Date: 6th February 2018 at 1:36pm
Written by:

Today, The Evening Times has published a set of stats which are truly shocking.

They confirm what some of us have read elsewhere – but in more ghastly detail – and offer some insight into why certain players at our club look a lot less capable than they did last year.

Our players are at the point of exhaustion.

No wonder we’ve struggled in some of our games.

No wonder the form has not been up to the standard of the last campaign.

Celtic has the biggest squad in the country, and we rotate it constantly. But the same names play game after game after game and the proof of that is in the stats published in The Times; the three players in Europe who have played the highest number of games this season are at our club. They are, in order, Tierney, Forrest and Gordon.

Scott Brown and Mikael Lustig are numbers 16 and 17 respectively. Scott Sinclair is number 32. Olivier Ntcham is 43 and Callum McGregor comes in at number 49. No other club comes close to this number of players in the top 50.

This is worrisome.

Nobody is trying to alibi our players for the poor performances of the last few months, but the numbers do not lie.

And until today I had no idea how bad they were.

Kieran, Forrest and Gordon have played over 40 games and there are still more than a dozen to go before the season ends. These guys need a break, an extended break, one lasting longer than a mere fortnight of training sessions.

The more you look at it, the more the SFA’s decision to schedule friendly matches after the season is done looks like an act of spite as well as greed, and especially games so far from home. Someone, somewhere, must have looked at this and known it was ridiculous to ask our players to take part in those matches.

Someone decided to do it anyway.

And this feeds in, of course, to the idea that we might end up with some Real Rangers Man in the dugout for Scotland.

Neither Smith nor McLeish or one of the other names which I’m sure will get mentioned would be suitable even if they could be trusted, but as we know they can’t it makes it all the more disgraceful that they are even being mentioned.

I am surprised that Celtic has not already announced that none of our players will take part in those games. I am sure that decision has already been taken behind the scenes, but we ought to have put that issue to rest. When even the PFA agrees that those matches are outrageous there’s simply no argument left. Our players need a break. It is the club’s job to protect them and to make sure they get it, particularly as our season starts earlier than usual.

The SFA cannot justify those games. It’s that simple. Our players have already played too many matches. I believe Tierney and Forrest should already be sitting games out. Brown will miss the next league match through suspension; good.

He too needs a break. Lustig and Gordon are injured, so they will get time off.

I had no idea that Ntcham and McGregor had played so many matches though.

This whole team needs time off, but as we’ve still got a title and a Scottish Cup to win they need to focus for the moment. This team has run through walls for us this past 18 months and so perhaps, and just this is a mere suggestion on my part and it’s for me as much as anyone else, we should be the first to give them a break.

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