And so the first verdict is in on our Champions League endeavour and from the hacks it is every bit as bad, every bit as negative, every bit as appalling and every bit as ignorant as I had expected.
There is nothing to credit even one bit of it.
We lost 2-0 last night. Not 5-0. We had nine men on the pitch when they scored their second goal. This game was always viewed, by those of us who recognise where circumstances and deliberate choices within our own club have left us, as an uphill struggle.
To lose two men to a refereeing performance where the officials clearly thirsted to be the stars of the show made it impossible.
That’s not to say that the decisions are shockers or anything, but they were very much “home field” decisions erring on the side of caution by guys who wanted the limelight.
There is no disgrace to be had here.
Reports of us “shooting ourselves in the foot” are patently ridiculous.
Joe Hart is branded the villain in a game where he concedes from a free kick and a goal where he had a single defender backing him up whereas Ibrox’s latest golden boy is lauded for a performance on a night when he has conceded five against the side that finished behind Feyenoord in the league … this is what we expect now though.
Let’s get to the first goal before we cover the rest.
I don’t care what Neil Lennon’s view on this is, although it’s splashed across the internet like the latest celebrity scandal story. If Lennon was half as savvy as he reckons, he’d be in the managers job he wants and not the studio which at least gives him a living.
The wall is to blame for the free kick, not the keeper, and the fact that he doesn’t get to it might be something to do with the bounce the ball takes when Joe Hart is already in motion.
What’s he meant to do when he’s already moving?
Strap his jet-pack on to get to the ball? Grow an extra two inches to keep it out?
Those who say he moved too quickly appear not to realise the speed at which he has to decide to go … milliseconds.
Some of these people couldn’t process a reaction in that span of time if it was literally a life-or-death matter.
So, to say they are being harsh is an understatement.
If he goes a second later, is he guaranteed to get to it? No-one can answer that, so blaming him for it is simply ridiculous. The height that ball is at, the wall should keep that from ever getting near him.
Brendan Rodgers, at full time, covers the full spectrum of the match in precisely the way that I knew he would. He praised the players for their determination and their courage, and the overall level of the performance which, in the first half especially, I thought was excellent.
He identified, at once, the issue with the two red cards – and indeed, I thought it was an issue with much of the display – and I had already said it to a dozen people before the full-time whistle had even gone; it all came down to inexperience.
And whose fault is that?
Not that of Rodgers, or the young guys themselves. No, the manager knew going into this competition what we required to counter it. Many of us did. It’s the reason I won’t attend a single home game in this group.
Those in the club above his head made no effort whatsoever to properly prepare us for playing on this stage, and I don’t feel any motivation towards endorsing that behaviour with the spending of another red cent of my own money.
Lawwell rolled back on that somewhat in the accounts yesterday, as I wrote at the time. But as usual with him, it’s a lesson learned too late to make a difference, if it’s one that he’s actually learned at all. We do this almost every time we’re in this tournament and he keeps on trotting out the same bog-standard bullshit about the strategy.
Those who defend it call it risk averse, but the fact is, we’re chancing here with our co-efficient points, which affects whether we get automatic qualification at all, and which in any case keep us stuck in perennial Pot 4 Hell.
Regular readers know I’m not some mad fantasist who expects us to get to European finals, and they’ll know my expectations for this group were low enough that I won’t be giving the team a hard time for not performing miracles.
I don’t believe any amount of money will bridge the gap between us being Pot 3 regulars and a guaranteed spot in Pot 2 … that we’re not even capable of Pot 3 is something I can’t defend and won’t defend.
Last night, we were desperately unlucky to go in 1-0 down at half time, and the inexperience of the new guys showed almost as soon as they were on the pitch. I feel tremendous sympathy of the two sending offs, and Lagerbeikle in particular as I can already see the writing on the wall and his being targeted by the media and a section of our fan-base which loves nothing more than somebody they can beat on and blame for whatever goes wrong.
But the manager, who organised the team brilliantly last night and is doubtless very frustrated more than anything else, has to now lift this team for a massive game at the weekend, and it’s a game we need to win to keep our forward momentum up on the home front.
Europe is going to be a series of games to be endured rather than enjoyed; we are massively out of our weight class here, in spite of that I thought we were well in it until the red cards.
I am not going to say I’m proud of them. I’m not, because a manager has to say it because he needs to keep morale high amongst the players, but deep down he knows that’s an admission of defeat; that’s settling for. And we shouldn’t do that.
But I’m not going to blame them either because for some of them they’re at the bottom of a very steep learning curve. I’d say they’ll get there, but our policy actually revolves around selling them the moment they do, so maybe it’s not something we should be hoping for.
In the meantime, the media will paint it as a disaster and the start of Armageddon and they will question Celtic’s record and Rodgers’ record and blah blah blah … we are the only club in this country that ever gets held to account for defeats on this stage.
The only one.
When the Ibrox club crashed out of this competition before the Group Stages they did so in far more damaging fashion than we lost last night, and the hacks fell over themselves to suggest that it might be a “blessing in disguise.”
We get no such benefit of the doubt. And you know what? I don’t want it either.
But a little balance, fairness and common sense … is that too much to ask?
From our hacks? Apparently so.