Thursday, May 05, 2016

Niall Quinn: “We want the opportunity to nurture players and help them avoid potential pitfalls”

Former Sunderland player speaks at launch of Fleet Street Sport and Media Group

Emdad Rahman: The Earl of Shrewsbury DL and The Lord Ouseley hosted a lunch reception in the Cholmondeley Rom and Terrace, House of Lords to celebrate the launch of the Fleet Street Sport and Media Group, an iconic group for an exciting new concept in sports media and consultancy.

After an introduction from the Earl, Lord Ouseley said: “It’s a sports venture that has an important role to play in the lives of many people and I wish the group success, especially as the services offered will benefit so many people who need help, guidance and advice.”

Former Arsenal, Manchester City player and Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn, Harry Harris (the award-winning sports journalist and author of 74 books), and former Sky news journalist, editor and producer Jem Maidment along with several others have joined forces to form Fleet Street Sport & Media Group in conjunction with several household names in the world of sport and media.
The aim of the group is to provide an all-inclusive offering in sports consultancy.

Former Republic of Ireland star Quinn, who is the chairman of Fleet Street Sport and Media Group spoke about retirement and life post football - an aspect of the game that often draws attention. He said: "Part of the support services we offer is that we concentrate on the well being of the person and look at prevention as a cure. It's very important to focus on the rest of one’s life before the end of one’s playing career. In that sense players can be prepared to deal with the challenges that lie ahead after they retire.

"We want to reduce the number of cases of depression, divorces, dark periods and bankruptcy. To better prepare for what lies ahead, we want the opportunity to nurture players and help them avoid potential pitfalls that are waiting after they retire from the game.

"What we see in the public domain from time to time is only the top of the iceberg. The real issues are hidden and are far more grim. We work with clubs, boards and agents and hope to offer our support to prevent such sad situations."

Quinn read a passage from a book titled 'Retired' - What happens to footballers when the game’s up. It’s the first book by Irish stand-up comedian Alan Gernon. The Dundalk and Manchester United fan said: “I had an idea to write this book when I thought about players around my age retiring. On average the football retirement age is around 35 and I asked myself what happens next? Most of the people I know don’t retire with bags of money and live happy ever after with millions in the bank.
“Although some become managers and pundits, we don’t know what happens to the majority.

Transition from the game to ‘normal life’ is often very difficult and the cause of several problems – divorce, mental health and financial issues among other things.

Stephanie Moore MBE, the widow of the late Bobby Moore, the only man to lift the football World Cup for England, and the founder of the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK applauded the launch of the group and the wider support it offers. Since the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK was set up in 1993 mortality rates have fallen 30% and over £22 million has been raised for research. She said: "There is a need to be involved earlier in footballer’s careers, although the simple matter of resources has to be taken into account, especially as someone needs to be allocated to look after footballers and their welfare.

"Paul Gascoigne is an example. He was ok until Terry Venables moved away and then he was clearly rudderless and really struggled. That could have all been avoided if he had a really good mentor. Lots of footballers live away from their families, friends and they're trying to make it big whilst living in digs. I welcome any extra support. It’s really hard out there."

Sky news pundit Paul Walsh won the league title with Liverpool and the FA Cup with Tottenham during a 17 year career with Charlton, Manchester, QPR, Luton and two stints at Portsmouth. He said: "I have bought my Dad along and he’s really excited - This is his very first time in the House of Lords and Parliament.”

Walsh, who won 5 senior caps under Sir Bobby Robson, was a member of the triumphant England team at the 1980 UEFA European Under-18 Championship in East Germany is not surprised by the emergence of Leicester City as a force in the Premier League: “Everyone says that I must have always rooted for Tottenham but at the end of the day Leicester have simply been fantastic all season. Leicester were simply the best team. They were great, exciting, and different, and each and every squad member has a great story behind how they got there."

Jimmy Carter played with Teddy Sheringham, Tony Cascarino and Terry Hurlock at Millwall before high profile moves to Liverpool and Arsenal. The match day host and commercial executive at Millwall feels education is a must in supporting footballers during and after their playing career is over: "As a player you only focus on your tasks and delivering on the pitch and getting the right results for your team. It's difficult to put the onus on clubs as players are not always in one place and move on to different clubs during their career. However, I do agree that education is important to prepare players on how to manage their lives during and after their career."

1991 FA Cup winner David Howells made his Tottenham debut at 18 and scored in a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday. The midfielder played 277 games for Spurs and scored 22 goals. Howells is supportive of what Fleet Street Sport and Media Group are trying to achieve: "It makes sense whichever way you look at it. Planning one’s life is always the best option. Saving for a rainy day and being prepared to being out of work are all processes which are part and parcel of our lives.

"It's difficult after retirement, especially as it's all you've done since playing football on the streets as a youngster and all of a sudden at 33 or 35 years of age you have a gap. So the next challenge is to find something that enriches and adds fulfillment to the next stage of your life."

