Why Celtic’s first French­man is still in­debted to the club

Evening Times - - LAST WORD - Matthew Lind­say

CELTIC fans will be eter­nally grate­ful to Stephane Mahe for the con­tri­bu­tion he made to the Scot­tish ti­tle vic­tory that ended nearly a decade of Rangers do­mes­tic dom­i­nance and pre­vented the Ibrox club from com­plet­ing 10-In-A-Row back in 1998.

Yet the French left-back will for­ever be in­debted to the Glas­gow club and their sup­port­ers him­self for help­ing to end a trou­bled pe­riod in his life and res­ur­rect his ail­ing ca­reer. He will have no di­vided loy­al­ties when Rennes, who he also played for, take to the field for their penul­ti­mate Europa League group match at Park­head this evening.

“I have fol­lowed Celtic in Europe this sea­son and I hope to see them win against Rennes and then go far in the com­pe­ti­tion,” said Mahe (right) from his home in Pon­tar­lier near the French-Swiss border yes­ter­day.

“For me, in my head, in my heart, I don’t for­get, I can’t for­get, my time with Celtic and in par­tic­u­lar what the Celtic fans gave me. I am so very proud to have played for Celtic.”

Mahe, a prod­uct of the fabled Aux­erre youth academy, showed tremen­dous prom­ise and en­joyed great suc­cess after break­ing into Guy Roux’s first team in the late 1980s. The de­fender was in­volved in the Bur­gundy club’s run to the UEFA Cup semi-fi­nals in 1993 and their first ever Coup de France tri­umph the fol­low­ing year.

But he strug­gled to es­tab­lish him­self at Paris Saint-Ger­main after win­ning a move to the Parc des Princes in 1995 – play­ing home and away in a 4-0 ag­gre­gate tri­umph over Celtic in the sec­ond round of the Euro­pean Cup Win­ners’ Cup were rare high­lights from his only sea­son in the cap­i­tal – and a switch to Rennes the next sea­son also failed to work out due to a dev­as­tat­ing be­reave­ment.

“It wasn’t a good time for me,” he said. “Shortly after I joined Rennes in July I lost my mother. It was a very bad start. But that whole sea­son was very, very dif­fi­cult for me. I was lucky that Celtic con­tacted me and asked me to join them. “To leave France and move to Scot­land was the best thing for

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