This site has written several times about how dependent Alex McLeish has become on our players, and last night the full scale of it was revealed when a side with only Callum McGregor and Scott Bain in it toiled, and toiled mightily, against the worst team in the whole of international football.
But for Forrest’s cameo, it may have been the horror show to end them all.
It was pretty dreadful anyway, removing for many even the mildest form of hope that the guy in the national coach’s office is moving us forward. Instead, the team is going backwards at a rapid rate, a slide which will only be averted by ditching the driver.
But not just that, of course, as some on social media were keen – and correct – to point out to me last night. The failure doesn’t stop at his office and solving the problems we have at the national level are going to be more complicated than just pressing the button on his ejector seat.
For things to really change something more dramatic needs to happen I think.
Celtic is stuck in Scottish football, as everyone knows full well, and as long as we are this club is hamstrung by the mediocrity around us, whether that’s in the guise of people trying to shimmy their way up the greasy pole at the expense of all else or by incompetents in the commercial departments who, try as they might, have never gotten maximum value for the product.
Who exactly is served by the people who run the game in Scotland right now?
Certainly not the fans, because the contempt with which they continue to be treated is breath-taking.
Not the clubs either because the system is still slanted in favour of that handful who have no interest in living by the same rules as the rest, and where there is literally no protection at all for those others which fall into trouble and find themselves vulnerable to being taken over by people we shouldn’t let within miles of a football ground.
I used to be an idealist about this stuff.
I believed that Celtic had a responsibility to the game here that went beyond self-interest.
Even if we were the only club interested in reform, our job was to sell the benefits of that to all concerned. I believed – perhaps naively – that we could make that case and be proactive in changing the structure of football in this country for the better.
Look, it’s not like there aren’t ideas out there. The adoption of Financial Fair Play is just one scheme which would be transformative. There would be no need, then, for us to worry about the appalling prospect of another liquidation at a major club wreaking havoc on the sport. That we’ve not already gone down this road when English football, with all its mega-income, has wholeheartedly embraced it is ridiculous and defeats easy explanation.
A lot of Celtic fans feel the same way, that we can, and should, be a force for good in this game, and that we should lead its reform efforts whether we succeed or fail. They perhaps thought, as I once did, that we owed the game some loyalty.
That was then, and this is now.
As one of my fictional characters puts it, “We are proud to be believers. We believe in the decency of man. We believe in the best intentions of mankind. We believe there is a generous spirit in all of us, something that is good. But we do not believe in fairy tales.”
Scottish football was built on a fairy-tale that what we had here was a collective endeavour run with the best intentions, on behalf of all the clubs.
Yet its governing body allowed our club to be the victims of some of the most flagrant cheating in the history of football, a decade’s worth of it, and as if that wasn’t bad enough they doubled down on it with a sham inquiry with the narrowest possible remit which came up with a perverse conclusion leaving this matter to rot at the heart of the sport forevermore.
Nobody aided us. Nobody came to our defence. I long since ceased caring whether it was complicity, fear, disinterest or some form of glee at watching us suffer that was behind that. We owe these people nothing now. We owe this game not one thing.
It is high time we started looking out for ourselves, and getting the lawyers engaged in unpicking the television contract before it kicks in in 2020-21 would be a good place to start. That deal is worth £30 million a year to the whole of the sport, and our share of that will be chump change in spite of our club and the one at Ibrox taking part in the lion’s share of games.
This system long since ceased to be fair or representative of what we deliver for the game here.
We have been bound to it by collective bargaining agreements which have held us back for years. The pittance we will get paid out of the collective pot will not come close to what we would earn if we were in sole control of our own rights.
What would it cost us to get out of that contract and go it alone? Could it even be done? The costs part we could take a stab at; it would take millions. There would be some sort of break penalty and a solidarity payment or payments, as is standard.
Would it cost so many millions as to invalidate any benefit we’d get from it?
Impossible to answer, but at first we’d have to assume so, but once free when the current deal ends, no longer bound by this nonsensical collective responsibility from which we draw not one discernible benefit that I can see, we would be able to realise some of our potential.
I’ve never been in favour of us leaving for another setup either, either a cross-border one with England or some form of Atlantic League.
My mind has changed on that too in recent years, and if the legal department at Celtic wants to get busy they should be looking at the ways in which UEFA might be forced to release clubs across Europe from their current obligations to their domestic associations, allowing them to form a new one that serves us all better. It’s been examined before; it’s time to dust off the findings and see what can be done under the aegis of the European Club Association.
Most of us have long been worried about the Champions League becoming a closed shop; frankly, with the way European football has been corrupted by greed there’s no loyalty to be had at that level either and they ought to recognise the furies of self-interest that they’ve unleashed and the havoc that will eventually cause for the sport.
They, too, have either been unwilling or unable to resist the forces that have pulled the game from its roots and its traditions. We owe them just as little.
None of this should we do in secret. Indeed, the club should make its intentions public and so proceed in the full light of disclosure. If Scottish football is not going to change willingly then it has to be forced to, and the merest suggestion that our club did not see its future as part of this association, or that we were unwilling to remain chained to contracts which reward others whilst severely restricting us, and to no benefit at all, would certainly crystallise thinking.
Be under no illusions about what I’m proposing here; this can’t be a bluff that we hope no-one will call.
I am suggesting that we actually do these things, not threaten to.
The posturing is at an end. It is incredible that our patience didn’t snap long ago.
Opportunities for reform – or even a little truth and reconciliation – existed, and they were spurned.
The game could have gotten a grip on some of these issues in 2012, but its leaders chose instead to endorse the dark fictions of the Victim and Survival lies and the clubs and the media allowed it, at our expense and to the disgrace of the whole sport.
Another opportunity arose when Celtic called for a full inquiry into what had gone on, in an effort to discern the truth once and for all and take from those matters whatever lessons could be learned. That too was thrown in our faces.
Celtic has tried. Celtic has fought the good fight, both in public and in private, and I know some people don’t believe that but I know it to be true on the most fundamental level. Whatever bonds of good faith existed were long since cut by those around us.
It is high time we started looking out for ourselves.
When you loaded this piece you might have seen an option to get notifications; please subscribe to make sure that you never miss an important article again.
You can discuss this and and all the other stories by signing up at the Celtic Noise forum at the above link. This site is one of the three that has pushed for the forum and we urge all this blog’s readers to join it. Show your support for real change in Scottish football, by adding your voice to the debate.