Former Swiss international and Tottenham, Celtic, Watford and Grasshoppers centre back Ramon Vega is grateful for the opportunities offered to him by football. In October 2015 Vega considered standing as a candidate for the FIFA Presidential race. He said: "I am the son of immigrants and I understand how difficult it is being out there on your own and how hard one has to work to make a success of their lives. The opportunities are out there but it takes a great deal of hard graft and commitment. All these footballers in this very room – each and every one had to work hard to make it on the pitch. Some would say that they had to work harder to make it off the pitch and their stories should inspire others who will follow.

"Remember, not everyone is rich, even though the modern day football pay is out of this world. Many don’t save, invest badly or give it away. Before they realise it their careers are over and they are struggling to pay basic bills.

“The question always is what one will do after retirement? What next? It's scary. Some may have something saved, others may not have a cushion to fall back on and that's difficult. There's not a great deal of help so any mentoring, guidance and advice for players whilst they are playing would always be very useful in preparing them for life after their playing career ends. What Niall (Quinn) has spoken about is a great system of support.

“Thankfully I have had a successful business and football career and I'm enjoying life since retirement. I have developed a taste for football politics through my interest in the FIFA Presidential race it is something I would like to be more involved with in the future.

Guests attending the launch included former Arsenal vice chairman David Dein, Osvaldo Ardiles, Ricardo Villa and Martin Tyler.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Human Relief exhibition game raises staggering 3k for charity

Emdad Rahman: Charity was the winner as the Human Relief Foundation hosted a charity exhibition game at Mile end to raise money for important humanitarian causes. 

The HRF Blue and Yellow teams took to the field to support the construction of water wells and cataract operations to help the most vulnerable people in some of the world's poorest locations. 

The game was played in glorious London weather by a host of veteran and young footballers, and a very entertaining spectacle saw the spoils shared as both teams hammered in 7 goals apiece. 

As a testimony to the charitable nature of the game, a penalty shootout to settle an overall winner was declined, as the players agreed to share the glory. Captains Akik Miah and Emdad Rahman lifted the trophy in a joint post match ceremony. 

Blue team player manager Jalal Uddin said: "Congratulations to both teams on providing such a great spectacle. We played in unity and it is fantastic we have raised awareness for such needy causes."

Yellow team manager Khoyrul Shaheed added: "I would like to thank all our donors for the amazing support. Additional thanks to our local coaches Shah Rahman from Limehouse Marina Elite club, Abdul Hannan from Brawlers and also Abdul Hannan from Hunter & Bloomfield Property Services for their support and presence today."

Veteran Zoinul Abedin, who scored a crucial goal in the second half said: "It has been special playing alongside everyone today. Well done to all our players on such a magnanimous team effort and the impact of our game today will inspire many others to do the same."

Match official Alan Hill added: "It's been a really enjoyable game to referee. The spirit was tremendous and it's great that we have all done our bit to help our fellow humans. Football is a game that has the ability to make such a huge impact as we have witnessed. Congratulations, everyone's a winner today."

The Human Relief Foundation is a charity which provides emergency relief and assistance to people caught up in extraordinary, life-threatening situations. 


Lokuj Jaman (2), Zoinul Abedin, Mamun Rashid (2), Akik Miah (1), Afazul Hoque (2), Shakil Rahman (2, 1 OG), Emdad Rahman (2), Talha Rahman, Mirza Baig Shipu


Jalal Uddin - Player manager - Khoyrul Shaheed - Player manager - Zoinul Abedin - Akoddus Taju Ali - Rongu Miah - Mamun Rashid - Hamid Yusuf - Mohsin Ahmed - Riad Shaheed  - Dawud Abdullah Shaheed - Mirza Baig Shipu - Lokuj Jaman - Ridwan Rashid - Mohammed Shipu Miah - Abdal Ahmed - Abdul Munim - Talha Rahman - Shakil Rahman - Afazul Hoque - Akik Miah - Emdad Rahman

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A barrel of laughs!

NPICC to host an evening of fun and laughter
Emdad Rahman: The Newbury Park Islamic Culture Centre (NPICC)  is presenting a side splitting family comedy night in aid of the charity. 
The show is expected to be a sell out and is titled 'Not Just A Laugh.' The funny show is taking place on Saturday 14th May, 7-10 pm at The White House, 281 Barking Road, London E6 1LB. 
Attendees are required to be 14 years of age and above. Tickets cost £10 per head, which includes food and drinks. The venue will also host stalls with cosmetics, clothes, arts and crafts, and bespoke goods. 
Confirmed stars on the night are Prince Abdi, Sajid Varda, Omar Hamdi, Aatif Nawaz, Bilal Zafar and Shaikh Jalal Ibn Saeed. 
Dr Jahangir Hussain from NPICC said: "We have put a lot of thought into arranging this event. I can say hand on heart that there will be a lot of laughter and smiling faces on the night. 
"We have a whole host of funny men on the bill and there will be plenty of food and drink. On a serious note, the funds raised will help NPICC tremendously. I look forward to seeing everyone on the night."
Book early to avoid disappointment. 
Contact Jahangir Hussain on 07515 945 392 for tickets.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

One Third Soup Kitchen call in the youngsters

We were joined by fresh new talent today at the soup kitchen as Amira and Adam joined Uncle Elas to take their places in the first team squad alongside Kam and I at Stratford City.

