Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Art Of Intimidation

We shouldn’t be surprised that the new Celtic' managers attempts to whip up an intimidating atmosphere has failed.  Celtic’s loss on aggrigate has shown that Neil Lennon is a work in progress.  It does raise the interesting question of what makes an intimidating atmosphere?

Celtic fans on their last visit to Love Street in 2008
For me part of the equation is the crowd itself. The most intimidating atmosphere’s I have been part of have been when the Old Firm visit, this is partly down to our hostility to the particular Old Firm teams supporters choice of song’s.  That atmosphere is warm compared to the atmospheres waiting for teams who visit Turkey & Greece.  Manchester United were famously greeted with a banner saying “Welcome to hell” when they played Galatasaray in a European Cup tie in 1993, and that was as welcoming as it got for them.  Rangers had two scary visits to Greece in the 1990’s.  In a preliminary tie for the European Cup in 1994, they fell to a 2-0 defeat against AEK Athens, while four years later the visited the stadium dubbed “The Tomb” to play PAOK Salonika to defend a 2-0 lead.  It’s no coincidence that both Italy and Spain tend to play their trickiest qualifying games at the most intimidating stadiums (Naples and Seville respectively), while Wellington is seen as New Zealand’s most intimidating venue for a Rugby Union test.

The other part of the equation though has to be the strength of the opposition.  Parkhead probably won’t have scared Braga so much at the moment, as Celtic are currently a team still being put together.  Had they played Celtic during the O’Neill years, things would have been different.  Barcelona I'm sure is a daunting place mostly because of the quality of the teams over the years (though this probably doesn’t apply to Dundee United who are still the only undefeated British team to have played there) though even more so now that half their side have just won the World Cup.  And also there’s a very good reason why the Netherlands lost two World Cup finals in the 1970’s, they came up against very good sides buoyed by home advantage, and in Argentina their fans played their part - “They who are not jumping are Dutchmen!”

The truth is that a good atmosphere feeds off of a good team, which is more likely to strike fear into the hearts of opponents.  It is a good team which Neil Lennon needs to work on first, the atmosphere will come later.

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