In 1945, Saint Petersburg, known as Leningrad at the time, became the first city to receive the HERO CITY title, after withholding a twenty nine month siege from Adolf Hitler and his Wehrmacht boys.
In the Siege of Leningrad, Hitler foolishly planned celebrations for victory at the Tsar Palaces. He had visioned the back pages way ahead of schedule and planned a title party at the Hotel Astoria.
It didn’t pan out that way though, as we all know and the helicopter didn’t even need to change direction. It never even left the launchpad.
Over seventy years later, the great city of Saint Petersburg will witness another invasion, but this time the only Blitzkrieg tactics likely to be deployed there will be a fair few thousand of our fans fleeing on the craft bevvy from the immaculate RedRum Bar , with not a Panzer in sight.
I strongly feel that Brendan can plan his party at the Astoria today, because Celtic’s performance last night was one of tactical dominance, overwhelming force and undoubted quality over a team who were comfortably one of the worst teams to ever visit Celtic Park.
Yes, kick off to them was approaching midnight going by ‘Russia Time’, but it hasn’t stopped Spartak Moscow running us all the way in the past. Zenit had nothing. Partick Thistle gave us more of a game that’s a damning indictment of the ineptness of another toothless team under the guise of the uninspiring Roberto Mancini, whose Inter team of 2015 were exceedingly lucky that our manager at the time was Ronny Deila.
Every battle was won last night all over the park, and the Russians could not handle our controlled aggression. Leandro Parades? More like Leandro Parody, right lads! The man who was the subject of a £35m bid in January from Real Madrid was second best to the excellent Eboue Kouassi. Moussa Dembele, while not getting on the scoresheet, gave their defence a torrid time with his hold up play and work-rate absolutely immense, while even Mikael Lustig put his atrocious European performances aside with an assured display, which was welcome to see.
After so many dismal displays in Europe under Brendan Rodgers, last night was a welcome change of composure and poise on such a stage.
Next week will be a different game, of course, but Celtic keeping a clean sheet was crucial and I believe we can score over in Russia, and if we do, the tie really will be done and dusted.
The key factor in my confidence for us ahead of the second leg is that Brendan Rodgers, is comfortably a better manager than Roberto Mancini - tactically for a start, but also gets much more out of his players than the Italian can.
Mancini is very much an average manager, verging on stale, with seriously underwhelming stints in all of his jobs after Manchester City. He has all the charisma and charm of a lobster, with the tactical nous of one to boot.
Mark my words, Brendan will have him sussed out over there, and we’ll draw and then probably get Arsenal or Atletico Madrid and the arrogant streak will be over, but as long as we show Mancini up for the fraud he is, that’ll do me.