For my sins, I sat up last night to finish some work whilst listening to the BBC Sports Scotland podcast on the game in Holland. It was every bit as bad as I expected it to be. Three studio guests – Steven Thompson, Neil McCann and Tom English – doing everything possible to spin the result and the exit from the top competition as somehow to Ibrox’s advantage.
The word “we” was used a lot around that table.
The national broadcaster has no damned business putting people on its air who use that word in the way they did. Amidst all of it, I couldn’t help but cast my mind back to a time not that long ago when we last went out of the Champions League prior to the Groups. It was Ange Postecoglou’s third game in charge.
“Well, it’s a catastrophic night for Celtic tonight,” the BBC interviewer asked him. “How big a blow is this for you and the players?”
And Ange, in that way that was to become characteristic of him, looked mightily pissed off with that line of questioning. “Well mate, I don’t know what your definition of catastrophic is,” he said, “but it certainly doesn’t fit with mine.”
Last night, nobody was using that word. Last night, it was all softball questions and talk of consolation. The club “aren’t ready” for the Champions League and it was probably “a blessing in disguise” that they weren’t going to be there, as if their manager spent all the money and rejigged this team not to be ready, and to play in the second-tier tournament.
This morning, some in the media have had to point out what that “blessing in disguise” looks like in pure, straight up financial terms; a £17 million disparity, in Celtic’s favour, between what we will earn and what they will from playing in Europe until Christmas.
That’s almost the totality of our spend on transfers in this window, allowing us to do the same again next season if such a thing was called for. If money is the raw material of power in this game, which it is, then that’s closer to the term “catastrophic” than the situation which faced us when Ange was asked that appalling question two years ago.
We will never get anything like the same kind of coverage they get.
Even after a 5-1 hiding all some of the hacks can do is scramble to see silver lining even when it very obviously does not exist for them. That is a result with consequences which extend beyond the financial; they will now have to play six of their games on a Sunday, meaning we’ll play first … and that has knock-on effects in the title race as it ratchets up pressure on them to keep winning.
Inside the Ibrox boardroom absolutely nobody thinks that this is a “blessing in disguise.”
James Bisgrove told the media not even that long ago that the current squad had been constructed with this competition in mind.
“We’re pretty much there now in terms of building a squad that we think can compete in the Champions League,” he said. “Of course, it’s not easy. We’ve got the test now against Servette and then you look at the potential teams we could play in the playoff. They are really difficult ties. But we hope that we’ve assembled a squad that Michael can be really competitive with in terms of getting to that group stage.”
He must have been stunned to hear The Mooch on TV the other day dismissing the game as a “no lose” situation … having now lost it, and the money that goes with it, he should have some serious questions to answer in front of his own directors. That kind of talk obviously filters through to the dressing room. It tells them it’s alright to fail.
Yet for all the BBC’s terrible coverage, and their letting the manager off the hook, it was The Daily Record which came up with the worst piece of spin on this result and its implications which I have seen, heard or read so far.
Celtic’s take from the Champions League has been swollen by £2.5 million as a result of Ibrox’s exit last night, but we aren’t the only ones with skin in the game.
Aberdeen has a chance of getting to the Group Stages of the Europa League tonight, and that would cost the Ibrox club even more money as the Dons would be entitled to half the national TV pool there.
This is how The Daily Record chose to deal with that scenario; “While it’s a boost to Celtic, it’s a blow to Aberdeen should they make UEFA’s second-tier competition as the Dons will have to split the market share with the Ibrox giants, who will receive around 60 per cent while the Pittodrie club get 40 per cent.”
So, a blow to Aberdeen, if they get through tonight. Not a blow to the Ibrox club who face losing even more cash.
You could not make that up, could you? Everything is spun in Ibrox’s favour, even another scenario where money comes out of their pockets and goes to someone else. The people who write this stuff have no standards, and no shame.