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Celtic 3 Bilbao 2. All in all a good day and night out following the Bhoys

2 August 2023

James Forest has never been a chest pumping, badge kissing type of Celtic player and he deserved his night out in Celtic Park last night. Tens of thousands of Celtic fans turned up to thank him for his contribution to our club. From he broke into the first team from the youth set up he’s been ever present in every managers mind.

13 Seasons, 467 appearances, 101 goals, 11 League titles, 6 Scottish Cups & 5 League Cups not bad going I think we can all agree.

My journey yesterday started at the bus depot in Drogheda with a chat about our day out in Dublin on Saturday for the Wolves game with some familiar faces who like myself were on the road again.

The conversations continued in Dublin airport in the bar next to the departure gate as more fans joined us. It was great to catch up with so many friends from around the country and find out how their summer went. There were also a handful of Bilbao fans on the flight and plenty of hand shaking.

We left behind the sun (for a change) and arrived into grey clouds which would turn darker as night fell at full time and a downpour of torrential rain as fans left the stadium.

But inside the atmosphere was very warm and welcoming for James and for the returning Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers who was introduced to the crowd before the players took to the pitch.

The Glasgow pubs welcomed the travelling fans and many more familiar faces returning to the city having drank the city dry during last years treble winning season. All three trophies would be on display on the pitch later as the players lined out for a guard of honour for the one club man.

The one club man is familiar with the visitors for they honoured our own Billy McNeill for his one club contribution to Celtic and in a lovely gesture a club official from the Basque Club laid flowers at his statue.

Inside the stadium, the visiting fans took their place in the away section, the North Curve and there were other fans from the Basque club mixed in around the ground most noticeably when they scored and were celebrating.

There were plenty of familiar supporters club flags around Celtic Park and the Bhoys were high up in the corner they have made their own. It was a pity that the visiting fans in the North Curve did not get to get the full standing section experience of colour and noise we have become accustomed to on matchdays.

The Green Brigade I’m told bought tickets to support the charities benefitting from the game but for what ever reason they decided to stay away on the night. The GB are not everybody’s cup of tea but they do a lot of positive things and too much has been made by their absence online.

Opinions are like arseholes and everyone has one and everybody is entitled to an opinion but remember It’s easy to sit from the comfort of your home and tap away at a keyboard or phone to comment on the actions of others.

It’s also worth remembering that while we’re going about our daily business for the rest of the week, they will be organising the flag day tifo, which I’m told will take in the whole stadium once again.

Anyway we were there last night for a game of football and after a shaky start the first half 11 had pockets of play worth applause but over all it was a disappointing first half but good to see Carter-Vickers back in the heart of the defence.

Brendan Rodgers made 10 changes at half time before James Forest left the field of play on 49 minutes to make way for Abada. The second half gave us a chance to get a look at some more of our new recruits and it made much better viewing with Celtic the better team.

On the 67th minute as the dark wet sky hovered over Paradise, the phones came out and the lights went on for “In the heat of Lisbon” and the stadium finally came to life to give the visitors a small sample of what they could expect if they ever came to town for a competitive game in Europe.

A few beers after the game with friends wrapped up a nice way to return to Celtic Park for another season which will bring plenty of challenges domestically and in Europe. We go again on Saturday when the result will matter much more.

Celtic 3 Bilbao 2. All in all a good day and night out following the Bhoys

Andrew Milne is Editor of More than 90 Minutes and host of the Celtic Soul Podcast