This season is only just underway, but still it has rocked the perceptions of a lot of people who thought they had it figured out before it began. They never expected Ange to succeed last year. So of course, they had to explain it away as some kind of one off.
As a movie buff, I quite often reach into film lore and arcana to explain something in a simple way and so forgive me for doing so again here.
They viewed our success last season the way Apollo Creed of Rocky II viewed the Italian Stallion taking him the distance in the first film. When we meet Creed in the second film he is consumed by anger and disbelief that some “lucky club fighter” was able to hold his own with him in the ring. Fortunately, for Apollo, an explanation is available to hand.
Back in the first movie, at the point where Rocky was training hard every day punching the meat in the slaughterhouse, Apollo was more interested in the financial projections and the rewards of the fight itself, which he just assumed he’d show up and win.
There is actually a moment, in the first film, when Duke Evers, Creed’s trainer, is watching TV and sees an interview with Rocky in “the meat house” going about his business, and he expressly warns Creed that his opponent is taking the fight seriously and has no intention of being anybody’s chump. Creed mumbles something from behind him about also being serious, but he’s sitting at a large table going over bank statements at the time, and Duke is troubled.
He’s even more troubled during the fight itself. He sees that Rocky is more than just a lucky fighter, and that he’s possessed of a hunger and a will to win that Apollo no longer has.
Creed wins the first fight – the place where the analogy doesn’t quite fit – but it’s on a points decision and not the way he thought he would triumph. It’s pointed out, earlier in the film, by Rocky himself, that no-one had ever taken Creed the distance before.
For all that, Apollo deludes himself that a re-match will be easy, that this time he’ll be up for it and this time he’ll end it in the first round, Duke is not so sure.
There are a handful in the media who understand full well what they watched last season. They are the guys predicting that Celtic will win because we’ve just become too good and are too hard to stop. The rest continue to operate in a fantasy world, the likes of which Duke sees Apollo in. What a lot of people don’t remember is that he, alone of Creed’s circle, is not just nervous about the rematch but tries to talk Apollo out of even taking it on.
Those looking at it honestly and sincerely understand that Celtic has become a winning machine. They aren’t kidding themselves on that Ange got lucky because he caught the Ibrox club either unprepared or with their eyes on Europe. They aren’t kidding themselves that Ange’s style was so radical that it caught teams cold but with a summer to study it everyone is now ready for us, which is what some of the more stupid of them evidently believe.
Even today, Jackson – who I’ll be talking about later – is stickling fast to the view that they lost the league rather than Celtic won it … a view you can only sustain if you completely ignore the 32 game unbeaten run we went on including winning at his favourite ground.
Our start to the season has the BBC trying to find negatives in a comfortable away win, albeit one where the crucial goals didn’t come until late, and with Jackson in a fury at the idea that his own club might “throw it away” again.
He ignores the reality that it’s our form that is going to determine whether or not we win the league and not somebody else’s. Even if they are dropping points left, right and centre it is not going to be a net gain for us unless we’re racking up the wins.
We’ve gone, then, to a tough away ground and won easily and we’ve beaten one of the better teams from the Premier Sports Cup early rounds, an Aberdeen side who many think will be up there and fighting near the top when the season ends.
That we’ve done it without even necessarily playing our best football should be an even greater indicator of how strong we are, and whilst everyone has to acknowledge that we’ve gotten the results they continue looking for proof that we’re certain to slip up because whatever voodoo got us through last season must surely have worn off.
Apollo Creed trained like Hell for the re-match, and still lost. And he started aggressively and well and for a while it looked like he might just do what he spent the weeks and months before the fight threatening to. What makes the media’s delusion all the harder to believe is that it’s their favourite club, not ours, which has had the stuttering start.
We play them early next month, and whilst none of us are arrogant or stupid enough to be labelling that one a league decider we know we can inflict a serious psychological blow on them if we keep winning until then and beat them in that game.
Our mantra is “we don’t stop.” The thing that should worry the hacks – and which obviously does – is that sooner or later it starts to look a lot like “we won’t stop.” That’s what they fear. The signs of it are what they are already finding so hard to take.