After galloping towards the Scottish premier league title last season, Celtic were rewarded with direct rout into the group stages of the worlds premier club competition. Celtic fans were in a fortunate position of watching on as clubs battled it out across Europe for the final few places at the top table of European football. As Scotland’s sole representative in this season’s UEFA Champions League, Celtic invited press from the Scottish media as well as the burgeoning fan media groups to watch the draw live from the home of the Scottish champions on Thursday evening.
Gathered in the press room as the draw began to take shape, the collective murmuring amongst fans and reporters grew louder as each team were drawn and allocated to the respective groups. As the teams in pot 4 were added to the draw, the permutations and dreams of potential opponents went into overdrive. Who do you want – who do you want to avoid?
There was some familiarity in the groups, which is to be expected when UEFA continue to carve up the qualifying process for the top 4 or 5 national leagues in Europe. So, when we were finally drawn and allocated to Group E, the buzz of anticipation could be felt throughout the room. Memories of late wins against Lazio and historic duels with Atletico Madrid and Feyenoord was more than enough to whet the appetite for the 6 crucial showdowns between now and Christmas.
Following the draw, I along with other fan reps were introduced to two of the new hoops signings of the summer. Firstly we spoke to Honduran international Luis Palma. Luis arrived in Glasgow on 30th August to sign a 5 year deal with the champions and immediately claimed he was ready to face our Glasgow rivals in the derby match on Sunday. The 23 year old winger had been aware of interest from Celtic for several weeks and without any doubt wanted to be part of the Brendan Rodgers era at Celtic. Acknowledging the strength and talent already in our squad, Luis is looking forward to adding his own qualities to the team, focusing on the derby and securing more silverware for the club this season.
Swedish internationalist Gustaf Lagerbielke joined the hoops in mid August and has already experienced the pressures of playing for the club in the disappointing results against Kilmarnock and St Johnstone. However, the 23 year old is aware of the expectations linked with playing at the club and is pulling in the experience from the likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Natt Phillips to build on his qualities. Gustaf spoke about the draw of champions league, European football and the up coming derby match as big factors in his move to Glasgow and has already seen improvements in the squad and team in his short spell at the club so far.
With the transfer window now closed, the club, players and fans can concentrate on the challenges of the season, starting with a trip across the city on Sunday .
Martin Donaldson is a Glasgow East End Bhoy, He made my first trip to Celtic Park in 1983 for a 0-0 draw with Brechin City & thankfully that never put him off going back. He now sits perched high in section 409 of the North Stand with his 2 kids making memories along the Celtic Way.
He loves picking out those matches from yester-year to find out much more about the legendary names & faces that have graced the Celtic Jersey over the years. He is a keen fundraiser for The Celtic Foundation & The British Heart Foundation as they both strive to make a difference and to change peoples lives all over the world.