The heat was suffocating, it was 35° and city was heaving. On the long walk out of town some enterprising locals were selling water or cola to the increasingly dehydrated caravan of people. I passed a few, not willing to succumb to extortionate opportunism, but soon gave in.
I walked into an orange tree earlier that day. Caught between taking directions from a policeman and setting off in a new direction I’d overlooked the towering obstacle a yard in front of me. There’d been a spring in my step, I must have bounced into the bark. Trees are hard. I fell.
The return journey was made in the cool of the night. For the first few miles we were a uniformed flow of humanity but eventually the crowd thinned. We walked through residential streets with locals at their doors and windows. They applauded as we passed. Few of us are ever part of something substantial enough that uninvolved observers openly applaud you. Such memories endure.
I’d an early rise and a long drive with a full car ahead the next day. The bedroom was packed, floor space was given over to spare bedding, the hotels must have shipped mattresses in from a hundred kilometres radius, so with the others in the bar, I took myself off for a shower.
I met a German couple in the elevator. “Are you disappointed?” the woman asked. “No, we played well and were beaten by a good team.” It was the perfect answer. These people must have been horrified when they noticed the throng which would dominate their trip, but they’d become part of the story, part of the throng. The answer was honestly given, although disappointment would come later. I went on, “We lost a minor cup final nine years ago, that was real disappointment”.
I surprised myself by what my memory spontaneously threw up when asked about disappointment. Looking back now, that minor cup final is no more than a touchstone, and indicator of where we were before the Generation of Domination got underway. It’s lost its power to inflict negative emotion. If I met the German couple once more I could again tell them I wasn’t disappointed with that day in the blistering heat. It’s one of my proudest memories, and we soon learned we were beaten, narrowly, by a great team.
This, my friends in Celtic, is what you call a journey.
I spoke to fan liaison manager John Paul Taylor yesterday and mentioned I’d not renewed my season ticket yet. I promised him I would today and that I’d pass the message on. Deadline is tomorrow, after that people can ask for a move into your seat. Consider yourself reminded! We walk the next mile of the journey soon, with hope in our hearts, as always.
Many thanks to those who donated to Mary’s Meals yesterday, and to Magners. The money raised in one day alone will feed over 30 of the world’s poorest school children for a year.