Mar 032016
 
Consecutive Draws Lead to Growing Dissent but Hope Must Spring Eternal

 

 

Having run this website for more than five years now, I can confidently state that it is a rare day whenever the Celtic support agrees entirely on any one topic online. Whether it’s who should fill a particular position on the field, which formation is best suited to our squad or who would feature in our “all-time Celtic elevens”, large scale agreements are not common occurrences, but I do not believe this to be a bad thing. After all, without differing opinions, the game which we all love would be significantly less interesting and we would not have a great deal to talk about. Now, whilst I could not – and would not – ever claim to speak for the fan base as a whole, I feel it is relatively safe to assert that the vast majority of Celtic supporters currently believe something is seriously wrong with their Football Club. Indeed, many people have felt like this, albeit to varying degrees, for months, if not years now. As individuals, we may not be able to put our respective fingers on the precise roots of these problems, but we are very aware of their existence nonetheless.

As the final whistle sounded in the East End of Glasgow last night, I stood for a minute by my seat and watched the remainder of the crowd disperse. Anger and frustration were prevalent emotions in the air, understandably so, but so was that of anxiety. For the first time in several years, Celtic find themselves in the midst of a serious title race. I, for one, will admit to the fact that whilst in 2012 I believed one of our competitors – perhaps Aberdeen, Dundee United or Hearts – would eventually challenge us for the Premiership title whilst there was no club playing their matches at Ibrox in the top of flight of the Scottish game, I did not believe that it would happen so quickly. Indeed, I also presumed that it would occur mainly due to one of our competitors seriously improving (which it must be said Aberdeen and a few others have done, to give them their due) rather than significant regression on our part. In this sense, I was certainly wrong, and perhaps somewhat naive also, as many of the problems currently facing Celtic have not simply come as a result of Ronny Deila’s tenure.

Before addressing some of these issues in more detail, I feel I must also discuss the aforementioned Norwegian. Upon Deila’s arrival in Glasgow, a relative wave of excitement spread across the Celtic supporting world, and not without good reason. Much of the football played during the 2013/14 season – the last of Neil Lennon’s charge as Celtic manager – was not of a particularly good standard, nor was it massively entertaining to watch. One may reflect on this as an inevitability of sorts when considering that it directly followed the famous successes of the previous 2012/13 campaign as the Hoops secured a double and progressed to the last sixteen of Europe’s top continental competition.

 

 

Regardless, as the familiar figure of Neil Lennon departed, the virtually unknown Ronny Deila took his place to much aplomb. First impressions are important in any walk of life and Deila won a lot of people over very quickly, including myself. Promises of fast, attacking football and almost superhuman fitness levels were appealing to the Celtic support, especially when they were delivered by a man who is an excellent speaker. Having had the opportunity to listen to Ronny discuss his footballing philosophy in person on one occasion, I too bought into his vision. Even amidst the current gloom, I will not change my opinion that I have never heard anyone speak as well about football from an ideological standpoint as Ronny did that evening, but talk and producing the results to back it up are two entirely different affairs.

The slow start domestically, including the debacles against Legia Warsaw and Maribor, were rightly forgiven when Ronny’s side seemed to turn a corner around the turn of the New Year, as consecutive domestic victories mounted up and Inter Milan narrowly eliminated the Celts from the Europa League. We should never forget that only a shambolic officiating decision of the highest level of stubborn incompetence prevented his double winning Celtic side from a potentially historic Scottish Cup Final clash with Falkirk, but it wasn’t to be.

