The dust has settled on an epic night in the east end of Glasgow. The footballing eyes of the world were fixed firmly on Celtic Park as the reigning European champions started their defence of the competition they won just over 3 months ago.
A 40 year wait came to an end at 8pm on Tuesday night as Celtic fans got their long awaited wish to face Real Madrid in Europe’s premier club competition. The match was a game of two halves and in the end a sharp lesson in taking your chances and never allowing yourself to switch off.
Such was the enormity of the match I changed my steadfast routine and left early getting to the stadium a full 2 hours before kick-off. There was a quiet mood around the Celtic Way, the number fans waiting to catch a glimpse of the Celtic players entering the stadium was growing gradually.
Maybe a bit naively I expected huge fan fare as the players made their way from the bus to the front entrance, instead the warm welcome offered on the Celtic Way was in keeping with the teams business like stride to the changing room.
I had plans to stay and watch the Real players arrive, but instead made my way to my seat half way up the top tier of the north stand. With only a few other supporters in the stadium, it was a bonus to see the bowl of the arena steadily filling up as the players ran through their warm up. By the time the Celtic starting eleven disappeared up the tunnel from their warm up the stands were a buzz of expectation and song
If the tifo said “today we dare to win” on Saturday, the feeling at half time against ‘los Blanco’s’ was that we dared to dream. A pulsating first 45 minutes left the Celtic fans stunned that we weren’t already ahead in the match.
A mix of last gasp defending, poor decision making and the width of the goal frame had kept Celtic from taking the lead. Not to say Real hadn’t made chances, they had, the battle for supremacy was a frantic end to end swashbuckling duel that helped light up the late autumn Glasgow sky.
When our resistance was finally broken in the second half, it came after we’d passed up another glaring opportunity in front of goal. Carlo Ancelotti’s team found a way, just like they did last season. From on the ropes to taking the points in a flash.
The spectacle served as a reminder of how far we’ve come in a short space of time. The challenge to the management team and squad now is to maintain that level against the best in Europe and as the manager said give our Champions league fans, a genuine champions league team.
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.