Denial is a powerful thing. It’s not for nothing that it’s the first stage of the grieving process and one of the surest signs of mental illness. Denial comes in many forms, but boiled right down it’s a simple inability – or refusal – to deal with reality.
There’s a difference between that and faith, which is simply the belief in something for which there is no supporting evidence. We use that word a lot to talk about Brendan Rodgers but actually the term isn’t applicable in that case because we do have evidence to back our high hopes up. Even without it, he’s a manager of repute. Before he arrived, before he’d taken a single game, faith in his ability was not an unreasonable proposition.
Denial is something different. Denial means believing in something when all the evidence lies on the other side of the equation. It’s about ignoring evidence, it’s about stubbornly refusing even to see it or acknowledge that it’s there. It’s about building a bubble and enclosing yourself and your part of the world in it, pretending that what’s outside doesn’t exist at all.
Denial breeds wild fantasy. If you’re not going to live in the real world then you can, inside your bubble, create whichever reality you like. But those who choose to live in a fairy-tale should always be wary of dragons. That which you wrap around you for a comfort blanket may well turn into a python and swallow you whole.
Because reality has an inconvenient way of breaking through and if you close your eyes and wish it away hard enough what happens is that your bubble shatters instead and you’re confronted with the monster you never wanted to face.
Sevco fans can see the cracks in the bubble right now.
Come Hogmany, it’s going to shatter completely. Reality is going to break through, leaving them nothing left but to face the facts and the fear that goes with them.
For the whole of this season, the denial effect has been in full swing over there. Yesterday’s Daily Record hotline was a case in point; it was headlined by screeching fools determined that if they were loud enough that the big ticking clock in the background would become sweet elevator music instead. “Celtic aren’t as good as they think they are!” the headline shrieked. But deep down their fans are asking one question; “what if they actually are?”
See, they’ve been clinging to certain little things over the last few months. That we would burn out. We haven’t. Even when we were down and looked out against Motherwell the strength and determination was there to get us through. We were supposed to be on our last legs because we’d won a few games 1-0, which is why, with the score line reading that against Hamilton away and we went to ten men there must have been a lot of folk wetting their pants in anticipation. We won the match comprehensively, with plenty of conviction and class.
But the greatest delusions have been reserved for the two games we played against them. If you believe their forums they made Dembele look good that day (as opposed to him simply being good) and the games were very even … up to a point. That must have been the point at which the teams came out onto the park to start them.
“If not for the Senderos sending off …” goes one line. Boyd thinks the game was balanced up until then. We had a 3-1 lead that flattered them. He and others think the reduced margin of victory in the cup semi-final is a sign that “the gap isn’t as wide as some think.” Yet had Sviatchenko’s perfectly legitimate goal stood I think the win may well have been on that order of magnitude because we utterly outplayed and outclassed them and on another day would have run up a cricket score with the number of chances we created.
It helped their cause that they played 11 men behind the ball, like a lower league team. But it did them no good over the course of the match because they still lost, and deservedly.
Still, they live in denial. Our league lead is only so wide because their players were “settling in” and now that they’ve “come good” everything will be alright. Apart from the fact they won their last match at home by an own goal and were booed off the park.
Yet Ibrox remains the talismanic centre of their fantasy. The crumbling relic in which they play has been invested with almost supernatural powers in their minds. They cannot conceive of us going there and winning. Their mental fragility depends, above all, on sustaining the illusion that it’s the place where our own weaknesses will be exposed.
Deep down they are haunted by a simple question though; what if we go there and take them apart, as comprehensively as we have in the last two games? What does that mean to their world, their bubble, their constructed reality? It means Game Over.
If we go to Ibrox and win they are going to be forced to confront the horrible truth that no matter what their league position at the end of the season, it will be a million miles from one where they can even pretend to have built a base for “challenging Celtic.” The flaws and the gaps in their worldview will be blown apart and reality will drive through like a tank.
They have no money to do the rebuilding job that would enable them to get close to where we are, and nothing short of some oil billionaire buying them and agreeing to bankroll them in exchange for a dodgy stadium naming deal is going to matter. In the meantime, according to some reports we’re on our way to Dubai for the winter break, doubtless to cement relations with the actual oil billionaires who, as I reported on this site some months ago, do have an interest in Scottish football … just not in their Britnat club.
They are terrified of this game. It’s the last thing they wanted before the New Year starts. 2017, and dealing with reality. The worst hangover of all time.