Paul Lambert says Celtic Lisbon Lions will never be eclipsed as he bristles at Kevin Thomson’s Rangers claim

On a pedestal, never to be knocked down.

Never suggest to Paul Lambert that a Scottish side will dominate the success of the Lisbon Lions.

Not unless one can miraculously upset the odds – not to mention gazillions of the Euro elite – to somehow win the Champions League anytime soon.

Even then, the former Celtic midfielder might not be convinced.

Lambert was surprised by Kevin Thomson’s claim that the current Rangers side would be the best ever to come from our hometown if they won the Europa League tonight – better even than Jock Stein’s European Cup trailblazers in 1967.

The former Hoops star is well qualified to argue against Thomson’s opinion, to be fair.

This is a footballer who arrived at Parkhead just months after winning the big one – the European Cup – himself with Borussia Dortmund and captained Celtic in the Cup final defeat UEFA against Porto in Seville in 2003.

No one in Martin O’Neill’s team that year ever thought he was close to matching the club’s greatest achievement.

Lambert admits he felt the weight of history and the standards set by the Lions every day during his eight years in east Glasgow.

Their success in becoming the first British team to win the European Cup was all the greater as each member of Stein’s team came from within a 30-mile radius of Celtic Park.

It also came just a year after the Hoops ended a 12-year title drought.

So Thomson’s respectful words in yesterday’s Record that a Rangers win at Sevilla ‘would be the best achievement ever by a Scottish club’ due to their own journey back from the doldrums don’t wash with Lambert.

It barely even touches the surface.

He said Sports records: “Rangers have done well to get to this final, without a shadow of a doubt.

“I understand where Kevin is coming from as he is a former Rangers player.

“But the Lisbon Lions are on another planet.

“There is no way on this earth that any other team in Europe will win the big one – the European Cup or the Champions League as it is now – with a team of players all from a 30 mile radius like this Celtic team did.

“It will never be done again.

“The Lions are rightly on a pedestal. They will always be the best team to come out of Scotland.

“They were the first British side to win it. They were all local lads and they were European champions. They beat champions from five different countries, including mighty Inter Milan in the final to do it. .

“Yes, Rangers have had an incredible journey over the past decade.

“But we must not forget that Celtic had also not won a title for 12 years before becoming champions in 1966 to enter the European Cup the following season.

“Rangers have done very well to reach this final and it will be a great opportunity for them. But comparing the two achievements – even if they win – is far from the truth.

“Not only that, but it also discredits the Rangers side who won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972.

“They had great players at that time and it was an incredible achievement.”

Lambert wore the armband when O’Neill’s Celtic became the first Scottish side since Aberdeen in 1983 to reach a Euro final 19 years ago.

It ended in agony, a 3-2 loss in extra time to Jose Mourinho’s Porto, after a magnificent run in which Liverpool, Blackburn, Celta Vigo and Stuttgart were all dismissed.

But the former midfielder insists that at no time before the final did anyone in the Hoops side suggest he had a chance to be level with the 67 side.

Lambert said: “No chance. Never. Ask anyone from that 2003 team that came to Sevilla, they would all say the same thing.. that we could have been on the verge of something special but this would never match the achievement of the Lions.

“For a Scottish team to have a chance, they had to win the Champions League.

“It’s the pinnacle of the European game. Watch the Liverpool-Real Madrid final taking place this month.

“It’s the right level of elite. The Europa League is a great competition, but the Champions League is a different ball game.

“We thrived under the pressure of having to try to meet the standards set by the Lions, whether that was possible or not.

“I’m sure all Celtic players are the same. Jock Stein and his players have set the bar for Celtic Football Club.

“We missed the UEFA Cup final and we had a very good team. But even if we had won, it wouldn’t have equalized the Lions.

“I met them – great guys, so respectable, little Jinky Johnstone, all were brilliant, brilliant human beings.

“A lot of them are no longer with us, which is terribly sad.”

Lambert will be tuned into tonight’s final but has no idea which direction it will take.

Having spent a year and a half in the Bundesliga with Dortmund, he keeps a close eye on German football and is well aware of the test that awaits the Ibrox side.

He said, “It’s 50/50. Eintracht Frankfurt’s form has been excellent, they toppled Barcelona and then beat West Ham.

“They have fanatical support and this should be an opportunity. It’s just too close to call.

Charles P. Patton