Now, Even The Bad Times Are Good

One of the challenges that Celtic face is that opponents in Scotland generally regard anything other than a sound thrashing at our hands as a good result.
A draw is excellent.
And actually beating Celtic is a significant career highlight for the majority of their players.

Even if Celtic give a team a right good horsing, the defeated outfit just shrug it off and refocus their attention on competing with their peers.
Their supporters are generally quite content to watch their players deploying whatever tactics might successfully deny the Celts a goal spree.
There’s very little pressure on those teams to do anything other than hold the fort.
That’s just the way it is.

By contrast, Celtic supporters – and particularly the younger ones who have no memory of watching truly rotten Celtic teams – seem to think that anything short of a convincing victory in almost every single domestic fixture is a completely unsatisfactory betrayal of Celtic’s traditional, glorious style.
But the reality is that although Celtic now have greater resources than any of their Scottish opponents, this does not mean that they can fill the side with geniuses and world-beaters who are entitled to overrun the puny resistance of unworthy opposition by dint of their immeasurable superiority and God-given gifts.
Celtic have played eight games this month.
Now that they’ve lost one of them to a well organised, hard working, reasonably competent side at their home stadium, there is a bizarre gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in some Celtic-supporting quarters as if it’s an outrageous injustice.
It’s not.
It’s football.

Hibs did to Celtic what the Hoops did to Barcelona.
They prevented theoretically superior opponents from playing to their strengths, pinched a lead and then defended it for all they were worth.
Inspired by the big occasion, Hibs found an energy level, a focus and a resolve which simply wasn’t there a few days ago when they lost to Ross County.
Indeed it doesn’t seem to have been there in any of their recent performances since they last raised the bar by knocking Hearts out of the Cup at the start of the month.
That was another big occasion for the Hibs players which seems to have brought out the best in them.

When Celtic play Hibs, they’re not really playing the same team that loses a string of league games to Ross County, Motherwell, ICT, Aberdeen and Dundee.
They’re playing a team which is as up for it as Celtic are against Benfica, Spartak Moscow or Barcelona.
And, just as Celtic have proved themselves to be able to stop those teams from playing at their best, so it is that the boot is on the other foot when they have to solve the problem of unlocking packed defences in Scotland.

On the day, Celtic’s success will depend upon the conversion rate of the chances they do manage to create.
Yesterday, they had a few chances and didn’t take them.In the Champions League, Celtic had an unusually high conversion rate and that carried them through to the last 16.
If they can somewhat improbably maintain that preposterously high rate, they might even yet get past Juventus (so long as the serial match-fixers from Turin miss their penalties).
But the odds on that happening in every match Celtic play are not good.

Ten years ago Celtic could regularly turn games like yesterday’s defeat around because the threat of top class talents such as Chris Sutton, Stilian Petrov, John Hartson and Lubomir Moravcik sooner or later created chances which the genius of Henrik Larsson would convert with exceptional regularity.
Hooper isn’t in Larsson’s class, Samaras isn’t as deadly as Hartson, Broon isn’t the player that Petrov was and no-one at Celtic Park now could lace Moravcik’s boots.
The money simply isn’t there to acquire ready-made players of that quality and, unlike some clubs, Celtic have no intention of exterminating themselves by spending money which they don’t have or by borrowing money which they can never pay back.

Celtic are competing against top-flight professional clubs who, rightly, are keen to test themselves against the best team in the country and one of the current European elite.
There are almost certainly going to be lots of days like yesterday when Celtic fire blanks.
But they’ll probably have far fewer of them than any other SPL club and so Celtic remain hot favourites to win the league.

That’s good enough for me.
It’s probably good enough for many of us who endured supporting Celtic during periods such as the trophy famine from 1989 until 1998.
The barren period was temporarily alleviated only by a solitary, scrappy Scottish Cup win against the now-defunct Airdrieonians FC in 1995.

The victory was celebrated as if we had won the European Cup again with the trophy being paraded through the streets from Hampden to Celtic Park.
Grim times.

That was a period when sometimes we couldn’t even qualify for Europe at any level, far less reach the last 16 of the top tournament while topping the league.
And whenever we did limp into one of the lower UEFA tournaments, we were almost invariably picked off in the early rounds by teams of journeymen who were still canny enough to pick off our naive, “entertaining”, cavalry charge mentality.

Neuchatel Xamax couldn’t believe their luck and had the tie wrapped up before the first leg even reached half-time.
Partizan Belgrade scored a last minute goal on the counter-attack to turn an impending defeat into victory while Celtic didn’t even have the savvy to run down the clock with a late substitution or take the ball into the corners while leading 6-5 on aggregate.
(To put Partizan’s quality in perspective it can be noted that they went on to lose both legs of their tie against Dinamo Bucharest who, in turn, lost home and away to Anderlecht who were then taken care of by Sampdoria.)
It took us decades to even start to learn how to play modern European football.

