It was obvious today that Celtic cyberspace would erupt with anger directed at our club because the one from Ibrox has won a European tie. All of a sudden, they are world beaters again because they got a result against Betis. Give me peace.
Last season, they set a most unwanted record in the Champions League; the worst team ever to compete in the Group Stages. This season, already, they have been held by Servette and trounced by PSV. Do they get results at home? Sometimes. They built a team to play football a certain way. That way works in Europe better than ours does.
So what do people want us to do? Rebuild our team to play the same way as them? Look at the league table. Look at the trophy haul over the last three years, including one where they got to a European final on the back of a mere seven wins in twenty one matches. Five trophies out of the first six. We’re sitting on a four point lead over them in the league.
Honestly, there are reasons – good reasons – to criticise Celtic at the moment. They are mostly to do with a strategy that does not properly equip us for taking on the top clubs on the continent.
Last season, we won a mere two points in the Champions League, but Ibrox won none. Zero. Zilch. For an entire summer people were going on about how, off the back of a final, they were ready for that stage; I might have been alone in saying they would get turned over when they played against elite teams. The shattering PSV game only emphasises the point.
The gap between the Europa League and the Champions League is vast. We’re being judged on a bigger stage than they are on. Comparing the two is not remotely similar. The BBC anchor at the game last night raved about how rare it is to see a Scottish team beat one from Spain; yeah, and we did it, against the same team, only two seasons ago in that same competition.
Nobody talks about it because we went out of that group. With nine points I might add. Amongst many of the perverse things about Ibrox’s run to the final is that they got out of theirs that year with only eight.
Their “brilliant” European form and how it is hailed it preposterous. The press is banging on about their Europa League record at Ibrox since 2017 because they can’t talk about the Champions League one which is an embarrassment.
It’s Fortress Ibrox now in that tournament apparently, and on paper – at a glance – the record does in fact look pretty good. But you know what? Our own record in the Europa League, at Celtic Park, isn’t abysmal on paper either. Ange’s nine points included two home wins in the Groups and two in qualifying.
Even in the closed-door catastrophe season we managed a home win in the Groups, although the Sparta result should have got the manager sacked. The other team that beat us that year in those Groups was AC Milan and there’s no shame in that.
The year before that, in the Europa League, the 2019-20 campaign, we won in qualifying against AIK and then won all three of our Group games at home to Lazio, Cluj and Rennes.
Disappointingly, we failed to get through the next phase against Copenhagen, losing to them at home in a disastrous reversal which is where alarm bells started ringing for a lot of people about the following year.
The year before that, we’d beaten Suduva in the qualifiers after going out of the Champions League early. In the Group we finished second with 9 points after winning three out of six matches including two at home against Rosenborg and RB Leipzig. It was Valencia who overcame us in the second stages that year. No great shame in that either.
In the 2017 season which the Ibrox fan-club in the media is using as the basis for their “brilliant run” we’re not in the Europa League but back at the top table and although it was an abysmal performance that demonstrates what I’ve been talking about, which is the gap between the two tournaments, which is vast, and which we’ve suffered for.
But aside from reaching a final, winning only one third of their games, their record in the Europa League, at home, is only marginally better than ours is, if even that. We should do better in that competition than we have done, but we’re not being judged merely on that competition. When we’re in it, we generally compete well in the Groups although our knockout record is a flat-out disgrace, although we’ve had some bad hands dealt to us in the draws.
If people think their club is doing better than ours is, and that we have something to learn from them, I say guess again. Look at the trophy haul over the same period; I see trebles, and not at Ibrox.
Honestly, the over-reaction to last night coming on the heels of the over-reaction to losing to what everyone knew was a quality team … some folk need to have a lie down.