Over the last week, I’ve been on holiday in Crete, but one eye has been ever fixed on the news here at home.
Read the papers, or even some of the blogs, and there’s a perception forming that reminds me a lot of the one from last year and the year before that; it’s that we’re facing a difficult campaign, and a bona fide title race.
But what is it based on?
Wishful thinking, in part.
The so-called Gerrard “revolution” at Ibrox has seen him in charge for nine games of which they have won just over half; it is hardly sterling. It is hardly earth-shattering stuff. Those who conclude that their defence is better have based it on a handful of matches. Morelos is the same player he was last year; once again they have him as a world beater. If he was, they’d not have bothered with the Roma reserve or the ex-Rangers player they’ll sign today.
Those who say they are tougher to beat are basing it on nothing but hope.
On top of this, of course, is the idea that Celtic is in decline.
This, too, is based on very flimsy evidence, and much of it has been misjudged. The Champions League path was made harder; there was always a likelihood that we would not make it through the eight games required to get to the Groups. It was a big ask for any side, but especially one that conspired to shoot itself in the foot as we did. For all that, the performance in Athens should have taken us through. That we’ve not done enough in the transfer market is a self-evident fact. That we’re out of the Champions League is also a fact. But does that necessarily mean that we’ve gone backwards as a club?
The squad is marginally weaker than it was, definitely.
But I thought we underachieved in the league last season, in spite of winning the title with room to spare.
I never doubted that this campaign would be an improvement and I still don’t.
The issue of our squad strength could still be rectified before the end of the month, and I expect that it will be.
The thing of it is, even if it’s not it still leaves a team of winners at the club, players who have been over the course and are hungry for more success. We lost at Hearts with a second string on the pitch, and then by a single goal … the Athens result let the press spin this as a crisis; if it is then almost every team in the league in a similarly dire position.
As this season progresses we’ll see our team perform with more consistency than last … and secured the historic double treble.
I see no signs that we’re in for any sort of a challenge.
If we can put together a run of form – and last year, don’t forget, we failed to win more than three league games on the bounce – I reckon we’ll be over the hills and far away by the time the winter break comes around. Even our other so-called rivals are conspiring to make their own lives hard. Sevco will sign Lafferty today; that will weaken Hearts without really strengthening their own team. Hibs has lost McGinn. Aberdeen may yet concede over McKenna and sell him to us … even without that, are they necessarily going to be a better team than last season? If you watched their home game to Sevco to open the campaign you’d not put money on it.
This is going to be a long season and there’s no denying it, and Thursday night football will make it harder than it has to be, but that’s the price we pay for failing to strengthen for the Champions League qualifiers.
We are not a club in crisis.
We are not a club in decline.
Mistakes have been made, that is all, and there is still time to fix some of them.
We have been the architects of our own misfortune here and all the justification from the board’s apologists will not change that simple fact, but we still have, far and away, the best team in this country and our rivals have yet to go through their own sticky spell … yet even with the media promoting their chances I see no sign that they’re anything to fear.
Nine games and five wins is not the stuff title winners are made of.
Those sniggering away right now will be not be laughing when the prizes are being handed out.