Before we get in to the nitty gritty of this remarkable feat, which hinged on the final game of the season, I would like to go back a couple of weeks when Celtic had two remaining games left of which both had to be won. The first of the two games was against the much fancied fellow title contenders Multinational, whom had beaten Celtic in the first encounter 1-0 and were debutantes in the Media League this term. Celtic were well aware of the importance of the Multinational game, and the objective was crystal clear: Must win. No more room for errors, a drew would not be enough, victory was the only option, clearly, this was the last chance saloon.
Multinational 0-1 Fionn MacCool's Celtic
To add to Celtic's already mammoth task, due to injuries and players going AWOL, the back line was down to the bare bones, and was patched together with what ever reinforcements that manager Tibby could get his hands on. In these types of situations, you need to be able to call on the senior payers and more specifically your captain, to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and drag the team over the line -kicking and screaming if necessary. Luckily for Celtic, their Captain, Jason Mercier heard the call, and yet again put in a barnstorming performance, leading from the back and keeping the Celtic defense water tight for a solid 90+ minutes.
At the opposite end of the field, where again injuries were limiting Tibby's options, Fitzpatrick had been handed a starting birth partnering Teague up front. Whether Tibby's hand had been forced to play Fitzpatrick up front or whether it was sheer divine intuition, Fitzpatrick wasn't hanging around for an answer and seized the opportunity with barely 5 minutes on the clock, with Celtics first attack of the game.
Multinational had been controlling the tempo of the game and were confidently stroking the ball around with short intricate passes. However, against the run of play, Celtic managed to muster an attack down the left wing through Bredin. The rangy left wingers gallop had left him deep in Multinational territory with both Teague and Fitzpatrick screaming for the square ball. Bredin obliged, with a pass that look like it was intended for Teague but strayed behind the Englishman's run. However, the pass deceived not only Teague, but the rest of the Multinational back line, splitting it in two leaving Fitzpatrick clean through on the overlap. With the goal keeper rushing off his line, Fitzpatrick skillfully (not a word I use lightly!) rounded the keeper, and then from the most acute of angles rolled the ball over the line, leaving the trailing goalkeeper and defender in his wake. This was a huge life line, and it proved that Fitzpatrick had a healthy appetite when it came to the big occasion. The importance of the goal was up there with his match winner in the cup final the previous year, but this time, and much to the relief of the bench, Fitzpatrick kept his shirt on, opting against the explicit triple X celebrations.
After the Goal Multinational continued to dominate possession, but for all the slick passing on display failed to create any real end product. There was, however a sense that should they continue to boss proceedings in the second half, it would only be a matter of time before the possession would yield goals. A threat Tibby recognised all to well, as he look to reinvigorate Celtic during the half time team talk.
Sitting on the one goal advantage and soaking up the pressure was a risky game, and in the second half Celtic finally crept from out of their defensive shell and began knocking on Multinationals door. First up, Curley came close after been put through by an instinctive through ball from Barrero. Curley latched on to the pass, and with the keeper again looking to close the angle, deftly lobbed the ball over his advances only to see the ball pass inch's wide of the up right.
With the game becoming more open as both teams looked for the decisive second goal, Multinational managed to register their first shot on target, but Fourie was equal to it, tipping over the bar from close range.
As the minutes ticked away, the game was drawing to angonising close with both teams having great chances. With the Multinational back line pushing up close to the half way line they were prone to passes in behind. And first to exploit this was Lucero, after being put clean through only to be denied one on one with the goalkeeper. Next up Teague, with almost an identical chance as Lucero was foiled by the keeper, who at this point was keeping his side in the game. Teague then had an another opportunity to seal Multinationals fate only for a last ditch tackle to keep them in with a shout.
Much to the relief of Teague, and owing a huge debt to the magnificent Celtic back line a clean was kept, and Celtic had achieved the must win they set out for.
Zoomer FC 0-5 Fionn MacCool's Celtic
The objective in this one: "Don't do a Zoomer."
Although the score line would suggest an even more entertaining game then the Multinational match, do not be fooled by the books cover. Zoomer, with little to play for than bragging rights to middle table mediocrity, had about as much motivation for this encounter as I do for mental arithmetic. Which, in terms of numbers, equated to 9 or possibly ten men -what difference does it make- sheepishly displaying a 4-3-1 formation that was never going to trouble Celtic.
At least that's what we thought. Perhaps, knowing Celtics Achilles heel, which is play badly and Celtic will drop to your standard was Zoomer's cunning plan. What ever the reason, Celtic managed to make hard work out of the depleted Zoomer, and it wasnt until the second half, with the Zoomer tiring, that Celtic really drove home their numerical advantage.
Highlights of the game included, a brace by Curley, who would have pinched a hatrick had it not been for Teague sabotaging a goal bound effort, clearing the bar from a yard out with a dismal header, such was his level of desperation to get on the score sheet. Although, who really needs to hear about a Curley hatrick anyway?! Your welcome.
The other key moments came from, Bredin who managed to get on the score sheet as well, bringing his drought to an end, after being put thorugh with a punched like pass from Teague which has suspciions of being off offside. Prior drove in a clean finish after finding his range, and, Bredin retruned the favour to Teague with a square ball inside the box, which Teague tucked away, much to his relief.
So, in terms of quality, the two games were at opposite ends of the spectrum. But, the points had been secured and now Celtic had to sit and wait for two agonising weeks, while KU finished up their schedule, whilst knowing that KU at least had to draw one of their two remaining gmaes for Celtic to then win on goal difference. After winning 3-1 in their penultimate game, the worst was feared as the opposition for their last game was our old foe Morton, who similar to Zoomer had little to play for as their final league position was all but set.
And, that theory at least at half time, with Morton 2-0 down would seem like a sound bet. However, from the Morse code updates I was receiving, depsite being two goals down, Morton had played the better football in the first half. And, they continued the second in much the same vain. It would, however, take until 10 minutes from time to give the Celtic traveling suporters some hope to cling to.
After being two goals to the good the KU manager, in his naivety, made a quadruple substitution including the goalkeeper. And it would be the change in keeper, that ultimately would lead to their down fall. After what looked like a routine save found its way in to the net through the keepers butter like fingers, Morton sensed a comeback. And, on 90 minutes, with Celtic's hopes of league title glory in the balance, Morton delivered the shattering blow to KU, via a freekick awarded just outside the box, that smacked the post but fell kindly to Morton who duly tapped home.
Who needs the Premier league? Pfff! You could not ask for a more dramatic ending to a fantastic season, which finally sees Celtic get their hands on the elusive League title, which slipped through their grips this time last season, ironically due to a no-show from KU. Bitter sweet.
I could ramble on, and continue to throw superlatives on what has been a season full of highs and lows, but their is little more satisfying than kicking back and gazing at the league table, Celtic atop.