Jackie McNamara recalls the night Celtic shut Graeme Souness up on the Road to Seville - Exclusive
As you may be aware by now, 67 Hail Hail are fortunate enough to be joined by former Celtic captain Jackie McNamara this season.
He’s been a regular contributor to the website, as well as our YouTube channel, and will continue to be on hand to talk us through Celtic topics old and new as the quest for ten-in-a-row progresses.
McNamara was part of several iconic Celtic teams. Nobody fits the ‘icons’ bill more than the Martin O’Neill squad that reached the UEFA Cup Final in 2003.
Our man Hamish Carton sat down with Jackie for an hour-long chat recently to talk through the rounds, which is available in full on YouTube.
We’ll be delving into aspects of that conversation over the next few days with articles on the website.
Celtic entered the UEFA Cup in 2002 following a Champions League qualifying exit to Basel. Sound familiar? Yes, even back then, the Bhoys struggled with the qualifying process to enter the more illustrious competition.
A 10-1 aggregate thrashing of FK Suduva would follow before a bonafide Battle of Britain reared its head. Celtic were drawn against English League Cup winners Blackburn Rovers in the second round. It was a humdinger of a tie that caught the media’s attention north and south of the border.
Winning 1-0 at home in the first leg, thanks to a Henrik Larsson goal, an injured McNamara knew the Bhoys had put themselves in a strong position to progress.
“They played quite well on the night, but we were at home, and we couldn’t concede an away goal, that was the crucial part,” he says. “They had good players – Yorke and Cole upfront, Damien Duff – they were a good side and always capable of scoring, but we knew how to play that system and how to play at home. We scored late on thanks to Henrik.”
In the aftermath of the fixture, Rovers boss and ex-Rangers man Graeme Souness stirred up controversy, feeling his team had been done out of a result in Glasgow.
His captain, Gary Flitcroft, revealed to reporters: “The gaffer said to us in the dressing room afterwards, ‘That was men against boys.’”
As you can imagine, this went down like a lead balloon with McNamara and his teammates.
“It upset all of us,” the former defender tells 67 Hail Hail. “It was quite disrespectful. It’s kind of what you expect from him.
“We went down there, and it was a great feeling. Henrik and Sutton scored, we battered them. The Celtic fans chanted to Souness for the rest of the game.
“We knew we had a good side and weren’t going to be disrespected, especially by an English side. We just went about our business and hammered them on their own patch – the best way to keep them quiet.”
The 2-0 win at Ewood Park would prove to be the springboard for an extended run in the competition.
Having embarrassed a Rangers icon so publicly, Celtic would continue on the march to bigger and better things, facing Celta Vigo and Stuttgart in the next rounds before a mammoth quarter-final against Liverpool.
We’ll be speaking to Jackie about those games later this week.