Celtic’s recent visits to St Mirren Park to play three friendly matches were supposed to be the closest Ronnie Deila’s side would come to Glasgow Airport this pre-season, writes Euan McTear.

The manager insisted in April that his side would scrap any world tours to instead focus on securing the golden ticket that is qualification for the Champions League group stages.

Celtic have, however, travelled to Spain’s Basque country for an historic match with La Liga minnows Sociedad Deportiva Eibar tomorrow evening after having received an invite that simply couldn’t be turned down.

So what is so special about this match (5pm UK time) that the club changed its thinking? The fixture, after all, is sandwiched between the two legs of Celtic’s second qualifying round tie with FC Stjarnan and Eibar are unlikely to provide a useful test given that the Spanish outfit started its pre-season training last week with only eight senior players under contract.

Worse still, there is no major pay day coming Celtic’s way for making the visit: Eibar is the smallest club in La Liga and one renowned for its penny-pinching financial model. As peculiar as it may sound in an era where elite pre-season football is baked on a rotisserie warmed only by the heat of far-flung international dollars, the reason for making this trip is a symbolic one.

The town of Eibar, which with its population of 27,000 could fit inside Celtic Park twice and is smaller than the likes of Airdrie, Irvine and Stirling, is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its football team and does so on the back of its first season in Spanish football’s top flight. It was a rise so unlikely that no amount of tea-leaf examination could have predicted it.

These are exciting times for Eibar, particularly after the club received a La Liga reprieve despite having lost its final day of the season relegation battle; 13th-placed Elche were instead demoted for their financial sins.

Past birthday celebrations have seen Bordeaux and Ajax make the pilgrimage to visit Eibar in 1965 and 1990 respectively. Celtic will today become just the third foreign team to run out at Eibar’s tiny 6,000-seater Ipurua stadium, but only after receiving a grand welcome of pipers and a red carpet at the Town Hall in Unzaga Square.

The pipes heard in the square will be Basque pipes rather than bagpipes, but part of the reason for inviting Celtic to contest this friendly is the fact that Eibar have maintained strong Scottish links for the past two decades. For that reason, the club celebrated last summer’s promotion to La Liga with the hiring of a bagpiper.

The Scottish connection is a strong one and stems from the 1980s when fans watched rugby's Five Nations, as it was then, and fell in love with the vocal Scottish support. The formation of the Eskozia La Brava fan group in 2001, the club’s largest fan group and one whose name translates as Scotland The Brave, accentuated the Caledonian link, and the East Stand of Ipurua Stadium even has a Scotland The Brave mural painted on its wall, complete with the Saltire and Lion Rampant. Trips to the group’s spiritual home have since followed to take in matches at the likes of Hampden Park, Easter Road, Tynecastle, Ibrox and Celtic Park, usually before pints at their favourite pub, The Horseshoe Bar.

It is only fitting that Celtic fans now have an opportunity to make a return trip and they are guaranteed a warm welcomed from the members of Eskozia La Brava, who have prepared Basque food and drink for their guests in the main square. Many of them will be dressed in the team’s away kit from two seasons ago, a kit designed in the image of Celtic’s green and white hoops.

In order to earn promotion to La Liga last summer, Eibar had to increase its social capital by over £1million and was able to do so thanks to a crowdfunding campaign which saw more than 10,000 new shareholders save the club. As a mark of thanks, the club has listed the name of all shareholders on the side of the stadium on its ‘Wall of Defence’, and the number of names hailing from Scotland is remarkable.

Many of the travelling fans will spot their names on that wall this evening, as well as a town forever grateful. This is the one friendly worth making an exception for.

Euan McTear is author of Eibar the Brave: The Extraordinary Rise of La Liga's Smallest Team.