“One of the things that made an impression on me when I first came to Celtic was just how connected the first-team squad was with the supporters,” recalled Chris Morris when I spoke to him 30 years after Billy McNeill signed the Cornishman from Sheffield Wednesday. Chris was a relatively unknown right-back when the returning Celtic manager plucked him from Wednesday’s reserves in 1987 as part of the club’s much-needed centenary rebuilding operation.
The image of an overlapping Morris, with his highlighted blonde locks complementing the splendorous green-and-white hoops, is an iconic snapshot of what was an unforgettable season. There is no doubt that he left a lasting impression as an ever-present during that glorious double-winning campaign, but he also left his mark in another unexpected way…
“I remember that Billy McNeill used to come in with a folder, filed full of player requests,” continued Chris. “We were expected to go out amongst Celtic Supporters’ Clubs almost every weekend. This was something that I’d never come across – that kind of connection between player, club and supporter.
“One thing that always struck me was the expectation that, at the end of the dinner dance, they would want you to say a few words as a player and sing a song. I said, ‘I haven’t got a clue, what am I going to sing?’ I remember Peter Grant saying to me, ‘All you need to do is, when you get up there, when you go to sing a song, just go ‘Hail! Hail!’ and the room will bounce around you and you won’t have to say another word.’ That’s what I did the first few times.
“Anyway, I went away on international duty, and I used to room with big Niall Quinn. Niall was really passionate about his Irish folk songs, and he was always going to these folk concerts.
So he said, ‘You’ve to sing a Celtic song or you’ve to sing an Irish song or something like that?’
‘Well, what do you do?’
‘I always stand up there and go, ‘Hail! Hail!’ and then the room takes over, and it’s bouncing and they drag you up on their shoulders and all sorts of things.’
‘I’ve got a song for you to sing…’
“He taught me a song called ‘The Fields of Athenry’. When I came back from international duty, every single time that I went to a Celtic Supporters’ dance, which was pretty much every Saturday, I used to sing ‘The Fields of Athenry’. That became my little trademark.
“Many years passed and I came back to Hampden to watch a cup final during the Henrik Larsson time… As I walked along the road, a few of the Celtic supporters shouted, ‘Hey there’s Chris – there’s the man who gave us The Fields of Athenry’, which was really quite interesting. That was the first time that I realised that Celtic supporters were singing ‘The Fields of Athenry’, which became their anthem.”
The Pete St. John-penned ballad, did indeed strike a chord with Celtic fans in the late eighties and early nineties, and it quickly became a staple part of the Celtic Park repertoire. There are many players who have inspired the ever-creative Celtic fans to fashion songs about them, but Chris Morris went one better and introduced a timeless classic to the Paradise songbook.
A few more memorable terrace chants have been adopted since the enchanting ‘Fields’ was first bellowed around the old Celtic Park, and one such song will forever be associated with the club’s invincible treble-winning campaign – ‘This is How it Feels’.
Crafted by Clint Boon in the late eighties, ‘This is How it Feels’ became one of Inspiral Carpets’ biggest hits upon its release in 1990. This song became a Madchester classic, and renditions have previously rang out at the city’s Old Trafford and Main Road stadiums. Then, in homage to Brendan Rodgers’ quest to lead Celtic to their sixth consecutive league title in-a-row, the tune travelled to Glasgow for a reworking by those renowned tunesmiths, The Green Brigade.
But ‘This is How it Feels to be Celtic’ is now consigned to the depths of time along with the manager who was supposedly “here for ten-in-a-row.”
It has been replaced by a reworking of another Mancunian classic in ‘I Wanna Be Edouard,’ as Celtic supporters once again show their penchant for endless artistic and musical creativity.Listen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast