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  • The Story Of… O’Neill’s Bhoys against Men in Blackburn

    The Story Of… O’Neill’s Bhoys against Men in Blackburn

    By: Joe Donnelly on 27 May, 2020 17:01

  • 'The Story Of' is a web series dedicated to small but special tales from Celtic’s illustrious history. Here, we remember Celtic's 'unlikely' victory over Blackburn Rovers in 2002. 

    THROUGHOUT Celtic’s incredible journey to the UEFA Cup Final in 2003, Martin O’Neill’s side were written off by opposition managers, players and the members of the media alike on numerous occasions. Still, the Hoops laid waste to FK Suduva, Blackburn Rovers, Celta Vigo, Stuttgart, Liverpool and Boavista before falling to Porto in the tournament’s ultimate stage.

    The former Blackburn manager, Graeme Souness, was one such doubter, who described his team’s performance after their first-leg encounter in Glasgow as 'men against boys'. Celtic won that match 1-0, but given the fact Rovers enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and chances at Paradise, the ex-Rangers and Liverpool star was convinced his team would overturn the result at Ewood Park two weeks later.

    Instead, goals from Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton ensured the Scottish champions’ progression 3-0 on aggregate, with Rovers failing to score in 180 minutes of play.

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    Following their exertions down south, Celtic returned to Glasgow’s East End three days later to overturn Patrick Thistle 4-0, climbing to the top of the SPL in the process.

    “We got a great boost from winning the Blackburn game,” Martin O’Neill told the Celtic View thereafter. “It meant a great deal to the players, and I was pleased because even though we won the first leg, we took a lot of criticism, and it was nice to come roaring back.

    “I don’t think the players have anything to prove to anyone, but what was good to know was that when they really had to come through, they weren’t found wanting.

    “I was surprised at some of the comments that emanated from the Blackburn dressing-room after the first game because I have been a long time in it, and I know that comments at what was effectively half-time can look empty if you don’t follow through.

    “If we needed further motivation which, to be honest, I actually don’t think that we did, then we got it.”

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