On the morning after the Battle of Hattin, everything was as it is this morning; peaceful, calm, almost soundless except for the cries of the vultures as they swooped and picked amongst the corpses. If you were able to go back and survey that scene, you might not realise that in the midst of all that slaughter that it was actually the calm before the real storm.
The Crusader States of the Levant were shattered by that defeat; the King of Jerusalem, Guy de Lusignan, had been captured. His armies were annihilated. The notorious Raynald of Châtillon, one of his principle allies, was beheaded by Saladin personally. The defeat left the Levant in turmoil and the key cities undefended. Saladin took over fifty of them in the months that followed, culminating in his successful Siege of Jerusalem.
Amidst the silence on that morning at Hattin, do you think anyone was really calm and settled, except maybe for the Muslim armies of the Caliphate, who knew they were on the way now to certain victory? Of course not.
At Celtic, not only does everyone seem perfectly calm but they are carrying on as normal and starting with a wee jolly out to Dubai.
Well, I hope they enjoy it as we, the people who pay for it all, pick through the wreckage left behind.
And wreckage is all that remains.
There’s a 19-point gap in the league race, we’re out of the League Cup and we’ve suffered two exits from Europe. These are dry facts which do no justice whatsoever to the terrible reality of our position and of what a catastrophe this season has been.
The Levant lost more than 99% of its army at Hattin, some 20,000 soldiers. Dry words on the page don’t adequately convey the scale of the disaster, the consequences of it or give you any sense of what 20,000 corpses looks like or smells like rotting in the desert sun.
The scale of our likely defeat in the league already looks as if it will be enormous. I’m not confident that we will win the Scottish Cup. The League Cup result was a disgrace which has done long-term reputational damage to all involved in it, from the boardroom down. The European results were a scandal with the Ferencvaros game being Lennon’s Craig Levein moment and the Europa League was an abject humiliation whose shame will take years to erase.
Aside from some criticism of Bitton and some wholly justified flaying of Bobby Madden for his own performance (Ibrox’s man of the match by a mile) nobody seems terribly happy contemplating what happens next. Many seem to be waiting to find out what the club will say in light of the “managers review” which is coming up this month.
In light of talk about transfer business already being underway, and targets identified you get the strong impression that the message is going to continue to be “business as usual” as if all the flaming wreckage of this campaign were nothing but a mirage.
Lennon will get to the end of the season now, and valuable time will be squandered. An announcement that he doesn’t intend to carry on will be made around March when the season ticket renewal forms go out, and we will be teased with the promise of a “name” boss and “a return to Paradise.”
Many will snap it up. Many will accept it. The board is counting on it. They have pulled this kind of trick before and know they can get away with it. In the meantime, we’ll continue with a failed strategy and a manager not fit for purpose.
In many ways, the worst thing about yesterday was the performance.
Those who want to believe in Lennon found reasons to. Those who want to believe that we’re moving in the right direction will have been convinced. It was neither the victory we needed to keep this season alive or the capitulation which would have made certain of the required changes.
In many ways, that performance was the equal of the last minute equaliser at Easter Road which I darkly suspected – and said so at the time – was a critical moment which we would look back on with enormous regret and “what if?” questions.
Had Laxalt not scored, would we have been asking hard questions sooner? Of course, but we now know what the answers would have been. “We remain calm.” As the Saracens sweep across the map, conquering defenceless cities at will, we remain calm.
We would still have suffered the second 4-1 loss in Prague. Then would have come Ross County followed by the reversal in Milan. That would have taken us to St Johnstone at home, and a point secured with seven minutes left of the game.
Still, we’d have remained calm. And some will say “but look at the results it led to; Lille, a Scottish Cup, four league wins in a row. Which is true, if you ignore that we won the Quadruple Treble on a penalty shoot-out and a stroke of luck … all the warning signs that we were not yet out of the woods, all the manager’s limitations, were on glaring display.
But still we remained calm. Business as usual.
The deathly quiet of offices filled with people getting on with the day to day running of things, people shutting out the world and doing the job. Or the quiet of a battlefield after a slaughter, with all the consequences of that and many, many more still to come. Hattin was a disaster. For the Levant, the real catastrophe was still to come.
As our team jets off to Dubai, like conquering heroes instead of a club shattered by a nightmarish season, I can only think that the worst is still waiting for us. Apparently, the league table this morning isn’t enough for those inside our club to act.
Whatever they’re waiting for, I have no doubt whatsoever that it is on its way and will arrive in due course.