Jun 292016
 

Thoughts on the Past, Present and Future of our Defence

 

 

During his two years at Celtic Football Club, Ronny Deila led his side to two Scottish Premiership titles, a Scottish League Cup and the knockout rounds of the UEFA Europa League on one occasion. I would like to think that the majority of you reading this would join me in thanking him for his efforts and wishing him all the very best for the future. Regardless, Ronny Deila did not only leave his individual successes and failures in Glasgow, but also a squad of players. Brendan Rodgers was rightly given a fantastic welcome to Celtic Park when he was unveiled as the new manager of Celtic Football Club and has now taken the squad to Slovenia for a fortnight long training camp. With Champions League qualifiers and friendly clashes against Leicester City, Barcelona and Inter Milan to follow, the fixtures set to be contested on this tour will allow us an initial glimpse into the Celtic of 2016-17.

However, whilst none of us know what will happen in the future to Rodgers’ Celtic, it is an easier task to evaluate the results of his predecessor.

Firstly, allow us to look at the statistics involving the first team as a whole. Celtic won the Scottish Premiership in Deila’s first season with a final points total of 92, achieved thanks to 29 victories and 5 draws from 38 league matches. Having scored 84 goals and conceded just 17, the Celts ended the campaign with a goal difference of +67. Our closest rivals in the race for the title were Aberdeen, who eventually ended the season with a total of 75 points to their name.

Now, a brief comparison with the following league season – 2015-16 – initially tells a similar story. Celtic again won the Scottish Premiership with Aberdeen finishing in second place, with the final points gap between the two teams being 15, a margin the Dons had only managed to narrow by 2 points. Celtic improved their scoring tally by 9, but conceded 31 goals – almost doubling the respective figure from the previous campaign. These changes naturally offset each other to some extent in terms of goal difference, which finished at +62.

Nonetheless, therein lies one of Brendan Rodgers’ first big challenges – sorting out the defence.

 

 

Celtic conceded 54 goals in all competitions last season, 10 more than they had done during the 2014-15 season. However, our opponents managed this despite having 52 less attempts and 29 less shots on target than they had done previously. It is also noteworthy that Celtic played four less competitive matches during 2015-16 than they had done throughout 2014-15. Therefore, the average number of attempts which an opponent would require in order to score one goal fell markedly from 11.32 attempts (2014-15) to 8.26 (2015-16). Such a dramatic reduction does not make for good reading, but there are certainly some factors which one would presume to have contributed to this decrease.

Examples of this are player selection and availability. Thirteen different players played in defence for Celtic during the 2015-16 campaign, with Ronny Deila generally opting to play a flat back four consisting of two centre-backs and two full-backs. Of this number, two (Eoghan O’Connell and Anthony Ralston) played less than one hundred minutes of competitive senior football. During the previous campaign, eleven men played in Celtic’s defence at one point or another, with four (Darnell Fisher, Eoghan O’Connell, Kieran Tierney and Filip Twardzik) receiving limited playing time.

There is then a relative disparity in the number of defensive players being picked with some regularity for the first team squad between the two seasons, but this alone cannot shoulder the blame for the drop in defensive form. I believe consistency of selection, transfers and the quality of the respective players must also be considered.

During the 2014-15 season, thirteen different back four combinations started competitive matches for Celtic. As you can see below, over 60% of these involved the same centre-back pairing and left back, with Mikael Lustig, Adam Matthews and Efe Ambrose contesting the right-back role. Consistent back four selections do not guarantee defensive success, but they do tend to help, as each component player gradually becomes accustomed to playing with his colleagues.

 

1415piechart

 

Contrast and compare these figures with those of the 2015-16 campaign however and, once again, we can see a significant difference. Incredibly, Celtic started with twenty-six different back four combinations in just fifty-seven competitive ties last year, an average of almost one new selection every two games. No back four started more than seven matches, and only two selections even reached that lowly figure. Of course, injuries and suspensions were to blame for some of this upheaval, but poor individual performances from some did not help matters either.

