As a movie lover the thing I love the most is the shock twist.
That sudden, shocking rug-pull from under the feet of the audience can be absolutely thrilling when it’s executed well.
Joe Doe’s staggering surprise for Mills and Somerset at the end of Se7en remains my favourite. I found the one at the end of The Sixth Sense clever and surprising (although the director tried too hard to repeat the trick in every subsequent film), but I loved the bait and switch at the end of The Usual Suspects. The twist ending, done right, packs some punch.
I suspect that most football fans have mixed feelings about the shock twist. Our relationship with them is not the same as the one the moviegoer has. We’ve been Somerset, looking on in horror as everything we thought we knew is upended. But at the same time, we’ve felt like the smirking criminal mastermind who weaves his tall tale and leaves everyone bamboozled as his minions put all the pieces in place for the moment the world catches up.
As Celtic fans, our relationship with the shock twist has been better than most.
But let’s for a moment differentiate between two types of ending here. A late goal is like the “hero moment” in a movie, the bit where the danger is at its height, when the options have narrowed to a single desperate act, and it’s then that the music swells and time seems to slow and victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat. A late winner is the sports equivalent of that.
What we saw today was the shock twist, not the heroic finish.
The shock twist is a different beast entirely, and they are oh so very rare which is why I both fear and treasure them. The shock twist involves more than just a goal. It has to change the firmament. It has to jolt the audience, some to shock, others to horror, but for those who enjoy them, mostly to a kind of stunned “what the Hell did we just watch?” floating elation.
Luis Palma got the hero moment. Brilliant. We were entitled to think that was the winning goal, it came so late and we seemed to be handling them well. Their equaliser might have counted as a shock twist, except all it did was serve as the setup for one.
Because Motherwell had played well. They always looked like they had a goal in them today, so when it came it wasn’t as big a shock as it might have been on a day where the opposition sat back and played in their box. But Kettlewell kept to his word. His team tried to play football. They came at us. They harried us and harassed us. They gave us a game.
But we are Celtic and we never stop, and what we delivered within a minute of the restart was so extraordinary and unexpected that it pulled the rug out from more than just Motherwell. The Ibrox fans, queuing outside to watch their team, were subjected to the same whiplash that the Fir Park fans had experienced been watching it happen to their side.
And you know what? We deserved that today, not just because we never stop, not just because we play to the last kick of the ball, but because we were the better team throughout. Yes, they gave us a few scares, but you expect that from any side playing at home and which harbours the least bit of ambition about taking as much as a point.
We probed, we pressured. We looked for the break in the ball that would open them up. The football we played was not aimless or stupid. There were not desperate crosses into a packed penalty box today, none of that stuff which ensures a frustrating afternoon. They defended deep and with great discipline, and that’s why they kept us out for so long.
But patience and discipline won through. We kept on pressing and probing. We got the opener. Most importantly, when we conceded we did not let our heads go down. We knew they might switch off, thinking that the game was settled and that we would be content with a point, and we capitalised on that to the fullest. It was the only point in the game where the home side did actually let their discipline drop for a moment, and it was enough.
I am thrilled at that ending. Thrilled.
I will remember that for a long time, the way I remember the endings to great movies and TV shows where you think you know what’s happening, or what’s about to happen, only to be left with your jaw hanging open.
I talked the other day about the great HBO true crime documentary The Jinx; anyone who hasn’t seen it and watched it based on my recommendation the other day will know what I mean and those who haven’t … be assured that the last episode will leave you as shocked as anything you’ve ever witnessed.
It is not a cliché to say that these are the days that win titles; it’s a simple fact. Because they show determination and character. They keep your nose in front at a time when that’s important. I said that if we won the four away games after Ibrox that this title race was ours to lose and there are now two of them to go.
What a superb ending. What a superb day it might turn out to be.