There’s always an awful lot of sound and fury around Scottish football.
Some of it is necessary – such as the fans’ pursuit of fairness, justice, transparency and a modicum of effective administration.
Some of it is plain bonkers – such as the media coverage around the second-̶r̶a̶t̶e̶-tier ‘Revolution’ that we are being indoctrinated to believe is happening at Ibrox these days.
And some of it is just normal (enjoyable?) football controversy. The Josh Meekings handball-that-wasn’t in the Scottish Cup semi-final last season, for example.
But once in a while we get a genuine ‘occasion’.
One of those moments where everything becomes focused on nervous anticipation, and the prospect of nail-biting drama.
An all-or-nothing scenario, where you know that you are either going to end up jumping for joy, or crying into your Buckie.
With no alternatives in between.
An occasion where you are reminded – in the most stark way – that despite all the sound and fury it really is all about the football.
Twenty-two players on a pitch in a magnificent stadium.
And tonight is Part One of one such an occasion.
Celtic will kick off their tricky and season-defining play-off tie against Malmo knowing that victory over two legs will ensure a place at football’s top table, and guarantee a series of very tasty and lucrative fixtures against Europe’s best.
And who wants to miss out on that?
It’s what the club and players have been working for, it’s what the fans dream about, and it’s what the Scottish game needs to raise its profile.
The consolation prize of Europa League football is there for the loser, and as we saw last season it can deliver some truly magical moments.
But we aren’t thinking about that right now.
Tonight is all about getting a good lead to take to Sweden, and putting Celtic in a strong position to get back to the Big Time.
Tonight is all about the football, and nothing else. It’s a real treat!
Nervous? You bet!
Excited? Of course!
Optimistic? Hell yes!
Bring it on!