Celtic Will Not Panic And Nor Should We. But By God, We Have To Focus Now.

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I cannot be alone in thinking that most football fans are pretty sick and tired of hearing players talk a good game in the media when they haven’t produced on the pitch. I cannot be alone in thinking that talk is cheap and that it insults all of us because in it there’s an implication that they know they just didn’t try hard enough on the day for us or themselves.

For all that, I am willing to give Matt O’Riley some benefit of the doubt after yesterday. When he says that the team will improve, I guess I believe him because Matt O’Riley himself will be hurting and angry from that performance. He will want to avenge it.

Besides, as Rodgers has pointed out – but he all too often fails to consider when he’s talking about this team needing quality – this side has been over the course before. Anyone in Scottish football who thinks they do not understand, or cannot handle, pressure and the pressure of a close title race in particular, doesn’t know what they are talking about.

The thing about this team, they handle pressure just fine. We won a domestic treble last year, beating the Ibrox club in both cup competitions. That was pressure.

In Ange’s first season, when Matt O’Riley was just in the door, we won 3-0 in the game which put us at the top of the table under the most intense pressure imaginable; we had been chasing from the opening week of the campaign and that was the match where we finally reached the summit. We know this team can perform when the chips are down.

That’s not the issue. We aren’t folding under the pressure of a title race. We’re not caving in under the psychological weight. We’re just not playing well right now. We’re just not hitting our stride yet. But we know this team has more in them than they’ve shown in recent weeks. We would not have built that seven-point lead unless we were capable.

That lead is all but gone. It is up to us to respond to that. It is up to us to dig in our heels and again find the sort of form that has thus far eluded us in this campaign. I’ll write later on about why that might be the case; for now, it’s a fact we have to live with.

The thing that is of critical importance right now is not to panic.

We know the limitations of some of these players, but at the moment they are what we’re working with, and they are still good enough to beat most teams in this league.

Next up in the title race is Hearts at home; we are a better side than Naismith’s mob and a big win there might be just what the doctor ordered. The Ibrox club don’t have a league game at the weekend; it’s their cup final. We can’t do anything about that except put the points on the board, and right now we very badly have to put the points on the board.

They will have two games in hand. One of them will be played next midweek. The fixtures are piling up for them, and that’s not a good situation when your team is as injury prone as they are.

We simply have to get back to winning, concentrate on that and put the pressure where it belongs; we know we can handle. We also know they’ve traditionally struggled to do the same. As long as we are on our game, we don’t have to worry about them.

There is a tendency towards catastrophising which we need to get away from. Some of the stuff I read online yesterday was frankly loony bin material; some of our own fans have Ibrox winning a treble. For God’s sake. We’re still top of the league. Worst case scenario and they win their game in hand and the lead is a mere two points.

They would kill for a two point lead. Most clubs would. We are a long, long way from having to worry like that. Their club is in its current position in no small part because of their friends at the SFA; I’ll be writing more on that later. But they are not some great team which is going to sweep aside all in front of it; I see no sign of that whatsoever.

Inside the club right now – in the only place that matters, inside the football department – there will be frustration and anger and hopefully focus. What they will not do is panic. Matt O’Riley has made that clear. Fans will panic. Some already are. Jesus, some of those people would not have survived the 90’s when we were a genuine mess, when there was genuine crisis at Celtic and a rival which didn’t look as if it could be stopped.

None of that is true right now. I read one post yesterday which mentioned, in no particular order, that we’re out of Europe, the board voted itself a pay rise, the Green Brigade are banned, Rodgers is a rat, half the squad is not good enough and the Ibrox club is preparing for a cup final. So Celtic is in crisis. It’s nonsense. But this is all swirling around us at the same moment … or that was the operating theory behind the post.

And what that reminded me of are those people who get the sniffles, go online, get directed to the Worst Case Scenario websites, read the symptoms list for the one they dread the most and then over the next day or two develop every damned one of them … not because they actually have some dread illness but because their imagination goes into overdrive.

These people need to just calm down. We were dreadful yesterday. We’ve been flirting with disaster for weeks. But we are not in crisis. We’re just in a title race all of a sudden, and people inside the club need to focus and start producing the goods and we need to back them.

I thought if we got through that tricky first quarter of the campaign that this title was ours to lose; most of us did. We did get through that, and the irony is that it’s here in the easier bit where we’re conspiring to shoot our own toes off.

So, this will be a harder, and longer, fight than a lot of us were expecting. This is a rougher ride than we anticipated. Fine. We’ve been here before, and so has this team. It’s not great, but nor is it a landscape shifting disaster which sends us into a death-spiral.

