The media in Scotland have short memories.
We know that. I’m going to cover them in a couple of articles later on but they won’t be about what’s happening on the park, as I’m sure many of you have already guessed. Those who are supposed to cover the sport are supposed to be able to do joined up thinking, but they are totally immune to it.
Our team is getting its act together, and there’s been very little scrutiny of what that actually means. A fully fit Celtic squad, confident, happy, its players focussed on the job at hand … that’s actually a scary proposition for the other clubs, and for the hacks, and it should be. It’s not impossible that we’ll secure the title by a wide margin this season and if we win the treble then who would bet against us doing it again next year?
The machine hasn’t been rolling in this campaign. Its engine has stuttered a few times. What amazes me are the number of people – supposedly intelligent people, but actually Scottish sports journalists – who seemed to view our poor form of this campaign as some sort of major structural weakness, rather than a consequence of lots of games, an ever changing starting eleven and a rash of injuries which would have derailed most seasons.
There seems to be a general presumption amongst these people that our form last season was a one-off; they may well be right, but I’m betting that with a fully fit squad we’d have been closer to that campaign than to this one. Next season we may well again put together the kind of winning run that leaves everyone else in the dust.
In fact, it’s more likely than not.
Our ability to win the big games, when it counts, is unerring. We went to Pittodrie under the most severe pressure the media could put on us, and we got a result. When we can go to Ibrox and get one after being behind twice and then down to ten men, you’d think even the stupidest person of a Sevco persuasion would be concerned that maybe, just maybe, all the talk about us being a lesser team all of a sudden was wishful thinking …
But they genuinely believe it. And maybe they have to. Maybe it’s important – maybe it’s vital – to their sense of self and well-being that they labour under the illusion that our bubble has burst and that they only need to improve a little to catch us.
Because otherwise, what hope do they have? None whatsoever. A Celtic team firing on all cylinders and capable of winning consistently, including on the big days when it matters most … what hope do they have of catching that? None whatsoever.
You’ll have noticed too that they no longer harbour lofty ambitions of rising to the place where we are, the pinnacle of the Scottish game, with money in the bank, a growing infrastructure, a club with the appropriate level of ambition beyond these shores.
No, they know they’re miles behind. Not a little behind but a lot. They know they’re never going to get near us if we continue along the road we’re on … what they hope for is a Celtic collapse. They kid themselves with stories of stadiums falling down, of impending legal cases, of secret debts hidden away in open, public, accounts … if they can’t rise up their only realistic hope is that we fall down and that’s what they are reduced to.
“Celtic aren’t even that good,” is a common refrain on their pages. The idea that we have only a handful of players who’d get in their starting eleven is frequently expressed. And you know how much they fear Scott Brown when numerous blogs and posts appear to say how over-rated he is and not one of them calls that the transparent nonsense it is.
The number of their bloggers and posters who “don’t rate” guys like Dembele, Brown, Ntcham, Sinclair, Forrest, Roberts, Armstrong, Rogic … it’s almost unbelievable. A couple even said at the weekend that they didn’t think Kieran is that good a player … these people are on another planet entirely if they believe that.
Except they don’t. This is the “comforting lie” they tell themselves and each other; that of Celtic as a team that peaked last year and is now in decline. Perfection is pretty hard to top, so of course it looks as if we’ve gone backwards because we’ve actually lost a couple of games … but they would be fools to believe that it means we’re losing our grip on the top spot.
One other fantasy; the one about Brendan being vital to our ten in a row quest. As lucky as we are to have him, part of this is having the right players, guys who can execute a good manager’s plan. I said this when Ronny was in charge; those who thought our poor form was a sign that we had a weak squad were quite mad. The right manager was always going to get big performances out of guys like Brown and Armstrong and Rogic.
Brendan’s real talent is in getting it from players we didn’t expect it from, but our fundamentals were right before he arrived.
The fundamentals are still right.
Brendan is one of them but not the only one.
This is a club moving forward at pace.
It’s a stark contrast to the club across town, which really is going backwards as I’ll be writing more about later.
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