 

1516piechart

 

 

Left-Back

Considering the prospect of next season’s back four we can, of course, only speculate as to the decisions Brendan Rodgers will make. With that in mind, however, allow me to think aloud for a few moments regarding personnel.

I doubt I am alone in expecting Kieran Tierney to hold on to his starting place at left-back. Having made his senior debut towards the end of the 2014-15 season, Kieran made an incredible impact for someone of his age during the 2015-16 campaign, proving himself more than capable at both domestic and European level. Inevitably, this has won him endless plaudits from the Celtic support and the wider football public. It will be intriguing to see how he performs in the coming years, but he has been exemplary thus far and undoubtedly deserves his new contract. With Emilio Izaguirre’s time at Celtic supposedly finished (although he currently remains with the squad in Slovenia), Rodgers may well look to bring in a replacement for him at left-back, although whoever this is will likely be the understudy to the aforementioned Tierney. Having said that, it’s not impossible that Rodgers may not prioritise such a replacement, knowing Charlie Mulgrew could cover the position if required (presuming he signs a new deal, which he may not).

 

 

Centre-Back

Beginning with our most recent defensive acquisition, Erik Sviatchenko has quickly endeared himself to the Celtic support with his attitude and ability already clear for everyone to see. Having only missed one match since he made his debut in the Hoops, he has helped to solidify an inconsistent defence to some extent, whilst outlining the offensive threat he poses from corners. The sight of Erik choosing to spend some of his time off during the summer training alone has only added to his individual popularity, with some already going so far as to suggest him as a potential Club captain of the future.

Jozo Simunovic has only managed to play seventeen times for the Hoops thus far, with injuries hampering the Croatian. Having made his debut in the 2-2 draw away against Ajax, he missed the next seven matches, before returning to the team and featuring in sixteen of the next seventeen fixtures. However, less than a fortnight before the debut of Erik Sviatchenko, a serious injury ended Simunovic’s season, preventing the pair from having the opportunity to form a defensive partnership.

Another option at the heart of the defence is Dedryck Boyata, who racked up more than 3,500 minutes of competitive football in his first season at Celtic Park. Remarkably, only Leigh Griffiths, Tom Rogic, Kris Commons and Nir Bitton scored more goals than the Belgian (with six to his name in all, putting him level with Callum McGregor, Gary Mackay-Steven and Patrick Roberts). Dedryck’s future is still the subject of much debate, with many Celtic supporters yet to be convinced by his occasionally erratic performances.

Whilst we’re on the subject of inconsistency, we must consider Rodgers’ next option, Efe Ambrose. As everyone reading this will know, the Nigerian is prone to the odd error. For the sake of clarity, allow me to say this – I love Efe. Neither his work-rate nor his commitment cannot be faulted and, to his credit, he has made his fair share of crucial clearances when our backs have been to the wall. Naturally, due to the catastrophic nature of some of his errors, these more positive performances tend to drift to the backs of many minds, but I feel that I should not reasonably criticise him without mentioning them also. Indeed, I find it close to impossible to stay mad at him for long even when it is warranted. However, the role of a football fan and a football manager are very different. A fan is allowed to be emotionally driven and occasionally fickle, but a manager must be more pragmatic. For that reason, I would be surprised to see Brendan Rodgers rely too heavily on the Nigerian in future, keeping him as a squad player or seeking to sell him on, but I suppose you never know.

Finally, with Charlie Mulgrew still to decide his future at the Club with a new contract offer – on reduced terms – allegedly having been offered to him, we have no more central defensive options presently without acquiring new blood or delving into the youth ranks. Nonetheless, something tells me we won’t be going out of our way to bring Tyler Blackett to Celtic Park on a permanent basis any time soon.

