CELTIC will today look to score a few goals against Hamilton and end the day top of the Scottish Premiership table. Hibs are the early pacesetters after the first games were played yesterday, the Rangers having had an hour or two at the top after their 1-0 win over Aberdeen in the early kick-off.
St Johnstone suffered a Parkhead mauling in last year’s Flag Day in front of a packed, 60,000 capacity Celtic Park. Today the support will be missing but the expectation here at least but probably where you are too, is that Hamilton will suffer a similar fate today and leave Celtic Park putting this afternoon down to experience. Games don’t come any tougher than this one for the visitors and they are the great survivors of the Scottish Premiership. Everyone’s favourites for relegation, today they begin their seventh consecutive season in the top flight of Scottish football, something league leaders Hibs or even first out of the stalls the Rangers cannot claim.
💚🍀 Matchday! Flag Day! 🏳
The Champions are BACK! 🙌
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) August 2, 2020
There are various digital alternatives today. The season ticket holders – sold in record numbers this year even when we all knew that the season would begin Behind Closed Doors – will all use their Pass to Paradise to watch the game from home. Celtic TV viewers outside the UK and Ireland will enjoy the match in the usual way and there will be many more – tens of thousands maybe – watching on the illegal streams, which Niall J wrote about yesterday.
Then there will be the Sky Sports audience and many supporters deciding to go to the pub to watch the game among fellow Hoops supporters. There is something rather bizarre in that being allowed but zero supporters allowed into a huge arena like Celtic Park.
Other things will be different too because they’ll be digital. The Kano Foundation are holding their usual flag day bucket collection online and the money they usually receive on the first day of the season from the support allows so many youngsters to get their first ever trip to Paradise. You can check out the details below.
Last year, our Annual Bucket Collection raised an incredible £10,514.The sun was shining and the Kano Kids were singing.This year, it’s a little different.
Our Virtual Bucket Collection takes place TOMORROW, spread the word.
— The Kano Foundation (@KanoFoundation) August 1, 2020
The Celtic Foundation is encouraging everyone to wear green today and urge supporters to back the Football for Good Fund that has been running throughout the lockdown period.
You can even participate in the Paradise Windfall half-time draw today – full details HERE.
And there’s even a digital Matchday Programme which was delivered free to supporters last night. It’s well worth a look and is quite easy to read, published as it is by Reach, who are of course also the owners of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail and have worked with Celtic for a few decades now, despite the way those papers have acted. New season, old grudges eh? Lest we forget.
Dipping into the programme, for Celtic v Hamilton, here’s what Neil Lennon has to say in his Manager’s column.
“The opening game of the new season is always one that everyone looks forward to, and that will be the case this afternoon when we take on Hamilton Accies,” Lenny writes.
“These are, of course, unusual circumstances and while I would normally be welcoming you all to the stadium, today that welcome is extended to you wherever you will be reading this programme and getting ready to watch the game.
“Ideally, we would like to be having Flag Day in front of a sell-out crowd at Celtic Park, but current restrictions mean that football is resuming here in Scotland behind closed doors. That is obviously something we all hope is only for the short-term, and that you will all soon be back in the stadium and cheering us on,” the Celtic manager said.
“In the meantime, however, we have been preparing well this week for today’s game and our aim, of course, is to start the campaign with a win.
“Hamilton will come here with the same aim in mind, and we know from our previous meetings last season that Brian’s side are always very difficult opponents. Indeed, in the game here at Celtic Park back in December, we needed a very late Scott Brown goal to take all three points, so we are taking nothing for granted today.
“It’s also incredible to think that this will be our first competitive game in almost five months, when we beat St Mirren 5-0 here at Celtic Park, so to say that we’re all looking forward to it is probably an understatement.
“The players worked well during the lockdown and since returning to training, they’ve put a lot of hard work into their pre-season preparations in order to be ready for the challenges ahead, starting with today’s game against Hamilton.
“Our three matches in France, against top-quality opposition, were beneficial for us in so many ways, with the players able to challenge themselves against some really good sides. It’s fair to say that Paris Saint-Germain are one of Europe’s top sides, and I thought we acquitted ourselves well throughout the game.
“It was also important for us to get a taste of playing here at Celtic Park behind closed doors, and the games against Ross County and Hibernian were ideal in that regard, as well as giving the players more game-time.
“Today, we begin our bid to retain the league title that we have won for the past nine years, and we know just how important this season will be. However, as I have said many times, our approach is always to take it one game at a time. That has served us well in the past and I’m sure it will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.
“I want to thank all of you for your incredible support throughout these difficult times, and I hope we will all be together here at Celtic Park before too long. Stay safe, enjoy the game and let’s hope for a good start to the campaign.”
Check out your own digital programme for much more on today’s vital match against Hamilton.
Enjoy the game. Prediction? Celtic 5 Hamilton 0.