Before the game I talked about the Battle of Pharsalus and about how Caesar relied, that day, on one thing above all else; that his troops were, at the time, probably the most battle hardened military force on the planet. Some of the men under his command had been on the front lines of his wars for over ten years. They were elite.
How good they were can be summed up in the way that battle was one; he peeled off six cohorts of his best fighting men and he put them on the right hand side of the battle, where the enemy cavalry vastly outnumbered his own.
To these men he gave a simple instruction; they were not to break. They were to use their “throwing javelins” as spears and drive back Pompey’s horses.
Once they had accomplished that, they smashed into Pompey’s exposed left flank and routed his forces, which before the battle had outnumbered Caesar’s men by two to one and by seven to one in horses. The plan is still marvelled over today as one of the greatest examples of military improvisation in history.
Imagine the discipline and the mental strength it takes to stand amongst those six cohorts and prepare for a heavy cavalry charge. It takes a certain type of soldier, a certain confidence and an unbreakable will. Those men are not just forged by combat though. There is something in them which makes them different to other men.
Watching the game at the weekend, I was struck by how Cameron Carter Vickers again rose to the moment, to the challenge, to the demands made on him by the manager and by the needs of the team. He is a warrior. He is the sort of man Caesar would have recognised, and to whom he would have given the honour of a place in one of those six mighty cohorts.
What a performance he gave. It really was exceptional.
That last ditch tackle, late in the game, which stopped them making it 3-1, was world class and he’s not had nearly enough praise for it. That did more than just keep us in it. That did more than give us a lift. It must have planted the seeds of anxiety in them.
Carter Vickers is a fantastic footballer, and a fantastic anchor for our defence. The more you watch him the more you wonder if he’s the most significant signing of the Ange Postecoglou era. On the day we brought him in on loan – the last day of the summer window last season – I thought it was a good deal and the missing piece of the jigsaw.
I was elated when we confirmed the signing this summer, and that the club was willing to pay the cost of that deal was a sign that people inside Celtic had, by then, the appropriate appreciation for his skillset.
When he was briefly out of the side earlier in the season you could see how big a loss it was. He wasn’t on the pitch the day we lost for the only time in this campaign … I think that is a significant fact. I think it explains much of what happened that day.
There are certain positions on the pitch where the impact of a player affects other parts of the team. A good goalkeeper inspires confidence in his central defence, and they play better as a unit knowing he’s behind them. A good centre back gives comfort to the guys around him and to the midfield; they take strength from his simple presence.
Having this guy in the team makes us all breathe a little easier, and that’s huge. It’s not just his skill either; it’s his commitment. He challenges for every ball. He is not afraid of the 50/50. He works hard. He rallies those around him. He leads, which is why he’s often talked about as a captain.
Way back, before the World Cup, an American “journalist” wrote a piece comparing him to James Sands and suggesting that Sands was a better footballer. The number of people who feel qualified to write such nonsense without knowing the first thing about the game staggers me, but that was an ignorant opinion even by the worst standards.
I don’t feel Carter Vickers has had the full credit for the national team that his talents deserve, but this guy is still young and that will come. He can do anything he wants in the game. He will play at a much higher level than the SPL.