Area 413 Row J Seat 3

Tonight Celtic take on Juventus in the Champions League. Sadly, I won’t be there. Even worse, my train doesn’t get back from London until 8 so I’m likely to miss most of the 1st half – I am praying for a good signal to watch on my phone until I get home.

Not being at Celtic Park is something I’ve gotten used to. After a dozen years as a season ticket holder I moved to Hull in 2006 & gave up my seat (the one named in the mildly cryptic title of this blog). The truth is it hasn’t been hard to get used to. I certainly don’t miss freezing my arse off on a Wednesday night in December watching a mediocre match against Dunfermline or whoever. In fact I had gotten tired of sitting through so many humdrum games. I have a theory that like so many of the older generation of fans who had been spoiled by Jock Stein & the Lisbon Lions (forever cursed to utter “aye, it’s good but it’s not as good as…..”), I was spoiled by the Martin O’Neill & Henrik Larsson era. For me, after Henrik everything got a little grey.

There are a few things I do miss. I miss nights like tonight, the European nights. Fittingly my favourite European match that I went to was also against Juventus, that amazing 4-3 victory, Lubo Moravcik was magnificent. I saw a few famous victories in Europe, wins against Barcelona & Lyon stick out but thinking back, perversely given Celtic’s record, a lot of the best results were away from home – Ajax, Liverpool, Blackburn, Boavista – in fact all of the best moments of the Uefa Cup run took place on the road & on my TV. I’ve watched us beat Man Utd, Milan & Barcelona (again) on TV. So perhaps it is a good omen that I’ll be at home tonight.

The other thing I’ll miss is friends. I certainly miss the people of area 413. I bought my season ticket alone in 1994. Just for me. I remember being nervous as an 18 year old walking up the stairs (those thousands of bloody depressing concrete stairs – I don’t miss them!) for the first time to look for my seat. As I spied where my seat was I noticed 3 guys – all at least a good 20 years older than me – stood around it. The milliseconds of nerves dissolved as I got there & they welcomed me like a long lost friend. The three of them had all bought their tickets separately & had just met a few minutes before. I sat beside, occasionally stood beside & jumped up & down hugging with John, Paul & Frank for the next 12 years. They, and the others around us, made the humdrum matches worthwhile. It means the world to me that John, a Lisbon veteran, still sends a birthday card for my son’s birthday & a Xmas card every year. I’ve just sent him a text now wishing him the best for the match tonight – he’s promised to give me a wave on the telly.

So I’m looking forward to the match tonight. I always feel the same way about these games – win, lose or draw I just want my beloved Celts to give a good account of themselves. It’s the occasional dreadful performance that kills me – I remember slumping over the bar in Mcchuills distraught when we got humped by Shakhtar in Donestk. We are on live TV across the UK tonight, I want to be proud of my team. Please not tonight.

I’m too old to wear football tops any more but with the proverbial four leaf clover on my breast & the green & white upon my chest there is only one thing left to say – Come On You Bhoys In Green.