15 years ago we beat Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. The team that night was:
Caldwell, Kennedy, McManus, Naylor
McGeady, Brown, Hartley, Jarosik
McDonald, Vennegoor of Hesselink
Kennedy and Naylor went off injured in the first half, replaced by Pressley and Donati. Needing the winner, Gordon Strachan hooked Vennegoor of Hesselink and put on Chris Killen (!). It is also worth noting the quality of that group. Top seed Milan were reigning champions, Shakhtar would win the following season’s Uefa Cup and Benfica were no slouches.
Some sides flatter to deceive, Gordon Strachan’s Celtic did not deceive and did not flatter. They delivered without looking anything other than industrial. Those European nights were fabulous, domestically, however, it was often a hard watch.
I’m not going to ask you if you would swap what you had then for what we have now, we are enjoying today’s Celtic too much, also recency bias would intervene. All that would change if we were in second place in Scotland. Winning is all when you are behind in the race you really want to win.
Ange Postecoglou will also know sentiment is never fixed. He will have to improve European results with his current expansive style, change styles or eventually endure a drop in sentiment. Automatic qualification for the Champions League provides shelter.
As long as we win the league and the league winners get to the group stage, we will be able to indulge on the big stage. That would not be the case if we were to face a qualification round. Then, winning would be everything, just as it was with Gordon. If we take a harsh look in the mirror, results in what was an easier Champions League group have been disappointing and the manner in which we were exposed on the counter suggests no learning since Bodo/Glimt earlier this year. The slide from topping our Europa group in 2019 against Lazio, Rennes and Cluj is all tactical.