The Adventures of Dominic Cervi
Tales of Celtic
We all have stories from our time following Celtic. We began to gather them from the moment we first stepped into Celtic Park.
Indeed, one of my first visits to Celtic Park was to see us take on Aberdeen. My dad and his pal roared with laughter over a song that had something to do with the opposition's support having close relations with sheep. I was too young to understand, but I laughed anyway. Later, we scored and I turned to celebrate with my dad only for him to turn away from me and hug his pal, who's arms flew around my father. His fist clattered into my ear. My joy was quickly quelled and I nursed my injury for the rest of the game, but it's a story I've recounted to the delight of others.
That's something we've all done, we love to do it. We love to share our tales and adventures involving Celtic and we do it better than anyone else.
Due to that, I've set out to compile a book. It will contain many a funny story from Celtic fans far and wide... well, that's the plan. So if you have one you wish to share with the Celtic family you can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!
A Year In Review - 2011
2011 is over and there's no two ways about it. It was one Hell of an emotional rollercoaster for us Celtic fans. Thought I would come on here and give my own personal retrospect of the last 12 months. The ups, the downs, opinions and feelings from my point of view.
I remember it like it was yesterday. On January 1st 2011, a few friends were round at mine for some drinks. One of them asked me what I thought for the o** f*** game on January 2nd. In my drunken wisdom, I said "Pfffft, 2-0 to The Hoops. Easy". Then laughed about it. I wasn't that confident and could you blame me? We were lagging behind in the league after a bad run of results and Ibrox is never a happy hunting ground for us.
The drink was playing games with how my mind was functioning.
I don't usually bet on Celtic when I stick something on at The Bookies however it's moments like that one above that make me wish I did. I would have got great odds on that one because no Bookie in the land (and majority of the fans) were giving us a prayer in that game.
Celtic's 2-0 victory on that day would set the tone for the year to come. Ups would usually be followed by downs. We followed up the amazing win at Ibrox with a lacklustre performance at New Douglas Park. A 1-1 draw with Hamilton Accies is not Championship winning form however if it wasn't for the bumbling stupidity of Mr. Collum, we probably would have won that game.
We got back on track though by destroying both Edinburgh clubs, 3-0 and 4-0 respectively and a victory over Aberdeen in the SPL saw us win three league games on the bounce.
Sandwiched in amongst those results was a trip to Hampden. My first venture to the auld stadium for a game. I remember my excitement that day and luckily, it turned into a very good day as we trounced The Dons 4-1 to march into the League Cup Final. Neil Lennon's first final as manager. New signing Kris Commons scored a pearler of a goal just seven minutes into his debut. Something we'd become used to over the next five months.
February started with what had become a familiar outcome for us. Another victory over Aberdeen. This time we beat them 3-0 on their own patch. They were probably sick of the sight of us. I remember being delight to see Mark Wilson score his first goal for Celtic, that night. He'd been doing wonders filling in at central defence and seemed like a man re-born under Neil Lennon. Was chuffed for him.
Perhaps the best away day performance of the year would come on February 6th as we drew 2-2 at Ibrox in an EPIC Scottish Cup 5th round tie. The Huns were 1-0 up inside the first few minutes and should have doubled their lead if it wasn't for the crossbar just a few minutes later. I remember the feeling of dread as I watched that one. They looked right up for it and I began fearing the worst however once Celtic got a hold of the game, we found an equaliser through Kris Commons.
In typical Rangers style, if you can't beat them... cheat. Stevie Naismith took a soft tumble in the box which saw our keeper get sent off and Whittaker score to make it 2-1. A goal down and a man down at half time at Ibrox? I played with the idea of changing the channel and watching something else, such was my worry however the second half was incredible to say the least. Despite their man disadvantage, Celtic were the only team who looked like winning the game. An inspired substitution of replacing Commons for Ki Sung Yung turned into a masterstroke by Lennon. Ki completed more passes than the whole Rangers team combined and held onto the ball brilliantly in our midfield.
Celtic's dominant possession would pay off as Scott Brown would find an equaliser from the most unlikliest of places. His left foot.
To say I hit the roof when that went in would be a bit of an understatement and if it wasn't for an amazing save from McGregor to deny Samaras late on, I would have leaped through the roof. We should have won the tie then and there. A replay beckoned but it was definitely a moral victory for The Bhoys.
February 20th 2011 is a date which is etched in many a Celtic fans heads. A long overdue destruction of The Huns. Hooper and Commons score the goals and we run out 3-0 winners. Rangers pose no threat and look like a defeated team, on their last legs in this title race. The win for Celtic puts us five points clear of them but then we go and follow a sensational high with a horrible low. Defeat at Fir Park and the frustration continues. Game on again in the title race, it seems.
Celtic start March facing a familiar foe, that season. It's Rangers (AGAIN) in the Scottish Cup replay. Mark Wilson scores the only goal in a very convincing 1-0 win for The Bhoys as Rangers see three players get sent off. The scoreline flatters The Huns. They didn't test Zaluska, in goals for us, until stoppage time. A similar, convincing 1-0 victory over Rangers would close out the year as well however we'll get to that later.
