If Steven Gerrard asked the Celtic score at quarter to five tonight, you might have heard – had you been within his earshot – that distinct double-barrel sound that you usually only hear when someone gets a text message saying their cat has just died; a choking noise followed by a low whimper.
That’s the sound of pre-season being absolutely ruined.
As Phil said a few weeks ago, the Ibrox club always wins the summer cup. But when the hostilities commence there has only been one winner in Scotland since the previous incumbents at that ground vacated the premises like someone had performed an exorcism.
In the end, it’s always all about Celtic, and if that is only now dawning on people – and the shell-shock on Radio Scotland was a sampler of how reality is already setting in – then I can only laugh at them. From the moment the previous campaign ended we’ve heard three things; how big the “rebuilding job” was at Celtic, how Lennon was no Rodgers and how Gerrard had “closed the gap” and that their signings would eradicate it completely.
And today here we are, with the biggest win in a long, long time to open up the season.
That was absolutely brilliant from start to finish, with the whole team excelling. The football we played was just breathtaking. Last season we scored 77 league goals … we scored around 10% of that total today in a single match. This season we should be aiming for 100 … goals as well as points.
Everyone knows I didn’t want Lennon as the manager, but equally everyone is well aware that I am very familiar with his record. Let me say it again; it is the second highest win ratio in the history of the club, and that is over more than 240 games.
And I’ll tell you something else … this is the best football team Lennon has ever had at his disposal.
It does not have a Wanyama or a Van Dijk, but those were defensive players.
This is a team full of attacking power like nothing he had before.
I have been impressed by what he wants to do. I like the way the team moves the ball forward now instead of forever backwards. Rodgers team had become predictable. One up front was killing us, and he didn’t seem to want to change it. The slow build-up was becoming awful to watch. Teams who put eleven men behind the ball could grind it out against us … now we’re much more adventurous and the team buzzes with creative intent.
We did need reinforcements – and still do – but never as many as the media howled about. Our midfield could use one more player, but let nobody doubt that it is far and away the best in Scotland by a country mile. The manager wants one more striker, but Griffiths is back and scoring and Eddie is always going to get goals … he is Scotland’s best footballer.
But Lennon’s desire to sign another striker should not detract from the fact we always had a great deal of firepower at our disposal, and with Christie, Mikey, Shved and others now coming to the fore in the team we’re going to see it unleashed in full.
Additions will be welcome, but are they necessary?
Not to smash aside all comers and win this ninth title.
Last season we were sluggish and poor to watch for much of the campaign. I actually thought we were the same in Rodgers second one. The two trebles were a measure of how relentlessly successful this team was without being pleasing on the eye.
But football purists – and I am certainly guilty of being one – are not loved by managers and we are ever reminded of Alan Durban’s notorious retort to someone who slated his team grinding out a 0-0 draw at Arsenal; “If you want entertainment,” he said, “go and watch clowns.”
The job of a manager is to get results and Rodgers was magnificent at that. None of us would have traded any of our trophies for more beautiful football, but I freely admit that I would have been happier to see it done with more style.
Lennon brings the thunder, that was never in the slightest doubt. My key complaint last season – even as we were winning – was that he seemed reluctant to change the Rodgers system when we all wanted to see what his own style could produce.
Already, between the European qualifiers and today’s game, we can see what his individual style looks like.
And it will be devastating to teams in this league, but to one team in particular, the one that never ceases thinking about us and who’s manager, on a day like this, must long for the warm comforts of the family bed.
Summer isolated them from the reality of things.
Today reality came crashing through the bubble.
A couple of results last season gave them the illusion of still being in the game.
They thought the game changed when Rodgers left, but they didn’t count on us being no weaker for his departure.
We remain the top club in the land.
It is all about Celtic. It was never about what happened anywhere else, as some of the stupider people in the press and almost every Ibrox fan seemed to believe; this was always about us. It was always going to come down to what happened at Celtic Park.
The hacks say this was “setting down a marker.”
Actually, it was a simple wrecking ball reminder that Celtic is the most dominant side in Scotland, and that this squad in particular may be the most dominant domestic side ever in this country. The hope some folk were clinging to is that we might be in decline.
But look at the average age of the team today … this side could continue beating everything in front of them in this country for years to come.
Christie, Edouard, Johnston, Ntcham, Ajer, McGregor and Forrest are either at their peak or still to reach theirs. Griffiths is back. Bitton is back. These were long-term absentees and barely featured last season. There was no Rogic out there nor Tierney.
We have new signings bedding in, including Shved.
The strength of this team is obvious if you want to see it.
Even those who didn’t want to see it saw it today.
What a way to start the campaign.
Congratulations to everyone at Celtic for a wonderful, wonderful performance.
Our alleged rivals should be very afraid.