Last night I was proud of my team.
Proud in spite of the defeat. Proud in spite of starting the group with a loss, and in spite of some of the sniping from certain sections of the media. Not all the media, mind you, because for the most part they were fair-minded and covered the game properly.
But there are always a few halfwits out there.
I was proud that our players went toe-to-toe with Madrid for 60 minutes. Proud that they could have scored a couple of times, and then this would be a very different article. Proud that our club drew respectful commentary from neutrals south of the border who I think were waiting to see us fall flat on our faces. Proud that we didn’t at all.
To be beaten by a team like Real Madrid is no disgrace.
They have the best manager in the world at the helm, a man with a good claim to being the best of all time. They have the kind of footballers who can turn your lights out in two seconds with a flick of the boot.
They have the experience of having been there and done it.
Multiple times Champions League winners, there are also World Cup winners and Euros winners in that squad of theirs. In short, that is a team which has done everything there is to do in football and there is absolutely no shame at all in coming up short against them.
This was not a Rodgers-style 7-1 humiliation either.
For an hour we more than matched them. At no point did it look like a cricket score would be achieved. At no stage did we look hopelessly out of our depth. We were just beaten by a better football team.
What we wanted last night were signs of progress, and all of them were there.
This team was never going to be equipped to beat the reigning European champions, but we gave them a Hell of a fright and only the most blinkered and deluded amongst our rival fan-base would argue otherwise.
This is a Celtic team which is still growing, still improving.
And what we saw last night is that there is much for Europe’s middle ranked teams to fear.
Finishing second in this group is now a distinct possibility.
We certainly have the tools and the talent for it.