The Big Draw

CelticwinineuropeThe dust has now settled on the play-off for the Champions League qualifiers against sheep-slaughtering Shakter Karagandy.

What a game, what a result.

It’s up there with many great nights at Celtic Park. I fondly remember Celtic overturning a 2-0 deficit against Cologne in 1992. It was my first ever european trip. I certainly remember the home return leg better than Cologne itself. When John Collins scored the third, Celtic Park exploded. It only got us to Round 2 of the UEFA Cup, but it was a moment in history, a moment to savour.

The big draw’s been made for the “Big Egg” and of again Celtic has been drawn in a Group of Death.

I admit to feeling a little underwhelmed by it.

Yes, I know; be thankful we are there. And I am. I wanted an English side and the likes of Real Madrid, mirroring Neil Lennon’s thoughts. Imagine getting Chelsea? I’m sure the Met and Police Scotland would have loved that though.

But on the flip side of the coin – Barca, AC Milan and Ajax are absolutely mouthwatering. I had a slight chuckle at the joke flying around the internet.

A Celtic fan walks into a bar in Las Ramblas and the Barman pipes up “Usual?”.

It beggars belief that I’ve bemoaned Celtic facing the Spanish side twice in two seasons but I suppose I’m getting used to this Champions League lark.

I heard a Rangers fan on the phone-in the other night stating that Celtic getting into the Group Stages is only good for Celtic. In a way he’s right. Financially it puts us way in front of any club in Scotland.

However, he was wrong on many other counts. Celtic is Scotland’s only representative in Europe. We’re the flag bearers for a country whose domestic and international game has taken a battering for years.

Many are sitting up and taking notice. Many pundits down south are starting to consider us a a credible club with a chance of causing upsets.

But the news that Scottish Premier teams will benefit to the tune of £100,000 each, due to Celtic qualifying, proves that there is benefit to the game itself. One hundred big ones is a lot of ready cash for teams in the SPFL. What really irks the Rangers fans is the fact that Celtic, through good housekeeping, are a stratosphere ahead financially, and this worries them. You can see through the bravado, it’s killing them.

They’re clinging onto “bygone days of yore” and some firmly believe they’ll stop 10-In-A-Row. Maybe they will, but I think it will take something pretty drastic to happen at Celtic Park for us to blow this advantage.

As the draw commenced, I was concerned about what pot Celtic would be in, until it dawned on me that, over the road, they don’t have a pot to piss in.

I’m sure Ally McCoist could do with that money but it may be a few years before The Rangers benefit from Celtic’s European adventures. We’ve been force fed the Big Adventure story since their inception in 2012, but hey, ain’t our adventure far bigger? Barcelona or Brechin, Milan or Montrose?

We could have got anyone really, but the main point here is that qualifying changes the whole complexion of Celtic’s season. The SPFL is fairly mundane and I’m sure we’ll drop points like we did last week, but we’ll win it. Still in with the chance of a domestic treble. Christ, we could do the quadruple still.

I earlier mentioned being slightly underwhelmed but that’s pure greed.

Barcelona last season was possibly the greatest ever atmosphere at Celtic Park, even surpassing the old Glasgow derbies. My son was uber-excited at the prospect of seeing Messi, Xavi & Co. He loves Spanish football and is already tugging my shirt for his tickets.

AC Milan and Ajax will certainly be tests for a Celtic team that has lost its spine – these too are clubs with tremendous European pedigrees. I’m still of the belief that the Celtic board gambled to get the team through to the Group Stages, but Nir Biton has signed on the dotted line as well as Teemu Pukki from Schalke, and possibly another.(There are three hours of the transfer window left, as I write this.)

The two we’ve secured are players I have little or no knowledge of but the same applied to Hooper and Wanyama, so here’s hoping.

On that basis, Neil Lennon has to be given enormous credit for bringing together a side in such a short period and I think we can only get better over the season. I’m very hopeful that Boerrigter will become a star for us. With Balde and Van Dijk the jury is definitely still out but let’s allow them time, with Van Dijk being the favourite of the two to fulfil his potential. He looked very classy today.

If indeed we do turn into a stronger team, I would like to think that we can hold onto our star players that bit longer.

I’m betting Hooper, Wanyama and Wilson were glued to Sky on Wednesday backing the Bhoys and also wondering why they left such a great club, who are back up where they belong … in the biggest tournament there is.

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Comments on The Big Draw

  • Edward glacken

    Your summary very much like my own view. Very hopeful of a good display in group. I forecast NIR to be best signing since Henriks van dyk a class signing . putti ready made Commons stand in. Dutch winger ? Injury worry. Well done celtic management for a good bit of shopping.A 78 yr old is optimistic of a good season.win loose or draw lets be thankful for so many of celtic family s hard work .God bless.

  • Bored

    Drab droll guff. Are you auditioning for a job at the DR? Nauseating…shallow and cliched. By all means talk about Celtic but why the need to introduce a comparison with a football team that no longer exists and even worse draw comparisons with the spectre that followed them. You’ve been drawn into the charade that you most probably dislike most. I would describe this as amateur writing but I feel that would be injustice even to the hacks who earn a crust writing pish like this.

  • Brian C

    Hey, Gav. Maybe it is just me but I am subject to a growing feeling that any and all comparisons with The Rangers are becoming less and less…relevant. I was enjoying your piece then found myself wondering why you brought The Rangers into it. I mean, is there really much point any more? Can we really still talk of them in the same breath? Will they ever truly be strong enough to threaten Celtic again?

    I had to laugh when you said you were underwhelmed. Mostly because I think I got it. I was praying for Madrid in the draw, and praying we didn’t get Bayern or Man Utd but facing Barcelona again was, honestly, a slight let down. Guess it just shows how spoiled we are.

    I have no fears over the new signings, and I think that we will likely see summers like this one very two or three years but I have to admit I enjoy the drama and uncertainty. I think Pukki will be a sensation.

  • James Forrest

    Nice to see such constructive criticism.

    I offer to anyone who thinks they can do better the invite I’ve had here since the start.

    Let’s see what you’ve got. Get in touch, and submit your own piece. As long as it meets the criteria (in other words, as long as its not a bigoted piece) we’ll publish it.

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