Oh man, I hate the day after a defeat. Any defeat these days, not that we experience many of them. Because hysteria runs rampant. I’m just glad that our coaches and players have made a nice habit of shaking off the criticism and getting on with the job.
I dread to think what social media will be like if we do actually run into a bad time. Perspective is in short supply today even as we’re 12 points clear at the top of the league and odds-on for another domestic treble. God knows what it will be like if we genuinely do enter a period of trial.
It will happen. I am not looking forward to it at all.
For now, I am content to accept last night for what it was; a bad night at the office, where a number of factors contributed to making it much harder than it ought to be. Too many players were not 100% fit, but I thought the balance of the team was right and that the manager got the starting eleven broadly right, for a European game.
People are entitled to their view on the team setup last night, but had Eddie been more clinical, had their keeper not made an outstanding save from Griffiths, had the ref not spotted a fairly innocuous push on someone before Callum’s pile-driver nobody would be talking about mistakes made or putting the manager under a microscope again.
The need for a central defensive signing in January was readily apparent; it was almost certain that we’d be punished for failing to go out and get one.
I have never hidden my deep displeasure at what went on during that window, and in many ways I hold Lawwell and others accountable for what we saw last night. Once again, someone on the non-football side of the club has blatantly ignored the manager’s wishes and it has cost us. Lennon wanted experience, and I know he wanted at least one defender, but the genius who preens in front of the media whenever we have a success once again knew better.
It is outrageous that there are people at this club who continue to get away with this nonsense. If I have one criticism of Lennon, it’s that he stands for this. For how much longer I don’t know. If he delivers big this season – and he has so far – then he can write his own ticket. The board would do well to remember that. If Lennon voices his displeasure in public the reaction in the stands will be volcanic. Lawwell can push this guy too far.
All that aside, this is the team who sit atop the SPL table with a 12-point lead. They have already secured the first domestic trophy of the season. We’re on the brink of another trip to Hampden in the Scottish Cup. We qualified top of our Europa League Group having beat Lazio home and away … and with an identical tactical setup to last night.
Let’s try to get that little bit of perspective here on what we’re talking about. We have gone out of a competition we were not going to win, and whilst we’re all disappointed at losing to a side who were beatable, it is a huge rewrite of history to claim that this makes our European campaign a failure. We have rebuilt our reputation to some extent with great results against Lazio and Rennes. We topped our group with a game to go. We qualified with two to spare.
Although we’ve been done in by individual mistakes, the collective at Celtic Park continues to be miles ahead of the domestic opposition. We are on course for a fourth domestic treble in a row and with a guy at the helm who’s win ratio is unbelievable.
It seems ridiculous, to me, to be picking holes in that, especially when European football continues to throw up unpredictable results like Olympiakos knocking out Arsenal at The Emirates.
Those who look across the city and think that Gerrard is some kind of miracle worker, and who want to contrast him with Lennon, ought to put down the glue or at least stop sticking it up their noses. Gerrard’s European win record is a flat 50% … his team is incredibly hard to beat, but that has as much to do with the quality of opponents they’ve faced as anything else. Watch how they get on against a genuine top drawer side, which Leverkusen are.
Celtic is in good shape. This is still looking like it will be a memorable season, perhaps the best one of the nine in a row sequence. As I said in an earlier piece, with the way the media has hyped the Ibrox NewCo all to Hell it will be a sweeter one for me than any that have come before.
We’re in good shape going towards the end of this campaign. Let’s not get rattled now. The manager, speaking after the game last night, knew exactly what he was doing in protecting his players and trying to refocus minds on what lies ahead … it is the next games right here in Scotland which matter more than anything.
Keep your eyes on the prize … nine and that fourth treble.
That’s what it’s all about, and what it’s always been about.