The Celtic story of a young Bournemouth Bhoy
Being just 14 and growing up in Bournemouth (England) my earliest stand-out memories of Celtic are from the beginning of the 2002/2003 season under Martin O'Neill. As I could only get to a few Celtic games, due to the expense of getting there, I instead used to go to my neighbour Pete Duffy's house, with my dad, to watch the games. Pete used to live in Scotland and went to every Celtic game home and away as a child. We all enjoyed seeing such a great Celtic side and, most notably for me, watching Henrik Larsson - my bhoyhood hero!
Everyone around Bournemouth and Poole all laughed at me when the little 7-year-old that I was used to say to them how Celtic were better than loads of sides, particularly in England - they replied; 'oh yes, that team in the SPL'. I can remember the pure noise and passion from European games and seeing so many fans at Celta Vigo and Blackburn, etc...
Then, one day the phone rang, it was my uncle who lived and worked in Liverpool - he worked alongside many Liverpool fans and told me he had a pair of tickets in the Liverpool end for the UEFA cup quarter final at Anfield. I can remember writing a note to my teacher and asking permission to leave school early so I could travel up - I didn't care that it was in the home end.
All around the ground loads of Celtic fans, and I can still hear their voices today, kept asking if it was my first match and saying 'hi wee man' and 'are you alright wee man', etc. I couldn't stop giggling at their Scottish accents as other than Pete id never heard one before. To this very day I say its my favourite game I've ever been to.
My next memory that season was round Pete's house watching Celtic in Seville and being gutted I wasn't there as my mums cousin, who lived in Seville, phoned and said he got tickets easily and fairly cheap - my mum had completely forget he lived there and we could have gone had she only remembered. In the closing stages of the game I can still visualise myself sat on the carpet with my head between my knees praying for an equaliser. Obviously, it wasn't to be and a few days later I had the disgust of listening to a ragers 'fan' say how ragers deserved the title that year. For me I was lucky being brought up in that era, and it may never happen again in my dads life time that we get a side so good as that.
I then had the pleasure of going to the Scottish cup final v Dundee United (Martin O'Neill's final game) and travelling to and from the game being picked up by a limo from the Tiger Tiger pub - this was pre-arranged and so were the tickets for us by Pete's old next door neighbours in Scotland - it was 1-0 and after the game back in the Tiger Tiger I got Frank McGarvey's autograph - and a rangers fans gave me a fiver! (Ed, I hope you threw a tenner down... :)
I have been to 5 or 6 games at Parkhead in my lifetime, the cup final at Hampden, the UEFA cup game at Anfield, and from the last few years and still currently I got to every pre-season in England. This year I'm hoping to get tickets for the Dublin cup, however, I know there is a small chance of this happening.
Since the O'Neill era I have seen many great European nights under Strachan on TV, e.g. The AC Milan and Man U wins at Paradise - but it seemed to go downhill for a while, no longer did we get the Sutton's of this world, but we got the Adam Virgos, etc... But now I feel we are finally back on the rise, not near as good as O'Neill's side yet, but we're going the right way. If I don't get a career in football then I aim to go to numerous Celtic matches and maybe buy a season ticket so I could go to the Glasgow Derby games home and away and European games at home.
For me its a shame to live so far from Celtic as I have an AFC Bournemouth season ticket and don't often get to experience our great fans and atmosphere, and have not yet seen the Glasgow Derby other than on TV. But in the next few years, if Ryanair return to Bournemouth airport, dad has promised we will go to a Glasgow Derby game at Paradise as there are a few tickets on general sale usually - should be so lucky as to get one. I have now got many friends hooked on Celtic as after every game I watch Green Brigade videos on youtube! Celtic will always be in my heart and so will my 1/4 Irishness (I love where I live but hate two things about it; a) it makes me English b) I cant often visit Celtic Park - only once per season and pre-seasons in England.
Hail Hail, from me to the best fans in the world. I look forward to pre-season when I can be amongst us superb supporters and hopefully lead my favourite song - 'I Just Cant Get Enough' - in front of what I think will be the side which would have just won the treble.