After today I think we can safely say that we’re back. It was the same performance as we’ve been watching, but it came with the goals this time and that’s the difference. The players clicked, the result was great and we put five goals in the plus column.
Everything we’ve been hoping for came to pass today. Our so-called fringe players – a ridiculous term under Ange – showed us what they have, with Forrest’s hat-trick the big highlight, but the goals from Giakoumakis and Maeda were welcome too.
There was a general belief amongst the fans that if we scored early in a match that the rewards would come, and from the minute we got the first today there was a certain inevitability about the rest of the game. Even when we conceded at 3-0 – and BBC Sport Scotland were saying that Hibs were “back in it” there was no doubt as to the outcome, which we made sure of when we went up the park and scored almost at once.
Everything clicked today, and we converted the chances we made. Even with what seemed, on the surface, to be a team without some “big names” in it, we strolled. Not that it should have come as any surprise, because this is what you build a squad for.
Needless to say, I was particularly pleased to see Maeda getting his goal; I said this morning I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a sub and brought on when the game was out of sight. It was the perfect time to introduce him and, of course, he scored … when this team has confidence it is very hard to stop and you could see that this afternoon.
Mooy was brilliant. O’Riley was great in a position he would be making his own if the player he was keeping out of the team wasn’t the club captain. The quality of Haksabanovic is more obvious by the day, although he only played for 45 minutes.
But of course the star of the show was James Forrest, the Famous Name, who I’ll do a full piece on tomorrow. He is now part of the elite 100 Goals Club at Celtic, and no-one can say he has not earned it as a magnificent servant to us.
In the aftermath, Ange hit back at the club’s critics and I thought he was fully entitled to do so. He started by outlining the qualities of this team, before slamming those whose comments have annoyed him in the past few weeks.
“It’s hunger, it’s ambition and it’s who we want to be. It’s why I thought some of the comments were ridiculous coming out of the Champions League about our performances. We set out to play a certain way and we have done that. We have fallen short in areas where I think, in the most part, we can improve. It’s not through a failure of endeavour or will, and we will never change our approach. That is what we wanted to show today, and I think that is what the players wanted to show today; what kind of team we are and what kind of team we want to be.”
And that’s the crux of it. That’s what it’s all about.
That today was the “statement” performance he and the players have been threatening for weeks. We all wondered, in the aftermath of last weekend, if the corner had been turned. It’s clear that this team has found its shooting boots again, and its confidence, after a rocky spell. They are going to need every ounce of belief in the weeks to come.
But we’re back, and that’s the message from today. Now it’s up to others to see if they can keep up with us.