RAMON VEGA spent just six months at Celtic.

In that time he became part of Martin O'Neill's domestic Treble winning team - the first Celtic side to achieve that feat since the legendary Jock Stein did it in 1969.

The Swiss defender played 26 times for Celtic. He only lost twice.

He scored four times for including twice on his debut in a 6-0 home rout of Aberdeen and featured three times against Rangers, winning the lot.

Martin O'Neill's treble-winning side of 2000/01 is still revered for their exploits. It's easy to see why Vega looks back on his time at Celtic with fondness as well as a huge tinge of regret.

Vega said: "It was the best time ever at Celtic. It was brilliant.

"It turned out to be a dream six months for me at the club. It was just an extremely positive and fantastic time in my career.

"To win the treble was an added bonus and even if I did not achieve that with Celtic, I would still have said it was the best time in my career as I enjoyed it so much.

"The Treble was the icing on the cake and it is such a wonderful football club.

"My teammates were a fantastic bunch, they were top-notch players, high quality and overall it was a great season.

"The Celtic supporters still love Martin O'Neill and all the players that played in that team.

"I am delighted to say that I was part of a history-making Celtic team as not many of them have won the Treble.

"I get goosebumps thinking about it now. It was just a terrific experience."

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Despite scoring twice on a dream debut against Aberdeen that 6-0 rout the Super Swiss was still upstaged by the Super Swede Henrik Larsson who stole his thunder with a hat-trick!

Vega admits that the Celtic supporters made him feel at home straight away by chanting his name during the warm-up!

Vega insists that the only career advice that he'd give any footballer is if Celtic come calling then you have to grab the opportunity with both hands.

Vega said: "The Aberdeen game was absolutely surreal.

"I had just joined from Spurs and I flew up from London the day before and was unveiled at Celtic Park.

"I got my Celtic training gear and was then whisked to the team hotel as Martin O'Neill always had the players staying in the hotel before the games.

"I hadn't trained with my new teammates, I didn't really know any of them.

"We'd had small chit-chat, nothing more than that and then I went upstairs to my room.

"I did not think in my mind that I would be playing in the Aberdeen game.

"We were on the bus and we arrived at Celtic Park and I was already excited anyway. I was still thinking that it was a good time to be at the club.

"I walked in the doors and fans were there and the stadium was amazing and I knew that when it was full it was going to be absolutely crazy.

"Martin O'Neill then came into the dressing room and he starts to name the team.

"My name came up and I realise that I am starting. I don't know the guys, I haven't trained with them - nothing.

"For about a minute, I didn't know what to do. I was totally shocked but I felt mega-excited.

"It was like 'Wow, I am playing from the start.'

"I started to get all sorts of information from my teammates before the game as there was about an hour until kick-off.

"Then I had to start concentrating on the match itself. I remember running onto the pitch before the game and the reception I got from the Celtic fans before the warm-up will live with me forever.

"I'd tell any footballer if they ever get the chance to go to Celtic as a player don't even think twice about it. You will never regret it, ever.

"The Celtic support is one of the best in the world. I will never forget the atmosphere at Celtic Park that day, it was just incredible.

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"Scoring two goals on my debut was magnificent.

"Yet somehow I was still upstaged by this guy Henrik Larsson!

"What a goalscoring phenomenon he was. What an honour, a pleasure and a privilege it was to play alongside him."

Vega fondly recalls that Martin O'Neill's Celtic were a team crammed full of serial winners even before he joined the side.

The dressing room sported big characters such as Joos Valgaeren, Johan Mjallby, Neil Lennon, Paul Lambert, Alan Thompson, Stilian Petrov, Chris Sutton and of course the talismanic Larsson.

Vega said: "We had a team full of talent, winners and some extremely cheeky and proper characters.

"It was a great side and we all got on so well. We had a fantastic team spirit and we could all motivate each other which was a really important thing for us."

Not many Celtic players can say they sport a 100 per cent win ratio against Rangers. Vega proudly does.

He played three, won three, drew none, lost none as Celtic scored seven goals and conceded one in the process.

A 3-1 CIS Insurance League Cup semi-final victory at Hampden Park in February was followed by a narrow 1-0 success at Celtic Park barely four days later before a 3-0 drubbing of Rangers at Ibrox in April rubbed salt in the Govan sides wounds as Henrik Larsson bagged his 50th goal of the season.