This season, a campaign in which we all hoped the Club could push on and begin to move in the right direction with some consistency has instead brought significant helpings of frustration and disappointment. Another push to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League ended in relative ignominy, with the previous season’s optimism being stripped from many supporters upon the scoring of Malmo’s second goal late on at Celtic Park. Whilst walking along the streets away from the stadium that evening, there was an evident feeling not of victory – which the 3-2 scoreline did bring us – but of defeat. This pessimism was cemented, of course, during the return leg in Sweden. A Europa League campaign wherein some encouraging performances were tinged with self-induced moments of madness then followed, whilst two abject showings against Molde left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. A dramatic late goal from Leigh Griffiths won the New Year derby with Partick Thistle, and one could not help but wonder if – in a manner somewhat similar to last year – we may finally turn the illusive corner and begin to push onwards to success in the Spring. However, this has not been the case, as although victories over Stranraer, Dundee United, Hamilton and St Johnstone meant we had won five consecutive domestic matches for only the second time since April 2015, back to back defeats against Ross County and Aberdeen hurt us all badly. Subsequently, our most recent two draws have taken us to our current position – four points clear of Aberdeen with a notably superior goal difference.

 

 

Make no mistake about it – we are in a serious title race and the fact that large numbers of people have actively considered the previously referenced goal difference is indicative of that fact. With ten matches left, the Hoops will have to play Hearts twice (a side whom we have not beaten in the League this season), Aberdeen once (having defeated us twice at Pittodrie whilst losing at Celtic Park), Motherwell once (whom we have beaten once this year whilst losing the most recent fixture at home), Kilmarnock once (a side whom we have not beaten this season, despite the fact they currently sit in eleventh place in the table), Partick Thistle at least once (having won both matches against them thus far), and a selection of sides depending on who makes the top six. Of course, the Dons have a similar run-in, but in any other season this would be considered a tight race which could go either way, and therefore we must treat it as such. The fact that our challengers do not wear blue should not skew anyone’s opinions in this regard. With so much on the line – the chance for Celtic to win five league titles in a row for only the third time since the Scottish League’s inception in 1890 – Celtic Park should be near to capacity for every remaining home match, and yet this will not be the case. Therein lies one of the major problems not simply for Ronny Deila, but for those within the hierarchy at Celtic Football Club.

For a variety of reasons, many people – some of whom still attend matches it must be said – feel disconnected from the Club which they hold so dear. Whether their main grievances involve the standard of football on offer; ticket pricing; kick-off times; the lack of public response from the Football Club to date regarding the scandal which has engulfed the Scottish game over the last few years; the effects of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 (which the Club opposes) or anything else besides – the disconnect is there and if anything, instead of intensive efforts being made to narrow the gap, it has been allowed to widen. Focusing solely on the first of these matters, it is my belief that whilst the Celtic support can accept poor results every now and again, we cannot accept performances seemingly devoid of fight. The present team seem to capitulate with relative regularity at the first sign of adversity and as a result of this, there is a small part of me which feels oddly content with two points from our last two matches, because there were times in each tie when I thought a defeat was forthcoming. The much larger part of me, of course, is frustrated at the four points dropped during those two contests, but again this is indicative of where we now stand.

Having been as patient as I personally can be with Ronny, I would not be disappointed if he were to now leave the Club behind him. The same can be said for several members of his coaching staff and the playing squad. If he does remain in charge until the end of the season, which appears likely since there has been no movement today to the contrary, he will continue to have my support and I sincerely hope his side win each of their remaining fixtures. However, as I said earlier, the problems which we are now facing are not solely of Deila’s making. They are the result of long-term strategical failings by the decision makers at Celtic Park. The malaise of mediocrity present around Celtic Football Club, both on and off the park, is not simply due to the adherence of a tactical decision to play a certain formation, it is the symptom of an unwillingness to alter a faltering system of governance. Three months is a long time in football, and with at least eleven games remaining in two competitions, the team deserve our utmost support during each of our remaining fixtures. A domestic double would be an enormous boost for everyone and could begin to heal numerous wounds, but it’s best to focus on our next match, whatever that may be, from now until the end of May. There’s still a lot to play for, and whilst that is the case, hope must spring eternal.

