The greatest goalkeeper Celtic have had since Ronnie Simpson is off to Fiorentina. Sold for a reported £2.5 million, Polish superstar Artur Boruc will begin the new season in Serie A, mixing it with the giants of Italian football and enjoying all of the trappings.
I wish him good luck. I’m certain he will become a worldwide legend playing at such a peak every week of the season. He’ll be competing with the brilliant Sebastien Frey for the Number1 shirt and when he kicks the ball up the park, it will be chased by Adrian Mutu, not Marc Antoine Fortune.
All of which will be good for his development. I will however, miss him. We all will-even the Rangers fans will have a hole to fill when they spit bile at a goalie in green who is not Artur.
They will miss their opportunity to verbally rid the world of all things holy through the big mhan.
I admit to getting that sinking feeling when I read that he had got off the plane to the USA, only to board a different one heading in the general direction of Florence. I thought he would stay with us, just a bit longer.
So did Sydney based Celt Sarah Connolly. “Is he gone? Please tell me your joking. He’s the best thing about Celtic and I get a buzz when his name is announced before the game. I’m gonna cry I think.”
Boruc didn’t become a madcap goalie at Celtic. He always has been. I suspect that when he first surfaced on the 20th February 1980, he knew that he was a wee bit special. In the same year, only 3 months after Artur was born, there was a major riot at the Old Firm Scottish Cup Final when Celtic went to pick up the Cup. Anyone else think that’s linked?
Boruc has been a bane to all concerned with Rangers. With his constant needling and jibing at them, they made him a figure of hate.They tried to have him arrested and charged with a hanging offence because-He Blessed Himself at Ibrox!! He in return, has qualified his credentials in his public demonisation and despising of them.
He famously refused to shake the hands of the Rangers players after a game at Ibrox. He allegedly told David Weir, “I don’t like you, I don’t like your club or your fans.”
This stuck in the throat of the boys in blue and he was given the treatment normally reserved for war criminals in the media and elsewhere. Boruc was judged, not for what he looked like, but for displaying his God given right to display a belief-something seen on football grounds from Reykyavik to Dunedin every day.
Callum Brogan of Surfers Paradise remembers, “I was at that game. He was raging after some really bad kicking went on from them and the Ref (Rev Mike McCurry) just looked away.
It was shocking and we could see the Rangers players screaming abuse at him all the time. He was proud of himself for standing up to them and not being two faced about the whole thing. He’s scared of nothing. Especially not them!”
After a Rangers win at Ibrox, he was not content to let them walk away with all the glory. He grabbed a flag from one of the Celtic fans, ran along the pitch and held it high to the bewildered Ibrox hordes. The flag proudly proclaimed CHAMPIONS and the home celebrations became a little more muted.
Boruc’s penchant for the quick dig and chuckle is not solely confined to away games. At Paradise, he stood wth his back to the pitch and flashed his T-shirt, emblazened with a large picture of Pope John Paul II. It had the wording- God Bless The Pope. The newspapers had different wording.
“The papers were going ballistic!” mused Conor Brogan, brother of Callum. “You would think that the Pope had been shot again the way they attacked the story. Boruc loved it and so did we. Nobody can wind them up like him.”
This inspired a good line in T-shirt sales with the latest offering being Pope JPII wearing a Boruc T-shirt with God Bless Boruc written across it. I showed one to my parish priest and he put an order in for one himself. So the legend of Artur grows.
Boruc grew his own legend in his time between the sticks at Parkhead between July 2005 and July 2010. Wonder saves are on show every week and countless points have been salvaged by a man who’s lifestyle can often be as outrageous as his parries and blocks. He loves the big occasion and his best displays have been at the very highest level.
In november 2006, Nakamura scored a goal of supreme quality to give Celtic an improbable lead against Manchester United in Europe. The Bhoys were defending for their lives when the referee inexplicably pointed to the penalty spot in the closing stages of the game.
Parkhead went into shock. If Celtic held the lead, we would qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League. If United scored the penalty, we had to go to Copenhagen looking for a win.
Louis Saha placed the ball on the penalty spot, undoubtably questioning himself after squandering gilt edge chances earlier in the match. Boruc knew.
As Saha stepped up to strike the ball, Gary Neville whispered to Neil Lennon: ‘He’s lost it’.
Saha hit it hard into the corner but Boruc launched himself across the face of the goal and parried the ball to safety. Celtic Park went mental and both players and fans danced like they had won the Cup itself. It was indeed Artur’s night and the noise was deafening.
Against Spartak Moscow in 2007, he repeated his heroics. After a stellar performance to keep the Bhoys in the game, it went to a penalty shootout.
It was the 3rd qualiying round of the Champions League and we wanted to be in the group stages. The spot kicks would determine if we were to be successful or not.
The tension was unbelievable as it came down to the last one. The Muscovite drove it in, The Holy One guessed right again and as the Holy Ground erupted with unfathomable delirium, Boruc did a silly dance to the fans before being mobbed by everyone from Strachan to the tea lady. To this day, it is called the Pole Dance.
“I was right in front of him when he did that mad dance. ” smiled Paul McGinn from Brisbane. “It was bizarre and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cheer, so I did both. What a night that was. Just like the old days when everyone dived onto everyone else and cuddled total strangers. That’s why European nights are better here than anywhere else in the world.”
Boruc showed his teammates how to take them too in January 2009. Against Dundee United in the League Cup semi-final, all players had successfully converted their strikes. Boruc was up next and coolly slotted past his opposite and now replacement, Lukasz Zaluska.
Later that year, he played his 200th game for the Celts. He celebrated with a 3-2 win over Motherwell and he came away with Save of the Season from the Premier League panel. Yes indeed, he “saves” them up for the big occasions.
I’ll remember his time at Celtic as one of genius saves, eccentric mistakes, controversial behaviour and great fun sending Ibrox into apoplexy every now and then.
But mostly I’ll remember the head on top of the Boruc pile after the Spartak penalty save. The head used to be red-then it was slightly grey. It was, however, the head with the biggest smile and the brightest eyes. It was good to see Tommy Burns recognise a kindred spirit in the hoops and share in his moment of joy. Nobody celebrated more than he.
Thanks for the memories Artur. True Legend and Great Celt. Hail Hail.
Feel free to add your own memories and thoughts about THG below.
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Neil Lennon moves for Daryl Murphy