Celtic’s valiant capitulation last night had a familiar feel to it. We took the game to Milan, bossed them in many areas while the tie was still close enough to be called a contest, created chances but had no cutting edge and lost heavily, at home, to what is clearly the weakest of four Milan teams we have faced in the last decade. It was a similar story when Juventus came to Glasgow last season.
Am I the only one who thought it was familiar from stirring European nights of the 80s? Take on one of the most experience teams in Europe with two out-and-out wingers, inspire for a time but only earn a lesson in how unforgiving the game can be at the top level. Or at least, hope we learned a lesson.
We loved it in the 80s, of course, but it was like going to school when Martin O’Neill arrived and taught us how to win in Europe. Despite the defeat, the 10 men got it right at home to Barca, and in the home win over Ajax, where we allowed the visitors the majority of possession and territory, but with four minutes on the clock and Celtic playing well last night, I noted the game was “worryingly open”.
In Europe, an open game means defeat. We don’t have the midfield or attack to win playing adventurously. When setup properly, we can defend as well as anyone in Europe, this is our irrefutable strength, play to it.
The first thing I did when I met Paul McConville at the Columba Club on Friday was dig him up for not being in touch recently. This gave him an opportunity to wax enthusiastically about the consuming joy of being back on the tools as a solicitor in Glasgow. He was a man who had arrived exactly where he wanted to be in life.
He was so full of drive, clarity of vision and purpose that it was with utter disbelieve I heard the news of his sudden passing yesterday.
As anyone who read Random Thoughts Re Scots Law knew, he loved his family. He also loved practicing law and held Albion Rovers in high affection. He was not, as has been suggested, part of the Celtic family. Had the snake oil salesmen turned up at Celtic Park they would have endured the same forensic analysis from Paul as he applied elsewhere, but he was an important friend and resource to our community, and ultimately our club, during an historically important time.
To most of us he was a unique blogger. Cheerful, incisive and unrelenting. He charted the story of Rangers insolvency, administration and liquidation, then picked up the even more complicated events surrounding the phoenix.
When asked on Friday why he had been less industrious recently, specifically covering the leaks from Charlotte Fakes, he conceded he just didn’t have the time anymore; he was back litigating and loving it.
The personal cost of his blogging was often all too clear, he was out there, but Paul managed to retain his determination not to be browbeaten, while enduring the numptites with more good grace and humour than most of us could muster. Before taking up his new role in Glasgow he worked a few minutes walk from me. We collaborated on a number of matters in recent years and marked one auspicious afternoon last year by sharing a bottle of Champagne; a genuinely treasured memory.
The fragility of it all is breathtaking. Our condolences to the McConville family. May he rest in peace.
[calameo code=000390171e05b9b63a832 lang=en page=34 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]