The history makers

Only a few days ago the fine folk at the Celtic Network (TCN) asked me to write a piece about the potential of the current Celtic squad.

The brief was simple enough, I was to look at this collection of players and consider where they might be, how far they could progress, in two or three years.

The key to the advancement of this bunch of young guns is, of course, their young manager.

In his first managerial job, Lennon is a mere novice.

Like Victor Wanyama he will get better.

Football management is a hugely stressful occupation with little or no job security.

Moreover Neil has had to endure appalling racist abuse and physical attacks that shame Scotland.

He would be entitled to have a very low opinion of the country.

Instead he knows that those who revile him are a minority in an otherwise fair-minded nation.

There was a sustained campaign to get him to flee Scotland, but he remained and has prevailed.

Last April I deliberately made the comparison between Neil Lennon and Pep Guardiola in a piece for a Spanish football magazine.

Many of the comments attached to the online article were hateful and the moderators of the site were busy.

The victory over Barcelona last night now makes the comparison appear not so fanciful.

Lennon has assembled a group of players mainly on Bosmans and very modest transfer fees.

Barcelona can spend more on a single player than the market value of the entire Celtic back four.

It is difficult to describe the disparity in resources at every level between the two clubs except one.

The fans.

The fanatical supporters of Barcelona, more a symbol of a stateless nation than a football club, are legendary.

In the east end of Glasgow is a club that is a bit special too.

Last night was a huge victory for the Green Brigade.

Their display looked utterly stunning.

Financed from their own resources I can only imagine what impact it had on the players when they came out.

The chaps in section 111 are the heartbeat of the home crowd at Celtic Park and Neil Lennon knows it.

Last night the SPL champions took on the greatest club side in world.

Despite struggling with the symptoms of a “slow lingering death” (Copyright Stewart Regan) the men in the hoops triumphed.

The last 16 of the Champions League is now possible for this young squad.

Kris Commons is the old man of the crew at 29.

Celtic will have to continue to unearth gems like Victor Wanyama and polish up rough diamonds like Fraser Forster.

The model is Rosenborg rather than Manchester City.

Players are developed from the academy or bought in before they fully develop.

A player will be sold for a huge profit and the process begins again.

Hence it is sustainable.

In August I was in Philadelphia’s Lincoln field to see Celtic play Real Madrid.

In the post-match press conference I asked Neil Lennon what he thought that he had learned from the match, which Real ran out comfortable two nil winners.

He told me that it had been “a useful education” for his players in being up against a team who had the ball for most of the game. He added that this would be useful for games in Europe against “that quality of opposition”.

Over the two matches against the other half of El Classico the Catalans had most of the ball for sure.

However, Lennon now knows that his guys can defend at this level and, whisper it, win.

Celtic no longer have city rivals in any meaningful sense, but as the last SPL match at Tannadice showed there can still be engrossing domestic encounters.

There can be no doubt now that Glasgow is green and white.

These are great days to be one of the good guys.

In years to come you will remember exactly where you were and precisely how you felt when Tony Watt slotted the ball into the net.

And so will he.

That’s what history feels like.

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