The youngsters kept us fully on our toes. It was a refreshing experience and both took to their roles like fishes to water. They rallied round with great ease, smiled and chatted with our guests with absolutely no hang ups. It's fantastic what you can learn from kids. Amira helped pack takeaways and serve food to guests. Adam served and did the water run. With such sterling service the adults just took it easy.

To top it all off the food was provided by their amazing mum who cooked up a delicious chicken biriani. We've never had so many takeaway requests as we had at the soup kitchen tonight.

Billy was on top form and his gags every two minutes kept us in fits. Just as well as it got very chilly after thirty minutes or so. Amanda showed off her swanky new BMX. We are going to encourage some of the youngsters to join us and serve on the soup kitchens from now. The experience is something you can't replicate in any classroom in the world. I hope one day these youngsters will appreciate that for an hour and a half we were all just one community, friends catching up, enjoying good food, sharing banter and departing till next time. We had one thing in common - we're all human at he end of the day. Stratford is a great starting point as Newham has to be the most diverse area on our planet!

If you would like to join the volunteer team please get in touch with me directly. If you want to provide a pot of food we would be happy to accept too. We receive no funding so any support is much appreciated.

Till next time!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Europa League pandemonium at Anfield

Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund 

Solemn silence for the ninety six
Anfield faces are shining bright
Anticipating Klopp's bag of tricks
It's going to be a memorable night

Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang 
Swift breaks with the defence on a hike
Anfield Road in full voice the Kop sang
Origi with a second half strike

Surely Reus kills it with a crisp finish
But Coutinho pegs another back 
Sakho sharp as a swordfish 
Eiffel Tower is bullish in attack

Added time and all hands on deck
Milner pings a prize ball
Lovren cranes that bull neck
And Dortmund are reduced to a crawl

Four shots on target all game
Four goals the final toll
Last four spot the Reds claim
Klopp's Red Army are on a roll

Liverpool win 5-4 on aggregate

14 04 16

© emdad rahman

Saturday, April 09, 2016

My friend Mohammed

During my Moroccan adventure I met Mohammed Janati from Larache and was introduced to him by Moroccan Mascherano (Mustafa) and my Stepney FC team mate Rachid.  

Mohammed is 58 years of age and works from dawn to dusk as a fish boat labourer. 

He has a severe inguinal hernia and lifted his shirt and showed me his stomach. There is a growth on the side of his belly equivalent to a mini football. 

Mohammed's job is to lift the fish off the boats when they arrive in port and then transport them to the warehouse and prepare before the arrival of the purchasing market traders. It's a role that requires serious energy and physical exertion.  

His Doctor has strictly forbidden him from working but it's not as straightforward as that. There is no welfare system to fall back on. Mohammed is a proud and hard working man. There is no other option. He has eight children of which two are married and independent of his support. The rest are very young. "I have to work, I have no professional skills to take an office job. I have to support my family. I never complain as there are people far worse off than me. I'm grateful for the treasures I have. But it's hard and my only regret is I'm so busy being a breadwinner that I don't have time to guide and spend time with my children. My health restricts my movement greatly but I will carry on."

I could do nothing but hug him. As I did this I felt a warm current flow through me and I've made myself a lifelong connection. 

The fisherman's hand has hooked and reeled me in. 

An operation for Mohammed will cost £580.00. God willing I hope to have this sorted within a fortnight. All I request is your encouragement and prayers. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tower of London welcomes the first black Beefeater in history

Emdad Rahman: The Tower of London has just welcomed the latest Yeoman Warder or 'Beefeater.' 

Yeoman Warder Lawrence Watts recently started at the Tower in this iconic role. He becomes the newest Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, taking up the unique role after 23 years of distinguished service in the Army and is also the first black Beefeater in history. 

He's had a busy morning and I enquire about how many selfies he's had to pose for. "Today it's early in the morning so I would say not more than a hundred," he laughs. 

Speaking about his exciting new role at the Tower of London Watts said: "It's fantastic to be honest. For myself it's a bit of a dream come true and at the moment it's still sinking in and I'm coming to terms with the opportunity I've been given. 

"I completed 23 years service with the army. I finished in 2014 with the forces and then started working within the security industry within Canary Wharf before taking up this post here. Yeoman 

Warder Watts, 41, was born in Lewisham in Southeast London and grew up in Basingstoke. Before joining the Tower of London, he served with the Royal Corp of Signals in Northern Ireland, Germany, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. After leaving the army he worked in security before joining the Tower of London. 

Outside of work Yeoman Warder Watts enjoys formation sky diving, boxing and mixed martial arts and is a keen photographer. He is aware of his position as a role model. "I think it will mean quite a lot to young people in the local area, especially east London and this place. There are very few positive role models out there. The media and press quite often concentrate on people who I would not necessarily regard to be positive role models. It's fantastic for me to stand here and show people that regardless of your background, regardless of where you come from or what your start might be, the opportunities are there if you push hard for them." 

