A lot of reactions to this today, I’m sure, and a kind of casual acceptance that this was the day the league was lost. There’s a long way to go but we’ve blown it. I’m not even interested in envisioning scenarios which are focussed on the quest to save this one.
When was it actually lost?
Not this afternoon, that’s for sure. You can survive a bad day like today if you’re where they are in the table, with their lead. It was lost a few months ago when we started dropping points and our board decided that it would leave things are they were.
But our board is culpable for more than just the Lennon decision, which is the one on which our hopes were always going to pivot.
I don’t blame Lennon for today. He performed, in the moment that counted, as expected. He’s a limited manager, as was proved the moment the SFA’s man in the middle finally had his chance to impact the match in a way that truly mattered.
Lennon had no Plan B, but that’s not a great surprise.
When we went down to ten men at Ibrox under Rodgers we actually went from one up front to two up front to chase, and win, the game. Lennon took off Turnbull and Griffiths, the two guys most consistent at scoring us goals in the past few weeks.
That decisions sums our manager up.
It is the proof that he is not the right guy to be sitting in the dugout, if you needed any further convincing.
We don’t matter to that decision; our directors have gambled everything on moments like this, moments which turn games, believing that Lennon is the right guy for them, when the evidence is crystal clear that he isn’t and never was.
But leagues don’t get won on a single day in January, but they can be influenced and affected. Individual games turn on more than just weaknesses in one team or the other.
Today was about Bobby Madden, who gave a performance which not a single one of us could claim to have been remotely surprised about. And that, I’m afraid, is down to how gutless we are as a club and how comprehensively we’ve failed to reform the game here.
Had we done what a number people online were urging – and I was one of them, and I’ve been consistent on the subject for years – and defended ourselves better against some of the horrendous refereeing decisions which have gone against us and on behalf of Ibrox, and especially in this campaign so far, we would have fewer days like today.
I’m not even talking about the red card, which was a deplorable decision in and of itself and the moment that gave the Ibrox club their shot in the arm – and not even a very good one because they still managed a paltry one shot on target in the whole match – but everything about that performance he put in.
Every Celtic tackle and attempt at a 50-50 ball was penalised by a stoppage of play and a free kick to the home team. Every single one.
The best player on the park up until he went off was Ismaili Soro, which is why he was booked so early.
When it became clear that he, like Scott Brown, has a level head on his shoulders and wasn’t’ going to fall into the trap of doing anything rash, it was a matter of time before the man in black found another way to adversely influence the match.
All day long he was instrumental in doing the job the Ibrox midfield proved itself not to be up to. He stopped us repeatedly. He did more than Davis, Kamara and Aribo put together to break up momentum on our side and halt us in our advance.
I’ve said for a long time that it’s the little things, the insidious moments, the free kicks for fair challenges, the stopping people from playing their natural game, the protection offered to one team and not the other … those change games more readily than red cards and penalty kick decisions ever will.
And referees in Scotland do this all the time.
This is not stuff that make headlines, but by God it makes a difference and you can see that it does.
It gnaws away at teams. It makes players reluctant to make tackles. It makes teams more inclined to stand off the opposition, if they know any challenge results in a foul, and of course any footballer who is unlucky enough to draw a booking can’t afford a single slip.
This game spun on a Bobby Madden decision.
That’s the long and short of it, and the problem with that is two-fold; first that our league challenge died on that decision, which is a testament to how spectacularly the decision makers at our club got their own big calls of earlier in the season completely and utterly wrong, and secondly that we continue to allow people like Madden to get game after game with no standards expected of them, to perpetuate the usual farce.
And that’s all that was today, a farce, decided by a single moment when the guy couldn’t get his card out of his pocket quick enough and with a smile on his face took our hopes for this campaign with him. I don’t blame Madden.
I blame the people at Celtic who allow men like that to have an influence in the destination of matches, trophies and yes, even titles.
And because we do, we get exactly what we deserve.