Fanfare For The Commons Man

By Brian P. Dunleavy

So Celtic officially turned everything it touched in Scottish football to silver last weekend in winning the Scottish Cup final 2-1 over closest rivals Aberdeen at Hampden Park.

And, at this point, who could argue that everything is going the club’s way? For evidence, look no further than the failed pass by the Dons’ Jonny Hayes (perhaps a future Parkhead player) in the second half of Saturday’s final, which flubbed a glorious scoring chance for the game underdogs.

But, amazingly, the Hoops’ “Midas touch”—or at least the Scottish equivalent of said-same—seems to extend even beyond the pitch. For if the club had any unfinished business from its past—both distant and recent—it involved properly honoring the “Lisbon Lions” for taking home the European Cup in 1967 (50 years ago last week) and providing erstwhile star midfielder Kris Commons with a proper send-off.

In fact, the Parkhead club did both, all while securing the domestic treble (and leaving the aforementioned Dons standing at the alter in all three major competitions).

Indeed, during the 1980s and early 1990s, as the club struggled financially and otherwise, Celtic faced criticism for its treatment of its greatest all-time team, the 1967 European champions, who famously became the first British side to win a continental title. Worse, some of that criticism came from the players involved in that triumph themselves.

Now, 50 years hence—but, alas, with several of the key protagonists no longer with us—the club has more than made amends, with a season-long tribute to the side that brought glory to the green side of Glasgow “in the heat of Lisbon” on May 25, 1967. “Lions” Bertie Auld and Jim Craig (along with former teammate John Clark, the long-time Hoops kit man) made regular appearances at Celtic Park and on behalf of the club at other events around Scotland throughout the season. The celebration, of course, culminated with a star-studded concert at the “Hydro” on Thursday, Bobby Lennox, Willie Wallace, John “Yogi” Hughes and (our personal favorite) Charlie Gallagher all in attendance.

(An aside, although the gaffer at First Touch doesn’t pay us for psychoanalysis: It was interesting to see former Celtic player and manager Neil Lennon at that event at the Hydro last week. Now at Hibs, Lennon admitted to the crowd that evening that their singing of “One Neil Lennon” was making him emotional; you have to wonder if he now regrets

his decision to step down from the Parkhead job in 2014.)

And, Commons, too, was given his just due. Celtic’s and Scotland’s Player of the Year in 2013-14, the midfielder was too often mistreated under former Hoops manager Ronny Deila, and left out of the squad for big matches. The damage to Commons’ career was lasting, as he (arguably as a result) lacked the fitness to succeed under current manager Brendan Rodgers’ attacking, pressing system this season. A class act (for the most part) and a devoted servant to the club (he and his family have also been active in Celtic-related charity functions), Commons deserved better. And he got it. Rodgers invited him to participate in the “trophy-day” celebrations at Celtic Park on May 21st (along with Efe Ambrose), and he got one final runout on the Parkhead pitch during the charity match to honor the Lisbon Lions on Sunday, the day after the Scottish Cup final.

Commons, not surprisingly, was on the receiving end of multiple ovations, and even scored a goal.

So, after a week and a season in which everything went right, what could go wrong? Well, Patrick Roberts heads back to Manchester City, perhaps never to return, and Moussa Dembele may be heading anywhere—from Milan to Paris or back to London. And there are those pesky Champions’ League qualifiers to navigate in July.

However, those are problems for the future. For now, Rodgers and his men—and all who support them—can simply enjoy the moment—which, of course, is as good as gold.