Lincoln Red Imps defender Joseph Chipolina admits the spine-tingling sight of seeing Celtic fans blare out You’ll Never Walk Alone was the inspiration that drove the Gibraltan minnows to set up a dream Champions League clash against the Hoops.
Captain Roy Chipolina gathered the squad in the dressing room ahead of Wednesday’s win over Flora to watch footage of the Celtic fans singing the famou sporting anthem in a Europa League tie against Inter Milan in February 2015.
The part-timers were already dreaming of setting up a fairytale match against Brendan Rodgers’ side but left-back Chipolina admits seeing the Hoops fans in full voice gave them extra motivation to turn around their first qualifying tie against Flora
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg against the Estonians, Chipolina, who also scored in Tallinn, converted a first half penalty before substitute Antonio Calderon’s strike sealed a momentous aggregate victory.
Celtic travel to the British Overseas Territory for the first leg next Tuesday but Chipolina admits he cannot wait to sample the legendary Parkhead atmosphere.
Chipolina, who works as a civil servant, said: “It’s amazing, not only because we won but because now we will play Celtic next week. That was one of our boosts.
“It’s a dream come true, most of the players here have played amateur with their friends before this. We got in UEFA and things have started changing, and now we’re able to play Champions League football.
“Our captain Roy put up a video of the Celtic fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, and it was amazing. That was a big boost for all of us.
“We watched the video in the changing room before we went out and it gave us goose bumps. He also posted it online during the day and said, ‘this is what we’re going to experience if we go through’. It gave us a boost to go and win the game.
“For every one of us to have on our CV that we’ve played against Celtic is great. We’re really happy.
“To evolve as a club, we need to face bigger clubs, one of the best teams to face is Celtic at Celtic Park.”
Lincoln reached the second qualifying round last season with a victory over Andorran side Santa Coloma before being knocked out by Danish club Midtjylland 3-0 on aggregate.
But Gibraltan internationalist Chipolina, who played against Scotland in the recent Euro 2016 qualifiers, admits the a two-legged tie against the Scottish champions surpasses anything the 22-times title winners have experienced before.
He said: “At international level we’ve been able to play against the likes of Germany, Poland and Scotland but at club level the biggest team we’ve played so far was Mytjalland last season.
“They’re a good club but it does not compare to Celtic. Celtic are one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“We knew we could better than what we did in Estonia and I think we’ve proved that. We’re all really happy and to get into the second round of the Champions League is amazing.”
The European match against Celtic is a one off but accomplished full back Chipolina admits he came close to facing the Glasgow club on a regular basis after being tracked by a host Scottish clubs, including Hibs.
He added: “In about December time last year there was interest from three clubs in Scotland for me to go over and have a trial period.
“They talked to me but they had to obviously run it by Lincoln because I had a contract here and I don’t know what happened. I was going to go but then they told me at the last minute I couldn’t.
“One of the clubs was Hibs.”
The 28-year-old, however, admits a match against Celtic is a potential spring-board into the full-time professional ranks.
He added: “It’s a window just like playing against Scotland and Germany is a winner for us.
“Playing in in the Champions League is a window. If you have a good game at Celtic Park and things go right, you might get a call.
“That’s we’re training all year round for and if we’re lucky some players might leave the club to move on to bigger clubs.”