It’s starts with fear. Of course it does.
When you think you are indestructible and suddenly someone has got through your defences and hit you, and you taste that adrenaline … that’s scary. I’ve seen tough talkers in pubs brought down to earth with one punch from someone who has sat quietly through attention seeking twattery but won’t tolerate being made a mug of.
Mike Tyson said it best; “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Some types, they only think they’re hard. The first encounter with a real world situation shows them what they really have instead of a backbone.
So think about it like that. Start with the fear.
This Ibrox team which got to a European final had convinced itself that it was something special. Before even the Belgians, Livingston had rocked them for 45 minutes until their own manager decided to put every man behind the ball.
The performance in the European game was a horror show. I didn’t think they were that great at Ibrox either, but they did enough in that one to get the win. They rode their luck to get something against PSV in midweek, although I thought the Dutch side were terribly inefficient. But this was in the offing today. It’s been in the post from the start.
This team knows it’s not as good as the hype surrounding it. And some of those players are afraid of coming up short. Coming up short of the hysteria. It was foolish ever to believe it in the first place. On top of that, they’ve convinced themselves that they are a better team than us. So fear. And doubt. That’s what they take with them to Eindhoven.
That’s what they will be bringing with them to Celtic Park.
Before then, they might be out of the Champions League and looking at a rough schedule of Thursday night football games meaning Sunday kick-offs, allowing us to stretch ahead of them week on week, at a time when they might already be a bit behind. That’s scary as well, and that has to be focussing their minds somewhat even this early.
That’s the fear. The loathing? Well, it’s everywhere, pouring off their forums and into cyberspace, most of it directed at Willie Collum. There is a certain poetry, an irony, in that as he had a dreadful first half in which they got three major decisions in their favour.
But I thought his second half was much better. If the Lundstram sending off is only a yellow then there’s a little justice in that too considering the number of times he gets away with murder on the pitch as Ibrox’s “enforcer.” He’s a thug.
We’ll cover the second red later. It deserves an article all its own, but that decision is 100% right no matter who wants to gurn and wail and moan over it.
They should reserve some of the loathing for their players, like Morelos … and Kent, who did a few neat shimmies but never really looked like he was capable of turning them into goals or assists. Their best asset is a guy who never misses penalties, because he gets to take them so often you’d think he could hit the target with a blindfold on.
But he was woefully poor for the first equaliser, in the week he signed a new deal because of his “commitment” to Ibrox, a commitment which has never once been tested by a club south of the border. Why’s that? Because of how easily the Hibs player turned him for that cross ball into the box. Because players do that to him with regularity.
And Connor Goldson? Well, you can see their continued fantasy that he’s some sort of super-star who could play for England mugging them time and time again and it will continue to. If he played for Celtic he would have his own internet meme factory. The media would be on his case all day, every day, week in and week out.
How about their manager? He sanctioned two hugely expensive player signings with the Bassey money … and they’ve barely played an hour between them. If he was a Celtic manager, people would be asking if he really did sign those guys after all because there have been some fairly important games of late, and neither has been in them.
But the loathing is directed at Collum. I love that. Because he was coming off at half-time as their new pin up boy and hero. How quickly things change.
He didn’t cost them today. They cost themselves. Defending a one goal lead, even with nine men, isn’t Mission: Impossible. But this has been coming, and when it is coming sometimes there’s just no avoiding it. The loathing will flare, but die down.
The fear remains. And they are right to be afraid, of course.