Last night, I caught a little of the BBC’s coverage of the match at Tynecastle – more on that subject later – whilst it was half-time at Celtic Park. The commentators were talking about how the Ibrox club was “targeting a double.”
But of course they are. Yet before this month is over, one part of that will have vanished into the ether because to get there they have to go to Hampden and beat this implacable Celtic boss and this merciless Celtic machine.
In the aftermath of the game, I caught Ange’s interview. He was, as ever, focussed and utterly determined. His Stoicism won’t allow him to look past the next game, but he made it clear that he expects the same standards as this team has delivered up until now to see them through to the season’s end. That’s 14 games in the league.
And it’s those remaining cup matches as well. He will not use the T word.
He will not tolerate any mention of the Treble, but it has crossed his mind.
He knows we should have won it last season, and that the performance at the National Stadium was not good enough. For a man who sets high standards, that was the intolerable display.
For all that, we should have won that game.
We had the lead in it after all, and had Carter Vickers got the second with the one that came off the crossbar Ibrox would not have spent the whole summer preening and strutting and predicting big things.
Instead, it was Ange who delivered and as we head into the part of the season where the silverware will be parcelled out, we’re in the best possible shape for it. With the league virtually home and hosed, the League Cup looms large.
Although talk of the Treble is not permitted inside Celtic Park, you wait.
With Scottish Cup football coming up not this weekend but the next it will be the only thing anyone else in Scotland is talking about, and at Ibrox they think about nothing else.
That’s why The Mooch stands to look more than just foolish if we deliver it, because he is the one who said that it was “unthinkable” that we would do it.
He’s telling their fans that he will not let that happen, that he will deliver them from that fate … and I don’t know if that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard a newly minted manager say when faced with a team like ours or just pure arrogance, but I do know that he’s sweating bullets over it and has been since he said it.
He watches us from across the city, and at first I’m sure he was convinced that at some point we’d have to slip up. But we just go on putting points up on the board.
By this point, I think he’s twigged that the task facing him is a lot bigger than he thought … and that’s why he’s been doing his best recently to highlight the finance gap and trying to peg Ange as a manager who just got lucky.
Deep down he realises that even if that’s true, it doesn’t change the situation he’s in. To paraphrase a famous movie, his ego is writing cheques his talent can’t cash … and so yeah, although inside Parkhead there is a dawning realisation that we are on the brink, the manager knows that nothing could be stupider than starting to believe it.
At Ibrox, every thought they have is directed towards it.
To them it represents the great nightmare, and that’s why – as I’ll write later – the pressure is all on them. Not to win one of those trophies, but to stop us winning them all … that’s going to be an important distinction.