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Party on, the futures bright
Saturday was one of those days that money simply can’t buy. Brilliant scintillating football, six first-class goals and the SPL wrapped up in style. The key ingredient was appetite, and a fairly obvious desire to say a large “Sorry” to the supporters who had been mystified by a sub-standard performance in the League Cup final. Kilmarnock may have had one of their rare moments of triumph (their fifth major honour since 1869 – do we really grudge them?) in that game, but on Saturday they were swept aside by a Celtic team that played like a Celtic team.
And the atmosphere was upbeat, humorous, chivalrous and occasionally quite funny with the repeated ironic cries of “Sebo!” and chants about Craig Burley’s solitary activities. You were a great player, Craig, but that is the penalty you are likely to pay for talking several seasons of rubbish! And the “Come on, ye bhoys in green” chant was breathtaking in its synchronised unison! And how nice when all the mangerial staff were singled out, even the veteran Lisbon Lion John Clark, who rejoices, they tell me, in the name of “Mr Grumpy” behind the scenes. It was Celtic supporters at their best with a distinct lack of nastiness, sectarianism or violence. The flares were a bit silly, though.
So full marks to Neil Lennon and all the players. Much has been said about the previous game at Kilmarnock when Celtic came back from the dead. But there was also the fine Samaras double against Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Christmas Eve, Fraser Foster’s saving of the late penalty against Hearts, the Joe Ledley header against Rangers, good professional approaches to difficult away fixtures at difficult grounds like Perth, Dundee United and Inverness, the two fine performances in Edinburgh in February and many others. If you go on a long unbeaten run, your challengers will crack under the pressure. And my goodness, how they cracked!
So seven games remain. The SPL post-split fixtures are possibly a little irrelevant (yes, yes, I know we want to win them too!) because what really matters now is the Scottish Cup. The semi-final is against Hearts on Sunday, and if we win that one, we have Hibs or Aberdeen in the final. Form would suggest Celtic v Aberdeen… but you never know.
If the team can show the same attitude and commitment as they did in the first half at Rugby Park, even Europe, let alone Scotland, should tremble. In particular, the playing of Kris Commons further up the field made a huge difference, but the really encouraging thing is our reserve strength. Did I see, for example, Beram Kayal poncing about the centre circle yesterday looking close to fitness? Indeed I did.
So, Celtic, recover from your weekend revelling, then take a deep breath and face Hearts. The Scottish Cup, already won 35 times, awaits its green and white ribbons once more. There are those of us who are addicted to such a sight, having seen it in 1965, 1954 , 1951 and I know at least one supporter with clear memories of 1937. (Please, someone, write and tell me that your remember 1933 and 1931!) The season is not complete without Celtic winning the Scottish Cup, the oldest trophy in the world and Celtic’s favourite.
After that, let’s have an assault on Europe once more! “We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again”, as the lyrics of the song go. We have the players, and they are all still young! The future’s bright, the future’s green and white!