Manchopper in….Glasgow (Celtic FC)

Result: Celtic 3-2 Partick Thistle (Scottish FA Cup 5th Round)

Venue: Celtic Park (Saturday 1oth February 2018, 12.15pm)

Att: 24,191

Following on from my first of my dual birthday weekends at Hallam’s “World’s Oldest Football Ground” at Sandygate, this second Saturday saw a continuation of what is becoming something of a tradition it seems. After visiting Gretna the year before – for the border village club’s game with East Stirlingshire – this time I had my sights set on something a little more sizable. A ground known by many monikers, be it Celtic Park, Parkhead or indeed “Paradise”, it is still the largest in Scotland and, as such, once the chance came up to visit for the Scottish Cup’s early kick-off, it was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.

Having amended the travel the previous week (after our original 3pm plan was put on the back-burner), blog regular Dan had our tickets sorted out and so all that was left to do was catch the 7.15am train North of the border. Heading up through the snow-capped hills of Cumbria and the Lowlands, we rolled into Glasgow Central at just before half-past ten. A short journey down into the bowels of the station then allowed us to catch the service over to Bridgeton, a 15 minute or so walk from the ground and, at the price of just over a solitary pound for me, it was a no-brainer.

Not long after our exit from the station, Celtic Park loomed into view, dominating the surrounding area. As such, this allowed us to avoid getting lost – as is usually my want to do and, as a result, set our sights on a couple of pre-match pints to soak up the atmosphere the Celtic faithful were offering up. Of course, the ground was far from a sell-out for the game itself, but there was still a more than decent amount of fans out and about to give a feel of what it must be like when it’s turned up to eleven at capacity. This would be confirmed later on in day when we were told we needed to return for a European game by a lad in one of the bars we visited on Gallowgate on our walk back. More on that later!

Arriving into Glasgow

Arriving at Parkhead

The Celtic Way

Anyway, after a quick stop-off for a few pictures at the ground and a programme purchase (£3.50), our first stop was due to be the Celtic Social Club but upon discovering you had to pay some sort of fee to gain entrance, in addition to the fact it was already packed out, we decided it wasn’t really worth it and instead backtracked on ourselves, visiting the Real McCoy which sits in the shadow of the Lisbon Lions Stand. Again, this place was full but offered just enough space to accommodate us as we indulged in our first Tennent’s of the day, as Dan was (in my view thankfully) spurned in his quest for Carling. No, I’m not letting it go yet, Daniel! At a little over £3, there was no complaints with that. As it turned out, our fruitless traipse over to the Social Club had cost us the time for a second and so we stuck on a sole drink for now, safe in the knowledge we had a good four hours to spend enjoying the Gallowgate hostelries after the game!

As a result, upon finishing our pints here whilst watching some of the nuts skeleton bobsleighers in the Winter Olympics on TV, we headed round to the far side of the ground and the Jock Stein Stand, where we’d be watching the game from today. This involved us passing by a stand selling away team merchandise, something I can’t say I’ve ever come across at a game before and the drum, that I guessed was to provide the beat for the Celtic ‘Green Brigade’ fans, being prepared for its duty. Eventually we made our way back past the statues of, firstly, Billy McNeill, lifting aloft the European Cup, then Jock Stein, Jimmy Johnstone and club founder, Brother Wilfrid who guard the Main Stand.

Real McCoy

Celtic F.C.

On the concourse

Upon entering, I reckoned I’d be best served heading straight for some food and was soon in possession of a Scotch Pie (£2.70). From there it was out into the stand and what a view we had! Directly behind the goal and around three-quarters of the way back in the bottom tier, such seats gave us a great view of, not just the game, but also the expanse of the Celtic Park stands. Not too long after we’d taken our seats and I’d devoured the fine pie, the sides were making their way out onto the field of play, with the ‘Green Brigade’ in the safe-standing area (which I’d completely forgotten existed until the previous evening) providing the vast majority of the noise today. Of course, this was briefly put to a stop by the sombre minutes silence for Liam Miller, who passed away the previous evening at the age of just 36. As a Manchester United fan myself, it obviously meant a little more than usual too. RIP Liam.

