Last updated : 09 December 2004 By Pars Mad

Anyone remember a certain Sunday fixture against one of the Old Firm this time last year at East End Park?


Celtic's Brazilian star Juninho gets ready to fight for his first team slot.
With the winter weather piercing through East End and everyone seemingly waiting for the inevitable to happen – i.e. the Pars to get rolled over – the Pars managed to chalk up a truly historic 2-0 victory over a beleaguered Rangers side. What a Christmas present! Well, this year I’ve written to Santa asking for more of the same this year, although with one slight change; this time it’s the turn of the green and white side of Glasgow to experience the wrath of the Pars. Sounds like I’ve started on the Christmas wine just that little bit early don’t you think!


With Martin O’Neill’s side going through a bit of a poor patch recently – still no excuse for losing to Rangers twice in two weeks! – you could be forgiven for thinking that Celtic will arrive at East End Park this Sunday feeling fairly low in confidence. Despite sitting top of the SPL, Tuesday night saw the Hoops lose out on a UEFA Cup spot after only managing a draw with AC Milan (say’s the man whose team could only manage to lose to FH Hafnapuffin!). Although anyone willing to write off Celtic’s chances in any fixture really, in truth, doesn’t know a thing about football. With players such as John Hartson, Alan Thompson and, dare I say it, Chris Sutton all more than capable of turning a game, anyone expecting anything like an easy ride this Sunday can think again. Although, it should be interesting this Sunday to see whether or not the great invisible Brazilian Juninho makes an appearance after complaining about the lack of trust that O’Neill seems to have in him. With all due respect wee man, if you’re as mince as you have been since you arrived in this bonnie land then you don’t deserve to come up against a midfield maestro of the calibre of Gary Mason!


Let’s face it, the Pars don’t exactly help themselves to three points every time they’re up against O’Neill’s OAP’s so it’s hardly surprising to find that the Pars overall record against Celtic is, let’s say, slightly one-sided – the Pars winning just 13 times and losing 67 in a total of 93 encounters. Judging by recent years, the fact that our number of victories is in double figures should be a cause for celebration in itself. The East End record between the sides represents a slightly more positive note for the Pars, with the Pars boasting eight wins in a total of 45 encounters – Celtic winning 25 of those encounters. With the Pars boasting only two of these 13 victories over Celtic in relatively recent history – the 2-1 wins at Celtic Park a few years back and, more recently, in May this year – one can only hope that Davie boy doesn’t do any favours for his old pals this Sunday.


Despite a few recent memorable draws – the Craig Faulconbridge (now there’s a blast from the past!) equaliser many years ago, and last season’s 0-0 draw leap to mind – the Pars have, on the whole, in recent times been fairly welcoming hosts for the green half of Glasgow – unless of course you happen to be called Chris Sutton. Freedom of the penalty-box seems to be awarded to the O’Neill’s side almost every time they visit East End, the events of lasts season’s second East End Park encounter spring to mind. Leading 1-0 thanks to an early Noel Hunt header and looking fairly comfortable, the Pars defence, as so often has been the case in the past, seemed to cave in and they proceeded to concede four soft goals – all from  set-pieces may I add (Pars coaches please take note!). Bearing this in mind I don’t think it would be unfair for any Pars fan to hope for a defensively-solid performance from what will ultimately be an injury-ravaged Pars side.


With the Pars injury worries beginning to ease somewhat, Sunday’s line-up could yet take on a more ordinary look, with first-team regulars Billy Mehmet, Simon Donnelly, and, crucially, Andrius Skerla looking likely to regain full fitness in time for the encounter with O’Neill’s side – with the appearances of Noel Hunt and Gary Dempsey in last week’s loss against Hearts also providing cause for optimism. Also set to return is Aaron Labonte after the youngster served his suspension after his recent sending-off against Motherwell. Definitely taking their seat on the sidelines this weekend will be the injured trio of Derek Young, Greg Shields and Ritchie Byrne who, according to Hay, are all likely to be out for many weeks to come. The continued absence of key defensive players could once again result in the inclusion of young right-back Greig Ross who, despite one or two mistakes, certainly didn’t disgrace himself in last week’s defeat to Hearts.


So, with the bottom of the table beginning to draw closer and closer with every week – unless Dundee Utd manage to keep up their shocking form – Sunday’s fixture up against Celtic must produce at least a point for the Pars, should the threat of relegation become no more than a distant memory for the Pars. Just as well then that with Balde and Varga at the back, you’re always guaranteed a goal or two up against Martin O’Neill’s side!