Sadly it's not what happened on the park that people remember this game for. It's what happened OFF of the park. The Scottish Government and Strathclyde's finest get their knickers in a twist over sectarian chanting, rowdy fans (mind it was a night time game, pubs are open at that time) and the set to that Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist had after the game.
Despite watching the footage a million times and no matter how many times you watch it, it won't change. Ally McCoist provokes Lennon into an angry reaction by saying something in his ear. Of course, the SFA works in "strange" ways and McCoist is aquitted of all charges meanwhile Lennon receives an extended touchline ban.
Well, that's logical.
The SNP and the Police go into overdrive and outline proposals to tackle unappropriate behavior at football grounds and this is perfectly timed for what was just around the corner. The Scottish League Cup Final on March 20th between Celtic and Rangers.
I'd been a season ticket holder for four years and hadn't been rewarded with any tickets for cup finals, in that time. Mind you, we didn't get to many cup finals in that time. Despite attending an earlier round match against Inverness and the Semi-Final against Aberdeen, it didn't dawn on me that I'll be eligible for a ticket automatically. With it being an o** f*** final, I threw the towel in and assumed I wouldn't be going. I played with the idea of buying a ticket on eBay for about 300 quid. The very next day that I'd been browsing eBay, two letters dropped through the door for me and my father. Letters from Celtic FC saying we had tickets for the final. My first final. To say I was excited was an understatement.
It was like counting down to Christmas. I couldn't sleep waiting on it. Not only was it a major final, it was against THEM and we were in such good form against Rangers that there was only one outcome right? Watching them lift a trophy on my first venture to Hampden for a final? Sounded good to me.
This was my viewpoint from my seat at Hampden on that day. If you remember the two Rangers goals, they were quite possibly the WORST ever seen in o** f*** history. I was sat looking right along the line as Steven Davis' tame effort trickled past big Fraser in goal and hit the post before coming to a stop in the net and then felt sick to my stomach as Smellavic hit the post, the ball rolled out of the goal mouth and I watched as Izzy ran back to hook it away.... only for the ball to take a bizarre turn on the bobbly pitch and trickle into the net. Then the sight of that big muppet being mobbed by Stevie Naismith and Vladamir Weiss, celebrating right infront of me.
Neil Lennon's touchline ban definitely had an effect on our Bhoys, that day because for ateam which had Rangers number for the last few months, not one of them turned up on the day. They froze on the big occasion as the manager looked on from the stands.
This was also a landmark day in the SNP's "battle" against sectarianism. As one of the 20,000+ Hoops fans there, I don't think I was the only one who heard our Rangers counterparts singing every one of their vile, bigoted songs. The whole songbook was out in force, that day. Nothing says you support your team more than singing about building thy gallows and guarding Derry's Walls and being up to your knees in Fenian blood.
The Government heard nothing. The police heard nothing. Kenny McAskill described the whole occasion as a brilliant showpiece for Scottish Football.
As Tony Mowbray taught us all so well during his era in charge, we took it on the chin and got on with it. We were undefeated in April winning every game against the smaller teams then a 0-0 draw at Ibrox on Easter Sunday. This run came in amongst bombs and death threats being sent to Neil Lennon. Despite it all, we seemed to get stronger with every game. Especially showcased with a 4-0 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Depending what fan you ask, they'll tell you the game at Ibrox and more importantly a certain Greek striker is what cost us the SPL title of 2010/11. With ten minutes to go, Stokes ran into Steve Davis and the referee pointed to the spot. Samaras assumed control and decided to go the same place he did with his spot kick at Ibrox on January 2nd. McGregor was wise to this and kept it out. The game ended 0-0, keeping Rangers a point infront however with a game in hand, it was still in our hands. It wasn't a disaster by any means.
Like most fans, I was frustrated with the outcome at Ibrox but was still confident we'd get the job done.
"SuperCaleyGoBallis......" Ah I don't wanna even mention it. We know what happened. Butcher's boys decided to upset the applecart and destroy our title hopes by beating us in our game in hand. Rangers wouldn't drop a point from then till the end of the season. Neither would Celtic. Unfortunately it wasn't good enough and the title went to Ibrox for the third year on the bounce. Giving Walter Smith (and STV who'd been secretly filming a fly on the wall doc. all season showcasing Walter's big final hoorah at Ibrox) the perfect sending off.
Despite losing the league title in such a way and proving to be the best team and most entertaining team over the course of the season, I wasn't as gutted as I should have been. Infact, the celebrations after that final SPL game against Motherwell summed it up perfectly. We celebrated like we had won. The Celtic family was strong and despite the best efforts of bitter, twisted Gers fans, their bombs and death threats would not stop us. It's one of the msot emotional and proudest days I've had as a Celtic fan and yeah, there was a tear in my eye when "Something Inside So Strong" played at Celtic Park.
I was once again rewarded by the club and got a ticket for the Scottish Cup Final. Once again we celebrated, much to the annoyance of The Huns. It may "only" be The Scottish Cup but we celebrated it like it was the SPL title after trouncing Motherwell 3-0 in the final.
