Football just like politics is all round us at the moment and particularly as we travel thru Europe in these darkened November days. All of which makes us feel totally at home given that having grown up in Glasgow – football and politics were always mainstay topics that popped up on a daily basis.

Three successive concerts in the Balkans over the last week brought us in touch with great audiences every single night. Split in Croatia, Belgrade in Serbia, and not forgetting the lesser – known Banja Luka, (Bosnia) let us come in contact with crowds that certainly knew how to have a good time. All distinctively different places but all displaying the same kind of emotional warmth that came roaring at us like the heat of an inferno as the songs from our set rolled out one after another.

Likewise at almost every show we were met with officials from the local football teams, who in knowing that we ourselves are passionate about our local Celtic FC, were keen to welcome us and exchange football souvenirs. Usually this means we are appreciatively presented with a shirt from their proud local team.

I have lost count of how many different club shirts we have been presented with over the years. But we are always thrilled to have them, and up there with the giants of Barcelona, Milan, Bayern, Madrid, Liverpool etc, we also have the equally proud if not so well known Hereford United’s of the world!

My own favourite from the collection as it stands now, happens to be not even a football shirt, but instead comes from the sport of Rugby, and belonged to the captain of the mystical All Blacks – otherwise known as the New Zealand international team. That said, inevitably pride of place in the collection is given to Bobby Murdoch’s Celtic jersey from the clubs greatest historical moment – winning the European Cup in Lisbon. The supremely gifted Scot exchanged shirts afterwards with the likewise legendary Armando Picchi from Internationale Milan and I have that very shirt in my possession so many years later.

On Wednesday it was an offering from the famous Red Star Club of Belgrade that had us happily adding to the collection. Then just last night in Split, we were presented with the red, white and blue silk shirts and scarves of local club Hadjuk Split. Of course I wore their scarf for a couple of songs and that went over very well on the night, as you would imagine. But I also wore a Scottish tartan scarf for a couple of songs, and that in addition always gets a very fine welcome wherever in the world we go.

Inevitably as with most of our concerts there were a few Celtic shirts on display, as well as a number of scarves that made their way on to Mel’s drum podium. One story has it that apparently a local promoters, in wanting to make us feel particularly at home, had made it so that free entry would be given to anyone turning up in the colours of Celtic. I have no idea if that is true but I suspect not. Promoters are not usually known for giving away free tickets are they?

And how does it make us feel when we see these football shirts etc from the stage. The answer is we appreciate everybody who comes to see us and they can wear whatever they want as far as we are concerned. All are welcome. Plus, we don’t even mind that much on occasions like last night when one girl who stood very near me at the front, decided during the last song – to wear no top at all. Don’t let us stop you!

For the record, it is no exclusive club this Simple Minds thing. And hopefully the values and idealism that we have displayed through our music makes it clear that if we were to stand for anything, it would be as artists who clung on to the belief that music really could have a unifying effect – and a positive one at that. And if it were to actually happen in the big world, as it does at the gigs, would that not be something. Least let me dream about it!

Finally, it is a day free from concerts today and I changed travel plans so I could stay an extra day in sunnyish Split. The water is lapping against the rocks outside my room window and it is calling me down to walk along beside it. That I will do!

And tonight? Well in keeping tonight I will go to a bar to watch a very important World Cup football match between Ireland and France, and I am in a real quandary over which team to support. The problem is that although I am a Scot, I have Irish lineage on both sides of my family and therefore always identify with the green of Ireland. But my recently born young nephew is a Frenchman and that means that France also looms in my heart even more so.

Ay, ay, ay!

Jim Kerr