 

 

Right-Back

For years, Mikael Lustig and Adam Matthews battled for the hotly contested right-back slot in the starting eleven. With the Welshman having left Glasgow behind him in the summer of 2015, Swiss full-back Saidy Janko was purchased from Manchester United, much to the consternation of some United supporters. Janko was thought of highly upon his arrival, but a plague of injury problems meant he played less than 700 minutes of football in just ten appearances in his first ten months at the Club. He finally returned to action in May after an absence which ruled him out of thirty-five consecutive matches. I would suggest that we have not seen the best of Saidy Janko thus far, but whether or not he will be given an opportunity by Rodgers remains to be seen.

Celtic’s recent right-back of choice has undoubtedly been the aforementioned Mikael Lustig. With the Swede set to turn thirty in December, his career still has someway to run presuming he can maintain a relative standard of fitness. Although he has a reputation as being injury prone, Lustig played almost 4,000 minutes of competitive football in a Celtic jersey last season, with only Leigh Griffiths narrowly pipping him to the title of the most featured outfield player. Lustig took part in as many matches in the 2015-16 season (46) as he had done in the previous two seasons combined, whilst also bettering his previous best for a total number of appearances in a solitary season at Celtic Park (39, 2012-13). Indeed, he equaled his best career total ever also (previously 46 appearances for Rosenberg in their 2010 campaign). On the flip side, there was some fairly strong criticism of his performances during the last season – with myself one of the critics in the early part of 2016 – but his the quality of his individual showings notably increased as the season drew to a close.

Notably, Anthony Ralston was handed his senior debut by Ronny Deila in his second to last match at the helm of Celtic Football Club, so he will represent another option open to the new manager, whilst Darnell Fisher has returned from a loan spell at St. Johnstone.

 

 

Conclusion

With injuries presently ruling out Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata and Mikael Lustig, Brendan Rodgers will not have his full pick of Celtic’s current defensive options until the new season is underway. Like any new manager at a Football Club, he will likely chop and change his initial team selections, giving various individuals the opportunity to impress. It is probable that he will also turn to the transfer market in an effort to bolster his current squad, with a new centre-back and at least one new full-back high on many supporters’ shopping lists. However, if this article does one thing, I would hope it has stressed the importance of comparatively consistent defensive selection. Injuries and suspensions will always threaten to upset this balance, but I would hope that during his first few months in the job, Brendan will be able to identify the quartet whom he believes to be his strongest back four and stick with it more often than not.

Presumably, it will begin “Kieran Tierney; Erik Sviatchenko…” but only time will tell who shall fill the other two positions.

 

Jun 182016
 

Preserving the Past for the Future

 

billboland

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been in a somewhat reflective mood of late and, now that the domestic football season is at an end, I’ve decided to pursue an idea which has been whirling about in my head for a significant period of time. Well, the extent of this pursuit thus far has only involved the penning of this article, the purchase of a website domain name and the setting up of a Twitter account, but no matter. Regardless, I’d ask you all to take a few minutes of your time – head off and make a cup of tea or coffee if you think it’ll help the process – and read about the following idea whilst pondering these three questions.

1. Is the Celtic Memory Archive an idea worth pursuing?

2. Is the idea logistically possible?

3. Is there anything you believe you could do to help?

 

cfc8

 

The Motivation

Whilst writing two books on the history of Celtic Football Club, I’ve been very fortunate to meet some incredible people, two of whom are no longer with us. William (Bill) Boland (pictured above) was the oldest surviving ex-Celtic player until his death in September 2013, aged 93. Bill scored two goals in his four appearances in the Hoops, eventually ending a spell which lasted a little over a year at the Football Club in 1945. I first met Bill whilst he was 92 years of age, and had the great pleasure of discussing his life with him in detail during the course of numerous lengthy visits to his home in Muirkirk. His lifelong love of Celtic Football Club – an emotion only strengthened by the pride he took in his short playing spell there – was infectious. Regrettably, he died just a matter of weeks before “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” went to print, although he did have the opportunity to read his chapter in full. Bill attended both the 1937 Scottish Cup Final (which remains the record-holding domestic European match in terms of attendance – 147,365) and the 1953 Coronation Cup Final – two of Celtic’s finest days – among many others. A brief excerpt of Bill discussing his first goal for Celtic in the aforementioned book can be found below:

“The enthusiasm and vigour with which Bill described both of his senior goals to me was indicative of a man who had the chance to play, and score, for the Football Club he had always loved, and continues to love with all of his heart. He explained to me that these brief moments were virtually imprinted on his mind, and that he felt he could play, rewind or fast-forward each of them in his head at a moment’s notice.”

