One of the subjects we return to on this site over and over again are the shameful double standards of our media, which alternates between kicking Celtic and slobbering sycophancy in relation to the club across the city.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the story of our summer, how it was covered and how it continues to be, and how that contrasts with the way their own was examined, and how that sort of examination remains elusive even now.
We had an enormous job in front of us over the summer, but we approached it properly and for the most part the club delivered for the manager.
We brought in over a dozen players. We spent good sums of money. It wasn’t a job to be done in one window, and everyone ought to have realised that, but the media has not stopped criticising us for not doing more.
The results so far haven’t been remotely good enough, but considering the hand we were dealt by the previous incumbent and the rank incompetence of the people running the club it’s a minor miracle that we were playing Europa League group stage football in midweek at all.
The hysteria in the press over the result – as though we were expected to beat a Bundesliga high-flyer this early in the tenure of the manager, with a squad still trying to gel – was absolutely predictable. Indeed, I said as much to a friend of mine coming out of the ground; “we are going to eat a lot of dirt in the next few days at the hands of the press.”
And so it’s proved. A handful – like big Sutton – have remained rational and even calm, understanding that result in the context of the injury crisis, the quality of the opposition and where we are on the curve, but then these are guys who genuinely want to see Ange succeed. We know a lot of those who inhabit the newsrooms and call themselves pundits do not.
Over and over again, they steer the conversation back to how our board didn’t back the guy in the summer, how our club’s overseers were asleep at the wheel and blah blah. Notice that Ange himself never entertains that nonsense, as he knows that’s what it is.
Did we get things done quickly enough? No, we didn’t. The job isn’t done yet. But the manager got backing and will continue to get backing into the next window and as long as he’s at the club. This team will continue to evolve.
To me, the story of the week isn’t anything going on at Parkhead; the story of the week, buried under the phony racism controversy stoked by a club which doesn’t want real scrutiny of its own problems, is Steven Gerrard’s media comments about his own board.
Whilst all the focus has been on us, who is paying attention to what’s going on over there? Gerrard has dropped four points in seven games; he’s six in front of us, but let’s take us out of the discussion for a moment, something the media doesn’t want to do.
We know their record in the SPFL; one defeat, one draw and five wins. But their last three wins have been single goal victories. We know they’ve gotten through two rounds in the League Cup, as we’ve done, and are now in a semi-final.
But what’s their own record in Europe?
Here’s what you never read in the papers. They have played six games in Europe. They have lost four. They drew one, and they have a single victory, by a single goal, at home to FC Alashkert. Like us, they’ve started their Europa League group with two losses in two games, and they weren’t playing German or Spanish teams.
We have a new manager, trying a new system, trying to bed in a new team.
That’s our excuse.
What’s their excuse for that record?
What’s their excuse for what is, by any rationale, a poor start to the season? Gerrard thinks he knows why, and he told the press that the other night. He says the board hasn’t done enough to move the club forward.
And to me, there is no bigger story in Scottish football this week than that Gerrard is blaming his own directors for his own dire European results. It’s typical of him, as he’s nothing but a chequebook manager who hasn’t a clue how to make players better.
Yet imagine, for a minute, we had been in their position going into this campaign. Imagine we had spent not one penny in the transfer market for the second window in a row. Imagine we’d thrown a manager going into a Champions League campaign a couple of freebies and told him to get on with it, and then we’d gone out to a team from Sweden.
Can you imagine the headlines? Can you imagine if we’d then stumbled into the Europa League Groups only to lose the first two games? Can you imagine the reaction if a Celtic manager then went and said what Gerrard did on Thursday night?
The press would be unified in beating the daylights out of our board. And those who weren’t talking about a lack of ambition and hanging the manager out to dry would be talking about something else which is totally absent from the conversation; the financial state of the club itself, and whether or not there were real problems behind the scenes.
We know this. We know that our club would be facing the full inquest. Instead the focus is on our club, with theirs left largely unscrutinised. It’s not that their problems aren’t being discussed, it’s that they aren’t even being acknowledged.
That’s the double standard. That’s what we’re dealing with. That’s why problems over there never really get explored until it’s too late. If we start to hit form, watch as that club unravels before our eyes. It’s already started.