Celtic will face Cliftonville in the second qualifying round of the Champions League. Although Celtic came out of the hat first, both clubs have agreed to switch so that the first leg will now be in Belfast, so that visiting supporters can sample some of the local culture, known as the ” Marching Season . ” Well, the PSNI need the overtime.
Until there is confirmation from UEFA, supporters are advised not to make any travel arrangements.
Cliftonville play at the Solitude stadium, which holds around 6000, but with only 2,530 seats, so it looks like we’ll all have to budge up a bit.
There are one or two safety concerns about the seating arrangements, from the last time Celtic were there, some years ago
Cliftonville chairman Gerard Lawlor has described the draw as a dream tie, and doesn’t want to move it to the AViva-which is in a different country, or Windsor Park, which would probably result in post traumatic stress syndrome for Celtic boss Neil Lennon.
“Unfortunately, a lot of fans will miss out, but my concern is for Cliftonville fans and how we can cater for them. ”
Which didn’t make any sense at all.
Manager Tommy Breslin admitted that not only were his supporters Celtic fans, but quite a few of the players were as well.
Dairmud Carroll, once on Celtics books as a youngster is now with Cliftonville. He seemed to be looking forward to the game;
” Its a dream draw for Cliftonville, Celtic was the team everyone wanted. I’d say everyone in the squad supports them and we were trying to arrange a trip to go over and watch them in the Champions League this season. We’ll be going to Parkhead with two hats on. We want to do well, but we want to see Celtic in the group stages again. ”
Unfortunately, he is not the goalkeeper.
Adam Matthews and Anthony Stokes were wheeled out for the obligatory comments-we are doing it alphabetically by first names this year, which will allow Xavi time to bed in before he faces the press, and the feeling is that Amido Balde could be skipped this time. In case he says he will beat them on his own, or something.
Matthews was fairly diplomatic;
” We’ve got to respect them and treat it like a Champions League game. We want to be in the group stage every season. Thats our main goal so we’ll play every game like we’re up against Barcelona again or Juventus in the last sixteen.
We want to get to the group stage again as we know we need to be playing at that level. We showed last season we can compete with the best teams. I know Cliftonville won their league comfortably. They’re going to be a decent outfit and probably a good footballing team. We’re focused on ourselves, we only had a short break so everyone has come back in good shape. ”
Anthony Stokes claimed;
“Its a great draw for both clubs. Cliftonville had an exceptional season and we will have to be at our best, but we are going to have a good pre season and will be ready. Both atmospheres will be electric. I’m sure they will have a good crowd over here for the game as I know there is a decent relationship between the two clubs. I know a lot of their fans will be Celtic fans as well, or would look for us to do well, though maybe not in these two games. But its all about on the night, and we will fancy our chances at home. We will give it our all and hopefully get a good result to take over there. ”
Victor Wanyama is not going to accept the deal on offer from Southampton.
His agent, Ivan Modia, says;
“We are not in talks with Southampton and have not been since their final offer of terms, which was more than two weeks ago. The news of the fee being agreed may just be coming out now but we see little sense in a fee being agreed if there is no reasonable prospect of the players terms being met. To suggest we are talking with Southampton is totally false. Their offer was way below Victors expectations. There is no chance of him signing the deal, and in fact, Celtic and Southampton were informed of this some time ago. ”
Fair enough, but then he begins to show his true colours…
” The player will not be forced into a corner to accept the Southampton deal, just because it is good for Celtic. Remember, he has been with the club for two years now, without a pay rise, and has given them wonderful service ever since he has arrived. Added to this is the fact that by Celtic refusing him permission to join QPR last summer Victor lost more than £1m in potential earnings, yet he just kept his mouth shut and continued to be a model professional. Many other players may not have adopted this attitude , in the circumstances. We know there is interest from elsewhere, and Victor is obviously open to those prospects, he is currently back in Kenya and hopes that Celtic will adopt a more resonable approach and take into account the service he has given the club so far and the rest of these issues. Nobody at Celtic can question his attitude and he is hopeful he can leave on good terms with the club. He loves the club and its fans, he’s played his heart out for the jersey, but he didn’t quite expect that it may end like this. ”
Where do you start with that ?
Of course, had Victor gone to QPR, he would now be in the second tier of English football, and not an experienced performer at the highest level in club football. Which would make him a little harder to sell. Two years without a pay rise? Sure, but largely because he refused one. Or his agent did. Which is more likely. Wanyama, when he returns from holiday, needs to tell this guy to wind his neck in. He’s a fantastic player, and will undoubtedly move on to fame and fortune, but he needs to remember why he is in demand, and how he got to that level.
His relationship with the Celtic support will be damaged by what he does and says, not by the rantings of a desperate agent, who sounds like Lawwell or Lennon has already cut him down to size a wee bit.
Elsewhere, and although the diary prefers to concentrate on matters Celtic, it would be folly to ignore the serious challenge from Scotlands newest club, who are using our distraction of first class European football to rebuild, ready for the day when they enter the top level.
Lean , mean coaching machine Ally McCoist was pictured looking ready -aye ready-for the step up to Division two.
Along with his assistant Kenny MacDowell, they set the physical standard for the players to aim at in pre season training
He has ruthlessly demanded that he wants all his players in perfect shape for the kick off, and has outlined exactly what he expects.
Incidentally, twitter was alive again with rumours that Deloitte had refused to sign off their audited accounts. Which are due any time now. Perhaps Charles Green has nicked the books, and has hidden them under his bed.
Again , there is an opportunity for one of our intrepid investigative journalists to throw open the door of ibrox, and show us what has been going on. But yet again, they have all phoned in sick.
Bertie Auld was the man who said that Saturday was a day off to play football. Anyone remember this one, and who it was ?
“Yes, my time at Celtic is over. It is not a time to be sad. I would be sad if i had never played for Celtic.”