At some point over the next day or two the Scottish media and a section of the population in this country is going to help accomplish something I’d have said was impossible just a few days ago. Between them, they are going to bring calm, and a sense of purpose, and instil unity in a Celtic support that was as fragmented and angry as I’ve ever seen it.
Celtic needed this.
Inadvertantly, the media and the supporters of the Ibrox NewCo are going to give us the biggest lift we’ve had since we went out of the Europa League groups.
I said before the last round draw was made that all those voices on the other side of the city that were, allegedly, raised in hope of this tie coming out of the hat were kidding themselves on. Apparently they still are.
One idiotic piece – running in The Daily Record; where else? – suggests that this is “the worst Celtic team in 20 years.”
Maybe it is.
I think that opinion is fit only for the nut ward, but let’s give the “writer” the benefit of the doubt.
If things at Celtic Park really are that bad, what’s it going to say for the state they are in when we take them apart next month?
Have you ever seen people so spectacularly set themselves up for a fall?
It’s unparalleled, and they really do believe it.
The simple fact, as we all know, is that there’s not a player in the whole of the Celtic squad who would not be considered a “star” at Ibrox.
If this is a bad Celtic team, well Hell I’d still take it any day of the week in front of their abject one which contains not one single footballer who I would have been terribly enthused had our club gone out and signed.
Let’s look at their form in February for an example of their alleged brilliance.
They drew with Kilmarnock and Alloa. The rest of their games were single goal wins against Kilmarnock in the cup replay, Raith Rovers, St Mirren and Queen of the South.
This is hardly the kind of form to induce nightmares.
Are they capable of beating us on the day?
Of course they are, but only inasmuch as some people thought Morton might have a chance of doing that at the weekend.
We’re capable of being staggeringly bad, and on a day like that we’re in danger of losing to anyone right now … but even on modest form we’ve beaten better teams than theirs this year, and we ought to win this one out the park, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that we’re also capable of hitting our stride and running over teams like a tank.
There are doubts, but only over which version of us will show up on any given day.
If Real Celtic clocks in, this could be a cricket score.
This is a match between the biggest club in Scotland and the team that is at the top of the Championship; it’s Celtic v Hearts from last season all over again, with the difference being that this lot aren’t as good as that Hearts side.
What Sevco fans are betting on, of course, is that Celtic goes into this match still enveloped in doubt and self pity, because we know that’s the only chance they’ve got of taking something other than a hiding from the experience.
I can assure them, right now, that hope is built on a false foundation.
The media has already started us on the road out of the darkness with some of the flagrant nonsense they’ve allowed to be printed, such as a queue of Sevco players, former Sevco players and ex Rangers players lining up to say they’ll do this and that.
The sheer arrogance of them oozes out of every press release and interview at the moment.
This isn’t about “Rangers” or an “Old Firm” game.
Celtic fans, by and large, don’t even acknowledge the existence of the first and near unanimously loathe the second. This is about whipping a club that thinks it was born with a silver spoon, with a divine right, one that the media hopelessly overblows even as it tries to destabilise Celtic at every turn.
They are the mouthy guy in the boozer everyone wants to see get a right good slap.
We’re going to get this “great rivalry” stuff rammed down our throats.
Sevco keeps trying to hammer across the fiction that they are Rangers and that will be ramped up to the maximum in the next few weeks.
Their fans will be at their supremacist worst, and they’ve started already with flight of fancy guff like that which appeared in The Record today.
And between them all, they’ve clarified things nicely for us.
What they were counting on is that we would go into this match divided, bitter, resentful and at war with ourselves.
But they’ve missed the self-evident truth that their gloating, their breath-taking hubris and even the myths they cling to will erase all that at a stroke.
No other game could have done this for us, because no other fans are this conceited.
The media hype will just increase our readiness and our determination to win.
They’re not going to get a Celtic that’s out of sorts or lacking focus.
They’re going to get the one that’s driven, first to every ball, that’s out to draw blood and wreck dreams.
There was a danger for us in getting another team in this draw and that danger was that we continue to meander through the rest of the season as if it didn’t really matter.
There’s an assumption by a lot of people that we’ll win the title, that the double was ours and all we had to do was show up for the games.
We lacked passion, and we lacked the proper motivation that can sometimes make all the difference in football.
A grim sort of fatalism had even come over some of our fans; many would have traded away points and maybe even the cup itself to have the situation with the manager resolved once and for all. Some supporters have barely been able to muster the enthusiasm even to be angry lately; they’ve sunk into morose despondency and had written this season off, trophies or not, and were turning their attention to the next one.
But all that’s over now, because the Celtic Family now has a common cause and a reason to raise its game.
The fans will unite once more, in wanting to get behind the team.
The entire club will start coming together, putting aside concerns and grievances for now and focussing on the job at hand.
This is what we’ve missed since European football went; not a big game, because it’s not really a big game, it’s a cup semi final against lower league opposition.
But it’s a cause. It’s something to get up in the morning for.
That cause is simply this; to put this egotistical club in its place.
To send a message to the media and to the rest of Scottish football that we’re the undisputed biggest club in the land.
To shatter this absurd illusion that the club playing at Ibrox is, in some way, our equal.
To end all talk of a “rivalry” before it starts and to remind this lot that before they can consider themselves a challenger to us, in any way, there are 11 other teams they need to get past first.
That they never even consider this tells you everything.
The media will try to make this about hate, of course.
They’ll try to make it about restoring a “brand” that’s long since had its day.
Indeed, Sevco sites are already hyping it up as the “Old Firm” game, in a clear demonstration of how little they can see past Celtic Park … for all their talk of us being “obsessed” it is their club clinging to our ankles because their whole existence is based on a Glasgow duopoly which died with the club called Rangers.
All this is to say that the environment the media and their supporters are trying to whip up will not faze us, or convince us that this the game they believe it is.
What it will do is clear the decks and focus us all on one thing; victory.
This Family is coming together to win, and to win big.
As I said last night, Sevco fans have allegedly been “wanting this.”
When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.
Be very afraid indeed.