Celtic eased into the quarter finals of the Scottish cup with a less than convincing win over part timers East Kilbride. The score was 2-0, with Leigh Griffiths getting away with a handball for the first, and Colin Kazim Richards watching the ball roll down his leg for the second.
I was just glad to get the game out of the way so I could go and get a shot on my new deep fat fryer.
I’d spent all Sunday morning looking for it, and wasn’t going to wait any longer to give it a whirl. She had a moan because it was white, and didn’t go with anything else in the kitchen, but fuck it, its mine and I like it.
Fell out with the wonderful people at Pets at Home , though.
As I stood in the queue holding two big bags of dog biscuits, twelve cans of dog food and a packet of tennis balls-I’m not allowed to leave the house at weekends with cash no matter where I’m going
-so i didn’t have a quid coin for a trolley.
Anyhoo, my leg-I’ve a trapped nerve, osteoarthritis and at the very least a couple of deep vein thrombosises in there-started to scream in protest, and I waited, and waited. Just as the chap before me went to take his turn at the till, a fresh dourteen year old with a beard appeared at another, on the far side of the check out circle.i hobbled over to find he kept going to the other side, and my place was taken by one of those chaps with an anorak on, and undoubtedly a Jack Russell in one of the many useful pockets.
As I hobbled back over, they took it in turns to smirk at the hilarity of the poor chap now hobbling back.
Mind you, they stopped grinning when I threw what I was carrying at them and as a result I got the dog food from Home Bargains. Which was cheaper anyway, and now, as a bonus, I won’t have to go to Pets at Home again either.
Of course, she blamed me, especially as the deep fat fryer still stubbornly refused to blend in with the rest of the kitchen, so I went into another room to watch the game.
It wasn’t great, East Kilbride rode their luck a bit, and it suddenly dawned on me why. The goalkeepers last name was McGinley, and in my experience people with that name tend to be excellent players, wonderful thinkers and above all stand their ground when the chips are down, either on the football pitch or in Pets at fecking Home.
We won, they lost and no matter how you dress it up, that means that Celtic are still in the Cup.
On the pitch saw the return of Charlie Mulgrew, which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Mulgrew is still the only Celtic player who can take a free kick or cross a ball with any degree of accuracy, and although he can’t run about as much as he used to, he is an excellent organiser of other people running about.
A perfect compliment to Scott Brown, who just runs about and then tells other people what they should have done.
Dare I say we have missed his experience this season. Yes, I think I dare.
Which leads me on to an analysis of the season so far. Yesterday was a typical example not only on the pitch, but off it.
On the pitch, the players seemed a little nervous, and so they should have been. These games can be banana skins, but they got the job done. They were fairly comfortable in doing it, East Kilbride only managed one shot on target, whilst Celtic had a corner roughly every couple of minutes. Despite dominating in the air, the Hoops failed to run up a cricket score, which, of course , would have earned them some credit in the eyes of the media and the support.
Like it did with the win over Hamilton.
As the strongest side , at;least on paper, with the biggest budget, Celtic are expected to win all of their games, despite no side ever having done that in living memory, anywhere in the world.
And the club is expected to win well, playing fantastic football, every single time. Which isn’t going to happen.
And heres why…
In the league, the clubs play each other a minimum of three times, rising to four after the split. That allows opposition managers a chance to try different things against you, it allows them to notice weaknesses and nullify dangers.
Thats why Henrik Larsson’s achievements in Scotland are far greater than most “experts ” give him credit for. For seven years, he continued to score goals, despite defenders becoming familiar with his style. Which is why he continued to do well when he left , at a couple of Europes major clubs.
However, for some inexplicable reason, the support seem to have it in their heads that the current side should be winning every game by several goals, which is entirely unrealistic and only happens in those computer games where all your players are taller , faster and sharper than the others. But then they should be, you’ve spent millions on them, and computer games work that way anyway.
Real life doesn’t. Those players on the computer don’t have personalities.
Since Rangers died and left the scene, we were supposed to have it all our own way. Like they did when they were outspending all the other clubs. Of course, their level of spending, at a time when others were forced to invest in infrastructure, ensured their nine in a row, but later that would come at a price.
Towards the end of that run, Celtic had began to benefit from fresh investment that didn’t have to be spent on a new stadium, and thus began to compete.
This time, the dominant Glasgow side is facing clubs who have their house in order, are investing wisely and focusing on team building, and so far seven going on eight of them have won major silverware since Scottish football was deemed to be heading for the rocks.
Now , you may argue that Celtic, financially, should be at the head of the pack.
Like in England, where the financial behemoth Leicester City sit proudly at the top of the league, much to the consternation of the sides who have spent billions between them.
Football may be about to go full circle and become a team game again…
Players too, read these comments. They may well feel that they, who are on the biggest wage at the biggest club, should be winning everything in sight, putting in performances that the opposition should be capable only of standing back and admiring.
