HE searched for his seat behind the goal wearing his partner’s purple bobble hat and a snood pulled up to his eyes. It wasn’t how Kris Commons imagined things would be for him in last week’s Europa League first-leg clash with Inter Milan.
However, having endured the discomfort of going under cover in the Jock Stein stand to watch the engrossing 3-3 with the Italians, Commons is now doubly determined to taste the action for himself in Thursday’s second-leg.
He did his chances of forcing his way into Ronny Deila’s plans no harm yesterday by scoring twice in Celtic’s 4-0 win over Hamilton Accies. Now he hopes to be able to play a part in the San Siro as Celtic go in search of the victory that will take them into the last 16 stage.
Commons has recovered from the hamstring strain that ruled him out of last week’s game against Inter Milan. He revealed yesterday that while, in his younger days, he might have declared himself fit for the European game, he now realises it is better to take a longer-term view.
“If the home leg against Inter had been the last game of the season, I probably would have played,” he said. “But with hamstrings you have to be really careful. When I did it, I felt a little tweak. And, if you do come back too early, you have a chance of missing four or five weeks.
“I was looking at possibly missing the San Siro game and we’ve got a League Cup Final and a Scottish Cup quarter-final coming up as well. So there’s a lot of football to be played. And I wanted to be involved in the entire run-in, rather than just one game.”
Not being stripped for last Thursday’s clash meant he had to consider where to watch the game. With friends already scheduled to come up to watch the game, he wondered: why not watch it with them?
They had seats behind the goal in the Jock Stein stand so Commons rummaged through the box of woolly garments at home in a bid to remain incognito among the Celtic fans.
“I was covered up,” he explained yesterday. “I had my missus’ hat on, which was disgraceful. I had a snood that was up to my eyes and a hood up as well. “But I had to take all that off to get myself in there because I was five minutes late. I had friends up who were coming to watch the game and hopefully I was going to be involved in it,” he added. “But when I was injured I didn’t see the point in going to sit in the players lounge behind glass and not get an atmosphere.
“When you’re in Celtic Park on a European night there’s no point being behind glass, you might as well be out there feeling the atmosphere. Quite a few people recognised me but it was good – after the first 20 minutes.
“That hat was a purple thing with a bobble. It wasn’t great, it didn’t really fit my head either. It was awful, but it was either that or nothing.”
Commons admits it was instructive to view a football match from a different perspective. He now has sympathy with fans who are frustrated when players do not make use of space or fail to see a team-mate in a better position. “I watched the game from the Jock Stein Stand and it was difficult for me, because it was probably the first game I’ve watched with football fans from behind the goal,” he explained.
“It was like watching Playstation. You guys must know what it’s like – you see every pass, you see every bit of space.
“And then you question the guys out there, asking: ‘Why hasn’t he seen that? Why did he do that?’
“But when you are at ground level, playing at that sort of pace, in that atmosphere against that kind of opposition in a major competition, it’s very hard to pick a pass in those split seconds.
“So, for me, the game looked as if I could have made an impact. But it would probably have been a different kettle of fish out on the park.”
Having missed out last week, Commons is desperate to test himself against quality opposition in four days’ time. The former Scotland internationalist looked sharp against Hamilton yesterday and, in a game where Celtic could well do with his creative vision, he is bound to feature at some stage, at least.
“I can’t wait for the San Siro,” Commons said. “I hope I’ve done enough to win a place in the starting XI. Hopefully the boys have done enough at home to give us a chance over there, so we can go and nick a win.
“I think we’ll get chances. Hopefully we can keep them at bay and not give them as many chances as they had here. It’s going to be a very difficult task, we know that.
“They’re a very good team, a very experienced team, and whenever you play away in Europe with your backs against the wall, it’s a tough test. If we can go out there and get the win, it will be a huge achievement for us.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS