Barry Maguire qualifies for Eire

 Young Utrecht midfielder Barry Maguire believes that the pressures on Celtic in their upcoming Europa League tie will be much greater than on his own team Utrecht, since failure to qualify for Europe this season would leave Celtic on the Eve of Destruction. Utrecht are not expected to qualify so the pressure on them will be much less, which Maguire believes could give the men in red and white an advantage. Maguire, a promising young player, should be of particular interest to Celtic supporters given his links with the Republic of Ireland. Although he regards himself as Dutch and proud of it, through his Irish father Maguire is eligible to play for Eire. In January 2009 he was selected for the Eire Under 21 squad but withdrew the day before the game saying he still hoped to play for Holland one day. Maybe the tricolours on show at Celtic Park might help him reconsider his allegiances.

The second level of joke allusion in the title and opening paragraph of this article will almost certainly be lost on most of the GGW readers, who probably weren’t even born in 1965 when “Eve of Destruction” became the most political ever number one hit song, with its heartfelt worries about the consequences of war and nuclear weapons on the future of the human race. If you don’t know the song, either get your rocker grandfather to play it for you or google ‘Barry McGuire Eve of Destruction’ and listen to it. Then remember that failure to qualify for Europe though a disaster is not really the end of the world.

FC Utrecht underachievers hampwered by debt

Utrecht are the great underachievers of Dutch football. They come from the fourth largest Dutch city but have never remotely equalled the big three, Ajax Amsterdam, Feyenoord Rotterdam and PSV Eindhoven, who have all won the European Cup/Champions League as well as many Dutch titles and Cups. Utrecht have won the Dutch League only once, in 1958, as DOS Utrecht before the 1970 amalgamation produced one single Utrecht club, FC Utrecht. They have won the Dutch Cup three times, most recently in 2003 and 2004. But that team was ripped apart by debts of over 40 million euros and Utrecht have never recovered financially or on the park. When you consider the paralysing effect of a £30million debt on Rangers, then it is no surprise Utrecht have struggled to overcome their level of debt. It has been left to smaller clubs like AZ from Alkmaar and Twente from Enscede to provide the opposition to the Big 3, the “best of the rest” that Utrecht feels is their birthright. Like Rangers Utrecht are not really in a position to sign players and other than two young Australians unlikely to face Celtic, the side has not been strengthened for the prospect of European football. Indeed the squad has been weakened from last season with the loss of several experienced squad members.

Although Holland’s thuggery in the World Cup Final came as a surprise to many, there has always been two sides to Dutch football, the silky passing game best exemplified by Ajax in their prime and a harder cruder more physical game. There is no doubt that Utrecht have always represented the latter,

Jan Wouters helping Utrecht play his way

rougher approach and it is no coincidence their most bitter rivals have always been the softer Ajax. The best Utrecht team ever, that of the early to mid1980s that won the Cup in 1985, were a right dirty lot, with rugged Jan Wouters their best player. Even Dutch sources describe them as a “notorious gang of football ruffians”. The more recent successful team that of 2002-2004 were also noted for their aggressive play. So Utrecht are much more like a Dutch Rangers than a Celtic. Dirk Advocaat also used to play for Utrecht and it is no surprise that Jan Wouters is currently the assistant coach, encouraging the team to play in his own image. No doubt Wouters will get a special cheer on Thursday from the Celtic faithful given his service to Rangers. The manager Ton Du Chatinier played almost all his football for Utrecht and is another devotee of the rugged approach. Utrecht have struggled over the past few years to keep their best players, having to sell players like Michael Mols, Dirk Kuyt and ex-Celt Braafheid before they reached their peak and their maximum transfer value. The current squad have no real stars but play competent controlled football with a rugged rearguard taking no prisoners. Last season they deserved their 7th position finish which qualified them for the Europa League, where they easily disposed of Swiss side Lucerne in the Third knockout round. Utrecht really do not expect to get to the Group Stages and before the draw was made club officials expressed the hope they would get a glamour opponent like Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund or Celtic, so they were pleased with the way it worked out. However that expectation of defeat does not mean the side will meekly lie down and die.

Utrecht outplayed feyenoord for 45 minutes. So no mugs

Thanks to Spanish TV’s obessession with football, over the past 72 hours I have been able to watch a rerun of Utrecht’s opening league game, away to Feyenoord, and then Celtic’s opening game away to Inverness Thistle. Utrecht played well in the first half which ended with them 1-0 up, having also hit the bar and a post. They fell apart in the second half against a Feyenoord side that obviously got a rocket up their backside at half time which inspired them to come back to win 3-1. I assume Celtic’s scouts at the game have shared with Lennon the glaring defensive weaknesses and slack marking that cost Utrecht these 3 goals. Being able to compare the two performances offers good evidence that Celtic have by far the more talented players. However Celtic learned to their cost against Braga that what matters more than individual talent is organisation and team understanding. Utrecht are nowhere near as good as Braga on this score and Celtic seem to be improving as a team, so there should be little doubt that Celtic should confirm the Utrecht expectations and advance to the Group Stages. But Utrecht will make them fight for it, literally, and Celtic will need to stay focused and determined without any complacency. Certainly on their first half form, Utrecht seem a marginally better team than Caley Thistle The better players in the team include captain and right back Tim Cornelisse, tall ruthless centre backs Alje Schut and Wuytens, left back Nesu, defensive midfielders Silberbauer and Asare, and attacking midfielder Mertens. None of the forwards look overly dangerous but Mulenga should require the closest watching.