Over the next few months Yeoman Warder Watts will learn word-for-word the ‘Story’ - the script of the famous Yeoman Warder Tour - before being allowed to lead a tour himself. He will also become familiar with each of the 21 separate duties that the Yeoman Warders conduct each day, such as answering historical questions, helping visitors and having their photograph taken. He will take part in various traditional ceremonies such as the Ceremony of the Keys, which has been conducted each night without fail for at least 700 years. 

It's a tough role but Yeoman Warder Watts is up for the challenge. "My role is to help members of the public, educating them about the Tower of London, about the history of the United Kingdom all the way back to 1066 and William the Conqueror and really just helping them enjoy their day at the Tower. I'm a role model for the City of London and I'm enjoying myself." 

Yeoman Warder Watts joins 36 Yeoman Warders who live at the Tower of London with their families. The Yeoman Warders are descended from the ancient band of warders who guarded the gates and royal prisoners, early in the Tower’s history. Modern Yeoman Warders are still Extraordinary Members of the Queen’s Bodyguard. They are all former warrant officers from Her Majesty’s Forces with an honourable service record of at least 22 years. Today they combine their traditional ceremonial role with a love of history to make the past come to life for visitors. It's a tough job and one that requires constant attention in the spotlight. 

Can Yeoman Warder Watts remain productive under such a powerful glare? He smiles, "There is a toast that Yeoman Warders make during our oath and when we are sworn in: 'May you never die a Yeoman Warder,' which essentially means we keep this role as long as we can physically do this job and then we take ourselves away and move on before we finish." 

This is a dream job for Yeoman Warder Watts and he has sound advice for those wishing to follow his lead. "The advice to everybody is this. Everybody is aware what's right and what's wrong. Stay focussed on what you want to achieve. There's lots of people, groups, organisations out there that can help young people no matter how bad their situation might be. So get out there, ask for the help, take the advice, keep focussed and work hard. “I’ve always been fascinated with history, in particular military history. In my first week at the Tower of London I’d already learnt a thousand things I didn’t know before! Now I’ve got the mammoth task of learning over 900 years of the history of the Tower. Very few people have a chance to be a part of living history so becoming a Yeoman Warder really is a dream job.”

Saturday, March 26, 2016

One Third Soup Kitchen at Whitechapel

"A homeless guy came up to me on the street, said he hadn't eaten in four days. I told him, "Man, I wish I had your willpower." 

There was a torrential downpour just before our soup kitchen this Saturday night. I must say I was worried but Tee and I weren't going to miss out. 

Apart from the food it's a whole lot more this soup kitchen provides. It's the chats we have, the catch ups and all that. 

As we entered Booth House I spied someone hiding their face. My curiosity made me walk up to get a closer look. He was an old primary school class mate and was now living in a homeless hostel. I didn't need to say much, he's a mate after all. All I said was I never wanted to ever see him hide his face from me like that again. I told him his gesture embarrassed me. This geezer always had a devilish streak but was a total brain box. As a youngster I envisaged him working for a blue chip company and living the high life. He had a taste for everything that glittered and if he'd had better luck he would have been there. 

Unfortunately his fate was decided otherwise and fast forward 3 decades he's now on and off the streets. I told him it could have been reversed and been me or Tee he was serving today. He gave me a pat on the shoulder and walked off. He wasn't shaking from the cold weather, his priorities were otherwise. 

We met a few more familiar faces that evening. To me the dark outside seemed darker. The shine from the East London Mosque, 100 yards opposite to our right gave us some light. 

Tee and I went into the common room to get our gear. The lads were getting ready for Germany v England. "2-1 England win and Kane and Vardy to score", I told Terry. In the end I wasn't far off as Roy Hodgson's men pulled off a great comeback win in Berlin. 

Booth House staff had told us that the guests had just eaten barely two hours earlier. We'd braved the rain to get there and weren't about to just leave. We would serve the homeless guests. It just might take longer as most were supposedly full. 

The food was donated by our friend from The Curry Bazaar in Brick Lane. How wrong the staff were. One whiff of the delicious chicken biriani and we had a long line. Elas had joined us and we finished serving within thirty minutes. We even turned two guys away. 

Not bad at all. 

Charity game supports the gift of sight

Emdad Rahman: The Human Relief Foundation has organised a charity game to raise awareness of charitable causes around the world. 

On 30th April two teams will go head to head in a fun exhibition game and aim to raise money to support two causes. The Human Relief Foundation teams plan to fund a water well project and 25 cataract operations. 

HRF Team One manager Jalal Uddin said: "We are using the beautiful game as a medium to raise awareness of how lucky we are to have such brilliant facilities in the UK, to help us overcome these issues, and to also help some of our most vulnerable fellow human beings." 

HRF Team Two manager Khoyrul Shaheed added: "It will be a fun experience for us whilst we highlight serious humanitarian issues. Please allow both teams to extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for your amazing support. We cannot achieve this without you." 