“On the third of March 1945, Bill took to the field at his beloved Celtic Park for the first time in a senior match. Bill proceeded to describe the goal which he scored that day: “We’d won a throw just inside their half a few moments earlier. I felt the Falkirk player close behind me just as the shy was taken, and I thought he was standing closer than he should have been, considering the shy was quite far down the wing. Anyway, when the ball came to me I turned and knocked it past him and, because he was so close, I was able to drop my shoulder and get away from him. So, as I ran towards the box, the defence backed off, giving me the chance to take a shot, which I did from the corner of the box. As luck would have it, in it went!” The match would, after a topsy-turvy style encounter, eventually finish with Celtic winning by three goals to two.”

Billy Davidson, of Coatbridge, was a lifelong Celtic supporter who played in the band which accompanied a triumphant side around Celtic Park as they returned to Glasgow following their European Cup success in 1967 – he passed away earlier this year. During my time with him, both before and after the publication of his life story in “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”, we discussed everything from his trips across Scotland and Europe following the Hoops, his brief meeting with the now sadly departed Muhammad Ali and his appearances on mid-afternoon television programme “Countdown”.

It was an honour to have befriended both of these men, and each of their deaths made me realise I had been given the opportunity to pen stories which would be largely lost to the world nowadays otherwise. Indeed, I expect the vast majority of you reading this will have had parents, grandparents, other family members or friends who have died, only for some of their stories or the details therein to have subsequently been lost to the sands of time. Therefore, I believe we should all now make an active effort to stop as many stories of the past being lost in future.

 

celtic fans

 

The Aims

– To add to the written, audio and visual history of Celtic Football Club and its supporters.

– To create an electronic archive wherein this data could be both accessed and stored for the foreseeable future.

– To encourage supporters of all ages, but particularly elderly individuals, to tell their stories in a safe, comfortable and enjoyable manner.

– To rekindle memories long since forgotten in the minds of many via the use of audio and visual stimulants.

– To bring people closer together and promote the already positive reputation of the Celtic support.

 

 

The Idea

Now, we come to the tricky bit. A proposal such as this has almost endless potential off-shoots and possibilities, so with that in mind I’m going to try to ignore them and focus on the basics for the purposes of this article. After all, if this idea proceeds to any significant degree, it will likely evolve and alter naturally. Therefore, I feel I should just attempt to lay the groundwork here.

Celtic Football Club has a long and rich history unlike any other and already has a wealth of fantastic groups, resources and individuals who actively do their utmost to promote the Club’s story. Fine examples would be collectives such as “The Celtic Grave Society” and “The Celtic Wiki”, which rightly inspire the supporters of other Football Clubs and lead their way in their respective fields, much to the credit of everyone involved therein. Of course, these are just two of many examples which do the Club proud.

Allow me to state categorically now that I do not want the Celtic Memory Archive – should it come to fruition – to be seen as a competitor to the plethora of wonderful already established groups and resources. Indeed, I’d much rather it was a companion to them, simply becoming a small cog in a big machine.

And so we come to the idea itself. I wish to create an electronic archive within which every Celtic supporter will have the opportunity to have his or her story – whether it be an individual memory, a couple of tales which stick in their mind, or lengthy pieces detailing their life following the Football Club – recorded for future generations to enjoy whilst adding to an important historical record.