Celtic Park is, as I’ve already alluded to, a very impressive and pretty vast ground. The largest stadium in Scotland, it holds a capacity of just under 60,5oo and dates from 1892. It is the second ground to have been known under the Celtic Park name, after the original Park was left by the club in 1892, after a four-year stay, following a large increase in rent. The North (which extends over the cemetery it backs onto), Jock Stein and Lisbon Lions are all of the same size and form a three-quarter, fully enclosed loop which includes the corner sandwiched between the Lisbon Lions and North Stand that houses the safe-standing area. The Main Stand is the oldest remaining stand in the ground, originally dating from 1929, and is a fair bit smaller than its counterparts. However, it does host executive boxes and TV gantry.  As for Celtic’s history, this may take a while….

History Lesson:

Celtic Football Club was founded in 1887 by Brother Wilfrid, with the purpose of helping to ease the poverty within the Irish population of East Glasgow, partly inspired by the earlier formation of Hibernian for the Irish immigrants residing in Edinburgh. The name Celtic was chosen to reflect the club’s dual Irish and Scottish roots. The club’s first official match was played in May of the next year, a friendly contest vs perennial enemies Rangers which ended in a 5-2 victory for Celtic. Since then, they have gone on to win the most major honours of any Scottish club, totalling one hundred and three.

In 1889, Celtic reached the final of the Scottish Cup, this being their first season of entering the competition, but lost out in the final. After becoming a founder member of the Scottish League in 1890, they would rectify the Cup defeat in the 1892 final, thrashing city rivals Queen’s Park 5-1 to lift the Cup and record the club’s first major honour. After finishing league runners-up in that same year, the club won the Scottish League title for the first time in 1893. They have never played outside of the top division. They would then follow this up with three Division 1 titles before the turn of the century, these coming in 1894, ’96 & ’98. 1905 saw a fifth title attained via triumph in a title play-off with Rangers at Hampden Park, Celtic coming out on top to snatch the silverware from their rivals.

Brother Wilfrid, Jock Stein & Jimmy Johnstone

That success began a run of six successive titles for the club as they dominated the Scottish League through to 1910. Incidentally, the Bhoys also won two Scottish Cups during that time, in both 1907 & 1908, with the latter securing Celtic the honour of becoming the first Scottish club to secure the league and cup “double”. 1912 & 1913 saw Celtic finish as league runners-up before four further titles spanning the wartime seasons of 1913-’14 to 1916-’17 arrived at Celtic Park, a run which included an impressive 62 matches unbeaten through November 1915 & April 1917 A 15th title arrived in 1919 to round off another decade of success for the Bhoys.

The 1920’s & 1930’s saw a slight dip in league form (if you can count runners-up as a dip), with Celtic recording just a further four titles over the two decades, these arriving in 1922, ’26, ’36 & ’38. After the outbreak of WWII, Celtic would compete within regional wartime leagues, which proved unsuccessful, though the club would add May 1945’s Victory in Europe Cup tournament trophy to their honours list. Defeating Arsenal, Manchester United and Hibernian to win 1953’s Coronation Cup (a celebration tournament for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II), Celtic built on these tourney successes to achieve more domestic silverware. A Scottish League (the top division then known as the ‘A’ Division) and Cup double was won in 1954 and both 1956 & 1957 saw the club lift the Scottish League Cup for the first couple of times, the latter seeing them hammer Rangers 7-1, which remains a record in a domestic British cup final.

1957 also saw the ‘A Division’ renamed as Division One, but Celtic began a small period of decline, which resulted in legendary boss Jock Stein replacing a British goal-scoring record holder in Jimmy McGrory (550 goals in 547 games)in the hot-seat. Under Stein form took an upturn once more and after reaching the European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals in 1964, the club went on to win nine consecutive Scottish League titles from 1966 through to 1974, which equalled the then World record. Of course, this period is well-known for Celtic’s historic 1967 European Cup triumph, in which the side, which would come to be known as the “Lisbon Lions” would overcome Inter Milan by 2-1 in the Portuguese Capital, becoming the first British side to do so. That night’s side is famed for them having all been born within 30 miles of Glasgow. They added to their fabled moment that same year by winning each of the other competitions they entered: the League, League Cup, Scottish Cup and Glasgow Cup, though would lose out to Racing Club of Argentina in the Intercontinental Cup the following season, playing in the tournament as a result of their European triumph.