The two teams are made up of locals who live, work and volunteer in Tower Hamlets and will be captained by Akik Miah and Emdad Rahman from Stepney Footbal Club. The link to donate is

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Muslims and non Muslims unite for community peace vigil

Respects paid for Istanbul and Brussels 

Emdad Rahman

In light of the atrocities committed in Istanbul and Belgium, Citizens UK, Darul Ummah, St Georges in the East and St Mary's Cable Street joined other community groups and individuals to hold a peace vigil. 

The short service, which included different faiths took place at Watney Market Square during lunchtime and included speeches from community representatives and a minutes silence in remembrance of the lives lost to the recent acts of terrorism in Brussels and Istanbul. 

Neil Jameson from Citizens UK said: "I'm from Stepney. This is my community and these are my neighbours. We stand strong in solidarity with them and continue our efforts for unity and peace."

Hasan Mueenuddin from Darul Ummah said: "In a week where many lives have been tragically lost due to the actions of a wholly misguided minority, it is of great comfort to know that together we share the same vision and together we condemn the very individuals who threaten to divide us. Our prayers are with the victims of all such atrocities and we pray for peace."

Tim Clapton from St Georges read a prayer. He added: "Let us stand together and contemplate. Let us approach a stranger amongst us here today, let us introduce ourselves and share the good that we do. Let us increase our awareness and understanding of each other." This followed a few minutes whereby the attendees dispersed and introduced themselves to a stranger.

Imam Abu Sayeed, the Ameer of Dawatul Islam UK & Eire concluded: "We are a fragile race, we are an emotional race but united we are strong. We unequivocally condemn the recent attacks on innocents and we pray for peace on earth. I am heartened to see the support we have here today. 

Others who attended in support were Angus Ritchie, St Georges, E1 community church
st Mary's cable Street, Our Lady of the Assumption, St Peters, Citizens UK, Shadwell Mosque, St Pauls Shadwell, and Shadwell TRA. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday night with One Third Homeless Soup Kitchen

“I was planning on my future as a homeless person. I had a really good spot picked out.” Larry Lingle

Saturday night and I’m hitting the town centre with Shahel and Lord Kam. There’s plenty of revelry but this is a get together with a slightly different groove.

We are part of the One Third team catching up and serving our homeless guests with food. It’s a great opportunity to recharge our inner selves and we look forward to this weekly catch up with great gusto. Take Kam for example – He’s a hugely successful entrepreneur. He could just pump cash into this project as part of his contribution. It would be loose change for him. But Kam is not one to shy away. He insists on going front line with this, rolling up his sleeves and serving. This is real inspiration, no talk, no poses, no glamour, just real hard graft.

During my last shift a lady guest asked me for sanitary items and it got me hopping mad. Does it ever occur to us that what we take for granted; toothbrushes, paste, sanitary products are unattainable luxuries for some of our less well off fellow humans? I put an appeal out and boom! My mates Ruks and Zak supplied big bags of face towels, dental products, shampoo, Tampax, you name it. I got in touch with Sanitary Owl and received a mammoth stock of sanitary pads to distribute. If you require a bespoke personally decorated owl mail delivered box of all the absorbencies you need then do check out Sanitary Owl. In fact I’ve had so much stock that I’ve split it fifty fifty with the rest going to The Whitechapel Mission. The generosity of you people is beyond description.

My mate Moklis gave me the food tonight. His aunt has passed away recently and he provided the food in her memory. We pray that her soul is blessed. The chicken biryani was delicious and our pop up kitchen popped down in record time. It’s cold and our regulars are usually sipping a hot chocolate in McDonalds, taking it slowly and nursing it for a few hours. Anything is better than sitting out in the big freeze outside right? During the harsh winter they sit like leopards waiting for a herd of gazelles. They sense our presence, come out, grab the food boxes, a fork, a water bottle, tissue. Some high five, fist pump, shake hands or hug us. In winter the exchange is brief – It’s too cold. Billy was in a dirty mood tonight and was a barrel of laughs. The toothbrushes, paste, face towels, sanitary pads were handed out to grateful punters. There were still some left over.

If you would like to contribute anything then please do get in touch.

#Homeless #Homelessness #LondonHomeless #HomelessGuests #SoupKitchen

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Quality Street Gang: The greatest ever Celtic reserve team

