I’ve been to a few Celtic pre-season matches in the past, but none quite like this one. It was extraordinary. I was expecting a good atmosphere, but it is very hard to describe the atmosphere during the day. There were many pubs around Griffin Park, the football club is famous for its pubs on each corner of the ground. All the pubs were full to the brim with those famous Celtic fans that have such a good reputation throughout the world.
The first pub was on the outskirts, around ten minutes from the ground called the Ealing Park Tavern. This was a great pub with a few Celtic fans preparing for the party. We moved on to the New Inn, which upon first sight, was incredible. The pub was full with Celtic fans and the road outside was rammed as well. I struggled to get a drink and go to the toilet, so Sainsbury’s was the next destination…and the backstreet behind it. I met QPR legend Kevin Gallen on the way, who also favours Celtic, just a little interesting fact.
At half past two, it was time to head to the ground. On arrival, the atmosphere was already electric and flares were being let off at will, as they say-‘no pyro, no party!’. It was a party alright! The Celtic starting line up was a young one, with seven players who were under 21. As if things could get louder, the roof was raised when Tom Rogic struck an effort just wide of the post. Just after ten minutes, the home support, the minority, were celebrating, a Forshaw header put the Bees 1-0 up! It was soon 1-1 though, Amido Balde bundled the ball home just over twenty minutes in, his first goal for the club. The Bhoys were full of confidence on the pitch and off the pitch, that party was in full swing. Some Celtic fans decided to run onto the pitch, all in good jest of course, which gave the players a chance to admire the huddle that three stands of the ground were participating in. Celtic should have been in front just before half time. Balde first chipping the helpless home ‘keeper, only to see the bar preventing his second, Tony Watt then followed up, hitting his shot into the ground, which bounced up and hit the crossbar again. Zaluska made a decent save before the break, much to the delight of the terrace behind him. The whistle blew for half time, the two teams level.
I then had a twenty minute argument with the head steward demanding that more cold drinks were made available as they ran out early at half time. I won this argument, sacrificing the first five minutes of the second half as a result. McGregor looked a threat, drilling the ball across the goal just wide before curling a carefully placed effort into the bottom corner from Tony Watt’s cross. Celtic were in the lead. Then substitute Bahrudin Atajic reacted quickly to poke the ball towards the goal but it was cleared off the line by the desperate defender. ‘Argentina’ and ‘Diego Maradona’ chants were all part of the fun. Brentford piled the pressure on in the dying minutes, but the Celtic defence stood firm, seeing the decent win out. Final score was 1-2.
The full time whistle saw a pitch invasion, the stewards were warned with chants of ‘We’re going on the pitch, we’re going on the pitch!’. As the huddle spread round the stadium again, the visitors were rightly applauded by the hosts, who failed to fill their one stand.
In the meantime, rumours were flying around social networking sites claiming that Celtic fans were chanting about Lee Rigby, who was tragically murdered earlier this year. I can categorically say that I didn’t hear such chants, and this is also the case with everyone who was there at the game. Those that claimed such nonsense have no evidence to back up their sick rumours, and they disgrace the former soldier and his family by creating such vile stories. This is just another attempt to spoil the Celtic support’s great reputation. Rumours like this never do dampen such fantastic support though, as all is clear to see.
So, why was this such an amazing day? I live in London and to see the West taken over by the Celtic faithful was brilliant. The friendly nature of the fans is welcomed by all, and there were many Brentford supporters that could be seen in and around the pubs enjoying the fine day with their visitors. We showed up in our thousands for a pre-season friendly, created a carnival atmosphere and showed once more, that we really do have the best fans in the land. The young Bhoys got a fantastic result too. It was a pre-season friendly done the Celtic way!