Brattbakk can haunt his old stumbling ground

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The Independent Football

Amid the shining silverware in Celtic's trophy room, one item seems a little too modest for such a grand setting. Nestling in a display case, just next to the replica of the European Cup, is a battered pair of football boots.

Their owner will be back at Parkhead on Wednesday. Not to collect his lost property, but on a mission to rediscover his reputation. Harald Brattbakk was a joke figure for most of his time at Celtic, but those boots are a reminder that, just sometimes, he got it right. The Norwegian was wearing them the day he scored the goal which ended Celtic's long wait in the wilderness to clinch the Scottish title on the final day of the 1997-98 season to spoil Rangers' dream of 10 titles in a row.

The nagging fear around Parkhead is that Brattbakk will come back to haunt his old club when he returns with Rosenborg for the Champions' League Group E opener.

The sublime irony is that his friend, Henrik Larsson, was only supposed to make the bullets for Brattbakk when they purchased the latter from Rosenborg for £2m in December 1997. Instead, Brattbakk fired only blanks, while his fellow Scandanavian is now the European Golden Boot.

Just 20 goals in two years was a poor return on the man whose 127 in 148 games during his first spell with Rosenborg had all of Europe clamouring to sign him. Many of his 20 for Celtic were tap-ins, laid on by Larsson. It was the misses for which he was remembered, apart from that day in the sun against St Johnstone in May 1998.

Brattbakk is a man who is only really sure of his footing when on Norwegian soil. He returned to Rosenborg last December after three years away and two ill-fated moves – FC Copenhagen was an an equally barren place – in which £4m was spent on him.

However, with the comforting arm of his mentor, Nils Arne Eggen, around him, Brattbakk is flourishing again with Rosenborg in pursuit of their 10th successive Norwegian title. "When I think about how good he is, he was cheap," said Eggen, referring to the £760,000 it cost to buy back Brattbakk. The shy, bespectacled striker appreciates that Trondheim's quieter environment is more suited to him. "The three years I was abroad taught me a lot but I still have much to offer," he said.

That Eggen allowed Brattbakk home at all says much. The prodigal son went to Celtic with Eggen's blessing because he had more than paid back the "education" that Rosenborg had lavished on him. In contrast, Veggard Heggem and Steffen Iversen were castigated for taking the money and running to Liverpool and Spurs before they had reached 23.

Certainly, Eggen has had to replace plenty of players over the years. Rosenborg's Champions' League success – knocking Milan out in 1997 remains the highlight of a campaign that is now in its seventh year – has seen their players picked off by Europe's wealthiest clubs.

Last season's 3-0 win at Borussia Dortmund which earned a place in the second phase, was described by Eggen as on a par with winning in the San Siro, and prompted the German club to buy Rosenborg's Jan Sorensen. Brattbakk is filling Sorensen's boots and the man who netted 18 Champions' League goals in his previous spell at Rosenborg – including a memorable winner against Real Madrid – is a real threat. "I watched him recently and he was sharp," said Parkhead scout Tom O'Neill, "and with his pace, he will cause our defence problems."

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