Posted on Wednesday, 21st December 2011 by Oz Chris
Our 1-0 win in Portugal to take us to the UEFA Cup Final will be remembered by many purely due to the score line but to me the memory of the tie reminds me of the efforts that we as Celtic supporters make to watch our team.
The 2002/2003 season was my first year living permanently outside of Glasgow, I had been attending games at Celtic Park since 1974 and my move to Australia opened my eyes to what lengths some of our support went through on a weekly basis for a chance to see their beloved hoops play. The whole Euro campaign for me up until Boavista was spent listening ‘on line’ to Clyde at 5am in the morning as even when the commentary was being broadcast on the BBC it was blocked to overseas listeners. So when I returned to Glasgow two days before the first leg I was like a junkie getting his first hit after a year of being clean. In 2003 SPL games were not broadcast on Australian TV and the methadone effect of travelling to the Brisbane Celtic Supporters Club to watch the bigger games was just enough to get me through the year.
On route to the game for the first leg, it was strange to go to the Bookies to find that we were favourites going into a European semi final despite the fact we were missing one of our top strikers in Chris Sutton. I have always preferred being the ‘underdog’ and the stuffy performance by Boavista, the donation of the own goal and the King missing a penalty made for a grim evening and all wasn’t looking too good for the trip to Portugal. My only other recollection of the first leg was the most nervous crowd I had ever witnessed as a Celtic supporter, the crowd booing Lenny for making what were completed square ball passes (thank god Scott Brown wasn’t playing) and Martin O’Neill having to gesture to the crowd to calm down really dampened my evening.
Two weeks later for the return leg I wasn’t very hopeful and at that time I found myself working in the North of Ireland. For my ‘safety’ I was put up in a B&B in Bangor, the assumption that I was one of ‘Them’ was a common mistake made throughout my time in the six counties, and here was me thinking I was a good looking guy. Despite this living nightmare I had found a small spit and saw dust pub that became my local. It had several televisions and on a nightly basis showed all the European football to accompany the free flowing Guinness, but they made it known that the ‘Tarriers’ game would not be getting shown.
On the day of the game I broke the news to my Irish colleagues that I would not be accompanying them to the pub. They had arranged a night out so I wasn’t feeling too lonely being away from home and I then had to sheepishly ask one of them where I could watch the game. Several phone calls were made and I was directed to a pub called “The Rose & Crown” and I was told the bouncers would see me ok. Now I’m not stupid but the name of the pub for some reason didn’t even send any warning signals, I was just that desperate to watch the match. On my arrival I got out of a taxi and as I approached the front door one of the bouncers greeted me using my name. Did I have a sign on me saying ‘Timmy’, if nothing else it restored my belief that I was in fact too good looking to be one of ‘Them’. Inside it had a massive screen and the game was about to kick off. There were about 15 other people in the pub all standing at the bar and not one of them looking towards pictures being shown.
The game underway I was happy to see Chris Sutton back even if it was only on the bench and those that were on the pitch I was more than happy with. Big Rab in goals was my only worry but he was always well protected by Bobo, Joos and Mjalby. As the game went on I became a bit more confident and when Henrik missed a chance just before half time I let out a wee groan, well I thought it was. The stares I got were a reminder of where I was.
My recollection of the second half is pretty vague, maybe it was the nerves form the game, maybe it was the fact I was constantly trying to watch behind me but I do remember Big Rab keeping us in game with a couple of wonder saves proving that nothing has changed and I still cant pick a goal keeper.
Then it happened. The ball in from the right hand side, Henrik does his usual and instead of blasting it, he takes it across his body to make the shot that bit more difficult. Outside of his left foot the ball goes towards goal, I knew in that instant everything was about to go horribly wrong. Despite the fact the Neanderthals behind me appeared not to be watching, the pub went silent. My hand covered my mouth but it was no use, I remember feeling my fingers vibrate on my lips as my scream squeezed through the gaps. What happened next was a bit of a blur, I do remember trying to watch the replay as the pint glass narrowly missed my head. It was time to go. Outside I went smiling at the bouncers who were attempting to get inside having heard the glass smash and the unhappy chaps at the bar were now quite vocal. I remember running up the street trying to work out where I could see the rest of the game. But like Forrest I just kept going.
I don’t know how but I ended up in my regular pub, as I entered it was like a mortuary, the fact the televisions were off made me smile and told me everything I needed to know. The quietness was broken shortly thereafter by my mobile phone, text message after text message and with the smile on my face it wasn’t long before I had to go elsewhere for my celebratory beer. I have since seen the second half again and it was just as well I left the pub when I did. Even if allowed to stay I don’t think my heart could have taken what I watched, Bobo was immense and that penalty claim they had in the last minute or so was a Stone Waller in comparison to what we see being given across the city on a regular basis.
The following night I returned to the pub that had become my regular, before pouring my pint the bar man asked “Were you the t*ig in the crown last night?” I just smiled he didn’t really need an answer. This wonderful occasion for most reminds them of the journey to Seville, for me it reminds me of the sacrifice our Irish supporters make on a daily basis to support our team and as good a reason as any that we must not be silenced by those currently in power at Holyrood
Make sure you all have a safe and enjoyable Christmas
Oz Chris (twitter @cmcmon and for podcast and website @TheLostBhoys & @HomeBhoys)
12 Crackers for Christmas
5. MON year 1 nil v Boavista UEFA semi
6. MON years Celtic 1 Barcelona 0
7. Straqchan Years – Celtic 1-0 Man United – Naka and the Holy Goalie.
8. Dr Jo V Rangers 5 v 1 Luuuuboooooo
|9. Tommy Burns Thursday clinching the title at Tannadice|
10. 20th February 2011, Celtic 3 Rangers 0 – Thunderstruck
11. Strachan years Celtic 2 v 1 rangers JVoH header and Naka strike at CP
12. 1987 2 v 2 draw with Hearts at Celtic Park (Centenary season)
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