The carpets in Clumpany Towers may be ethereal, but that didn’t prevent them from being worn out last night as I paced up and down during Celtic’s Champions League playoff second leg in Israel. It was good news for the Buckie fund however, as the Clumpany swear box swelled to war chest-like proportions [NB that’s a Champions League qualifier’s war chest, not a Dave King-sized one 😉].
On planet Sevconia it was a busy night for the accident and emergency departments. Large numbers of folk were brought in stuck fast in the ‘head in hands’ position, while others had fractured bones from angrily shaking their fists at the sky. Those fortunate enough to escape physical injury still ended up emotionally stunned. A day later they are still wearing facial expressions akin to a post-arse-kicking Bishop Brennan. Which I am sure will delight them when their Celtic-supporting friends and work colleagues show them the photographs they took after clothing them in clerical vestments…
In last night’s meagre blog offering I pointed out that even if Celtic imploded against Hapoel Beer Sheva and failed to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League, there would still be plenty of reasons for the fans to be upbeat, what with an improving team, more effective tactics and a real zip to their play.
How ironic then, that although Celtic progressed the performance was absolutely brutal. Awful. Painful. Murder. I must have spent more time watching the on-screen clock than the actual football. Unlike Celtic, the clock actually went forward. There were large passages of play where I got palpitations every time Hapoel attacked and I waited a full minute for the TV camera to zoom out enough to show the whereabouts of a Celtic defender…
Fair play to the Israeli side, however. They faced a tough task and gave it absolutely everything. They deserved every bit of the credit that Brendan Rodgers magnanimously gave them at the end of his press conference.
Dear me, the game was horrendous. But let’s also offer some credit to Celtic. We’ve seen that movie before, and where once (in fact several times…) they would have fallen away and gone out, they somehow managed to cling on (having rejigged the formation for the latter part of the match) and ultimately gave everyone connected with them a massive boost.
As many have already remarked, the tie was a two-legged affair, and for all last night’s fixture was tough to watch, it shouldn’t detract from the ultimately-decisive first leg, which featured a level of Celtic performance not often seen in Europe in recent years.
Let us hope that with some further squad-strengthening, and without the unique ‘all or Europa League’ pressure of a Champions League playoff we get to see performances akin to the first leg during the Group stages…
Had Celtic gone out last night after THAT performance it would have been absolutely gutting (although hilarious for fans of other clubs no doubt…). But as it is, we can now marvel at the almost paralysing horror-show scariness we experienced and savour the subsequent unadulterated euphoria.
Oh, and be thankful that there isn’t a third leg still to play…
Some folk feel that the customary chat about Celtic’s qualification being ‘good for Scottish football’ is sanctimonious and patronising. I can’t say that I agree with that, although I do understand why people don’t want it rammed down their throats! Aside from the boost to Scotland’s UEFA coefficient, our national sport now gets to enjoy a higher profile, and the world’s biggest club competition will have a real presence and impact in Scotland. It will no longer just be something that only happens on the TV.
And that is exciting!
[See, I didn’t even mention or request thanks from other clubs for the solidarity payments coming their way 😉].
I am sure the press pack will enjoy covering the games and feeling part of some genuinely big occasions. Although quite how Celtic’s success and financial windfall will square with the usual tendency to ‘big up’ Sevco remains to be seen. Word reached The Clumpany last night that the Level5 labs were working flat out to produce a generically-modified giant squirrel. Sadly I get the impression that the early experiments are not producing great results.
I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for further squirrels… However, I suspect that I may end up tripping over thousands of them…
In the meantime, I will conclude by saying well done Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic players and – yes – Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond. It’s good to be back having a party in the Champions League!