With the final qualifying rounds of the Champions League due to take place this week, I for one will be firmly rooted to my dusty derrière sculptured armchair with full focus on Celtic vs Maribor. Unless you have been doing a stint on the international space station in the past couple of weeks or find yourself with the same views of Scottish football as most of my work colleagues (best not write it on here), you will have heard of the extremely fortunate manner in which Celtic progressed to this round. For those of you who were growing cacti on the ISS or something equally as important I will give you a brief overview of events from the previous round.
Celtic played the Polish side Legia Warsaw and found themselves 6-1 down on aggregate deep in the second half of the second leg, when all hope of Champions League football had disappeared it would appear the gods were still smiling on the Bhoys that night despite their shambolic display, either that or Legia had appointed the worst administration staff that not even the NHS would take on.
Legia made a substitution 4 minutes from time and sent on Bartosz Bereszyński – a player who unbeknown to them had not fully served a recent suspension. UEFA took action against Legia almost immediately after the game and stated that according to the rules the tie must be classed as a forfeit by Legia, subsequently if any team forfeits a tie the standard procedure is to award a 3-0 win to the opponents, this meant the aggregate score finished 4-4 with Celtic through on the back of the away goal scored during the first leg.
The Legia Chairman and Co-Owner Dariusz Mioduski in an act of desperation wrote an open letter to Celtic inviting them (amongst other things) to play a one off game to decide who should progress to the next round, and then later asked the Bhoys to step aside an allow the Polish side to progress.
This is where the facts end and my opinion (for what its worth) rears its ugly head. I understand that Legia will face a huge backlash from their fans not to mention the money lost and humiliation of the European football scene for an error that wouldn’t look out of place in a Sunday pub league, however the desperate act of asking Celtic to ignore the UEFA ruling and step aside to allow Legia through was embarrassing if not disrespectful, but it was clever.
Was the letter actually written with the intention as most people saw it, which was a desperate attempt to claw onto any chance they might still have of participating in the Champions League?.
They achieved one key aspect from the letter, and that was cleverly diverting peoples attention to Celtic making them the villains, and in turn making Legia the victims. This was a master class in the art of diversion and not at any point would they have expect Celtic to go against a UEFA ruling and stand aside.
There was no doubt that Legia Warsaw were by far and away the better team, but when people ask do I feel Celtic should still be in the Champions League the answer every time will be yes, the Champions League is the top level in European football and in order to effectively compete in the tournament you need to be on the ball at all times on and off the pitch, unfortunately for Legia that evening with four minutes to go they took their eye off the ball and lost possession.
It remains to be seen if Celtic make the most of their get out of jail card, pass go and collect their $200 against Maribor on Wednesday night. I for one hope they do.
As for Legia I wish them well in the Europa League however I will leave this final thought for the Polish side;
People learn most not from being taught but from mistakes made, in order to learn from mistakes they need to be accepted first.