PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
life's a beach
Tell all the Huns in pain,
An away draw against Barcelona in the Nou Camp to secure a UEFA Cup quarter final berth followed by victory at the Death Star; all in a week's work for this team of ordinary superheroes and their manager.To have suggested that such was possible only a few years ago would have had you fitted for a canvas cardigan quicker than you could say Bedlam.
The result in Spain will go down in the annals of Celtic history and there should be no diminution of its momentous scale. This is Barcelona we're talking about, not Brechin City. It was all the more praiseworthy because it was not achieved by a full strength team, but by a squad ravaged by injuries and suspensions to key players.
Indeed, while the Laptop Loyal are happy to punt big Eck's party line about how much rosier things would have been were it not for the queue outside the treatment room, not much has been made of the fact that injury has deprived Celtic of many first team regulars this season for lengthy periods of time: Lambert, Sutton, Agathe, Thompson and Maloney have all been notable absentees, as well as almost the entire first choice defence which lined up in Seville - Mjallby, Valgaeren and Laursen (is he still alive?).
As if this wasn't hard enough to cope with, the chip wrappers have had a few more bones to chew on, not least the constant kite flying about Martin O'Neill's next job (the though that he might be happy enough in his current one just doesn't seem to compute), the endless column inches devoted to Henrik Larsson's summer destination and the welcome distraction of Millergate.
That the players have been able to achieve what they have done this season is an extraordinary tribute to their skill, their heart and their organisation under OFM. For despite what the begrudgers might suggest, it took all of these qualities in abundance to overcome the form team in La Liga - although it was interesting to compare and contrast the reputations of Ronaldinho and company in the Scottish press before and after their encounter with Celtic.
The widely circulating view among the transcendentally parochial that Celtic were somehow lucky against Barca brought to mind a quip of Arnold Palmer's after he'd chipped in from a bunker and a spectator said he's been lucky. 'It's funny', he replied, 'The more I practice the luckier I get.'
Yes, we'd all like to win with the style of the Lisbon lions, but we've been on the receiving end of plenty of glorious failures over the years. I know which feeling I prefer.
The Old Firm game which followed on from that epic encounter in Catalonia was remarkable more for the hilarity off the pitch than the (lack of) contest on it. As the Death Star ground staff set about bursting those beach balls with the grim determination of extras from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre they became the focus of a mass of seething anguish from three sides of the stadium.
And when Celtic completed the formality of going a goal up the bemused looks from Eck and his assistants in the Rangers dugout said it all.
For the second year running an injury depleted Celtic less than three days after a gruelling European tie had inflicted a morale crushing defeat on the old enemy, and the Eckmeister looked positively clueless as to what he was going to do about it.
It could be his last chance too, as another summer of trading down followed by a regulation Old Firm defeat at the start of next season should just about see his time out.
These are truly happy days at the court of the Blessed Martin.