IN a small Norwegian stadium, an hour away from Oslo, Kenny Dalglish last night made his first appearance at a Celtic game since his appointment as the club's director of football.
He took his place in the dug-out next to John Barnes after flying in to the Parkhead club's training camp. Thunder, a bolt of lightning, and heavy rain greeted Dalglish to the Gjemselund stadium in Kongs-vinger for the second match of the club's pre-season tour.
His appearance at the match between Celtic and the Danish champions, Aalborg, was as low key as it was unexpected.
Only 649 people had bothered to turn out to watch the match, which Celtic won thanks to a Mark Viduka hat trick. The first game of their tour had resulted in a 3-2 win over Norwegian second division outfit Ham-Kam, but in that game it was a rather experimental side which Barnes put out.
This time round the head coach fielded a very strong line-up
with a mouthwatering attacking-minded team which included Larsson, Viduka, and Berkovic in midfield who was making his debut. Overall, it could be argued that last night's side was only two or three players short of what is
likely to be Celtic's starting line-up for the new season.
The most notable omissions were Craig Burley and Allan Stubbs, with the centre back's role being given last night to
German trialist Jochen Kientz who had an impressive debut.
Aalborg were always going to be a tough test for Celtic as they recently won their league which finished three weeks ago, by five points from Bronby. They were keen to play last night's game to keep the momentum going before they begin their Champions League campaign next month.
It has to be encouraging for Barnes and Dalglish that Celtic controlled most of the game against such creditable opposition.
The most positive aspect for them would have been the balance of the side in the 4-4-2 formation which Barnes put out and the way the players stuck to their tasks.
Defensively, they played Boyd and Kientz in the middle of defence with Mahe and Riseth, who had acres of space on the right hand side, as attacking fullbacks.
However, it was in the middle of the park where they looked most impressive. Lambert sat in well, making the play and releasing for the most part Berkovic who was like a buzz-bomb as he hared all over the pitch before he was replaced by Blinker in 64 minutes.
There was also good movement up front from Larsson and in particular Viduka who merited his three goals. His first two came with headers, one in two minutes where he rose unchallenged, and the other 10 minutes later when he nodded home a Riseth cross. His final goal came at the death after he swivelled and turned to put away a low shot into the corner of the net following
a Burchill run down the left.
Fitness wise, the Celtic players did well on what was a heavy pitch and only Berkovic was required to be replaced which wasn't surprising considering the amount of work he had put in.
Afterwards, Barnes said that both he and Dalglish had been extremely satisfied by the players' performances and how they had interpreted the game plan.
He said he felt that particularly in the first half his side had kept its shape well and adhered to the principles which he had wanted.
''We couldn't have asked for any more from them,'' said Barnes. ''The players kept their discipline well.'' He singled out Viduka as a player who looked much more relaxed and who had been doing particularly well at training. He also praised Berkovic for his performance and said the club's record signing had been doing extra training to get himself into peak fitness.
It was clear that Barnes is a man who is satisfied at how his team is progressing. With Craig Burley and Allan Stubbs still to play on the tour, it is clear he has many options to consider.
Despite the heavy demands of last season Henrik Larsson linked up well with Viduka and on many occasions they had an extra man due to the strong running of Moravcik. When called upon, Jonathan Gould also looked in good form and pulled off three quality late saves to keep the scoresheet blank.
Celtic will complete their tour with a match against Norwegian side Kongsvinger on Tuesday.
Celtic - Gould, Boyd, Lambert , Kientz, Mahe, Riseth, Berkovic, Wieghorst, Larsson, Moravcik, Viduka. Substitutes - Kerr, Mjallby, McKinlay, Bonnes, Peta, Burchill, Brattbakk, Blinker, Johnson.
Aalborg - Nilsen, Thomsen, Baelum, Kruger, Gaarde, Solbakken, Oper, Frederiksen, Jessen, Andersson, Matovac. Substitutes -Winde, Pedersen, Gaardsoe, Trandberg, Strandli.
Referee - Rune Pedersen.
q THE Scottish Premier League's commission of inquiry have adjourned until Monday morning after failing to reach a decision after a six-and-a-half-hour meeting with Celtic officials yesterday regarding the trouble-strewn Old Firm encounter at Parkhead on May 2.
The club's representatives met with the committee, chaired by Lord McKay of Drumadoon, at
the national stadium, but an announcement on any action taken by the board, which also includes SPL chief executive Roger Mitchell and chairman Robert Wilson, is not expected to be made until the beginning of next week.