Battle of Bridgeton
Spare us all the Battle of Britain
nonsense thats being spouted about Celtics
forthcoming UEFA Cup clash with Blackburn Rovers.
Whenever that appellation has been trotted out in the past, Ive
often wondered what the people of Wales and Northern Ireland must
think. Scots often accuse the English of behaving as if England
and the UK are synonymous. Lets not fall into the same trap
The only sense in which the term might be remotely
correct would be if it were the champion clubs of both countries
involved in a European Cup tie - as in the matches between Celtic
and Leeds, Aberdeen and Liverpool and Rangers
and Leeds. Not between one champion side and another that
finished in tenth place as Blackburn did last season.
At one time UEFA/Fairs Cup games between Scottish and English
sides were commonplace. Did anyone stick this nonsensical label
on such ties as Morton v Chelsea, Kilmarnock v Leeds, Dundee
United v Newcastle or Aberdeen v Spurs, to name but
a few? Of course not.
In any case there were just two Scots in Celtics last
match and only six Englishmen in Blackburns.
What we should be focusing on are Celtics
prospects of getting through to the next round. On the face of
it these are pretty good. Blackburn are a competent Premiership
team, not a great one. They are in Europe by virtue of winning
the League Cup - a competition that none of the top
teams take seriously. Once again, Rovers are in tenth spot
in the Premiership and that seems a fair reflection of their abilities.
But of course theres more to it than that.
Although the Premiership has been declared a no-go area for the
Old Firm at present, this result will be looked at as an indication
of how the Big Two would fare in that set-up.
Defeat by a mid-ranking side would be a blow to their long-term
ambitions as well as a catastrophically early exit from Europe.
But Rovers have far and away the worst record of any
English team in Europe. In twelve matches they have won
just one game - a meaningless Champions League victory
over Rosenborg after they had already been eliminated.
Rosenborg are joined by Trelleborgs, Legia Warsaw, Lyons and
Spartak Moscow (twice) in having beaten Blackburn. Their away
goals triumph over CSKA Sofia in the last round was the
first time Blackburn had won a European tie. Even here they nearly
snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Leading 3-0 in Bulgaria,
the match finished 3-3.
When you look at that record you can understand why Celtic have,
unusually, been seeded above the English team.
Offsetting all that of course is the presence of Graeme Souness
as Rovers boss. Putting one over on their old enemy will be of
greater importance to many Celtic fans than the nationality of
Blackburn will demand respect. Even a mid-table Premiership
side are light years ahead of the domestic opposition - Rangers
aside - that Celtic usually face. And they are a better team than
But Celtic should emerge the winner of the tie. Their record against
English clubs in Europe isnt all that bad. Sure, theyve
only won once - that epic European Cup tie against Leeds
when they won both legs.
But in the Cup-Winners Cup back in 1966 they beat Liverpool
at home and were on course to square the tie when a Bobby Lennox
goal was wrongly disallowed. They drew away to a strong Nottingham
Forest team in the UEFA Cup in the '80s, only to lose
at home. And in their last tie against an English team, when they
played Liverpool in the UEFA Cup five years ago,
Celtic were the better team over two legs, losing out on the away
Theyll never have a better chance to beat an English
team. They should be good enough to do it.
Jason Cousins testimonial match (see
last week's BOTN) against
Celtic went ahead at Wycombes Adams Park on
October 8th. Martin ONeill was as good as his word
and fielded a strong line-up. Larsson, Sutton, Thompson, Petta,
Agathe, Laursen and Lennon all started the match.
Gould, Boyd, Healy and Fernandez completed the starting
eleven though ONeill took the opportunity of giving some
of his youngsters a run-out in the second half. Only David Fernandez
and Neil Lennon played the full 90 minutes.
The testimonial got the go-ahead
Larsson scored twice in the 4-0 victory.
Celtics other goals came from Momo Sylla and, ironically,
an own-goal by Jason Cousins. The total attendance was
5,072 with 1,044 in the away end.
It still wasnt the kind of turnout Celtic fans pride themselves
on but it wasnt as bad as was at first feared and Cousins
should earn something out of the night.
Having managed to avoid saying anything about the
Old Firm last week, this weeks Back of the NET is
full of them. Time, methinks, for a mid-season break before it
becomes a habit. Yes, I know the SPL doesnt break until
January. Yes, I am aware of the Euro 2004 situation. But this
website takes its breaks when it can get them.
So, next up its Lazio v Perugia in Serie A and
Roma V Genk in the Champions League. Well be
back at the end of the month just in time for the first leg of
Celtic v Blackburn - or to give it a more appropriate name,
the Battle of Bridgeton!
