The day Celtic encountered a real-life Football Manager and made history


It isn’t every day in life that you wake up in the morning knowing that there is a fairly good chance you are going to witness a piece of history being made, particularly when you are returning from slumber in an unremarkable room in a Travelodge in the centre of Glasgow.  How many people, I wonder, have woken up in the bland surroundings of a Travelodge hotel with its basic cable television and PG Tips teabags (no sachets of Nescafe coffee were even available) and bleak early 2000’s decor and gone on to be present when a historically significant event occurs?  There was certainly no-one attending the Gettysburg Address having spent an evening at the local Travelodge, and I doubt that any of the revellers who cheered as the Berlin Wall came down went back to a twin room at the Travelodge.

Yet this would go on to be a historic day, despite a night in the cotton linen of the aforementioned hotel chain.  Rodger Federer won his 18th Grand Slam title.  The United States of America completed its transition to a Fascist state.  I stood in a queue for a pie at Celtic Park for a record length of time – WITHOUT EVEN GETTING A PIE AT THE END OF IT – and most of this occurred well before lunchtime, bearing in mind that Sky television coverage decreed that this fixture kicked off at one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon.

The other piece of history we were about to witness was Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic team eclipsing the 26-match unbeaten domestic run of the 1966/67 Lisbon Lions Celtic side. The platform at Central Station was teeming with supporters eager to brave another ScotRail engineering fault to get to this game, whilst Celtic Park was swelling with anticipation.  There was a real buzz about this game – it felt like a genuinely big sporting occasion – and all that stood in the way of a passage in the history books was a Hearts side managed by Ian Cathro.

I have no idea if Ian Cathro has ever played the popular PC game Football Manager.  He certainly looks like he could be a Football Manager player, and many of his critics in the Scottish media derided him as being some sort of Football Manager, power point presentation coach when he was appointed manager of Hearts at the end of 2016. However, if this was a Football Manager save I would be seriously considering starting over again as manager of Real Madrid or Manchester United if were Cathro.

I myself am a moderately successful Football Manager player.  I dedicate several hours a week to the cause of getting Portsmouth promoted from League Two, and right now I’m doing a pretty darn good job, sitting nine points clear of second-placed Mansfield in February 2017 and with an FA Cup fifth round replay at home to Crystal Palace to look forward to.  I’ve turned Blackpool’s Jack Redshaw into a goalscoring sensation, have Manchester United loanee Josh Harrop pulling the strings in midfield and my possession style of football even saw us knock local rivals Bournemouth out of the FA Cup on their own patch with >60% of the ball.  But could I manage the third/fourth biggest club in Scottish football, for real?  That is disputable.

Cathro’s Hearts resistance here was as weak as a Travelodge tea, as soft as the water pressure in a Travelodge shower.  They tried, for a while, but ultimately they would have been better off trying to get a pie from the kiosk in block 140, because once Celtic opened the scoring through a slick counter attacking move involving Scott Brown, Scott Sinclair and, finally, Callum McGregor there was only ever going to be one winner.

From that moment on we were witnessing history develop before our eyes,  Despite the guy behind me insisting that Scott Sinclair (two goals and an assist) should have been withdrawn because “he’s been shite from the first minute” the second-half was largely played out in a party atmosphere.  There was Just Can’t Get Enough and the entire stadium doing the Huddle, where I wrapped my arms around the Northern Irishman next to me whose words I can’t understand, but words weren’t needed because we could sing and celebrate in this day.

There is an air of invincibility around Celtic at the moment, on the pitch and in the stands. Whilst singing songs about winning the league in January and going for ten in a row before six is mathematically complete has a scent of hubris to it, it is difficult to argue against. This team was missing five bona fide first-team players in Dembele, Griffiths, Sviatchenko, Armstrong and Rogic and it still comfortably swatted away the fourth team in the SPFL.  One feels that there may be many more history making days ahead with Brendan Rodgers at the helm.  And they might even begin from the bed of a Travelodge hotel.

Final scores:
JJ 0-1 Availability of pies at the kiosk
Celtic 4-0 Hearts

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