Friday, 14 June 2013

Somewhere between madness and love…

In just 10 days the draw will be made for the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League first and second qualifying rounds at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. The world’s greatest club competition will reach its climax 11 months later on 24th May 2014 when the final returns to Lisbon, the city where Celtic’s dream became a reality in 1967. It is astonishing to think that Celtic will be playing crucial qualifying games before the Glasgow Fair holiday!  The Club needs to quickly deal with the ins and outs of the transfer market and have a settled side which is ready for the demands of the qualifiers. Make no mistake about it, Celtic need Champions League football for a variety of reasons. It offers financial stability to the club in troubled times and enabled Celtic to drop season ticket prices substantially this season. It raises the profile of the club and its fans around the world as the ECL is televised in over 200 countries. I recall getting up at 5am in Melbourne, Australia in 2006 to watch Celtic defeat Benfica 3-0. I was roaring at the TV as the sun rose in Australia while 10,500 miles away Paradise rocked on a dark, chilly Glasgow night. The ECL also makes potential players regard Celtic as a club they would like to join despite the shortcomings of the SPL. There is also no doubt that the challenge and glamour of the ECL offers the support a chance to be part of the truly remarkable atmosphere Celtic Park can generate on those wonderful European evenings beneath the lights. The support no longer have games against the Deadco to look forward to and it would be churlish to deny that the Champions League was an important part of what made 2012-13 such a memorable season.

This time last year we faced some tricky games against HJK Helsinki and Helsingborgs and the team rose to the occasion and got us to the promised- land. It will be equally tough to make it to the group stages this time around and the club will need us to back the team 100%. Against Helsinki 52,849 Celtic fans showed up to offer the team the noisy and inspiring support they needed to overcome a stubborn and physical team who actually led 1-0 after 47 minutes of the home tie. Against Helsingborgs 51,566 fans came along to help push Celtic over the finishing line and into the group stages of the Champions League. Both attendances were by far the highest in the competition on those nights.  This level of support is vital and demonstrated how important reaching the group stages is to the club and fans alike. Celtic need to ensure that the fans have at least one qualifier on the season book this year and that tickets prices are in the £10-£20 range for all the qualifiers. The team needs the support just as the support needs the Champions League to sustain them through the long Scottish winter.

Few clubs are as rooted in their community as Celtic. The fans live and breathe Celtic and are the most important factor in their successes over the past 125 years. David Pleat, former Spurs Manager, said while commentating on a European tie at Liverpool a few years back… ‘Where else but Liverpool and Celtic do the crowd play such an important role in driving the team on to results they didn’t look capable of?’ We’ve heard from Maldini, Messi, Beckenbauer and a host of other famous players about the amazing atmosphere Celtic Park generates so it is up to us all to back the team in the best traditions of the Celtic support and ensure that we have our invitation to the greatest club tournament on earth. For me the most important games last season were not the Barcelona ties or even the cup final. They were those qualifiers which ensured we had a ticket to the party which gave us so many happy memories last season. I’ll never forget beating Barcelona on that marvelous night in November. Nor shall I forget Samaras heading a late winner in Moscow to seal our first away win in the Group Stages. Such memories linger long in the mind but they have their genesis on those hard pitches in the summer when we scrap it out to reach the Group stages. The tone for season 2013-14 will set in the dog days of summer and we all have a part to play to ensure that the Club we love is among the elite of European Club Football. That is where we belong and that is where we aim to be.

We, the Celtic support, know how important we are to the team and we won’t fail them. We’re the crucial twelfth man who energizes the team so that it is capable of results such as the astonishing victory against Barca. Make no mistake, no one gave us a chance in hell against Messi and co but despite this, the record books show that we defeated them. Such a result would have been impossible without the backing of that incredible support. The team will need us again this July so make sure you’re there to help them make history again.

On November 7th 2012 Celtic Football Club celebrated its 125th year with an astounding result. Tito Villanova the coach of Barcelona said after that match…

“The stadium was spectacular, I have been lucky in my career to have been to many grounds, but I have never seen anything like it. This was their 125th birthday and I wish them many more years.”

One reporter said of the Celtic supporters and their bond with the team on that memorable evening……

Somewhere between madness and love, this fanaticism did for Barcelona on a night when the Celtic team and their disciples were indivisible. Money can’t buy you that.’

Even the Barcelona players who have tasted the atmosphere of Champions League and World Cup Finals were blown away.  Consider the following…

“No words to describe the atmosphere at Celtic Park,” wrote Gerard Piqué

“The stadium is a marvel – the fans, the people, how they support their team, It’s an example for every team.”  Xavi

Most of us accept that the gulf in finance and technical ability make a repeat of Lisbon 67 a very tall order for a club like Celtic but we still aim to make our presence felt among the elite. We aim to make Celtic Park a place which visiting teams are in awe of as our Bhoys joust with the giants of world football. We still have our dreams and our songs to sing and we sing them loudest on those European nights.




  1. One of the finest blogs I've ever read. Could feel myself tearing up at that.

    Well put.

    God Love The Celtic.

    Hail Hail

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. Please explore the blog as there are many good Celtic tales to be read. This incredible football club inspires us all and there are many more tales to be told about it. Hail Hail