DIDIER AGATHE has warned of the perils of writing off Celtic in Europe.
The former Hoops winger was in Martin O’Neill’s side that failed to beat Liverpool and Boavista in Glasgow in first leg encounters.
However, the Parkhead outfit, after two 1-1 draws on home soil, were good enough to win 2-0 at Anfield and 1-0 in Portugal to reach the 2003 UEFA Cup Final where they lost 3-2 to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in extra-time.
As Brendan Rodgers’ men prepare for tonight’s crunch tie against Rosenborg, Agathe said: “The thing with Martin was that he would make you feel 10 feet tall before you walked onto the pitch.
“For a player like me who had come to the club without knowing much about the Celtic, I knew the story of the team very quickly.
“Martin would tell us that we were special players playing for a special club. He would talk about people paying money to come and watch us, people wanting to see us playing football a certain way.
“He would tell us that we were able to give them that. He made you feel that you were the person to go out and do that.
“I think Brendan Rodgers might work a different way.
“Martin was a manager and Brendan is a coach who likes to get onto the training ground, but what they both have in common in that they understand people.
“We are footballers, but we are not robots. We are humans and we all have our own ways of responding to situations.
“Both of them know how to get the best out of the players they have. They know how to get them to respond.
“I remember that we had been written off so many times. Going to Blackburn Rovers, we had a 1-0 lead, but everyone assumed that we would lose in England.
“We won 2-0 and, as a team, we believed and that is where everything stems from.”
HOW CELTIC BECAME A GLOBAL BRAND
For a football club that started with very humble origins in the East End of Glasgow, Celtic have certainly come a long way.
With an estimated global fanbase of nine million supporters, a brand value of £79 million, and a complete dominance of the Scottish game, the team have been ranked 34th place in the world league table of brand value.
What’s remarkable about this is the fact that the club was founded by an Irish priest, Brother Walfrid, in 1887 with the aim to alleviate poverty amongst Glasgow’s Irish population. And rather than bury their historical associations with Ireland, the club has been seen as being virtual ambassadors for Irish identity on a global scale.
Whilst this has often led to some extremely rare unfortunate incidents that threatened to overshadow the events on the pitch, it has led to Celtic’s green and white hooped shirts becoming one of the most instantly recognisable team kits in the world.
And much like you can expect to find an Irish-themed bar in most global cities, there are also well over 300 Celtic Supporters Clubs worldwide that help fans as far apart as Singapore to Gothenburg celebrate their favourite team.
As a result, there’s also a network of Celtic-friendly bars around the world that provide an accommodating place to watch the latest match on the television.
And with many of these bars and restaurants also teaming up with Deliveroo so that the Irish-themed hospitality can be enjoyed at home, it shows just how far-reaching Celtic’s branding has become.
Whilst Celtic’s role as Gaelic ambassadors around the world could have led to conflict, it’s remarkable how highly regarded the club’s fans are.
One of the best examples of this was when 80,000 Celtic supports travelled to Seville for the UEFA Cup Final in 2003. Rather than engaging in bad behaviour, the good-humoured fans actually won a Fair Play award for creating a fun carnival atmosphere despite losing 3-2 to Porto.
But such is the success of Celtic’s global ambitions that it has sometimes hidden the team’s impressive achievements on the pitch.
As well as being the first British club to win the European Cup, the side have enjoyed a phenomenal run of form in their domestic league with last season’s unbeaten run proving their dominance.
So whilst we can all toast Celtic’s success with a Guinness, and order a meal from an Irish-themed bar via Deliveroo, it’s important never to lose sight of Celtic’s incredible footballing achievements.
Meanwhile listen to the new CQN Podcast below…