What do we have to do to get the credit we deserve?
We’re now well into a lengthy run of games without defeat. We’ve got one hand on the league trophy and we’re in a semi-final which, if we win it, puts the other hand on the Scottish Cup with the League Cup already in the bag. We are six points and many goals clear and we are here in spite of the worst start to a campaign any Celtic side has made in decades.
Of course, that was before we had the team fully in place and before Ange’s ideas had started to percolate through the squad. We all have moments when we understood that in spite of initial misgivings that this was going to work; my own epiphany to that effect came on the night we utterly dismantled AZ at Celtic Park.
We didn’t have the full package in place, but I knew that we were on the right road.
As to when I started thinking we were good enough to wrest the title away from them, that’s also fresh in the memory. I knew from the night the summer transfer window closed and we had secured the central defender who I thought was the final piece in the early jigsaw, and I wrote then that the first team to put together a long unbeaten run would do it.
Even then, I fancied that would be us.
January made it official. We were already well into that run and we had strengthened the club in the right places, in the right way, and amazingly once again with the right players.
A strong squad got even stronger, and when that window closed I knew it was ours to lose.
When we soundly thrashed them at Celtic Park, to move top, I said that we would stay there, that it would be our position for the rest of the campaign. That night we showed everyone how far ahead of them we had moved, how we had the better players, how the manager had theirs in his pocket.
It was comprehensive I thought it would be obvious to even the dumbest hack.
And yet they clutched at any straw they could find in order not to admit it.
They talked up their players as if they hadn’t been embarrassed. None could comprehend what was obvious to us, that we had decisively moved away from their favourite club.
The number of them who pinned their hopes on yesterday to prove that Celtic Park was some sort of freak, fluke, result … dear oh dear. When the home team scored yesterday in the opening minutes that must have seemed like the vindication of their beliefs.
But it was yet another false Ibrox dawn … by half time we were in the lead, having failed to play our part in their fantasy.
We simply would not crumble.
We refused to let it affect our approach.
We did not get spooked or rattled.
We simply found our rhythm bit by bit so that by the midway point of the second half it looked vastly more likely that we would score a third than their club would get the equaliser.
We are the better team.
We were better organised, better drilled and with better footballers.
It is a fact. The league table isn’t lying, the League Cup being at Celtic Park isn’t an aberration, our place at Hampden is not some happy accident.
Yet some in the media still will not accept this simple fact, or acknowledge it in any way.
Some of them have talked about us having more heart or desire.
Jackson thinks it was desire that won over need rather than simply narrowing it down to the fact that we just have better players in every part of the team. And we’ve proved this conclusively.
What will it take for them to admit it and face up to it?
A Scottish Cup beating at Hampden followed by another at Celtic Park?
Well, that we can – and I’m sure we will – provide, because we’re two for two against Van Bronckhorst and we even gave them the benefit of a goal of a start, at home, and still cleaned their clock.
Apart from their bizarre fantasy of winning the Europa League, we’ve narrowed their season to a single 90 minutes.
They will come to Celtic Park hoping to avoid a doing and the league being won by a double digit margin (it will be), but their season comes down to the Scottish Cup semi-final and before we get to it the press will again try to convince itself that this game will come down to need and that the form book will go out the window.
In the meantime, we’ll prepare and get ourselves ready, and then beat them convincingly.
Still, some in the press corps will refuse to accept what’s in front of them.
The more they underestimate us, the more inevitable our final triumph becomes though.