Playing to the gallery

Date: 31st August 2020

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart:

What does it take to guarantee you don’t vomit when you see someone kiss your club badge?

Ryan Stevenson does. In fact, he is guilty of doing it twice.

In his homage to the supporters of two clubs, my own hometown and of the team that took him to their, literally, Hearts and the Premier League, Stevo has kissed both badges.

A genuine childhood Ayr fan, this is understandable when you see his goals against many an opposition wearing your shirt and I have little problem with him doing so when he played for the Jambos. He made an impression there, where they took him into their hearts he responded with passion for their team.

I have thought about this during the week in the aftermath of Celtic failing to get into the next stage of the Champions League and though nobody raised the shirt to kiss the badge, the fashion is now for a tap on it when celebrating, did anyone pass the test to show homage to the fans?

The question becomes for Neil Lennon, what went wrong with Mr Brown and the rest of the Celtic team when they were faced with the champions of Hungary and fans are now left salivating over what could have been?

Can fans forgive the lack of a win if we see that passion on the pitch?

Are we happy to see a fluke 94thminute goal that takes us into the next round of any competition as just reward no matter how well or how badly we have played? Surely not?

Actually… We might…

There are plenty of us who would accept the idea of there being a place in the Europa League, not as compensation but as the pinnacle of the season. European nights under the floodlights with the possibility of playing a team you don’t see four times in a season is tantalizing for fans.

Of course, I have ever seen my team play a European game under the floodlights. The closest I have to compare is a Premier League scalp in a Scottish Cup game that does not end in extra time whilst the last orders are being called in the local hostelries.

But the opportunity of something different is just too good to give up.

So Celtic will not welcome Barcelona or Juventus this year. Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain shall not be trying out their newly purchased Parliamo Glagowensis phrase book, but the aftermath was what fans will and have already dissected forensically.

The lack of passion on the park which saw domination and no end result for Celtic during the week has been taken apart from pub to living rooms throughout Celtic supporting families worldwide.

Their captain and leader on the park played to the gallery when he said, “We want to play in the Champions League, the club deserves to be there, but we need to do it right. We take a whole season to win the league, then get put out in the second qualifying round, which is very disappointing. It’s easy to say we need to learn from our mistakes, but we need to do it rapidly. We need to step up. That’s what this club deserves. We need to win Premiership games, Europa League games and Champions League games.”

The manager, suggesting that if people don’t want to try for the team, they should find an exit door and use it also played to the gallery. The impression you get from Neil Lennon is that what he says publicly will get an airing privately though with a few expletives thrown in. Fans love that. But they also love when they see it on the park. It needs to be effective and it needs to have something given back to the fans as evidence.

10 in a row might do…

But that plays to legacy and not bank balance. As we keep hearing from some, the money coming into the game from places other than the fans is what we should value. The Champions League is cash rich and fan rich, but the domestic title is cash poor.

If they manage 10 in a row then you can guarantee that badges the length and breadth of the worldwide family of Celtic fans shall be dripping in the kisses and they shall have forgotten, until the next time, Ferencvaros… But fan’s memories are longer than many expect… Lincoln Red Imps, Maribor, Artmedia Bratislava… Gone but certainly not forgotten…

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