The moment Scott Brown threw himself into a challenge on the edge of his own penalty area, laser-like in precision, to dispossess Barry Robson, brought the memories flooding back. Barry was regarded by many as a journeyman when he signed for Celtic alongside Georgios Samaras in January 2008. A month later he scored against Barcelona in the Champions League knock out stage and was well on the way to convincing the Celtic support of his ability.
At the time, Scott Brown’s fortunes were different. He’d arrived the previous summer, a £4m buy from Hibs, but had yet to acclimatise to the central midfield role at Celtic. In the spring of 2008, Celtic were well behind in the title race, and playing poorly. Robson was on the bench with Brown given midfield responsibility.
The script for that season was written by a gifted hand. As the season reached a climax, Scott was suspended for three games, punishment for a rash of misjudged tackles throughout the season. Gordon Strachan turned to Barry, who was made for the moment.
Seven years ago Barry Robson could tackle, in fact, he could foul, without being noticed. He brought determination and menace to a team which was questioned in the CQN comments section for an apparent lack of leadership.
Two of our last five league games that season were at Celtic Park against Rangers. Rangers had a games in hand but the effective gap was 10 points, Celtic needed five wins, and even then their chances of winning the league were regarded as remote. Towels were thrown everywhere.
The first, a midweek game, memorably started with Barry Robson putting a thumping challenge into Christian Dailly in the opening minutes. The tone was set, Celtic were there to fight for everything. Rangers thought they had the point they needed, their manager offering high-fives in the technical area as they cleared the ball late into added time.
I still can’t quite believe what happened next. In the 95th minute Gary Caldwell threw a long ball into the Rangers box, which was won in the air by Scott McDonald, the smallest player on the field. McDonald headed across the face of goal for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink to head into the net. Celtic survived to fight another day.
11 days later Celtic Park saw an equally dramatic game. Scott McDonald (scorer of incredibly important goals) put Celtic ahead but the season looked to be in tatters as Rangers struck back with two goals direct from corner kicks.
1-2 down in a must-win game it was an uphill struggle, but McDonald struck again two minutes from the break to level the game with the assistance of a deflection. The second half was a tense affair, so much was invested in one game of football, but one man was made for the moment.
McDonald broke free inside the box and was hauled down by Broadfoot. Barry Robson stepped forward to take the penalty, it was the defining moment of his career. If you’re in Celtic Park early enough before kick-off these days you can still hear the echo of the roar that went up when his penalty hit the net. His celebration was unforgettable.
It’s remarkable that Barry is still performing at this level so many years after his peak but yesterday’s decisive challenge by Scott Brown demonstrated the enormous leaps our captain has made since becoming a Celtic player. We need players with that fight and craft.
Many of us are still telling stories of the 1985 Scottish Cup Final. A goal down, Celtic roared back to beat Dundee United with a Frank McGarvey diving header. Frank’s offering the jersey he wore that day for auction to raise funds for Maryhill Foodbank. It’s a genuinely unique piece of Celtic history, for a very worthy cause. Check it out here.