Now when I think of Celtic V Kilmarnock, I think of easy home victory, home banker, Kilmarnock nil, and so on. However, when I think of Kilmarnock V Celtic, I think of something entirely different, I think tough away game, a battle, a hostile reception for Celtic and probably escape with a one goal win.
However there is also something distinctly confusing about Celtic and Rugby Park. Celtic, in parody, actually have a very decent record at Rugby Park, and sticking Robbie Keane’s debut to the side, the last time Kilmarnock beat us in the league at Rugby Park was the last day of the 2000/2001 season when an Alan Mahood goal condemned Martin O’Neill’s treble chasing Celtic to a 1-0 defeat infront of the Sky Cameras.
Celtic of course, won the league at Rugby Park in 2004 when a Stan Petrov goal gave Celtic the title they had in all honesty won long before it was official. Then in 2007, more famously the second installment of The Gordon Strachan Three In A Row came when Shunsuke Nakamura’s 92nd Minute freekick finally clinched the title after weeks of stuttering from Celtic, that game in fact, was what I like to call a stereotypical Rugby Park game for Celtic, where the going is tough and you can tell Kilmarnock would rather stop Celtic from winning than actually winning themselves.
That maybe everyones favourite Rugby Park game, but who could forget that night in Early 1998 when a piece of magnificent solo brilliance from Simon Donnelly gave Celtic all three points in their chase for the title, and of course stopping Rangers from 10 in a row. Also in the Tommy Burns era when the Three Amigos carved through Kilmarnock and powered their way past the home side. Also Giorgios Samaras’ Celtic debut, when the young Paul Caddis shone in a very fine 5-1 Scottish Cup win.
But the game I most remember at Rugby Park was my one and only trip to Ayrshire in 2008 when Celtic had a very tough away fixture to Rugby Park infront of the Setanta Cameras in a 4pm Kick Off to accommodate Rangers who were at home to Motherwell. Celtic started the game very well and were awarded a penalty by Mike McCurry, who had endured a torrent of abuse all day from first the Celtic fans and then by the end even the Kilmarnock fans fanced a pop at the Rev. Maloney of course, missed the penalty, but then went on to amend for his errors with a fine right footed curling effort from the edge of the box which left the Killie Keeper absolutely no chance.
In the Second half Celtic carried on and began to start hammering shot after shot at the Kilmarnock Goal, and were rewarded when Giorgios Samaras received the ball in his own half, ran along the right touchline, beat the full back, cut inside, beat another and cooly placed the ball into the back of the net infront of the adoring Celtic fans. It was a moment of sheer brilliance and reminded us all of what Samaras was capable of when he puts his heart into it. Celtic never sat back and admired their 2-0 lead, they wanted more and their pressure paid of when a Kilmarnock defender decided to pull Nakamura back as he was about to pull the trigger inside the box and this time Samaras, who was by this time on fire, made no mistake from the spot placing the ball high into the corner. When it was 3, Celtic wanted 4, and efforts from McDonald, Vennegoor Of Hesselink, McGeady and Brown all followed before unexpectedly Celtic were caught out at a corner and Gary Caldwell was sent packing for a handball off the line. The Kilmarnock player somehow managed to squeeze the ball past Boruc and Kilmarnock were on the scoresheet. The game frittered out and Celtic went back home with 3 very well earned points and a good day was had by all.
Now you may ask why is that game important considering it was 2 years ago and both sides have dramatically changed, both managerially (twice by both clubs) and on the field as well. However it is significant, Celtic need to return to that spirit they had that day in September 2008, since that day Celtic have been to Rugby park 3 times, won twice and lost once, but everygame, even the 3-0 Scottish cup game when Keane scored a hat-trick, have been hard battles and could’ve gone either way, Celtic haven’t performed at Rugby Park since Giorgios Samaras picked the ball up and glided his way onto the scoresheet in a comprehensive Celtic Victory. If Celtic’s new players can perform like the old Celtic players, and I personally believe they can be even better, Celtic will, come Sunday, have 15 points in the SPL and possibly still yet to have their defence breached.
My Team For Sunday?
Well big Frazer Forster has to start following 2 very solid games for the club so far. The backfour for me would consist of Cha, Majstorovic, Hooiveld and Izaguire, who has had a very fine start to his Celtic Career. I’d go for a change in the midfield, with Forrest, Kayal Juarez and Ledley starting to give Celtic strength, creativity in the middle, with also a bit of flair on the wing from young Forrest. Upfront is simple for me, Shaun Maloney playing off Anthony Stokes, IF Gary Hooper isn’t fit. Maloney is a player who Neil Lennon can now not afford to drop after his terrific start to the season ‘in the hole’ as they call it.
Who would captain the team in Browns absence? It may be too early in his Celtic stint but Danny Majstorovic gets the nod for me as I see him as a leader, I have seen him chatting to players on the park coaching them through the game, especially against Utrecht at home when he strolled through the game. Also at Fir Park when his clearing header into the path of Shaun Maloney ended up with Celtic scoring from a penalty, but it was his reaction to the penalty that got me, he ran from the halfway line to shove a motherwell player out the way, grab Shaun Maloney and present him to the Celtic fans behind the goal as in a ‘look at this lad’ fashion ‘look what hes just done for you, for us, for Celtic’ that is captain material for me.
Prediction Time? Gonnae stick my neck out and say Celtic 4-0 Kilmarnock with Joe Ledley opening the scoring, may be a bit hypocritical after whats above about Kilmarnock always making it difficult for Celtic but with the addition of some flair players into big Mixu’s side, a bit of the fight may have left them, and an early goal (from Joe Ledley of course) may just knock the stuffing out of them.
With all that said, I hope everyone enjoys their weekend and is rewarded for their week of hard work, or in my case, my week of tweeting, doing nothing, getting beat at fifa, then doing nothing again, with a very fine Celtic result and performance in darkest Ayrshire.
I’m Brucehillbhoy. Thanks for your time.