In 2004, Celtic played Villareal in the UEFA Cup a season after Seville had been and gone. Celtic were getting to the latter rounds of the competition and had just defeated Barcelona – knocking them out of the competition.

We were then drawn against Villareal – seemingly inferior to the side who we just put out from La Liga.

Martin O’Neill’s Celtic could only manage a 1-1 draw at home against the Spaniards and their second trip to Spain proved disastrous as Villareal won 2-0 going through 3-1 on aggregate. It was bitterly disappointing for the Celtic support who thought after Seville they could reach another European final. However, the image etched in my memory after all these years is Celtic and Villareal fans post-match swapping scarves and shaking hands at the fan boundaries. We were knocked out of Europe but the Villareal fans applauded the unwavering Celtic support and vice versa.

We made such an impression on the Spaniards they started a Celtic supporters group after our 2004 visit. It still looks like it’s going strong today with a video appearing online of the supporters club singing You’ll Never Walk Alone at a get together.

Over the years the supporters club have made a few trips to Celtic Park and have always promoted the link between Celtic and Villareal since the tie.

Brilliant.

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