LAST July, Lee Casciaro rocked Brendan Rodgers, Celtic and world football to the core.
The Gibraltarian police officer scored the goal that saw Lincoln Red Imps defeat the Hoops in their Champions League qualifier.
Ten months on, a lot has happened since the new Hoops boss’s first game in charge.
Rodgers has moulded his men, most of whom appeared on that humiliating night in the Victoria Stadium, into The Invincibles and a team on course for the domestic Treble.
In the process he earned himself a new, bumper four-year contract.
Even so, Casciaro insists that if the Champions League tie was to be replayed tomorrow, the Imps would still give Celtic a run for their money.
“Celtic are a professional team, with a very professional set-up. I was really impressed by everything about them,” he said.
“Would it be a different story if we played them now? In football, no one can predict what can happen.
“If we played at home in Gibraltar, they would still find it hard, like any team playing here.”
Rodgers identified the Imps’ playing surface as an issue after the defeat, saying: “They had 11 players behind the ball. Throw the pitch into that, and it’s very, very tough for the players.”
Casciaro concedes as much, and cites the change in surface the following week as a factor in Celtic winning the return 3-0 to progress in the competition.
“What is sure is that when we played at Celtic Park a week later, they were much more on their game,” the 35-year-old continued.
“You could feel their determination to turn things their way as soon as possible.
“I think almost every team that has played against them at their home this season will have experienced that.
“In our case, obviously playing in front of their fans – and playing on grass – made it difficult for us.”
What is sure is that for Casciaro and his team-mates of firemen, customs officers, shipping agents and civil servants, July 12, 2016 is a night they will never forget.
Casciaro scooted his way round African Cup of Nations winner, Efe Ambrose, to score past Craig Gordon, once the most-expensive-ever British goalkeeper.
Celtic’s success in not only going onto to reach the Champions League stage, but also in winning the Scottish Premiership title without losing a single game, has only added lustre to the memory for Casciaro.
Said the man whose name will also be familiar to Scotland fans as the scorer of a surprise goal for Gibraltar against Gordon Strachan’s men at Hampden in the qualifiers for Euro 2016: “It was like a dream when it happened.
“And watching Celtic go on to compete in the group stage against some of the best teams in Europe – Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Moenchengladbach – made it feel even more so.
“Like a dream rather than something that actually took place.
“Beating Celtic was probably the biggest achievement in the 40-year history of the Lincoln Red Imps.
“And scoring the goal that helped us do it was probably my own biggest achievement.
“Knowing that they have gone on from there to win the Scottish league without losing a game is remarkable.
“That is a major achievement for them, so just to have been able to beat that team is a huge accomplishment for us.
“They had already won the league in Scotland the previous year under Ronny Deila, so we knew who we were facing.”
While there were joyous post-match scenes among the Imps, in the away dressing room, loud shouts could be heard.
Rodgers’ angry words clearly hit home too because 10 of the 14 players who played at the Victoria Stadium were regulars through the season.
“At home we didn’t really hear the shouts. We just enjoyed our win,” Casciaro continued.
“How did Brendan Rodgers turn things around so quickly?
“I think a manager of that calibre will push his players into how he wants his team to play.
“He got them to improve after our win and, as they have shown by winning the league without losing a game, they have kept improving ever since.
“And although we lost the second leg and went out, it was still a honour and a privilege to have been able to play in such an electric atmosphere.”
Casciaro has followed the progress of the Scottish champions under Rodgers with a keen interest.
Next season, he reckons, promises to be even more gripping as the man who led Liverpool to within a Steven Gerrard slip of the English Premier League title attempts to consolidate in Europe.
“Celtic have a very good squad as was shown by the draws home and away to Manchester City,” he said.
“If you can do that, then you can’t be much off being able to get through the group stages.
“But there are always things to improve, and Brendan will want to get a few signings to improve them.
“Moussa Dembele has really impressed this year, so a lot of teams are looking at him just now.
“There has been talk of up to £40 million for him, which is a lot of money, with every player having to try to live up to their price tag.”
It is not a concern which bothers the Red Imps striker.
“What price would I put on my own head? I have never really thought about it,” he admitted.
“I don’t think anyone has ever approached me or the club for my services, especially nowhere near that price tag!”
Instead he dreams of the day the Imps can reach, if not the Champions League proper, then the Europa League group stages.
“It’s very hard to say when it will happen. It is something we can only dream of,” he said.
“If we ever do it, it will be an incredible achievement for a team from a small country like Gibraltar.”
In the meantime, the men from the Rock will always have the memories of rocking the football world.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe