THE ACQUISITION this weekend of Scott Allan triggered the notion in my fevered brain that the current Celtic first-team squad is arguably now more reflective of Scottish football’s historical indebtedness to Irish immigration than it has ever been.
The nineteenth-century exodus from the Emerald Isle sparked by An Gorta Mor sowed the seeds of Irish re-settlement around the world; and those who made the short hop over to Scotland dispersed mainly throughout the central belt, particularly in and around the city conurbations of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Amongst other societal effects, football provided a natural focal point for their displaced national aspiration, with local Harps, Shamrocks and the like springing up across the country.
The original expatriate Irish standard-bearers in senior Scottish football were the Edinburgh Hibernians, forerunners of today’s Hibernian FC. Their success, which culminated in winning the Scottish Cup in 1887, was the catalyst for the founding in 1887/88 of ‘The Celtic’, which soon took over the mantle of the foremost champion of the exiled Irish community of Glasgow and beyond – from the outset, a Scottish club with Irish roots, unashamedly Catholic in origin; but with a charitable policy of inclusiveness and openness to all that has stood it in good stead throughout its 127-year history to date.
The ethnic trail blazed by Edinburgh Hibernians and Celtic was followed in 1909 by the Irish-origin founders of Dundee Hibernian, destined to evolve some 14 years down the line into Dundee United, in pragmatic pursuit of wider community appeal.
Much has changed in the interim; but history looms large throughout the annals of all three clubs – and reverting to my original theme, the fact that Celtic’s present cosmopolitan senior player profile so greatly reflects the three pillars of that ancient axis of diaspora is an interesting quirk of fate.
Welcome to ‘The Celtic’, Scott!