Pressure generates different reactions in different individuals.
That’s one of the ways in which lesser players and managers rise to the top whilst better footballers and more astute bosses never make it to the summit of the game.
I remember talking to a mate years ago about how bad players don’t win European Cups and he sniggered and said to me “Phil Neville?”
I disagreed that Neville was a bad player, but let’s be honest; there were hundreds of better footballers out there than him and it sort of begged the question as to why he had gotten to that peak in front of them.
It was years later that I understood it, watching David Marshall in the Nou Camp, thrown in at the deep end, a kid who never expected to be playing on a stage like that, turning in a remarkably mature and fear-free display.
Some players can cope with the weight of the world on their shoulders and others can’t.
That’s why some make it and some don’t.
This has nothing to do with talent either; I’ve seen immensely talented footballers who I have been convinced were bottlers because you never see them do it when the chips are down and it matters most.
We call them by a lot of different names; “luxury players” is one way of putting it, but that phrase is used for other types as well.
You generally recognise them best when they crack.
Strikers go through spells where they haven’t scored in a while, and as the pressure builds you see the frustration and even fear on them whenever they miss a clear-cut chance. Defenders are especially susceptible to cracking under pressure if they have the wrong mentality, and that is disastrous for their teams.
There’s an argument to made that this is what happened to Jack Hendry, a decent enough prospect but who got freaked out by the fact of playing for a huge club with huge expectations.
He may, or may not, have enough confidence now to break through.
This happens to goalkeepers too of course.
If one thing scares me it’s the prospect that maybe we’ve signed one of those guys in Vasilis Barkas.
Pressure also happens to teams.
There is a group mentality thing which is susceptible to swings and variances.
Look at us. I’m not going to say we cracked under pressure because I don’t think that we did.
Other factors are what brought us low, and it’s quite clear that once we’d had the wind knocked out of our sails by results and circumstances that morale at the club fell through the bottom of the floor … and that’s just as bad.
But last weekend, in the aftermath of that scandalous cup performance, I told everyone who’d listen (and even wrote in an article) that the Ibrox club would not win the Scottish Cup.
I was convinced of it.
I believed it because there are players in that team – too many of them – who don’t cope well under pressure and they are managed by a guy who doesn’t cope well under pressure and he never has.
That might sound strange considering his career … but I stand by it.
When you look at Gerrard’s career there is a distinct lack of “winning stuff” in it.
On top of that, he spent the better part of it at one club and when he did leave he went to a football backwater where he knew he could just stroll around and bask in the warmth of the crowd. Others have accused Gerrard of this, of retreating into a football comfort zone, of staying too long where he was loved, of never actually taking risks and striving for winner’s medals.
It might be unfair to say that, but it’s been said and not by Celtic bloggers either.
Gerrard’s team has a streak of yellow running through it.
Take Tavernier. He popped up last night to score the goal, late in the game, but his do-or-die moment came during the shoot-out when the keeper saved his tame effort and put the whole team under the cosh.
Tavernier is a serial bottler and the Ibrox fans know it all too well.
Morelos, too, is a bottler.
So he finally got his first goal against Celtic? So what?
Give the guy long enough and it was going to happen.
He doesn’t cope well with pressure.
There are others in that team who are the same; ramp up the expectations around them and watch as they slowly crumble. I never doubted that they would, I only wish it had been against us, which makes our own display – or lack of a display – all the more abysmal.
Had our form not collapsed this season we would have been able to do what we failed to do most; to make them sweat every single week. As our form collapsed we made it easy for them to coast it, to go through games without fear.
Had we been right there, all over them, I think we’d have seen them go down like a house of cards.
On top of that, for ages this season I flatly refuted the suggestion that not having fans inside Ibrox helped them whilst not having fans at Celtic games cost us … I am finally moved, now, to ponder that particular theory and I have to write about that later.
Checking out the reactions amongst their fans last night, you can tell they worry about that.
They worry about the next campaign.
They understand that there are a lot of players in that squad who simply cannot cope with expectations and pressure. Give them a clear field to run in and they can look like world beaters.
Put some competition out there with them and they look second rate.
Watching their game last night, I saw none of the swagger and confidence I keep hearing about; I saw a team who would have lost heavily to a side with firepower.
It appals me that we weren’t able to ramp up the pressure on them at any point in this campaign.
We never, for one moment, looked like a side that was motoring and playing with intent.
It has been a shocking season, and watching them flap about last night was both funny and sad at the same time because of what might have been.