When Callum McGregor calmly netted from the spot in the closing moments of the match on the 7th March 2020, he wrapped up the scoring in a confident and dominant 5-0 victory over St. Mirren. An afternoon of entertainment was served up by the team playing in that unmistakable Celtic Way; quick and attacking football.
As the supporters left Paradise and the echoes of our famously fervent fan base began to fade, a silence started to spread across the country as the reality of the Covid pandemic reached every street and home.
More than 16 months later the familiar sound of the turnstiles clicking returned to Paradise, 9000 fans made their long awaited homecoming.
There have been a few notable changes since Celtic fans last had the opportunity to cheer on the team. With our new manager in the dugout and a new captain to lead the players in the huddle, a new chapter of competitive football was about to get underway.
A poignant rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone filled the warm East End sky, a chance to rally the team as new club captain led the Huddle was followed by strong show of support from the Celtic faithful as the Celtic team took the knee, continuing their support of the Black Lives Matters movement.
It may take a while for the cobwebs to clear and fans get used to current stadium restrictions and seating arrangements , but unfortunately our squad do not have that luxury. A threadbare squad meant our traditional reshuffle in defence and Nir Bitton slotting in at centre back.
The nervousness within the crowd could be felt as both he and goalkeeper Barkas looked to build from the back.
A new philosophy from our manager Ange Postecoglou will take time to fully embed itself into the squad, but there were certainly a few positive insights into his game plan for the season ahead. New Bhoy Liel Abada made the perfect start to his Celtic career scoring the opening goal on his debut, reacting quickest to a rebound from a Ryan Christie shot.
The breakthrough just before halftime was reward for strong spell in the match where Edouard had gone close moments earlier and Ryan Christie saw an effort hit the post.
The momentum was there to push on and establish a lead to take to Denmark next week. However, Nir Bitton reacted foolishly to a dive from Midtyjllands Dreyer. Our most experienced centre back on the night received his 2nd yellow card on the 44th minute after needlessly raising his hands to an opponent.
Player parity was restored early in the 2nd half when Dreyer was shown his 2nd yellow card of the night, Celtic took the fight to the Danes with Callum McGregor firing a shot off the crossbar , followed by Edouard squandering a great chance hitting the shot directly at the keeper.
As with so many European nights at Celtic park in recent years, we just could not make our dominance count. Welsh, who had a strong night at centre back was harshly penalised for a strong tackle wide of the 18 yard box near the by-line. A fiercely hit shot really should have been dealt with by Barkas, but he failed to stop the effort sailing into the top corner.
Celtic pushed to try to take some advantage to Denmark next week and still finished the strongest team, but could not get the reward our overall play deserved.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Celtic have a knack of failing to recruit players for key positions during pre-season, this was highlighted again last night and although Murray and Welsh partnered up well, the all too familiar sight of slow recruitment may cost us in terms of European football.
Overall I thought we done more than enough to win the match, looking comfortable and dare I say good at times.
Small steps and patience will be key this season as will adequate backing of our manager from the boardroom.
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.