Celtic’s Nightmare in Batumi

Back in 1995 Celtic embarked on a trip to the back and beyond when they travelled to Batumi Georgia to take on Dynamo Batumi in the Cup Winners Cup.

Georgia had not long gained its independence from the disintegrating USSR and was still reeling from several decades of conflict and was very much still in the midst of drastic poverty.

The trip was something of an eye opener for the Celtic players, managers and officials who weren’t ready for the experience they were about to face.

Batumi which is just 20 miles from the Turkish border is apparently now a thriving city, but back then it was an entirely different place as the players from the Celtic squad of 1995 who made the trip will tell you.

Several of those players were on record at the time as saying they couldn’t sleep on their beds due to the state of the bedding, so had to sleep with their tracksuits on, in the dire accommodation they were based in.

Accommodation that was infested with insects while shelling could be heard in the backdrop of the surrounding mountains amidst cattle walking freely along the streets.

Not the lavish surroundings that professional footballers had become accustomed to. Five star accommodation it certainly wasn’t.

The Scottish media pack were also held up exiting the city, and not allowed to leave unless they handed over a ‘bung.’ Fortunately for them they did just that, but it wouldn’t have been the worst thing if they were kept from leaving!

As for the game itself, the players were glad to enter the ground which was better in the way of facilities.

This was our first venture in Europe under the guidance of Tommy Burns and we all expected a result against a side who were a completely unknown entity to anyone outside of Georgia.

Unfortunately we lost an early goal to the Georgians as Dynamo went 1-0 up much to the delight of the packed hostile crowd in the ramshackle old stadium.

Andy Thom though levelled things up as he equalised just over 10 minutes later, before Simon Donnelly fired us into the lead a few minutes from the half time interval.

Batumi roared on by the hostile home crowd equalised twenty minutes into the second half and then went on the search for a famous winner.

Just when it looked like the game would end in a stalemate Andy Thom struck again with just three minutes remaining to clinch a 3-2 victory. Our first away victory in Europe in nine long years.

The players had done the job and were just looking forward to be heading back to Glasgow and the comforts of their own homes, a world away from their temporary living conditions. On the pitch seemed to be just as bad for Peter Grant who was spat on by one of the Batumi players.

A win that set them up nicely for the return leg in the comfort of Celtic Park. A game that ended in a comfortable 4-0 victory for the hoops as they advanced to the next round.

Just an Ordinary Bhoy

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About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.

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