I’ve been very fortunate to have played alongside some cracking footballers in my time and some amazing ex-pros too. About 12 years ago, I lived in Gibraltar for three years and, at only 29, I was probably at my most comfortable on a football pitch. I captained the side I played for and played at a decent level in the middle of the midfield.
One player that I played against and with out here was a guy called Ryan Casciaro and I used to enjoy the wee battles we’d have in the middle of the pitch. I’d heard about his brother, Lee, but hadn’t played against him yet. Then, one night, the both of them turned up and Lee ran riot. I think he scored five or something against us and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
This went on for three years. We had a select side out here and luckily on those occasions, Lee would be on my side. Again, though, it didn’t matter who we played, Lee would just find the onion bag for fun. Fast forward a few years and didn’t the impossible just happen? The side from Gibraltar that Lee and Ryan play for (Lincoln Red Imps) only got drawn against Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers. Unbelievable!
I remember at the time, Tweeting all of the Celtic players, warning them about the surface and the heat, as I’d played on the very same surface a thousand times. I never got one message back but I’d hoped they’d at least read them and taken my advice on board. By the looks of things with what we know now, they failed to do so. I even warned them about a certain Lee Casciaro. I told them that if he gets a sniff, he’ll put it away. Celtic soon found out the hard way, as did Scotland at Hampden some time later.
The stage was all set and the rest, as they say, is history. To kick off my very popular #10IAR feature again with ACSOM, I couldn’t have started with a much better guest. What happened that day from the guy’s point of view that eventually put us to the sword that night in Gibraltar? Here is Lee Casciaro’s Ten In A Row…
Lee, first of all, thanks for your time and thank you for coming on and telling us about that fateful night for us but amazing night for yourself.
What were your thoughts when Lincoln Red Imps were drawn against Celtic?
“A dream come true, having the opportunity to play against such a high profile club like Celtic, and obviously to play at Celtic Park. It’s probably one of the highlights of my career up to now.”
Tell us a bit about yourself, Lee. What is your normal day-to-day job?
“I work for the Ministry of Defence in Gibraltar as a Police Officer. Work and football is what takes up most of my time, really.”
Have you had any trials for any notable clubs?
“Not really. I’ve always played my football in Gibraltar and never had any opportunity to play abroad.”
What can you remember about the day of the first-leg pre-match?
“Just like any other day, really. We had lunch with the team and rested up as much as possible, just concentrating on the game ahead. A bit of nerves came in as the day went by.”
What was going through your head when the chance for that notable goal came about?
“I knew that my pace would cause problems for the Celtic defence, but at that precise moment you don’t have much time to think, so I just went with my instinct and, luckily enough, I managed to get the winning goal on the day. Probably one of the most important goals of my career.”
What happened after the final whistle went? Tell us about that night. You must’ve been a national hero?
“The media coverage was overwhelming! My phone was ringing non-stop for the next few days. It was probably the closest I’ve ever felt to being a professional footballer with the amount of interviews I had.”
Did you get any Celtic player’s shirt after the game?
“Brendan Rodgers invited us after the second leg into their changing room and we exchanged shirts with everyone, but I kept mine from the home leg. I got Stuart Armstrong’s top.”
In the return leg at Celtic Park, something happened between yourself and Scott Brown. Tell us what happened.
“What happened with Scott was that when the half-time whistle went, he came running up behind me as we were going up the tunnel and he barged me out of the way. I didn’t think much of him. He was probably getting stick in the tabloids all week in Scotland for losing in Gibraltar.”
What was your experience of Celtic Park?
“It’s one of those iconic stadiums that I’ve had the privilege to play in. The atmosphere was electric. It was a very proud moment to have experienced in my career.”
How has your life changed since not only scoring the winner against Celtic but also scoring for Gibraltar at Hampden against Scotland?
“Not much really. I’m still playing for Lincoln Red Imps and enjoying my football. Most people that know me know that I’m quite down to earth and, luckily enough, I’ve managed to score both against Scotland and Celtic, a dream come true.”
Lee, thank you so much for coming on and giving us your memories of that night. Thankfully we managed to turn it around in the second leg but, to this day, my friends, especially on The Rock, don’t let me forget about that first leg in Gibraltar!
As for the Scott Brown incident, I’d take that as a compliment, for sure. Broony likes to show all of his opponents who’s boss and you not only dented his pride but every Celtic player and supporter’s pride with that first leg winner. He knew who you were so I’d take that as a well done for the first leg.
I was lucky enough to have played with and against you on many occasions so I knew that you’d be a danger that night. Congratulations on that special evening and, although I was mad at you at the time, I was very proud of you too. Keep doing what your’re doing but not against Celtic or Scotland next time, eh? All the best for the rest of your career and thank you for coming on A Celtic State of Mind.