Celtic are among the first names in the hat for next season’s UEFA Champions League after claiming their sixth successive Scottish title with a 5-0 victory at Hearts. UEFA.com hears it for the Bhoys.
Nicknames: The Hoops, the Bhoys
UEFA club competition honours
• European Cup: 1 (1967)
Domestic honours (most recent triumph in brackets)
• League title: 48 (2017)
• Scottish Cup: 36 (2013)
• Celtic were formed by a Roman Catholic brother, ostensibly to put food in the mouths of the poor of Glasgow’s East End. Following an influx of Irish workers, Brother Walfrid saw the need for social integration with native Glaswegians, and his vision was a football club that Scottish and Irish, Roman Catholic and Protestants alike could support, its name reflecting the common Celtic heritage of all these groups.
• Charitable work remains at the heart of the club’s work, through the Celtic Foundation which assists charities at home and abroad. That ethos was established at the club’s founding meeting on 6 September 1887, when Brother Walfrid said: “A football club will be formed for the maintenance of dinner tables for the children and unemployed.”
• Celtic were the first British club crowned European champions – in fact, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Lisbon Lions’ 2-1 win against Inter Milan in the 1967 European Cup final. Famously, all but one of Jock Stein’s 15-man squad were born within 15km of Celtic Park. “We did it by playing football – pure, beautiful, inventive football,” Stein said. “There was not a negative thought in our heads.”
• The Hoops or Bhoys (the latter, a name Irish immigrants to Glasgow used to call themselves) have plenty of famous fans. Singer Sir Rod Stewart notably wept when watching Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 in November 2012, with comedian Billy Connolly and urban music stars Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg also having been photographed in Hoops gear.
• Celtic Park’s UEFA Champions League matchnight atmosphere has dazzled Europe’s biggest stars. Lionel Messi said: “I have been fortunate to play in some great stadiums in Europe with Barcelona, but none compare to Celtic.” Cristiano Ronaldo added: “Celtic fans are incredible. It’s always great to play there.” Xavi Hernández, meanwhile, said the atmosphere at ‘Paradise’ was the continent’s fiercest. “The hostile feeling you get playing at Real Madrid is excellent, but the atmosphere at Celtic was the best.”
• Besides earning manager Brendan Rodgers a championship in his first term in charge, Celtic’s 37-game domestic unbeaten run is a new Scottish record for a single season. However, they have a way to go to equal Willie Maley’s Bhoys, who went 62 matches unbeaten from 1915–17.
• Celtic have now landed six straight domestic titles. Impressive, but Stein’s Lisbon Lions did even better, winning nine on the bounce from 1965/66 to 1973/74.
• The Hoops are on course for a third Scottish clean sweep. With the Scottish League Cup and league title in the bag, the Scottish Cup is all Rodgers needs to replicate the treble successes of Stein (1966/67 and 1968/69) and Martin O’Neill (2000/01). First, though, his side must overcome city rivals Rangers in the semi-finals.
• They have an eye for a bargain. Celtic’s runaway top scorer this season, Moussa Dembélé, cost just €600,000 from Fulham last summer, so is a cut-price hero in the spirit of Henrik Larsson (approximately €750k from Feyenoord) or Lubomír Moravčík (€350k from Duisburg).
• The all-time hero is Jimmy Johnstone, aka ‘Lord of the Wing’ or ‘The Flying Flea’. Voted Celtic’s greatest-ever player, ‘Jinky’ Johnstone had honed his skills dribbling between milk bottles as a boy, and these abilities were so perfected that one mesmerising display, in Alfredo Di Stéfano’s testimonial in June 1967, drew olés from the Bernebéu crowd. However, his fear of flying was as dramatic as his talent. Once, manager Stein told him at half-time of a European Cup tie with Crvena zvezda in November 1968 that he would be spared the return trip to Belgrade if Celtic won comfortably. Johnstone duly scored twice and set up another two to secure an unassailable 5-1 lead.