The Second Half Of This Campaign Is About To Start. How Well Prepared Are Celtic?

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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?

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  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Vital we get another striker in. That should be our main transfer focus above the other positions still needin strengthened. We’re still the better team right now, tho that could change one way or another, if we don’t dae the buisness properly in this window. By our own doin, ah think we’ve gave the ibrox club enough help gettin back intae this league title.

  • William Melvin says:

    James, l wish l could share your ,what l perceive, guarded optimism over a change in the dynamic regarding transfer policy but for the hell of me l can’t.
    What’s the old saying,”Fool me once……”
    I’m sure you know the rest,well mibbe it’s because the suits at Parkhead have conned the support so many times that l am so sceptical. (Have been for years with these bastards.)
    I said before we played the huns on the 30th of December that it would not be such a terrible thing for them to beat us because l reckoned if we did lose it would have had the effect of electric shock therapy to this sleepwalking entity we call the custodians of our club.
    They would have been forced to get the biscuit tin out because the furore caused by our support on the day would have left them in no doubt who the 60,000+ in attendance were going to be blaming for the wheels falling off a treble winning side.
    However,the players and fans did them a solid on the day and we averted giving the mob from South of the river’s season a massive shot in the arm while simultaneously putting ours into disarray.
    What it also did,l fear,is reinforce their feeling that all was well with the team and with a couple of token signing in this window we would have enough to get over the finishing line in first place.
    That is not how it should be,furfuxsake !!!
    We should be buying guys who are good enough in the positions where we needed strengthening even before last summer’s window and STILL we have not addressed these problems !
    To think we are ok with no real cover for a goalkeeper who should now be playing backup(God bless ye,Joe) and a left back who has performed miracles despite what his detractors want to say, is nothing short of criminal.
    That we haven’t got another striker in the door to back up/challenge Kyogo is an absolute disgrace and that we are relying on his dodgy shoulder to stay in place is a recipe for disaster.
    All this with close to £100,000,000 sweating in the bank !!
    I could so easily have just put £100m but when you write that amount on a cheque that’s what it looks like !!
    As a footnote,l wouldn’t rely on the huns having extra games to play as the last time l looked there is STILL no drug testing in Scottish football.
    I say this as we have the fine example of Mr Bassey’s superhuman strength and stamina falling off a cliff once he came under the auspices of the Dutch Football authorities, nudge nudge,wink wink and all that.
    I really hope l’m wrong in all this but time will tell how our season ends up.
    The clock is ticking,tic,toc,tic,toc,TIC,TOC……..

    • Michael M says:

      Excellent post on every count.

      Realistically we’re two points ahead of them and Kuhn has only played 60 professional games in his career, having been out due to mainly ‘muscular’ injuries for two weeks shy of a full year in that period so I won’t be putting too much faith in him.

      Taylor has been miraculous while Bernabei just looks like he needs a miracle so an injury to Taylor and who plays left back?

      Or Kyogo’s shoulder goes thanks to a hammer thrower, do we just stick Mikey Johnston up front again?

      I don’t really see much to be optimistic about, James, as one injury to one or both of these players early in and we’re as lost as the Ibrox mob are.

      If the board don’t get the finger out in the next 10 days I’ll be more convinced than ever that they’re deliberately sabotaging Celtic to hand that mob that 60 million CL money they need to keep them alive.

      They blatantly did it in The Ten season when Peter Lawwell got rid of every one of our defence, Gordon, Hayes, Lustig and Jozo, and I knew right there, before a ball was kicked, that he was handing the league to them to keep the OF myth alive and how the support let him away with that gross dereliction of duty, nay, outright betrayal, I’ll never know.

      So careful with that optimism, mate, they’ve shown us nothing to deserve it.

  • Bob (original) says:

    What seemed to be missing before the break, (and this season), was direct, attacking play to unlock defences,

    and which gets the support on its feet and buzzing?

    Maybe Kuhn could do that?

    If he can take on his man, hit the byeline and get in dangerous crosses now and then,

    (yes, the old fashioned way!),

    he will offer a different dynamic to the team?

