A Grand Old Team
So that was the SPL Trophy wrapped up in a big green ribbons and handed over to Neil Lennon today. The Boss of course heaped praise on the players, the magnificent support and all at the club who have striven to make this season a memorable one. There remains a cup to be won and our old comrades from Easter Road will fight tooth and nail to end their 112 year nightmare in that competition. As professionals Celtic won’t be feeling any pity for them and as a support we’ll be demanding 100% from the team. The loss of Wanyama and Kayal will be noticed but the return of Scott Brown is a major boost. The Cup Final will take care of itself and like all Celtic fans I hope Celtic can round off a good year by winning the Cup to add to their SPL crown. After Kilmarnock in the League Cup Final last season and St Mirren in the Semi Final this year there can be no complacency. Results are earned and Hibs will fight for every ball so the team had best be at 100% efficiency from the start.
Highlights this season were mostly in Europe although a few SPL games were good too. Our target last summer was to make the group stages of the Champions League and we achieved that and more. Beating Barcelona was a night few who witnessed will ever forget. The atmosphere during that game surpassed anything I can ever remember at Celtic Park. In the SPL beating Aberdeen 4-3 particularly when faced with a 1-3 deficit with 20 minutes to go, was amazing. The 6-2 game against Dundee United was excellent too. There were dips too, especially after European games but the team generally bossed the Division from Christmas onwards. Indeed today’s game was the 12th straight home win in the SPL. It was a season where most of the team contributed well to the title win without any individual being outstanding. Wanyama remains a huge asset and his strength and stamina would allow him to cope in any league in Europe. For me though, Joe Ledley was the best player overall this year. The Welshman was quietly effective throughout the season and was a real team player doing the hard shifts in midfield his manager used to do so well. Samaras remains a huge asset in Europe and is finally winning over the doubters.
There have been a few voices stating that without the Deadco the season would be a boring non-event. It’s hard to believe that it’s now getting on for 12 months since clubs and fans up and down Scotland demanded that justice be done and the new club start where all new clubs should; at the bottom. They bleated about being kicked when they were down and ranted about not walking away as a dozen internationals jogged smartly out the door. They wailed about being punished and listed things which weren’t punishments at all but the consequences of going into liquidation. Did we miss the blue clad hordes in the SPL? I for one didn’t and have always felt justice being done was well worth any damage it did to the league. The arrogance and hubris we saw at the Oldco was well and truly destroyed by the chastening experience of a disgraceful and very public collapse. Yes, the Newco will come back like a bad case of piles one day but they’ll never be the same. No matter what they say, they stood by and let their club die. Green bought the assets of a dead company and used a similar name but the Newco are not the Rangers we knew of old. I could buy a dead man’s car and house but I can’t then claim that I’m him and neither can The Rangers FC 2012 claim to be the Rangers of 1872. The chain is broken, the history interrupted.
Celtic clearly saw that people were struggling financially this season and that this was reflected in the crowds attending games. Yes you could have sold the Barcelona and Juventus games out twice over but there was less of an appetite for more mundane league cup ties and SPL fixtures. When things are tight people pick and choose what to spend their money on. Celtic Fc was wise to reduce prices for the coming season and to encourage families and younger fans to return to games. It is to be hoped this increases crowds next season but no one should be under any illusion. Crowds at Celtic home games in the last 15 years are the highest in the clubs history. In season 1966-67 Celtic’s average home league crowd was 36,000. So let’s not get carried away thinking we should have 60,000 at every game. We are now 5 years into the worst recession since the 1930s and many in work are poorly paid. Glasgow and its surrounding area is among the poorest parts of the UK and yet still football is watched by more people per capita in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe.
Whatever the cup final brings, Celtic will have a very short summer break before the qualification rounds of the Champions League start again. The team must hit the ground running and strive to get into the group stages again. It is such a boost to the club financially and to the support in terms of morale and buzz about the place. If the SPL is our bread and butter, the Champions League is the caviar. We are a great club with and incredible tradition and history, We should be regularly among the elite of European football and continuing to add pages of glory to our story. We are financially strong and have a good young team. We will no doubt add some decent quality to the club in the summer and be ready for the tests ahead. Few clubs are as embedded in their community as Celtic is. We are more than mere consumers of football, mere customers buying a sporting product. We are the proud bearers of a tradition stretching back 125 unbroken years to our founding fathers. We, the Celtic supporters, are Celtic and it’s up to us all to drive the club on to new achievements, new successes and new adventures at home and abroad. Billy McNeil once said, ‘There’s a fairy tale aspect to this club which goes right back to its foundation.’ He was right as Celtic were founded on charitable principles and are continuing to help others at home and abroad. These are good times to be a Celtic fan but we enjoy the success all the more because we know well bitter taste of defeat too. But despite the hard years of the early 1990s, despite the old Board nearly killing the club, we stuck by the team Walfrid started, we fought for the club we loved and we emerged stronger.
In the Spring of 2011 when Celtic lost the SPL title by a point after looking certain to be crowned Champions, Neil Lennon stood on the pitch in front of 60,000 Celtic fans and told us in very honest language that this wasn’t the end, that it was just the beginning. How right he was. Keep the faith and we’ll enjoy many more days like today at this incredible football Club.
125 years of unbroken history and unbroken support from the best fans on the planet.
Hail Hail to the Champions