So what did we learn? Nothing. Except that for ten minutes we played as we can. We didn’t need reminding that there’s a team inside that jumbled mass of bodies; we only have to look at the trophy haul from the last few years to know that.
Otherwise, this went exactly as we all might have thought it would go. Four more goals conceded in a Europa League campaign where we’ve conceded 17 of them in only five game. We are stone last in the Group. It has been an epic and awesome humiliation.
Any positive progress we might have thought we’d made in Europe after home and away wins versus Lazio last year has been well and truly erased in the horrors that have followed it.
The Ferencvaros game was, arguably, the last real chance to fix it before real damage was done. The real damage due arrived, at home to Prague. We should have acted then, but we’ve allowed the farce to continue. Points have been squandered in the league. We’re out of the League Cup. Eight more goals have been shipped in tonight’s competition.
And still, we’re nowhere near the end of this.
We created some chances tonight, but against an expansive team like Milan we were always going to do that. The fear ever was what they might to do us at the other end. They went through the motions tonight; we know that because when they needed to find an extra gear they were able to do it effortlessly.
Whatever we had in the tank, we expended it early.
Worries gnaw away at us, and all of them are fully justified.
Our vulnerability as a defensive unit is terrifying and we can only thank God that there are no stiffer tests than tonight yet in front of us. Ibrox remains not so much a daunting prospect as a possible theatre of nightmares I don’t even want to think too much about yet but I cannot imagine them doing worse to us there than Prague has already managed twice and Milan could have tonight had they fancied a cricket score.
No sane club leadership would want Neil Lennon in charge for that game; Billy Big Balls in the Bahamas and his grinning sidekick at Parkhead seem to be looking forward to it with enthusiasm. Remember how excited Hicks was on the drop-ship down to LV-426 in Aliens?
It’s a bit like that. It will probably end up the same way as well.
No amount of anger from the fans will shift the needle here; that’s been spelled out pretty clear from the reality deniers in the boardroom. For people who are allegedly risk averse they are taking one Hell of a one with the most important season in eons.
Like punch drunk gamblers, losing huge, but who don’t know how to just walk away when the losses are already so high they seem determined to stick with this way past the point where sanity itself snaps like elastic, in the hope they hit a miracle run of luck.
You read about those guys from time to time. Some of them are pictured grinning on the front pages of the tabloids. Know how they get there? Because those runs are so rare that it’s big news when some lucky punter goes on one. You know where the others end up? In the obituaries or the segments of the paper which deal with the bankruptcy courts.
Like our board, some fans will stick with this as long as “there’s a chance”, much as one of those crazed Vegas dream chasers retains a glimmer of hope whilst they can borrow a buck from the banker or find another few quid from the kid’s college fund or raise another grand or two from the mortgage. The sane players all went home hours ago, the losses minimal, the consequences no more acute than an amusing anecdote to share over beers.
They were blessed with only one bit of luck; they knew when to call it quits.
But hey, there’s one straw for all involved at Parkhead to cling to; they have a scapegoat for tonight’s shit-show, and it’s Vasilios Barkas. So, let the discussion move on from Lennon’s obvious failings and flaws and inability to put together a team with even a modicum of shape or tactical sense, and shift it instead to “Do you think we can get Forster in January?”
Yeah, cause that’ll solve all our problems, won’t it?
We’ve played five games since 5 November, the night Neil Lennon should have lost his job. We’ve won one of them. We’ve conceded 13 goals. We’ve gone out of two competitions. We’ve dropped crucial points in the league.
If you’re wondering what the board is waiting for you got your answer during the week, and it’s the same answer tonight and will be regardless of the result at the weekend.
They are waiting for more. For things to be worse.
Try and imagine what that looks like tonight. It isn’t easy to do, is it? Ask the gambler who’s lost it all though. There’s a name for it; rock bottom, and we ain’t hit it yet.
As someone in an even more desperate position – though he didn’t know it – once put it, “We’re on an express elevator to Hell … going down.”