DARK and pitiless clouds followed Celtic throughout the miserable 2020/21 season.
An anticipated adventure that promised so much in the summer collapsed in the rubble of a catastrophic crusade, the first unsuccessful silverware campaign in eleven years.
The optimistic bid for a historic tenth successive title purred into motion with a 5-1 victory over Hamilton Accies on a sunlit Celtic Park on the Sunday afternoon of August 2 2020.
By January 2 2021 – exactly five months from the day of the kick-off – the championship quest was hurtling towards oblivion. In the space of two second-half minutes at Ibrox, Nir Bitton had been dismissed and Callum McGregor had inadvertently got his shoulder in the way of a right-wing corner-kick to divert the ball beyond the flailing Vasilis Barkas for the only goal of the game.
END GAME…Neil Lennon trudges off the Dingwall pitch after the 1-0 loss to Ross County in February 2021, his final outing as Celtic manager.
On February 21, Celtic humiliatingly toppled to a 1-0 loss to relegation-threatened Ross County in Dingwall and two days later the departure of manager Neil Lennon was announced on the Stock Exchange.
Can anyone even bother to remember the last kick off the ball that wretched term? It came on May 15 at a Covid-deserted Easter Road as the team, with stand-in gaffer John Kennedy in charge, dragged themselves over the line in a soulless, scoreless stalemate with Hibs.
It had been a fairly unbearable, intolerable nine months for anyone associated with Celtic, on or off the field.
Legendary skipper Scott Brown completed his unforgettable 14-year trophy-laden journey at the club in silence, the glory days apparently gone at a stroke.
Odsonne Edouard, with a hat-trick, Jeremie Frimpong and Patryk Klimala had been the goalscorers on the day the season had got underway against Accies back in August.
Frimpong was sold to Bayer Leverkusen in the winter transfer window, Klimala agreed to an April switch to MLS outfit New York Red Bulls and Edouard moved to Crystal Palace after a handful of games in the following campaign.
These were cheerless, gloomy days. Doomsayers were prophesying a prolonged period of misery for the team, seemingly a rudderless ship on an unerring and cataclysmic voyage towards the chasm of insignificance.
RHAPSODY IN GREEN…Ange Postecoglou in Paradise.
Contrast that with what we enjoyed on May 14 last year as manager Ange Postecoglou and his triumphant players cavorted in the carnival atmosphere of an illuminated Celtic Park, radiant sunshine and blue skies in the east end of Glasgow welcoming the club’s tenth crown in 11 years.
And we get to stage an action replay this afternoon as the men who have done the club proud on another epic, award-winning expedition are allowed to take a collective bow in front of their adoring legions.
It’s party time again. So much for playing in the shadow of city neighbours for interminable years, as some alarmists had prematurely forecast with undisguised glee.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” is the oft-quoted opening line of Charles Dickens’ classic tome A Tale of Two Cities.
You and I have enjoyed and endured both emotions in recent times.
Let’s appreciate these days when the sun shines on us.
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Celtic v Aberdeen this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.