I think it’s fair to say that one of the things we most admire about Ange is the way he comes across; a genuine man, a considerate man, a nice man. He can be snappy and intense, but there is an underlying decency to him which is obvious to anyone who looks.
But this is Scottish football, and Scottish football is a warzone. There has always been a concern here that Ange might be too nice for this place, and for this environment. When, at the fan presser, he said that he would fight for the club we hoped that it wouldn’t take him long to come out swinging. He hasn’t really done so yet, not in one of the critical areas where it counts.
Right now, we’re in the midst of a major injury crisis.
That will not be made better, far less resolved, by our allowing our players to get rough-housed and kicked up and down the park.
This weekend, alone, there were at least two shocking challenges on our players which didn’t even merit bookings; McCarthy went down under one and Abada crumpled under another. Either could have resulted in a long-term injury.
We were very lucky that neither did, although the one on McCarthy was certainly instrumental in his having to leave the game at half time.
The officials gave us no protection at all.
This is not an unusual thing this season. In fact, we were seeing this last season too, as the ten in a row campaign started to flounder. It was obvious that referees were going to be shockingly lenient towards any player who decided to subject our footballers to some rough treatment. It is up to those inside Celtic to highlight this and refuse to allow it.
Ange can’t just sit back and watch this. I was surprised he never highlighted either incident in the aftermath of the game, and I certainly hope that he goes out of his way to do so in the midweek press conference before the Leverkusen match.
Nobody will think less of this man if he takes off the nice guy persona and hits back over this stuff. I appreciate that after bad results some will see it as deflection, and maybe that’s why he’s not done it up until now, but you can condemn those tackles and still acknowledge that the team could have played better.
That neither of those two incidents was seen to warrant serious action is shocking, and he can’t just ignore it. This is how these things happen in the first place.
Celtic has to come out swinging at some point, or we’re going to get walked all over. Teams who know they can pull this stuff will do it, repeatedly, and our problems will keep on growing. Being nice is good, but being a pushover … that’s not so great.