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BBC Scotland set to reignite the Fergus McCann debate over fan power

Coming up for the 30th anniversary of his takeover, BBC Scotland has commissioned a short documentary on how Fergus McCann saved Celtic from administration.

A couple of grim seasons on the park resulted in increasing problems off it for the Kelly and White families that had taken control of Celtic at the start of the century, the charitable roots had long been sidelined in favour of profit.

The demands of the Taylor Report coupled with the free debt afforded to Dave Murray at Ibrox created a perfect storm at Celtic Park where Billy McNeill and Liam Brady had recently been sacked with the board turning to Lou Macari as an unlikely saviour.

Despite a win at Ibrox barely 20,000 turned up for Macari’s first home match as an unofficial boycott it home with supporters sick and tired of the attitude from the boardroom and cycles of failure on the park.

Paul McStay and John Collins stood out in a very average squad that was struggling to finish second as Murray’s side racked up titles despite being a regular embarrassment in Europe.

After an initial promising start under Macari reality returned with a 4-2 New Year defeat in the Glasgow Derby which spiked supporter unrest, when Tommy Coyne’s goal for Motherwell ended interest in the Scottish Cup on 29 January the mood against Michael Kelly and chums was cranked up even further.

There are a multitude of angles to take on the story. Fergus McCann and Brian Dempsey were central to it, as was Willie Haughey and Dominic Keane with Edinburgh based Celtic fan John Keane, no relation to Dom, an underplayed saviour by depositing £1m ahead of McCann’s transatlantic dash to trash out the takeover pushed by the Bank of Scotland.

From the fans side Matt McGlone was the public face of Celts For Change, a group of four concerned supporters who decided that it was time to get proactive, taking the arguments of fanzine malcontents out into the real world with demonstrations on matchday and inside Celtic Park.

Incredible change was underway, McCann switched Celtic’s banking to the Co-op, within months Celtic were playing at Hampden with a share issue reviving the club and giving over 20,000 fans a stake in the club.

Scratching the surface on the issues Jordan Laird, Executive Producer of A View From the Terrace and co-founder of Studio Something, said:

It’s always fascinating to look back at the history of football clubs and find the stories that shaped them, especially when fans are at the heart of the future of their club, we thought it was an incredible story of how basically a group of devoted fans refused to let their club go under.”

Speaking to Matt McGlone really brought the power of fans to the forefront of our minds – it was their pressure that really turned the club around and it’s almost unthinkable what might have been of them when you look at the size of them now, it shows the impact fans can have, whatever a club’s size.

As fans we should always remember that our clubs are ours, and we can do what it takes to make sure they survive.

The thirtieth anniversary is bound to spark many arguments and discussions with the attitude of the current board sadly echoing the contempt that was the trademark of the Kelly’s and White’s.

With a club formed in 2012 forming the main domestic challenge Celtic have dominated domestically under two strong managers but have become also-rans in Europe with one Champions League win in a decade alongside no knock-out victories since March 2004, a decade after McCann took control.

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