By Avenell Dave
Despite Arsenal never having faced Celtic in senior competition, one player stands out as an icon for both clubs.
Charlie Nicholas was one of the most talented Scottish players of his generation and having scored 50 goals for Celtic in the 1982-83 season, he had his pick of the major clubs, including Liverpool who were winning everything at the time.
This was a time when Scottish players were revered down south, remember, a time when Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen were the best in the business.
That he ended up joining Arsenal was some coup for us, especially given our indifferent form and failure to win trophies.
Enjoying the high life in England gained him the nickname “Champagne Charlie” and he flattered to deceive, failing to reach the heights he had enjoyed in Scotland and putting on weight after injury.
It was fitting that one of his last appearances in an Arsenal shirt was scoring two goals against Liverpool at Wembley, giving us our first trophy of the decade, the Littlewoods Cup.
I was at the one game the sides have played each other, the 1991 Paul Davis Testimonial at Highbury when the ground was packed and a real festival of football took place.
Charlie scored Celtic’s first in a 2-2 draw that night, having rejoined Celtic via Aberdeen, and I can’t remember an opposition player receiving such a positive response, even when he scored against us!
Following today’s draw, Nicholas said that he think neither side will be happy to be playing each other.
“They would have wanted to avoid each other. But Celtic fans would be happy because after their last two games they would fancy playing anyone. It was a very good performance in Russia. I think it will be very tight,” said Nicholas.
Even now, you can buy Arsenal/Celtic scarves and hats and with a strong Irish population in North London (for those of you who don't know, Celtic, although based in Glasgow, has a deep Irish Catholic heritage), I think we’ll have the best atmosphere Emirates has ever experienced.
England v Scotland, it will no doubt be dubbed – and one man certain to have a keen eye on it is Champagne Charlie.