In a new feature, 3 Cynic writers list their top 3 choices in, well, pretty much anything!
Some clubs in world sport are famous for their never say die attitude, from Manchester United’s Fergie time to Gordon Strachan’s Celtic, a team that would run harder and faster than the opposition all the way until the final whistle. In this first ever Cynic Top 3 we’ve asked three Cynic writers which Celtic moments are etched in their memories when they hear the word ‘comeback.’
First up is Dubliner Eoin Coyne, who takes us all the way back as far as the dark days of 1992
Hearts 2 – 3 Celtic (1/1/2006)
I fucking hate Hearts, I hate most of the SPFL teams for some trivial reason or other and obviously we all hate Rangers but my Hearts hate has an intensity to it that few clubs can match. Firstly, they ruined my first trip to see Celtic: Di Canio scored and immediately got sent off, game finished 2-2, they march on to nine in a row. A few years later during the John Barnes era we were handily 2-0 up at half time and somehow contrived to lose 3-2 to the Union Jack waving bastards. Both games took about 18 hours to get to via a horrific combination of boats and buses from Dublin. And that second time a kid behind me puked on my back. So I hate Hearts, but it’s justified.
This game in particular was during the end of the high-romance period of the Romanov era Hearts. With Rangers giving us all a taste of what was to come by having what was (then) a rare shambolic season Hearts had stepped up and even led the table in the early goings.
On this day they came roaring out of the traps. 2-0 up within 10 minutes and the place was rocking, with vile hatred of course, but, you know, still impressively loud. As the game settled we played our way into it but by the time Stan Petrov limped out it looked like our hopes were limping off with him -especially considering the replacement.
Yet on came Stephen Pearson and his constant running like a madman style and about 10 minutes into the second half we had one back, the substitute turning in a Shaun Maloney cross. You could almost hear the collective sphincter-tightening among the 17,000. Again, Strachan’s Celtic were far from attractive but they did score an obscene amount of late goals. Fyssas got sent off with 15 to go and the pressure mounted and mounted until finally a release.
With two minutes to go McManus bulleted a header past Gordon from one of those exquisite Nakamura free kicks and their day was ruined. I was happy enough with the draw, declaring at 2-2 was fine by me. The subsequent winner was even more delicious because of that, an unexpected extra little treat.
Into injury time Nakamura won a soft free kick out left, if you go back and watch this please enjoy the deranged anger of the locals at this juncture. Then he swings another teasing ball in, there’s a bit of scrambling about and McManus hits a very awkward looking shot on the turn that bobbles, improbably, into the back of the net. Bedlam in the away end and the locals unable to react, to make sounds, no booing, just stunned silence. Up ye’s.
Aberdeen 2 – 3 Celtic (10/9/1995)
For my next favourite we go back a ways to the good old bad old Celtic Da days. We went the whole season losing only one game and still came up short: it was the closest Tommy Burns ever came to winning us the league. Though they never quite put all the bits together that team could be incredibly swashbuckling and so it proved here after yet another slow start.
Celtic were 2-0 down with barely 10 minutes played. Gordon Marshall reminding us all how, in the scheme of things, Craig Gordon ain’t all bad: the second in particular being a weak Eoin Jess shot trundling over the line to add to a rather comical Tom Boyd own goal. 10 minutes later Celtic were back in the game with a stunning long range, outside of the boot finish from John Collins – one well worth a second watch — and just after the half hour Celtic were level after an Andy Thom over-hit cross went straight in, this was charitably described as ‘another piece of genius from Celtic’.
With Aberdeen rattled, Celtic continued to pour forward and Collins bagged what would prove to be the winner five minutes before half-time, after Snelders parried a Thom effort straight back out to his feet. It seemed to be, at the time, an encouraging sign of things to come and though the season ended without a trophy we really did play some terrific stuff.
Celtic 3 – 0 FC Köln (30/9/1992)
Not Celtic Da enough for you? Fine, let’s go to an even darker place. 1992 to be specific. Things hadn’t totally collapsed at Celtic but the stench of decay was strong. A season removed from the 5-1 humiliation at the wonderfully (pharmaceutically?) named Neuchatel Xamax, Celtic were comfortably 2-0 down from the first leg in Germany (featuring some classic Celtic slapstick defending) and few would have given Liam Brady’s struggling side a chance.
