This time last year most of us had come to some awful conclusions about what the next few months would bring. Things were not as bad as they would later get, but most of us were pretty clear that our club was in freefall, and with no end in sight.
It had been coming apart for months before then.
The board had promised a “January review” but there was widespread disillusionment about what it would bring. The first of our three trophies had already been shamefully surrendered. The European defeats against the Czech’s had infuriated the fan-base.
A match against the club from Ibrox had resulted in one of the most disgracefully gutless displays from a Celtic side playing at home that we had witnessed domestically in many a year.
Worst of all, the manager had unspooled in spectacular fashion, and the dressing room looked, for all the world, irretrievably lost.
The players occasionally talked up his skills and pledged to do all they could for him, but their displays out of the pitch spoke volumes for the internal state of the club. Those who didn’t have one foot on the door must have been considering it.
The worst was yet to come. Dubai was the ultimate debacle, summed up by the club’s ridiculous defence that it was not a jolly but a “warm winter training camp”, an explanation which stretched credulity to the snapping point when it was revealed that numerous staff members had gone along for the ride and that they’d taken Christopher Jullien – on crutches at that point and with no chance of seeing first team football for months.
The club’s disconnect from the fans could not have been better summed up, except that it had already had been with the erection of barriers in front of the ground. They became the ultimate symbols of a distance and division between fans and the club which reeked of boardroom contempt. It seemed to radiate out of Celtic Park at us all.
Even more ridiculous, the club then showed how those inside the walls were also operating at cross purposes and unable to get their act together. The decision to take the entire operation to a virus hot-spot resulted in the almost inevitable outbreak in the squad. The government and governing bodies reacted as they had vowed to.
Our squad was cut to the bone for crucial games. And all the while we were being pounded in the media every single day for the momentous nature of the mess we were making.
Peter Lawwell, realising that even the optics of Dubai stunk to high heaven, offered an apology on behalf of Celtic.
Those of us who had been hoping for some sign of humility were grateful for it. Within days it had been utterly undermined by a deranged rant from Neil Lennon; unapologetic, arrogant, out of touch and pushing baseless conspiracy theories.
It summed up the collapse in standards and professionalism at the club when the CEO and the manager were so obviously on different wavelengths. And of course, the shambles was not to end there although Lennon was gone by the end of February.
When the bells tolled on 1 January 2021, I don’t know a single fan who still believed that we could win the title. I don’t know one who believed that the manager could be trusted to spend any transfer money; indeed, he didn’t get one single penny to improve the team. I don’t know anyone who thought that the board could be trusted even to sack him.
And all of it with an unparalleled rebuilding job looming in the summer. A rebuilding job which the board itself severely undermined with its failed pursuit of Howe.
There are still issues at Celtic. Most people understand that there are people on the board who have been there for far too long. The appointment of Michael Nicholson generated widespread horror for what it portends for any notion of a long term plan.
But there is no question whatsoever about the mood being vastly better, about the club’s position being vastly better, about the professionalism and standards having returned, about the optimism amongst the fans. It helps that the first trophy has been secured.
If we were only a little less far behind in the league or even in front, I think the mood would actually be euphoric. It is certainly a growing confidence, a growing certitude about the year which is in front of us.
We can see where Ange is taking us.
To a better place even than now, and we’re already in a far better place than we were.