Thursday, August 06, 2009

We'll always have Moscow

Even for me getting a prediction wrong before the start of the season is quite impressive. But I'll admit Celtic's last minute heroics in Moscow proved me wrong. Had I actually bet my house on them winning I'd be writing this from somewhere more exotic than Edinburgh.

But Celtic did it last night and fair play to them. Their fans and those strange football followers who understand the labyrinthine complexities of the co-efficient applaud them.

Of course, churlish as it is to point this out now, tomorrow's final qualifying draw could see Celtic up against it again. A trip to the Emirates or some equally glamorous location will still be a tough ask.

For now though Celtic should be enjoying the feeling. And last night's draw has a couple of important meanings.

Firstly Celtic have got the away record off their backs. They've been unlucky, at times they've been heroic, but they've also lost to teams away from home that they should have beaten. Even if there are no easy games in Europe anymore the 23 game run has seriously dented any assertion that Celtic should be considered in the top tier of Europe.

That's now gone and should bring comfort and confidence to the players in either the Champion's League or the Europa League.

Secondly Tony Mowbray has avoided "doing a Strachan." Wee Gordon's relationship with the fans was what a counsellor might call complex. But the Artmedia Bratislava debacle kicked things off to the worst possible start.

Mowbray has been hailed as returning hero and there clearly seems to be a bond from the terraces that eluded Strachan. But football is fickle and defeat in Moscow would have left Mogga's position as flavour of the month that little bit more shoogly.

More than anyone else the manager will be aware that victory on Wednesday was not a defining moment and the road ahead remains a testing hike. But he'll also know that defeat could have been defining. He's too intelligent, too steeped in the game not to be relieved that the first hurdle has been cleared.

So a good night for Celtic. They'll be hoping that UEFA's ball janglers make it a very good week tomorrow.