Yet for 90 minutes all the domestic struggles were put to one side and the jungle rocked and the ground shook with noise when the goals flew in. Two slightly fortuitous but deserved goals in as many minutes towards the end of the first half from the magnificent, imperious Paul McStay and the….the…uh…Gerry Creaney levelled the tie. The second half was a far more tense affair but with 10 minutes to go, John Collins wriggled into some space in the box and fired home the winner. Watch the jungle erupt. A rare sliver of joy in what seemed like it would be a never-ending procession of drudgery.
(Watch a full 31 minutes of glorious highlights from the game here)
Matt Rhein is one of our stats guys and he is next to share his memories of xSqueakybumtime.
2017 Aberdeen – Celtic 1-2 (27/5/2017)
‘Comeback’ might not be the first thing Celtic supporters think of when someone mentions the 2017 Scottish Cup Final. But the win that clinched the first of two consecutive trebles (so far) and sealed the “Invincible” campaign, was indeed a comeback.
Jonny Hayes opened the scoring for the Dons in the 9th minute and perhaps the idea of it being a comeback is not obvious because Stuart Armstrong equalised only two minutes later. For the following 81 minutes, I’m sure I wasn’t the only Celtic supporter filled with dread.
Until Tom Rogic scored the goal we all can probably recreate from memory, there were thoughts back to the previous season’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers. Though that loss in penalties brought the end of Ronny Deila’s time at the club, Celtic outshot the other half 33 to 9 that day. A similar on-slot was occurring against the Dons in 2016 and after the previous season, you could not blame supporters for waiting for the inevitable gut punch goal for Aberdeen that would have been against the run of play.
Yet, the Aussie that some of this parish have dubbed “Hands for Feet”, lifted that 1,000 pound monkey off our back when scoring in the second minute of injury time. After Tom Rogic’s goal, there were two emotions that flooded me: relief and jubilation.
Watch the video by the Cynic’s Keith McGinty from the 2017 Cup Final, including what it was like in the stands when Tom Rogic scored that goal:
Kilmarnock 3 – 3 Celtic (15/10/2011)
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, one gets used to expecting the worst when it comes to sports as the local teams have given little reason for their supporters to have much optimism. So I have been conditioned over my life to apply this pessimism to all of my sporting teams, even those on a different continent.
Needless to say, when a Celtic side that had just lost to Hearts in October of 2011 were down 3-0 away to Kilmarnock after the first half, I was not expecting anything but the announcement of Neil Lennon’s resignation shortly after full time. I audibly told the rest of the Cleveland Celtic Supporters Club as much at the time and contemplated saving what was remaining of a fall Saturday morning and heading home. Yet, perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment, I stayed.
Thank goodness I did, as we all know what happened next. Three goals from Anthony Stokes and Charlie Mulgrew in seven minutes saw Celtic save a point, Neil Lennon’s job, and perhaps the season. In fact, I remember hearing the Celtic TV commentator say “we are going to win this match,” when Mulgrew’s equalizer went in. That winner never came, but those three goals in seven minutes gave even the most pessimistic Celtic supporters hope that season.
Rangers 2 – 3 Celtic (11/3/2018)
“Fucking Jozo,” I heard from someone across the bar mutter. My internal reaction to Jozo Simunovic’s 57th minute red card was even less work appropriate, but I was only able to verbalize to my neighbor at the pub “we need to park the bus and try for a point.” Coming into the final match at Ibrox before the SPFL split in half, Celtic had a six point lead over Rangers in the table. An away loss to them would certainly make the last months of the SPFL more contested than it had been at any point in the past 18 months.
The Celtic internet seemed to be taking only extreme viewpoints on how this crucial match would go, either thinking Celtic would bat Rangers away with ease as they often had the previous year and a half or the inconsistent form that had plagued the Bhoys (well, at least compared to the invincible season the previous year) would come back to haunt Celtic. After Dedryk Boyata gave the ball away to Josh Windass and the English midfielder scored, the more pessimistic among the support saw their worst fears coming to life.
