The relief is tangible. We are through despite the old Celtic trait of not being able to do things the easy way. If anyone wonders what makes Brendan Rodgers an exceptional manager, then it’s the organisational skills to come through difficult Champions League qualifiers with a centre back pairing of Ambrose and O’Connell last year and Ajer and Biton this term. Bear in mind the tension surrounding these games, which in many ways, can make or break our season. An extra bonus now is that there are no Thursday/Sunday fixtures, so disliked by the supporters.
Much was written last week when it was clear that Celtic would go through, courtesy of that marvellous 5-0 win at Parkhead. Some observers stated that it wasn’t a good thing that Celtic qualify, with the tremendous financial rewards it brings. And do you know what ? They are right – but only if you are a Rangers fan. I can feel their pain. I spent practically the entire 1990’s cursing the television if Rangers got through the qualifiers to give them further opportunity to lure the likes of Laudrup, Steven, Gascoigne and Boli to Ibrox.
But there were just as many times I howled with joy as such luminaries as Gothenburg, Levski Sofia and AEK Athens put them to the sword. It’s called local rivalry. But I can’t remember anyone, at that time, saying Rangers passport to CL riches at that time was a bad thing for the game. Funny that.
What I can’t comprehend is the same attitude when it comes from journalists. It’s not as if Scots’ football is bursting with teams making their mark in Europe. I desperately wanted Aberdeen and Saint Johnstone to do well this year bit it wasn’t to be, which is hugely disappointing. Also, the Scotland national team hasn’t qualified for a major tournament for twenty years so this makes club success in Europe all the more vital.
Celtic’s qualification marks the fourth time in the previous six seasons that the Celts have made the group stages of Europe’s premier tournament which is a remarkable record given the fierce competition involved to qualify from the play offs. There are also, 365,000 good reasons for every other SPFL team to be glad of Celtic’s qualification at a time when finances are so desperately tight within the game.
As autumn passes into winter we can look forward to those dark nights under the floodlights (enjoying that great tune in the process before each game) whilst watching some of the continent’s best players. This is fantastic news for Scottish football and for the city of Glasgow in general. There is great prestige in playing these games and Glasgow will benefit hugely, in many ways, from the foreign visitors who will descend upon our great city.
It’s still a pity that Celtic’s achievement cannot be celebrated by certain elements of the media. Brendan Rodgers, Scott Brown and the Bhoys deserve far better.
Anyway, onwards to the draw…