I had an unfamiliar feeling in the back of my throat, it was burning, my body was aching, my head a bit heavy and I had to prise my eyes open. That’s a perfectly normal feeling to have after a night on the drink but I wasn’t drinking the previous night.
Those few lines above are pretty much what happened in the first few seconds of Thursday morning. Right after that point, I remember that there was a good reason for the burning throat and the pain. It was because I had been shouting and singing (or wailing for anyone unfortunate enough to be within ear shot of me) my team to victory last night. I had also clattered most of my body parts against the seats to the front, back and side of me.
I’m pretty sure that there’s pain in body parts that I didn’t know existed until now.
That description can probably be applied to any Celtic fan who was in the stadium on Wednesday night. For me, it was one of the best nights ever at Celtic Park. I’m not sure how long I have had the season ticket for but it’s been somewhere in the region of 15 years.
Wednesday seemed more important than the others. To the extent that I even suggested it was going to be much bigger than Barcelona. Yes, we have played and defeated bigger and better teams over the years than Karagandy but have we been 2-0 down in a qualifier like that ? Before the draw, most expected us to qualify. Perhaps that’s why the pressure and intensity was more than usual ?
For example, before the Barcelona and other group games last season, not many fans would have been too disappointed or angry if we had lost the matches. Shakhter Karagandy? I doubt any fan would have accepted defeat.
In the time that I have been lucky enough to have my season ticket, I haven’t missed very many home matches. On Wednesday the build up was much more intense than most European matches. In the past, a phrase often used was ‘punching above our weight’. And to an extent, we probably were. Celtic are a club who used to be big but are from the footballing back water that is Scotland. We shouldn’t really be in with the big boys of Europe should we ? Of course, that’s not my thoughts, it’s more the thoughts of non-Celtic fans and some fans of some other clubs across Europe.
Over time, Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan and now Neil Lennon has changed that perception. We should be in the Champions League, it’s one of the best atmospheres in Europe. I have been to a Marseille v PSG match which I later found out is one of the biggest club matches in French football. I have been lucky enough to have attended a few other matches throughout Europe over the years and trust me, nothing compares to Celtic Park on a Champions League night.
It’s not just a nice thing to be part of any more. It’s vital. Vital to give our fans some big games at home. Vital for the finances of the club but from a personal point of view, it’s vital because it gives us a sense of pride to tell people that we are Celtic supporters. We are part of that fan base. Having a quick look over twitter, I saw tweets from so many well known faces. Mainly from the English game – Gary LineCar, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard to name a few who were commenting on how great a result last night was for us.
Some younger readers might have a specific pub or club that is the place to be in their local towns and cities. On a football level, being in the Champions League is the place to be so a massive well done to Celtic, Neil Lennon and the bhoys for making it through to the group stages again.
Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax are now coming to visit us, those clubs and players will partly be excited but partly wonder about what they are about to face, what is it about that club and the supporters up in the far corner of the map.
Nobody seems to know why but at home, we are a formidable opponent. I don’t know why either but what I do know is that I just can’t get enough of Celtic in the Champions League.