The process of interviewing a supporter for a chapter in a book; researching their respective time period to ensure accuracy; writing, editing and ultimately publishing the work takes a great deal of time for any author. Equally, and perhaps more importantly for the topic of this article, it presents a daunting challenge for the potential protagonist. I have spoken to numerous Celtic supporters over the years and asked them if they would be interested in telling their stories for a place in a book, only for them to decline, suggesting they either would not have enough of a story to tell or that they don’t consider themselves to be particularly interesting. This was an entirely natural reaction on their part, and one which I would not dream of criticising them for, but I want to put in place a system within which these barriers are significantly reduced, if not broken down altogether.

So, if there’s that older gentleman who is always telling stories on your supporter’s bus; if your auntie started going to away games decades ago; if you had a day or night to remember in the Carlton, Castlemilk or Chicago following a Celtic match; or if you just want your favourite photo from Seville to form a little bit more of the history of Celtic Football Club, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to get involved.

 

cfc10

 

The Method

– To ask Celtic supporters, particularly those in their later years, to write about their memories and experiences.

– To encourage their family members and friends familiar with technology to assist them with the e-mail or uploading of material etc, as and when is required.

– To conduct audio interviews with supporters, either with a representative of the Celtic Memory Archive or a family member or friend.

– To obtain scans of old photographs, so that the original copy may stay undamaged with its owner but the image is saved electronically for posterity.

– To make resources such as custom made picture books (featuring everything from photographs of old players and stadia to period railway timetables and advertisements) available to families with elderly relatives, in the hope the images and words contained therein may help bring back some memories and, most importantly, provide some enjoyment for the individuals in question.

– To periodically add to an archive which, hopefully, would be able to stand the test of time.

 

Brake Clubs - Pic

 

How You Could Help

As with any voluntary project, should this proposal progress to such a stage whereby it becomes active, it would be natural to look for help from any suitable individuals who were willing to provide it in one way or another. The extent to which this would be required remains to be seen of course, but those skilled in the fields of graphics, website design, audio recording/editing and printing among others would likely be of great assistance. Critically though, numerous volunteers who simply hold an interest in the history of Celtic Football Club and enjoy discussing the topic with different types of people would be required also. For example, if a letter arrives enclosing a fantastic story from an elderly supporter who lives in Aberdeen, it would be more practical for someone relatively local to interview them in person (should that decision be made) than someone living in Glasgow. Of course, one-off visits are one thing, but if similar situations also come to the fore in Nottingham, Thurso and Cardiff, the practicalities of the matter become more clear to see. Technologies such as Skype would be handy also, particularly for international discussions.

 

gb4

 

 

Potential Obstacles

It would be tremendously naive of me to suggest an idea such as this without highlight some of the potential obstacles which may lay in our way. Indeed, there are likely far more which have not yet presented themselves or sprung to mind.

One present issue is that if I were to ask elderly supporters to write to the Celtic Memory Archive recalling their respective tales following the Football Club, it is likely the majority of them would prefer to do so via a handwritten letter. Yes, some of them may use e-mail and others may have family members capable of scanning a letter before sending it electronically, but the problem of providing the others with a valid postal address remains. I’m sure you would all appreciate my reluctance to publish my home address on the internet, and the costs associated with the use of something such as a P.O. box seem to fall in the region of £30 a month (£360 annually). Therefore, I would likely have to explore my options in an attempt to find a more reasonable solution. Also, it is noteworthy that it is difficult to predict the response an appeal for such letters would achieve. I have no idea whether we would see three letters arriving per week or thirty, and this represents a significant unknown.

Another issue, inevitably, regards finance. Personally speaking, I would like to keep the costs associated with the Celtic Memory Archive as low as is feasibly possible. Gracefully, I have always been able to afford to pay the running costs of my present website individually, allowing me also to keep “Maley’s Bhoys” wholly free of advertisements in the process. However, an undertaking on the scale of the Celtic Memory Archive – if it were to go ahead – would undoubtedly require some funding in order to get it off the ground, with website costs and picture books fees likely among others. Daft as it may sound, even the cost of something as simple as stamps could become significant if letter correspondence really took off. Even the prospect of replying to five letters per week over the course of a year – simply to acknowledge their receipt and thank the individual involved for their efforts taking the time to tell their story – would cost over £140. Of course, if several people were involved in the process of replying to letters, this individual figure would fall, but it is worth keeping in mind regardless how seemingly small costs can mount up.

