All Hope Is Gone – Or Is It?
Celtic supporters of all ages will know exactly what I mean when I refer to “The Celtic Way”. As a Football Club, we have held certain values and characteristics for the entirety of our existence, both on and off of the field of play. In the similar manner to which the Club have been renowned as being open to all, the team continue to be known for the style of football which we always attempt to play – even if we’re not always good enough to be successful in this regard.
Whilst, of course, there have been times when we have been forced to defend like there’s no tomorrow, Celtic are generally known as an attacking team. When you think of the sides built by Willie Maley, the immortal Lisbon Lions of Jock Stein, or the current crop under Neil Lennon, this attacking ethos continues to shine through on football pitches across Scotland and the world. This has always been, and will forever more be, a trait which we can all be tremendously proud of.
Equally encapsulated in “The Celtic Way” is that seemingly perpetual ability for any Celtic side to overcome incredible odds and triumph, or to fall at the feet of seemingly beatable opponents.
Throughout the history of the Football Club, there have been occasions upon which we have stunned the footballing world. Whether it was by winning the Coronation Cup in 1953, or defeating Internazionale in Lisbon in 1967, there have been points at which Bhoys have become men, and men have become legends.
On the other hand, results such as drubbings at Artmedia Bratislava also blot the Club’s track record. The bitter taste of these unexpected defeats is, partly, what makes overcoming adversity against all odds so special. The feeling of a big Celtic win is unlike any other. Ironically, whilst I cannot put this feeling into words, there is no doubt in my mind that you all know exactly what I’m talking about.
And so, after an easy win for Borussia Dortmund and a somewhat controversial victory for Real Madrid yesterday evening, thoughts turn to Turin, and Juventus versus Celtic. The home side have a 3-0 advantage from the first leg, and the Hoops are faced with an almost impossible task.
On paper, we have all but no chance. Juventus have better players, with a three goal head start and home advantage, but there is one thing paper cannot account for, “The Celtic Way”. It is almost unquantifiable, this unknown element of chance, but from time to time, we all know that Celtic are capable of huge surprises. In the same breath, there is always a chance they will disappoint, but hope springs eternal.
Will we go through this evening? I highly doubt it. I genuinely believe that progression by any means would be the greatest comeback in my lifetime as a Celtic supporter, if not ever. If coming back from 3-0 down against Kilmarnock was like climbing Ben Nevis, to overturn a 3-0 deficit away to Juventus in Turin would be akin to climbing Olympus Mons.
However, with all things Celtic, you just never know.
If, theoretically, you were to play this game a hundred times, there would be an occasion or two upon which, for example, a Celtic player would be brought down in the box early on, leading to a penalty for the away side and a sending off for Gianluigi Buffon. With the home side both a goal and a player down, they would likely revert to the typically Italian style of defensive football. From there on in, Celtic would proceed to throw everything at them for the remainder of the match, and anything could happen. Equally well, an early mistake from Celtic’s defence could see the Hoops a goal down within the first fifteen minutes, and the prospect of a real hammering could become very real.
In these potential scenarios lie the beauty, and the beast, of the sport we all love. Anything is possible in football, and this perhaps applies more to Celtic than most. Yes, I know that on paper, we don’t stand a chance. I’ll be honest, I’d be stunned if we progressed – speechless, amazed, flabbergasted – whatever you want to call it. However, should we have matched Barcelona over two legs on paper? Not a chance in hell. Therein lies the element of the unknown, and therein lies Celtic’s small, small hopes of progression to the quarter finals this season.
I could sit here and list countless possible scenarios for tomorrow night’s match, but fundamentally, only one will occur, whatever it may be. It is unlikely that the scenario which becomes reality will lead to a historic night for Celtic, but no one can know for certain until it actually comes to pass.
José Mourinho said last night, “Celtic are Celtic”, and that statement alludes to the unpredictability of our team. On our day, we can beat anyone. Neil Lennon’s side have proven this to be the case. However, on another day, we can fail miserably. This has also proven to be the case at times.
We have nothing to lose. In the minds of many (and hopefully those of our opponents), we are already out. If tomorrow is to be our last appearance in Europe this season, we can hold our heads high. We have outlasted the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. As I said earlier on Twitter, if you had said that prior to the first leg against HJK Helsinki you would have been ridiculed by many, but it has become reality, just as, with the element of the unknown, anything could be come reality tonight.
If, as is expected, we fall in the last sixteen, no supporter should lambaste the Club, the players, or the manager. We’ve done incredibly well, and in the heat of the moment, it can often be easy to forget that.
All we can do now is hope and pray that the team do the best performance they can and that maybe, just maybe, lady luck smiles upon us to give us a fighting chance once more.
After all, when Celtic are involved, anything can happen. Anything.