There are grounds that our fans enjoy visiting and there are some which bring back memories so dreadful you can still invoke the cold sweat by speaking their names aloud.
Fir Park is one of those grounds. My reaction every time we play there is the same as it’s been for over a decade; it brings out the fear. Black Sunday could have been a week ago.
We have won massive matches at that ground since then, of course, but every one of them starts out with me feeling tense. I feel that way tonight and it has nothing to do with the team that currently sits top, although their gloating and the media’s fawning will reach peak if we fall behind them without that game in hand.
No this is the old fear, the fear of that place. The fear of bad memories.
I don’t expect to have a bad night. I don’t expect us to drop points.
But I hope we can kill the game early, no matter what the team selection is. The indications are that we will change the team around for it; think for a minute about the confidence that reveals in our squad and in our management team and of how little concern they have for the so-called “challenger”. Brendan could drop several of our top players tonight and not even blink.
There is a swagger about our team again, and fringe players have proven they can handle the big occasion; what was Christie but a fringe player until not that long ago?
We have the squad to cope with the schedule and with nights like this one, which is why in terms of the game itself I have no fears at all. But Boyata’s injury has given me a touch of the jitters I could have done without; no more injuries, Celtic, please.
Three points are important, for obvious reasons, but they aren’t everything. I hope we get them and I think we will. It’s good from a momentum standpoint, but do not let anyone tell you that this has become a “must win” game. The general hysteria elsewhere at the moment should leave us entirely unmoved. We are Scotland’s on-form team and we just added a trophy to the growing list of Brendan Rodger accolades.
It would be good to see Scott and Leigh return to the team tonight, but whatever the team the nerves will soon fade away and we’ll get on with the business at hand.
Don’t look for favours done elsewhere; I don’t think there’s a hope in Hell of McLeish doing a turn either for us or for himself.
Everything we’ve got we got the hard way, and when we return to our rightful place at the summit of the league table it’ll because of nights like this and what we did on our own.
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