So, not a single Celtic new signing played out on that park today. Not one. That was last season’s squad. Indeed, the vast majority of the players who took the field in that game were in the team when Ronny Deila was manager. That speaks volumes for what Brendan has done for these footballers. He has moulded that squad of talented individuals into a team, and that team has dominated these matches utterly in that time.
This is the fourth Sevco manager he’s gone up against. It is the third squad that club has assembled to try and beat the one he inherited. And still we are on top. If there is complacency at Celtic Park, above the manager’s head, it is perhaps not difficult to see why on a day like today. This was no cricket score, but it was as easy as any of those which were.
We were as brilliant as they were utterly abject. Their keeper prevented that cricket score. Ours could have spent the match reading the Sunday papers. We owned them. Every footballer in the team performed superbly. Each knew his job and did it. I cannot remember a single major error on our side. The possession stats, corner stats, shots on goal … all of it paints a picture of a one-sided beating that until Ntcham’s goal lacked only the knockout blow.
There is already some serious nonsense being talked by the hacks. “Possession doesn’t win you games,” is one I’m already hearing. Funny, because it won the one today. Every single football tactics guide, every top manager knows, every fan who ever watched a match can tell you what is surely obvious anyway; as long as you have the ball, the other team does not. What planet are these people on? They call Sevco’s team “a work in progress” as if it was somebody else’s fault that their hapless manager didn’t feel ready for this match until he’d signed fourteen players … many of them played today, and they offered exactly nothing.
Only Allan McGregor looked as if he will improve what was already there.
Rodgers’ team is also “a work in progress”; that’s what people forget. As pissed off as I am with a transfer window that has the manager demanding a sit-down to “go over the lessons”, Benkovic will enhance the defence and Mulumba is a known quality who would have eased through that match today if only he could have got on the pitch. The return of Ryan Christie fills my heart with the hope that we may yet see that kid emerge as a top player … but Rodgers’ own team is nowhere near complete and will progress through January.
What he has done is create something stable, something that works, something that he can rely on. Some managers don’t know how to solve a problem except with a chequebook; two of our best players today, McGregor and Forrest, came through our youth academy and after flaring briefly they faded at the club. Both seemed finished. Rodgers has rejuvenated both, and you can see it in everything they do. In McGregor we have one of the best, one of the most dynamic, midfield players on this island. He has absolutely everything. Someone like Gerrard would have come into the club, looked at his previous displays, and without doing a single bit of work with him he’d have shipped him out the door and brought in some nobody.
When you listen to Brendan talk about his disappointment over the window it’s because his needs were so few.
He wanted to tweak the team, not rebuild it.
He didn’t want half a squad, he wanted a couple of quality additions to take it forward.
Sevco fans should be petrified of what comes out of the Parkhead summit that’s coming up. They need to be in touching distance of us in January, because I think Rodgers may well get big money to spend, in anticipation of Champions League qualifiers next summer.
We cannot repeat this year’s mistakes.
“A step in the right direction” is how Sevco’s performance is already being characterised; try not to laugh when you hear that kind of stuff. Gerrard’s team has now played 13 times. They have failed to win six, and that included three out of four of their opening league games.
Don’t listen to anybody who tries to tell you that he’s turned that club around, they remain a mess, they are still a joke, and they are still about 100 miles behind us … and that flatters them and is largely because we actually went backwards in the last two months.
They are seventh in the SPL.
We controlled that today. We looked like a well-oiled machine. Our tactics were spot on, the individual performances were spot on, the team display was absolutely superb. We have it all in front of us, including a four point lead over their shabby shower.
And the media would have you believe we’re in a tailspin.
August was a godawful month, and whilst I still want to hold my own inquest into how it all panned out, with the focus on Lawwell in particular, I am content, if not happy, with what the manager has to work with going forward. Today we showed why we are champions.
Last season’s squad is largely intact and will be more than good enough to get us to the New Year.
Sevco? Well, the Europa League has saved their bacon and stopped their fans from asking probing questions about their new manager and his team. They are sound asleep again, absolutely lost in their own delusions. Let them stay that way, until it’s too late.