MORTON director Crawford Rae has described the news that Celtic have selected Cappielow Park as the venue for a glamour match involving Barcelona as ‘enormously exciting’.
The Glasgow side’s qualification for the group stages of this season’s Champions League automatically guaranteed their development squad a place in the inaugural UEFA youth league.
Just like their senior counterparts, the Celtic kids will face home and away matches against Barca, AC Milan and Ajax. They welcome the Catalan giants to Scotland on Tuesday 1 October — and have chosen to face the fabled La Masia youth graduates in Greenock, with the match set to be open to the public. Rae, the club’s stadium director, also confirmed that Ton have struck an agreement which will see them stage up to 18 Celtic youth fixtures over the course of the current campaign.
He told the Tele: “We were approached by Celtic Football Club to see if we could host a number of their Under 20s fixtures at Cappielow.
“We can confirm that we have agreed terms with Celtic to host up to a maximum of 18 fixtures over the coming season, along with Dumbarton and Livingston.
“We are absolutely delighted that we will host the Celtic versus Barcelona fixture in the UEFA Youth League at Cappielow on Tuesday 1 October.” “This inaugural event sees the same group stages being contested as the main UEFA Champions League with exactly the same format of teams playing each other home and away with the top two from each section progressing to the final knockout stages.
“When you consider that seven players from Barcelona’s 2011 Champions League-winning side came through their youth academy, the prospect of seeing the potential stars of the future at Cappielow is an enormously exciting prospect, and a privilege for Greenock to be associated with this exciting new event.” Renovation work and groundsman Mark Farrell’s award-winning playing surface has seen the old ground come under increasing demand in recent years.
The Scotland national team have used the stadium as a training base in preparation for some important qualifiers, including the 2-1 defeat against Wales at Hampden in March of this year.
In March 2012, the SFA selected Cappielow as one of the venues for the UEFA Under-17 Championship Elite Round group stage involving Scotland, Denmark and Iceland, and for an under-19s double header against Malta in August 2010.
Celtic under-20s boss Stephen Frail joked that the Barcelona players might be in for a shock when they see the size of the Cappielow dressing rooms but also praised the ground’s facilities.
Frail, who played for Morton as well as serving as assistant manager, said: “We are using two venues for our under-20 games in the league and trying to take a couple of games to either venue. Both of them are good facilities in their own way. We played an under-20 game at Livingston last night and the games against Ajax and Inter Milan are there. I’m not sure how Barcelona will cope with the small, tight dressing rooms at Cappielow. The biggest thing is that the facilities at both places are excellent. It’s an exciting league for the young players. They will learn how it is done for away games in terms of travelling the day before and so on. A lot of our young lads are youth internationals and have been involved with the Next Generation series.
“Look at the Next Gen and you see Tony Watt scoring against Barcelona here and over there – then coming and doing it in the big Champions League. That’s why it was set up.” The match will kick-off at 2pm, with ticketing and pricing details to be announced when confirmed.