Strange Things Happen at Celtic Park

8 Nov

The November night was cold with more than a hint of damp. Yet that did not deter the thousands cramming into the east end of Glasgow to watch the spectacle of 22 men kick a ball about.

If you think about it logically, who would go out on a cold damp night — leaving the warmth and coziness of your own home to watch others knock a sphere around in the rain? Yet come they did.

I was with my 12 year old son — someone whom I had told repeatedly “Strange things happen at Celtic Park”. Yet despite the many tellings, he continued with that look in his eyes which more than hinted at doubt in that statement– in truth his look said “I simply don’t believe you– but you’re my dad so……….”.

Of course the opposition were favourites. They had a team which contained the mass ranks of world superstardom in footballing terms. Recent winners of the Champions league. Always in and around the mix at the conclusion of the tournament and always a tip to win outright, and here they were…… at Celtic Park.

They retained possession, knocked the ball around, prodded and probed towards the Celtic Goal, yet they did not manage to force the ball in the net.

Then came the moment.

I often wonder if other people get those moments– that split second when you know– when you feel something within, that comes over you and almost slows everything down to super slow motion.

I turned to the twelve year old and said ” Stand on your seat , and hold your scarf in the air- we are going to score!” Yet again he looked at me in disbelief. 

” The People behind me will be annoyed!”

” No they won’t- they will be going mental in a moment”

” They will be mad!”

“If you want to see the goal, stand on your seat- if not just be ready for the eruption because it is coming”

Again he looked– unsure– wanting to believe but not daring to actually believe………

And within ten seconds or less Shunske Nakamura sent the ball in a super slow mo bending, curling arc which went up, round and down into the top right hand corner of the net!

My twelve year old looked– wide mouthed– smiling– no laughing– yet still disbelieving as all around him went berserk.

400 Miles away a friend of mine was in a Maternity ward with his wife. She was in labour after they had spent years of trying to have a child without success. There was no soothing music to calm the mood. Instead, the live match commentary was on 5 live. Things were getting to the business end when the free kick was awarded and as Nakamura placed the ball, their new arrival announced she was ready to make her debut into this world…. it was time to switch the radio off just as the wee man was about to step forward with his left foot. Off went the radio– it wasn’t needed really– because something– some unknown force– had already told all in that Maternity room that it was a goal.

Radio off, Baby delivered… and  a feeling… followed by a comment…. ” Bet you Celtic will have scored”.

Strange things happen at Celtic Park.

Yet, let’s say, dear reader, that you do not believe me- that you are sitting in a chair in some part of this world and that you have come upon this internet page by sheer accident and you have started to read. You are disbelieving, yet slightly intrigued.

Well I invite you to be an anorak– a geek– an internet sleuth using all the tools available from the web to either check facts or calculate odds or whatever.

See if you can find another football club where the fans built a stadium 125 years ago where they would have no idea who would play for their team and indeed their club fielded their very first team with a selection of borrowed players!

Can you imagine witnessing the building of that stadium with a non footballing friend?

“What are they doing?”

“Building a football stadium.”

“What for?”

“A new team”

“Who’ll be in it?”

“Don’t know!”

“Do they know?”



“They don’t know who will play– they only know that… well the team will be called Celtic!”

“…but they don’t know who will play? Seems a big stadium to be building when  you don’t have a team?”

” They believe people will come… it’s for charity!”

“Are they mad? Why not build a pitch or a wee stadium and grow from there?”

“They believe they will attract crowds”

“WHO? who is or are they? THEY have no players!” So how are THEY going to get a crowd? Magic………?”

“They just believe a crowd will come…..”

and the crowds came… and came…. and came.

Strange things happen at Celtic Park.

I could write forever on the strange  “coincidences” that have happened to people and teams at Celtic Park– centre Halves with dodgy knees who turn out to be great managers– players spotted in bounce games in a public park— players who have been persuaded to turn up and who say that they “feel” something strange with this club… there are legions of stories that are just…… odd and in many ways inexplicable. A series of let’s say strange coincidences …. or something.

Celtic Football Club is undoubtedly a romantic club. The founding fathers and volunteers really did build a field of dreams and from the very outset the odd and inexplicable would follow. Take the first kick off. Borrowed centre forward Johnny Madden kicks off that very first game for Celtic on 28th May 1888 while on loan from Dumbarton. He works in the shipyards by day and supplements his income with football. He resists all attempts to persuade him to sign for Celtic on a permanent basis until late 1889 and stays for a number of years. Celtic tour Europe in 1905– and in the same year Madden- who is now retired from playing– just happens to be appointed manager of Slavia Prague and stays as manager for 30 years or so. He becomes the grandfather of all Czech football– known as Dudek— and has a major influence on continental football for decades.

