Celtic Are Losing The Game Of Inches. But That Can Be Easily Turned Around.

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I think the greatest sports movie ever is Any Given Sunday, Oliver Stone’s crazy movie about American football which has so much depth and so much action and energy that watching it is nearly exhausting.

For all that, it’s the only film I’ve ever watched four times in one day and considering its length that’s quite some statement to make.

The movie culminates in a play-off game after a season in which the Miami Sharks have been buffered and battered from one disaster to another. But there’s enough quality in the squad that they’ve gotten to the penultimate stages of the campaign.

The team is badly divided though.

The starting quarterback, Cap Rooney, has found himself the subject of jibes because of his age. The young up and comer, Willie Beamen, who has been the star of the season, doesn’t command any respect in the dressing room. The ageing coach tries to hold it all together, but not long before the divisions were responsible for a colossal defeat in which the squad finally shattered under the weight of the jealousies and bitterness and rivalries and personal animosities which were coursing through the side.

Having told them, that night, he was ashamed to be their coach he now tries to bring them together and the speech that he gives – The Inches Speech as it’s come to be known – is without a doubt the best that has ever been written for a film in the genre.

Its tremendous, it really is and Pacino kills it.

The crux of the speech is that the game is won and lost in tiny little increments. “The margin for error is so small … one half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One half a second too slow or two fast and you don’t quite catch it … the inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.”

And it’s beautiful because it’s true.

That’s where we were brilliant at the start of this season, in being that inch ahead of the opposition, reacting better in those seconds that decide how games go, and it’s in that inch where we’re not quite doing it just now.

We are out of the Champions League because we’re not winning the game of inches at the moment.

Our passing, our runs off the ball, our movement, our finishing … the trademarks of a great side are all there, all present, and you can see them.

But too often right now, we’re that one half a step too late or too early.

That one half a second too fast or too slow.

Back last season, when Giakoumakis was struggling, I said that I would worry about whether we’d bought a dud on the day he stopped getting into the right positions.

He was doing everything right except putting the ball in the net, and when you are doing everything else the way he was then that will come eventually, and it did.

Aside from some people getting hysterical, almost all the Celtic fans I’ve spoken to and almost all of the sites are keeping a cool head about what we watched on Tuesday night and analysing it in a sensible way.

We can all see that but for some bad finishing we’d be in a much better place than we are … the question is why aren’t we putting the ball in the net with the same regularity we were at the start of the campaign?

I’ve written this week about the mechanics of pressure; it’s important to recognise just how close we are to being a lethal machine.

It is, literally, a matter of inches. It will come.

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  • Frankiebhoy says:

    At Ibrox home of the Hun Liverpool 7 sevco1 all my days I will pray to Allah for giving the pool wee mo Salah hh

  • Nick66 says:

    Agree James, the frustration of the fan v the frustration of the player. We have the time to watch from the wide angle, the player has eye level instant reaction to contend with. My father always says, when the pundits/commentator sit back and comment, aye let’s see him do better in the split second. Some ex players can judge through experience and make fair assessment but sometimes I think they forget about the time they were that split second off, your inches analogy. Right now Celtic are just out of sync, totally curable when the “inch” becomes a sixteenth, 25mil a 5mil. 10 seconds, 4.
    In other words we’ll click and when we do the nay Sayers will be in the Van.

  • Johnny Green says:

    The inches gap in domestic football, with the right focus and effort, can be easily bridged, we have done that, and we will continue to do it to our benefit. An inch in Europe, as we have found out, can quickly become a chasm and we have a long way to go before we bridge that gap. For now, the domestic inches are there to be extended, to be improved upon and to propel us to a level that will stand us in good stead for Europe when it comes around again in the future.

    Right now, it’s time to show Scotland that Celtic, their Champions, are ready to assert ourselves once again. We never stop!

  • Iljas Baker says:

    This is wishful thinking rather than proper analysis hence the reference to a movie script rather than facts. How about this: CL 4 games and one goal scored not by Maeda, Kyogo or Big Gio but by Jota. And how many conceded? And you think we’re inches away from turning things around! Dream on.

    There are plenty of Celtic fans beginning to question the abilities of our Japanese players and the reluctance of our manager to see the obvious: you need to play at a high level in CL for 90 minutes, not 60, some of our players don’t look like they can improve that much, variation in tactics might better suit the players we have, you shouldn’t count on outscoring the opposition every game if you are not making strong efforts to stop them scoring. This is especially true in CL

  • Gerry says:

    I agree in general with the sentiments and think it comes down to composure. Our conversion to shots on target ratio domestically is 40-45% but in the champions league it’s 10-12% whic is incredibly low especially as our opponents are converting at 45-50%. If we’d taken our chances at our domestic rate we’d probably be on 4 points and in with a shout rather than one and out.

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