The Unsung Heroes of Celtic FC: How John Glass and Fergus McCann Shaped the Club's Destiny
John Glass and Fergus McCann, two names separated by a century, yet bound by a common thread of vision, pragmatism, and an unwavering commitment to Celtic Football Club. Glass, the man who turned Brother Walfrid's charitable dream into a professional football club, and McCann, the man who saved Celtic from the brink of financial ruin, both left indelible marks on the club's history.
Glass was a builder by trade, but he was also a builder of dreams. He saw the potential for Celtic to be more than just a charitable endeavour; he envisioned it as a professional football club that could compete at the highest level. His aggressive recruitment strategies and willingness to adapt to the changing landscape of football set the stage for Celtic's future successes. However, his methods were not without controversy, as his actions led to a decline in Hibernian Football Club's fortunes and raised questions about Celtic's founding principles.
Glass' influence extended beyond just player recruitment. He was a visionary who saw the future of football turning professional, and he wanted Celtic to be at the forefront of that change. He observed the workings of professionalism in England in 1885 and correctly assumed that Scotland would follow. While Hibs were sticking to their amateurism, Glass made sure that Celtic adapted and modernised.
His actions were not without ethical dilemmas. One contentious point was the club's decision to stop paying money to the Poor Children's Dinner Table, a charity. Glass stated that once the club's debts were cleared, they would be "only too willing to do whatever it could to assist the charities mentioned." This raised questions about the club's founding principles, but it also highlighted the complexities of managing a growing club in a rapidly changing landscape.
Fast forward to the 1990s, and Celtic found itself in dire straits. The club was on the verge of bankruptcy, and its future looked bleak. Enter Fergus McCann, a businessman with a passion for Celtic and a vision to match. Much like Glass, McCann was a pragmatist who was willing to make tough decisions for the greater good of the club. He spearheaded the redevelopment of Celtic Park, turning it into a modern stadium that could generate the revenue needed to secure the club's future.
Fergus McCann was not one to shy away from confrontation, especially when it came to the well-being of Celtic FC. His battle with the Scottish Football Association (SFA) over the Jorge Cadete incident is a prime example of his willingness to challenge the status quo for the betterment of the club. The Scottish media's audacious comparison of Fergus McCann to Saddam Hussein speaks volumes about the seismic impact he had on the landscape of Scottish football. This outrageous analogy could be interpreted as an attempt to undermine McCann's influence, possibly out of fear that his vision would usher in an era of unassailable Celtic dominance. It did!
Both Glass and McCann were visionaries who saw the bigger picture. They recognized the need for Celtic to adapt and modernize in order to compete at the highest level. While Glass laid the foundation for Celtic's entry into professional football, McCann built upon that foundation to ensure the club's financial stability and future success. Both men were willing to make unpopular decisions, and both faced backlash for their actions. But in the end, their impact on Celtic is undeniable.
As Willie Maley aptly put it, Glass was the man "to whom the Club owes its existence." Similarly, without McCann's intervention, Celtic might not have survived to see the 21st century. Both men were builders in their own right—Glass built the club from the ground up, while McCann fortified its foundations for future generations.
For those who wish to pay homage to Glass, a complex yet pivotal figure in Celtic's history, a John Glass T-shirt is available, capturing his essence with the phrase, "Let them scoff and jeer."
In the end, the parallels between John Glass and Fergus McCann serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of Celtic Football Club. Both men were visionaries who were willing to take risks and make tough decisions, all for the love of the club. And while they may have been controversial figures in their own time, their legacies are now woven into the very fabric of Celtic's history. As Glass himself once said, "Let them scoff and jeer. Celtic will yet win to their proper position by their merits and those who scoff today will one day have to applaud!"
In a way, it could be said that Celtic are still waiting for that applause from the wider Scottish football community. Despite the club's storied history, its contributions to the sport, and its indomitable spirit, there remains a sense of underappreciation or even skepticism from certain quarters. Yet, as both John Glass and Fergus McCann have shown, Celtic is a club that thrives in the face of adversity, always striving for greatness while staying true to its roots. So let them scoff and jeer; the applause will come, and when it does, it will be a fitting tribute to visionaries like Glass and McCann who saw the potential in Celtic long before others did.