Celtic Way:

The 50-year-old ranks the Glasgow derby as one of the best in world football but like many other foreigners who played for the club, he struggled to get his head around the religious aspect of it.

Vega said: "I was lucky that I won every derby game that I played against Rangers for Celtic. I even did a Treble against Rangers!

"I realise in Glasgow when you play for Celtic that the rivalry with Rangers is extremely high.

"It should stay like that. It should be a healthy football rivalry, that's all.

"The religious and sectarian issues are not football...end of.

"Both clubs are huge and they should both be respected and Scottish football should be rightfully proud of this derby match between Celtic and Rangers. They fly the flag for Scotland on a worldwide level.

"Celtic and Rangers is so famous worldwide that they talk about the fixture in the same breath as Barcelona and Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan, Lazio and Roma and the likes of Boca Juniors and River Plate in Argentina.

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"I played in the Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal derby games and you cannot compare them to Celtic and Rangers matches as it is just on a different level altogether.

"The London derby is a fraction of the Glasgow derby.

"There is no question mark that Celtic against Rangers is up there with the biggest derbies in the world.

"It is phenomenal for a country of Scotland's size that a city like Glasgow has created one of the most famous and best derbies in world football.

"It is amazing that these two clubs Celtic and Rangers have made such an impact on football's hierarchy as Glasgow is a city full of football fanatics.

"I believe the rivalry should actually be celebrated more than it is.

"I would place Scotland very high in terms of the world football hierarchy as historically they have always produced class players and teams."

Celtic Way:

Vega's candle burned brightly for the six months he resided in Glasgow.

Yet it all ended so abruptly when he quit in June 2001 to sign a three year deal for Gianluca Vialli's Watford who were in English football's second-tier Championship at the time.

The 28-times capped Switzerland defender denies that he made the switch for monetary purposes alone.

He insists to this day that his heart lay with Celtic but there was no firm or concrete offer made to him when his loan contract expired.

Vega revealed that it broke his heart to leave because he had developed a genuine affinity for the club.

Vega said: "I always wanted to stay at Celtic. That was never in question.

"Before the renewal or any discussion my heart and mind were already made up and I was staying with Celtic and all I wanted was an offer of a contract.

"The reason I left to join Watford was that I did not have a contract offer on the table.

"I'm sorry but you are waiting and praying to stay but the contract offer was not forthcoming.

"A three-year deal was on the table at Watford and so I needed to move on. It was a real disappointment and it really broke my heart to leave Celtic as I loved the club.

"I would have stayed for a year with the option of a second year but there was no offer placed on the table.

"It was never a question of money as Celtic never made me an official offer so that I could say yes or no.

"It was the most disappointing part of my whole journey and it still hurts to this day.

"I was disappointed and it took me a good six months at Watford to adjust to life without Celtic. Mentally I was very low.

"I thought I had worked well and we achieved great success when I was there and then I got a slap in the face with no contract offer.

"That was hard to take at the time. I felt that I was ignored and no discussions took place on a contract.

"The players liked me and the fans always appreciated what I gave them in the six months spell I was with the club.

"It was just sad that the Celtic chapter of my career ended that way.

"It left me with a bad taste not with Celtic, just that particular period of my life. It took me a long time to recover from it."


Vega has a few.

Not least of all missing out on winning a major European trophy with Celtic.

Celtic Way:

Vega is adamant that Martin O'Neill's Celtic side would have triumphed in the 2003 UEFA cup final against Jose Mourinho's Porto had he stayed at the club.

Celtic lost 3-2 in the Seville showpiece but Vega is extremely confident that the result would have been different if he had still been an integral part of Martin O'Neill's side.

Vega said: "I believe if I had stayed at Celtic then we would have won the UEFA cup.

"I am 100 per cent certain of that.

"I don't know if they already had plans to sign Bobo Balde in place when I left the club.

"Can you imagine Joos Valgaeren, Johan Mjallby, Bobo Balde and Ramon Vega in the Celtic defence?

"I could have played alongside those guys easily enough.

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"That would have been a huge wall to try and get round. Nothing would have got past us.

"I will never forget my time at the club in my life. I left a legacy by winning the Treble and I have got my medals.

"Most important of all though I was appreciated by the Celtic supporters and that is all that matters."

It was a wonderfully successful six months for Vega at Celtic.

He has cherished medals and memories to show for it.

Time is a great healer. Vega would certainly be the first to agree.

It is better to have loved and Paradise Lost than to have never loved Celtic at all.