TIME. Does it heal or does it fester?

Once upon a time Fergus McCann was a divisive figure within the Celtic support. The passing of time will make a number of Celtic fans squirm when they recall the jeers as he unfurled the league flag at Celtic Park in 1998. There was nothing other than cheers last weekend when he was back on the pitch as Celtic continued their unblemished start to the league campaign.

If the Parkhead club aren’t quite at the level of selling replica bunnets in the club shop – and McCann would applaud any drives to spin some commercialism out of his story – then there has most definitely been an appreciation as to what he did for the club.

McCann saved it, modernised it, rebuilt the stadium and did his best to change the philosophy and image of the club. He slipped out of the door in 1999 without so much as a round of applause or a brief chanting of his name.

He was first to openly speak and condemn the bigotry that he felt existed within sections of the club, taking on the mantle of the Bhoys Against Bigotry campaign despite the frowning and sniping in his own support and the acerbic McCann wasn’t too shy at giving it out to anyone else he felt had crossed a line. Jim Farry, anyone?


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But it took the best part of a decade for a realisation and appreciation of what McCann did to sink in through the full support. Indeed, for some, the mess at Rangers when the Ibrox club went into liquidation in 2012 might well have served as a reminder about the safety net which McCann provided given the depths to which they may well have sunk.

There was never any suggestion that McCann would face any slurs upon a rare return to Glasgow last week, just as there weren’t when he was back on the pitch in 2014. Such is his aura now that there has been chats about stands named in his honour and a statue at the front door. One would have to strain significantly to find a dissenting voice.

McCann is unlikely to be overly troubled by the lack of any formal acknowledgement. If time has reframed him as a giant in the history of the club he seems happy in the knowledge that he did it in his own inimitable, straight-forward way. He does not seem the type to require vindication that his path was the right one.

But if ever he needed it, it’s there in front of him; the books which show the club in rude financial health, the stadium that has hosted heady European nights in salubrious surrounds. One can only wonder what his thoughts on the disco lights might be but there is little doubt that McCann is the founding father of Celtic’s modernity.

His expertise belongs in a board-room and Brendan Rodgers’ on a training ground – and there is commonality between them. The single-mindedness, the drive, the ambition, the five-year plans. Both created something at Celtic that would have been viewed as an impossibility.

Rodgers had enough on his own plate last weekend, as Leicester beat Spurs to move into third spot in the English top flight, to take much notice of what is going on up here.


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McCann was divisive but Rodgers incurred a wrath so furious it could only be likened to a spurned lover, such was the depth of vitriol when news broke of his swift departure for Leicester back in February. But it will be interesting to see just how kind time is to the Irishman in the appreciation of his tenure at the club.

Few could quibble with his record: seven trophies out of seven and the seeds sown for the two which followed to make it a perfect nine. Callum McGregor and James Forrest played the best football of their careers under Rodgers while Kieran Tierney’s development banked the club a record fee this summer as he moved to Arsenal for £25m.

Odsonne Edouard, whom Rodgers sanctioned a record transfer fee of £9m, was signed and will doubtless net the club more than double that this summer when suitors inevitably come calling for the 21-year-old.

Few would ever expect to see an Invincible treble repeated or the kind of domination which Rodgers presided over. Yet his name remains a dirty word among the Celtic support.

If there was a sense of cringing at the bubble he was in when Rodgers remarked at one of his inaugural Leicester press conference that he would hope to manage Celtic again one day in ten years’ time when the hurt and anger subsided, there should at least be a welcome mat laid out for him.