The summer was loooooooooooooooooooooong. Watching pre-season friendlies against Australian teams just wasn't gonna cut it for me. I was itching to get going. Like most fans, I was confident ahead of the 2011/12 season. Rangers first team squad was destroyed as five of their players last season were loanees, all of which returned to their original clubs. Celtic, despite finishing 2nd, had very little to do to improve their squad. Meanwhile Super Ally over at Ibrox had a major patch up job to do and with little to no funds to do it. A pending tax bill which could cripple them once and for all and a chairman ousted as a fraud by Phil Macgiolla Bhain was adding to the excitement. This season couldn't come soon enough. There was only going to be one outcome, right? Celtic were gonna romp to the title and be out of sight by Christmas. The Facebook mockery pages of "McCoist back on Question of Sport by December" began popping up.
Then the season started and it all seemed to be going well until St. Johnstone came to town. A 1-0 win for them and an early exit from Europe were big blows, even at an early stage. Celtic without European football was a traumatic thought, for me. Especially as it would be two years on the bounce. A lot of fans see the Europa League as a distraction but at the end of the day, Celtic spire to win the SPL so they can get the reward of playing in Europe. If you don't want them to play in Europe as it's a "distraction" then what's the point in them trying to win the title?
Sensationally, 2 weeks later, we'd be put back into the Europa League when FC Sion were tossed out. Not only that but we'd have the bonus of playing in a group with a team from La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A. Top opposition for our Bhoys to test themselves against. Believe me, in the long run, we'll be better for it. Personally I was delighted to be in the competition and quickly bought my ticket package and began counting down to watching us play top opposition under the Celtic Park floodlights.
Sadly, my bubble was burst by our domestic play. Despite battling back to lead Rangers 2-1 at Ibrox, we would suffer a second half collapse in the first o** f*** game of the season in late September. Suicidal defending from the likes of Kelvin Wilson and Glenn Loovens say Rangers run out 4-2 winners. This abortion of a performance was soon followed by defeat at Hearts.
The Huns were shown up for the joke they were in amongst all of this. Beaten 3-2 by First Division side, Falkirk, in the League Cup as well as being dumped out of both European competitions by minnows proved that they were beatable however they strangely kept soldiering along in the title race.
To say the least, frustration was definitely on most of our minds. How could this team be so far ahead of us in the league?
In early October, a season turning/make or break game occured. The bad results looked set to continue as we were 3-0 down to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. I admit, I turned it off. It was too much for me to watch. I went on Facebook, I came on this forum. I ranted and raved and conceded the title was over. I said we wouldn't win the SPL with this regime in charge. Well Neil Lennon must have given the half time team talk of his life because Celtic battled back to recover a 3-3 draw.
A confidence boosting away draw in the Europa League in Northern France was followed by a 2-1 victory over Aberdeen in the SPL to keep it at a 10 point gap with a game in hand, at home to Dunfermline. Inconvenient and frustrating but not disasterous.
We would then destroy Hibs in the League Cup quarter finals however were then unable to score against them in the SPL fixture that followed. Coupled with a Rangers victory, that left us 12 points back with a game in hand and by the time we'd play next, the gap would be 15 points.
Rangers won against Dundee United on November 5th and their star player, Jelavic came out to in the press and claimed the league title race was over. That their 12 point gap would be enough to secure four in a row and that Celtic would not claw it back.
I don't know about all of you but I smiled when I read this. I had a gut feeling that a comment like that was the kick in the arse that we needed.
Celtic went out the next day at Fir Park and beat Motherwell 2-1 to close the gap to 12 points. Victories over Inverness, St. Mirren and Dunfermline in the crucial game in hand would follow.
Rangers dropped more points to St. Johnstone and Kilmarnock. Almost like Jelavic's premature celebrations had cursed them in some way.
As the final month of the year began, the gap was just 4 points with an o** f*** game looming.
The Hoops began showing a quality trait of Champions. Grinding out results. They won ugly over Dundee United, Hearts, St. Johnstone and Kilmarnock to claim four wins on the bounce going into the December 28th o** f*** clash. We even got an early Christmas present after St. Mirren defeated them 2-1 to show just how rubbish they truly are.
2011 came full circle on December 28th. Much like the year started with an o** f*** victory for Celtic, it'd end with one as well. Joe Ledley's header early in the 2nd half was enough to secure victory on a highly charged night at Celtic Park.
With that victory, Celtic end 2011 sitting on top of the SPL. A position which seemed impossible to pretty much everyone just 2 months ago.
I couldn't see it happening, the media, the bookies. None of them could see Celtic clawing it back.
They somehow did. A true testament to the strength of our players and our manager and proof again that 2011 really has been an emotional rollercoaster of a year. For every high, there was a low.
The signs are good for 2012 but we'd be foolish to do a Jelavic and declare the league is won already. We've been burned before and hopefully we don't make the same mistakes again.
All that needs to be said, going forward, is.... C'MON YOU BHOYS IN GREEN!
Being a Celtic fan. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.