For many people, following Celtic in Europe is a lot like watching a newer Simpsons episode.
You’re bound to be let down, but you hype yourself up for it on the off chance that it’s a gem that you’ll be surprised by, however more often than not you go through the experience and wonder why you even bothered.
I didn’t see last night coming, at least, not in that fashion. Despite the years of hammerings and failure with Celtic in European football, I really thought we were going to set ourselves up properly, cut out any idiotic mistakes, be disciplined and show that we aren’t the mugs that many in Europe believe we are.
How wrong I was.
Yet again, we were exposed by a team who we should have been more than a match for and not for the first time I’m starting to wonder am I really so out of touch ?
No matter what, I expect this Celtic team to step up and beat anyone in front of them. Despite the glaring problems littered throughout this squad, from the error-prone defence, to the goal shy forward-line, I just assume we’re going to run over the top of anyone.
In fact, as I type this, I genuinely cannot see us not taking three points at Pittodrie on Sunday. We already have a 100% record against Aberdeen, and anytime they play us, they crumble into a shell, and their record in big games this season is much worse than us, so I can’t see me being wrong twice in a row.
Last night’s self inflicted doing will be forgotten anyway by half time on Sunday, when yet again, the ‘second best team in Scotland’ are swatted aside, and the players act like big dogs a few days after doing their best game of hidey performance of the season so far.
That’s what pains me with this current team. The way that we’ll raise our own game to put teams like Aberdeen to the sword, but seem to cower in fear at a higher level. Last night was cowardly and it wouldn’t surprise me now if this lot now play with no fear for the rest of the season, as they will no longer need to step up to a tougher challenge than going to Fir Park or New Douglas Park for a result.
The way that some players collapsed and broke down when Zenit made it 1-0 was, frankly, an embarrassment. The controlled aggression from our midfield in the first leg was stripped from them all as soon as Branislav Ivanovic escaped the woeful Simunovic to plant his header past De Vries.
I’ve said for ages now that this Celtic team are far too nice. Even last season, when no one wanted to say a word against them. Scott Brown and Kieran Tierney are the only players who aren’t scared to go in where it hurts, but the rest of them really need to take a look at themselves.
Jozo Simunovic has probably seen a few war crimes growing up, yet constantly looks terrified this season at the thought of anyone running at him. At 3-0 down, just start taking bodies and replicate that Ibrox tackle from last year, but no, nothing. Just an acceptance to be bossed about on the park that’s been all too familiar since PSG smashed us in September.
Our European campaign has been nothing short of forgettable, yet again, and we’ve went out without a whimper, and the fact that we never bothered recruiting for the Zenit games until the very last minute suggests to me that the club weren’t taking it seriously in the first place, but of course they were happy to charge a fortune and take your money. Great bunch of lads.
This will be a footballing groundhog day for us every year in Europe and Celtic’s small time approach to games like last night will be the norm from now on.
The 90’s but, eh.