David Potter’s mixed memories of Celtic playing Ross County in the League Cup

Forgive me if I did not leap about my living room with ecstatic joy when I saw the League Cup draw with the news that Celtic will visit Dingwall at the end of August in the Scottish League Cup. It will be the second time that we will visit Dingwall in August, for we are also there in the League on 6 August.

First of all, let me say that it is no penance to visit the charming town of Dingwall with friendly people and a football club whose achievements can put those of many other football teams to shame. A population of less than 10,000 can produce and support a team that frankly puts teams like Raith Rovers, Dunfermline Athletic, Dundee and Queen of the South to shame. A look at Ross County and what they have done shows that there is no real excuse. It is all about good stewardship.

That said, the League Cup has one or two bad memories as far as Celtic are concerned. But there was a good one as well, and that was on 21 September 2011 at Victoria Park, Dingwall when Celtic won 2-0 thanks to a Gary Hooper tap in and then an own goal. County fought well, but it was a pleasant drive down the A9 that night. You can see the goals in this STV News video via You Tube…

But then oh dear, the semi-final at Hampden on 31 January 2016! It was a dreadful experience as we went down 1-3 after Gary Mackay-Steven had scored in the first minute!

The game turned on a harsh draconian decision by Craig Thomson when Efe Ambrose was adjudged to have fouled Alex Schalk in the penalty box. A penalty kick and a red card was the outcome and Celtic never recovered. The penalty was converted and Ross County scored twice in the second half. Then, as often happens in life, a chance was given to the drowning man to save himself – but he could not or would not take it.

Celtic were given a penalty which looked even less like the penalty that the luckless Efe had given away – but Leigh Griffiths missed it.

It was a terrible day, and the beginning of the end for Ronny Deila. The team would eventually win the League, but the support were already muttering about some awful performances in Europe and the end for Ronny came when he lost a penalty shoot-out against Rangers in the semi-final of the other trophy, the Scottish Cup.

But Ross County went on to win the League Cup that year, beating Hibs, those perpetual self-destructive losers of trophies, in the final.

And then we come to the events of 29 November 2020 when Ross County came to Parkhead in the League Cup. It was a 0-2 defeat, and it was this game that, I feel, finally convinced us that there was no way back for Neil Lennon and the men whose hearts were so obviously not in it.

The times were abnormal and if ever any proof was needed of Jock Stein’s dictum that “Football, without fans, is nothing”, here it was, but at the same time there was no real excuse for the men who were letting the fans down in their time of need. The fans were maybe not physically present in the stadium, but the emotions were just the same and the passions just as strong. And oh! How we needed something to cheer us up!

Up to the Ross County game, there was always the feeling that things would get better, that the defence would learn how to defend set pieces and that the sluggish forwards would become energised, but that Ross County defeat, awful as it was, meant that Celtic had lost a domestic trophy for the first time since 2016. In the same way that it was Ross County who precipitated the downfall of Ronny Deila in 2016, so too did the men from Dingwall play their part in bringing about the demise of Neil Lennon amidst all the horrors of that awful winter of 2020/2021.

David Potter

David Potter’s new book, Willie Fernie – Putting on the Style is featured in the new edition of the Celtic View which is out now and available from the Celtic Stores. You can also pick up the Willie Fernie book there too or order direct from Celtic Star Books, link below…

About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

Comments are closed.