Before this season kicked off, a lot of people were kidding themselves on that there would be an effective title challenge in this campaign. They looked at our blistering form after our sticky start last season and refused to acknowledge what it meant.
Furthermore, they looked at Ibrox’s astonishing run to a European final – astonishing only for the hype that surrounded it, ignoring some objective facts which I never tired of pointing out and don’t tire of pointing out even now (seven wins in twenty-one games, folks) – and drew every wrong conclusion from it that it was possible to draw.
They were a European elite club. We were a very potent domestic force. That led so many of the hacks to make bold predictions about the race going to the final day, with many of them concluding that Europe’s new force would be too strong for us.
I confidently predicting that we would win the title by a double digit margin. Before a ball was kicked this season.
Before a signing was made. Based on what?
On two things; Ange’s team continuing to grow strong, making us far too good for the domestic opposition, and on something just as obvious; neither the Ibrox team nor their manager is that good.
Nothing that has happened so far has surprised me in the least. Champions League football was always going to be a class above us, but I knew that it would be miles too good for their pitiful shower.
Domestic form has been exceptional at Celtic, and dreadful at Ibrox.
We have done everything right in the transfer market, and it was obvious from their signing policy that one crucial player – Aribo – had not been properly replaced, and so it has proved. As it turns out, they’ve not done a great job of replacing Bassey either. They are a one-note team, with only the forwards reliably scoring, if you ignore their penalty taker.
When Ange gave his withering interview earlier, in which he said that Ross County were only ever going to score with a penalty, he might as well have been talking about the Ibrox club. Because there was nothing to them this afternoon and they were lucky to get the point that they did. The issues there go far deeper than problems with the manager.
But the manager … well, let’s face it, he’s not great, is he? If there is a more uninspiring figure in Scottish football, I have yet to encounter him. Van Bronckhorst has never sounded like a guy who exudes authority. Nowadays he sounds like a guy who is one step short of begging for mercy. He is not going to get it, neither from the media or their fans.
In a sense you feel sorry for him if you weren’t so busy laughing at the whole mess he’s made of it, and the fact he’s chosen to manage at a club which is absolutely nuts.
There is something quite relentless about the level of attack he’s under, something that makes you want to root for the underdog. But mostly, we’d be rooting for ourselves because as long as he is there they are never going to get a grip on the problems they have.
But it’s worth remembering that the media which has turned the guns on him was, not so long ago, lauding him from the heavens. We had clowns like Boyd and Ferguson predicting, quite boldly, that he “has Ange’s number” and that success would soon follow. His European “run” was hailed as proof that he was some sort of tactical genius.
This time last season – with the stunning denouement only weeks away – Hugh Keevins was calling him the manager of the year and a more substantial figure than Gerrard, and confident that he could go through the campaign without losing a match.
None of these people – none of them – wants to be reminded of that now.
Instead, he is the butt of jokes and the speculation about him is constant.
Managers openly discuss the position at Ibrox, even some who are already in jobs. Martindale is making a play for it, and his comments about how Hearts might “split the top two” aren’t directed at us but a way of saying that the Ibrox boss is all over the shop. Beale would certainly consider it and Sean Dyche is as good as telling the board over there to hurry up and make a decision.
There is something grubby and unseemly about it all. It reminds me, in a sense, of something I once read about the viper, which hunts and administers bites until it has injected a sufficient amount of poison. But because the poison takes time, the snake has to track and follow its quarry until whatever it is can’t move anymore.
As an analogy for what this guy is enduring right now at the hands of the media you’ll struggle to get better. This is a wounded animal, and they are following behind it now waiting for it to die. They know that it will. A club with more options would act in his interests as well as its own and put him out of his misery. They might do it soon.
But for now he limps on, wounded, with death coursing through his system already, making him weaker with every negative result. If the race was still close he might get to limp on until the summer, but the sight of this Celtic team parading another league trophy would not be a scenario he’d have survived for long at any rate.
If you were going to sack him this would be the perfect time, now, tonight. That gives the club five weeks to get things moving on finding a replacement. There is not a second to waste. Yet he claims that he will talk to them at “some point” during the international break, but he expects to retain their full support anyway, although I can’t image that he does.
Reports on their forums tonight, where they are as furious as they’ve been in a long, long time, suggest that it will cost £4.6 million to sack him and the backroom team. I think that figure is probably a very conservative estimate; it’s a lot of money either way.
As Chuck Palahniuk wrote in Fight Club, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero” and surely Van Bronckhorst, after just a year in his job, is closer to the end than he is to the beginning.
Injuries might offer him some mitigation, but the impression of a club going backwards is inescapable, and really he ought to be doing a lot better with the resources that he has … especially when he’s damned by his own words in relation to how the finance gap is what’s made the difference in the Champions League.