    We still have the best squad:

    we just need to get back to producing flowing, exciting football

    and which puts a big smile across all our coupons? 🙂

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    Mmmmmm… Nothing wrong with confidence James and as always you do raise some excellent points but they are still an imminent danger for the variety of reasons that we all know so well…

    It’s only The 19th of January so there’s still a bit to go in the transfer window so I’d say our true idea will be on February 1st when the window closes –

    Talking of the transfer window – I’m one of the ones that likes it – it means that Celtic and Sevco cannot just cherry pick who they want on an ad hoc basis from other clubs and purchase their was out of trouble from injuries and poor form the way they used to in days gone by…

    And never let them forget it – But ‘Rangers’ as they were known then used other people’s (taxpayers) money to fund their convenient ‘buy’ ? their way outta trouble players !

  • Woodyiom says:

    Not so sure its as cut and dried as you’re making out James. European Thursday nights may well be a factor in due course BUT that win in Betis was huge as it means they go straight into the last 16 and the first game of that tie is not till 7th of March some 7 weeks away so lack of free midweeks scenario is not really an issue for them till then. Until Reo, CCV and Abada are properly embedded back in our team we still look vulnerable and lacking options IMHO – the next 12 days may well decide the title.

  • John S says:

    Isn’t it odd that every manager and player the Ibrox club signs undergoes a character change after a week or two ?

  • Johnno says:

    Very fair and decent assessment there James from yourself upon the season to date imo.
    Always a period of transition with a change of management, and taken a bit longer than expected for ourselves imo.
    Course the focus was mainly upon the summer business, but believe that injuries and taking the more established players longer to adapt to the transition process where bigger factors myself, leading to way to many inconsistencies within the performances of team and decision making from Rodgers.
    Thankfully much of those seem to have been resolved before the break, even if not totally completed as of yet, but moving in the right direction now?
    Kuhn and the return of Abada should in theory resolve our right hand side attacking options, which have been fairly piss poor to date this season imo.
    Still a decision awaits upon where OH might fit into the plans of Rodgers, as maybe getting in another striker, might have us overloaded again in the position upon the bigger picture, but risky currently with the Asian Cup and kyogo injury concerns?
    So nothing easy upon the decision making process, where any new signings now, would be expected to be made with potentially CL football next season in mind imo?
    So with that outlook in play, I don’t see how another striker could be anything else but a potential loan signing with a decision to be made, come the end of the season imo?
    The LB position still needs to be covered still, and the 8 homegrown rule for CL brings ourselves huge problems still, even now with next season in mind?
    .As a solution, then Doig could be a brilliant option for the position, taking ourselves up to maybe as 6 for CL football next season imo, who should still be in the club next season?
    Can’t see a decision upon Hart happening before the season finishes, but if a potential keeper should be available now, with next season in mind, then great, but still believe Hart will remain as no1, so possibly a loan to buy could be in the offering yet?
    The overall squad is shaping up nicely enough now, especially with seeing now where players could be fitting into the plans of Rodgers, which has to involve the bigger picture of CL football, but some still need to prove themselves at SPFL level, in order to earn that potential CL squad place?
    Having good competition for starting positions and allowing rotation in order to manage game time for big players, is the way forward nowadays imo?
    A way the club has to go, especially as we have been way to dependent upon them for way to long now, and the 1st half of the season has shown we still remain top without having the opportunity of fielding our strongest 11 yet this season yet.
    What is starting to become exciting now, is what is our strongest available 11 available for when this window does actually close?

  • Brattbakk says:

    Kuhn is clearly a Rodgers signing so you’d think he has to play him. Hopefully he’s better than Maeda or Palma but it’s a big ask.

  • king murdy says:

    doesn’t matter what ibrox do….or the men in black….
    the greatest risk to celtic is within the walls…..

  • Unrepentant fenian says:

    My mistrust of both board and manager is such that I have even wondered if Brendan is on a % of profit from any “project player” probably not but as you alluded to in a previous article that’s the level of trust the board has when it comes to transfers with some of the support
    Celtic 1st Celtic forever

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