Neil Lennon: Don’t Rain on my Parade and those new School Shoes

Back on track, eyes forward now, no point looking back. Two wins on the trot and from there we build. Until you get that creeping, gnawing doubt from the manager’s media duties that is.

That’s when I started thinking about shoes.

Well first I checked my ears weren’t deceiving me. After all I’d had my attention distracted with a Christmas tree, one mid-decoration, and an excited six-year-old I’d basically been ignoring for nigh on two hours.

So, the post-match interviews emanating from Celtic TV weren’t something I could easily justify with any further thoughts of solitude, it was therefore possible that between the high-pitched screeches I’d missed the gist of it.

So, I thought I’d switch on BBC Sportsound. Then I heard it again, and from there I was back to my childhood memories of shoes.

I wasn’t brought up in any kind of poverty but funds were of course a little tight. I never wanted for anything I needed, just perhaps at times things I wanted, and looking back I needed none of that so all was good. But I’ve always remembered the shoes.

Each year in the fortnight leading up to school returning from the summer break we were dragged around the shops seeking bargains to clothe us and fill our new schoolbags for the year ahead.

I was never one for hand me downs, being the oldest. So, most of what I wore for the new school year had ‘another year in it’ or was bought brand new. My Brother? Well, he got the hand me downs, well mostly, bar the stationery and the schoolbags, and of course the shoes.

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Gym shoes were easy. Penny blacks, Woolworths, all the kids had them in the formative years. I think. But when it came to the shiny new school shoes Mum – and I assume Dad – were in agreement we didn’t scrimp. We were measured, a fair whack was paid and both of us were bought the sturdiest of shoes. And I hated them.

We tended to be bought a pair that half a size bigger to see us through the year. In terms of fitting that tended to work. In terms of wear and tear, by the time March an April came around and we headed for the final term the shoes were battered from playground football, the elements of a Scottish winter and generally just running everywhere.

By the time the final term started they were taking in water but with a bit of conveniently placed newspaper they lasted. April showers or a loss of concentration around a puddle would lead to a soaking stocking sole, but what was one more term?

They were moulded in my image; I could turn on a sixpence and hit a shot just inside a pile of jackets from 20 yards with unerring accuracy. They were part of me. No longer what they were, but reliable and trustworthy.

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Then came the new school year and the new shoes returned, half a size too big again. They took a bit of breaking in, they were uncomfortable and the rubbing caused the skin to break and bleed. So much so I wanted the old pair back, the ones I could run for hours in rather than the new pair that were going to take some time and effort to get used to- that and no little pain.

But day by day we got there and by the time August became September there were no blisters, no abrasions just a sturdier more reliant pair of everyday school shoes- they also didn’t leak.

When Neil Lennon spoke post-match, after Celtic’s first home league win since September, I remembered those shoes.

When he mentioned that a Cup Final may be a time to dig out the old pair and fold the newspaper over the holes in the soles, I thought back to the start of the school term.

Accepting the new pair and breaking them in doesn’t mean you don’t remember the double hat-tricks at lunchtime, it’s just that things move on.

The key is perseverance, and the advantage is you can walk through the rain.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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