Celtic Park. It’s the benchmark by which we all measure other stadiums. It’s the stadium we frequent most often. It’s home. But is it actually any good?
Of course it is.
Lets face it, Fergus McCann did a lot of things in five years. For me, there are three things that sit higher than anything else on that list. One, he saved the club. That has to be number one, because without him we’d have done what Rangers did and died. He put money in to stop that happening before he even had control of the club. Two, he put us on a sensible financial footing for years to come. We’re still in a great position, and the model we have today is pretty much the same one Fergus put in place. Okay, we don’t always agree with exactly how we do it, but we’re still here and we’re still on top. It was tempting to push it, and we almost did chasing dreams, but it was reigned in again. We live within our means, and we’ll continue to be here because of that. Three, he built us the stadium we have today.
The much older main stand (build in the 1920s and refurbished several times since) looks small in comparison to the other three giant stands, but because it’s the main stand the stadium still looks balanced and our 60,000 capacity is the biggest in Scottish Football – amongst the biggest in the UK. The view from almost every seat is terrific as the stands put you right on top of the action and that in turn creates a caldron of atmosphere on the best of European nights. I say almost every seat as there are some poor seats at the back of the top deck where pillars obstruct your view, as well as in the south corners where the main stand itself can be obstructive. But hey, try finding a good seat at our national stadium. You’re either too far, or too low, or too expensive.
Everyone should try and get to Celtic Park at least once in their life. But for those of us that go often, there are important things to discuss. What’s the food like? Well, varied is the best description. Chips, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pizza… you can get the lot in Paradise. But I tend to prefer going for the staples that you can get across the country. So how do our prices compare?
A regular pie will set you back £2.20 and if you want a steak pie it’s £2.30. A hot drink will set you back £2.10, however there’s currently a deal that gives you the regular pie and hot drink combo for £4.10 – saving you 20p! Always good for that traditional pie and bovril combination. Cold drinks come in at £2.50, so overall you’re paying more than Firhill. Having said that, you can also get Ribena and Capri Sun at Celtic Park for £1.90 and £1.50 if the other drinks are too much for you. Also worth noting that I find the hot drinks are warm enough to keep you happy about having a hot drink, but cool enough you can drink it straight away. Unlike Firhill where I nearly burnt my tongue. Still, too hot is better than cold.
Around the stadium, there’s the main club superstore, but there are also a few smaller stalls inside the stadium for your official merchandise. Handy if the weather turns and you suddenly find you need a hat or a scarf! There’s even the bookies if you want to put a bet or two on. What more could you want?
What’s that? Beer? Yeah, not much we can do about that…
Travel to the stadium is varied. If you’re there early enough there are a couple of first come first served car parks at either end. Some are reserved for those with badges and the like, so be careful where you go. Failing that, you’re out on the street. Side streets on the Gallowgate are a good bet for the Jock Stein stand, while there’s a good open area next to Parkhead Fire Station if you’re in the Lisbon Lions stand. Allegedly we’ll get to park in the new Velodrome parking across the road at some point when that’s finished, but don’t hold your breath for that one.
The bus car parks are plentiful if you arrive that way, while public transport is pretty frequent if held up more the closer you get to kick off. If you’re coming by train then you either want to get off at Belgrove or Dalmarnock and walk the rest. They’re the safest ones as Duke Street is too near a certain blue pub, while Bridgeton is slap bang in the middle of an area occupied by those who may frequent a place like that blue pub.
But best of all, remember that you’re among friends. I never feel more comfortable at the football than I do when I’m in Paradise.