The Clumpany did not enjoy Saturday’s Scottish Cup Final.
It was quite a novel experience to discover that an ethereal entity could feel so sick. I was nervous all morning and then absolutely nauseous throughout the match.
As they did for large parts of the recent league game, Aberdeen worked unbelievably hard, and pressed Celtic (who were undoubtedly not at their best) as no other Scottish team has all season. And on another day Aberdeen might have taken their chances and won the game. [Mind you they also might easily have gone down to ten men during the first half! 😉]
But that didn’t happen, I am delighted to say. Celtic battled and turned the screw as Aberdeen tired, and they somehow found a winning goal in injury time.
It was tough on Aberdeen. I have many Dons on my timeline who are great folk, who give their team fantastic support and who want the same reforms in the governance of our game as large numbers of Celtic fans. It was hard for me not to feel some sympathy for them as their side went down at the death like that.
Because as the state of my ethereal stomach attested, I would have been absolutely mortified if Aberdeen had won. Having gone through the league unbeaten, won the League Cup and arrived at the threshold of an Invincible Treble – a feat never likely to be repeated – it would have been demoralising to see it snatched away. Brendan Rodgers and his team have performed brilliantly this season, and they totally deserved their place in history.
Anyone who suggests that winning trophies must be meaningless to Celtic fans given the club’s resources and track record can quite frankly take a running jump. Saturday was absolutely excruciating, and the joy of prevailing was exquisite, just as it was after the League Cup Final and after Celtic clinched the title against Hearts.
Mind you, the agony was nothing compared to the experience of the monumental hangover endured by The Clumpany on Sunday. I can only assume that my 15th Buckie and Bleach on Saturday night was a ‘bad pint’.
He was sneered at, but Derek McInnes was probably correct in his pre-match comments/ ‘mind games’. There could have been a lingering sense of anticlimax about a great season had Celtic lost the Scottish Cup final. And personally I think the last thing they deserved was an anticlimax.
Celtic have been relentless this season. Relentless even when the flair for which they have been applauded was absent and they simply had to grind out results from somewhere.
For me, one of the best indicators of their unrelenting efforts this season is their December results: eight league games, eight wins, plus a Champions League draw at Manchester City.
Others will write detailed analyses of this historic season and the contribution of various players (for me the rejuvenated Scott Brown was the standout across the season, but I am happy to hear the arguments for others). The work of Brendan Rodgers and his backroom staff who have performed a near-miracle with (mainly) Ronny Deila’s team will also receive forensic coverage.
However, I simply wanted to say well done and thank you to all concerned, including the Celtic board who made the Rodgers appointment happen, and the fans who were magnificent every step of the way, and who heeded the manager’s call for patience at the start of the season.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the 2016-17 campaign was a worthy tribute to the Lisbon Lions, the 50th anniversary of whose European Cup triumph was recently celebrated in such fantastic style.
I will mention the defeats to Lincoln Red Imps and Barcelona in Europe because they ARE part of the story of the season – and uncomfortable parts too. Ultimately however, the thing to take away from them is that they were not THE story of the season. They happened and they were bad moments. But they didn’t define Celtic’s campaign. The Hoops made the Champions League group stages for the first time in three years (which most of us would have defined as a huge success before the start of the season) and got three creditable draws, including a 3-3 draw against Manchester City on one of THOSE epic nights at Celtic Park. Not only did Celtic pick up a point that evening, they also showed a host of Premier League teams how to play against the previously-imperious Pep Guardiola’s side, whose season was never quite the same again.
This season was one of progress for Celtic. Lots and lots of progress, which amazingly included winning an unbeaten Treble.
An. Unbeaten. Treble.
What can they possibly do for an encore?
Well, Rodgers’ every utterance speaks about development and building for the future so it seems highly unlikely that Celtic will rest on their laurels. Champions League football with group stage wins and a longer European campaign would be amazing, but let us be in no doubt about quite how difficult that will be to achieve.
For now however, let’s take a moment to pause and salute the undefeated domestic treble-winning Champions of Scotland, who did it playing the Celtic way.
We may never see the like again.
But I hope we do, and I am sure that Brendan and everyone at the club will give it their very best shot.