Again, these are issues for detailed discussion at a later date, but it would be wholly inappropriate not to acknowledge their existence from day one.

 

 

Conclusion

In the future, when historians yet to be born look at the 2015/16 season, they’ll be able not only to find highlights of every Celtic match from the campaign, but presumably they’ll have the ability to search through old Twitter and Facebook profiles (not to mention dedicated websites) in order to gain some insight into what the Celtic supporters of the day thought and felt. Videos taken on mobile phones of trips to Hampden or abroad will be dotted around the depths of the internet, and endless pictures and selfies will provide an accessible backdrop to many matches. However, this was not the case in the past, and many of the memories of matches are locked into the heads of individuals; many of the old photographs sitting in rarely opened drawers; many of the old flags and scarves hidden away in long forgotten boxes in lofts and cupboards.

I often say that is exceptionally difficult for any historian to truly compare Henrik Larsson and Jimmy McGrory, two of the finest strikers not only to pull on the Hoops, but of all time. After all, whilst each and every one of the Swede’s Celtic goals can be found contained in one YouTube video, only a tiny minority of McGrory’s gargantuan total were caught on film.

So, without an extensive film record, can we say both were exceptional in their own right? Yes.

Can we say McGrory’s goal total and goals to games ratio was better than Larsson’s? Yes.

Can we say Larsson received far more international recognition than McGrory? Yes.

Can we read historical accounts of McGrory’s style of play and try to compare it with Larsson’s? Yes.

However, can we compare the two having seen each of them take to the field with our own eyes? No, but Bill Boland could, because he was lucky enough to watch the two of them in person in their respective eras.

Now, consider that prospect for a moment – having the ability to compare the likes of Jimmy McGrory and Henrik Larsson (as well as all of the talents to have shone in the intervening period) because you’d watched each of them play live. For the record, Bill considered Larsson to have been the more rounded footballer, but thought McGrory had the edge on the Swede in the air, which is quite a statement. Regardless, had Bill never had the opportunity to divulge his thoughts on this subject matter to anyone, they would now have been lost.

In closing, I am very aware of the fact that it is an impossible feat to preserve every one of the memories possessed by every Celtic supporter. Indeed, many of them are largely shared memories; whether it be celebrating a late win over Boavista in 2003 or seeing Tony Watt sprint beyond the Barcelona defence before coolly slotting the ball into the far corner of the Catalan net in 2012, so will be preserved to some extent nonetheless, even if people’s individual experiences of each goal may differ somewhat. However, I would suggest that we should endeavour as a support to preserve as many of the stories of old elderly supporters as possible not because it is easy, but because it is worthwhile.

I cannot do this alone, so consider this an open invite to all of the websites, social media accounts and supporters’ groups out there. The same can be said for the wider fanbase and to Celtic directly. Let’s do something nobody else has done before and leave a lasting historical record of many of the fine people who have faithfully followed our great Football Club throughout their lives. Thank you.

 

Please direct all enquiries and communications regarding this topic to @CelticMemoryArc on Twitter or to celticmemoryarchive@hotmail.com

 

fans

Jun 092016
 

Twitter Quiz 6 (European Championship Special)

 

 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the latest installment of our monthly quiz, this time featuring a European Championship theme.

Below, any of you who missed the quiz on Twitter will be able to find all of the questions as always.

The answers can be found at the very bottom of this page, so as not to ruin it for anyone who wants to show the quiz to a family member or friend etc.

Also, should anyone who missed the earlier quizzes fancy a go at them, all five of them can be found by clicking here.

In closing, we’d like to wish Brendan Rodgers all the very best as the new manager of Celtic Football Club and thank you all, as ever, for your participation.

