DEBUT DAYS – RAMON VEGA

CELTIC 6-0 ABERDEEN 16 DECEMBER 2000

Martin O’Neill arrived as Celtic manager from Leicester City in the summer of 2000 and made an immediate impression. His new charges started the season in magnificent form but a 5-1 setback against Rangers at Ibrox in November had given O’Neill enough concern to go on the hunt for new faces.

In early December O’Neill had purchased Neil Lennon from Leicester for a huge £5.7M outlay and one week later he announced the loan signing of Ramon Vega from Tottenham Hotspur until the end of the season. The Celtic boss was obviously not satisfied with his defence and Vega was assured of going straight into the first team.

Ramon had a cosmopolitan background. He was born near Zurich to Spanish parents and had four elder siblings who had all been born in Madrid. He had made an early impression with Grasshoppers Zurich before moving to Cagliari in Italy and then earned a big money move to Spurs. Things hadn’t worked out well at White Hart Lane and, with a broken ankle having set back his progress, he was now out of favour and found his way north to Celtic.

The news of Vega leaving Spurs was well received by Spurs’ fans. On the Friday before this match when the move was announced, Tottenham fans took to the new radio station, Talksport, to cast doubt on his abilities as a defender. The irony was that Celtic now offered him a bigger stage than Spurs could give him as a massive 60,013 spectators turned out to watch the proceedings, a bigger attendance than any EPL club could muster for that entire season.

Vega hadn’t even enjoyed a training  session with his new team mates before being thrust into the Celtic side. Aberdeen came south under their new boss, Ebbe Skovdahl, who was having a hard time acclimatising to the Scottish game, which meant that Celtic were hot favourites.

First impressions of Vega were good and at 6′ 3” he cut an impressive figure in his new green and white colours and he showed he was also mobile as well as powerful. In 4 minutes Henrik Larsson scored the opener after a fine run and cross from Bobby Petta and this goal settled Celtic. In 19 minutes Vega had himself a dream debut when he scored after a cross from Alan Thompson found him free in the area and the big Swiss defender wasted no time in slotting the ball away.

Larsson was a man playing at the peak of his powers and in the second half he completed his hat trick, the first a cool finish when clear on goal and the second a magnificent rising volley. At this point Aberdeen could only consider damage limitation as the Celtic crowd bayed for more goals.

Late in the game Vega was delighted to score his own second goal as he rose to powerfully head home a corner from Neil Lennon. Young substitute Jamie Smith then rounded the scoring off at six when Lennon sent him clear for him to finish with a low shot.

It had been a fine debut from Ramon Vega with his two goals but just as impressive was his defensive play in a back three with Johan Mjallby and Joos Valgaeren. Seldom has a Celtic defence looked more effective or more intimidating to opposition attackers. The growing Henrik Larsson fan club, just for once, had to take second prize to Vega as he was given the man of the match award in recognition for his fine efforts on the day.

Ramon Vega went on to enjoy a short but very successful Celtic career and by the end of the season he had helped Celtic to win their first treble since 1969. It remains a great pity he did not extend his stay.

 

 

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