19 Nov The curse of Barca!
WHERE were you three years ago? With some certainty I can state that if you are a Celtic fan you were attached to the ceiling waiting for family, friends or carer to prise you from your heightened vantage point as you reflected in the glory that was Celtic’s humping/tonking/slaughtering /humiliation/destruction/gubbing of Barcelona by the huge margin of two goals to one.
Those with Hoop dreams do not find it difficult to find an excuse to reflect on that marvellous night of November 7, 2012. The average Celtic fan was, after all, higher than John Belushi at Hogmanay.
But the speculation over the future of Adam Matthews at Sunderland provides further cause for a look back at that Champions League match and assess what happened to those heroes of recent yesteryear.
The sober news is that all have suffered, all have found that football can supply the downs as well as the extraordinary highs. This not to state there was a Curse of the Barcelona Battering. It is rather to illustrate just how football changes quickly and that footballers can be victims as well as stars.
The stories of the line-up that night bristle with drama further down the line.
Here is the selection: Fraser Forster (big money move, England call-up, calamitous injury from which he is still recovering); Adam Matthews (move to the English premiership, qualification for the Euro finals with Wales but jacket on a shoogly one at Sunderland); Efe Ambrose (more ups and downs than a big dipper and more bomb scares than London during the blitz); Kelvin Wilson (exchanged Champions League nights for shifts in the Championship with Nottingham Forest); Mikael Lustig (more injuries than AP McCoy and out for much longer); Joe Ledley (off to the EPL but a fringe player at Palace and may be pondering his next move); Charlie Mulgrew (another who has suffered severely from injury); Victor Wanyama (yup, a big injury at Southampton but he is recovering and is on the radar of bigger clubs); Kris Commons (more pouts than a Madonna video but he is still at Celtic, sometimes on the bench); Georgios Samaras (captain on the night signed for West Brom and got as much game time as a lame mascot, now on loan at Al-Hilal in the Middle East; Nicolás Ladislao Fedor Flores (a Venezuelan who is now at Rayo Vallecano and who is the stumper when people are asked to name the team).
But the drama extends to the sub. Tony Watt, then 18, came on that night to score a goal so spectacular, so assured that he was thought to be a Celtic fixture in the making, a possible international star. He is pursuing his career with Charlton after a series of soap operas in Belgium.
And what of the manager? After devising a strategy to confound the best team in Europe, almost certainly the world, Neil Lennon has a more humble yet demanding challenge. He has to keep Bolton Wanderers in the Championship.
As Jimmy Greaves would say: “It’s a funny old game.” Aye, but it’s not meant to be.