Schut knows some Celtic players well

The team are looking forward to the two games against Celtic. In an interview with local sources made available to GGW, 29 year old rugged centre back Alje Schut looked forward to two great games. He described it as “A fantastic draw” and Celtic as “a good team”.  He displayed a personal knowledge of several of the Celtic players. “We have many old acquaintances. Jos Hooiveld, Glenn Loovens. I have shared a room with Glenn at the Under 20 World Cup. My former teammate Marc-Antoine Fortune plays at Celtic. And I played against Georgios Samaras when he was at Heerenveen”. Schut warned against thinking that Utrecht were only travelling to Glasgow as tourists. “That is wrong” he stressed. “We have certainly nothing to lose and they are favourites, but in football more crazy things happen. I hope they underestimate us. Then we have a chance.” So Celtic you have been warned. Don’t underestimate this team, but do expect to beat them.

 Utrecht play at the Galgenwaard Stadium where their average crowd is around 20,000, very good for a team in no better than 7th place in the League.

The Utrecht supporters are proud of their loyalty and perseverance. They tell as story to illustrate this fanaticism. A keen Utrecht fan Johnny finally managed to get a ticket for the final of the Dutch Super Cup in August 2004 between FC Utrecht and Ajax. This was Utrecht’s 5th Final appearance in 2 years, 3 Cup Finals and 2 Super Cups. His joy turns to anger when he sees his seat is at the top of the bowl of the ground, with very poor visibility. Fortunately, he brought his binoculars with him. Peering down he suddenly saw, on the fourth front row, right next to the aisle, an empty seat. He rushes down and breathlessly approaches the empty seat. “Unbelievable,” he stammered at the man next to him, “An empty spot in the Cup final between FC Utrecht and Ajax ! What fool would not show up here?” Somewhat shyly the man next to him replied: “To be honest, that seat belongs to me. My wife was due to sit there, but she unexpectedly died. This is, in twenty years, the first cup final that my wife is not here. “” I apologize, “says Johnny shocked,” but was there no one that you wanted to give the seat to? A good friend or family member?” The man replies, “Well, no, you see, they are all at the funeral, today. ” My Utrecht sources assure me that this story is based in fact, if embellished slightly over the six years since.

But fanatical as they are, they are also famed for being friendly and all Celtic supporters who travel over for the second leg can be assured of a warm and friendly welcome.

 What else can they hope to see in Utrecht to enhance the quality of the experience Utrecht is located in the heart of Holland, only a 30 minutes drive or train ride from Amsterdam. The people of Utrecht like to promote their lovely city a bit, so here are 10 good reasons for visiting Utrecht provided by a local citizen:

The Dom Tower, highest in Holland

 1 – The highest church-tower is located in Utrecht (DomTower 112,32 meters). 2 – The canals in Utrecht are different as in Amsterdam, they’re unique in the Netherlands. Well worth taking a trip on. 3 – The average age is very low, so a lot of young people living here. 1 out of 3 persons in Utrecht is a student. 4 – The biggest University of the Netherlands is located in Utrecht. 5 – A lot of cosy bars, pubs and discoteques. You can go out till 6 in the morning everyday 6 – You can salsa-dance here every evening on a different location. 7 – A lot of sight seeing possible (14 churches, 9 museums, etc.) 8 – People are on average more smiling than in the other 3 big cities of Holland 9 – A lot of student parties 10 – An excellent bus-network. Also very good train-connections to all the other interesting places in Holland. Utrecht central station is the centre of all the train-traffic. And of course we have also flowers, coffeeshops and prostitutes to watch.

Miffy the Rabbit. Utrecht's Desperate Dan

One thing Celtic supporters should do is seek out Miffy the famous rabbit It is in the dick bruna huis, located in the Utrecht Museum Quarter, the historical city center of Utrecht. Not to go to see Miffy is like visiting Dundee and ignoring the statue of Desperate Dan. In Utrecht you can find a six century-old Dom tower, mediaeval churches, unique wharf cellars along the canals and lots of cafés, restaurants and hotels. Beer is good quality. But most importantly the people are friendly and will embrace Celtic fans warmly. GGW has arranged for a special reporter to be in attendance for the Celtic visit to Utrecht and to give a full report not just on the game but the social events that will surround it.

GGW would like to thanks its sources in Utrecht for their help with this article particularly Jan Beerens for some of the football detail and Marja Beerens, author of the best selling Dutch language “Guide to Valencia” for the tourist details.