Tonight’s game is something we’ve all been waiting for since the final whistle blew on the day that we were confirmed as champions last season. Real Madrid. At home in the Champions League.
These are the nights that Celtic Park was built for.
There are hacks who will be sitting at this game tonight looking around them in disbelief. Not at the noise and the energy levels of the stadium, or even at the team on the park, but about the scenario they find themselves having to confront.
Celtic, the biggest club in Scotland, defending champions and five points and seventeen goals better off at the top of the SPFL. This time last year such a scenario would have seemed like the mad fantasy of a Celtic fanatic.
Now it’s the reality they have to deal with.
Twelve months ago, we had not long before lost at Ibrox and Kris Boyd and others were telling us that our season was in crisis. At the six game stage – where we are right now – we were sixth, on nine points, and four points behind the Ibrox team.
There was, however, one weird suggestive indicator as to where we might be headed; the goal difference column was plus 12. That was the first sign that something was starting to click. We had the Dundee Utd draw to come the following week – which put us six points behind the Ibrox club – but we were, in many ways, already out of the darkness.
But think on that for a minute; six points behind after seven games. Now, on the flip-side of that, we’ve got a five point lead and a goal difference that’s equal to a point. We overturned our deficit, which is why nobody should be getting ahead of themselves … but this time last year not a single one of the hacks would have given us a hope in Hell.
Indeed, it was after that match against United, that Ange had to answer daft questions about whether or not the league race was already over. Despite his answer, within the ranks of the press corps there was a nearly universal assumption about that.
None of them expected to be sitting at Celtic Park tonight hearing the Champions League anthem boom out, far less that it would be accompanied by an announcer welcoming them to the “home of the Champions.”
That must really stick in their craws.
Every second of this should be savoured.
This is our reward for sticking by this team, for daring to believe, for dreaming the impossible dream. The result on Saturday affirmed us as the biggest and best team in Scotland. Tonight, we tackle Europe.