Steven Gerrard spoke today at the Ibrox press conference like a man who has no clear idea of what is going on around him. It echoed his classless performance in front of the cameras the other night, when he took a slap at the manager of the side they had just narrowly beaten.
“I hope no-one was hurt,” he said when asked about the violence that surrounded last night’s game. Perhaps no-one told him that two rival fans had been knifed. Perhaps he just didn’t want to acknowledge that fact. But he sounded ignorant of the issue at best, and at worst disingenuous and trying to spin it.
But this weekend his troubles start for real, and he and his club are about to enter a world of hurt that even their own trouble-making fans could not dish out. Gerrard has no more idea of what is about to hit him than Jon Flanagan’s girlfriend did. To say this guy, who has coached only a youth team up until now, has no clear idea how over his head he is would be an understatement. Everyone watching can see this has the potential to be disastrous.
This was the week where Sevco’s off-field stupidity was exposed to full view. The fiasco unfolding over their merchandising deal is extraordinary stuff, but it is symptomatic of the wider malaise at the club. They are an amateurish organisation which has gotten exactly nothing right since the moment Dave King took over. If there is a worse board in all of football on this island I do not know what it is. They are a shambles from top to bottom.
But their fans are somehow convinced than when it comes to their current boss that the board, this incompetent and scandalised board, has gotten it right?
There is no evidence whatsoever to support that view.
King’s last two managerial appointments were a disaster. He has fired no fewer than four people from that position in only three years.
Gerrard has been hailed as a masterstroke despite having less experience than any of those they’ve already jettisoned. He was, of course, an exceptional player but that has never been a guide to someone’s capabilities as a manager. Keane was a better player who won more honours; he has more time in the dugout than Gerrard but had he been appointed at Celtic Park two years ago instead of Brendan we would still be trying to recover from it.
He has presided over four competitive games thus far, none of them against teams who would have given us a moment’s trouble.
He has drawn two of them. But for Morelos’ fortuitous header in Croatia they would have gone out of Europe last night; as it is, they survived by the skin of their teeth and garnered praise in the media the performance scarcely deserved. It is, in fact, Gerrard’s good fortune that their first opponents are Aberdeen; if there was a side I would have put money on them beating it is the Pittodrie club as run by Derek McInnes.
None of Sevco’s signings has been a game-changer. None gives me any reason to suspect they will be that much better than last season, although the media is typically enraptured by the “calibre” of them; I don’t see that either. It is a far-cry from all the talk of Skrtel and Defoe and others of that ilk, over-the-hill, yes, but players with pedigree at least.
Where are the “winners” in that team? Celtic has a squad full of them, and that will be a crucial difference going into this campaign. On top of that, there’s no real pressure on us that hasn’t been there all the way down the line and we’ve shown we can cope with it. Gerrard was at pains today to say he wants to keep that weight off his own club but if he doesn’t know that it’s always going to be there, impossible to carry and suffocating because of it, he will find out soon enough. The first bad run of games and he’ll be collapsing under it.
And that bad run might not be as far off as he thinks.
They will probably kick off on Sunday three points behind us. Anything other than a win sends them into Thursday’s match with Maribor already trailing us in the title race. Few expect Maribor to be as easy to dispatch as their opponents so far and if they fail to win the home game they go to a match against St Mirren in the league which will loom large … that’s followed by Maribor away and then by Kilmarnock away in the League Cup and the very real prospect of being out of Europe and with one domestic trophy gone before they even reach Celtic Park.
Imagine the scenes – imagine the carnage at that club, and amongst their own fans – if we brutalise them as we have so often in the Rodgers’ era, and move into a lead of five points or more? Imagine if they’ve already crashed out of two competitions on top of that? Would Gerrard even survive until Christmas? Would he be able to cope?
All of this is in front of them, and the one certainty is that the crisis point will come. It might not be as soon as the above scenario suggests but it will happen and most people realise that it will, even if the media is not going to highlight the potential landmines.
His management team still labours under the illusion that the job will be as easy as it’s been up until now. And it has been easy, with media adulation greeting four very average performances so far. Real scrutiny, of that kind that ends careers, is not far away.
And when it comes, and when it proves crushing, then what? What’s next for the Ibrox operation, which has bet so much on this crazy roll of the dice? When Caixinha was sacked I really did believe their next move would be to appoint someone stable, to make a sensible, measured appointment who could come in and consolidate … I never expected either that they would give the gig to Murty nor that they would follow up one colossal risk with another.
That club never learns from past mistakes. This one is going to cost them and it’s going to hurt them and it might even destroy them. The darkness is about to envelop them. How far in they go and how long they stay are the questions that should haunt their fans.
Instead they’re back doing what they do best, putting their ugly face on for the world.
They call it “Going for 55.”
Hell mend them.