The contrasting fortunes of the two Glasgow managers was highlighted today in Brendan Rodgers’ breezy, cheerful press conference where he waved aside any notion that Celtic go into the game at Ibrox under the slightest pressure. How could we? Even if worst came to the absolute, inconceivable worst and we lost that game, it would make little difference come season’s end.
Sevco, on the other hand, are in dire need of the three points, as Brendan was quick to point out.
“In terms of where we’re at, and where they are, a number of points behind, with Aberdeen and Hearts closing in behind them, then of course they will want to win the game as much as we will. They’re protecting an unbeaten run at home and their supporters will expect them to win. That all points to pressure,” he said, putting the onus on Sevco to perform on the day.
It’s cute psychological warfare. I am certain Brendan has drilled into the players this idea that if they play their normal game that the chances will come and with them the result. We’re the better team, with the better players. Rodgers knows these things.
He knows something else; there really is pressure on Warburton and his team. In front of a home crowd, no-one will forgive him if he sits back and plays a defensive game. If he tries to play expansive football, on the other hand, we’ll take them apart. I don’t see anyone in their forward line who will pose too many problems for our defence.
Brendan was so relaxed today that he might as well have brought along his sunglasses and his flip-flops, as if it was summer and he was sitting on a beach. But amidst his calm, he did lay out one chilling warning to the rest of the SPL, and in particular Sevco, about the frame of mind he and the players are in heading for the winter break.
“We’ll go away, re-focus and be better in the second part of the season.”
Be better? Jesus. That’s got to be a scary proposition for the rest.
Warburton doesn’t need any more scares. In contrast to Brendan’s composure and confidence, fear wafted out of the Sevco boss like the mouldy smell from an Ibrox pie. His own press conference was characterised by his latest pleas to be “judged at the end of the season”, perhaps not aware that the media was judging Ronny well in advance of that or that Ally was sent to work with a rake long before the league campaign was over.
This guy simply isn’t getting it. If we beat them and Aberdeen win (it’s the second part of that equation that’s up for grabs) the gap between them closes, and the Dons have a game in hand. The pressure then will be enormous. He hasn’t known anything like it; three Celtic defeats in a row, and second spot slipping away … disaster.
I still think they’ll hold down the second spot; I simply don’t believe Aberdeen under Derek McInnes will ever be good enough to keep a run going. But if I’m wrong Warburton will be gone long before the season ends, and he might be gone anyway when King and others realise that he can’t possibly be allowed another season in charge and more money to spend.
Warburton’s problems mounted over the course of 2016. He changed this year, from being quite a personable bloke to being spiteful, arrogant, a serial whiner and a paranoid. The job hasn’t been good for him. When it comes, he should welcome the end like it’s a mercy killing.