Sunday, 11 September 2016

The Celtic Way

The Celtic way

As Tom Rogic stepped up to take what was to prove the last penalty in a shoot-out at the end of last season’s Scottish Cup Semi Final between Celtic and Rangers, Dermot Desmond watched from the stand. As we know Rogic missed and half the stadium rejoiced as the other half shook their heads in disappointment. In the plush seats at the centre of the main stand the Rangers officials were naturally delighted and celebrated with more exuberance than is normal in the more sedate Directors’ area. One newspaper stated that…

The Irish billionaire was said to be furious that the normal etiquette rules were not respected as he sat in the vicinity of his Rangers counterparts at Hampden in the section set aside for dignitaries. Warm applause and happy smiles were cast aside for behaviour that, according to one insider, “made you think they were in the Rangers end”.

Some said it was ‘classless’ but as Dermot Desmond watched he became convinced that the Delia years were over. Celtic has stuttered through two years with the Norwegian in charge and despite winning three trophies seldom reached the heights. More worrying was the disenchantment of the supporters who were voting on the style of play with their feet.  As Desmond watched the Celtic fans melt away from Hampden on that spring day he decided that it was time for change. Celtic would have a new coach and he would be a man of stature, a man who would galvanise and organise the Celtic players. A man who knew what Celtic meant to the supporters.

Yesterday’s destruction of Rangers at Celtic Park was a real wake up call to swathes of their more gullible supporters who may have been convinced by the more sympathetic elements in the media that the gap between the two sides was narrow. Celtic, missing their top scorer, simply ripped the Ibrox rear guard apart with their pace and movement. Dembele was a revelation as he used power and skill to unsettle a creaking Rangers defence. Forrest looks like a new player and Scott Sinclair was a constant thorn in the side of a Rangers who then had to endure the arrival of Patrick Roberts who clearly was intent on wiping out the memory of his horrendous miss in that Hampden semi-final. The difference between Hampden and Celtic Park was night and day. Rodgers sent out an energised team who pressed high up the field and harried the Rangers players all over the park. They were full of running and no little skill as they tore holes in the Rangers defence time and time again. His tactics were spot on and the much hyped attacking full backs of Rangers were hardly up the field.

Off the field Celtic Park throbbed and crackled with an atmosphere unmatched in these islands. Indeed only a few teams in Europe can boast of such an ambience at games. The Green Brigade led the way as usual but the songs were being born all over the stadium and travelling around the stands like rolling thunder. It was an awesome spectacle, an assault on the senses. A friend from America making her first visit to the stadium said, ‘That was amazing, America has nothing on this.’ Make no mistake about it, the Celtic support drive the team on and are a vital component in the club’s success over the years.

As for the away fans, what can you say of people who chant about child abuse at a football match? What can you say about ‘football’ supporters who don’t seem to have any football songs in their repertoire but just a tired catalogue of outdated dirges. I have written in the past about the need for the decent Rangers supporters to challenge the less cerebral types who seem to wallow in their ignorance but they seem intimidated and at times outnumbered by the empty vessels making all the noise. The vandalism in the away end was sadly typical as was the foul song book although an added bonus of the comprehensive Celtic victory was that it shut them up.

So we head for Barcelona in buoyant mood but this is tempered by realism. Barcelona remain a formidable side with a collection of world class footballers at their disposal. Their forward line is among the most potent on Earth and Celtic will do well to put up a good show and return with dignity intact. Anything we gain there would be a bonus and those who are travelling do so in hope rather than expectation. They travel for a footballing party and will enjoy a fine city. This Celtic side is evolving and still learning about the demands of playing a high tempo, high concentration game for the entire 90 minutes. Switch off for a second and Messi and co will punish you. There is a feeling though that we could give the big guns a game in Glasgow in front of those magnificent supporters. We have no overblown ideas of how good we are but we’ll give it a go and have at last a coach who will instil a game plan and organisation into the side which in truth was missing in the Deila years. We have hopes rather than expectations in Europe and know the size of the task which awaits us but hey, it’s great to have a ticket to the big party. We’ll enjoy it and make the other guests glad we came.

This has been an uplifting start to the season for Celtic. The team is playing well and the fans are enjoying their football again. On the anniversary of Jock Stein’s passing Celtic simply destroyed Rangers in a very convincing manner. The team is showing signs of developing the attacking flair Celtic are known for and the fans are loving it. There is a smile on the face of all Celts this morning and long may that continue.

Big Jock would smile to see his club enjoying such good times again and playing the game the Celtic way.

1 comment:

  1. Lost out on £200 when that fifth goal went in but still smiling as I browse the net in bed.
    The book is odds for Barca are tempting for a perpetual opTIMist.