ODSONNE EDOUARD will almost certainly be on his way out at Celtic in the summer – and the 23-year-old French striker will want to say farewell in style.
The flamboyant forward will lead the attack in the Scottish Cup third round hurdle against League One leaders Falkirk at Parkhead tomorrow night. It’s the first step the holders hope will lead to Hampden on May 22 when they could be given the opportunity to stretch their record to five consecutive triumphs in the tournament.
Edouard has happy memories of the national competition and has been on target in the Hoops’ last two successes in the silverware showdown at the venue.
He flummoxed former team-mate Craig Gordon in the delayed Cup Final against Hearts five days before Christmas with a dinked penalty-kick to put the team 2-0 ahead following Ryan Christie’s spectacular opener. The Championship side fought back to take it to extra-time at 2-2. Leigh Griffiths, on for Edouard, made it 3-2, but the Edinburgh men forced a penalty-kick shoot-out when they levelled again.
Edouard was forced to watch from the sidelines as rookie keeper Conor Hazard became the unlikely hero with two penalty saves and Kristoffer Ajer thrashed in the decisive effort.
It was a different story, however, the previous year for Edouard against the same Tynecastle opponents when the £9million signing from Paris Saint-Germain in June 2018 became a History Bhoy.
Author Alex Gordon tells the story in his latest Celtic book, ’50 Flags Plus One,’ which was published recently.
Alex, who has penned fifteen books on the Parkhead club, reviewed Edouard’s day in the spotlight. Here is an edited extract from the chapter.
THE memorable date of May 25 2019 – the fifty-second anniversary of the European Cup victory – arrived and with it the alluring promise of the club’s unprecedented ninth consecutive trophy in domestic competition. A feat many shrewd football judges would have hitherto insisted was an impossibility.
Mistakes can be rectified over the marathon that is the league programme, but one freak bounce of the ball or an individual error or a dubious refereeing decision will often lead to oblivion in knock-out competitions.
HAIL THE HAMPDEN HERO…Odsonne Edouard with the Scottish Cup after his two-goal salvo against Hearts on May 25 2019.
Odsonne Edouard had already made Celtic history as the club’s most expensive player at £9million, so it was somehow appropriate the French personality was the man who delivered even more to the club’s extraordinary folklore in the 2-1 win over Hearts as the curtain came down on a tumultuous, mercurial and, ultimately, satisfying and successful campaign. With the team toiling and trailing 1-0 to a Ryan Edwards strike, it was the extraordinarily-gifted frontman who stepped up to fire the club to a phenomenal treble treble.
Edouard took centre stage in the club’s annals of fame when he strode onto a pass from Jonny Hayes in the sixty-first minute and had Christophe Berra chasing back and Bobby Zlamal racing from his line in an effort to bail out his defence. The talented striker weaved to his left as the keeper went down to make contact and referee Willie Collum had no hesitation in awarding a penalty-kick.
Edouard took a couple of steps back as the Celtic fans in the Hampden crowd held their collective breath. He then ambled forward in nonchalant fashion before thumping the ball low to the goalie’s right hand and in at the post.
It was the lifeline a Hoops outfit required urgently on a day when they struggled to take control. But they deserve the utmost credit for coming back so quickly and so positively after the loss of a dreadful goal in the fifty-third minute. The defence failed to deal with a simple throw-in on the left when Arnauld Djoum lost James Forrest before the ball fell to Sean Clare who back-heeled it in front of the unmarked Edwards who could hardly believe the acres he had been afforded as he rattled a shot between the legs of Scott Bain.
SIGN OF THE TIMES…the scoreboard tells its own story after Odsonne Edouard’s fabulous trophy-winning strike with Scott Sinclair and James Forrest joining in.
It had also been a resounding wake-up call for Celtic who had failed to spark in a fairly tedious opening forty-five minutes.
In the eighty-second minute, with the destination of the trophy in the balance, Mikael Lustig rose and powerfully headed a pass forward. It fell perfectly for the aware Edouard with the Hearts defensive double-act of Christophe Berra and John Souttar split for the only time in the game.
The raider took the ball in his stride in an instant, raced toward the danger zone, enticed Zlamal from his line and, with the greatest of ease, stroked the ball over the keeper’s right shoulder and into the inviting net.
Five minutes were added on as nerve ends stretched to snapping point before the referee eventually blew for full-time. The Celtic players stood at Hampden for a moment as it dawned on them what they had achieved. A clearly-emotional Lennon dropped to his knees on the touchline.
The Celtic supporters split the skies above Mount Florida with their cries of sheer delight.
Alex Gordon recalls the Hampden victory in his tribute book, ’50 Flags Plus One’. The dramatic campaign is told with insider knowledge by the former national newspaper sports editor and his latest publication is acclaimed by club legend and Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld as “a truly unique tribute to Celtic”.
Hoops great John Hughes, the club’s seventh-highest scorer with 189 goals, acknowledged: “It’s a journey of several lifetimes.”