Last season, a lot of folk managed to convince themselves – fools that they were – that Celtic’s title win was the result of some mad fluke. Some quirk wherein Ange had stumbled across a style of play which had momentarily caught folk by surprise.
They told themselves and each other that this season would be different, that we’d be figured out. After all, hadn’t Rodgers Invincible season been followed by one that, in terms of performances and points, had been decidedly less impressive?
When Ange told them that Celtic would actually get better, many of them scoffed.
But they ought not to have. Because the three losses in the first six games were to be the only league defeats of that first season, and the steady improvement in our team had been obvious.
There was still scope to do better, to push harder, to turn in more complete performances.
He warned them of that. He told them that the second season would eclipse the first, that the team would continue to grow in confidence and show off its class.
From the very earliest weeks of the campaign it has been obvious that we were doing just that.
Ange has made the same prediction in the aftermath of clinching this title.
He thinks – he knows – that this team can make bigger strides in the next campaign. He knows that there is further growth in these players and further potential in this team.
No-one is mocking him or scoffing or doubting him now. Instead those who wish us ill have been reduced to hoping that some English club comes in and takes him as soon as possible, so that the nightmare may be over quickly. They do not look like getting their wish. Ange has made that clear. He will be here for a while yet.
Their nightmare is just starting.
Ange’s words have been repeated by Callum McGregor. It is deeply ominous for the rest of the league.
There are players at Celtic – mostly the Asian trio of Kobayashi, Iwata and Oh, but also guys like Haksabanovic – who are still finding their feet at the club. There are others whose consistency is a little up and down, like O’Riley and Hatate.
It is easy to forget that this is their first full season at Parkhead.
All those guys will be better in the next campaign, and so will the likes of Maeda, Kyogo, Jota, Johnston and others. The man of the match today was Carl Starfelt; it took a year and a half before we, arguably, started to see the best of him.
“We are certainly on the right track but we have to keep on working,” Callum said. “You can see it, you can see it – a lot of young players. You get over the line and you get more experience. You want to do it again the following season and you want to do it in a better style. I believe we have done that this season and there is always more to come.”
Those words should be echoing through Scottish football tonight, as the warning that they found so easy to ignore last time around.
I don’t think some of them – The Mooch for one – can afford to make that mistake again and although he’s just daft enough to I reckon he’s in the minority.
The rest will do what they can to brace for impact.