Brendan did his usual pre-match press conference today, and he had a warning for Sevco’s pitiful stand-in boss who has been making bold predictions since his side beat struggling Motherwell in midweek; the Celtic manager, who actually has a long term contract and job security, told his part-time counterpart that there will be no surprising us.
Murty can go into his tactical toolbox as he likes; he’s not going to come up with new or better footballers in there. They are stuck with what they have, with the detritus of three managerial regimes which have dragged the club into a seriously bad place.
Murty was talking yesterday about wanting January signings before the club goes off to Florida; this is part of the problem. There is immense delusion at Ibrox, the idea that they will be signing anyone in this window ought to be laughed out of the room.
They are bringing back loan players to see if they are better than what’s at the club right now; what does that tell you?
Regardless of all the fantasies they tell themselves over there, Brendan is right. For this game they have to go with what they’ve got. They already tried to rush Wallace back for it; now the talk is that they are going to try and get Jack fit. Ha! I hope they do. That ned will detonate on the Celtic Park pitch, although whether it would get him a red would be up to Bobby Madden, about whom I have to write an article later this evening.
We will not be arrogant going into this game, but Brendan has good reason to be confident. We have the measure of this team – we proved it at Ibrox earlier in the campaign. They aren’t up to much, and Murty’s 1-1 draw at Celtic Park has been so over-hyped as to make it ridiculous. If they want to cling to the idea that he is some kind of guru because he’s already taken points from Brendan which neither Warburton or Caixinha managed, then fine … my view is that the Murty Myth will be shattered within 15 minutes of the kick off tomorrow.
I mean, what exactly can we expect? Will Murty have the stones – the stupidity – to play Herrera and Morelos up front together? Will he give his “big game” players like Kranjcar (I know, I laugh as well) and Pena (hahahahaha!) a shot at it? Who does he have available for springing a game-changer of a surprise? I suppose he could start without a goalkeeper … that would be original thinking anyway. But I can’t see it somehow.
I suspect he’ll dig out the Walter Smith playbook and attempt a shockingly negative system, one designed to stifle our creative endeavours. To play the game Hearts did – a high line, pressing even our defensive players – would open up gaps at the back that would be easily exploited on the Parkhead pitch. He wouldn’t dare. Instead he will attempt to play a backs-to-the-wall game, with the emphasis on keeping a defensive shape.
Other teams have tried it. The problem with it is that it collapses like a house of cards the minute the first goal is scored. And I suspect we’ll show up trying to do that early. Beyond that point, the best hope Murty has is to attempt damage limitation.
And if we score a second early – and bear in mind against Advocaat’s Rangers team we were three up inside 15 minutes in the 6-2 game – the roof will fall in.
Brendan, on the other hand, has a bag full of tricks which most managers would kill for. We could play two up front, or even three. We could play three at the back, as he’s done frequently, or go with five in midfield. We could play with wingers or without them. I don’t think we’ll do any of that, it’ll be the usual playing system tomorrow, but even within that framework we have options and changes which could leave them gasping.
We go into this game on the back of three wins in a row since the Hearts game. Whatever lessons Murty was going to try and take from it have eluded our opponents since and their managers have a better grasp on the tactical game than he does, and yes I know that’s effectively giving the nod to Neil McCann and Derek McInnes.
This one is as straightforward a game against Sevco as we’ve had yet. There are no secrets to find. There is nothing to uncover. They are rank rotten, and tomorrow will be there for the taking. I don’t expect less than a comprehensive Celtic win.