There is a football club in Scotland who’s supporters cannot handle, and will not accept, the slightest criticism, even when it is wholly justified.
We know who they are, and we know how the story ends; crooks in the boardroom, disastrous managerial choices, hype and spin in place of reforming action and a commercial department so inept that their fans still cannot buy replica shirts, for the second season in a row.
Through all of it, their supporters attend games and buy tickets and get behind the most barking mad concepts and conspiracy theories. They swallow gallons of smelly water from their so-called leaders. If you dare to question any aspect of how that club is run – on or off the pitch – you are accused of persecuting them when you are not being accused of jealousy.
The last two years have blazed a trail of embarrassment and the kind of humiliation that would have smarter people hiding under the bed.
Our fans constantly ask; why aren’t their supporters screaming?
Because ours would be, right?
Some of us anyway.
But there is a hard-core amongst our own support that is every bit as closed off in their thinking, every bit as slavishly loyal.
To them, our club can do no wrong.
They refuse to utter a word against it.
They believe in “faithful through and through” as if it were holy writ.
But those are just words.
It’s not a suicide pact, although many of them would make it one.
If our club was in the doldrums I do believe they would remain unquestioning.
They are the sort of people who criticised those of us who said Brendan was unhappy. Even when Rodgers sat in front of the media and spelled it out they blamed the press for reporting the news. They refuse to criticise the club over the transfer window, although Rodgers himself was plainly furious at how it went. They will hear no criticism of the manager himself, or the way we play, or about the unacceptable performances in the league.
What’s more, their intolerance of other opinions is mind-blowing.
Their favourite tactic is to accuse all of us who do offer criticism of “doing the work of the enemy”, of being less committed to the club than them, of being “not really Celtic supporters at all.”
Celtic is not in a bad position; far from it.
But complacency is rampant amongst some sections of our fan-base, those who refuse to see what’s right in front of their eyes.
They refuse to accept that anything is wrong … far less that the best time to tackle something is before it becomes a real problem.
Some of the mitigation they offer up is appallingly weak.
One guy sent me a league table from 1977 the other day, to convince me that the club has had worse times. As if I suggested otherwise. As if I wasn’t standing on the concrete of Celtic Park all the way through Rangers nine in a row.
The people trying to tell me we’ve had it worse … many of them come from the generation that saw our nine and the European Cup. They saw our greatest ever era. I saw Celtic win the centenary title before I was a teenager. I was in my early 20’s before we won the league again.
They have nothing to teach me about hard times that I don’t already know. I treasure our current success precisely because I suffered through the darkness of the Murray years.
And because I suffered through it I have no intention of seeing our club go into reverse gear now that we are roiling all over the Peepul and their delusions of grandeur. We earned this, all of us, together as a family. Some of us will do anything to keep this run alive.
Anything including offer criticism when it’s due.
And when our team hasn’t won four league games in a row for over a year that’s worthy of criticism. When our team is dropping points on a regular basis whilst other clubs are putting together winning runs and moving in front of us, that is when silence will no longer avail.
To those who are already dismissing this; exercise your freedom to piss off and read something else.
Nobody forces these opinions on you, although I’m beginning to think a lot of you need a good shake.
Don’t let me keep you. Don’t let the door hit your backside on the way out.
I’m not interested in changing your mind.
Watching some Sevco boss holding the SPL trophy might be the jolt you need, but we’ll never know because as long as some of us can write in complete sentences and post them online we’ll be busting our balls to make sure it never comes to that, by poking Celtic with a stick when it needs to be done.
The last two months have been a catalogue of screw-ups and self-inflicted wounds.
The CEO deserves to be slated for not getting the job done with signings. Brendan deserves to be slated for persisting with a tactical system that every club in the land has got figured out. Some of the players, those here and those who’ve gone, deserve to be slated for acts of self-indulgence and ego which hurt the team and the club as a whole.
When I criticise Celtic I don’t do it because I enjoy it.
I do it for the same reason as you give your kid a row when you catch the little sod playing with the rings on the cooker; it’s an act of love.
Criticism is healthy.
Criticism is necessary, and you’re wrong if you think myself and the other bloggers are pissing in the wind; the club knows who we are and sometimes it even listens. I like to think that the board was paying attention in the aftermath of the Scottish Cup semi-final of 2016 when all the blogs were united in demanding a rethink of where we were headed.
It understood that those of us who were angry were seeing something that those who put it down to a “bad day at the office” couldn’t, or wouldn’t, face.
This blog was one of the first to insist that the number one target after Ronny should be Brendan Rodgers.
Am I claiming we made it happen? Absolutely not, but we certainly never shut up about it and worked hard to promote the idea as an example of our club showing ambition. On that one, certain people inside Celtic Park were in total lock step with us.
Furthermore, those who accuse me of being unrelentingly negative are wrong.
This blog is not always critical, even when others are.
I defended the hammerings against PSG and Barcelona on the grounds that those teams were capable of doing that to anyone. I defended the club over John McGinn. I understand that not every transfer target can be secured.
I also accept that we will not win every game. I accept that there are “bad days at the office.”
But failing to win four league games on the trot for over a year is a mark of something wrong. A playing style that has us passing the ball backwards with only minutes left on the clock in a game where we’re dropping points … how can anyone defend that with a straight face?
Those who ask why I’m not happy with last season’s treble are asking the wrong question; the first season under Brendan, the Invincible campaign, was a miraculous thing to watch. Last season was turgid, awful, depressing and negative … and I was writing that at the time.
Yes I was happy with the treble, but I was not satisfied with it.
Because we could have won it better.
We could have scored more goals. Won more games. Collected more points.
I don’t want us to be the best of a bad lot, to stagger over the line at the end of the season when we should be strolling across it. I want us to win every game, in style … and anyone who says that I’m wrong to want that ought to be watching a different game because why else do people bother to watch football at all?
I want to win every match. I do not expect us to win every match.
I am not one of those people who thinks we have some kind of “divine right” to victory … but we have the players where it’s not unreasonable to think we shouldn’t drop points in every four games. Aside from being unsatisfying, it’s also playing with fire.
Mistakes are being made, and they are bad mistakes. They are costly mistakes. We’re already five points behind Hearts. When is it time to ask questions? When we’re eight behind? Ten behind? When we’re third in the table? Fourth?
This blog isn’t going to wait for that.
We’re going to ask the questions now.
We’re going to make ourselves heard now.
We’re going to complain and criticise now, and any other time that it’s necessary.
Regular readers get it, which is why they’re still here.
If you have a problem with that you know what to do. You have a different way of looking at this than I do, and I am not even going to try and convince you that I’m right and you’re wrong, because there is no right and there is no wrong here … just different ways of showing the love.
I can’t do it like you do, but I recognise your way for what it is.
It does not make me a better, or worse, supporter than you.
Criticism is healthy.
Criticism is good.
It’s why a group of fans got together in the early 90’s to fight for a better club and their victory is why Glasgow’s green and white today.
The club whose fans refused to look at this stuff objectively … that’s the club that died.
That’s the lesson, right there, the only one that matters.
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