JIM CRAIG was at Celtic Park yesterday doing some promotional work ahead of Saturday other Cup Final – the Guinness PRO14 rugby final between Glasgow Warriors and Ireland side Leinster.
The Lisbon Lion’s own son represented Scotland at rugby but inevitably the conversation in Paradise turned to Celtic and specifically who should get the manager’s job. Jim, was crucial of the club’s European record in recent years and recalls fondly the impression that Neil Lennon made in the Champions League in his first term as Celtic manager, the highlight of course being that memorable win over Barcelona.
“If he (Lenny) can do it once he can do it again. He seems to me to be a guy you could allow to continue with what he has done so far,” Craig told the assembled media at Paradise, as reported by Evening Times.
For Jim Craig, success in Europe should be the benchmark and of course today is the Anniversary of that emotional night in Seville when Celtic proved themselves to be Jose Mourinho’s toughest opponents of his career.
“A treble treble is a great feat, but there is nothing bigger than a European Cup or a Champions League success,” the Lisbon Lion said.
“A criticism you could have of this team is that, in European terms, they have been disappointing. That has to change. That is the thing this manager, whoever it is, whoever comes in, has to do. He has to enjoy success in Europe.
“We got a lot of praise for winning, but the year before we reached the semi-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup, in ’69 we were in the quarter-final of the European Cup, in ’70 we reached the final of the European Cup, in ’72 we reached the semi-final of the European Cup and in ’74 we got to the semi-final of the European Cup. It was there all the time. There was a progression of success.
“That is what the current team have to aim for. It is fine to have domestic success and it keeps the fans happy, but if you really want to stamp your authority you have to do well in the Champions League.”
Times have changed though and perhaps the core group within the current Celtic squad need to be cut a little slack here. We made a point on Sunday morning, comparing the two months break that the Lisbon Lions enjoyed in the summer of 1967 to the fortnight that the likes of Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Kristoffer Ajer will get off this summer – and it has been the same for the past THREE years.
That’s why the likes of Kieran Tierney and Tom Rogic are struggling. Celtic play in the other Cup Final on Saturday then there are international games (Scotland play Cyprus at Hampden and Belgium away in the Euros) before reporting back in 25 June for pre-season training, a trip to Austrian for the training camp, three friendlies in the Alpine region and then straight into the Champions League qualifiers at the start of July.
In contrast the Lions played in the Alfredo Di Stefano Testimonial on 7 June 1967 to conclude that wonderful season. Their first match back after a long summer break was a friendly against Tottenham at Hampden on 5 August. Here’s the image we used to illustrate the point – Big Tam and Wispy gone fishing in Miami…and as usual the scooped a big trophy!