For all their big talk down through the last 12 months, the arrogance of Ibrox has never been truly real. This is a club build on sand, and everyone involved with it is well aware of that fact. It is a club built on debt and on spending what it does not have.
The Ibrox club is a bubble that has been waiting to burst, following one aberrant season.
I have never hidden my view that whatever happened over that last season was deeply suspect.
Their form was inexplicable, even accounting for the vast sums of money they spent, money they didn’t have.
Their form this season so far only supports my view that something untoward played a role in their form.
Their performances this season almost exactly mirror their form in Gerrard’s first and second campaigns. The third was epically weird.
Whatever fuelled that run, they didn’t expect it to need it in this campaign.
A lot of our fans were of the same mind. We were not supposed to find stability and form so swiftly.
Indeed, I thought the task in front of us was virtually impossible and when we moved for a manager from a non-European league the minute the deal for Howe collapsed I actually called it our “Pedro Caixinha moment” because, to be frank, it bore all the hallmarks of one.
I had said beforehand, on the Endless Celts podcast, that Howe saying no at the last minute was the nightmare scenario.
I had further explored that theme in a blog on this site.
I could easily imagine the Celtic board going for a random name plucked out of nowhere as a last resort if they suffered a knock-back from the Englishman.
With months squandered and this guy brought in, with his connections to the City Group and all the Lawwell Inc. connotations I thought it had the potential to send our club into a complete tailspin … with a massive rebuild to do.
But within a short time it was obvious that Ange was nobody’s yes man, and nobody’s fool.
He had strong ideas and the right plan for the team.
It would all have been wasted, even so, had he not been able to move on the want-away players and stamp his own mark on the team, and this is where the board deserves credit for pulling the threads together.
The slow start was inevitable.
The speed with which he’s affected these changes and the way the team has started to come good was not.
At Ibrox they thought this process would take far, far longer and that serious doubts would be expressed by our fans along the way.
One of the true masterstrokes from Dominic McKay was to give fan media a face-to-face with the manager so that we could form our own impressions. I still wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of this that day, but I asked him a question and got an answer I liked a hell of a lot and his general demeanour and attitude impressed the Hell out of me.
The fans were onside early, and in another development the media and those across the city did not expect we’ve stayed with the program through the initially choppy waters. Even the six point gap did not spook us, although the press wanted us to be spooked.
Last week we cut that gap.
They won today, narrowly, but this is not a good team we’re up against here.
Their form is dreadful and they have none of the mitigations that we have for the mess we were in.
Everyone in the press told you – they’ve been saying it for months – that they are a settled team.
So they really have no excuses, and their poor form thus far should be prompting harder questions than it has.
But those questions cannot be avoided for long.
This morning, we woke up to the news that they are seeking a special exemption for their players who are going off to play in the African Cup of Nations.
With their allegedly strong squad they are still going to go with the begging bowl out to the Nigerian FA so that their three players – Bassey, Balogun and Aribo – can play against us in January.
This is a sign of weakness, and reeks of anxiety.
Notice that they aren’t asking for a wider exemption for those players (which they wouldn’t get anyway); this is strictly for us, because the trip to Celtic Park is no longer as straightforward as they thought it would be.
Indeed, theirs is a team that is running scared of that game. Balogun, Bassey and Aribo are pretty limited footballers, so their desperation in this regard is even more desperate. Of course, it has to be pointed out that their club begging for special treatment and favours from a national association is not exactly new.
It stinks of fear just the same.
It also proves something else; they see that as a must-win match, or at least one in which they need to get some kind of favourable outcome.
Which means they are anxious about the ones which come before it and no longer expect to come to Celtic Park with a cushion in the league.
Everything their club is doing at the moment is supposed to project strength, but any psychologist could spot that all the bluff and bluster and aggression is there to mask their profound insecurities as a club.
Let them get their special favours.
If they don’t get them they will only milk every excuse they can.
Let them come to Celtic Park with a full strength team; it will be all the better to blow them out like a birthday cake candle, with no pitiful rationale to fall back on.
In the meantime, we are growing in strength as it seeps away from them.
We know it.
What today’s news proves is that they know it too.