Earlier today I wrote about the idea that we could learn a thing or two from Ibrox. They don’t have anything to teach us.
But how about the side that we played against in midweek? Atletico Madrid are clearly a more aspirational target, but how much can we learn there?
The obvious answer is, spend more money and sign better players. But let’s face it, there’s a ceiling on that and everyone is well aware of it.
There is a picture some people are trying to paint of a section of our support as being wildly unrealistic about this stuff; if there is a segment of our fan base which thinks we can just spend, spend, spend it is a small segment.
The rest of us are realists who think the club signs too many players on the off-chance that some will prove to be good, whereas we should be going for footballers who already are.
There is no risk to this. If they stay three years they can go on for a profit and in the meantime lift us above our current status.
This is not over the top ambition or overreach. It’s possible to do it, and we have the capital to make it work. You cannot keep throwing kids into the Champions League games, it’s like starting at zero every single year.
There are other suggestions about what we might learn. We are told that we should learn “the dark arts.” Wow. You know the weird thing? I sort of sympathise with this view, and if this was on another field of battle I might wholeheartedly agree.
This has been a fearsome debate on the left of politics for years; would we win more elections if we would use dirty-tricks and smear and fear the way the right does?
And for years I’ve swayed between yes and no, I’ve swayed between agreeing and being vehemently opposed and I think the best way I can answer this honestly, and I want to be honest, is to say that it depends on the stakes.
There are issues so great that you have to win the battle, full stop, and that if you need to go low you do it, and if you need to get down in the muck to scrape across the line by one vote then you do not hesitate to make that your strategy.
Others on the left would say that nothing justifies that.
The dilemma has always been best expressed, for me, in a fictional account; that of Henry Burton, the narrator of Primary Colours, who discusses “doing the oppo” with Libby Holden, chief of staff to Jack Stanton, the Clintonesque Presidential candidate, when they have to decide what to do with a piece of incriminating information.
Stanton wants to use it, so Holden and Burton have to decide if they will go along with that and in a searing debate with her friend of more than 30 years, she tells Stanton that it’s just not right, and that he was the one who told her that, decades before, when they first met, on another Presidential campaign, the doomed McGovern race against Nixon.
“Our job is to make (politics) clean,” he said to her back then, winning her love and loyalty forevermore. “Because if it is then we win. Because our ideas are better.”
And I love that, and Libby Holden made it the centre of her whole moral universe … but by the time Stanton is running for President himself his idealism has been erased by a collection of compromises and scandals, and he’s just another ruthless operator who sees only one path to victory, a victory he is convinced is in the interests of the voters.
Reluctantly, I’m with Stanton. We know how things work. The enemy works in the shadows and doesn’t flinch from doing what it must.
Some things are too important to fight with one hand tied behind your back. So yeah, I have sympathy with the idea that Celtic should learn “the dark arts” and be a little bit nasty if that’s what it takes to win.
But there is a line, of course, as there is with the politics.
Is blackmail justified to win a political debate? Is destroying a life or even ending one justified? Of course not.
Is trying to get rival players sent off a viable strategy for winning football matches? Are sly nips and shoves and wee off-the-ball niggles really the kind of club we want to be?
I would be mortified if our players rolled around and surrounded refs and badgered and harassed them to book people and give decisions to us.
It makes The Beautiful Game ugly.
I am loathe even to want to see us try to con refs by going down too easily under challenges. I certainly don’t want to see them do Academy Award level acting out.
I don’t know what I’d do in Brendan Rodgers’ place. A bit of time wasting, a bit of closing out a match, that’s about as far as I’d be willing to go unless something major was on the line. Then, as with politics, I’d let the circumstances decide.
But for most games, I can’t help thinking that instead of trying to model ourselves on those thugs and play-actors that we should be staying more focussed and learning how to defend as a unit.
Keeping discipline is more important than throwing it overboard and behaving like they did over the two games.