The first half of the season ended when the final whistle blew in Paisley, where we won 3-0 and shattered those who had hoped we’d follow up our win against the Ibrox club at home by dropping points. Our comfortable victory made it clear that we’re still the team to beat.
The second half of the season is looming.
The league table is not as good as we would have hoped, but it is better than we had feared. The Ibrox club could have clawed their way past us had they beaten us; we’d presently be in a lot of trouble. The win over them changed the equation. Kyogo not getting picked for Japan has handed us a major lift.
We’ve also spent the only money of any team in the league, to strengthen the wide area. Between that and players coming back from injury I think we’re stronger than we’ve been since the campaign started, and let’s be honest about that.
First it feels that we’ve never had a fully strength team here because of injuries and for the first time we’ll have almost everybody back.
We still have the annoying Asian Cup to get through, and I remain concerned unless we sign a striker, but that aside we should have the best team we’ve had since the campaign started.
Because Palma and Bernardo look like players, Nawrocki might be coming good at the right time and Scales is the miracle man. That some signings have been hugely disappointing is not a secret. But things are taking shape. There is justifiable confidence.
The manager has taken his time in getting his ideas across. He has unquestionably made mistakes. The most critical of them was leaving transfer policy in the hands of others at the club, a huge error we all hope he’s learned from. We now wait to find out what the next two weeks of the window will deliver in that regard. Surely Rodgers needs will prevail?
The head of recruitment has come in for justified stick. He is having the worst first half of the season of anyone at the club, and rightly so, with every one of the blogs seriously unimpressed by what he delivered over the summer.
So bad was his performance, in fact, that some of the fans are already harbouring huge concerns about Kuhn … it is a bad record when even a signing the manager has obviously signed off on is being questioned before he’s kicked a ball. That’s on Lawwell Jnr and those who thought it was a good idea to put someone in a massive job who was going to foster that kind of distrust almost automatically. You sometimes wonder what goes through their minds.
The pressure this whole club is under is enormous, but here’s the thing; we’re always under pressure and these guys have learned to live with it. After we lost at home to Hearts, when things looked like they might drop through the floor, everyone at the club reacted calmly. Nobody went off the deep end. Nobody panicked.
We doubled down on everything we do right and we focussed on the task at hand. That’s how top clubs respond to adversity.
That’s because we undisputedly have the best manager in the country here. He’s already beaten The Mooch and seen him off the premises, and you know how much hype he and his team were getting when this season started.
The process of seeing off Manneken Piss has already started; he is the polar opposite of Rodgers. He is arrogant, snappy and he starts to fragment when the heat is on. His petulant display after we beat them was pathetic.
We’re going into what is almost certainly the toughest part of this campaign. We have all the major clubs away from home coming up. Ironically, the first quarter of the campaign, when we visited all those same grounds, was our strongest bit so far, it was where we built the seven point lead which we proceeded to throw away in the second bit.
We need a similar performance here, and the media is waiting for us to slip. But we will be a more settled team in this run than we were when the campaign kicked off, and there will be no European football to distract us. Ibrox does have European games and right now that’s being spun as a big plus but we’ll see about that because they also need to fit two league games in as well and so their free midweeks are going to be virtually non-existent.
Watch them bitterly complain about that. Watch them try to shame the rest of the game into doing them favours and whatever later on. I look at the teams they can get in the Europa League draw and think they have a realistic chance of going through the next round, as unpalatable as that is to write. The round after that is where the wheels fall off … but I think they may wind up with another two matches and even more fixtures to fit in.
That’s when the drumbeat about how Scottish football owes them something will start, and you wait and see. The folly of playing two matches during the winter break should already be self-evident, and the trip has cost them another player in a long-term injury, which only adds to the general sense of utter calamity which stalked that whole thing.
Even with the Brotherhood on their sides, I think one or two refs will be furious with them for putting Collum under such pressure. I am not saying that will have an impact on decisions, but if you were a neutral as a ref you could either back off giving decisions against them or give them no benefit of the doubt whatsoever. That will be interesting to watch.
The second half of this season is shaping up nicely, I think.
A lot can happen, but I’d rather have our hand than theirs and there are river cards still to come out, and yeah, they might get one of the cards they need to make a decent fist of it, but there are more options in the deck for us than there are for them, more positives for us than there are for them and Rodgers is the consummate player.
We still have signings to make. We know we have the resources to do it. There are serious doubts about theirs.
Much will hinge on whether Lawwell Junior has upped his game. We know that. But the thing I like about Kuhn is that this so obviously has the manager’s stamp on it and he knows what he wants and what he needs and this one is clearly his pick.
Which means something has shifted inside the club. There has been a realignment of the power dynamics. Do not underestimate the seismic shock it must have been for our directors to hear a significant segment of the Celtic supporter calling them out. These people have literally never had that before, it must have felt like walking on alien planet.
That might be the moment this title race was swung back in our favour.
We’re in a good place, I think. The picture looks less advantageous than it might because we gave away the seven point lead, but that match at Celtic Park was massive, that win was enormous, that ripped their cloak of invincibility away and the swagger returned to our team and our manager, and you could see that against St Mirren.
The next two weeks should deliver more signings. In fact, I expect us to have at least one more by the time the next league game kicks off.
This is going to be a roller coaster.
But when it comes to a halt, I firmly believe we’ll be in the box seat with another title, and a game away from another double. If that happens, the only question will be what comes first; a new boss at Ibrox or the start of a new year?