As we’ve come to expect, Celtic Park was rocking last night. The punters just didn’t let up, roaring their team on from the first minute to last. Never mind that the punters in question were Germans bellowing themselves hoarse in support of Borussia Monchengladbach.
Celtic were out-sung and outplayed at the home that is supposed to give visiting sides the heebie-jeebies on Champions League nights, a contention presented as fact. Never mind that Celtic have actually now only won one of their past five such group encounters at the ground.
There was a chicken and egg type poser surrounding the almighty racket made by the Celtic fans in that genuinely jaw-dropping evening of the 3-3 draw with Manchester City last month, a night that led to outlandish claims about what a crowd noise can do for a team. As Celtic failed to get any foothold against Borussia early on, the major decibels were to be heard in the visiting end.
It was so different from the spectacle that unfolded against City, and, on reflection, what came first that night was the performance. Specifically a fastest-ever goal scored by Celtic in the Champions League that provided a platform for them to give Pep Guardiola’s side the runaround for ten minutes.
The Celtic crowd feed off what they see on the park and last night they only had meagre scraps to nourish their vocal chords. Of course, the Green Brigade did their thing and ran through their repertoire… which left you wishing they hadn’t bothered much of the time.
Toes ought always to curl when they give vent to the Celtic Symphony, a truly naff ditty by a truly naff Wolfe Tones – are these Celtic ultras supposed to think they are hip politicos? – that is only so popular because of the line that waffles on about graffiti on the walls saying “oh ah, up the Ra”, a line that got them a fine in Europe once. Now, they have certainly managed to accumulate more of them than big wins against continental opposition at Celtic Park in recent years.
The Green Brigade section also gave us a few renditions of Sean South, a song about – wait for it – an IRA volunteer killed when attacking an RUC barracks in the 1950s. A retro number, it was popular among inhabitants of The Jungle in the 1980s, when there was a political backdrop in Ireland that actually made such expressions of the conflicts caused by the partition of the island have their place.
There were also some (shockarooni) Celtic songs from that area, but the home supporters throughout the stadium only really produced a noise in unison when, about half an hour in, Gladbach monopolised possession for so long that it forced them into sustained, ear-piercing whistling. Said it all really.
There is no disgrace in losing to Borussia Monchengladbach for Celtic, with their record against German sides now reading 12 defeats and only three wins in 19 games. Last night’s reverse may have only been their fourth in 26 games, and Gladbach may not be on the level of Barcelona – who have won twice at Parkhead – and AC Milan, but the gap between Celtic and the top four nations is being stretched by the ever-widening differentials in budgets.
On a very good night, when everything clicks to send the crowd into a frenzy, Celtic fans can be party to occasions like the one that they lapped up against City. But the reality we all became blinded to in the wake of that evening, is that these will be the exceptions in the Champions League, which, with only Barcelona to come to Parkhead in Group C, looks highly unlikely to throw up a single home win for Celtic, whatever the supposed special properties of the stadium’s atmosphere.