Let the scribes write what they will about Celtic’s Champions League campaign from Hell; not one of the nights, as disappointing as they have been, comes close to the epic beating Ibrox’s team took tonight from a Liverpool side who aren’t nearly at their best.
They might as well surrender the points in Naples right now, because anything other than another proper doing will be a mercy killing. Celtic fans did not kid themselves about beating the likes of Madrid. Our disappointment comes from knowing we should have done better in Germany and then last night at home. We did not delude ourselves about being an elite club.
For most of the last two months of last season, as we watched incredulously as a side winning seven games in total in Europe got to a final I tried to tell people that it was a consequence of two things; luck and a poverty of genuine Super Clubs at that level. When Ibrox drew three of them in this group I knew it would be brutal for them and all the delusions of grandeur were going to be smashed on the rocks of teams which would consider them cannon fodder.
Tonight should be the low point. Napoli could yet make that look like a Swedish massage. The Ibrox club is reeling tonight in a way Celtic are not. Our fans have responded in a measured way to what happened last night because we’re still a work in progress and didn’t try to convince ourselves that we would march all the way to the final.
Ibrox fans just never listen though. They never comprehend that outside of their bubble is a harsh reality which will not forever be kept at bay. They are an ordinary team, one we swatted aside earlier in the season with measured ease.
The biggest moment tonight, more even than the humiliations heaped on them by the goals, may yet turn out to be the injury to Connor Goldson. Whereas Celtic look as if they could cope with the loss of key players because of our squad depth they are down to the bare bones of theirs, especially at the back. An injury to their best defender could be critical.
They are in big, big trouble and taking a beating like that is demoralising for any group of players. This is our advantage and we simply must press it. They don’t play until Sunday; on Saturday we must go out and smash Hibs aside and re-state our intent.
All over Ibrox is shrouded in fear tonight. Fear that this result will send shockwaves through their club. Fear that it could yet be repeated, and even bested, in Italy by a side who look as if they are capable of going the full way. Fear that their domestic season may yet unravel completely as their squad struggles to cope with the schedule.
The loathing? Go online and read it for yourself. The list of people they hate grows ever longer. It must be exhausting to be them. I’ll never know, and I’m thankful for it.