Go on– call the bookies, do a calculation– what are the odds of a Dumbarton Shipyard worker in the early part of the century making such a transformation… and all because he played at Celtic Park.

Strange things happen at Celtic Park

I won’t go over the list of great teams who have come to the east end of Glasgow and found themselves leaving with a result that was perhaps not expected. 

What I will say is that last night Marca– the Spanish footballing magazine ran a brief artcile on the Celtic v Barcelona match and showed a picture of the pre match display under the heading “Celtic’s 12th Man”

The opening line of the article reads as follows:

“There is perhaps no greater home pitch advantage in all of football than a Celtic home match at Celtic Park as Barcelona learned the hard way in their Wednesday night Champions League defeat 2-1.”

I had a problem before last night’s match in that I was short of a ticket.

You see yesterday that 12 year old turned 18 and he now has his own season ticket. However, he has two brothers 16 and 13– both of whom wanted to go to the game and somehow between myself and Celtic we had contrived to mess up the tickets with the result that we could not all go.

My youngest son was desperate to go and so I had resigned myself to driving them to the stadium, seeing the boys in and then heading back to the car where yours truly would listen on the radio.

However, I avoided that fate thanks to Napoleon! Now Napoleon is the twitter moniker for a fellow called Iain Tarbet whom I had never met until last night. He had contacted me and advised that he had a spare ticket which allowed me to get into the ground with my sons– so I am greatly indebted to Napoleon!

As we walked to the ground I met someone I know and his son, and to be honest I had a jaunt in my step. I had that “feeling”.

“What do think Danny?” Says I ” Feeling confident?”

” No not really– I don’t think we will get much out of this. I would love to think so but doubt it!”

” How about you, Andrew. What do you think?”

” Can’t see it I’m afraid– what about you?”

” Well” says I ” I am the eternal optimist. Stranger things have happened at Celtic Park!”

and at that point we parted company.

My two oldest boys went to their seats and I sat with my 13 year old who was familiar with all the Barcelona players from endless hours on FIFA.

Xavi was the little generalissimo as Barca probed and probed, but when Celtic got a corner in the first half– there was that feeling again– This is a goal– and so it proved.

When Young Tony Watt calmly slotted away the second the place went berserk once again and the magnificent Messi’s late consolation only put the result in doubt for a few brief seconds. Me and my boy beside me… and everyone else in the ground were buzzing!

Many reports will say that Celtic played with Spirit. I believe they are wrong. Celtic on certain nights do not play with Spirit… they play with SPIRITS…. plural.

I genuinely believe that there are times at Celtic Park where the spirits of the past are present. The Maleys, McGrorys, Gallaghers, Delaneys, Doyles, McNairs, McDonalds Tullys, Thomsons, Johnstones Murdochs and hundreds of thousands of unknown others from all of those 125 years are in the ether. You can feel it– more importantly the players can feel it– the spirit of Celtic past come to help the spirit of Celtic present…. and future. It is a magical feeling. An inexplicable feeling.

As the crowd spilled out afterwards I went to collect the two older boys;

My sixteen year old was sporting a huge grin– as much laughing at the daft smile on my face as anything else. As for my newly 18 year old son?

Well, I greeted him with a big smile and said ” Happy Birthday Declan” before I noticed he was on his mobile arranging to meet his pals and go out in celebration.

I caught just a short part of his conversation on the phone… ” Yes the atmosphere was amazing.. it was mental at the goals and the end… yes I know… Barcelona, Messi and all…… yes… but strange things happen at Celtic Park– that is just the way it is!”

It seems that he no longer has doubt…………….. I wonder why! 



14 Responses to “Strange Things Happen at Celtic Park”

  1. ciardom November 8, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    As a 38 year old whose love of Celtic was given to me by my late grandfather. He took me home & away in the 70s & 80s till I was old enough to go myself. We would go to the jungle he would stand at the same spot each week. I would go behind each goal to get as good a view as possible of Celtics goals

    Only conditions were that I came back at half time for a jam sandwich & bovril he had made for me beforehand and that I was back 5 mins before the end of the game. We travelled all over on the Irvines of Law double decker and I loved it.

    I was in madrid, amsterdam, vienna to name a few destinations watching Celtic. Celtic are a club that was built on the same values of my home life. Love & respect where not mere words, they were ingrained as part & parcel of who I am. Just like Celtic.

    P.S. My grandfather was blind from shrapnel to the eye from WW2. Yet he wanted to be in that crowd and felt it was important to pass it onto me, his fatherless grandson, who now has the honour of doing that with his own kids.

