WITH the season’s league duties done and Sunday’s Scottish Cup final against Hibernian looming, Neil Lennon has been looking back ten years to a milestone in his playing career: the Uefa Cup final against Porto in Seville.
Martin O’Neill led Celtic to their first European final in 33 years on 21 May, 2003.
While a Derlei goal late in extra time gave Porto a 3-2 win, the so near, yet so far experience remains with Lennon.
“That’s high up in my CV, playing in a European final, particularly for a Scottish club because it doesn’t happen very often,” he said.
“It was a fantastic achievement and something I’m very proud of – the whole run, the fact I played in the majority of the games, and that experience of playing in a final.
“There were great memories and it was a great achievement. And the support we had that night was incredible.”
More than 80,000 Celtic fans travelled to Andalusia to be with their team that spring evening.
Their good behaviour was recognised by Fifa and Uefa with Fair Play awards and the event today enjoys an almost mythological status with the Celtic support.
Lennon recalled: “There was a new generation who had never seen Celtic in a European final before, and then there was the older generation who had seen the [Lisbon] Lions in 1967 and ’70. And to see different generations coming together for that one night was very special.”
While memories of the entire campaign will keep the fans – and Lennon – warm for years to come, the manager’s highlights of the road to Seville are closer to home.
The 2-0 away win at Liverpool was fantastic, Lennon said. “So was Blackburn away, and that moment when Henrik [Larsson] scored against Boavista. It was the longest 12 minutes of my life after it.
“It was weird because it wasn’t a big stadium, but just that moment when the final whistle goes and you’re going to a European final with Celtic was just incredible. It gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”