 

 

Questions

 

1. Who was the last Celtic player to score a goal at the European Championship finals?

 

2. In which year did Scotland make their debut at the European Championship finals?

 

3. What is the name of the official mascot of Euro 2016?

 

supervictor1

 

4. True or false: No player under the age of 18 has ever made an appearance at the European Championship finals.

 

5. Which country has lost more matches at European Championship finals than any other?

 

6. Who was the last Celtic player to be sent off at a European Championship finals?

 

7. Scotland’s only win at Euro 1996 came against Switzerland, but which two future Celts would line up for the Swiss that night?

 

8. Only one of the ten stadia to be used at Euro 2016 is home to a Ligue 2 side, but who are they?

 

9. Which ex-Celt has scored more goals in European Championship qualifying than any other player?

 

10. Which country has made the most visits to the European Championship finals without ever winning the tournament?

 

11. Who was the first Celtic player to score for Scotland in European Championship qualifying?

 

12. Paul McStay became the first Celt to score for Scotland at a European Championship finals in 1992 against the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), but which future Celtic goalkeeper did he beat?

 

13. Who is this ex-Celt taking part in a group stage match at Euro 2012?

 

brozekblur1

 

14. True or false – Henrik Larsson was once the joint top goalscorer at a European Championship finals.

 

15. Which country hold the record of having conceded the lowest cumulative number of goals at the European Championship finals?

 

 

 

 

Answers

 

1. Who was the last Celtic player to score a goal at the European Championship finals? – Georgios Samaras, as Greece fell in the quarter final stage of the 2012 tournament against Germany via a 4-2 loss.

 

 

2. In which year did Scotland make their debut at the European Championship finals? – 1992 in Sweden.

 

3. What is the name of the official mascot of Euro 2016? – Super Victor.

 

supervictor

 

4. True or false: No player under the age of 18 has ever made an appearance at the European Championship finals. – True – somewhat surprisingly – the youngest player to feature in the tournament thus far was Jetro Willems, who played for the Netherlands as they took on Denmark in 2012, aged 18 years and 71 days old. This record may well fall this summer.

 

5. Which country has lost more matches at European Championship finals than any other? – Denmark (14).

 

6. Who was the last Celtic player to be sent off at a European Championship finals? – Stiliyan Petrov, as Bulgaria faced Italy at Euro 2004.

 

 

7. Scotland’s only win at Euro 1996 came against Switzerland, but which two future Celts would line up for the Swiss that night? – Ramon Vega and Stephane Henchoz (Please note the photograph below is from 1998).

 

 

8. Only one of the ten stadia to be used at Euro 2016 is home to a Ligue 2 side, but who are they? – RC Lens (Stade Bollaert-Delelis).

 

9. Which ex-Celt has scored more goals in European Championship qualifying than any other player? – Robbie Keane (23).

 

10. Which country has made the most visits to the European Championship finals without ever winning the tournament? – England (9).

 

 

11. Who was the first Celtic player to score for Scotland in European Championship qualifying? – Bobby Murdoch, as Scotland beat Northern Ireland by two goals to one at Hampden Park (November 16th, 1966). Bobby Lennox went on to score the second of the home side’s goals.

 

12. Paul McStay became the first Celt to score for Scotland at a European Championship finals in 1992 against the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), but which future Celtic goalkeeper did he beat? – Dmitri Kharine.

 

 

13. Who is this ex-Celt taking part in a group stage match at Euro 2012? – Pawel Brozek, who came on as a subsitute against both Russia and the Czech Republic.

 

brozek1

 

14. True or false – Henrik Larsson was once the joint top goalscorer at a European Championship finals. – False, but Henrik Larsen was, as Denmark unexpectedly won the tournament in 1992. Larsen scored three times that summer, finishing his career with five international goals to his name. Henrik Larsson, on the other hand, was named in the “Team of the Tournament” alongside the likes of Zinedine Zidane in 2004.

 

15. Which country hold the record of having conceded the lowest cumulative number of goals at the European Championship finals? – Norway (1), having only ever made it to Euro 2000.

 

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