Coming home to roost
The skies darkened over Hampden Park late on in today’s game and it crossed my mind that it wasn’t the Scottish rain on its way but the wings of hundreds of chickens coming home to roost. We all know that under par display from Celtic today has its roots in the asset stripping and downsizing we have endured for the past few years. Add to this a propensity for spending too much money on players who have contributed little or nothing to the team and decline is inevitable. Celtic have allowed good players to go and replaced them with less effective ones, that is plain for all to see even if it is a hard truth to swallow. Of course some players only join Celtic as a stepping stone to the riches of England but we can and should be much better than that disjointed display we saw today. Make no mistake about it we should be streets ahead of the competition in Scotland but poor decision making when signing players and even poorer management of the club has left us vulnerable.
The way ahead looks difficult now and it could well be that Ronny Deila will pay the price for a situation which is only partly of his making. His tactics and team selections have been bewildering at times but his players owe him more than they are delivering. Today’s midfield misfired badly and were outfought and outrun by a hungrier and younger Rangers side. Johansen and Biton slow the play too much and found even basic short passing a challenge today. Brown still looks well short of the player he was before his injury and Roberts was much more effective going forward than he was tracking back. At the back, Boyata came with a good pedigree but often looks distinctly uncomfortable playing against Scottish sides. The positives were again Tierney, Sviatchenko and surprisingly Charlie Mulgrew. Griffiths tried manfully but even he was off form and others looked lethargic and leg weary. Despite this Rangers had a fair slice of luck as the Celtic attack was profligate in front of goal and we saw the ball hit the woodwork twice. However few feel Celtic deserved to win the game and in key areas like the midfield engine room they were far too disjointed.
The team needs to pick itself up and get on with the business of clinching the title. There are useful players in the wings such as Allan, Christie and Simunovic and Deila needs to go for form players as he has been far too loyal to players who have not produced the goods. The Title is now the priority and we will then look to see if the Board has the vision to steady the ship and keep on board an increasingly disillusioned support which awaits season ticket renewal letters with interest. Some feel their loyalty to the club has been taken for granted and are far from happy with the lowering of standards in recent years. From a team capable of reaching the last 16 in the Champions League just a few short years ago, Celtic now look a million miles from such heights. Today a Championship side had 60% possession against Celtic and that says much. The fans need hope, they need excitement levels raised and whether the current managerial team are the ones to bring this remains open to question. We are not asking the club to break the bank or endanger prudent financial practices at the club but we do need some experienced players and an experienced manager who can blend them with the best we currently have to make a decent team.
I am not the type of supporter who calls for managers to be sacked. In fact I’m probably one of Celtic’s more optimistic fans but even the most dyed in the wool Celts can see that progress has stalled and entertainment levels are at best paltry at Celtic games recently. There is too much dead wood kicking around the club and picking up good money. Quality not quantity is what is required at Celtic Park and this summer things will reach a critical mass. Not only will the Champions League Qualifiers be upon us again (should we win the League) but we will face an SPFL campaign with an Aberdeen team who will push us again, a Hearts team who will strengthen and the unknown quantity of a resurgent Rangers who may or may not add significantly to their squad. There are real tests ahead and the club had best take stock and ask itself who is best equipped to lead Celtic into these challenges.
That hurt today Celtic. Your supporters deserve better so sort it out or there will be a reaction which helps no one when the season tickets are up for renewal. I’ll be there next season because Celtic is part of my life. Players and managers come and go but the hard core supporters remain steadfast. But there are many, more strident in their views who remain to be convinced. What happens at Celtic Park over the next 2 or 3 months needs to convince the bulk of our supporters that the club is serious about giving us a team to be proud of.
There are real challenges ahead both on and off the pitch. It’s up to the club to rise to them and unite the Celtic family.