elcapetan88 looks ahead to Celtics Champions League nights with a look back at some special memories from meetings between our beloved club and the wonderful Barcelona..
The importance of securing Champions League football this season cannot be understated. The rewards in terms of financial benefit and squad composition can be discussed at more length elsewhere. In short, the European income stream – which will be anything between a few million if you are a begrudging and depressed MSM hack to £20m plus if you are a determined Internet bampot (love that an initially derogatory term is now a cult badge of honour) – will continue to develop the club’s sound financial footing. The impact of securing high level competition to supplement our domestic campaigns is similarly notable. Elements of the Twitterati were claiming last night that potential interest in key players was more swiftly dismissed as a consequence of our European placing but, more critically, our increasingly close-knit squad now gets to stick together for its biggest challenge. We may suffer in terms of what we can offer players domestically (although the opportunity to win titles should always appeal more than mid or lower table mediocrity elsewhere – dear Lord what has Jordan Rhodes done …) but there is no doubt that on September 19th, November 7th and December 5th it will be proven to our current crop of players that they are representing the most phenomenal club in the world.
From that comes the central perspective of this article – Neil Lennon and his players achievement in getting into the group stage should be regarded as a key feat in our contemporary history. The younger generation are experiencing a football world without Rangers and already it looks, feels and smells better! The reality that they will have the first season sans Huns now layered with the intensity, drama and passion of the highest level of European football is a fantastic prospect. It is often trotted out that Celtic Park on a European night is an awesome sight and experience – the blandness of the platitude almost does a disservice to what anyone lucky enough to attend is subjected to. Those that have experienced it like I have will probably just nod appreciatively and smile at this point but I am absolutely
delighted for those lucky fans that are anticipating for the first time the visit of Barcelona (as well as Benfica and Spartak).
Regardless of the outcome of our group games a positive trajectory for our season is now confirmed. We push towards retaining our title whilst savouring the European experience and introducing a new generation to those special Tuesday and Wednesday nights. For those of us who are merely salivating at the prospect of re-acquainting ourselves with them I’m going to indulge us all a little in our memories of recent encounters with our kindred spirits from Catalonia …
Thursday 11 March 2004
Celtic 1-0 Barcelona
Admittedly this was a Uefa Cup tie but, save for a wonderful sequence to be identified in a subsequent encounter, this proves to be my favourite overall game against Barcelona. Whether it was trying to comprehend the chaos that had unfolded at half time, the realisation that our first choice goalkeeper had not returned for the second half, the palpitations every time Ronaldinho got on the ball, or the sheer elation as we watched Henrik’s deft knockdown drift through the air before Thommo smashed home the only goal, this was an absorbing game. I will always be grateful to the old timer who sat in front of me in the Jock Stein Upper. Inevitably we hugged each other as we danced around celebrating the goal but it was what he said next that sticks with me. “Jesus, wee man (ignore the fact that I was taller than him), we’re on our way through after the 0-0 out there. Ya beauty!” I’ll claim it was because it was incredibly noisy in the stadium at that point as the reason I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was only the first leg but I took that as a sign. No guesses as to what my score-cast was for the second leg. Who knows what the old timer thought when we played Barcelona for the third time a fortnight later!
Tuesday 14 September 2004
Celtic 1-3 Barcelona
This game contained one of my most incredible European experiences at Celtic Park -despite the end result. Ask anyone who was there to recall the moments between the 53rd and 59th minutes and attempt to put into words the intensity of the occasion and the transformation of emotions that culminated in a release of joy and delirium inside the stadium that night. Trailing 1-0 from the first half there was a moment of angst and fear when Barcelona were awarded a penalty eight minutes after half time. The moment Ronaldinho stepped up was unforgettable – particularly from the Jock Stein stand. The swirling scarves and incredible noise provided an unbelievable backdrop for the kick – which David Marshall spectacularly saved! I’d argue at that point you could feel a renewed surge of energy pour from the stands onto the pitch. Six minutes later, Chris Sutton would stretch out a leg and thunder a finish into the top corner. I am not sure if I have the
adjectives to emphasise the power of that moment – it was simply brilliant.
Wednesday 20 February 2008
Celtic 2-3 Barcelona
Whilst the clinical brilliance of Leo Messi might take the general headlines from this particular encounter and most Celts would recognise we were always up against it in taking on a side that were emerging to be simply phenomenal just stop for a moment and consider this … we led twice! The Bhoys went toe to toe with footballing genius and actually paused for a break at half time 2-1 in front! The power of big Jan’s opening header stood in sharp contrast to Barry Robson’s looping effort but both added two more spectacular moments to the list of fantastic scenes witnessed on a European night.
Who knows what Group G is going to throw up this year – it is is simply fantastic that we are there. Those that will experience the group stage for the first time will be blown away – there may be penalties to save, red cards that turn a game and there will certainly be goals to celebrate. Even those of us who can call on memories like the ones here will have to remember that our last participation was four years ago. It’s been a while so hello, old friend … we’re having a party in the Champions League!