What does it mean to be a Celtic fan at the current time?
We have conquered all comers in Scotland … it’s only natural we should look towards Europe, with Celtic outsiders in the Europa League betting odds, like any moderately successful US governor or Senator dreams of the White House.
It’s like an itch we just have to scratch.
Hilary Clinton ought never to have scratched that itch and if the people around her hadn’t been such sycophants, or so deluded, they would have told her that, for her own good. She was by no means alone in ignoring glaring flaws either of character or behaviour (they amount to the same thing anyway) and deciding to go for it, heedless of the consequences. Gary Hart, John Edwards. Teddy Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, Ed Muskie … on and on I could go.
The itch is hard to ignore though.
Celtic fans find it especially difficult. To us, that itch is to believe we can compete in the top tier of European football. It’s a dream of playing under the floodlights against teams like Juventus and Barcelona. It’s knowing we have a seat at the top table, and belong there.
For any Celtic manager the itch must be maddening. A 60,000 all-seater stadium with the most passionate support in Europe, a talented team … a manager can see all that and let his imagination run riot. Brendan wouldn’t be human if he didn’t get sucked in.
But Brendan is a pragmatic man. He knows that the latter stages of that competition are a pipedream at the moment. He knows there’s little chance of us scaling those heights, barring a major change in European football itself.
Fans are more emotional. We dream bigger because we don’t have the responsibilities of actually having to steer the club through the necessary minefield. We dare to dream because we can.
Looking out from the governor’s mansion, having conquered all that we survey here at home, it’s only natural that we should dream of the White House. And like any political figure who has, it’s all too easy to start thinking of it by outlining the reasons why we should.
For Hilary it was born of a sense of entitlement, even destiny, and the idea that she couldn’t possibly lose.
But before we start to think in terms of Celtic as a great club who should be competing at that level, it might be better to acknowledge the things that make it unlikely.
And that’s where we are right now.
The curious thing is that instead of doing a serious analysis of where we presently stand, a lot of people are getting impatient. It’s actually very easy to list the reasons why we should be more circumspect; we play in Scotland, we have a limited budget, we are an unseeded team.
But a lot of folk want instant results.
This is where a lot of our fans have to think carefully about what they expect from Brendan Rodgers.
Daring to dream is fine, but let’s not take it out on the manager if the dreams don’t come true.
I am writing this article because there’s some anger out there about our European record under this guy.
There is anger, in particular, over his home record. Six games, and no wins. I agree it’s bad. But as I said in a previous article, only two of those games were ones we should have been expected to win, the games against Gladbach and Anderlecht.
Some of the angrier fans want to see Brendan sacked over the European results; this is what I mean in the headline.
Some of our fans need to decide what it is that they want, and from Brendan in particular.
We’re on an incredible 67 game unbeaten domestic run. If they were offered that or relative European success, which would they choose?
Because let’s be clear; they won’t get both. And what does “relative success” mean anyway? It means last 16 , at best. It doesn’t mean bringing home a European trophy, and most assuredly it doesn’t mean bringing home the main one.
We have achieved phenomenal – unbelievable – success in Scotland.
This is a level of success and accomplishment we never thought we’d get near.
Why do some of our fans believe replacing Brendan gets us the other?
Why are they so unrealistic in their outlook?
Our club isn’t built for this yet.
Some of these fans have gone as far as to say Brendan should go at the end of the season so the new guy has time to get us up to speed before the next European campaign … yeah, this is shooting for the moon alright. The next guy will need to be a miracle worker.
No other manager out there would have secured us such domestic dominance.
Records are falling all around us. If we win the treble at the end of this campaign – we’re nearly halfway there; one trophy has been secured, we have our hands on the league title and only the Scottish Cup remains – it will be the first time in Scottish football that a club has done two of them back to back.
The record books are being set aflame. The ones he’s writing will outlast all of us.
It is possible, I think, for someone else to come in and secure us better European results, at least in terms of avoiding heavier defeats against the top teams. You’d be a mug to say it couldn’t be done. But no-one would have got us out of this Champions League group in first or second spot, so you’re swapping the domestic record for what exactly?
A few less gory defeats? Is that a trade-off any of us would accept?
The domestic success of this team is a phenomenon, and those who think we’ve not progressed in Europe are ignoring the win in Belgium, the one in Norway, the comprehensive thrashing we handed to Astana and the Celtic Park display against Bayern.
It’s all well and good to acknowledge that things could be better, but a lot of folk are ignoring those results which suggest that things already are.
Don’t forget, there was little pressure on the team to get a win in that last game …
I would be angry if players said that affected them, but it’s not outside the realms of possibility that some of them, and the manager too, concluded that the job was done and consolidating it and conserving our strength for future endeavours mattered more.
It is in the interests of some people to drive Brendan Rodgers out of Celtic Park, but none of them are Celtic supporters. Our club marches boldly, bravely, purposefully into the future. Money is being spent to make us stronger, not just on the field but off of it.
We have a plan, a long-term vision to make us bigger and better.
Our manager is at the heart of it.
Those who want us to scratch that itch and bet our current success on an uncertain outcome, I understand it to a degree. I think we should be doing better in Europe but I would not put at risk, for one second, our unrivalled domestic dominance.
Brendan can only work with the tools he has, and those tools are limited by the place we play our football.
Another manager might have won against Anderlecht and Monchenglabach, with eleven men behind the ball and a counter-attacking strategy that would have been truly dreadful to watch. We’d have taken the results … but forget a 67 game domestic unbeaten run and a domestic Invincibles campaign.
I know which I’d rather have.