One of the reasons we’ve been so bad this season is that too many players in this team just walk into the side.
If you want to create the right circumstances for complacency to set in that’s a good way to do it. Automatic selections have nothing to fear.
Footballers need that fear. It keeps them sharp. It encourages them to push themselves, and when players are doing that you see them at their best.
Give them no reason to work that little bit harder and eventually all of them will lose their edge.
A club the size of Celtic shouldn’t have automatic picks.
The competition for every position should be fierce. We have the talent at Celtic for that, yet the manager has insisted on picking the same players time and time again. I understand that he believes these guys are our best footballers but they got that way because they were tested time and again.
Last night we saw what happens when young, hungry footballers are given their opportunity to put down a marker; that should change the dynamic for the rest of this campaign. Soro and Turnbull have been patient and seized their chance.
How good were they? Well both players were bigged up by the media in France as well as in Britain, and Phil Mac Giolla Bhain has posted an excellent piece after talking to a football analyst today who confirmed what was obvious; Soro, in particular, was fantastic and the best change to our midfield dynamic in a while.
Those guys deserve the next game to show us what they can do in Scotland, and from that point on they should be pushing McGregor, Brown and Christie for places each and every week, the way it’s meant to work.
Amazingly, the problem is different in other areas of the team.
None of our strikers has had a chance to play an extended run of games without being shipped out. We’ve experimented too much with different systems for them. The same applies to the defence … but nowhere is more apparent than it is with the keeper; last night was the fourth change in a month.
Phil’s article may have offered a hint as to why that is … Barkas has difficulty communicating with his defenders, which, the man say, the club and the player are working hard on with an enhanced English lessons for him. I am glad we’re not just writing this guy off, it would be ridiculous.
Midfield is the area where the real problem lies; McGregor and Brown are plainly exhausted having gone through the last few years with barely a moment’s pause. Callum must be, far and away, the most overworked footballer in Europe and there’s no excuse for that when we can draft in Ntcham, Soro, Turnbull and Rogic to that area.
Perhaps a serious lesson has been learned last night.
Maybe this is the start of a new period for the team, and if it is I can see the form improving. Competition is the healthiest thing in football, and for our midfield there’s been too damned little of it … that’s down to the manager, of course, but with his job under threat he has been given ample food for thought.