Look At Celtic and Rangers Through The Lens of Film-Maker Joachim Kreck

Originally, this film, made in 1974, was an occasional showing whenever Celtic Films visited supporters clubs for fund raisers. It was then released as a VHS video in the 90s by Connoiseur Video. A flick through the catalogue of Connoisseur Video would reveal a treasure trove of cult cinema classics by the likes of Wim Wenders, Jean Cocteau and prize-winning Estonian animator and political cartoonist Priit Pam; so It was something of a surprise when the above title arrived at NTV Mansions for review many years ago.

Now available to watch on Youtube, it’s a fascinating window into the past and well worth 45 minutes of your time whether you’ve never seen it before or vaguely remember it from the aforementioned Celtic Film night.

The film was made by a German documentary producer and sets out to explore the Celtic-Rangers phenomenon against a backdrop of pre-Mr Happy / Garden Festival Glasgow, at the time, undergoing what was euphemistically described by town-planners as a “facelift” (altogether now, it’ll be nice when it’s finished).

Older readers will recall that these were the days when Celtic’s European forays involved making cuckoos of the Swiss, munching Gladbach and wiping the floor with Ajax (OK, a wee bit of artistic licence there but you get the picture anyway).

Even Rangers - then still in existence - were doing their bit and had just come back from Barcelona with the Cup-Winners Cup, as well as the heads of several Spanish policemen on spikes. Not only were they destroying European opposition, they were doing their best to destroy their towns and cities as well.

Although the film uses as its backdrop a Glasgow derby at Ibrox, the actual match footage is very limited, although we do get to see a couple of Celtic goals. This is a documantary which tries, instead. to explore both how the clubs perceived themselves and also how other observers saw them and their place in Glasgow’s grand scheme of things. As an objective study by a German film-maker it certainly makes very interesting viewing, particularly for Celtic fans.

The title itself seems to have come from an interview with the then Rangers supremo and General Manager Wile Waddell who manages to mention the word big 15 times in the space of a 30 second
monologue which goes something like this: “They are the big clubs. I think Rangers and Celtic are the two big clubs because they think big. Both of them have always thought big. Many people in football indicate that Rangers and Celtic are big because they get big crowds. No. They are big because both think big. The legislators think big. I think big. I like to think my players think big. We live it big.”

This living it big, of course, ultimately led to them dying it much much smaller.

He concludes: “Big is a very vital word as far as Rangers are concerned.” Sadly Willie forgot to add the “ot” suffix onto that last bit.

Waddell, indeed, emerges as the main spokesman for Rangers throughout the film. In the lightof some of his contributions someone should have gagged him and locked him in a broom cupboard in order to avoid embarrassment. Referring to the importance of Rangers in the lives of their supporters he remarks at one point, “People eat and sleep Glasgow Rangers. Supporters go home on a Saturday night and if the Rangers get beat they give their wives a bashing about”.

Ouch!

Naturally, the film attempts to explore the bigotry and open mindlessness often associated with the ‘Big Clubs’ in question. Glasgow journalist Cliff Hanley’s contributions to the film are particularly good in this respect as he castigates the prejudice which was endemic in Glasgow at the time. “The bigots”, he says, “are fighting a battle that was over long ago and even when it was there was not the battle they thought it was”, a reference to the fact that King Billy was a great supporter of the convents in Europe In the 17th century.

There Is a poignant segment towards the end of the film which puts this kind of nonsensical bigotry in perspective when we are reminded, through archive footage, of the deaths of John Thomson and of the 66 people who died in the Ibrox disaster, an event which briefly brought home to the people of Glasgow that there is more to life than a football match.

The film does contain a great many talking heads but the footage of the fans on their way to the game In pre-Offensive Behaviour at Football Act Scotland (many of whom are so drunk that they don’t know whether they need a shit or a haircut) will certainly bring back memories for those of a certain generation, especially one particular shot of supporters entering the Janefield Street turnstiles in 1974 under a notice which reads “Admission 35p”!

Although It is very much a product of its time, the film has an appeal to more than nostalgia junkies. Having said that viewers can judge for themselves how much Glasgow and its people have evolved since the mid-70’s. Some of the views espoused by Waddell are sadly still alive and sick among supporters of the tribute act currently inhabiting Mordor.

The last word in the film was left with Willie Waddell. Speaking of Rangers’ sectarian signing policy he says, “I hope the tradition (sic) never changes at this club ... “interrupted by his office phone ringing he gruffly orders the caller to “be quiet”. Returning to his interviewer, having lost his thread he says, “eh ... where was I?”

The dark ages, Willie.

 

MARMADUKE BAGLEHOLE