I've Seen This Happen In Other People's Lives...Now It's Happening In Mine.
By The Way - Weekly Columns
Where else have you got left to go to when you've seen life get as good as it's probably going to get? I've asked myself multiple variations on that question over recent months. In effect, I'm caught in the biggest existential crisis of my adult Celtic-supporting life. I can't get over Tom Rogic's goal at Hampden on 27th May 2017. Eight months on, and I'm utterly convinced I'm never going to get close to that high again. I've had many great moments as a Celtic supporter, ranging from my first game at Celtic Park (10 Men Won The League in '79), beating Real Madrid & Juve in the early '80's, Love Street '86 (sorry Remy!), the Centenary Double, and, from MON's arrival onwards, so many magical moments, late winners, unlikely European wins and multiple trophy celebrations. But nothing has affected me quite as profoundly as big Tam's goal, the aftermath, and the unshakeable belief I currently have that I've had my Greatest Celtic Moment already. The run-up for all of us to that incredible climax to last season was beyond special: a real feeling of belief that we were on the verge of something monumental happening, with the unstoppable momentum built up by Brendan's team on the park converging perfectly with the growing confidence and sheer anticipatory elation that was mounting amongst the fans. From a personal perspective, I've written before about my own Treble 2001 experience (https://pault1888.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/three-is-the-magic-number/ ) and the thought of only the second of those in my adult life was a tantalising one. From the moment we won our semi-final against some newly-promoted mob, most of us were fixated on the Treble. The League was well won, the team was on a high, and we were playing notorious No-voting bottle-merchants Aberdeen. The stars were aligning... The run-up to the Final itself was memorable personally: the Thursday night was the Celebrate '67 thing at the Hydro, I'd managed to get tickets to take my eldest daughter there as I was fairly certain (rightly as it turned out) I didn't have a taxpayer's chance in Ibrox of getting a ticket for her for the Final (if you read that other story I've linked to above you'll get why this was important). I had low expectations for the gig but to be fair they were smashed quite spectacularly by what turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining and at times moving evening. It was especially important to honour the achievements of the Lions in 2017, and I think everyone involved did a fantastic job of doing that and putting on a good warm-up for the next couple of days. On the Friday, a slight diversion from the Celtic into the second love of my life, music: The Wedding Present playing their seminal George Best album at the O2 ABC. I can't really think of anything that would get me quite as much up for a big game as a good gig beforehand, with good friends and very good beer to boot. Throw in a late night, a blistering gig, a very tasty kebab and some White Russians as nightcaps back at the hotel (yep, two nights in a hotel is what Cup Final Weekend is all about!) and we were all guns blazing for the Saturday, and history. The Saturday....what defines this Treble for me was that I spent it with my pals, last time in 2001 I was the only one with a ticket and managed to meet up with others afterwards but this time I was with the guys I went to the games with week-in week-out and we were all aware of the joint importance of seeing this through together. Pre-match as always was the Queens Park Cafe, my Southside home, and then the walk around Queens Park itself to get to Hampden. Amusingly we had a run-in with a bunch of Aberdeen fans which ended abruptly when one of them shouted "What have youse cunts ever done in Europe?" before his pals helped him away presumably for some early hospital treatment. We covered the game extensively in our post-match podcast that week (go back and listen to it- it's genuinely emotional) so I won't labour the point about the detail of what happened. But for me, everything comes down to that glorious Rogic moment: the half-hearted defensive header from some Aberdeen huddie or other, Stuart Armstrong's interception & slide-pass forward to big Tam, then that run...oh Christ that run. The sublime touch to take him away from the defender, the shot, the ball hitting the net, the noise....I'm shivering thinking of it. Beyond sexual. Beyond esctacy. No drug on earth could ever make me feel how I felt in that split-second as the ball hit the net. For a minute there, I lost myself. There were tears and snotters, hugging and kissing and more tears, grown adult humans reduced to quivering wrecks by the swing of a football boot. Quite simply the greatest single moment of my footballing life. I said after the game on our podcast it was the ultimate moment for me as a Celtic fan. I can't get past that being 100% true. It'll never be so good again. How could it be? So what comes next? I love going to games, I love the cameraderie, the spectacle, the football itself. But I'm not sure I'll ever love it quite as much again as I did in that elusive split-second after Rogic scored. It felt like the culmination of all those experiences since I first started going to see Celtic as a kid, all the highs and all the lows swept away into one miracle, one moment where the good guys got to win and win deservedly. Looking round that stadium post-match, seeing the extremes of human emotion, feeling like it was the most important thing in the world that we'd just witnessed...that felt like my moment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, I got to live it and it'll never be far from the top of the non-childbirth magical moments in my life...but it still feels like the end of something for me. I'll never not think of that moment with huge fondness and a massive smile on my face, and probably a wee tear in my eye too. If that is indeed as good as it gets for me & Celtic, well fuck me what a way to go. Prove me wrong Brendan!
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