I’ve spent much of the last fortnight ill, and the last week has been a particular joy.
In that time, the transfer window has shut and Celtic’s squad shape is now clear to us all.
The new players have been integrating themselves.
The manager has had time to work on his tactical plans.
The injured stars are a step closer to fitness.
Work goes on behind the scenes.
It has been a good week for Celtic, which is odd considering the result in our last match. But the closing of the transfer window felt like the end of a dark chapter. It has given the manager new tools to work with and a new-found purpose and unity to the squad.
A lot of ghosts have been laid to rest, and a lot of stupid assumptions with them, the most obvious of which was that the Celtic fans would “turn on” Ange if he didn’t get a result across the city. Fans won’t accept a title race where we don’t put up a fight, but we can tell already that tangible progress has been made and on another day we’d have taken the points.
Things at Celtic are calmer and more peaceful than they have been in a long time. The club seems to be heading in the right direction. Changes are afoot at every level in the structure. We’ll find out soon enough what that means for the overall strategy.
Yet even as we grow and develop again, we are surrounded by chaos. Scottish football continues to be mired in controversy and one club continues to be at the centre of shameful events as the conduct of a large section of its fan base comes under scrutiny.
That club remains at war with the league over sponsorships.
It remains a war with the media, a war that has escalated in the last 24 hours in stunning ways, ways which show their fan-base in the very worst possible light.
How horrific must our game must look to outsiders?
None of this is Celtic’s fault, but we exist in this depressingly negative environment amidst all this darkness and lunacy, and it will continue to cast a shadow on us as long as it goes on.
There are things we can do – must do – as a club in recognition of that.
First, we have to keep on hammering the message home that we are not “one half” of anything.
We must stand on our own and make it abundantly clear that this is how we see ourselves and that we want nothing to do with the toxic rivalry so many in Scottish football want to lock us into. It does us nothing but harm and it is despised by the fans.
Secondly, we have to get it right on the pitch and make ourselves the pre-eminent force in the game, because that reveals our rivals in their proper light; an over-blown hype machine funded by debts.
This is important in taking the third step.
Thirdly, we have to take the lead in bringing real reform to this sport and that might mean embracing ideas we don’t actually like or support at the moment; not only domestic financial fair play and fit and proper person tests which have some teeth but perhaps – and a year ago I wouldn’t have believed I’d be writing this – maybe even some kind of strict liability.
You know, we have nothing to fear from any of these changes.
Indeed, we have much to gain from embracing them and seeing them pushed through.
The game here is a mess because certain things have been allowed to go on too long.
Our club doesn’t have the issues that others do, but we continue to be dragged into the morass … that has to end.
Dominic McKay has a lot to do right now, but he must look at the swirling mess around us and know that our association with all of this – however much we might dismiss it – is causing us problems and concerns.
It is time to take reform seriously.
In the meantime, the manager and the players are working hard to do their bit; taking back our title and giving the fans something to cheer for.