Goodbye To Europe – For Now
Last night, Celtic’s European campaign of 2012/13 came to an end in a rain soaked Turin. Most people would agree that the bulk of the damage was done in Glasgow with regards to this particular tie, but it was only yesterday that we officially exited the competition. On a day like today, when the hangovers are lingering and the odd work colleague may try to have a laugh at your expense, it is easy to feel somewhat despondent.
However, fear not, because the next few hundred words are specifically designed to put a wee smile on your face once more.
On the 1st August, 2012, Celtic went a goal down at home to HJK Helsinki, the Finnish Champions. At that point in time, the groans were audible around Celtic Park, and it would have taken a true optimist to foresee a run to the last sixteen at that stage.
Since then, Celtic have defeated the aforementioned Finnish Champions (HJK Helsinki), the Swedish Champions (Helsingborgs), the Russian runner’s up (Spartak Moscow), the Spanish runner’s up (Barcelona), and drawn against the Portuguese runner’s up (Benfica). Cities across Europe have welcomed a famous travelling support, who have continued to represent both themselves and the Football Club they support impeccably.
Despite being a goal down on the 1st August, we remained in Europe’s premier footballing competition until the 6th March, a run totalling two hundred and eighteen days in length. The team scored seventeen goals in twelve European matches this season, winning seven times, and drawing once. Considering that heavy defeats against the likes of Sion (meaningless as the result may have been) and Utrecht aren’t too distant in the memory, it is clear that Celtic are once again finding their feet in European football.
People may say “ah it doesn’t matter that you beat Barcelona”, but it still doesn’t change the fact that we did. We really did match some of the greatest players on the planet over one hundred and eighty minutes of football, both home and away. We really did remain in the Champions League longer than the European Champions and the English Champions. And we really did announce ourselves as a member of the elite once more.
Not only was this Neil Lennon’s first season as a Champions League manager, but the vast majority of his players had no Champions League experience either. We may not be off to Wembley, but we are most certainly on the right track. With the potential of one or two high profile departures in the summer comes spending money, which I have no doubt that Neil and his scouts (who deserve incredible praise themselves) will look to reinvest in adding to our squad once more.
After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the foundations of our proverbial capital are already in place:
– a fiercely dedicated manager in Neil Lennon
- a tremendous behind the scenes set-up, comprising coaches, scouts and more
- youth teams brimming with both talent and enthusiasm
- a financially stable Football Club with minimal debt
- and a support which is admired the world over (certain parts of Scottish society ignored)
Whilst the current squad may change somewhat, the team will be built around players who both the Club and the support hope will be around for a long time to come, such as Joe Ledley and Kelvin Wilson. All in all, the Club is only moving in one direction – forward.
For now, we’ve got a League Championship to win, and a semi-final date against an exciting Dundee United team to keep us entertained until next season, when the Celts will travel across Europe once more, and the “goodbye’s” listed in various languages at the beginning of this article will be replaced with “hello’s”, as the support announces it’s presence on the European stage again.
Some people will tell you that Celtic will never win a European trophy again, but I have no doubt in my mind that it will happen one day. Ability, determination, and a little bit of luck one year will see European silverware come up London Road once again. Until then, we’ll continue to chase what is not the impossible dream, but simply the improbable dream.