Now we are the Scottish Champions and we are likely to remain so for years.
We are going toe to toe with the very best teams in Europe and holding our own.
Many of the performances won’t be pleasing to the eye but I’ll happily settle for what we now have with no cheating Huns “competing” with us for the title and the occasional defeat at the hands of Hibs, Inverness or Kilmarnock while we eye up a possible place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Just over a year ago there was a stampede of panic merchants calling for Neil Lennon’s dismissal in the wake of a 3-3 draw with Kilmarnock.
The Armageddon scenario at that time was that we had fallen so far behind the Huns that the league was done and dusted.
It wasn’t just Jelavic who was stupid enough to make that claim.
They were quite a few Hoops followers queuing up on various Celtic forums to demand the manager’s head while lamenting that Craig Whyte’s All Stars had disappeared over the horizon towards the SPL title.

Thank God that the baleful Orc Effect didn’t drive us off the course that we’re still on.
And praise be to Hector that it’s no longer a factor at all.
We now have time to develop into a respectable European force without having to worry about the Tax-Dodgers capitalising on any of our domestic stumbles.
These are great days for Celtic supporters, even when the team isn’t yet constantly firing on all cylinders.

Even the bad times are good now.

Posted on December 30, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. What a load of tosh

  2. Fantastic article Sir, my feelings exactly

  3. Outstanding article, far too many fans were raised on Martin and Gordon and were spoiled rotten. I was raised on Liam Brady and so forth. God bless them, it wasn’t their fault, they had to compete with the cheats spending tenners for our fivers. HAIL x 2

    • Quite so, Geo.
      Mind you, apart from being disadvantaged by the financial doping specialists, we were also trailing in behind Aberdeen, Dundee United and Hearts for a while.
      We finished only 10 points above the relegated team (Dundee) in 1990!.

  4. I have watched Celtic since the early 70’s and this article brought back some not to glorious memories. The way twitter explodes with negative tweets the miniut Celtic get beat is truely remarkable and very sad. We have no divine right to win any game, yet some of the Celtic fans on the internet seem to think that anything other than a convincing win is somehow a crisis. I was a regular at Celtic Park when Fergie was at Aberdeen and Jim McLean was at Dundee Utd, while Celtic weren’t a bad team at the time both A’deen and Utd regulary beat us home and away. I don’t recall a clamour from our fans for the manages head, yes there were dissenting voices but most fans excepted we were in a competition and had no divine right to win.

  5. Mind reader ??? ……..till i got to the ,”i was sufferin in the 80s ” bit , then i realised ……us of a certain age appreciate what we’ve got now . A good board,manager&backroom staff,young team and a healthy bank balance . My only complaint………the muppets at Dundee ! ………shame on you ..

  6. The dark days of having a banker sitting in the boardroom vetoing expenditure are long gone.

    Peter, keep doing what you are doing……….keep calm & carry on!

  7. Great article Henry no team has a “divine right ” to win every game they play ,to assume otherwise displays a disturbing mindset I really want to enjoy my teams highs and to do that there have to be occasional lows

  8. We have the chance to be over the hill and far away by the time der stench arrive back in the top flight. Their recent share issue will buy them some time but will not be enough to equip them for the fight once they get there. They will be mid table mediocrity – one of the challengers who will occasionally lift their game against us for the odd point but will be nowhere near in contention for the title.

    They are a busted flush.

    Enjoy these times.

  9. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I expect Celtic to do better than they did on Saturday. It’s not the first time I’ve made similar comments our performances too often this season have been inept.

    I’m sure I read that we are 10 points behind our total at the same time last year, which in my humble opinion isn’t good enough. I’m mindful of our fantastic European performances but we are behind the curve in domestic football.

    We look static, uncertain & without any real creative guile when moving forward & that’s been the case since the start if this season.

    If I was offered any decent money for Hooper I’d take it. Outright forwards at Celtic should be bagging 30 per season and Hoops is nowhere near this standard. The signing of Banguara, Lassad and Miku leave me wondering what anyone saw in these players to begin with.

    We need to do much better and I hope we can get our form together for Juventus.

    Off the park Celtic have a dilemma. Do we as sevco do turn a blind eye to misbehaviour or do we criticise unruly fans and see open season in the club by our bitter media? I’ve seen trouble coming for some time.

    The fans have been impeccably behaved yet have seen increased harassment from the authorities. Police & stewards tried to search me 3 times away to Aberdeen last year & I’m 40 odd year old ‘mr average respectable dad’!

    I deplore any bad behaviour but human nature is such that for some if they are going to treated like criminals they’ll act like one. Celtic have bowed to pressure from police to give season ticket holders details over which has undoubtedly led to resentment between all involved ( onlookers too) and driven a wedge between club & fans.

    I wasn’t at Dundee but the you only have to look at the overreaction from the press as compared to double the arrests at Ibrox last week and the media’s silence on the racist sectarian singing yesterday to see the agenda.

    Let’s get the football right on the park, a decent mobile forward would go some way towards assisting that & keep our head off the park.

    Going back to my old fashioned ways, I expect Celtic to win domestic treble & who knows with a fair wind and improved form Juventus & Platini might be chastened come March.

    Happy New Year & hail hail

  10. yeah you are correct….no club has a divine right to win football matches.
    i,too can remember the dark old days of trophyless seasons and a distinct lack of quality on and off the park.but the future for our club now looks bright and promising.
    here’s to the future…..HH

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