Wednesday 18 September 2019

Second treble sparks fresh yearning for Euro success

Fans engulf the Celtic team bus during the parade at Celtic Park. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA
Fans engulf the Celtic team bus during the parade at Celtic Park. Photo: Jeff Holmes/PA

Roddy Forsyth

Sunday was fiesta day in the east end of Glasgow, despite the absence of the beatific sunshine that bathed Hampden Park on Saturday, when Scott Brown led Celtic to the unprecedented feat of a second successive clean sweep of the Scottish honours.

Immediately after the 2-0 victory over Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final, the captain and his team-mates returned to Parkhead on an open-top bus to bask in their fans' adulation.

Scarcely had the streets cleared than the throngs re-assembled to salute Brown in his testimonial match against an Ireland XI under the supervision of Martin O'Neill, whose presence was timely on the eve of the 15th anniversary of Celtic's UEFA Cup final in Seville.

On that sweltering Spanish night, Henrik Larsson scored twice and, to the rapture of the home crowd, the Swede appeared for yesterday's warm-up.

In 2003, Larsson's contribution was ultimately insufficient to overcome Jose Mourinho's Porto, who won the Champions League the following season.

Thwarted they may have been, 15 years ago, but the presence of O'Neill and Larsson evoked potent memories of an era and targets that look out of reach for this Celtic generation.

PROCEEDS

European football has changed beyond recognition as it proceeds, seemingly, towards a league of billionaire clubs.

Against the background of such a trend, Celtic's acquisition of a double treble of domestic prizes can be disdained by outsiders as irredeemably parochial.

The response of the Celtic faithful, however, must be set within a tradition of lustrous achievements, the greatest of which was the 1967 European Cup triumph in Lisbon.

The exodus in 2003 from Glasgow to Spain of an estimated 80,000 fans - only half of whom had tickets for the final - testified to a craving for the restoration of European status.

Similar devotion was in evidence yesterday as 55,000 turend up to salute Brown, whose accumulation of club honours now totals eight league titles, four Scottish Cup medals and four Scottish League Cup successes, making him the most decorated Hoops captain after Billy McNeill.

The turnout provided significant donations to a clutch of Brown's favoured charities, as well as support for the family of Liam Miller, who died of pancreatic cancer in February at the age of 36.

After the revels, O'Neill, the previous Celtic manager to win the Scottish treble, said: "It's extremely difficult to do what Celtic have done. Even the great Jock Stein had difficulty with it. To do it twice on the trot is excellent. The next step now is to try to achieve success in Europe."

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