Ever since it was announced that the versatile Dundee United player Jon Daly was set for a move to Ibrox, his religion and country of origin was the first thing talked about. If you did not know anything about Scottish football, you would think you had travelled back in time to the middle ages, but this is the west of Scotland in the 21st Century.
For decades, Rangers were always regarded as the Protestant club and city rivals Celtic as the Catholic club. Even to this day there are fans on both sides that adhere to this way of thinking and it is a sad indictment of our game or should I say our society.
When Rangers signed Maurice Johnston in 1989, it was a huge break from tradition at the Ibrox club who had an unwritten rule not to sign Catholic players. Both Sir David Murray and then manager Graeme Souness should be praised for going against the grain at the time and signing a player for his talents on the field rather than what ‘house of god’ he attended.
And that is what we should be focusing on with Jon Daly. Who cares if he is a Catholic, who cares if he is from the Republic of Ireland. All that matters or all that should matter is how good he is on the field of play.
We live in 21st century Scotland, however elements from both the Celtic and the Rangers support continue to bring their hate-filled agendas into the Scottish game, dragging us back into the middle ages when Catholics were burned at the stake by Protestants and Catholic s burned Protestants at the stake.
Personally speaking I cannot be bothered with religion, even more so if it is forced upon you. I was born into a family that is split down the middle in terms of religion – my father’s family is Catholic and my mother’s family is Protestant. Neither of them are religious and due to family bickering back when I was born, they decided that it was up to myself to decide what religion I wanted to become when I turned 18.
17 years on from the day that I should have announced my religious beliefs, the only religion that I do openly and honestly profess to be a worshipper of is football. As a Celtic fan my temple of worship is Celtic Park and as a Scotland fan it is Hampden Park. I go to these grounds and others to watch football, not to be subjected to religious bile and hatred.
If you want to practice your religious beliefs, your hate of other religions take it to your ‘house of god’ do not subject it to us in our football grounds and certainly not where I intend to take my young son in later years.
Having met and talked to Rangers manager Ally McCoist on a number of occasions up in Glasgow city centre, first as a kid wearing a Celtic top to now as a football writer, I have the utmost respect for the Rangers legend. None more so given the job he has had to deal with since taking over and working under such owners as Craig Whyte and Charles Green.
But this March his comments in relation to Jon Daly, proved that he did not care one iota about any of his players religions and all that mattered was what happened on the pitch and what they could deliver for his side.
McCoist said: “This is 2013 and I don’t give a monkey’s about any player’s religion or place of birth. That stuff was from 100 years ago. I’d sign anyone from anywhere. Mo Johnston signed in 1989 and we’ve had Catholic players of all nationalities since then. It’s simply not an issue for me and it never will be. I also knew it wouldn’t be an issue for Jon.”
Daly himself rubbished the idea that his religion and nationality would be an issue, he added: “I don’t see why it should be an issue. Obviously, there’s still a few people out there who probably think otherwise, but I’m just coming here to play football and do my job on the park. And hopefully, if I do that, maybe I can change a few people’s minds. It’s 2013. Times have changed.
“There’s a lad here already that’s Irish – young Alan Smith, the goalkeeper – so I don’t see it being a problem. If people are not signing for a club because of issues like that, then that’s disappointing. I don’t look at things like that. I just want to play for a big football club. And you don’t get much bigger than Rangers.”
I do have to point out, before anyone starts foaming at the mouth, that I have seen plenty of comments from both sides over the Jon Daly transfer. Rangers fans hating the fact that their side has signed him because he is Irish and is Catholic, and then the Celtic fans claiming that the guy is a traitor to his country and faith for signing for Rangers.
Answer me this – when was the last time that Celtic signed a Protestant player from Northern Ireland? Was it Allen McKnight, the Northern Irish keeper who was at Celtic between 1986-1988 and played a mere 12 games given the form of regular number one Pat Bonner? Has this ever been highlighted?
The REAL fans are those who look at Jon Daly and discuss his ability as a football player and what he could bring to their club if anything. They are the ones who look at him as what he is a footballer and these are the people that we should be listening too not publishing the bile from the minority who can only see hate when they open their eyes in the morning till they close them at night – I suspect some even have dreams of hate.
Sadly it is these people who do hit the headlines, which are then published worldwide and it paints a bleak picture not only of our game but also of our society.
It doesn’t help also when you have certain bloggers and fans peddling their own brand of hate and claiming anti-Irish racism or anti-Protestant/Catholic rhetoric when none exist, as they only look to pander to the swarms of followers that feed off their morsels.
So I ask all those haters and preachers of bile to divorce themselves from Scottish football and come into the present day, ditching the plague that you infest on us against our will.
And for those sports journalists asking Daly of his religion and if it would be a problem at Rangers, they are just as culpable for asking such questions. But such so-called controversial stories boost the sales of a dwindling Scottish newspaper industry – ever so slightly.
All that matters in terms of Jon Daly and any other player that signs for a football club – no matter their religion, creed, colour, race or sexuality – is what they can bring to the club on the park.
For Jon Daly – he is a solid and versatile 30-year-old player who can bring some fresh blood to the team both at the back and up front. His six years of experience in the SPL and experience of the English lower leagues, but more importantly the goals he could score for the Ibrox side, which will be of great benefit to Rangers and its manager Ally McCoist in their journey to reaching the Scottish Premier League.
The Scottish game has enough problems as it is, we need to get rid of the hate-filled preachers of religious bigotry from both sides before it has fatal consequences as it had in yesteryear.