Here’s Why Celtic’s Rivals Will Draw Every Wrong Conclusion From This Weekend.

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Aside from the Usual Suspects on social media, who panic at every reversal, the response to this weekend’s performance and result has been what you would expect from our club; measured and calm.

If I was putting money on it, that’s what I’d have bet on.

It remains to be seen what response we will get from elsewhere.

My guess would be that when the dust has settled that we’ll see yet another handbrake U-turn, and I can say that because we’ve seen it all before and before and before. All season long, in fact.

I have never seen a football club as schizophrenic in its reactions to defeat as the one across the city.

When you look at The Mooch and his record over there it’s actually pretty good, at least as far the league goes. Yet a handful of defeats against the biggest club in the country resulted in a complete meltdown.

If you believe the most optimistic of their fan-sites – the ones which dream of war-chests and massive club transfer spends – they are set to spend millions of pounds for no other purpose than to beat one team.

Look at their results; they have a great record against every other side in the league.

They are talking about needing to spend huge sums – sums which might even endanger their long term future – for the sake of doing better in four league encounters.

That, no matter what way you dress it up, is knee-jerk lunacy which no sane club would ever entertain.

I think they are, and remain, well behind us in terms of our overall quality, but that’s not the point. Spending big sums they don’t have and which will incur the wrath of UEFA is madness anyway, but if the objective is to beat just one team it’s unpardonable.

That’s true no matter what underlying “strategy” they think lies behind it.

The question is; is there enough sanity on their board of directors to tell the manager that? He probably still thinks he’s getting Tillman; he probably does believe in addition they are going to spend millions more on others. Their fans certainly do, brought up on a strict diet of supremacist guff and their club being funded by Other People’s Money.

When you are used to Other People’s Money the idea that one day you might have to spend only what you, yourself, earns is intolerable. When their websites talk about the need to spend tens of millions to catch us, be sure that they believe it, and more than that, they believe that it’s something their directors will find a way to do.

This doesn’t have a happy ending for them either way.

It’s as Danny DeVito says in the sublimely dark black comedy The War Of The Roses, about a particularly vicious divorce, “there is no winning here, there are only degrees of losing.” That is what rings true.

For Ibrox, the picture at the start of this week is now hopelessly confused. They have spent the whole season telling themselves, and us, that they are not as far behind as the league table suggests. But they still planned to rip the team-sheet to shreds and get rid of a dozen players and bring in a dozen more to close the gap.

Does that make the least bit of sense to you? No, not to me either.

Now that they’ve actually beaten us, with a team comprised of players who will definitely be at the club next season, what conclusion will they draw? And by “they” I mean the directors, of course, the people who have to find a way to pay for this.

Certainly not the correct one, which is that it’s a one-off game and at a time when it was fairly meaningless.

More likely, it will be the excuse they need not to spend big, and to “convince” the manager of something he already seems to believe; that Celtic just aren’t that good and that we’ve just been found out.

Don’t be surprised if the backtracking starts this week , the attempts to say that we simply misunderstood him on the size of the summer rebuild, and whilst this will make good fiscal sense it’s so obviously, in itself, a knee-jerk reaction that a smart media would marvel at it.

Not this one though, which has spent months telling itself the same comforting lie the club was immersed in.

We know one thing for a fact, and it’s that Celtic is locked on course and following a plan which did not depend on winning a treble and which we will not change for the sake of one defeat, whether that was Saturday’s or if it had come in one of the cup competitions.

The reason to have confidence in that plan is simple enough; it is not being enacted to beat one team. It is about the medium term future of the club and much broader horizons.

We know if we get that right that the league takes care of itself.

There’s a famous geopolitical saying that some generals spend all their time “preparing to fight the last war.”

It’s as true of some football bosses as it is for lesser military minds. If there is a wrong conclusion to draw from the weekend – and of course there is – they will almost certainly draw it.

At the core of all this is a simple truth they will never be able to comprehend, and it’s this; if they really wanted to do this right they would put aside this whole idea of trying to match us and they would focus on being the best possible version of themselves, whatever the Hell that means.

That failure, more than anything, is what guarantees that they’ll make a mess of this, and it’s why DeVito’s great line about there only being “degrees of losing” rings true.

They can commit to a full-scale rebuild the way the manager wants.

In that scenario they have two choices, and one will be so unpalatable there’s virtually no chance of it, and that’s to let him overspend. The other choice is to do it on the cheap, which doesn’t work and which never will.

That only ensures that they’ll need another soon.

Or they can decide not to bother, to look at the weekend and conclude that the rebuild isn’t necessary after all, that Celtic is “there for the taking” and to do some tweaking but nothing big.

In the end, the mistake is the same; it’s all just focussed on Celtic, all the consequence of results against one team, with no more strategic thought to it than what is likely to catch them up to us.

Do you know what makes DeVito’s line powerful here?

The futility of either course of action.

Celtic has already moved beyond thinking about the Ibrox club … we’re focussed on Europe now and getting better for that, so no matter what they do if we sign three or four quality players we’ll render it all redundant.

That’s what I mean about generals preparing to fight the last war … with enough money they could probably catch this Celtic team. If only they were going up against this Celtic team next season, but they aren’t.

Because the one thing we know about Ange is that “we never stop” encompasses the whole club, and it’s about never standing still, about that constant evolution into something even better.

He’s already decided on our next move.

He already knows how he intends to pull further ahead of them.

By barely thinking about them at all.

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  • Dando says:

    Brilliant piece, James….


  • Frank Kelly says:

    Good thoughts, well laid out.

  • Andrew Lamb says:

    Well unfortunately James if he didn’t see a few reasons to be concerned on Saturday he’s not the manager I think he is. I get that 5 players that would have changed the outcome of that game were missing but we are kidding ourselves if we think their replacements are of the standard required. They have improved that’s a fact we need to acknowledge and hell mend us if we don’t. I would rather you addressed the problems that were evident than continually obsess over them. I said before the game that the only result that would have the alarm bells ringing for me was a skelping and that’s what it was.

    • James Forrest says:

      I think you should stop reading The Daily Record and listening to Radio Clyde.

      Ange is a title winner on three continents and has done more than enough for his judgement to be trusted.

      I don’t “gloss over” anything. But I don’t rush to judgement either.

  • Robert Lonie says:

    Great article!
    However, you have not mentioned the crucial factor on why they have gained many points.
    As always in my lifetime they have had the advantage of the referee.
    This season no penalties conceded.
    Another world record !!!

  • Annmcq14 says:

    Ange has a clear path on which way he wants to go. I believe that the strategically way he put that team out on Saturday was to see exactly what they were made of. Times up for more than a few I would say. None of us liked the result but I think with his vision for the future is something we should welcome. Time to clear out the duds.

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