The dust has settled on Celtic’s mental and physical breakdown at Ibrox on Sunday, and instead of going on a shoot rant right after the game, I’ve taken a few days to let others do that and post up a rational article regarding our first domestic defeat since the end of 2018.
The game was a carbon copy of a match in May 2007 that weirdly enough ended up the same scoreline, with Celtic already champions and Rangers finishing the season strongly in second place. That day, the boys of the YCV were up for it, and Celtic were passive, ensuring the following season our rivals would smell blood and push us all the way to the last day of the campaign, which may not have happened if they never had a gruelling European run.
With regards to Sunday’s performance and result, I didn’t see it coming. On a weekly basis, I assume we’ll smash teams by a few goals every week, arrogance yes, realism also yes, but I didn’t expect us to go there and just run over the top of Rangers on this occasion, I predicted a score draw, so when our first shot on goal came with five minutes to play when the game was done, it was a monumental embarrassment for the team, and for the TJDS Shoot Prediction!
Not for the first time this season, this team seemed to panic and lose all sense of their composure and gameplan (was there one?) when a team with energy pressed them, and didn’t allow them any time or space on the ball. This isn’t just a Neil Lennon problem, because it happened when we lost under Brendan Rodgers as well. This Celtic team genuinely expect others to sit off us and let us do what we want, and only Rangers under the idiot managers, Aberdeen and St Johnstone have done that on a truly consistent basis.
As soon as there’s a 50/50 tackle lost, or an aggressive challenge dished out, some of these players go hiding for the rest of the game. It’s certainly been a major problem at Ibrox. In December, Olivier Ntcham turned into a ghost after Andrew ‘Andy’ Halliday’s tackle ensured it was the greatest day of his life, and when Jon Flanagan threw himself towards Tom Rogic to win the ball early doors at the weekend, not for the first time ‘Sexy Tom’ disappeared and was nowhere to be seen for the remainder of the match. Unacceptable, but expected from him.
For years, this Celtic team’s aggression has been stripped from them, and we’ve been far too nice, but it’s worse with each passing season since the Deila era, and it’s very noticable in derby games, where we lack a genuine nasty streak needed in such fixtures.
That said, this isn’t a shoot blog where I will be just bitterly criticising players I feel are hugely overrated and overloved by the support, however any money over £5m that we’re offered for Rogic in the summer is something the club should seriously consider as a realistic proposal to offloading someone that doesn’t give anywhere near enough for us on a regular basis.
Let’s move onto the strategy the club embarked upon in January. Brendan Rodgers most certainly looked at our run of fixtures after the January break until the end of February and envisioned a target of maximum points from the routine run of games we were presented, with St Mirren, St Johnstone and Hamilton among the dross we were expected to hammer, and we did. As a result of this, we brought in this guy Bayo we refuse to play, three loan players with no planning for the future done whatsoever (other than the signing of Maryan Shved, who was loaned back to Karpaty Lviv) as racking up the wins against the relegation threatened sides in the league would practically wrap up the title, as Rangers, despite only being three points behind us at the time, weren’t seriously expected to win more than a couple of games in a row.
Two of these loan players featured on Sunday, with Timothy Weah punted just before the game, for reasons we will never know. There will be a grey area between his Instagram post, and Neil Lennon’s reasoning for letting him leave, but he was never our player in any case, and at least there will be no boring summer of mind numbing ‘Bring Him Home!’ speculation. Thanks Timo!
Oliver Burke and Jeremy Toljan, not for the first time, seriously unimpressed and caused us more problems than some of Rangers players with their lapses in concentration and self enforced errors on the park.
Yet, for all the doom and gloom in the past few days, added with strong rumours that the next manager will be Davie Moyes, this will all be forgotten in ten days when we clinch the Treble Treble, and Neil Lennon’s name will ring out around Hampden and he’ll go down in history as the man who steered the HMS Celtic back on course away from an iceberg after Captain Rodgers jumped ship back in February.
It’s too late to do anything about the defeat on Sunday now, we can even afford a similar performance at the weekend when we play Hearts on Trophy Day, but surely we will rest guys who badly need a break for that. I’m especially looking at you Callum McGregor.
The burnout we have caused with key players this season cannot continue into next season, and a suitable replacement for left back HAS to be the priority, instead of listening to Paul The Tim that someone is available on a free, and wants to come back to the club to pick up a wage for a bit. That, a mobile right back, an aggressive ballwinner in midfield and a target man up front are areas that we have to identify and recruit in, with the qualifiers for the next European campaign only seven weeks away.
A message to the hierarchy for the pre-season ahead...?
‘Get a grip, son!’