Emdad Rahman: On this side of the border The Quality Street Gang may have a more notorious reputation – A band of criminals who operated in Manchester and who may or may not have locked horns with the Kray twins. 
However, this is a completely different gang and one far less nefarious in its activities. The Quality Street Gang by Dunfermline born life long Celtic fan Paul John Dykes tells the tale of the greatest Celtic reserve team ever. It’s about how football visionary Jock Stein crafted two great teams in order to dominate the domestic and international game. Dykes writes about the shared experiences of these youngsters; how they developed from fledglings, to football superstars both home and abroad during a golden period for Celtic Football Club. The crop of youngsters were so talented that in the late 60’s consideration was given to allow the team to participate in the Scottish Second Division. 
This proposal was rebuffed by the powers to be. You’ve won arguably club footballs greatest prize and you’re plotting your next move. You don’t have major financial clout or a Mr Moneybags owner. What do you do? You simultaneously develop a reserve team to seamlessly take over from the legends of old. That is the situation Jock Stein was faced with and solved to such great effect. After the triumph of Lisbon, Stein had a rebuilding programme in progress. The average age of the Lisbon Lions squad may have been 26 but Stein had already started to plan ahead - reassessing and rebuilding the greatest ever Celtic team. 
And so it began with 19 year old reserve team captain David Cattanach, 21 year old inside forward Patrick McMahon, 18 year old Lou Macari and 20 year old Davie Hay. It was working. The conveyor belt was churning out the talent and it was clear that Stein had great faith in his fledglings. After all the youth system at Parkhead had only produced the Lisbon Lions. 
Fast forward to 1968 and the events leading up to an emphatic 6-2 League Cup win over Hibernian at Hampden gave further signs of Stein’s vision for the club. Prior to the final Stein handed three debuts in the second leg of the game against Hamilton Accies at Douglas Park: Bobby Wraith, John Gorman and a 17 year old named Kenneth Dalglish. The trio stepped into a team boasting an exemplary european record of one final, two semis and a last 8 appearance in just six seasons. Stein’s quality assurance antenna was in full effect. His ethos was flawless. The youngsters would pass the standards test. They would break through into the first team, mingle and learn from senior pros who’d done it at the very highest level. It was the football education a young player could only dream of experiencing. 
Part of Jock Stein’s masterplan and vision meant that the great man envisioned a lasting legacy. The Lisbon Lions may have made everlasting football history but it was only a matter of time before they too would be replaced on the green fields. Not about to let his team follow the lead of Helenio Herrera’s “La Grande Inter,” Stein set about plotting and developing the future stars who would take up Billy McNeil’s mantle, grasp the baton from the wizard Jimmy Johnstone and step into the golden boots of the iconic Bobby Murdoch.
Celtic were the very first British Club side to lift the European Cup. They had become to their opponents an internationally acclaimed name and a major scalp to beat. Teams both home and abroad raised their energy levels and their game when they played the Hoops. It was obvious to Stein as a visionary that he would need to nurture new talent – a new breed of stars to step effortlessly into those famous green and white shirts. 
And so Stein set to work, nurturing a brilliant new reserve team in the late 60’s and early 70’s. They were labelled The Quality Street Gang and several of that gifted breed such as Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay, Danny McGrain, Paul Wilson, Lou Macari and George Connelly all stepped up, mixing with the old guard, winning silverware at Parkhead and representing Scotland on the international stage.
Those with football knowhow knew this sure progress wasn’t accidental. It was the summer of 1968 and Celtic Reserves needed a mammoth seven goal win against Partick Thistle Reserves to pip Rangers Reserves to the Reserve League Cup section. The Bhoys stunned the Maryhill Magyars with a 12-0 thrashing. Lou Macari was most prominent with four goals. That year the Scotland national manager Bobby Brown made a request to Jock Stein for players for a warm up game. Stein duly sent his reserves who outplayed the seniors, including Leeds United legend Billy Bremner, beating them out of sight with a 5-2 win. Two years later The Quality Street Gang lifted the Glasgow Cup, 3-1 against illustrious neighbours Glasgow Rangers. 
By 1970-71 The Quality Street Kids were wreaking havoc as the highest goal scorers in Britain. Kenny Dalglish was mesmerising with sixteen goals in a mere six games. With such glorious firepower the reserves wrapped up the League title, League Cup and the Second XI Cup treble. Rivals Rangers were beaten three times out of hand in eight days of madness - The League and two-legged League Cup Final. The games weren’t even close: 7-1, 4-1 and 6-1. Kenny Dalglish may have plundered 43 goals in two campaigns but his exploits were overshadowed by Vic Davidson, 92, and Lou Macari, 91.
By 1970 Celtic had reached another European Cup final and Ernst Happel’s Feyenoord were looking to make their own history as the first Dutch club to lift the coveted crown. 
Danny McGrain remembered: “Kenny and I travelled as boot boys. We were there to watch how the boys prepared, watch the training, and see what was involved in training for the European Cup final. Being involved in the European Cup final at 20 was magnificent.”
There were seven of the Lisbon Lions playing that final. Davie Hay started and George Connelly replaced Bertie Auld on seventy-seven minutes. Despite Tommy Gemmell giving Celtic the lead the Bhoys lost 2-1 at the San Siro courtesy of Rinus Israel and the gifted Ove Kindvall. Willem Van Hanegem ran the show and Jimmy Johnstone was stifled with a double marking ploy. It was mass disappointment after the euphoria of the “Battle of Britain” win over Leeds United in the semi finals. This was the catalyst for the introduction and emergence of new faces – The injection of fresh talent into the first team. And so the apprentices from the Barrowfield training ground, who’s indoctrination into the Celtic Way had been gradual and methodical found themselves in the spotlight. They became known as The Quality Street Gang and were arguably the most talented young footballers to come through the ranks at Celtic. Lou Macari remembers and attributes this to a toughness to Stein’s character and the good habits embedded in the European Cup winning side. “I’d be surprised if any of The Quality Street Gang didn’t all say the same thing. When we look back now, we owe our careers to the people who guided us.”