Old-school gates

This began a run of decent success for the club in Europe which saw them fairly regularly reach the latter stages of the European Cup. A quarter-final appearance in 1969 was followed by a runners-up placing the next year as the club were defeated 2-1 by Feyenoord at the San Siro. Two further semi-final appearances in 1974 & 1976 though, outside of a 1980 run to the quarters, that was that for Celtic’s challenge in the latter stages of the competition. After the 1974 title win, 1976 saw Celtic placed in the new Premier Division upon re-organisation. This did little to change Celtic’s on-field fortunes, though, with titles in 1977, ’79, ’81 & ’82 following in pretty short order. After missing out on the 1983 title on goal-difference, 1986 saw Celtic instead benefit from the goals as they won that year’s title by the same ruling, recording their 34th title in doing so. Their 35th followed in their centenary year 1987-’88 (along with a Scottish Cup to secure another double), but this would be their last time as champions of Scotland for a decade.

After falling away from the top two positions for the majority of the 1990’s, and seeing receivers brought into the club, businessman Fergus McCann took over before the club was declared bankrupt, ending the club’s existence as a (somewhat) family run entity. the latter part of the decade saw the Bhoys begin to recover their standing, finishing runners-up in both 1996 & 1997. 1998 saw the club return to the top of the table, preventing fierce rivals Rangers from achieving ten titles in a row, whilst also lifting their 10th League Cup. However, they were soon usurped again in the league table by their cross-city opponents, further runners-up placings in both 1999 & 2000 rounding off the millennium.

The new millennium saw the Bhoys once again become the dominant force in the country, lifting the new Scottish Premier League title in 2001 & 2002, the former seeing the club lift a domestic treble of League, League Cup and Scottish Cup, which gave Martin O’Neill the honour of being only the second Celtic manager to do so after Jock Stein. 2003 saw double disappointment as the club lost out on the title on goal difference for the second time and also were defeated in the UEFA Cup final by FC Porto, after extra time had been forced by a Henrik Larsson brace in Sevilla. Gordon Strachan replaced O’Neill as manager in 2005 and also won the title (and League Cup) in his first season before going on to successfully defend it in each of the next two seasons, becoming the third Celtic boss to do so. They also reached the Champions League knock-out stages in 2007 & 2008, a rare foray into the latter stages of Europe’s “premier competition”.

Bill Shankly’s mural…

…and Jock Stein’s own version

After being beaten to the title by Rangers for the next three seasons (despite Celtic having recorded an SPL record victory, 9-0 over Aberdeen in 2010 and winning the 2009 League Cup), Rangers’ financial issues and eventual back-room reforming saw them drop to the bottom tier of the Scottish League and allowed Celtic to gain something of a monopoly on the league in recent years. Under Neil Lennon, 2012 saw the title return to Parkhead and the following season saw a SPL & Scottish Cup double recorded, along with a memorable 2-1 win over Barcelona in the same week as the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations and duly qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League. 2014 saw a hat-trick of titles attained, with this season seeing ‘keeper Fraser Forster set a record 1,256 minutes without conceding a goal in a league game but at the season’s end Neil Lennon departed the club and was replaced by Dutchman Ronny Deila. Two titles followed in 2015 & 2016, along with the 2015 League Cup, before Deila left at the end of the season and was replaced by current boss, ex-Liverpool manager and clear “You’ll Never Walk Alone” enthusiast Brendan Rodgers. In his two completed seasons, Rodgers has lifted both League titles (2016 & 2017), the 2017 Scottish Cup and both the 2016-’17 & 2017-’18 League Cups, completing a hat-trick of titles for the club last season.

In total, the club have won 37 Scottish Cups, 17 League Cups and 48 Championship titles alongside their European Cup success. They have also added many minor, obscure and wonderfully named honours. These come in the form of: 29 Glasgow Cups (now a youth competition), 26 Glasgow Charity Cups, the Glasgow Football League title in 1899, Inter City League in 1900, two North Eastern Cups (1889, 1890), the British League Cup in 1902, Ferencvaros Vase in 1914, the 1918 Navy and Army War Fund Shield, the 1938 Empire Exhibition Trophy, the 1951 Saint Mungo Cup, the 1967 Alfredo di Stefano Trophy, the 1968 CNE Cup of Champions, the 1974 Drybrough Cup, the 1977 World of Soccer Cup, the 1981 Feyenoord Tournament, the 1989 Dubai Champions Cup, the 1999 Brandy Cup, 6 Jock Stein Friendship Cups (2006, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10 & 2016), the Translink Cup in 2009, the 2009 Wembley Cup, the 2010 Fenway Football Challenge, the 2013 Dublin Decider and the 2017 Dafabet Cup.

