DAVIE HAY is still convinced to this day that Celtic would have two European trophy successes in the record books but for the actions of one misguided Celtic supporter.
Comparisons are being drawn to the bottle-throwing fan during the Cup-Winners’ Cup debacle with Rapid Vienna in 1984 to the person with the flare in Milan on Thursday.
Celtic suffered horribly 31 years ago when their well-deserved 3-0 second leg win for a 4-3 aggregate triumph over the Austrians was scrapped and they were ordered to replay the tie away from Celtic Park. It’s history now that Hay’s team lost 1-0 at Manchester United’s Old Trafford and toppled out of Europe.
Unfortunately, that game, too, was marred with trouble and Celtic were ordered to play their first home European tie the following season behind closed doors. They drew 1-1 with Atletico Madrid in the Spanish capital, but the Hoops players reacted to an eerily-silent Parkhead and lost 2-1.
And all because someone thought it had been a bright idea to lob an empty half bottle of vodka onto the pitch in the explosive tie against the infuriating Austrians of Rapid Vienna. Remember, too, there was never evidence that it struck an opponent. In fact the bottle landed around ten metres away from the Rapid Vienna player who nevertheless rolled about the Parkhead turf, milking the opportunity afforded to his beaten side by the guy who threw the bottle.
The main difference, of course, is that the guy at Parkhead did not go to the game that evening with the intention of throwing any kind of object onto the field of play. Probably well oiled, he it could be said acted in the heat of the moment as a result of the the annoying and brutal antics of the Rapid players Hay still labels “cheats”.
In Milan, though, the fan went into the stadium with the specific intention of setting off a flare, despite Celtic making pleas before the game to resist such actions. Celtic were well aware of the consequences of another flare incident in Milan and appealed to the supporters not to harm the club by letting off flares in the San Siro. No wonder some fans are asking if this flare man really is a Celtic supporter.
Now the club have made an appeal for the support to identify the culprit and that has created something of a furore.
UEFA will fine the club for the second time this season for an incident with a flare, following the £7,500 penalty after Zagreb. If the European powers-that-be believe such punishments are not being heeded then they will undoubtedly impose other swingeing sanctions which could mean the club playing in an empty stadium or with selected stands closed. UEFA may also choose to ban Celtic travelling support from European matches next season. And if this continual trouble with UEFA is not ended, even worse could follow with the club being banned from European competition for a period.
Does any one Celtic supporter have the right to deny decent, well-behaved Celtic supporters the opportunity to watch their team perform in Europe? Should he be allowed to deprive the players of performing in such an atmosphere? And is there any sense in the club losing millions of pounds in revenue because of such inane and worthless gesture by one man? Is there a finer sight in football than a sell-out Celtic Park throbbing and bouncing on European nights? Yet the actions of one selfish guy could wipe out such a spectacle.
Celtic realise the danger. Their patience is now at an end. The club has been forced to pay out around £100,00 in UEFA fines over the past few years due to the petty incidents which break the UEFA rules.
Celtic supporters were magnificent at both Celtic Park and the away match in the San Siro where they were applauded by the home support and commended for their good behaviour. Yet one guy sets off a flare and Celtic are once again facing potentially severe charges.
This can’t be right. Enough is enough. It is time to bin the flares and for every single Celtic supporter to play by the rules UEFA set, for the good of Celtic.