Early Doors

Watt a night for Celtic

Early Doors

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Sometimes it is extremely difficult to be cynical. Early Doors, never one to be remotely sarcastic or flippant, found itself utterly entranced by the sheer audacity of Celtic's historic Champions League victory over Barcelona.

It is almost impossible for fickle pundits and commentators to not sound entirely patronising when reflecting upon a win that saw the 'plucky' Scottish side defeat the fabled superstars of Barcelona. How many different ways can a team be described as variations of brave, valiant, doughty, dogged or gutsy without the terms sounding lazy and demeaning? Still, Celtic deserve ever bit of credit they receive, having led Tito Vilanova's side for no less than 96 minutes over the course of their two meetings.

He may not be treated to the same fervent acclaim as certain Premier League stars when making their name on the big stage, but 18-year-old Tony Watt, on as a substitute for his Champions League debut, will now take his place in Celtic folklore after what was just his 11th game for the Glasgow club.

Watt, a £50,000 signing from Airdrie, raced through on goal and lashed an emphatic finish beyond Victor Valdes to send the Celtic supporters into delirium for the second time in a famous evening, before snogging the badge and running around like Alex Song a headless chicken.

ED could be the 532nd journalist to describe it as 'Roy of the Rovers stuff', but it won't. Instead, over to Watt himself: "It's probably the best moment of my life, I'll look back at it when I'm older and think, 'We've just beaten Barcelona in the Champions League' — there's nothing better."

A day after Celtic officially recognised the 125th anniversary of their foundation, the club produced arguably their greatest win since beating Internazionale 2-1 to lift the European Cup in 1967 - it even brought grown men (well, Rod Stewart) to floods of tears.

The occasion - marked by white flags with the wording "Celtic 125" across the North Stand to represent club's formation on November 6, 1887 - proved to be all too much for long-time Celtic supporter Stewart to handle and, after the final whistle blew, he broke down with joy in the stands.

The magnitude of the victory ensured that this was an anniversary no one, even after a few cans of Tennent's Super and a night at the football, could possibly forget.

Few expected Celtic to triumph against the 2009 and 2011 Champions League winners however, and indeed, it was the first defeat the Spanish side had suffered this season in either La Liga or European football - one which was met, admirably, by a Tweet from the club account which read: "Congratulations to @celticfc for well-earned victory a day after their 125-year anniversary".

As Alan Hansen can often be heard saying, 'the first goal is more important than anything else' - perhaps, in the world - and Vilanova was later left to rue the fact that his side had not got themselves on the scoresheet before their hosts - an honour that was seized by Kenyan power-midfielder Victor Wanyama.

Wanyama, for whom a move to the Premier League appears imminent, played with distinction once more in front of scouts from Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Barnet. The 21-year-old will surely become a regular presence in the competition.

Celtic are now on the verge of the last 16, and will qualify if they overcome Benfica in Lisbon. The significance of the fact that Lennon's side have almost secured their progression might as well have been lost on the jubilant fans who did not wish to look beyond one of the greatest nights in their club's history.

Georgios Samaras, who put his hair-straighteners down just in time to give his side a stirring two-word team talk in the tunnel before the kick-off, wore the armband in what was a depleted Celtic side, to make the result all the more remarkable.

Barca may well have maintained a whopping 84 per cent of possession, but until Lionel Messi's goal in the first minute of stoppage time - and belated dummy celebration - the Catalan giants had nothing to show for their dominance, and the seemingly inevitable comeback never fully arrived.

There will, of course, be those who saw the result as lucky - but those same people only need to see the kick-up-the-backside Song gave Miku when already on a booking, then Javier Mascherano's cynical and jealous attempt to rip the badge off Watt's now hugely valuable jersey when the last man.

Celtic received justified praise for their [insert patronising adjective here] display in the Camp Nou a fortnight ago, where it took an stoppage-time Jordi Alba goal to secure Barcelona's 100th Champions League win, but at Celtic Park they were rewarded with a result to match their inspired efforts.

Nights like this are not easily forgotten.


If ever an historic, morale-boosting result were needed for Scottish football, it was last evening. Just hours before Celtic's glorious triumph, Hearts effectively told their fans, 'give us your money, otherwise we will go bust'.

In a typically bizarre statement from the club owned by Roman 'don't tell me how to run my football club' Romanov, the following line set the tone: "This isn't a bluff. This isn't scaremongering. This is reality." It sounded like a clip from the trailer of a desperately shoddy Morgan Spurlock documentary.

"Without your help now, we could be entering the final days of the club's existence. There are limited options for the Board of Directors to take to avoid the catastrophic consequences that a funding shortfall would mean for the club."

While the above is just an excerpt of the harrowing statement (which, absurdly, was buried below two other fairly inconsequential stories on the club's website), perhaps the most striking aspect was the 'four-point plan' which followed. Four points, in the sense that one point was repeated three times to tally it up to a figure that suggested research was behind it.

Hearts urged fans to "invest in the share issue!" and buy tickets for their forthcoming series of matches, warning that they "must fill the stadium for every game from now on to have any chance of avoiding future financial consequences".

The four-point plan really just seemed to involve investing in shares, and buying shed loads of tickets to "every game". Not much to ask, then, really.

And that's your weekly round-up of Scottish football. More next week.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: Having a goalkeeper smash  the ball into you and seeing it dribble into the net gives any striker licence to come out and talk disdainfully about the rest of the team's performance despite a victory, no? Fernando Torres: "We know we must do much better. We know we have to improve. This kind of situation cannot happen again because, especially in the Champions League, at times like these you can be out. We were a bit lucky - I think maybe the draw was the more fair result."

FOREIGN VIEW: Didier Drogba's commitment to Chinese football knows no bounds. After persistent posturing from his representatives and links to every top club in Europe once more, Drogba has insisted that he wishes to continue with his reported £200,000-a-week deal in China. "I hope next season I can start again from the beginning with [Shanghai] Shenhua," he said, before explaining that the club's sluggish start to the season was due to his lack of sharpness. "Because I joined relatively late, I didn't prepare with the team early in the season, so our results were not very good." So, where will he be in January?

COMING UP: And so to the Europa League. Liverpool travel to Anzhi Makhachkala for an early 17:00 kick-off, before Newcastle visit Club Brugge (18:00) and Tottenham host Maribor (20:05). Jan Molby will file his latest blog around lunchtime, as will Scottish football expert Desmond Kane; and we will bring you the latest Eurovisions feature from Germany.

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