When Celtic are good, they’re very , very good.
But when they are bad,
Yesterday was one of those days, as Celtic crashed to Livingston at the Macaroni stadium, their third away defeat in the league in three games.
There’s a pattern emerging, and under ange Postecoglou, Celtic have just a solitary away victory for their efforts.
Defeats to Midyjjtlland, Hearts, AZ, “rangers ” and Real Betis might have been expected, maybe even excused, and there’s even a part excuse with the artificial pitch at Livingston, but reallistically, thats a game that should have been won.
Although Celtic didn’t win there last year either, and although I haven’t checked, it might actually be that the last time Celtic beat them they were called Forres Mechanics.
In fact, Celtic haven’t won anywhere in the league since February, and thats a cause for concern.
And Postecoglou wasn’t here then.
There’s a second , worrying , trend as well.
Against Betis , Celtic conceded goals in quick succession, not for the first time in Europe. In fact, over the last few years, Celtic have conceded two goals in quick succession quite a lot.
Now that may be because opposition coaches have noted a vulnerability, and instead of sitting back to consolidate after scoring, they have noticed a weakness that they play on, and as you can see, it usually works, and therefore opposition confidence increases, whilst our lot stare at their feet and wonder what went wrong.
Again, it’s worth noting though that Postecoglou has only done it once.
However, there is a common denominator in the two issues.
The backroom staff, especially Kennedy, have been present throughout this shambles, and one wonders if it’s time to cut the cord.
A manager’s job is lonely at the best of times, in any profession, and they all need people around them that they can trust, that they can bounce ideas off, and importantly, have their back.
Postecoglou doesn’t have that, yet bizarrely, as these patterns become habits, he seems to be adopting a style that is alien to him, almost as though the angeball theory is beginning to be eroded.
Yesterday , the team looked like the team of last year.
Disjointed, uninterested and hesitant.
Their confidence has clearly been battered recently, and doubts about the new manager may well be creeping in.
This is where Postecoglou needs people around him, and the situation worsened when Dom McKay walked a couple of weeks ago.
They’d been working together closely, and appeared to have done so well.
Now he’s beginning to look a lonely figure, hesitant and unsure at trackside in his own capability, and yet when it works, we’ve seen how good it is.
Where has the doubt come from suddenly ?
Although the club were quick to deny any involvement from Peter Lawwell in the resignation of Dom McKay, and that may well be true, there is a feeling that our conservative board may not have taken to the new broom sweeping through quite so readily.
The rumour mill was alive with stories that a furious Desmond would remove other board members as well, but unsurprisingly, thats all gone rather quiet…as though they’ve paid lip service to the fans and simply got on with their usual business away from the spotlight.
Don’t underestimate their desire to hang on to their jobs at Celtic, and don’t be surprised if they are perhaps betting that Postecoglou won’t walk as well because failure at Celtic would confirm to his own doubters that Australians can;t cut it in European management.
That will be on the managers mind, of that there can be little doubt.
Postecoglou has won the hearts and minds of the fans, for the moment, and although one or two are having doubts, there is still a feeling that he can build something special.
We’ve seen enough to show us that he knows what he’s doing, and knows how to do it.
We accept that he’s without several key players, and that is unfortunate, and he’ll just have to make do and mend.
Yet no one seems to wonder why we have so many injuries at the same time.
Is it a result of the extra training ? The more intense style of play ? Inevitably that will lead to players becoming a little more vulnerable to knocks and strains at first, but it will also lead to doubts in his methods.
We saw that when Ronny Deila came in and dragged the sports science department into the 21st century, and when it was promptly dragged out again by the pie and pint culture under the last manager, there was always going to be work to be done on it’s return.
It’s not just players and playing style that needed change, it’s the entire culture of the team that had to be addressed.
All of which takes time, and he’ll get that time. to an extent.
But already the headlines proclaim his honeymoon period is over, and the little cracks of doubt begin to widen as “experts ” pull apart each defeat, every minute of every game examined for signs of problems that probably aren’t even there, all of which undermines confidence in the manager.
Which is why he should do what he’s paid to do.
Manage the situation, and although there is a possibility that McKay walked because he was refused control of his own environment, thats an entirely different environment from that of the manager.
Jock Stein once said the secret of player management was to keep the half dozen who hated you away from the half dozen who weren’t sure.
That way, you got a sort of unity as there were only two factions in the squad.
He also had the advantage of a strong and loyal backroom staff who were trusted not only by him, but by the players.
If ange does nothing else this week except go to the board and demand his own staff, then it will be a giant leap forward in his schedule.
Apart from having a former manager in Gordon Strachan looking over your shoulder doing a review, there’s a couple of his kids on the staff who Ange will never truly be able to feel are his own men.
The perception of a climate of mistrust is overwhelming, even if they all get along just dandy and have tea at each others houses after training.
When he arrived on these shores, Postecoglou made it clear that everyone started with a clean slate, which backfired spectacularly when Leigh Griffiths let him down.
One wonders if anyone said I told you so, given that Griffiths , er, problems always seem to get the better of him.
He was shipped out to Dundee, coincidentally where Gordon Strachan also works as a sort of consultant.
Olivier Ntcham said he wanted to stay and fight for a place in the team, and almost immediately decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
Maybe persevering with Edouard and Christie in the hope they might change their minds and stay wasn’t the cleverest thing to do, as it caused a wee bit of unrest in the dressing room among players who knew that despite whatever smoke they were blowing up the managers arse, thats all it was.
Post window, we’re left with a squad thats yet to gel, and the pressure to get results means that everyone seems to be trying too hard and forgetting the basics that have been installed in shape and style as the manager tries to eliminate the bad habits of last season with the free flowing style he wants us to play.
Keep the faith may be a cliche, but it applies to the manager more than anyone else at the moment.
If he doesn’t trust himself, it won’t be long before no one else does.
He has a style and a philosophy that works, and quite a few players willing to believe in that.
But he needs people around him who believe in it, and in him.
Has he got that ?