It doesn’t work that way.
It never has.
But the players don’t seem to handle this. They cannot understand why they aren’t playing well, and it appears that quite possible that manager Ronny Deila and his team of assistants aren’t quite grasping it either.
The other teams treat games against Celtic as their cup finals. Especially in the cup.
Big games for other sides don’t come around as often nowadays, and they are making the most of it.
What confuses me is that we all asked for more competition when Rangers died, and now its beginning to take shape, we want to sack the manager.
Not one single supporter, columnist or commentator has given credit to a new breed of manager that has grasped an opportunity and began to improve the standard of football at his club.
Alright, Derek McInnes has been around a bit, but not at any significant level, and theres little doubt he has improved Aberdeen, instilling a steel spine that wasnt there last year. Robbie Neilsen at Hearts, John Hughes at Inverness, Tommy Wright at St. Lohnstone have all improved things in a way that Jimmy Calderwood, Jimmy Nicholl George Burley and others of that generation couldn’t have done.
New ideas are improving things, and maybe a wee bit of credit should go to these people sometimes.
But for Celtic, we need to deal with this.
I first noticed this attitude when Stefan Johansen was talking about being in the Europa League instead of the Champions league.
He was shellshocked at being at a level beneath him. The other players , in their Europa performances, seemed to have the same attitude. The competition was beneath them. they thought they were Champions League players, and as a result fell apart when the sides Celtic were up against turned out to be a while lot better than maybe they had thought.
Or been told.
Curiously, and this made me think, how may games have Celtic played under Ronny Deila that saw us as the underdogs ?
Inter Milan, maybe ?
Ajax ? Fenerbache ? At a push ?
Has the attitude of the support, and there are plenty who have this particular mindset, where there is a feeling that Celtic should win every game, rubbed off on the players ?
Have we insulated ourselves in our own we world of supremacy so much that when others have caught up with us it has taken us -on and off the field-by surprise, and we are at a loss as to how to deal with it ?
It might explain why the players fall apart when other teams come back from being behind, and also explain why our own are incapable of doing so.
It’s all new to them, and they weren’t expecting it. They haven’t become bad players overnight.
The manager isn’t all of a sudden a diddy.
The support didnt suddenly turn into an overly critical bad tempered and intolerant bunch. Well, apart from those who shop at Pets at Home.
Its simple really.
We’re not used to these uppity wee teams fancying their chances. We want to be the underdog. We want nights like the win over Barcelona. Why should they have these great days out ?
Aren’t they our special thing ? Isn’t that what footballs about ? Celtic rising up against the odds ?
There is a major rethink needed amongst the palyers and management. They need to raise their game, everyone else has.
Same with the support. W’ve been complacent, and allowed our little world to be invaded. That cosy set up where ten in a row was guaranteed.
Well, this year isn’t the problem, We should still, with a bit of effort, win a double.
But we need to move up a gear. To make certain.
The players need to start acting and performing as though their lives depend on it. They need to deal with their fear of failure. They need to realise that they are the team others love to beat, that others love to see beaten.
Complacency has made it a little more difficult than it should be, but theres time to put it right.
And as for the support, how about realising that we are not blameless either ?
Anybody can shout at people when they get it wrong, but very few can encourage them to get it right.
We don’t have a divine right to win everything, no one does, indeed no one ever has.
So give it a rest and get behind the team.
I’ve read hundreds of replies, hundreds of different viewpoints, and tried to look at the situation from a number of different angles.
As it stands, Celtic have won four in a row with little opposition, sustained opposition, that is. The players and the support are struggling to come to terms with the reality of a strong challenge. Its like we all expect it to fade away at any point.
What if it doesn’t ?
Well, we need to make sure it does, by upping our game a wee bit.
Thats what is missing this season.
We didn’t make sure Malmo stayed down in the European qualifiers. We didn’t make sure we eliminated the individual mistakes in the Europa.
We didn’t make sure that Ross County had no way back into the League Cup semi final.
The team are doing half a job because they think thats all they need to do.
Inter Milan was the last team we played where we weren’t expecting to win.
That mentality needs to be removed .
The more we tell the players they should be winning every game, the more they’ll wonder why they aren’t.
I think the problem is that we thought it would be easy, and it isn’t. Other teams have improved, Celtic haven’t for whatever reason, and one of those reasons is that we cannot deal with adversity, on and off the park.
If we start to take the challenges seriously, the team should improve, the support will start to enjoy it more and the atmosphere at games, and attendances , will also improve.
And if you still think that its all down to Ronny Deila or James Forrest after digesting all that, then maybe you should watch the tennis.
Tomorrow , the diary will return to its usual fun and frolics .
I just felt we had to get this out of the way first.
Don’t believe all you read in the papers. Even the best of them can get it wrong;
And so to happier times.
Have a look at this photograph.
Who are the opponents, and how many of the players can you name ?