Hallo there and welcome back to Falkirk. We left with the Bairns out of their UEL group and in second place, 1 point off Celtic, with 5 games to play in the Scottish Premiership. Let’s see what happened and whether we managed to make history!
UEFA Europa League
After qualifying from our group for the second year in a row, we had been drawn against Napoli. A tough game against a team with far better players than us and with a great tactician guiding them. We had to be perfect throughout both legs, particularly defensively.
We were solid in defense and managed to get the crucial away goal in Naples. Back home we keep it tight and a great McGrath shots when I was already despairing at the 88′ gave us the victory. We qualify for the first time to the 2nd KO Stage. As you can see in the picture above, Celtic passed as well and guess who we were drawn? You got it, there will be a Scottish derby in the Last of 16!
Our European adventure ends at Celtic Park against a team we have beaten already several times before, a little frustrating indeed. But on a wider perspective, to reach the Last 16 stage is a great achievement for a young team like ours and with still little European experience.
As I said, we left just before the split of the League, when first 6 Teams play each other to determined the Champion. So five games against top teams to overcome Celtic, five tough games ahead, the biggest the club have ever played so far! Luckily, with the split system, it means we will face the chance to defy Celtic directly. To win the direct confrontation will be crucial.
Week 34 – Hearts away
Well, we didn’t start well at all. An away game against Hearts where we managed to make only 1 mere shot on target. Finally, the 0-0 flattered us as we spent more time defending than controlling the game. Celtic won, we are now 3 points off the top with an unfavorable goal difference. We needed to beat Celtic and them to drop points somewhere in the remaining games.
Week 35 – Celtic away
We did it! We went to Celtic Park and resisted the crowd pressure to come out victorious! The game was a close one and only a Byers’ screamer shot from outside the box gave us the advantage. We are now on same points with Celtic but still second because of goal difference, we can only do one thing, win all our games and hope Celtic drop points.
Week 36 – Aberdeen home
No problem against Aberdeen, we dominate and easily win the match. As an even brighter news, in the Old Firm derby, Rangers has beaten Celtic, we are now top of the league by 3 points!
Week 37 – Rangers home
One of the most frustrating games of this save, we were the better team, we had possession (63%), more shots, more passes and accuracy, but they scored with a free kick. Frustration though didn’t last long, another miracle happened, Celtic lost against Aberdeen!! We are still top of the league!!
Week 38 – Partick Thistle away
We needed only a draw to be crown champions and we did our job perfectly controlling the game and winning 3-1!!
For the first time after 35 years, a team other than the Old Firm is Champion of Scotland. The Bairns have made history and this is a great, huge moment for this Club which the Premiership for the first time in their long history!!
With such a memorable season, it is difficult to point to one single player, so I’ve selected three:
- Ashley Fletcher: 40 appearances, 23 goals, 7 assists – Average rating 7,24. He adapted well to our style of football and demonstrated so throughout all season by putting many goals and often the most important ones. A great signing!
- Craig Sibbald: 49 appearances, 10 goals, 16 assists – Average rating 7,43. The leader of the team, our captain. A player who wears the Bairns’ shirt since he was 16. I’d love to make him my flag-bearer and let him retire at the club, our Totti in the making!
- Stephen Mallan: 43 appearances, 17 goals, 13 assists – Average rating 7,52. Our creative genius, he combines the roles of a winger and a wide-playmaker doing it perfectly destibilising the opposition defences. Hope he can stay many years with us.
Where to go now? Of course, the objective is to try to retain the title, thanks to our victory and the progress made by the League in the UEFA coefficient, we qualify directly to the Groups Stage of the Champions League. It will mean a good amount of money and the possibility to attract players to our club who is ever growing bigger.
On that regard, after having bought Falkirk Stadium from the local council and expanded it to 10.000 seats, the Board announced plans to a new expansion bringing our Stadium over 12.000 all-seater capacity. A great news!
Such a great season, one to remember! Stayed tuned guys as I intend to do the same next year!! In the meantime, thank you for reading.