One of the first things that attracted me to the Celtic support as a young lad was a simple thing in the whole scheme of things. When Celtic conceded a goal there was an almost immediate build-up of positivity towards the team.
By the time the ball had been collected and returned to the centre circle and the Hoops kicked off to restart, the volume of support for the team had risen again, to the point it was even louder than when the sides had kicked off at the start of the match.
As a youngster deflated at the opposition scoring against my heroes I found that impressive. It hooked me in. Since then I’ve worked all over the UK and I’ve attended the games of many football clubs, believe me that reaction to a concession of a goal may be normal at Celtic, it isn’t in other football grounds.
Down south in particular I found teams would restart games where they’d conceded first to murmurings of discontent, if not full on negativity. It is something that sets Celtic apart and something almost unique.
There is something else I love about the Celtic support. The respect they show for other sides even when they themselves are hurting.
Take the Scottish Cup defeat to Division 1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle in February 2000. Off the pitch Celtic were a mess. We were realising that John Barnes had lost the dressing room. From a football perspective we were very much in a nosedive and with certain players even refusing to play the second half that night, it was clear the entire season was being written off at the hands of a team from the Highlands. At that stage at least, not an area of the country renowned for top level football clubs. It was an embarrassing time pure and simple.
Yet at the final whistle and as the Inverness players and supporters celebrated, many around me in the Celtic support and across the stadium took the time to applaud that team from the Highlands. Recognising their endeavours, understanding for many of the players on the pitch, some employed on a part-time basis that was the best moment of their football lives. A great deal of the Celtic support put aside that hurt for just a moment and simply showed they appreciated what the opposition had pulled off by winning at Celtic Park.
I’d already spent over a year living in Inverness sometime previously when my dad took a job in the City. I had been as a youngster to watch Inverness Caledonian before the merger with local rivals Thistle. They were led in midfield then as they were on that fateful night by current Celt Ryan’s father and ex-Celt himself, Charlie Christie. I’d played football for their boys’ team. I was always going to applaud that team off the pitch, I knew the enormity of it, but not everyone had such a connection to the opposition. The rest of the Celtic support that night simply showed an appreciation for the opposition’s efforts. Now that is, cough, sporting integrity.
The first time I had witnessed this from the Celtic support was in the European Cup Winners Cup tie against PSG in the second round, second leg at Celtic Park in November 1995.
PSG went on to win the trophy by beating Rapid Vienna 1-0 in the final in Brussels. Celtic had managed a very credible result in the first leg in the Parc de Princes in Paris. They lost by a single goal, so hope was high that with a Celtic support behind them that the Bhoys could progress. We hadn’t accounted for the brilliance of one player in particular and a team performance from the opposition that took the breath away.
PSG won 3-0, in truth the match was sewn up in the first half and the scoreline could have been far more devastating.
1995 November 2 Celtic Glasgow Scotland 0 Paris St Germain France 3 Cup Winners Cup
If interested in international matches (usually from 80s-90s), you can also check my blog https://soccernostalgia.blogspot.com/ I not only provide lineups/goa…
Youri Djorkaeff ran the show setting up two of the three goals. PSG’s number six was everywhere, dropping deep and starting play and linking with PSG’s Patrice Loko at the other end of the pitch. He was perpetual motion and he made a great impression on the night.
Loko got the headlines with two of the goals but it was a fine team performance from PSG and Djorkaeff was the orchestrator. Celtic can take some credit from the game, they never capitulated and should have scored at least once, that however made the PSG performance stand out all the more.
And then at the end of the game the Celtic support showed that they could more than just recognise the beautiful football they witnessed they would almost celebrate it. PSG left the field to a standing ovation. A European defeat set aside and an admiration for opponent, exhibited in cheers and applause. I’m not sure there are too many football grounds where such a thing would happen.
Celtic supporters were on the end of worldwide admiration in Lisbon in 1967. As the stifling tactics of Cattenaccio was defeated, real football fans appreciated the pure beautiful inventive football of Jock Stein’s side, be it from our Portuguese hosts or the admiration Celtic received in the hours, days, weeks and months that followed.
On that night in Glasgow against PSG, the Celtic support returned the favour. They saw football played the way it should be and they exhibited their appreciation.
Youri Djorkaeff blew me away that night, it was and remains one of my favourite performances of any player that has graced the Parkhead turf, however the response from the Celtic support left me talking about that for days afterwards, even more so than the football I had witnessed.
Even now when someone talks of Djorkaeff I tell them of that performance and I always mention our amazing support in much the same breath.
Some wonderful players and teams have walked through Parkhead’s gates, not all of them have worn the Hoops. They have however, all been appreciated. It is something that sets Celtic supporters apart.
Another example that is worth mentioning is the Liverpool supporters in their famous Kop end at Anfield who have ever since Gordon Banks came out in the first league match at Anfield when Leicester City were the visitors, received a huge standing ovation from the Kop. The tradition of applauding the opposing goalkeeper as he made his way to the goal in front of the Kop has been maintained to this day and is a pretty special characteristic of the Liverpool support.
“Anfield’s Kop crowd applauds opposing goalkeepers as they take up their place in goal, usually for the second half. We spoke to three Liverpool FC historians to get their views on when the tradition started,” This is Anfield stated. Here’s their video on this…
Nice to think that Celtic, Liverpool and indeed PSG will all be worthy Champions this season in Scotland, England and France.
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