Yesterday, I posted on hubris. Sevco is reeking of it right now. As we approach this weekend’s game the noise, as I predicted, is being cranked up from Ibrox. The gloating, the out of control egos, the sheer arrogance of it, is all coming to the fore.
Brendan was asked to comment on it all, and the answer he gave was superb and telling; neither he nor his players are worried about the “background noise” from elsewhere. Perfect. Our team did not need additional motivation to win this game – the chance to end all this talk of a “title race” and secure seven in a row was enough of one – but you have to hand it to Sevco; they seem pathologically determined to provide it for us anyway.
The old cliché of pinning things to dressing room walls is nonsense of course, that doesn’t happen and any team that needs a jolt like that to get them to play is already in trouble. But there’s no doubt that it provides an extra incentive to go and win.
The game on Sunday is worth three points. Let’s be clear about that. To Celtic, that’s all it is. We are not a club who’s future will be defined by a single match. Sevco fans are under the mistaken belief that a win for their club – at the eighth attempt since they won promotion – will somehow re-alter the landscape … I’ve got news for them; it won’t.
There are three things that need to happen for Sevco to successfully secure its first title. First they have to consistently beat other clubs. Not just string a handful of wins together and crow about it from the rooftops. They have to do it week in, week out, going on the kind of extended run that makes them genuine contenders.
I hate to point this out to them, because I know they hate being reminded of it, but there are ten teams apart from ourselves who might just have something to say about that. Read some of the bullshit in the media these last few weeks; all of a sudden winning the title comes down to who wins “the four Celtic games”. What? In who’s fantasy world?
This is the time of egotistical arrogant nonsense which should make every club in this country determined to beat them. How much more evidence do our clubs need that at Ibrox the are seen as an afterthought? There’s talk of the so-called “fear factor” being back … that, I’m afraid, is readily apparent. Teams are being swayed by hype again.
But hype doesn’t win titles. Sooner or later Sevco runs into a club – like Hibs – who don’t have the fear or decide to throw caution to the wind and ignore it. And those clubs invariably get results against them. Murty is not a good manager; I cannot say that enough times. He has organised his team well but when the going gets tough there’s no Plan B.
The second thing that needs to happen for them to secure a title is that they’re going to need to find the stability off the pitch which they do not have and show no sign of getting. Murty is their third manager in a little over a year. In fact he’s the fourth if you consider he’s had the job twice now. It’s a joke, and let’s not forget he’s only on a part-time deal.
We know that club will have serious problems next season; they are a financial basket case. There is likely to be serious instability all the way through the next campaign. If they don’t hit the ground running the drumbeat will start almost at once about the manager being sacked … see, this is the pressure the media never talks about.
Murty doesn’t have this job on a full-time basis and they have to consider whether or not to give it to him … it’s a decision fraught with danger either way.
Third and finally – and this is the crucial one – Celtic have to go backwards.
The media is practically foaming over this one. They know this is far and away the most important element in any Sevco title challenge; Celtic have to be in decline. And Celtic is not in decline, no matter what fantasies they might indulge in. Our form this season is not what it was last season, but there are mitigating factors which cannot simply be ignored.
The average age of our squad is around 24. Think about that. This team will grow and mature as a single unit and those teams don’t go backwards. They improve with age. They get better the longer they are together. The financial position of our club is strong and even failing to make it to the Champions League groups would not put us in peril.
The idea that we’re a club in decline is completely ridiculous and yet I’ve read this over and over again this week. This idea that we’re past our best, that we’ve come as far as we can. Certainly, we might never do another Invincible run – but don’t count us out on that. With a fully fit, fully focussed team, with the manager’s stamp on it, I firmly believe we can go on a long unbeaten run in the next campaign and secure eight with room to spare.
The number of variables that need to come together for Sevco to have a shot at this … it’s not going to happen for a long, long time. That club will have to undergo serious reform first, and that shows no sign of coming to pass. We need to slip, badly, on and off the field. And other clubs need to be out of the equation altogether; with Hibs growing strong, Aberdeen still capable of winning most weeks (although their form against Sevco has to improve radically) and the likes of Kilmarnock starting to really motor – and they fear nobody – you have to say that the idea which seems to be growing in the minds of hacks that “four Celtic games” will decide titles … absolutely not.
Sticking plaster solutions aside, Sevco has not grown.
And a few bad performances over the course of the longest club campaign in European football aside, we’ve not grown weaker. But the media and Sevco plays out its fantasy.
For a few more days anyway.
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