THIS is the last time I will mention Atletico Madrid, I promise.
Unarguably, the team is laced with a few extravagantly-gifted individuals who are easy on the eye, but, unfortunately, there are some who appear only too willing to embrace the dark arts of the game.
Just ask Daizen Maeda. Midway through the first-half, the Celt was involved in an accidental clash with Mario Hermoso who went down, screaming in pain, grasping his ankle, writhing around on the turf and giving the ropey referee the illusion he might never walk again.
The wretched excuse for a human being that is Diego Simeone went into a well-rehearsed routine on the touchline as he leapt around like a demented dervish imploring justice for his stricken player.
DISTRAUGHT…Daizen Maeda heads for the tunnel after his VAR-assisted red card in Madrid.
After a lifetime in newspapers and the media, I’ve met a few managers at all sorts of levels who have bordered on the basket-case category. Undoubtedly, this sorry product from Buenos Aires could be the leader of the bonkers brigade.
Ivan Kruzliak was subject to all sorts of earache from Simeone and his equally-vociferous cohorts as the match official viewed the incident again on the touchline monitor conveniently situated only yards from the Atletico bench.
The Slovenian looked as comfortable as the condemned man facing a firing squad. He almost frictioned off his fingerprints as he delved frantically into his top pocket to flash a red card at the bemused Maeda.
Lazurus-like, Hermosa made a miraculous recovery, stretcher-bearers were not required, the local A&E could rest easy and, in fact, the Spaniard, without the merest trace of a limp, managed to play the entire game. Sickening doesn’t cover it.
In the lead-up to the first game, I did a bit of research on previous meetings between the clubs.
My old mate Davie Hay had labelled their motley collection of unsavoury individuals that had kicked Celtic off the park in 1974 as “odious thugs” when I co-authored his best-selling autobiography, ‘The Quiet Assassin‘.
As I dug into past events, I came across these words:
What a shame it is a team from Madrid who have to leave the fans with such cruel feelings and agonising memories.
Up until the Parkhead first leg fiasco, Madrid had always thrown up visions of the legendary Real with Di Stefano gliding through the centre, Gento sweeping magnificently down the wing, Puskas and his lethal shooting power, the towering defensive work of Santamaria.
One giant, ugly, clumsy foot has trodden these cherished memories well and truly into the dirt.
The sentiments had a familiar ring to them. Not surprising, really, considering I wrote them.
The observations appeared in the renowned monthly magazine World Soccer. I was 22 years old and was a sports sub-editor at the Daily Record at the time. The newspaper allowed me to freelance for publications which were not in direct competition on the newsstands.
The editor of the magazine, a chap by the name of Phillip Rising, got in touch with me at the Record and asked if I wanted to become their Scottish football correspondent. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Old memories of that shameful night in the east end of Glasgow all those years ago crept back into my senses.
They left a bad taste back in 1974.
Alas, my friends, nothing changes.