I must admit to a few minutes of readjustment.
I had just walked from Hampden, with a soaking wet banner that weighed as much as the pressure our heroes in hoops had been under, back to my supporter’s coach. The banner that will never be seen on TV as the tie in the middle snapped. If you look at the banners in front of the North Stand you will see one that just has two ends visible and no middle. That is my CSC’s.
Hugging fellow members in celebration, the message then came through that Neil Lennon had been offered manager’s job on a full-time basis. My mindset was that when Neil went up to collect the Scottish Cup and take the cheers of the support it was a fitting goodbye. He stepped up when required and the full story of the mess he inherited will make a fascinating book. He walked round in front of us with the Scottish Cup. I applauded and shouted ‘thanks’ as if he could actually hear me.
The news took me by surprise and everything that I had prepared myself for was now null and void. My emotions were now all over the shop; then I remembered our team. This team that had somehow managed to find the courage, the energy and mental toughness to come from behind and win a cup final, win a Treble Treble and make history again. A team that has been battered and bruised and confused since February but still won. At our weakest, we matched our trophy haul when we were strongest. These lads will always be remembered.
This was a day where some of the most impressive players wore maroon. They always seemed to have an extra man as the game was played on percentages and second balls. They played like a team free of pressure who could enjoy the occasion. Their youngsters were impressive. Their game plan spot on. When they went 1-0 up all their dreams where close to becoming reality but the reality was the guy behind you actually bought the winning lottery ticket.
I didn’t think we had it in us to come back. The first half had been as dreadful as I had feared. But, there is a fairytale about this club. It’s the 25th May, we are one-nil down in a Cup Final, we have all heard that story before.
The penalty is the moment the game swung. If the keeper saves that we are gone. That hitting the back of the net makes us the believe but more importantly makes the team believe. It gives them that little bit of energy that had been missing. An endorphin rush in the brain that makes the tiredness and doubt disappear.
There was a moment when I knew everything was going to be all right. Mikael Lustig had just headed the ball and Odsonne Edouard was clear through on goal. He was about 22 yards out when time went into slow motion for me. I’m looking side on at this duel with the Hearts goalie. Everything slows down. The crowd noise just becomes a tinnitus buzz and just before he hits the ball he takes a slight pause. The pause that he has got this and not one of doubt. That he knew what was happening. That he wasn’t just going to stick his laces through the ball and hope for the best. At that moment, 22 yards out I knew that he wasn’t going to miss.
Then, we have another memory for the day. One that we as fans can be so, so proud of. We get a corner kick on 87 minutes. Calum McGregor and Scott Sinclair come over to take the kick. I can’t remember why there was a delay in the kick being taken. All I know is that the Celtic fans, every one of them were emptying their lungs into a Glasgow grey with a rousing ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough’. It’s not rocking. It’s visceral. It’s defiance. It’s pure passion, and it’s a grab of the player’s shoulders to say we are with you every step of the way.
And we were. And we are. And we always will be.
I’ve noticed a few comments saying that money buys success. I’m not going to deny it helps but money can’t buy you the heart and soul that these players have shown. They are special and will be remembered as such. Just like others on the 25th May, which is now surely our day?Listen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast