Celtic Fans will be making their way home by trains, planes and automobiles today disappointed that we did not secure a famous away victory against Bayer or even a share of the spoils but happy in the knowledge that Celtic as a team are moving in the right direction and improving under Ange Postecoglou.
The atmosphere was electric inside the stadium last night as fans swayed and sang to the beat of the Ultra drums. Bayer opening the scoring to go 1-0 but this could not dampen our spirits as we took over almost half of the stadium something you would not expect to see on an away day in Europe and especially in Germany.
The home fans behind the goals did create some atmosphere but empty seats throughout the stadium signalled that Bayer have only a fraction of the support of neighbouring Cologne. The penalty kick was the tonic we needed before half time as we caught our breath and looked forward to the second half.
When Jota put the ball in the back of the net to put us 2-1 up the place went mental, beer flew in the air and soaked us, hugs were exchanged and the noise levels increased in the cold German night air. The January transfer window will bring new blood into the squad but Jota will be the signature on a permanent contract we all want and when he was substituted the fans let this be known in full voice. I think the last time I was this excited about a loan signing was Artur Boruc.
Losing 3-2 in the end was like a severe kick in the nuts but we could be thankful that we were not held in after the game which always adds to the frustration of a painful defeat.
We could walk and board the football special to get us back into Cologne safe under the watchful eye of the Police who had a handy night at the office with no trouble around the stadium.
As the game was not classed as a high risk fixture fans were able to enjoy a carry out right up to the turnstiles as recyclers gathered up bottles and cans for cashing in. Getting into the ground took about a half an hour, the first check was for your Covid Vac Cert, once through that you joined the queue to show your match ticket then it was single file through a cage then one by one we had a body search before finally getting in to get the first taste of the atmosphere.
In some cities we visit to watch Celtic there can be an edge of tension in the air with the home fans like in Rome when we played Lazio or even in Budapest a few weeks back with the right wing fans of Ferencvaros looking for trouble.
Pre-Match in Cologne was different gravy in the Christmas Markets and Bierkellers. Celtic Fans mingled with the locals and enjoyed the food and drink on offer and even joining in Carol Singing while giving the local hospitality economy a boost.
No bar or restaurant were letting anyone in without Covid Vac Certs and even in the outdoor markets you had to produce the certs to buy anything or to have a drink or food.
Next stop is Glasgow on Sunday when Aberdeen come to Celtic Park. We also have a cup final to look forward to and at least one more European Away Day in the new year.
Andrew Milne is Editor of More than 90 Minutes Celtic Fanzine which he started in 2001. He has been involved with fanzines since 1989 and has written for numerous publications and online about Celtic. He is a former newspaper columnist with the Daily Ireland and the man behind celticfanzine.com. He is host of the Celtic Soul Podcast, Talk form the Terrace Podcast, Grand Auld History Podcast & Celtic AM pre-match events at Murphy’s in Glasgow on match days and follows Celtic Home & Away. He is a season ticket holder for Celtic FC and the Republic of Ireland. He is also P.R.O. of St. Margaret’s CSC, a member of the Celtic Trust and the Celtic Graves Association.