I am glad to see that Joe Hart is getting the praise his excellent form deserves. There is a tendency in our media sometimes not to give a Celtic player any credit, even when it is clearly warranted. Hart has been excellent. But a part of me remains suspicious about this sudden generosity on behalf of the press, and I actually know why I think so.
Focussing on the big keeper means that the press doesn’t have to focus on the excellent form of the Celtic defence. And if they don’t have to focus on that then nobody will expect them to focus on something else; how much better our defence is than the one across the city. It’s the story nobody in the press wants to write, although it’s a fact.
The league table bears it out; we have the best defensive record in the top flight. And this is even more remarkable when you consider the shaky start we had to the campaign. As this defence grows in confidence the comparative numbers are just going to look better and better. What a contrast to the club we share a city with.
They sit atop the table, of course, but that’s largely a result of our own self-inflicted wounds. They have dropped points in four games, we’ve dropped points in five. The form hasn’t been great on either front, but our goals for column is higher and so is our goals against. Everyone was talking about the former not that long ago, but no-one discusses the latter.
Every mistake with our defence is ruthlessly highlighted, and I do mean ruthlessly. Individual players are targeted and mocked and put under even greater scrutiny. And yet our shut-out record is a sold 50% in the league thus far, which is amazing for a side in transition, one that has rebuilt their entire backline inside of a single summer window.
But the media never makes allowances for that, nor highlights that actually we’ve done pretty well anyway. One of the reasons is that they just hate to give us praise. The other is much simpler. It would force an examination of the defending at Ibrox.
The defence over there is dreadful, alternating between embarrassing and disastrous. More than once this season, they’ve been opened up far more easily than any defence at Celtic Park has.
Tavernier has value to their team as an attacking weapon, and he is formidable in that role, but he’s a lousy defender and always has been. The stories about Goldson being good enough to play for England were nuts; his recent performances wouldn’t get him into the Scotland team. Balogun is too slow and cumbersome. They can’t find an effective player on the left.
The stats bear out how chaotic their defence has been, but they don’t do justice to watching the highlights of some of it; shambolic would be a charitable way to describe it.
Yet how often have you seen this scrutinised in the media?
How many reports have there been on the individuals at the heart of it all?
One paper this morning tried to make out that Hart’s presence has steadied our ship – which it has – whilst they have chopped and changed their keeper, and they seem to be suggesting that Hart is the reason for our defensive strength and that once Ibrox decides who its first choice is that their own prospects will improve; this just lets their defending off the hook.
All this is classic spin, the press keeping Ibrox from the pressure of scrutiny whilst it focuses the laser beams on us. It is transparent … and it useless. Ignoring the issues over there will not make them go away, although they hope that by continuing to pick apart our manager and his team selections, not to mention targeting the players, that they can dent us.
This is nothing we haven’t seen before.