Scottish football faced heartbreak once more last night as Celtic's 1-0 home defeat by Dinamo Moscow left them on the brink of elimination, after a heroic run which has taken them to within ten months of the Final.
In the tradition of Scottish Premier League runners-up - who in the last ten years have included Celtic, Rangers, Rangers, Rangers, Celtic, Celtic, Rangers, Celtic, Rangers and Celtic - the Bhoys suffered bitter disappointment when the draw pitted them against a team from a league with some sort of competitive aspect. Nonetheless, hopes were high that under new manager Tony Mowbray, the Hoops might mount a serious challenge in Europe this season. Chairman John Reid told the press that 'this defeat is a serious blow to our hopes of scraping into the group stages, losing to Milan and PSV, drawing with some Danish team, and being essentially out by Christmas.'
Reid harshly criticised his fellow SPL chairmen last week over their deal with collapsed broadcaster Setanta, one of the only broadcasters who could be bothered to show the endless series of ugly or one-sided games which make up Scotland's domestic league. But after another in the interminable series of defeats for the Auld Firm at the wrong end of the European season, Reid admitted: 'Perhaps I should spend less time in-fighting, more time assessing why exactly Scottish football is such a pile of crap that it almost single-handedly killed off Setanta.'
'But there you go,' added Reid. 'I'm an ex-politician so I haven't got a fucking clue about most things, to be fair.'
Mowbray was still optimistic that the Bhoys would progress to the knockout, or 'actual', stages of the competition. 'All we've got to do is win in Moscow,' he said. 'I don't see what's stopping us, other than the fact that Russian teams are famously hard to beat at home and Scottish teams are useless away from home. ' He added that the club's Champions League run had 'already been creditable', since it will be 'well into August' before they are officially eliminated. This compares favourably to the 2004 Champions League bid of Rangers, who were knocked out as soon as they qualified for the competition, UEFA emailing them to say 'realistically, you're best off out of this.'
One Scottish football expert described this as 'our darkest day in Europe since Motherwell lost to Llanelli back in the middle of July'.