Tonight, as so much of our energy is focussed on looking inward – and that’s as it should be; that’s what’s required at the moment – it would be remiss of us not to take a more introspective view of what we saw today than the media will be willing to.
The hacks are rushing to tell us – and Sevco fans are rushing to agree – that today proves that the “gap” isn’t as big as we might have liked.
On the evidence of that miserable performance today you’d have to agree.
But football doesn’t work like that.
We would be mugs to even try and judge the respective strengths of the two clubs on one game.
They’re not as good as they, and a lot of others, think they are.
What I saw today wasn’t a Sevco team that should be keeping us up at night. I saw a disgraceful Celtic team led by a joker and a cardboard cut-out backroom team who should all be getting their jotters first thing in the morning at Parkhead.
We all knew if we didn’t show up today there was a chance of this happening.
We also knew that if Celtic performed as these players are capable that we’d have walked this.
I saw nothing that convinced me they are a better team.
Indeed, I saw much that ought to be keeping their own fans awake at night.
I don’t think their manager is any better than ours.
Today was a hard fought stalemate. Neither side was particularly creative or inventive going forward. Neither coach made tactical changes; instead it was all like-for-like substitutions. A thoughtful, imaginative coach in either dug-out would have had that game won long before it went to penalty kicks. I actually expected Warburton to have more under his “magic hat” than the Ronny Deila Guide To Football Management.
I am pleased, tonight, to see he doesn’t.
When Deila goes – and if it’s tomorrow morning no-one should mourn his departure – I fully expect our team to undergo a complete transformation in attitude and style, and it doesn’t really matter who the new boss is. He will certainly not persist with this guff.
That gap is going to become quickly apparent again.
We don’t have a dreadful squad, you know.
There’s a lot of youth and great talent there. It’s just been under-used or unutilised. A different manager, a different system, someone who doesn’t play favourites … we all know the result had we gone in there today with a better game-plan and a more attacking formation. We’d be in the final.
Is the squad good enough to take us forward in Europe? Hell no.
It’s too filled with dreck, and some of them were on the park.
It breaks my heart, for example, to say that Gary Mackay-Steven has failed to impress in a Celtic shirt. I enjoy Nir Bitton at times; I think there are games when he looks like a class act. But he’s nowhere near Arsenal class or at the level that would get him the only move he says he’d trade a Celtic shirt for. Today he was woeful. The same could be said for our captain, though, whose regression in Deila’s team is one of the most alarming aspects of his tenure.
And then there’s Stefan Johansen, who I was a huge fan of but can leave with his boss if that’s what he wants, and we will not look back.
Likewise, Dedryk Boyata who was shockingly bad in the short time he was on the pitch.
That experimental signing – and he was highly rated once – had been a colossal failure and he’s not going to cut it.
But Sviatchenko was immense. Tierney was magnificent. Roberts showed flashes of genius amidst all the hoopla over his horrendous miss. Armstrong would have commanded the central midfield. Ryan Christie would have added spark. Scott Allan would have played as if his life depended on it. Rogic looked sublime and deadly when he came on and his penalty miss won’t distract fans from the view that he should have started the game.
Leigh Griffiths sometimes looks the loneliest guy in the world playing up front on his own, and that all-too-predictable tactic was a gift to them today. But he remains the best finisher and natural goal scorer we’ve had in the Hoops since The King.
(That will spark debate, I’m sure, but I do believe it.)
And there’s one other thing, something the media never bothers to talk about, almost as if it’s an afterthought or not even worth considering at all … and it’s this:
The gap is about more than just their resources and ours.
There are eleven other teams in the Scottish football structure that they have to overcome before they can even contemplate talking about how they measure up to Celtic.
Aberdeen, Hearts, Motherwell, Inverness, St Johnstone and the rest will all have something to say on the issue long before Celtic has to concern themselves with the Sevco threat.
Provided we start putting our house in order, we’ll take on all comers next year.
But for Sevco to blithely assume that they’ll be second, challenging for first, is arrogance on an enormous scale.
And they will come to seriously regret it.
This was Celtic at our running worst today, led by a clueless guy hopelessly out of his depth and now floundering amidst the wreckage of his ambitions and those of his paymasters. And it took a penalty shoot-out for them to defeat us, after 120 minutes where both sides cancelled each other out for most of the game.
As bad as we were, were they really much better?
The gap exists.
The gap is bigger than they think.
When we sort things out at Celtic Park, you’re not going to believe how wide the gulf seems this time next year.