The 4-0 defeat we received at the hands of Utrecht aside, Celtic’s form on Dutch soil has been decent. Ajax recorded a narrow 1-0 win in the Champions League in 2013. When the teams met in the following year’s Europa League, the home side scored late to secure a draw against 10-man Celtic.
Our two visits prior to that were historically famous wins. Goals from Bobby Petta, Didier Agathe and Chris Sutton saw Celtic win 1-3; enough for them to reach the Champions League group stage for the first time in the club’s history.
A late goal from George McCluskey after a Charlie Nicholas opener saw Celtic win 1-2 and progress in the 1982-83 European Cup. This game is historically famous because we had so few significant European wins in the 80s and 90s – if you lived through these times, you will still cherish that game.
Johan Cruyff was subbed late in that 1982 game, still masterful, if a few years past his prime. He was in his full pomp when he led Ajax to a 3-0 quarterfinal victory on their way to winning their first European Cup in 1971. That game came 10 months after Feyenoord became the first Dutch team to win the trophy, beating Celtic in the final.
Dutch football arrived with a bang in 1969. Ajax lost the European Cup Final that year to Milan, the last time the trophy did not go to the Netherlands until 1974. Just four years before that Ajax-Milan final, Celtic met Dutch opponents for the first time in competitive football. Go Ahead Deventer lost 0-6 to Celtic in their Cup Winners’ Cup first leg.
The other two Dutch teams in European football also exited Europe in the first round, Utrecht losing 7-1 to Barcelona and Feyenoord losing 5-0 to Real Madrid. This came two years after Luxembourg eliminated Netherlands from the European Championships. Dutch football was a shambles in the mid-60s, but with an innovative philosophy, it ruled Europe within five years. Everything we are seeing right now at Celtic is the result of an innovative philosophy, great things can be achieved by great coaches.