Perhaps more than ever over the two seasons Celtic took home every domestic trophy they could, Celtic showed resiliency that day. Whenever life gave Celtic metaphorical chicken shit, they were able to turn it into chicken salad.
A Boyata howler resulting in a Rangers lead within the first five minutes? Big Tam Rogic with a great strike to equalize eight minutes later.
Daniel Candeias firing Rangers back into the lead after a cross is allowed to bounce 18 times through the box (ok, slight exaggeration)? Moussa Dembele uses Cardoso as a backpack while chipping Wes Foderingham and giving the world “Whit’s teh goalie daen. Tom?!”
Every Celtic supporter screaming “Fucking Jozo!” when the oft-maligned center back throws an elbow and gets sent off? Celtic frustrate Rangers, preventing them from creating any good chances despite being down to ten men and performing a lightning quick counter that let Odsonne Edouard saunter into the Rangers box and give Celtic the winner.
In a two year period that will live with Celtic supporters forever, the resiliency shown by Celtic that day in Ibrox should be a highlight of those memorable years.
Finally, we have a trio of comebacks from Daniel McGowan, a ripe selection of some of our most recent barnstorming comebacks.
Motherwell 3 – 4 Celtic (3/12/2016)
In football, you sometimes find games that just give you a real insight into how things will pan out. This match – a seven-goal thriller at Fir Park – was the point in the Invincible Treble season where I really felt that this Celtic team could be unbeatable domestically.
Motherwell took a first-half lead as Louis Moult fired two past Craig Gordon. I think that it is often difficult for teams that are so far ahead of their rivals to adjust to a scenario in which they aren’t in control. Teams that are generally dominant can find this scenario unusual and insurmountable. On this day, Celtic 2016/17 proved that, not only could they dominate and steamroll, but also that they had the quality, guile and mentality to surgically extract victory from the organs of defeat.
A goal from King Stuart of the South Coast made it 3-3 and it all culminated in Tom Rogic’s wonderful winner: a dress rehearsal for his even more significant goal at Hampden in May. One of the finest days of a remarkable season.
Celtic 3 – 0 Shakhtar Karagandy, 3-2 on aggregate (28/8/2013)
I have a really vivid memory of the away leg of this Champions League qualifying round tie. I’m pretty sure it was on the cooncil telly, as I have a clear vision of watching and despairing at my gran’s house. Not even her classically made mince and tatties could cure my dark mood, as Celtic were defeated 2-0 by a team that sound like a Pokemon.
Approaching the second leg, I had familiar feelings that echoed the infamous Artmedia Bratislava tie – I worried that Celtic would do much but not quite enough to come back and achieve the holy grail: Champions League qualification.
I don’t remember much of the game as a whole, but I have vivid recollections of the final minutes, as Neil Lennon’s side frantically pushed for a goal. Fantastic work from Anthony Stokes led to then-frustrating-now-superstar, James Forrest, nearly bursting a hole in the net, like a player in an old PES game.
A fantastic and significant comeback, like grandma used to make. It’s just a shame we absolutely gubbed in the group.
This is still one of my most fondly remembered seasons – not because Celtic were really good, or anything. In fact, it is more because they weren’t very good at all. That is, up until the final stretch of games. Seven matches left and a points gap of double figures, the challenge seemed insurmountable.
This impossible task was made harder by the fact that 6 points were essentially required in two games against Rangers in the space of a week. The first derby, a 2-1 victory at Celtic Park, is one of the most unforgettable derbies in my lifetime. A red card, a late winner, a missed penalty and a flying handball – the perfect recipe for a fantastic football match. After this massive victory, Rangers were put to the sword for a second time: a 3-2 won courtesy of a classic Barry Robson “just smash it down the middle and hope for the best” penalty.
Admittedly, Celtic were helped by Rangers’ European exertions in this late season period. However, the mentality and consistency required to come back and win every game in a losing race cannot be undermined. It’s very difficult. The comeback culminated in a win over Dundee United at Tannadice, made all the more poignant by the recent death of club legend Tommy Burns.
It always interests me that some of our fondest moments in football are close calls, because it often means a very flawed team. But then again, we love our clubs for their flaws too.