Sometimes you can tell what someone else is thinking so easily, and clearly, that it’s as if you had climbed into their head. When David Martindale said the other day that Celtic are the benchmark, the team to beat, that could have been an acknowledgment that we’re the best team in this country. But coming from him, I know what it really was.
Martindale’s side, regrettably, has a decent record against us. We sometimes seem to get his team at the worst possible time for ourselves, and they are very adept at turning the matches into clashes of footballing philosophies. If our goal is to play the trailblazing game, all front line stuff, all attack, then theirs is to play anti-football.
Their performance at Celtic Park last season, where they put every man behind the ball, snatched a draw and he crowed about it from the rooftops, and which the press gave him credit for, was, to me, quite simply the worst game I have ever had the misfortune to attend. It was a classic case of one team trying to win and the other trying to stop them, by whatever means necessary.
At the end, I wrote an excoriating piece in which I used Alan Durban’s infamous quote; “If you want entertainment, go and watch clowns”, which he offered as mitigation when his own team had once attempted the same brand of toxic stuff against Arsenal. The records show that Durban’s team lost that game regardless. Martindale’s got a point.
But I didn’t think he deserved a shred of credit for it and said so. Scottish football has this peculiar love for spoiler football, and mark my words that’s what we’ll be up against when we take the pitch for our game on Sunday. The worst brand of it imaginable.
And you know what? Having gotten something at Ibrox last week, Martindale thinks that he’s about to do the same against us. He will send his players out to play exactly the same way. To sit deep. To come forward only on the counter. To hack and kick and play for every decision with one eye on VAR, which I think he believes might swing it.
Martindale’s praise for us is loaded with self-interest. He holds us up as the benchmark so that he can stand there at the end of the game with his chest out and boast about how he’s now gotten a result against both clubs. It’s all about him.
Perhaps he thinks a big job is opening up soon, and is making his play for it? There are actually fans over on their forums who think that would be a good idea.
The thing of it is, of course, that we are the benchmark. We are the best team in the country. And as we roll into Livingston we’ll have that fact firmly in mind. I expect us to go out there and stamp that superiority all over his team. I expect us to win comfortably.
Then at the end see what praise we get. You already know the answer, as I do.