Mentality is everything. You cannot build winning teams – not trophy winning teams – on hype and on feel-good. Because eventually those teams run into trouble. Eventually they find themselves under pressure. And pressure crushes them.
When this season is over this will be a memorable, and important, evening.
Gerrard’s team knew it was facing a difficult December, but McInnes’ tactics tonight gave them a potential lift. He put six defenders on the pitch. His team stood off as a lot of teams have done against Sevco this season, and when you do that you get punished.
At 2-0 that game was over. But then Aberdeen found something and began to put them under pressure, and the moment they did that the cracks began to show.
At 2-2 it became clear just who the better side was and who was most likely to win. Gerrard knew it too. His late substitution was not about trying to score a winner, it was about trying to prevent one. It was damage limitation in a must-win match.
This is the mentality of losers. This is a team that for all its swagger is wracked by fear. They know that they aren’t as good as the media reports would suggest. They’ve ridden their luck in a lot of matches. This month always had the potential to wreck their confidence. There is every chance that by the time it ends the Gerrard show will be approaching its end.
Mentality is everything. The reason some sides turn winning into a routine, the reason they react to adversity with strength and determination, is because winning becomes a habit. It becomes a drug. And once you’ve been over the course you know the ground and you know what it takes to find that extra edge, you can do it over and over again.
There is a mental technique called positive visualisation. Believe it or not, it can teach players how to take penalty kicks. You have to see yourself hit the ball over and over and over and over again. Visualise the goal. Visualise where you’re going to put it. Practice it in your mind until you can see it in your sleep. Then, when the time comes to actually do it, it’s as easy as putting a key into a lock. This works in many walks of life. You have to see yourself as a winner.
Celtic’s players have won so much that they never crack. They never fold. Pressure does nothing to them, except drives them forward. To have been in a tight contest all night and to have lost a late goal, almost every club in this land would have packed up their tents and thought about Sunday instead and a chance to make it up to the fans.
But this is Celtic, by God, this is the Treble Treble winners and the eight-in-a-row champions going for nine. That was not going to happen, and the minute this team decided that it would not quit, that it would not give up, that it would not settle for the point, there was always going to be a winner. Within two minutes we had it. Three points.
Two points clear. All the difference in the world. No risk, no reward.
This team are champions because it has the mentality of champions. It is full of players who’s hunger for success is undiminished in spite of the number of trophies they already have. They want to make more history. They want to get their hands on more silverware.
And there’s something else too and I’ll talk about it in more detail tomorrow … this team is angry. This team feels underappreciated by the world outside Celtic Park. They feel like they aren’t getting nearly enough credit for their sterling accomplishments … and they are sick and tired of reading hype and hysteria about how brilliant a certain other club is.
All of that factored in to what happened tonight. Nights like this are league winning nights. We will look back on it with great amusement later on in this campaign. There is a gulf in quality between this Celtic team and the Ibrox mob … but there is also a gulf in mentality and over the course of the campaign that is going to be a major factor in the end result.
What a great evening this has been. I’ll write more on Celtic’s performance tomorrow – it was not brilliant to say the least. Yet here we are, surfing a wave of momentum, the adrenaline wearing off, but having had a timely reminder of what we’re made of.
As if we needed it.
As good as it would have been to have won tonight at a canter, there is something special about moments like Brown’s goal … especially when you know what’s going on elsewhere, folk punching the air in relief feeling their hearts sink lower than they already were … it is glorious on their forums at the moment.
They know what this one means.
If you haven’t done the Sevco liquidation quiz yet do it below … another quiz will be up during the week!
Please share these articles widely, and join our Facebook Group for discussions about the pieces and other issues.
If you have trouble finding the articles you can subscribe, follow us on Twitter and get every piece on Celtic News Now. And you can, of course, bookmark the site itself and check it for updates throughout the day.