IT’S ALMOST impossible to comprehend a football club achieving the same thing in the modern era.
A squad of players, almost all of them born within 30 miles of their home ground, beating some of the best teams in the world to become champions of Europe.
Rewind to 1967, though, and that’s exactly what Celtic managed to achieve, with the culmination of their path to glory coming in the European Cup final against Inter Milan in Lisbon.
Spurred on by 12,000 travelling Celtic fans, and no small number of locals rooting for the underdog, Jock Stein’s team came back from a goal down to beat the shell-shocked Italian giants 2-1.
The legend of The Lisbon Lions, the name given to the team that played that day, was born.
Back to the present, and the modern day Celtic – under new manager Tony Mowbray – are set to take on Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium today (Sunday, July 12th) at 3pm.
And one man who will be watching every kick is Lisbon Lion himself Willie Wallace, who moved to Australia some 30 years ago and lives on the Gold Coast.
“It’s an important game,” says the 69-year-old match ambassador.
“It’s Tony Mowbray’s first chance to look at the team. They haven’t changed the squad much from last season but it’s important that the manager gets a feel for his players early. I’m looking forward to it. I get back for games in Scotland but it will be nice to see them over here.”
Mowbray’s appointment surprised some people but Wallace agrees with the principle behind the move – the need to get Celtic playing good football again.
“There’s a way of playing at Celtic, we have a history of playing decent football,” he says.
“You can’t grind out wins by odd goals every week. The new manager wants to play a certain way and, in my experience, when a team plays good football the right way, the results come eventually.”
The trip to Brisbane also raises another topic currently being debated by Celtic fans in pubs across Glasgow – who’s going to be captain next season?
In the absence of the injured Stephen McManus, Aussie Scott McDonald has been named skipper for the Brisbane game – although McManus’ future as captain is in the balance.
Who would Wallace have wearing the armband?
“I’d pick myself as captain,” he laughs. “It’s vital you get the right man. In my day it was Billy McNeill and he was perfect for the job. He was such a nice person, the players knew they could go to him with anything, but we all had great respect for him as well. You listened to what he said and that’s so important for a captain.”
Mention of the legendary Celtic skipper turns the conversation to Wallace’s own past glories. Well aware that he must have told the story a thousand times, we ask him if he ever gets tired of questions about that famous match in Lisbon.
“Sometimes,” he laughs. “But only because I would have liked to have seen the club do it again. Our team managed to get to the final again later, when we lost to Feyenoord, but it’s been a shame that no other Celtic side has managed to get to that level since.”
We ask whether he thinks Celtic could ever be European Champions again, considering the money-driven state of football today.
“There’s always a chance, you can never rule anything out,” he says and you can almost hear his heart fighting a losing battle with his head.
“But there’s so much money involved these days that a club like Celtic can’t compete with the real big guns.
“Even the clubs that do spend big don’t always win. Look at Chelsea. They’ve spent so much trying to be champions of Europe and they’ve only got one final to show for it.”
ething disturbingly similar to a carry on that went on at large gatherings in Germany in the 1930s, Ronaldo was paraded in front of 80,000 Real Madrid fans at the Bernabeu this week.
Dressed in the all white Madrid kit, and making a number of hand gestures towards the crowd, Ronaldo strolled down a catwalk-like path and told the crowd that he had achieved a childhood dream.
With Keeganitis like adoration of the Messiah fans tried to rush the stage as Ronaldo did some ball tricks. (Football tricks – it wasn’t that type of show).
• ENGLAND will play a friendly in Qatar in November. Against Brazil.
Makes sense, it’s the halfway point between the two countries. Oh, right, it’s not.
Must be something do to with money then.
Anyway, England will play the recent Confederations Cup champions as a fulfilment of their end of a contract which saw the Brazilians play in the first game at the new Wembley two years ago.
A nice trip to the Middle East smack bang in the middle of the Premiership season then.
Be prepared for Ferguson/Benitez/Wenger (whoever’s furthest behind at the time) pissing and moaning about this when the time comes around…