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We tried, you know. We really did try very hard. We tried not to get too carried away when Martin O'Neill got the Celtic manager's job instead of Guus Hiddink last summer.
But it was all too much. When the sixth goal went in against the Huns on that fateful afternoon in August it was time to start believing that truly the Messiah was among us and that it was time for the Timmites to start singing hosannas again instead of indulging in our customary weeping and wailing and gnashing of whatever was there to gnash.
Our season preview in NTV 87, which hit the streets at the end of July, featured an article by Paranoid Pat about Martin O'Neill. It gave it to you straight; "The wave of enthusiasm greeting our early season form from our long-suffering supporters is, for once, justified."
Having had too many kicks in the nethers to really take in what was happening at the time, it was only natural that the realisation of our impending destiny took a while to sink in. Indeed, for some incredulous fans it wasn't until Celtic beat St. Mirren to mathematically confirm what had been patently obvious since the second Old Firm game in October that they actually allowed themselves to sook in a large dose of happy juice.
But when we look back at season 2000-01 with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight it becomes clear that something was stirring after the first five games of the season and that it was ultimately going to blow Dick's hairweave off.
Now we're a few weeks away from finding out if Martin OĠNeill is going to be the only Celtic manager apart from Jock Stein to deliver a treble. Few would bet against it.
Coming on the heels of the Wim Jansen sketch and the Jo Venglos episode, expectations, it's fair to say, weren't so much low as interned beneath six feet of concrete and lead last summer. It's true that O'Neill didn't exactly have much to live up to by way of expectations for this season as he passed Barnes, MacDonald and the King on the way out, the latter stopping merely to collect huge pay-offs at the bank on the way for services unrendered.
In fact, as we said at the time, in terms of acts to follow he was Harry Lauder coming on stage on Friday night at the Glasgow Empire after the departure of the English comedian.
Even so, the alacrity with which his team has contemptuously cruised past the Huns has surpassed even the wildest dreams of the likes of our own Paranoid Pat. He might not be able to do it every year, but whatever Our Favourite Martin did this season suggested that he can come and fill in our lottery tickets - or at least pick out my Paradise Windfall ticket - any time he likes.
For a start, Henrik Larsson not only steered clear of serious injury for the entire season, he also embarked on a new solo career of making Premier League defenders look like discarded extras from The Petrified Forest. His McGroryesque goalscoring spree, which still hasn't finished as we go to print, is the stuff of epic legend. To get the fiftieth against the Huns at Ibrox in the 3:0 rout was the final proof that the Swede's scripwriter is going for the Academy Award.
Yet, here's a wee nugget you can let slip next time you're arguing with a Rangers supporter about Celtic being a one man team (see Laudrup, Brian). As far as equalisers or winners are concerned, Larsson has been responsible for winning 14 points this season thanks to his goals. But here we are, 21 points ahead of the Huns at the last count. The league would have been won without Henke's goals!
Then there were O'Neill's dabblings in the transfer market. The spine of the team was stiffened with the acquisitions of Valgaeren and Sutton (Douglas was bought as well... er...) and both turned out to be straightforward brilliant buys. Thompson too proved the doubters wrong by ending up top of the assists chart and generally surpassing expectations.
All well and good, but Agathe for £50,000? Undoubtedly he was O'Neill's very own Ming vase bought at the car boot sale.
There might have been some among us muttering dark thoughts about the manager having to chase Neil Lennon all over the place and then spending £6 million on him. They won't be muttering now, simply exclaiming that he's another player who could walk into any team in the country right now.
Vega came to Parkhead with a reputation which suggested he might be the man to turn the clock back to the heady days of the Sieve in full effect. He might yet be on a slow fuse, but thus far we haven't seen anything like the calamitous bomb scare we were led to expect. Still, what do Spurs fans know about football anyway?
All of these players, first team regulars to a man, cost £13 million. Who, outside the refectory in Carstairs, would argue that Tore Andre Flo, allegedly signed for slightly less than this figure, represents a better investment?
As each new signing slotted his way seamlessly into the O'Neill system, so the old hands like Lambert and Moravcik seemed to be rejuvinated, as if OFM was pumping them full of monkey glands with their cornflakes. As for Petta, he seems to have undergone a transformation worthy of investigation by the Vatican's Miracle Section.
It was probably inevitable that the gathering momentum would eventually tail off; you can't have a 6:2 every week. But when it did O'Neill's team showed the mental toughness and tenacity to grab all three points when their predecessors would have settled for less, even when they weren't playing to their capabilities. The net result was the most impressive Celtic league points total in living memory and the rest of the SPL floundering miles away.
Now, there is a school of thought - if "thought" is the right word for it - which peddles the misconception that this season is some kind of temporary blip in the natural order of Rangers winning the league. Just as 1998 has been almost entirely erased from the collective consciousness thanks to the Orwellian propaganda of the Scottish press, so this season's triumph seems destined to be written off as a temporary glitch in Dick's Dynasty. Rangers, they argue, will be back next season stronger than ever having spent a fortune on new players... or not, as the case may be, since Advocaat and Murray can't seem to get their stories straight about that.
But the signs are there, for anyone who can be bothered to read them, that O'Neill's Celtic are about to embark on a period of sustained domestic dominance rather than settle for a flash in the pan one-off. Most of the key players in the side either have already signed long contracts or are about to, while, with the exception of Moravcik, none of them have reached the veteran stage yet. No doubt the squad will be augmented with some new faces, and if Dermot Desmond had any doubts about O'Neill's shrewdness in the transfer market - even when splashing out on relatively expensive players like Sutton or Lennon - they must surely have been allayed by now, but it's unlikely the manager will be battering down the door demanding huge sums of money which aren't there.
Maybe it's just us not wanting to get carried away again, but notions of European success next season still appear fanciful. Better to take care of business at home and consolidate with another league win. There was so little between Celtic and Bordeaux in this season's European cup that either team could have progressed to the next round. If Celtic are still involved in any European competition after Christmas (other than Jeux Sans Frontieres) it will be further signs of progress.
Meanwhile, to paraphrase Donald Sutherland's hippy tank driver character from the movie Kelly's Heroes, forget all the negative waves and just enjoy the party, wherever you happen to be. O'Neill's not going to Manchester, the players are all signing new contracts and there a few more on the way to join them. Relax.
We'll leave the last word to the Herald's Hugh MacDonald, reporting from the street party in the Garngad which followed the St.Mirren match; The ostentatious and unashamed joy of the 2001 championship win has a different cause that says something important about Scotland today. It is a world away from the tinny commercialism of a rabble-rousing public address system. It owes nothing to the gimmicky t-shirts with their mean-spirited messages. It has a healthy contempt for share prices and a disdain for the £30,000 a week salaries demanded by their playing heroes. Rather, the street parties in Royston, Croy Coatbridge and other places celebrate something deeper, something infinitely more meaningful. Celtic simply is in the blood. Football may routinely be dominated by the mechanics of business, but the passion for Celtic is fuelled by a shared tradition that is not sullied by commercial imperatives.
Same time next year?
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