This morning, I saw Chris Sutton’s piece in The Daily Record and from the headline I thought “What the Hell is he up to?” The paper screams it out at you; “Moving Celtic’s opening Premiership clash with Rangers would open a can of worms and spark outcry.”
Then I read the article, and it’s pretty clear. Sutton did use the phrase “can of worms” and he doesn’t think games should be moved from their usual place in the schedule … but the piece is a little bit different than that headline suggests.
To me, the crucial segment – and the bit that should have been the headline – was when Sutton talked about Sevco’s tendency to moan and wail and blame other people for their own failures. Sutton is against the league doing anything that gives the Ibrox desperados any further alibi for failure. He knows Celtic will beat them over the campaign come what may … and he does not want them having a single excuse this time around.
“As usual up here, the mere suggestion of it has (Ibrox) fans screaming conspiracy, but do me a favour. The outcry about Lennon’s suggestion is borne out of fear. (Sevco) are looking to gain every single advantage they can this coming season – as the pressure is going to be on like never before … Some people think the heat will be on Celtic next term but as far as I am concerned it’s the other side of the city who are the ones who will feel it the most.”
He then goes on to excoriate Gerrard and his record, adding just for mischief, a wee segment about how often we’ve beaten them at their own ground these past few years.
“Steven Gerrard can’t afford to fail again. Celtic were out of sight in his first season and going even further in to the distance before the campaign was curtailed. The season ending early was a get out of jail card for the Ibrox manager … If he had lost the league by 20 points – which is where it was heading – he probably wouldn’t have had a future … Whether the first (derby) game is behind closed doors or not shouldn’t really matter. We’ve seen Celtic winning at Ibrox so often they cut the away ticket allocation – yet they still won.”
I laughed out loud reading that, but the real venom was still to come, and this is the segment they should have taken the headline from, but The Record dishonestly chose to misrepresent the tone of Sutton’s piece entirely.
“We could bump (these) games back to March but for all we know (Sevco) could be third in the league by then and it won’t matter a jot … no fans in the ground means no hiding place and it will be down to man against man, and right now the Celtic side is still stronger … (Sevco) can’t be looking for scapegoats next year like they have done in recent times. It’s not Neil Doncaster’s fault, the SPFL to blame, it’s not referees or the media. There can be no excuses.”
Sutton is correct. In terms of avoiding scrutiny, Gerrard has probably benefited more even than those at Hearts from the way this campaign has been brought to a close. At Tynecastle they’ve managed somehow to deflect attention from their own dismal failures to create a conspiracy theory about the big, bad SPFL … but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Sevco has done exactly the same thing, and their own issues are just as severe when placed in context.
Gerrard has been an abject failure. Sutton is right to highlight the possibility that the gap would have been closer to 20 points than something that looked as if a challenge had been on. Celtic was headed for at least a double digit title win, and the only question was how big the gap was going to be. Gerrard should have been under immense pressure.
The global health emergency has spared his record any serious examination. He should be thankful for that. Sevco fans are absolute mugs for not subjecting him to it anyway; instead they allowed their attention to be diverted by the howling madness from their own director’s box. More fool them; they are setting the coming campaign up as an epic failure.
I think the games against Sevco should be moved, as much on public safety grounds as on anything else, but I also don’t believe our club should be disadvantaged in the title race by playing key matches in front of empty stands when I strongly suspect Sevco will get a good run of away fixtures in the early part of the season. The vagaries of “the SPFL computer” will see to that.
But fear plays no part in this at all. We’ll take them no matter where or when we play our matches; Sutton is correct about that too. Our players are too good, too focussed, too strong. These guys will show up for business every game and get the job done. I think Sevco will suffer more for the loss of their supporters than our club will for the loss of theirs. Without the fans backing you it comes down to being mentally strong as well as better on the ball.
And our players have been over the course so many times now they could do it in their sleep.
Overall, I liked what Sutton had to say today. He went on to talk about the importance of us qualifying for the Champions League Groups, and I agreed with that too. I only wish he wasn’t saying it in that anti-Celtic rag, which I refuse to link to in this piece.
When they butcher his point with headlines like the one they used here, it’s clear that they are not doing him any favours in getting to an audience.
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