With Celtic’s recent European success, it is worth briefly comparing this year’s team to successful European teams of the past. This video, titled “Fortress Paradise,” encapsulates some of Celtic’s finest home moments outside of domestic competition in the past decade.
This year’s team has done incredibly well to get to the last sixteen of the world’s biggest club competition. The accomplishment has lead to many dubbing the team as better than the ones which reached the last sixteen in previous years under Strachan and the UEFA Cup final under O’Neill. This was also during an era where the side was consistently in the group stages of the competition. While the accomplishment itself may be greater than it was five or more years ago, that does not make this year’s team any better than those that came before them.
Gone are the days when Celtic were a true European force, although they are showing bold signs of returning as one. The accolades that are attached to the results in Europe so far are largely due to the fact that Lennon’s men have been complete underdogs. In previous years, that had not been the case. A certain expectation had been attached to Celtic in the past, certainly with O’Neill’s team and that was partly due to the club’s financial state and their status as a ‘buying club’ at the time. That expectation has perhaps resurfaced now, although it exists without the resources available in the past. Having said that however, the more success Celtic continue to have in the competition, the more money the club will rake in. In that regard, a few consecutive seasons in the Champions League for Celtic will bring about incredible financial growth.
In my opinion, this year’s Celtic team are not better than those in the past. They may be as good, or prove to be better but at this point I do not believe that they are. Lennon has done an amazing job to build the squad he currently has, but Gary Hooper is no Henrik Larsson. Kris Commons is no Petrov, Mulgrew is no Nakamura, and Miku is no Chris Sutton….. not yet. I love all these players, and I don’t think many of them are far off those who I’ve compared them to, and undoubtedly some of them will go on to be better. However, this team is very young and it is unjust to compare them against what are really some of the club’s biggest legends of the past two to three decades. Who knows, they could prove to be every bit as special as those teams and those players were, but accordingly, it would be unfair to those great Celtic teams of the past to say that this year’s version is better than they were. This is also evident in terms of Celtic’s defensive approach in Europe. While Lennon has not set his team up defensively, that style of play has happened naturally. It is due to a lack of experience and still-blossoming technical ability; something that the teams of the ‘Fortress Paradise’ era had, and as a result, were able to play a more attacking, free flowing style of football. While Lennon’s current squad may not be quite ready for comparison against such greats, I can say that given the circumstances, it is a larger accomplishment than many of those great teams of the past could muster.
Finally, if Celtic are to become that consistent European force once again, they must do all they can to reinstate Paradise as a daunting fortress. They are already well on their way, with four wins and one draw so far in Europe at home this season against a variety of opposition. Let us hope that the fortress continues that run of form against Juventus, and well into the future.
Video belongs to dobi777