Today the biggest, and most successful, club in Scotland started the defence of the SPL title, at Tynecastle, against Hearts. We had, in our ranks, Scott Sinclair, the new signing from Aston Villa, the best footballer signed by a club in this fair land in many a year.
He scored the winner. That’s what cash buys. Quality.
Everything that happened yesterday was a side-show – a freak show, if you want me to be perfectly blunt – because the business didn’t start for real until the champions were playing their first match. In spite of what you might have thought reading the papers, watching the telly and scrutinising the general conduct of the media, the box office team in Scotland weren’t at Ibrox yesterday.
The Brendan Rodgers revolution has touched something off in the media, something akin to madness. It’s not difficult to work out what’s caused it either; they watched us last season, struggling, trying to make the Ronny Deila experiment work and they concluded that they’d be facing him this season and in that they saw opportunity.
I personally think they’re wrong; another year of Ronny would have been unbearable but we’d still have won the league, and probably with some room to spare. It’s their own arrogance that makes them think there was a chance there. They’ve simply written off every other team in the league, with the consequences you saw yesterday.
The real show was today, at Tynecastle, and we saw, clearly, what makes Celtic the biggest and best club in Scotland. We saw what makes us champions.
It wasn’t a classic. It didn’t have to be. This is a new manager with a new team, and he’s still finding his way. More to the point, so are the players. No-one is guaranteed a place. No-one can be sure that he’ll finish the game where he started it. Not for this guy a simple “by the numbers” approach, making like-for-like swaps. This guy is a tactician. He knows that sometimes players don’t open up defences, manager’s decisions do.
When I heard today that we were about to bring on Tom Rogic I voiced my opinion that perhaps Brendan would go three at the back. I thought Kiernan would go and Lustig would move into the middle. I was almost right. He took off O’Connell. It was ballsy. It was a Celtic manager deciding we wouldn’t sit and play for a draw at a tough away ground. It was a change Ronny would never have made, idealistic maybe, definitely risky … but what we expect from a Celtic boss.
The second we’d scored, the changed it again. Off came Leigh and on came Janko, to go four at the back once more, and with an extra man in the midfield. These were moments of tactical excellence, just the sort of changes that had to be made.
The days of predictable football, and a playing system everyone knew in advance of the game … they are gone. Brendan watched from the side-lines, knew what had to be done and he did it. It will not always work, but I am delighted we now have a boss who’ll try this stuff. It will win us more points than it loses us over the course of this season.
Having shown what we could do today – with grit, and determination and will to win – the week ahead should be interesting as Brendan wants the club to flex its financial muscle again. Sinclair has shown us already that under this guy money buys results. Toure and Dembele both put in a good shift today too. These guys are first team players, not bench warmers, not squad filler. They will be in the starting eleven more weeks than not.
Before long, this team will bear no resemblance to the one from last season and that ought to give everyone who thinks they can catch us pause.
Today we won against one of our toughest challengers, away from home, in a rough and tumble physical encounter where our opponents scored with a penalty that was disputable at best. That is the stuff title winning seasons are made of. Earlier in the day, our main rivals dropped points in their first encounter of the season. We all know what happened to the mouthiest team in Scotland yesterday, at home, in front of a full house.
So already there’s a points gap.
But it’s nothing on the financial one.
The full force of that will soon be coming into play.
In Brendan We Trust.
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