Davie Hay, ‘The Quiet Assassin’ attended 18 year old Tony McBride’s wedding reception, who recalled: “I invited my friends from Celtic along in the evening. Davie Hay had scored a great goal against Rangers so he arrived a wee bit later. As the priest was saying his speech he noticed Davie coming into the reception hall and just stopped. No one else had seen Davie and the priest just gestured over to him and everybody stood up and gave him a huge round of applause.”
In a testimonial game for Kilmarnock servant Frank Beattie, Kenny Dalglish scored six of Celtic’s seven goals. He became the new goalscoring sensation and Stein gave him his debut against Hamiton in 1968 as a 17 year old. Ward White said: “I used to pick Kenny up every morning. Kenny for a boy of 18, talked to a level above you in football. I never saw Kenny becoming a world-class player because he started off in right midfield and he was meant to be the next Bobby Murdoch. He got a couple of chances in the first team but he never really grabbed them. I don’t know why, we played Rangers and we beat them 4-1, 7-1 and I think 6-1 and Kenny scored about 8 goals. Then we came down to Rugby Park, and I was in the pool that night for the Frank Beattie testimonial, and he scored six out there and you thought, How did the boss know to play him at centre forward? And when he moved up there he became a world class player.”
Dalglish dismisses the comparisons to Murdoch early in his career: “Everybody’s themselves. For me, I was being played in midfield and then Jock pushed me up front after two or three years. Sometimes you’d get moved about as well to educate yourself and make you understand what people in a position other than you were playing would expect from you.”
Though the likes of Dalglish, Hay, Macari and McGrain became household names others did not fare as well. George Connelly from the mining village of Fife was an exquisite prototype footballer. His brilliant close ball control, influence on a game and accomplished play led to Jock Stein comparing Connelly with the great Franz Beckenbauer during the 1974 World Cup. Connelly was earmarked as the natural heir to “Caesar” Billy McNeil. 
Sadly, Connelly’s mental health suffered due to a disastrous failed marriage. This led to alcohol dependency and to Connelly’s subsequent retirement from the game at the tender age of just 26. David Cattanach firmly believes that the introduction of the big Fifer was the advent of a player who was to become, like many of the Lisbon Lions he had learned from, truly world class. “Without a shadow of a doubt I would say he was like Franz Beckenbauer. He had the same sort of ability to be able to go forward and play the ball and not just stay at the back. 
“George arrived at Celtic as an old fashioned inside-forward. Jock Stein moved him to the back because George could ping a ball forty or fifty yards right to your toe or he could play it five yards. It didn’t matter the distance. He was fantastic on the ball.”
Vic Davidson was on the same wavelength as Dalglish but failed to reproduce his reserve team standards after stepping up to the first team. He was rated extremely high by his team mate Ward White, who believes that at one stage there was not much to separate him from Kenny Dalglish. “Vic could dribble past four, five players, he could run with the ball. Obviously Vic didn’t reach the heights that Kenny Dalglish reached but I would say that Vic was the kingpin in the reserve team.”
The brilliant Tony McBride was referred to as a pocket version of Jimmy Johnstone. As a youngster he was farmed out to Ashfield Juniors where he linked up with Rangers protege Graham Fyfe to form a devastating partnership. McBride struck four in two games. Ashfield boss Louis Boyle raved: The goal scoring of Fyfe and McBride has given a tremendous boost to our gates. They’re proving to be our biggest attraction since Stevie Chalmers.” But ill discipline in the Gorbals, poor lifestyle choices, coupled with an inability to stay on the right hand side of the law ensured his Celtic career never quite hit the high notes. Davie Hay said: “Tony was, at the time, one of the top youngsters of his age who was courted by a lot of teams down south. There were high hopes for him, the potential was there, but whatever happened didn’t materialise.”
The gifted Brian McLaughlin was given his debut as a 16 year old in the 6-2 League Cup thrashing of Clydebank on September 22nd 1971. In 1973 his career was more or less ended by a horror tackle from Clyde's Willie McVie. McLaughlin returned but was never the same player. Danny McGrain described it as the worst injury he’d seen on a pitch and has never forgiven McVie for this. Tragically, Brian McLaughlin was found dead in Aug 2009 in a canal in Falkirk. 
Pat McMahon enjoyed a meteoric rise from Kilsyth Rangers to sign for Celtic in 1967. A frustrating two seasons saw three first team appearances with two goals. McMahon joined Tommy Docherty in 1969 as Aston Villa pipped Dunfermline to his signature. In 1976 he moved to the NASL and now lives in the States.
John Gorman was released after a single League Cup game. He was a good player but let’s not forget he was competing with Tommy Gemmell and Willie O’Neill.
Davie Cattanach remembers how this young Celtic side, even without the promoted Davie Hay and George Connelly, would destroy all in their path. One fixture in particular that he remembered was the Reserve League Cup final of 1971. “We played Rangers and there was 25,000 – 30,000 at the game and it was the same at Ibrox and we beat them 10-2 on aggregate; 6-1 at Ibrox and 4-1 at Celtic Park. That was us all just coming into it.”
It is fair to say that if this crop had stayed together they may very well have won a second european crown. After all, Celtic did reach the final again in 1970, the last eight in 1971, and semi finals in 1972 and 1974. This book is just another chapter in the rich history of Celtic Football. It’s a read for any football fan but supporters with Celtic ties would appreciate the content just a wee bit more. 
The Quality Street Gang by Paul John Dykes is published by Celtic, priced £19.99, and is available from club outlets and Amazon.
Follow Emdad on Twitter - @emdad07
#TheQualityStreetGang #Celtic #CelticFC #Glasgow #KennyDalglish #DavieHay #DavidCattanach #PatMcMahon #BrianMcLaughlin #LouMacari #DannyMcGrain #JohnGorman #PaulJohnDykes #WillieMcVie #JockStein #SeanFallon #GeorgeConnelly #TonyMcBride #VicDawson #StevieChalmers