So I would imagine that there is both fear and loathing in the boardroom right now, where the ultimate decision on Van Bronckhorst is going to be made. Both of those emotions are certainly running rampant on the forums, where they do realise that if they have to pay big money to get this guy off the books that replacing him, which will cost more, will eat into their transfer budget … and that’s the last thing they need with a full summer rebuild required.
There might be more money if they were guaranteed Champions League football again, but they also know that Group Stage qualification is not a given unless they win the title … and as one of their fan forum members pointed out tonight, their team could win every single game they have left in the league and if we did the same (minus the games against them) our goal difference might still be enough to secure it.
All that’s left now for Van Bronckhorst is the inevitability of when.
If no longer applies here. He’s a dead man walking, and not just because of his own failings but because, as Ange pointed out, we’re just too ruthless now to give anything up and that means that ultimately, he’ll fail to do what he was hired for, to make them champions.
At this stage, he isn’t even making them contenders.
November 12, 2022 at 9:44 pm
November 12, 2022 at 11:08 pm
David O'Neill says:
November 13, 2022 at 12:00 am
Ryan Ellis says:
November 13, 2022 at 12:34 am
November 13, 2022 at 1:52 am
Kevan McKeown says:
November 13, 2022 at 9:09 am
Johnny Green says:
November 13, 2022 at 10:18 am
November 13, 2022 at 12:18 pm
November 13, 2022 at 1:45 pm
November 13, 2022 at 1:53 pm
November 13, 2022 at 4:24 pm
Good article, James. Even 9 points clear, we can take nothing for granted. The corruption that is endemic within the SFA-particularly the refereeing department-will make sure of that. Cheats then. Cheats now. Cheats forever… unless someone within the PLC grows a pair.
We dont them to get Beale.
Stay Gio! Give that man a contract extension.
Had the sevco directors not listened to the mad zombies the money they would have got from participating in the Sydney Cup could have been used to pay off van the man…and, had that happened they could have brought in new manager who could have been going to Australia for a perfect warm climate team building break..pity it’s not happening:)
Hey James, Beale is a QPR fan and he’s managing QPR. He made it known he wasn’t interested in the wolves job and they’re an EPL team, he’s certainly not going to the Huns. As for Dyche, there’s more chance of Pope Francis going there than him. I hope Stevie Me comes back so Ange can hand his arse to him 4 times a season ?
shades of lennon in 10IAR season and the huns team of 20/21 were nowhere near the standard of celtic this season…..and our board and CEO were every bit as useless than their counterparts across the river…even more so….they prolonged the agony until february….then they engineered the humiliation of the howe saga…then we “lucked” into ange…
makes you wonder about club directors/boards/ceo’s….
all this shit…comes in cycles….
Personally couldnae care less who they get in if they sack GVB. They never learn and it’ll be the same superhype and over excited predictions from the pro ibrox media and support, before he’s even taken his first game, whoever it is that gets anointed….sorry appointed. Ah think the sheer witch hunt goin on right now for VB is really unfair on the guy, especially after all their rantin and deluded braggin when he arrived. Media and support equally culpable.
No matter who they employ as their manager, and as long as Ange is at Celtic Park, they will be playing second fiddle to us. I am expecting Ange to stay with us for at least 5 years and that will be enough to give us Title number 56 and enough time for Ange to make forward strides in Europe, So, whether Gio goes now or in the Summer it is immaterial, they are too far behind our rearview mirror to be of any concern.
If Ange continues in the manner he has, and with the backing of the board, we only need to reach 55 to overtake the rangers record of 54. We must continue to remind them and undermine but emphasise the continuation lie. They never ever achieved 55 due to liquidation. Rangers died in 2012. Rangers are a dead club with feet dragging grief ridden zombies following a son of Frankenstein new club. However, 56/57/58 would really sting their ring to a new Vaseline high.
I hope I live to see that and independence of course
SSMPM – Amen to that, brother.
James, you start your article reminding us all how misleading Sevco’s run to Seville was. I agree totally that they received the luck of the devil to get to that final. The thing I’d like to point out about their run that no one seems to ever mention is that Erling Halland goal machine guy who has just scored 18 goals for Manchester City was missing injured for Dortmund for both Sevco ties. I suspect history would have been a wee bit different had he played. Just saying.
Fans can be easily swayed especially by the media etc.
I am sure ipox has put the message out to under mine him.
Last season we said they were rubbish. VB has had his two better players ripped from under-him. He is forced to play Kent and Moreorless who want to leave. So he was dealt a bad hand.
Coupled to that the board has not spent any money so he was doomed to fail.
Against St Johnstone that had +20 shots, hit the woodwork at least 3 times, the fact that they did not score should not be placed on the manager.
But he is seen as the easy target. We should not be gloating about this. In fact its nothing to do with us.
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