For the Scottish Cup 1873-1939 click here
For the Scottish Cup Post-1945 click here
For the League Cup from 1946 click here
If it was entertainment, excitement and action you
were looking for, then the first Old Firm match of the season
didnt disappoint. End-to-end stuff, played at a furious pace
resulting in a 3-3 draw.
The game apart, much of the Scottish press focused its attention
on the BBC. The Corporation broadcast the match live throughout
the UK and RTE did likewise in the Republic of Ireland.
The Scottish media reaction to the BBC coverage took two distinct
paths. There was the lofty, almost holier-than-thou approach of
Graham Spiers in The Herald with his condescending admonishment
of BBC pundits Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker. Strangely,
the other member of the Beebs troika - the pseudo-Irishman
Mark Lawrenson - was omitted from St Grahams strictures.
Spiers position could be summed up as follows: people have
died as a result of sectarianism, the Scottish press talks the talk
but wont walk the walk and demand that these games should
not take place (presumably with the exception of Spiers himself).
English-based commentators dont know anything about sectarianism
otherwise they wouldnt go on about how marvellous a match
it was. Forgive them Father, for they know not what they
The cynic might say that Spiers is seeking a bit of redemption himself
after his comments on Neil Lennons withdrawal from
the Northern Ireland set-up. Certainly to go from suggesting
that Lennon might be the author of his own misfortune to calling
for a total ban on Old Firm encounters fits Spiers quasi-biblical
tone. A conversion of Damascene proportions if ever there was
The Old Firm game was a thriller
Over in the Record, they resorted to that traditional Scottish
sport of English-baiting. Lineker was accused of trying to goad
the panel into criticising Celtic keeper Rab Douglas and
readers were told of how manfully Hansen and Lawrenson refused to
rise to the bait.
Sorry, but thats the only way to describe the
Record article, written, incidentally, by an Englishman. It was
Lawrenson who led the attack on Douglas. Furthermore, in the same
edition of the Record, Douglas was told hed never
be forgiven for his lapses by the Parkhead fans. This
was in a piece by regular columnist Murdo MacLeod.
Since then, the hapless goalie has had to endure a further slagging
in print by both journalists and phone-in contributors.
The truth of the matter is that Douglas was badly at fault for two
of the three Rangers goals. No one hates the sight of English commentators
laughing at Scottish keepers more than this website. But the fact
remains that Douglas was poor. Its not the first time either
that the keeper has disappointed on a big occasion. In this case,
Lawrenson, Hansen and Lineker ( and previous articles will show
these are not exactly the first names on our xmas card list) were
merely stating the obvious.
As for the BBC coverage, there were two aspects which neither the
Herald nor the Record saw fit to mention. So well do it for
Firstly, there was the ghastly build-up to the game, presumably
intended for non-Scots, with shots of dead shipyards and new shopping
centres as a funereal voice-over (the actor wasnt credited
but to our ears it sounded like Ian McColl - of Rab C Nesbitt
fame, not the Falkirk boss) intoned the supposed majesty
of the game.
The biggest club game in the world. Oh how they
must have bowed their heads in Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Turin,
Munich, Manchester, and Buenos Aires to name but a few
places where that appellation might just be contested.
Just when it looked like the BBC were going to get away without
mentioning the S word, they did. Sectarianism,
the undertakers voice intoned, then without warning the
film flipped to scenes of happy, smiling Chinese and Asian children.
Ah, what a fortunate city Glasgow is to be bathed in such
multi-cultural harmony where kids grow up supporting one side or
the other untainted by the bigotry of the past. Where racism is
a long-conquered scourge from a distant era. Where, peace, happiness
and joy reign eternally in the souls of humanity.
There we go with the swearie words again. But heres only so
much of the BBCs patronising drivel that can be stomached.
Sure, it was well-intended, but what happened to telling it like
it is rather than what wed like it to be?
The other item that the Scottish press didnt pick up on happened
right at the end of the broadcast. Just before they went off air,
Gary Lineker announced the results and latest scores from the other
games played that day - at Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Fulham,
Liverpool and even from Wimbledon v Ipswich where only
3,000 could be bothered to attend.
There was just one senior match played in the UK that day that Lineker
didnt mention. Livingston v Hearts. Thats right.
The BBC made a great song and dance about their first live UK-wide
coverage of the SPL and couldnt be arsed to give us the latest
score from the only other SPL match being played while at the same
time making sure we knew what was going on at Selhurst Park!
And how many column inches did the Scottish press devote to this
Well, think of a number, multiply by ten, add the square root of
the original number, divide by the first figure to come into your
head then subtract the Herald and the Records
combined column inches and youll get the answer.
Provided the number you first thought of was zero.