“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
— Charles Dickens ----------------------------------------------------------
Well, that was a strange Champions League campaign eh?
Feel free to interpret the word “strange” in any way that suits your mindset as currently the Celtic crowd are very much divided between heralding financial and domestic re-assurance and ruefully asking if we have seen any true actual team play progress in recent years in European campaigns.
Its a tough one indeed.
Overall the campaign was more lows than highs but we remain in Europe and “the goal” as set out by Brendan has been reached. Does the journey matter as long as you reach the destination?
On reflection the team only played well enough in 1 game, that exciting 3-0 win in Belgium and had abysmal abject displays against PSG. Did we just get lucky getting Anderlecht when they were rock bottom?
Effort wise, we did see some dogged determination against Bayern at home but that was coupled with the soul destroying ball/shadow chasing against PSG and Anderlecht at home. Can this current squad adjust a game to suit immediate needs?
After the game, the realistic\optimistic folk were posting on recent demands and the achievements reached so far…CL qualification in itself, retaining the League Cup, 7 points clear in league, unbeaten in 67 domestic, a recent 4 games in 10 days and now Europa League football confirmed and the £30m in the kitty reward for this years campaign.
On the other hand, others were posting about Fortress Parkhead being a long forgotten football memory. rueing another campaign with no home win, sighing about only 1 goal in Europe at home this year and moaning about games in which we have been shown up in class, determination, confidence and talent.
All views perfectly valid and reasonable in their own way.
I was originally gonna write a Players Ratings but theres no point really. The only players showing any quality over 90 mins were Forrest and Broony. Ntcham did well for his half and Edouard for his 15 mins or so but the rest were poor or average at best. Sheer panic and worry covered the team and then onto the crowd and questions still remain about temperament and confidence when this team is under pressure. Domestically we are fine but our limitations are readily highlighted by any Euro opponent with a football brain.
I think this has been a massive reality check meets massive CL cheque. We are closer to Aberdeen than we are to Group 1, 2 or 3 teams in Europe. For now we should forget aspirations of going toe to toe in the CL and accept that The Europa League is our level but in the light of day, we have no chance of winning that either and being unseeded in the draw on Monday should see us being odds-on to exit the competition.
All we can do is look for steady progress, take the hits when up against the quality foes, but we must reduce their impact. That advancement has not been evident and even Brendan knows that harsh fact. All we can do is hope to gradually edge forward like a limited boxer hoping to stay in the fight long enough to land that winning wonder punch.
How do we do that?
Well that is the question…or many questions, including:
Can members of the current squad really make the step up required?
Can Moussa stay fit / remain at Parkhead?
Will the Board open the chequebook?
Can Brendan buy wisely where needed?
Can Brendan accept that sometimes we need to fight ugly?
Time will tell but there are some seeds of hope along with the doubt.
Will we buy Edouard and give us more flexible options up front?
Can we find a way to get the confident on the ball Broony and NtCham playing regularly together?
Can we find that mythical ball playing yet “robust” centre half pairing that we need?
Can we find a consistency were we don’t have our hearts in our mouths every time Boyata\Jozo\Gordon start playing tiki-taka in their own 18 yard box?
Its all now in Brendans hands. Even though it was an OG on the 0-1 scoreline last night he knows that we were well beaten and it seems he didn’t miss some of his players when reminding them of the standards needed. Some fans will be citing Rodgers record so far in Europe and others will be saying “in Brendan we trust”.
Only time will tell how it all works out but for now Im gonna keep reminding myself that it still always better to be at the glamorous party getting a knock back from the good looking lassie than standing outside in the cold alone, looking forlornly through the window.