The Season Book Years – 2006/07
Continuing the season book years series, remember that the one rule I set myself here was that I could only pick a game that was on the season book that I actually went to. As such, they’re all home league games. I might mention other games from that season to put it into the context of the season, but the main focus will be on that one home league game. So, with that in mind…
Celtic 2-0 Rangers, 23rd September 2006.
Gravesen 35, Miller 74.
Alex McLeish was gone, and Paul Le Guen was the new hope for the Rangers fans. The Frenchman had come in from a Lyon team who were dominating French football and doing well in the Champions League as well. It was supposed to be a coup. He turned out to be more of a coo.
Meanwhile, Celtic had signed Kenny Miller. Not since the likes of Alfie Conn in the 1970s had a player crossed the Glasgow divide the good way, but here was the former Hibernian and Rangers striker in the hoops. Of course, he hadn’t managed to score yet and it was now the end of September. People were beginning to wonder if we’d made a mistake in signing him.
And so came the first game against Rangers of the season. They came, they saw, they got pumped. Okay, so the scoreline suggests a close game, but it was anything but close. Celtic dominated from start to finish.
Allan McGregor was in fine form in the Rangers goal to deny Celtic on several occasions. Whether he was closing Miller down to put him off a lob, blocking a Shunsuke Nakamura effort or even getting something on a Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink volley, he looked like he might be the latest in a long line of Rangers goalkeepers I’d come to rue for their ability to keep Celtic out when we were on top.
Indeed, the first goal came exactly that way. Neil Lennon crossed for Aiden McGeady whose header from inside the box was well saved… but McGregor’s luck had finally run out and Tommy Gravesen was there to follow up with a header of his own to give Celtic a first half lead.
Rangers did start to come into the match, but just as they looked like they might create something decent, Kenny Miller came back to haunt them by grabbing his first goal for Celtic, but more importantly giving Celtic a 2-0 lead. It was a great way for Miller to get off the mark, and his goals against Benfica in the Champions League group stages the following month made him something of a surprising hero among the Celtic support.
At least for a short while anyway.
I’d love to say that the two Hearts games at Celtic Park this season were the memorable ones, but for some reason I missed the infamous game where Craig Gordon punched the ball into his own net for a late Celtic winner. I think I might have been away on holiday actually. The other game against Hearts saw Celtic lift the SPL trophy… but that came after a 3-1 defeat. Indeed, the ending of this season was a strange one as Celtic seemed to slump after defeat in Milan in the Champions League last 16 and never really recovered. It was an odd turn of events given the high of running away with the league early on, and of course that win over Manchester United that secured us qualification from our Champions League group for the first time.
We didn’t need to play well though. While Rangers rallied under replacement manager Walter Smith, Celtic were far enough clear of them by the time The Cardigan returned to get away with stumbling over the line. A last minute Shunsuke Nakamura free kick at Rugby Park clinched the title in a season that could almost easily be called “a tale of two free kicks”, but the other Rangers games went the way of our rivals.
The one at Ibrox, which came well after the title was wrapped up, annoyed me more than any other game in this stuttering run due to the lacklustre approach from the Celtic team. How bad was it? Well, it was so bad even Kris Boyd scored – his only goal ever against Celtic.
Still, Boruc ran off the pitch waving a Champions flag. It’s amazing how one moment can really put things in perspective.