When the team for Saturdays Glasgow derby was announced, our CSC looked at it, and gave Brendan the benefit of the doubt. He’d put out a team that if things went wrong, an adjustment or two could put it right.
Calum MacGregor at left back was the eyebrow raiser, but it meant if need be perhaps Celtic could go to three at the back and move him more central. The muscle and the hustle was there, in Scott Brown and Olivier Ntcham, and in form Mikey Johnston spearheaded the front line with support from Forrest, Christie and Sinclair.
What could go wrong ?
More importantly, why send out a team in a formation that in his own mind may not work ?
Because, now that the dust has settled , it not only didn’t work, it was completely broken from the start.
Craig Gordon showed a bit of spirit, he kept the score respectable. In front of him Boyata, Benkovic and Lustig reverted to the “who’s turn is it to make an arse of it ?” style that they adopt every time the back line is changed, and only MacGregor showed any sort of composure or fight.
Boyata gave the ball away five times in the opening twelve minutes, it would have been more but he only had it five times.
Lustig and Benkovic seemed oddly intimidated by the hostile crowd, and when they don’t have confidence in themselves, the two midfielders in front of them lose confidence as well.
That meant the forwards, Christie apart, who at least did try to come back for the ball, got no service, it also meant that the wingers were backtracking to help clear the lines, and Johnston, well, he was isolated and would probably have been wishing he’d brought his phone with him, to at least give him something to do.
Celtic didn’t turn up, and as usual, when the manager tinkers with things, the players didn’t turn up because they didn’t know where they were supposed to be.
As a result, “rangers ” harassed, bullied and dominated the game, and Celtic were lucky to get out with just a single goal defeat.
Was Rodgers negligent ?
He certainly got it wrong, but he can consider himself unlucky that two substitutions were forced due to injury, but then again, when you have a referee who is prepared to interpret the rules to suit his own agenda, then thats always a possibility.
It doesn’t need to be a legbreaker to cause injury, several wee taps can damage a player, and if a team is allowed to consistently foul , then that is likely to happen.
We have seen that when Rodgers makes too many changes, either in formation or personnel, that the players struggle.
We have seen that referees have been somewhat leniant over consistent fouling of Celtic players…Beaton on Saturday just went one step further and broke play up when Celtic looked like gaining any sort of rhythym. It was as blatant a display of bias that you are likely to see anywhere in football.
But neither of the above can be used as an excuse when you consider how long its been going on.
Neither the manager or the club has spoken out about the lack of protection for the players on the park for some time now.
Thats negligence, they have a duty of care to all their staff.
We’ve a winter break now, and there are calls for the side to be strengthened, and frankly thats going to be difficult.
So far, Kolo Toure has got his phone book out and we’re looking at a loan move for Timothy Weah, in the hope that he turns out to be anywhere near as good as his dad, and if he does, he’ll be gone in the summer, which means that we’ll be looking for a striker again while the qualifiers, should we win the league, are taking place.
There’s also an Ivorian striker on the radar, and the Birmingham Mail has Olly Burke, of West Brom, heading north.
After several uninspiring transfer windows, this one is important, and although the money is there, its draining at an alarming rate among a squad that are now looking like they’ve lost the will to fight, and we may find that a blue chip signing, which was on the cards a few months ago, is no longer possible.
If we’re looking through Toures phone book, then we need to ask what Lee Congerton has been doing for these last couple of years.
Heading into the NewYear, things look pretty bleak, and yet there is no conceivable reason that it should be this way.
There are very few players, if any, that play in Scotland that would make the Celtic first team on merit, and yet time after time the hoops struggle to stamp their authority on games.
Put simply, we look to have run out of energy, ideas and most importantly, heart.
Celtic and “rangers ” are tied on points at the top of the league, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen are sitting right behind them.
Those teams have got better, but the reason for the “competitiveness ” of the league isn’t down to that, its down to Celtic not performing, or not be allowed to perform, to their capabilities.
We can cite referee interference, we can cite injuries, but the point is no one is standing up for the club or the players.
There’s a lack of leadership from the boardroom, the management and even the senior players.
On Saturday, Scott Brown should have spoken to the referee about the consistent fouling.
Alfredo Morelas got away with three red card incidents and although he is now wondering if any if them will get him a Compliance Officer ban, why is no one asking why the referee missed them ?
A diplomatically worded statement from the club about even a lack of consistency from the officials would not go amiss.
The manager , in his post match interview looked and sounded as though he didn’t care. If I hadn’t been watching the screen, I’d have thought Tony Mowbray was back in charge and we were about to be told we’d take it on the chin and move on.
In the second half of the season, Celtic need to rediscover their fight.
If the referees continue to influence games the way they have thus far, we are not going to win the title.
If the manager tinkers around too much , and doesn’t play his best players in their favoured positions, we are not going to win the title.
There’s a lot wrong just now, but whats puzzling is the lack of interest in putting it right.
Scott Brown is talking to an Australian club about a possible three year deal. Good luck to him, but the prospect of moving a young family to the other side of the world will be playing on his mind. Of course he isn’t going to be focused.
Mikael Lustig hasn’t been offered a new deal yet, and the club are actively seeking a new right back. how do you think he feels, whether you think he’s worth it or not, its only fair to let him know where he stands.
Dedryck Boyata has been offered a massive new contract, and if its still on the table, may I suggest a transit van, a couple of ski masks and getting that table out of his house ?
With the greatest respect to our Academy players who have made the first team, the fact there are so many of them points to a massive failure in the recruitment policy.
If you count Dembeles sudden exit after the Rodgers -Lawwell spat last summer, it also points towards a retention problem, and maybe is an indicator as to why so mnay long term contracts have been handed out to certain players.
They get the security, but with that security comes complacency.
It needn’t be like this.
The manager has shown he knows how to win games, trophies and respect.
He knows how to convince top players to come to Celtic.
He knows how to get the best out of what he has on the park.
He knows how to change a game to win it when things aren’t going so well.
He just has to go out and do it all over again.
Its just that he gives the impression he doesn’t want to, or isn’t going to be allowed to.
Its time for everyone at the club to decide where they want to go from here.
Onwards and upwards ?
We are at the top of the league, we are one trophy to the good, and we are still in Europe.
But the margin is too fine. If not for one late Hibernian goal, one late Rosenberg goal and a head knock to Gary Mackay Steven it could have been all too diferent…
Thats something to build on, and build we must. No more excuses.
Or do we accept that we’re a business, one which needs the Glasgow rivalry to keep shareholders happy ?
Except for the ones who have already registered their distaste with the Scottish football scene, obviously.
You know, if I was the sort of guy who thought there was a possibility that the game was being run by a corrupt governing body for the benefit of one club, and that somehow, for the “good of the game “, our club was complicit in all of this, the evidence of the last few months might lead me to think that there’s a committee that meets every Sunday night to decide the scores of the week aheads games.
For the benefit of tv viewers, and bookies.
But perhaps I’m just being overly paranoid.
Like I was the last time….