If you’ve seen the press today, and checked out social media, you’ll know that there are different emotions swirling about on the edge of our own happiness. The feeling amongst the rest of the game is an amusing mix of anger and denial. I am enjoying it.
Top of the pile are those in the media who simply cannot wrap their brains around how well the team is doing. They try to pick holes in the performance, with many of them focussing on the defence which kept a clean sheet against a top Dutch side last night.
Others – like the increasingly pitiful and desperate Ewan Murray – resorted to talking about how poor the Dutch were. Most of those singing this song were telling us how we were miles off that standard just a fortnight ago. I can’t blame them for that, because I was saying exactly the same. The difference is, I recognise that our improvement is what lay behind the result.
Over in La La Land, the response is exactly what you’d expect; a mixture of bitterness, spite, envy and fear. They dress the fear up in casually dismissive nonsense, such as that Kyogo is in the middle of his season and that’s why he’s sharper than everyone else, or that we’ve yet to play an “actual” team, or that the Dutch will surely thrash us on their home soil.
Deep down they can see that something about us is different and that these players will only get better with time spent together. They see our club spending the money they spent the summer predicting that we didn’t have. They watch as the manager they mocked starts to assert himself and charm the press, when he isn’t sniping back at their nonsense.
And they are growing fearful. Oh sure, they talk a good game about how unprepared we are for Ibrox, but that depends on us showing up in a lesser fashion and them hitting their stride. They know that neither of those things is certain, and the game is still more than a week away and they don’t know which new signings we’ll have in our ranks by then.
More than anything else, they see that there is a unity, a togetherness, about this squad right now and a sense of purpose which nobody expected. It would have been easy for the loss of ten in a row to rob this club of any drive … that hasn’t happened at all and they know that we are a far better team than the one they finished so far ahead of last season.
The realists amongst them know something else, something I’ve talked about on this site. They know they won’t be as impressive as they were last season and that we won’t be as bad as we were. That closes the gap on its own regardless of who we’d signed or how well those players had done. They know the gap itself was artificial, the result of a bizarre confluence of circumstances which radically altered the lay of the land … for one season only.
Everything has changed here, and it has happened so suddenly that they are stunned.
That includes the idiotic press corps, many of whom were predicting a full-on melt-down at Celtic Park. Keevins had us finishing third after the opening game … I wonder how that clown has the brass neck even to look in the mirror, or have years of being wrong so erased his sense of shame that it’s all water off a ducks back?
A lot can still go wrong for us, of course, but it’s hard to imagine this team moving backwards. With even more new signings on the way, we’re clearly putting together a title challenging squad … but we’re playing already like a side capable of winning one.
And that’s the biggest shock of all. Because most thought that the best we could hope for was a season of transition and “closing the gap.” That we might overhaul it completely in the space of a campaign never entered their darkest nightmares.
Now they are forced to confront it. No wonder they are so unhappy.