STEPHEN Crainey has signed up for the Henrik’s Heroes v Lubo’s Legends charity match on Sunday, May 28 (KO: 2pm) and admitted: “I am going to be like a big kid running out again at Paradise.”
The full-back, who grew up as a Hoops fan, played for Celtic between 1997 and 2004, and he cannot disguise his joy at playing in the match on May 28.
“When I got the phone-call to ask me to play I was so delighted. I never thought I would play at Celtic Park again. To get that chance is wonderful,” he said.
But Crainey has been no stranger to Celtic Park since he left the club to pursue a career in England, playing with Southampton, Leeds, and Blackpool. And he cannot forget playing for the Hoops.
“I still try to get to the games when I can. I live in Lytham St Annes and get up regularly,” he said. “As a kid growing up I was a Celtic fan so the whole experience of playing for the club was a dream come true.
“To be involved in that squad getting to Seville in 2003 was just wonderful. I had to pinch myself sometimes. That was a team of real quality.
“There were people saying then that English football was much stronger than Scottish football but we went down there and beat Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool. That’s no mean feat. We were a top, top quality side. We were really strong at the back and spectacular going forward.”
He relished being alongside players such as Henrik and Lubo.
“Training with these guys day in, day out was a lesson in professionalism. It helped me in my later career. To get that experience so early was great,” he said.
“Henrik in training was incredible. He would finish for fun. His all-round play was brilliant. Lubo was incredible too. He was unplayable in five-a-side. He would leave you sprawling. An astonishing talent.”
As a former player and a lifelong supporter, Stephen has a grasp of what Celtic FC Foundation and the Lisbon Lions, who will be saluted on matchday, mean to the club.
“The Foundation is what the club is about,” he says. “And the Lisbon Lions will still be legends of the club for the next few hundred years.”
Stephen, now 35, is coaching at Fleetwood Town and is aiming to be in shape for his playing return to the stadium that has meant so much to him.
“I have stepped up my training since I was asked to play,” he says. “I’m buzzing about this and I know there will be such a great atmosphere.”
Henrik’s Heroes versus Lubo’s Legends will take place at Celtic Park on Sunday, May 28, 2017, with a 2pm KO.
Tickets are on general sale, on a first come, first served basis – maximum of 10 per person – priced at £12 for adults and £6 for concessions*.
Tickets are available to purchase online at www.celticfc.net, by calling 0871 226 1888** or by visiting the Celtic Ticket Office. Rail Seating does not apply to this match.
Premium tickets (£30) and corporate packages (£135) are also available by calling 0871 226 1888** (Option 4) or emailing [email protected]
Net proceeds of the game will be devoted to Celtic FC Foundation, a charity aiming to uphold and promote the founding principles of our football club. The four priorities are to improve health, promote equality, encourage learning and tackle poverty and the Foundation have a strong track record of delivering successful community-based projects.
Some of the funds will be used to extend existing projects such as the award-winning ‘Ability Counts’ – a project aimed at children and young people who live with Down’s Syndrome or Autism. We will also assist with Community Care for Dementia through a series of initiatives. Finally, in partnership with Mary’s Meals, we will build 67 Kitchens in third world countries where famine and extreme poverty are claiming lives prematurely every single day.
* Concessions 65+/Under 16s.
** Calls cost 13p per minute, plus your phone company’s access charge. Booking fees apply online and via our sales line.