Two tickets to “Paradise”

With current Celtic coach, the Hoops & Scotland legend Danny McGrain (as the guy next to us informed me) taking his seat just behind us, this Glasgow derby clash got underway a few minutes after the scheduled 12.15pm kick-off time. But it soon made up for that lost time when, just over two minutes in, James Forrest broke the deadlock for the hosts. Following an initial blocked Moussa Dembele shot (whom I last saw in u21 action for Fulham no less), Forrest arrived at the back post to stab the ball beyond Partick Thistle ‘keeper Tomas Cerny.

Cerny was picking the ball out of his net again eight minutes later and once again it was as a result of Forrest’s boots. This time, however, the goal was a little more impressive! After picking the ball up on the half-way line, the attacker continued forward for a good twenty yards, completely unopposed, before jinking past one challenge, turning inside from another and firing a pin-point finish inside Cerny’s right-hand upright. A fine goal and one that created a number of “What a goal!” exclamations from those around us in the Jock Stein’s padded seats!

From there, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be a regular Celtic procession through to another home win and a place in the Scottish Cup’s 6th Round. I certainly did! However, the game continued at pace and chances continued to come along at regular intervals, though Celtic were certainly still enjoying the upper hand on their Fruit Salad-esque (the sweets, that is) coloured opponents. Forrest almost secured himself his hat-trick within the first quarter-hour, but was denied by a smart stop by Partick’s Czech stopper.

Match Action

Partick on the attack

Match Action

But the Bhoys’ seemingly serene progress encountered a bump in the road shortly afterwards when an inexplicable mistake by centre-back Jozo Simunovic saw his back-pass run straight into the path of Kris Doolan and the veteran striker, making his 350th appearance in Thistle colours, finished smartly, lifting the ball over and past Dorus de Vries, whose first real encounter with the ball was to pick it out of his net. This goal gave the visiting Jags, and their small band of away fans sat in the corner of the Lions and Main Stand, some hope and they began to enjoy a spell of dominance towards the end of the first half and, although they didn’t really threaten de Vries’ goal during that period, they definitely succeeded in shaking up the nerves of some in the stands if not those on the pitch. Half-Time arrived, with the Hoops heading in with a slender advantage but, seemingly, somewhat on the back-foot.

Come the start of the second half, Celtic had regrouped and began to impose themselves on Partick once more. Early chances for the likes of on-loan Chelsea youngster Charly Musonda went begging before the Scottish champions and defending Cup winners restored their two-goal advantage and, this time, Forrest was not to be denied his trifecta. Receiving the ball into feet off the now partially dyed-blond haired Scott Sinclair, Forrest controlled, turned on a sixpence to evade a number of defenders before absolutely hammering his effort beyond Cerny, whose dive began once the ball had already hit the net. Three-one and surely game over this time?!

Goal Celtic! Forrest celebrates his hat-trick.

Match Action

Cerny keeps out a free-kick

This prompted some early second-half changes for Thistle, which included the introduction of Hearts loanee, the former Wigan Athletic man, Conor Sammon, whom Derby apparently latterly signed from the Latics for over £1 million a few years back. However, it was to be Celtic who really ought to have extended their lead into an unassailable one when Scott Sinclair found himself through and with only Cerny to beat – although admittedly under pressure – he could only poke the ball into the grateful arms of Thistle’s custodian.

This, along with the introduction of the….”ordinary” Celtic sub: winger Odsonne Edouard, enabled the visitors to press on and they got their reward for their persistence with six minutes remaining when Sammon collected the ball just inside the right-hand edge of the box and proceeded to fire a low half-volley across de Vries and into the far side-netting. A fine finish and Thistle and their backers up in the stands felt like they still had a sniff of remaining in the hat. Indeed, they almost pulled off a remarkable recovery when, with pretty much the last action of the game, they fashioned a move down the left from where Chris Erskine delivered a superb ball across the six-yard box. ‘Keeper de Vries couldn’t quite come for it and so it looked for all the world that Ryan Edwards, arriving at the back-post, was going to complete a memorable comeback. But, somehow, Celtic’s Kieran Tierney managed to block the ball from hitting the net, enabling the Dutchman to claim the ball on his goal-line.

That was that and last season’s treble winners scraped through in unconvincing fashion against a very game Thistle side who bowed out with many a positive to take from their showing. Also, a shout for de Vries who, upon the Celtic players’ lap of appreciation post-match, handed his shirt to a young lad in the front row. He won’t be getting lost any time he wears it!

Celtic’s players thank the ‘Green Brigade’

Post-match posing

From there it was time to head out and experience the Glasgow drinking holes this side of the city. It was my first real visit to the city and so I had no real expectations, nor experiences to call upon, so it really was a case of heading out with a clean slate. First up was the Turnstile Bar which, you may be unsurprised to hear, is near a set of the old turnstiles which still stand roadside, along with two old gates one bearing “Boys” and the other “Girls”. A nice bit of tradition in an increasingly modern setting, though I guess it won’t be long until a complaint is put in….but I’m not going into that!

The Turnstile bar had live Irish folk music on and was decked out in a large assortment of Celtic stuff. Tennents in here set back more than the £2 I saw advertised outside (boo!), though maybe I misread it. Either way, it wasn’t exactly bank breaking, the pint coming in at around £3.50. Dan finally got Carling, ending his withdrawal symptoms that caused him to almost nod off during the first half! After opting not to partake in the offering of some sort of green shots in test-tube-like containers being brought around the pub by a couple of the staff,  we headed off back past the ground and onwards to Gallowgate, where we’d slowly work our way along and back towards Central Station.

Turnstile Bar

Drover

Wee Man’s Bar

After a longer walk than initially expected, we finally arrived at the initially rough-looking, Drover. However, once inside, the pub has a far more grandiose appearance than you would expect considering its protected windows and what have you. The Tennent’s in here was fine too and, at just £3, represented the cheapest pint of the day. No complaints to be had, though we soon had to continue onwards, though when I say onwards I actually mean a few doors along. Here is found the Wee Man’s Bar, which Dan had earlier said was a must visit, on account of his fondness for the saying from his time living in Glasgow longer back than he cares to remember! Further Tennent’s was had whilst standing alongside none other than Celtic legend Henrik Larsson! What was Larsson doing in here you may ask? Well, ’twas nothing more than a picture.

With the light now beginning to slowly subside, we continued on and past the place that was enabling us to be suitably watered, the Tennent’s Brewery. Here we found the historic Hielan Jessie, a pub with two legends attached to it, with both referring to Jessie. One has her as a rousing figure during the Indian Mutiny in Lucknow whilst a soldier’s wife (the barracks formerly stood opposite the original pub), whereas the other states she was the soldier’s favourite “entertainer”. Whatever she was, at least she has something named after her that still keeps numerous people happy and a further Tennant’s was enjoyed in here, despite my first one coming out as flat as water. It was changed without issue, though, so no problems there. Next up and just over the road stands the Hoops Bar (which you may be unsurprised to hear is also Celtic based) and this was to be the next place to be popped in. It was in here that the meeting I mentioned earlier with the Celtic fan occurred and, though he told us his name, it escapes me by time of writing. It seemed as though we’d only just made it in time for a pint, though, as it soon looked to be approaching closing time and so we quickly polished them off before heading out and to our final drinking spot just a short walk away; the haunted Saracen Head. Wooooooooo.

The Hielan Jessie legends in full!

Hoops Bar

Saracen Head rounds off the Gallowgate crawl

The Saracen Head was definitely the most traditional we visited on our route in my opinion and was definitely the quieter and more laid-back place we’d been in too. As such, it was a bit of a shame that our visit was all too brief, with us having only 15 minutes or so before we had to depart and make our way back to the station for our train back. Four hours had passed in a flash and it was time for us to leave Glasgow, which had decided to give us a lovely dose of rain on which to part ways. Cheers.

Arriving just in time for our train back, we got straight on and headed back to Manchester. All went well and rather quickly, with me falling in and out of consciousness and regular intervals, with my previous night’s lack of sleep well and truly catching up with me. Anyway, all connections were made with the programme proving a smart purchase (as if I wasn’t going to buy it) with it being a good companion for my hour’s wait back in Manchester, once Dan and I had headed off our own ways.

So there we have it. Celtic Park is done and what a great day it was. The game was far more competitive than expected and the ground was great to visit and, although the atmosphere was of course lacking, it gave enough to show how it can be on the “big game” capacity days. Glasgow’s Gallowgate area was fine, if unspectacular, too and so there’s no complaints to be found from me. Other than Dan’s insistence on Carling that is….I’ll stop there before I go on a rant! Next up is a return to the competition’s equivalent South of the border and to one of the highest grounds (if not the highest) in England….

RATINGS:

Game: 8

Ground: 8

Food: 8

Programme: 8

Value For Money: 7

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