Celtic stands on the brink of tremendous changes. All of us expect an announcement on the manager soon. The new CEO is already in the building and learning the ropes. It cannot be much longer before he is joined by a director of football and the new boss.
There is the feeling of forward motion for the first time in a long time, of us being propelled into our future. The changes we are about to undergo are vast in a way that I can’t remember since the night Fergus ousted the old board.
However the dominos fall here, our club is about to undergo a profound re-alignment. There is a sense not only of an era coming to an end but of renewal at every level.
Eras end all the time in football. Some of them come to a shuddering halt and what follows is a steep decline. This doesn’t feel like that at all. I get no sense here that we’re standing on the deck of a sinking ship or on the precipice of a burning building. We have had one bad season out of the last ten. For the four years before we looked unassailable.
At some clubs, they would simply shrug it off as a single bad campaign and keep on motoring in the same old way.
For all the criticisms we level at them, Celtic has chosen not to do that. Some might say that the changes have come too late, and that’s certainly true when it comes to ten in a row … but ten in a row was only part of what we should have been aiming for.
The real prize is bigger, and it always was.
Someone asked me a while back, “what happens when we complete the ten?” it was a question both profound and profoundly silly, although I didn’t disrespect it by leaning towards the latter. My answer was straight to the point. “We go for eleven,” I said, but of course what I really meant was that we go and keep on going, that we never let up.
Because beyond the immediate horizon of the ten was the target of breaking Ibrox’s self-delusions. To get to 55 before the lie did.
We failed in that goal, but 56 is next and 57 after that, and in the fullness of time we will overtake even their bullshit. In the fullness of time the last remaining shred of pretence and their self-respect will be stripped away from them.
I don’t want that, furthermore, to rub their faces in it; I want it for us, for our own reasons, I want it because I think we’re entitled to it. I want it because my dad’s generation, my generation and the one after me deserve it, because we earned it, because we played it straight and fair and responsibly and we grew our club and made sacrifices to get here.
Someone told me the other day that they dislike this notion of entitlement; they think it makes us sound too much like the other lot. I reject the premise of that argument, because the other lot believe that the top spot is theirs by right and that therefore it doesn’t matter what they have to do to reclaim it. They will lie, cheat, connive, corrupt … whatever it takes.
Success doesn’t come naturally; we all know that. We have to work for it, to prove we’re good for it, to earn it … but when have we not? When in our history have we not had to work harder and prove ourselves more than other clubs? How do you think we got here in the first place? We dug in when others thought they could find short-cuts. We followed the rules when other people were telling themselves they needn’t be constrained by them.
We have always had to earn our success and we always will; when I say we’re entitled to it it’s because we were built for it, and shaped by adversity. Our leaders may have become arrogant and complacent, but the institution of Celtic has always existed in a world where shadows creep around us and dark forces wait in the wings to do us harm.
We’ve defeated those forces before, and we’ll do so again. I will be here, on planet Earth, when even accounting for the lies Ibrox tells itself we will be the uncontested biggest club in Scotland. The year just past will be revealed for what it was; an anomaly, a confluence of events so bizarre and outrageous than in 100 years you’d never see anything close.
Think for a moment on the bizarre circumstances in which this season has unfolded. Think on the way Ibrox has defied the laws of probability over the bug.
Think of a season in which their side didn’t have a single penalty kick awarded against them in league football until it no longer mattered. Think of a year in which our management team has self-destructed, and so many of our top players were on the brink of leaving.
Think of a moment in history when Scottish football had come closer to a full-scale meltdown, and where every club – but two – were making cuts, and thus enabling a long and sustained unbeaten run from a team which hadn’t won more than five games on the bounce in the preceding four or five years. Everything fell their way, and against us.
Not all of this was random chance.
I am certain that their “success” in evading the ravages of the disease is not down to luck, just as I’m certain that it’s at least in part fake. The failure by Scottish refs to award penalties against them was exactly what you would expect in such a critical campaign. Celtic has been the victim of self-inflicted wounds, and catastrophic errors in strategy.
This a unique combination of factors which have all come together at the worst possible time. Anyone who sees in this the proof that they are some sort of footballing juggernaut whilst we are in some kind of terminal decline is howling at the moon.
Anyone over there relying on that is grasping at shadows on the wall.
None of what you see over there is real; Ibrox is what it has always been. It’s a hall of mirrors, where nothing is the way it seems. Conversely, none of what you see at Parkhead is nearly as bad as it looks to be, and yet for all that we’ve decided on a period of renewal.
To me, it’s very exciting.
By the end of the month we should have a new manager and by the time we kick off next season the whole club will be unrecognisable.
A new director of football is incoming, as we all know. When he has his own people in this entire club will be rolling more smoothly than ever before.
Things are moving fast, and in the right direction. Our summer is going to pass at breakneck speed … and I hope that a lot of the work is already being done and that those who take over will move swiftly on the rest.
And we may or may not be ready in time, but the club will look different and it will be different and when all the pieces are working together, in sync, there will be nothing Ibrox can do to stop us except try to keep up. Because we are fundamentally stronger and bigger and better than they are, and that will tell and that will matter.
One bad year in the last ten … and it might be a long time before we ever have another like it.
That could have bred complacency all on its own, and whilst I’m sure the threat of a supporter revolt was part of what moved the needle here that’s kind of the point; Celtic fans, whilst realising that this might just be a singularly bad season, nevertheless want more, and for the club to do better, and this was true even when we were winning everything in sight.
And the club has responded, however slowly, to that demand.
This is why we will snatch back our crown next season, because we have made the decision to renew ourselves, and that will pay all the dividends we hope for.