Celtic are back in action tonight v Legia Warsaw in a pre-season friendly to celebrate the career of former Hoops goalie, Artur Boruc. The former Celtic number one, Artur Boruc The Holy Goalie enjoyed many memorable moments at Celtic making over 200 appearances.
David Potter, Celtic historian and author looks back at his time at Celtic.
Artur Boruc was with Celtic from 2005 to 2010. He very soon became a Glasgow character. Involving himself in certain other aspects of Glasgow life which weren’t always wise. But there was little real doubt about his goalkeeping ability. He made his mistakes – but then again the goalkeeper who has not made a mistake has yet to be born.
He so often rescued Celtic with a particular ability on a difficult day when the team were winning 1-0. Artur could produce a great save at the end and to preserve the three points.
His first game was against Artmedia Bratislava at Parkhead, and the team won 4-0. It was a pity that they had lost the first leg 5-0! But then again had Boruc been playing in that first leg, it might have been a different story.
Like most good goalkeepers – Charlie Shaw, Joe Kennaway and Ronnie Simpson spring to mind – Artur had the ability to inspire other defenders and to bring out the best in them. They knew that even if they did make a mistake, Artur was behind them. There was even a bit of arrogance about Artur – never in a bad, unpleasant sense, but a feeling that you won’t beat me!
There is a certain truth in that. Of the five seasons that Boruc was with Celtic, Celtic won the League three times, with one near miss. The other season was the Tony Mowbray season, of which the less said the better. Poor Tony simply did not have the temperament or ability to cope with the awesome demands of Celtic – and one feels that he could not cope with Artur either.
Gordon Strachan did. Boruc took to Celtic, rejoicing in the name of “The Holy Goalie”. He wasn’t all that pious, it has to be said. There were a few failings with drink, and with the fair sex, we are told, but he was not far short of divine status himself in the eyes of the support.
Of the three years that Celtic won the League with Strachan. It would have to be said that the players were not necessarily the best that have ever worn the green and white. But they were well managed, and they had a great goalkeeper in Artur Boruc. He played a large part in keeping wins as wins through inspired goalkeeping. He was often the unsung hero.
Except of course, he wasn’t really “unsung” and Artur made sure that he wasn’t. There was for example the time when he performed his religious observances at Ibrox. Those who couldn’t cope with religious diversity behind that goal couldn’t handle it. I can’t remember whether it was said that the Huns became Bears, or that the Bears became Huns, but it showed them for what they are.
Now, there is not a shadow of a doubt in anyone’s mind that Boruc was aware of the reaction that he would get. But it also proved the point that Scotland is the only country in the world, except perhaps Northern Ireland, where anyone knows or cares what a football player’s religion is! And how the bigots fell for it, leading to some crazy politicians and clerics claiming, breathtakingly, that what Boruc did was “a breach of the peace”!
There was also a T-shirt that he wore now and again asking for the Almighty to bless a world religious leader. Not everyone could cope with that in the west end of Glasgow either. Manager Gordon Strachan, not a religious man as far as I’m aware, stated quite blandly that it was not a “bad” T-shirt. “If it had been Myra Hindley on the T-shirt, it might have been a different matter” said Mr Strachan!
But all this must not disguise the truth about how good a goalkeeper he was. As well as three League titles. Artur Boruc The Holy Goalie also won one Scottish Cup medal in 2007, and two Scottish League Cup medals in 2006 and 2009.
He won 65 caps for Poland, but surely his greatest moment at Celtic Park came in the game against Spartak Moscow in 2007. Artur saved Celtic in the penalty shoot out to allow Celtic to qualify for the group stages. It was one of the few nights in recent decades where one can honestly say that “Celtic Park erupted” in a European context.
Artur also played for Legia Warsaw, Fiorentina, Southampton and Bournemouth – great teams all, but he will always be known as nothing other than “Artur Boruc of Celtic”.
It is of course folly to try to draw up a League table of goalkeepers, and Celtic have had many – McArthur, Adams, Shaw, Thomson, Kennaway, Miller, Simpson, Bonner, Forster, Hart and many others. It would be invidious to use terms like “better than” or “worse than”. Let’s just say that Artur Boruc The Holy Goalie is well worth his place as one of the greats!