    RIP John McK

  2. Gary Doyle November 8, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Had tears in my eyes at the end of that, brilliant read, my boy is 2 & im already looking forward to bringing him to paradise. You are a lucky bhoy to have witnessed that with your sons no less .HH

    • Steve Fairlie November 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

      I had tears in my eyes as well, Gary.
      Moreso when I read ciardom’s story above.

      It’s great to be a Tim.

  3. spurtle November 8, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Reblogged this on spurtle and commented:
    “I often wonder if other people get those moments– that split second when you know– when you feel something within, that comes over you and almost slows everything down to super slow motion.”
    Yes! With open minds, strange things happen in football, and in life 🙂

  4. internetbampot November 8, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Reblogged this on internetbampot.

  5. Palacio67 November 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Great post BRTH. Although I was a little subdued at Celtic’s second goal, the look on my elder brothers face and my son as we bounced about in celebration will stay with me forever.
    I remember going to Seville and my son ( About 8 ) at the time who knew the sacrifice and cost of the trip asked me ” why do you go away to follow Celtic and they never win?”.
    Last night at the final whistle I could see the tear in his eye, and that finally he already knew the answer to that question. .
    Glasgow Celtic, more than just a Club

  6. Grant James (@mcgeech4n) November 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Was watching the game in a pub with some friends and got strange looks when at the awarding of our first corner I sat my pint on the bar. What are you doing that for? one of them asked me, I replied that I didnt want to spill my pint when we scored, 30 seconds later once everyone had stopped jumping about and screaming I calmy lifted my pint up and carried on.

  7. Andy9 (@RememberSeville) November 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Wonderful……..We are indeed a very special club!!! So very Proud Hail Hail

  8. Ian Lynchahon November 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    When I was a young man I would take my youngest brother to see Celtic play the likes of Red Star, FC Basle etc. Last night My son was meant to come to the game with me but unfortunately he hurt his back and had to call off at the last moment. I called my brother who said he could come. We had great seats and of course looked on in awe to see the pre match celebration for 125 great years. Like you we knew strange thing happen at Celtic Park. We used to stand in the Celtic End with him placed for safety in front of a barrier. Last night we were in section 103 the old Jungle. We watched the teams come out, Could not hear the Champions League theme as it was drowned out by the noise from the Celtic fans. We watched as Barca played their mesmerising football with some disquiet but knew as long as they did not score we were still in the match. Then came one of those moments you spoke of. One of those inexplicable feelings!! The corner came in, Wanyama soared above all and me and my brother both knew we would score as both at the same time got on our feet. The second half came with the inevitable Barca attacks. We defended strong but some of our players were getting tired. I had been saying for a while we should bring on Tony Watt. Give Barca something to worry about. Then it came again. That special thing that happens at celtic. The youngster beats his marker to the ball and fires home past the Barca keeper. The memories and rections of those other great nights at Celtic Park on European nights were again played out. We were back in those heady days of Celtic in Europe. There is a Magic In The Air on those special nights watching Celtic.

  9. MrB November 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Great article and you mention two of my favourite moments as a Celtic fan….Nakamuras free kick was a beautifully crafted piece of skill……last night moved emotions to a new level for me. Why? I took my Barcelona/Messi mad 5 year old daughter to Celtic Park and this morning when she woke ‘Can’t believe we beat them Dad’…strange things happen at Celtic Park indeed.

  10. leabrannagh November 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    Incredible night and I am sure I know Napoleon.
    Keep em coming BRTH.

  11. hughpurcell2012 November 8, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    I have been following Celtic for 45+ years and I concur with that ‘feeling’; like a ‘sixth sense’ if you will! Without a shadow of a doubt, 60 000 people upon entering Paradise, all doubt disappeared. I have never known an atmosphere like it in all the years I have followed Celtic. It was that special. Senor Xavi, a World Cup winner et al against a supposedly weakened Celtic team mattered not a jot; against all the odds (evidence) I just knew we were going to win. I too wanted Tony Watt to participate as I simply knew he would score.
    \strange things continually happen at Celtic Park

  12. Vandalgrease November 10, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Simply magic…

  13. Paul James Kell January 8, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    I’ve had it many times at Celtic Park-Shaun Maloney v Rangers,hits a shot from way out,I knew it was in from the moment it left his boot ! Nakamura v Man.U., Van Hesselinks last minute winner v Rangers-I knew it was coming.Took my son to his first Celtic/Rangers game (when we won 3-0 & the whole stadium did The Huddle),he just turned & said “You were right dad” !!!

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