You never walk alone in this Paradise
There is an old Italian proverb: ‘Anche in paradiso non è bello essere soli. Which translates into English as: ‘There is no greater torment than to be alone in Paradise. Efe Ambrose must have felt very lonely last night as he trudged off Celtic Park knowing that his mistakes cost Celtic two goals. Football, however is a team game and we win and lose together. This young Celtic team is serving its apprenticeship in Europe and will learn and mature from facing sides like Juventus. The Italians know every trick in the book and their Machiavellian approach to football means they’ll never hesitate to use them. There is no doubting their footballing ability or class though but it is encouraging to report that Celtic matched them for most of the game. Better finishing and a Referee who actually applied the rules might have changed things but you have to admit the sheer ruthlessness of Juventus was at once admirable and disconcerting. They dive, time waste, play act, hold players at corners and generally stretch the rules to gain any advantage however slight. But when chances come along they strike like a cobra and the ball usually ends up in the net. Celtic, with double the shot tally, didn’t really threaten much in front of Buffon. Celtic’s young team are novices at the dark arts one sees in the higher echelons of European football. They will learn in time to cope with the tactics used by teams like Juventus. Hopefully they will learn without imitating the unsporting elements of their game. That is not the Celtic way.
Fans who feel a little let down after last night’s events should remember the journey this team has gone on in the last 2 years. Not so long ago we were 0-3 down to Kilmarnock at half time and 12 points behind in the league. Who would have guessed then that we’d get into the Champions League, qualify from an incredibly tough Group, win away in Moscow, beat Barcelona and reach the last 16? When we played Helsinki and Helsingborg our hope was simply to reach the Champions League group stages. We did and we excelled there. So temper any anger or disappointment with a little pride. Celtic is an emerging side and the majority of their players are still under 23. Last night the street wise, fly men of Turin mugged us. They deserved their win as you simply can’t gift goals and miss sitters at this level of football as Celtic did. Juve have vast experience and know how when it comes to setting out a game plan. In financial terms Celtic v Juve was a lightweight fighting a heavyweight but still our team drove them back and dominated for long spells. There is much to be hopeful about and proud of.
Next season Celtic will face 3 qualifying rounds to reach the Champions League. We may well be without one or two heroes who will move on. The club is financially sound and no doubt new heroes will emerge. Get behind the team, be hopeful but realistic. The new era of European Football means that the mega rich clubs will have the best talent money can buy at their disposal. There was a more level playing field when Celtic won in Lisbon back in 1967. Now we see teams of mercenaries following the big bucks and this makes a repeat of Lisbon all but impossible. That being said, we can still shock the big boys from time to time with that Parkhead roar which spurs our Bhoys on to a higher plane. I’m hopeful that Celtic and our great support will have more great nights of European drama in the years ahead. These are great days to be a Celtic fan, enjoy every minute of it and remember that we are once again mixing it with the big boys at European football’s top table. Many clubs can only dream of what we’ve achieved this season. Be proud, be supportive, be Celtic men and women. That is a special calling as it must be for this special club.
The Italian’s have another saying; ‘Non si può aver il miele senza la pecchie.’ It translates as ‘Honey is sweet but the bees sting.’ Celtic were stung last night but that is the price of tasting the sweetness of the Champions League. It is the best club tournament on earth and I’m proud to say that my team reached the last 16 and did not disgrace themselves in such exalted company. On the contrary, they did us proud and played with that old Celtic fire. What more can one ask?