Whenever the name of Feyenoord arises in conversation, it comes with the echoes of their fans’ infernal klaxon horns during the 1970 European Cup final, when they defeated Celtic 2-1.

No supporter who watched that game can conclude anything other than that the Dutch champions were well worthy of their triumph and that Celtic were fortunate indeed to have taken the game to extra time.

I’ve often heard it said since that if Celtic had held on for those last few minutes, then they’d surely have won the scheduled replay four days later. This claim was based on nothing more than an assumption that Celtic surely couldn’t have played as badly again. Yet, this was an insult to that great Feyenoord side, several of whose players would be in the Dutch squad which lit up international football over the next few years. Celtic hadn’t played badly at all; they’d simply been beaten by a top-class team on top of their game.

Last night in Rotterdam though, Celtic met a Feyenoord side who were entirely beatable. Going into the match, I’d have been grateful for a draw, given our injury problems and the fact that Feyenoord were Dutch champions. That they’d finished ahead of a PSV side who had so thoroughly dismantled Rangers made this, on paper, look like a very tough opener.

And yet, within the first 20 minutes, it was clear that they were vulnerable. Celtic once more don’t appear to have mastered the art of playing out confidently from the back. They were so laboured and slow that by the time they tried to knock it about the opposition cavalry were already swarming all over them. Yet, it was clear that Feyenoord - in trying to do the same - revealed their own technical shortcomings.

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To me then, it would obviously come down to which side’s midfield unit could dictate the play. And here, Celtic had an advantage. It was also clear that in Callum McGregor, Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley, the visitors had a technically more fluent midfield. And this was shown in those all too brief moments when they clicked into gear and threatened the Feyenoord box. Sadly though, it was also becoming clear that too many passes against a team of limited technical and athletic ability were going astray. Inevitably, this was bound to offer encouragement to Feyenoord.

Taken in isolation, there are mitigating factors for Celtic’s defeat and - at a push - even some cause for optimism. At 11 vs 11, Celtic were more than a match for the champions of Holland on their own ground. And besides, they still had a makeshift central defence; our most skilful playmaker was just returning from injury and Celtic were handing a first start to a winger, who was only playing because Liel Abada was injured.  

And yes, the first red card was harsh, but it was definitely a penalty and one for which we’d have been howling. It was reminiscent of when Leigh Griffiths was impeded by Clint Hill in the 1-1 Glasgow Derby in 2017. However, it’s just that Celtic have been here before. On social media last night, some of the more gullible amongst us were trying to take solace in the old “we competed well” mantra, just because the team didn’t get their arses booted. But this wasn’t Real Madrid or PSG or Barcelona or Manchester City Celtic were playing.

Feyenoord are a club of similar economic resources, whose ambitions – like Celtic’s – are tailored accordingly. They hail from a league comparable to Scotland’s. And besides, Celtic played much more fluently against Real Madrid and RB Leipzig last season than they did in Rotterdam last night.

In the last 20 years, Celtic’s record against comparable clubs (including several whose resources don’t match ours) has been shocking. Villareal, Utrecht, Legia Warsaw, Malmo, Molde, AEK Athens, Cluj, Copenhagen, Bodo/Glimt. There are too many of them for it to be considered unlucky or down to adverse personnel twists. Like Celtic, they are compelled to sell their best players every few years to richer clubs in the top four leagues whenever they come calling. Feyenoord’s best player in recent seasons (and club captain) Orkun Kokcu was sold to Benfica this season for around £25 million.

In 2003 I watched Celtic blow a rare chance to get into the Champions League knock-out stages by losing 1-0 in Brussels to a very ordinary Anderlecht side. There was more than a hint of that game against Feyenoord last night.

In 20 years it seems, Celtic have not yet mastered the ability to pass quickly under pressure against comparable sides in Europe, let alone those from the top four leagues … with the exception of last season. Once you look beyond Celtic’s paltry two points in last season’s Champions League group matches, you’ll see that the team played in a very fluent and sophisticated style against Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk.

So, we’re entitled to ask why, within the course of a single season, Celtic have reverted to their traditional ways: setting up unexpected attacks for grateful opponents by gifting them the ball in attacking positions. Greg Taylor has performed heroically for Celtic in the last two seasons. This season though, in our two biggest matches – Rangers and Feyenoord – he was an asset to the opposition. I’m tempted to give Hatate the benefit of the doubt as he’s just back from injury, but his passing was as woeful, as was Taylor’s. And as the first half progressed, McGregor – Celtic’s most influential player - was becoming more and more incidental to proceedings.

Celtic trumpeted record profits and cash reserves on the day of the Feyenoord game. Yet, in last night’s match, they were relying on what looked to be ‘project’ players utterly untested at this level: Odin Thiago Holm, Luis Palma and Gustaf Lagerbielke all obviously have talent. But, in the big moments when character and calmness were required, they were shown not to have yet what it takes to prevail against even very beatable opposition like Feyenoord.

And yes, I understand that Celtic could have billions in the bank, and they’d still face the old problem associated with belonging to the SPFL. That top-drawer players will never come here and that even mid-market ones will be put off by the agricultural and lumpen tactics that Scottish referees permit in Scotland. Even so, look at some of those clubs that Celtic have fallen to at crucial moments: Molde, AEK Athens, Copenhagen, Bodo/Glimt.

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Celtic’s financial resources now mean that Rangers – perhaps for the first time in our long rivalry – are now almost an irrelevance. Celtic are operating several levels above them in all departments. I wonder though, if Celtic’s own custodians are afraid of heights. After Lisbon, the old board seemed transfixed by the acclaim and the hoopla. They were now expected to be operating like all those other clubs who were considered European giants. At that moment though, they lost their nerve.

Some of the Lisbon Lions were sold far too soon, like Bobby Murdoch and Tommy Gemmell. Some of the Quality Street kids such as Davie Hay and Lou Macari could have stayed for a couple of years longer. Their replacements (with a few exceptions like Harry Hood and Dixie Deans) were modest. The old directors simply weren’t comfortable operating like a big club.

After last night’s meek surrender to a modest club, I wonder if some of our custodians have also become fearful.