So the fixtures came out today, and a nice easy start to the season is assured.
We play Livingston at home and then go to Tynecastle, face Hamilton at Celtic Park and then Gerrard brings his hapless crew for their second away game against top two opposition in four matches. He could be under pressure before he even gets his pencils unpacked.
Tynecastle aside – and we’ll be going there fresh, in the mood, so I expect no problems – it’s as nice and neat an opening spell as you could want.
But as has become the norm, the month to watch is December, which will loom in front of us, from the start, like a mugger in an alleyway, with trips to Motherwell, Hibs, Aberdeen and La La Land right at the end of the year.
The good news is, get through that unscathed and we’ll go in to 2019 with a spring in our step and the path towards eight in a row clear.
In that Hellish month of December we will play one Group game in Europe as well, and as most people are aware it’ll probably be a crucial one. Which means that everything we do prior to that month needs to be of a higher standard than ever.
But none of this is exactly new to us, we’ve walked this particular path before. Brendan actually had a Hellish series of games to start his time at Celtic and I have never seen us get it easy from the fixture computer. The stage is set for another titanic season … the difference is that we know this team can cover the ground, we know they have the tools for the job.
Two seasons in a row now, we’ve gone in to December periods crammed full of games. And of course, this has been made even harder thanks to the inexplicable, even scandalous, decision the SPFL took to play their secondary cup competition before the turn of the year. Whoever came up with that – sandwiching it between European ties – was a moron … and yet it has backfired, spectacularly, in giving Celtic early season momentum.
I would keep things just as they are for this campaign.
Let us get that first trophy of the season won before Christmas, setting us on the treble road again.
But from here, by God, it sure seems like a lot of matches and this is why I’m not in favour of so-called “fringe players” being allowed to leave. It’s why, although he needs games, I want to see even Eboue stay and be part of the squad. We need warm bodies to get through this kind of schedule and last season showed that even the biggest group of players can be decimated by an injury crisis; at one point we had no fewer than 14 of them on the sidelines.
As much as that was a one-off, it’s the chance you take. Any squad in the modern game that doesn’t have at least 25 players is one asking for trouble. We have a deep bench for precisely this reason, and when it comes to Scotland anyway it’s the ultimate manifestation of how strong we are. We’re going to need all of them to surpass last year’s achievements … and especially if we’re going to surpass last season’s poor league form.
It’s getting real now folks. The clock is ticking already. And it seems like only yesterday that the season came to an end.
(Aye right! It feels like forever. Roll on the Champions League qualifiers!)