The party is delayed, not done away with. I told you guys I would be back to do a piece on the big picture and I feel like there’s no time like the present. The big picture is still rosy and bright.
But before I start let’s get a few things sorted away.
We had one shot on target today. One. At home. That should tell you the vast difference between Celtic when they play on the front foot and Celtic when they sit back and let the opposition play. We should have gone for their throats today and the mood would be one of raucous celebration rather than sober reflection and the cancelling of parties.
This team has gotten here by doing the precise opposite of what we did today.
That’s what makes it hard to take.
Because had we played the game that this manager says he wants to make second nature to us there would be no more debate or discussion about this; we would be champions in all the ways that matter, needing only a draw in the last three games to put a ribbon on it and give Ange his first title in Scotland.
That it is undoubtedly going to come.
That we will win this league, is not really in the slightest doubt. I’ve spent three or four months now counting down the games; I was just looking forward to being able to leave that behind. We’re not there yet though.
Still, it’s another one out of the way, another day closer to the triumph we’ve all been waiting for since winning the last game against them at Celtic Park.
For myself, I always knew that once we got ahead this season we wouldn’t be shifted.
My concern is not that we might yet conspire to throw this away, but that our approach today – and at Hampden – was just patently stupid and such a total break from the kind of football Ange promised us and which we’ve seen all season long.
Because that football is what got us here, that football is what has put us within touching distance of the triumph we crave. I just struggle to see why we didn’t stick with it these past two games against their club. All we had to do was do what we’ve been doing, … and we went with the cautious approach instead. It’s baffling.
Look, the manager will finish this season as the title winning boss and the manager of the year. I know that he will. The draw did suit us. The draw did give us the bare minimum of what we wanted, which was to leave the field no worse off than we were before. The draw doesn’t help them. It doesn’t give them the slightest chance of overturning this.
Over the piece, Ange has done the business. We’ll win this league in spite of a stuttering start for which nobody can blame him at all. We will win this league on the back of a hugely consequential, and even more satisfying, unbeaten run.
And once we’ve done so, the question will be asked as to where this title win ranks amongst the best we’ve all ever witnessed. I’m on the record as saying it will be my most satisfying one since we stopped Rangers winning ten in a row, and I will sure as Hell celebrate it like that, although I’ll have to do it in Spain rather than in Scotland now.
But there is something to ponder here, and it’s as worth saying now, after that draw, as it would have been worth saying had we won comfortably. What this team is on the brink of achieving is almost as remarkable as that which the Invincibles did.
When you stop and think about it, and you recognise that most of our dropped points came in that early part of the campaign where the manager was finding his feet and his team was still being put together one brick at a time, it inspires an interesting thought.
Had we started the way we’ve gone since, we might well now – indeed I think we’d certainly be – on the brink of an unbeaten league campaign at the very least … and maybe even that second Invincible Treble with it.
That’s how good the form has been, and it may offer us a tantalising glimpse of how good this team can potentially get.
The signs are all positive, and as pissed off as I still am with what we watched I do not accept, for one minute, some of the garbage being talked elsewhere about how there are still “gaps all over this team” and other such talk … this is as strong a Celtic squad as I can remember and it is nowhere near at its best yet, even on its best days.
So this season is going to end with the title back at Celtic Park. Of that there is not really the slightest doubt anymore. Because yes, Ange is correct to assert that they needed to win and we only needed to hold our own … they are the ones who came up well short today when you look at it through the long lens of a long league campaign.
We are six clear and I still reckon we will finish the season with a bigger winning margin than that.
On top of that, I’m not at all surprised, although I’m quite pleased, to see that my most on-the-nose prediction from earlier in the season now looks a certainty; 90 points is the magic number.
When I told my old man that at the start of the season I thought it would be in the ballpark.
When I repeated it after the first six games or so I think he and everyone I said it to thought I’d lost the plot, but we have gone on exactly the kind of run that wins leagues … and we are so close to this one that you can taste it.
There are three games left. Get ready to party.