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Bankier confirms McCann flag tribute

THE Celtic chairman has confirmed that Fergus McCann will unfurl the SPFL Premiership flag when the Canadian returns to Parkhead in August, should the club - who took a step closer to an inevitable title with a 5-0 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday - win it for a third successive time.

Ian Bankier confirmed that Fergus McCann will unfurl the title flag if Celtic with this season
Ian Bankier confirmed that Fergus McCann will unfurl the title flag if Celtic with this season

In a rare interview, Ian Bankier told Herald Sport that inviting his predecessor was in keeping with his personal policy of identifying worthy figures to fulfil the honour, but also that it is also aimed at giving supporters a belated opportunity to pay proper tribute to McCann in recognition of his role in saving the club 20 years ago.

"He's invited and I believe he's coming to our first game of the season on the eighth or ninth of August," said Bankier. "Since I took the chair of Celtic I've been privileged to have the right to raise the league flag at the start of every season and I've yet to do it because I've always felt slightly unworthy in that sense. I've thought there were people who were better placed than I.

"The first was Sean Fallon and the second was John Keane. My ambition is never to do it because there are plenty of people at this club who much better deserve to raise that flag than I do. That's my philosophy."

Bankier believes McCann would understand why he was infamously booed by many supporters on the day he last unfurled the league flag 16 years ago, having overseen the end of Rangers' record-equalling run of nine successful title wins. Still, the current Celtic chairman acknowledges that those supporters will relish the chance to make belated amends in person.

"The perspective is: 'that's football'," said Bankier. "The fans' right is to be extremely short-term. Our job is to think further ahead and therefore our job involves being unpopular with the fans from time to time.

"In around 2003-2004 when Peter Lawwell was pulling the purse strings, he was vilified by the fans - and that was their prerogative - but that was Peter's job to be that person for that time. Today, Peter Lawwell signs autographs out there and is cheered on . . . but we are only two games away from a crisis.

" Fergus' personality was such that he was perfectly comfortable with being unpopular if he felt he was doing the right thing.

"August will give supporters a chance [to pay tribute] and that was in our minds when we thought about getting Fergus to come over. We felt the time was right."

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