It’s a bad result. But the tightness of this race and the manner of that defeat might finally be what slaps the complacency out of this team.

They owe us a big performance, and this is a big week. Feyenoord first, and end that dire Champions League run the media is always banging on about, and then Hearts at home at the weekend … two wins and that changes the narrative. We cannot afford to do anything else, and it’s when this team has its back to the wall that it tends to come out swinging.

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  • Mr Vincent McSherry says:

    good to read some sensible comment after all the garbage being spouted by our own fans! Better to b 5 ahead than 5 behind!

    • king murdy says:

      we were NINE ahead a few weeks ago….they have a game in hand…SO, a good possibility, they win their game in hand…the gap is reduced to TWO points….
      so tell me….through your green, heavily tinted specs, just WHO is in the ascendency…..ffs !!!
      maybe we can all relax..after all, we’ve had to deal with plastic pitches, bad weather, var, bent refs, injuries, ball is too round and too inflated…oh, but the winter transfer window is on the horizon….so everything will be rosy afterwards…..
      yea…we’re in great shape….take those specs off mate…
      FAIL FAIL !!!

  • Frank Campbell says:

    Just a thought but did the upcoming match against Feyenoord influence the performances yesterday? Same thing happened with a poor performance via Motherwell prior to the Lazio game.

  • John L says:

    You are right, we are in pole position, but wee really need to cut out the champagne and shit and find some consistency , it’s certainly not the time to get on the players back’s, as they need us to pick them up and run with them, if CCV doesn’t make it, i’d stick Scales at left back and put the 2 young defender’s in the middle, they are ours to after all.

  • king murdy says:

    i’m not panicking james….i have accepted several weeks ago that celtic are in trouble…and if a dope like me saw it…then many fans saw it..amazing that the board didn’t see it…or then again….
    i doubt very much that we’ll beat the huns at the end of this month…if killie can bully us…then fuq me…the huns certainly will…
    when desmond and the board had an inckling that ange was not gonna be here long terms..they should have put in motion the search for an adequate head coach…a coach to continue ange’s work and move us up a level…but no…they looked thru the wee contact book…probably waivered around the “L’s”…but moved on…and stopped at “R”…dead easy..simple…LAZY….appeal to the massive ego…make promises…job done !!!
    WE ARE IN SERIOUS FUKN TROUBLE – AGAIN !!! thanks to lawwell, lawwell and desmond – AGAIN ! fukn groundhog day.
    we are a big, pretentious fish in a wee fukn puddle…..and always will be while this collection of unambitious snakes are in the boardroom…
    rodgers joined on 19th june…transfer window had opened 10th of june, and closed 1st sept. what did he do to meet the obvious team problems…ie; keeper,left centreback,leftback,defensive midfielder and striker ???
    the board are the problem at celtic…they took the lazy option…and rodgers took the lazy option and accepted…if he wasn’t backed in the summer, when he was just in the door…he should have kicked up shit…and if he just rolled over and accepted what he was given – then fuk him !!


  • Michael McCartney says:

    3 weeks and two days to win or lose the League, 5 games 3 at home 2 away, Everyone at club to pull together, players, management and coaching staff plus support.
    Truce between GB and Board because atmosphere at Celtic Park dire without them, we need to roar the team on.
    15 points won, winter break, a couple of decent signings and injured players back, all sorted. C’MON THE CELTIC.

  • Jas says:

    The one little shining light in all of this is the huns thinking they’re better than they are, we’ve seen this movie before.
    If our board don’t act in January then there HAS to be a campaign to get these leeches out. Desmond won’t allow his strength to be tested but he has to be made aware of the feeling among the fans regarding the terrible job that both Lawwells are doing.

  • Gerry says:

    We all know that up till now, bar 3-4 games, ( Hearts away, Aberdeen & Ath Madrid home ) our performances have not been great. We’ve been functional and gotten results domestically, rather than spectacular or great on the eye.
    Like you have said in your article, that is worrying, but doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed.
    Of course, everyone has, and are entitled to an opinion…but now is not the time for hysteria amongst our fanbase.
    That old football adage, take one game at a time, is very relevant here! As a lot can happen/change in the next 3 weeks !

    • John Copeland says:

      Let’s have little look at reverse psychology for this upcoming week ! Imagine the tribute act get pumped out of the silver medal competition this week in Spain , then Aberdeen win the League cup on Sunday …would that not constitute a serious crisis ? Dum de dum dum !