Monday, February 01, 2016

Visiting La Scala Del Calcio - San Siro Stadium

Emdad Rahman: The famous city may host fashion royalty but for me a weekend trip to Milan means anything but shopping for designer clothes. Honestly, I’d rather watch watch paint peel. Two days away from London and I planned to visit the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral), San Siro Stadium tour, AC & Inter Milan Club Museum, Mondo Milan, Casa Milan and round it all off with the Milan derby. 

The tour of the stadium gave me an opportunity to relive the magic of Italia 90. I was amongst the global audience on 8th June who had marvelled at the building and introduction of this major football arena to planet football. The opening game of that memorable World Cup saw one of the biggest shocks in football history as the minnows of Cameroon beat Diego Maradona and World Cup holders Argentina 1-0 thanks to a springing Salmon act from Francois Omam-Biyick and a halloween howler from Nery Pumpido. Fast forward two days and the next moments of footy magic have been etched in my memory banks for 26 years. It was the skipper Lothar Matthäus and his two firecrackers on the evening of June 10th as West Germany hammered Yugoslavia 4-1 to nail down their position as tournament favourites were simply out of this world. 

The structure of the stadium was designed by the engineer Alberto Cugini and the architect Ulisse Stacchini. The grand arena was built to host Milan matches, but in 1947-1948 it became the home of Inter as well. In 1980 he famous stadium was named “Giuseppe Meazza” in honour of the Italian hero, who during an illustrious career which included two World Cup wins played for both clubs.

In the run up to Italia 90 the city of Milan chose to renovate rather than rebuild. Architects Giancarlo Ragazzi, Henry Hoffer and the engineer Leo Finzi chose to  construct a third level and eleven new cylindrical towers in reinforced concrete that contained a number of facilities were built. The spiralling concrete pillars were another childhood fascination and although we weren’t allowed access on the day of our visit I was able to climb right to the top the next day to watch the first Milan derby of 2016. 

The tour itself is independently led although very polite club guides are scattered around if there are any questions or queries. The Museum has the privilege of being the first in Italian football to be located within a football ground. This experience is the first stop on the tour and visitors are greeted with wax models of Ruud Gullit, Paolo Maldini, Lothar Matthäus and Javier Zanetti. There’s trophies galore and historical shirts on display, including the shirt of Giacinto Facchetti - One of the all time great full backs. Further on and you can come face to face with the San Siro twin towers of Franco Baresi and Giuseppe Bergomi - Two of Italian footballs greatest defenders. Those not in the know may wonder why this museum is such a compact and small scale operation when taking into consideration the burgeoning history of these two superpower clubs. No need to fret as there is the Mondo Milan Museum at Casa Milan - A much grander and modern display of the footballing wealth of the city rivals. 

There is a walk past the TV interview area, which is a lined wall with sponsors logos dotted across. There is no access to the press room. The changing rooms are very different in comparison. Milan have the customised sports chairs whilst Inter have plain benches with modern decor. In all the tour can be completed within 30-45 minutes although there is no time limit unless there is an emergency evacuation or official closing time is nearing. 

Visitors can step out into the arena and pitch side. This is a chained off corner at the Inter end of the stadium. The space is compact and could become quite congested when there are large groups of visitors. 

I loved the experience at La Scala del Calcio. It is something I have dreamt of doing since Italia 90. I suppose there is a requirement for modernising to bring the grand old theatre up to speed but there’s no doubting the standing and rank of the San Siro as one of the most renowned football arenas in the world. My thoughts were cemented the night after at the Milan derby. Although we had terrible seats I can say hand on heart that it is by far the most electrifying crowd experience I have witnessed at a football ground. It was all non stop frenzy from start to finish as I took my place amongst 80,000 fellow fans. 

It is an experience I would repeat at the drop of a hat and do over and over again. 

Twitter: @emdad07