There Are Things Celtic Can Learn From Atletico, But Some Things I’d Rather Not.

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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.

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  • Gerard O’Donnell says:

    The problem is the phrase “dark side” wee teams DONT get to do that in Europe unless your situated near Switzerland even top English teams don’t get the the break’s away from home

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    Brick for Brick – Boot for Boot – Bottle for Bottle is the way to survive in the streets of Scotland…

    It should be on the field of play as well – But Celtic are well down this particular league –

    How often do you see a brutal attack on a Celtic player and not a bit or remonstrations from his teammates…

    Far Far too often for ma fcukin liking for sure –

    As I say…

    Brick for Brick – Boot for Boot – Bottle for Bottle !

  • MarkE says:

    If you’re going to dance with the devil…

    When in Rome…

    Don’t know why we have this weird mentality of right and wrong when it comes to football as none of our Southern European neighbours seem to share it and it costs us in games, this naivety that we’ll be seen as noble or some pish like that if we don’t do this or that!

    … it’s a modern day battle out there for our Southern competitors and they’ll do whatever it takes to win it so why shouldn’t we when we’re already disadvantaged financially!?

    We pick and choose which of the dark arts of football we’re okay with , like timewastings okay… they’re all okay!

    Wake up Celtic, the Matrix has you ??

  • Scot Dickson says:

    Do unto others as they do to you.

  • Bob (original) says:

    Agreed: I want my team to play the beautiful game, play fair and do the right thing.

    If you have a team of gifted, experienced, technically superior players,

    you just don’t need to cheat, niggle, play act, etc.

    But, the dilemma for us now is:

    with a conveyor belt of young, inexperienced, ‘project players’ each season,

    – who are not CL standard – how is the team going to get an edge?

    In recent years under Simeone, ATM have achieved – amongst other silverware –

    2 Europa Leagues wins, and 2 CL final appearances [losing to RM both times].

    Even with that pedigree, ATM still applied ‘the dark arts’ against our team.

    Point is:

    – play fair, with project players, and achieve zero progress in Europe,

    – play dirty with project players, and ‘perhaps’ make a bit of progress in Europe,

    – invest in some quality, experienced, CL-level players to lift the team’s

    overall performance levels, and make some progress in Europe?

    But, PL is never going to loosen the purse strings to attract the quality players needed.

    So, it will be the same p!sh next season in the CL, [assuming we win the league].

  • Effarr says:

    What about making them really angry by heading up the park and putting the ball in the net, even if it is only once more than the opposition?

  • Davie says:

    What I learned was to have players who can compete against these teams.
    Players who can adapt between attack an defence.
    Players tall enough and strong enough to challenge for high balls, with skill on the ground.
    Taylor is unsuitable, Turnbull is unsuitable, Hart is a calamity waiting to happen.
    Palma has no pace to get to the by line for cut backs.
    Bernado is just a loaner and will return to Portugal ASAP.
    Forrest has been ok in the past but miles off the standard required. O’Riley can’t shoot, can’t tackle, can’t defend, can’t jump, can’t run, yes he males the odd pass but I can’t see what benefit he brings to the team.
    Mikey Johnston, sorry son time to move on.
    Kyogo carrying an injury but not getting it dealt with, he’s performing around 75%.
    Fix these issues is what I learned but have known for some time, why can’t the club see the same.

  • Ceilteach says:

    What I’d like us to learn from At Mad is defending properly and the coaching to deliver this.
    God knows Witsel and Greisman must have thought. We were heading the ball out to their feet. Two guys who have played in World Cup finals. Coaching by Strachan junior and Kennedy etc Al not working. Better coaches needed more than more expensive players

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