  • Terence Patrick McHugh says:

    As long as we win on the 30th. That is now of great significance. If we lose and they go top we are in real trouble. The powers that be will ensure enough penalties and other dodgy decision to keep them top. Beat them and the gap opens again, this has become a top priority whereas a few weeks ago a defeat would not have been a complete disaster

  • Frank Connelly says:

    the fact remains James that you have highlighted repeatedly that the team had weaknesses that hadnt been addressed. My concern is that a team yesterday didnt sit 11 behind the ball (as you mentioned in a previous post) but got right in our faces and we wilted. This wasnt about lack of ability but lack of bottle. We didnt confront there bullying. This has been evident for weeks now (see every corner or freekick put into our box) we just dont cope and thats my fear going forward that we lack physicality and teams will play on this regardless of when our form returns

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    We’ve allowed them tae get back close tae us through sheer complacency and bein understrengthed. We’re a better team than the ibrox one. Ah’ve watched both and although we’ve been woeful at times, we still in general, play better football than them, absolutely nae doubt about that. Tho ah think a lot will depend on us gettin our key players back and also the necessity (imo), of gettin 3-4 new EXPERIENCED players in next month for key positions. Mid defender, GK, another striker and probably another central defender. If the board strengthen properly, ahm confident we’ll carry on tae the title and leave them behind. If they don’t and that lot have any success due tae our boards failure tae deliver, that’ll be an absolute disgrace.

  • Johnno says:

    Been a feature of our season James so far, about shooting our own toes off?
    Especially in the CL campaign, but bringing it into the SPFL campaign also?
    We have watched the mantra Ange set “We never stop” which also turned 1 point into 3 within crucial times during the campaign, that were so important in winning the last 2 title wins?
    Yet currently that mindset has been turned totally upside down?
    Now on to many occasions this season, we have become mentally weak, with managing to throw points away in the closing stages of games?
    What is the reason for such a turn around, within games, especially in the latter stages?
    Could understand it more so if we were looking at a completely new team, but we aren’t?
    The majority of these player’s have been working under this mindset for the past 2 seasons, yet it seems to have totally disappeared now?
    Sorry to say James, but currently seeing Rodgers totally dismantling everything Ange built-up?
    Was expecting Rodgers to reinforce the structure with adding new strenghts into the overall squad?
    Yet the focus has been upon the newer players and the board, but what has happened to so many established treble winning players?
    Possibly best summed up by our captain calmac and the level of inconsistencies within there game?
    Calmac imo, hardly looking the same player under Rodgers than Ange, especially regarding the great leadership skills shown over the past 2 seasons, yet so inconsistent currently, and this from such an experienced and quality player, that Rodgers wants?
    This trend could be applied to way to many established players within this squad currently, and not to sure how much longer we can expect the support to totally ignore what is happening before our very eyes?
    Must admit to be losing a lot of respect towards Rodgers as manager currently.
    Want to actually see the improvements within his job now, instead of the trying to make himself look good for the cameras along with his snide remarks in putting down individuals and trying to make himself look like a genius?
    He sets the tone for the team, and jury remains out for myself anyway, upon the manner he’s carrying out his own job?

  • Bradzo says:

    Scales at left back and one of the other 2 buys of Lagerbielke or Nawrocki play in the middle? Then we will have more presence in the box, plus a better left back. Maybe this is a future thought.

    Greg Taylor is not the answer at left wingback, we lose lots of goals due to his lack of height and defensive qualities.

    I agree that BR has taken the team backwards, his style or non style is not working, this has been coming for weeks.

    Kyogo is off the boil, why, because he is not being supplied with chances, this style of play and lack of heart is a very sad day as a Celtic fan.

  • Gus Disgustit says:

    Hi James

    It’s really not about complacency or panic, it’s about the fact that we have an entrenched nepotistic board who refuse to let any manager change the backroom staff, yes, the very same men who have for the past three managers, failed the various squads in how to either attack or defend corners.

    Two Lawwells, two (or three?) Strachans and two big baws Desmonds twirling their moustaches and their baw hairs at the very top, all of whom are taking a hefty chunk of change out of the club without putting very much, if anything, back in.

    Does John Kennedy have a son?

    If so, what are the chances big Pedro finds a role for him just to complete the nepotistic narcissistic circle jerk amongst these charlatans?

    They have no shame and the support will turn on them sooner rather than later no matter how many folk try to appease us with empty platitudes.

  • Bradzo says:

    We simply have to get back to winning – it’s not that simple when the BR has knocked the heart out of the team. Matt O’Riley has been brilliant, more than brilliant, but to me he did not want to do the ugly side of football and get stuck-in. I think he’s going to leave and is protecting himself for a transfer. Celtic are as poor now than I’ve seen for years. I blame the manager.

  • Celticfcman says:

    JF, that’s more like it. Well done.

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