 

 

 

  7 Responses to “A Malaise of Mediocrity”

  1. Very much agree with all you have said. There are two points I would like to add. First, Ronny Deila’s teams are incapable of winning crucial matches. The ICT semi is the only match where you can say there was an injustice but very few other big matches were won. Second, and this is the big question, would you trust Ronny to take Celtic into the UCL next August? No, neither would I. In fact some fans on my supporters bus wonder whether we could make it into the Europa League. (Do you think we would beat Qarabag home and away just now?) Our season went flat after Malmo because success or failure is predicated on qualifying for UCL. We cannot afford, and I dont mean financially, to miss out on UCL in 2016/17. Ronny, sadly, will not get us there.

  2. I think the Champions League dream is becoming an obsession – it would be nice to get there but I would rather watch a successful Europa League campaign – getting to the later stages – than watch them struggle against real C.L. teams. Obviously the big attraction is the money but we are nowhere near the stage where we would compete seriously against the mega rich clubs from the big leagues. If our boys are not careful they might not even have the option of C.L. football. If they improve and play as they are capable of then they will win the league, but not if they continue in their present form.

  3. In the article you state “……we cannot accept performances seemingly devoid of fight”. To me, the Celtic fans appear to have the same attitude. Yesterday, Paul Hartley was quoted as saying ‘Aberdeen are up for the fight’ and, today, Neale Cooper is apparently saying that Celtic aren’t. I suspect that both Hartley and Cooper are including the fans, not just the players, in their statements. Today Andy Murray is playing in the Davis Cup, most people expect him to win but they will be amazed if he doesn’t make at least 10 unforced errors, a couple of double faults or lose his serve. The tennis fans courtside will accept this and still enjoy the occasion.

    Yet at Celtic Park, no player is allowed to make a mistake, particularly Ambrose, Armstrong and Forest. The phrase ‘What did I tell you, he’s hopeless’ rings around the stands. We had the ridiculous situation of our substitute being booed and their substitute being cheered by the fans, not by Lawell, Delia, Desmond or the Board, by the fans, the people sitting around us. When the fans get really involved in the game and encourage the players, suddenly the players appear to be 2 yards quicker. Unfortunately if the fans are too vocal in their criticism, the opposite can also happen and the players quickly lose confidence resulting in poor performances.

    Although I have always believed that it is up to the players to get the fans really involved in the game by their efforts, sometimes it is up to the fans.

  4. RD for me does not understand the dynamics of the modern game,Athleticism/strength/pace not to mention attitude,for him and his coaching staff to watch and watch every week the lame/limp/slow attempts to play even a passing resemblance to football is criminal and tells you all you need to know about their ability as coaches.It,s not formations/tactics it is finding players that have the above in their make up.

  5. Can you please answer me the following.
    1. What budget does Celtic have in respect of buying good players
    2.Does RD ask and get money to buy good not mediocre players
    3. The players that he buys are they recommended or has RD ran his eye over them
    4. With Rangers moving up next year which will make for a more competitive league, are Celtic preparing now for their arrival with regards to the playing staff and expenditure.
    Finally I think that we have dropped down a scale in our development and this I can firmly at the door of the BOD and the manager who has bought poor some players that are not of CFC standards. I am a Welsh Celt and it hurts when Ross County beats us and Morton take a point. Our standards have dropped below expectations.

  6. Putting the manager question aside for now let’s look at the players. Well to include them all would take forever so lets take Scott Brown. He arrived at Celtic Park loaded with talent but no direction. Neil Lennon converted him into an excellent team player and a club asset. So who is the guy with the fine head of hair we’ve seen swanning about masquerading as my hero of the past four seasons? Our enginehouse of a club captain? Now recently in the EPL both Man U and Chelsea have gotten rid of managers with some pedigree apparently because the players didn’t like them! Is there anyone reading this that’s never had a hateful boss? If I thought that Scott Brown was engineering the downfall of Ronny Deila I would terminate his contract immediately. Irrespective of whether or not Ronny stayed on. Any other players subscribing to the scheme should go the same route. That there is something wrong is obvious to all, but what? Frank, suppose you were to write to the board asking for an explanation as to why our team is collapsing before our eyes. We fund the club, we have a right to know. I for one will support you and I’m certain thousands will join me.

  7. Like many other Celtic supporters I can see the steady decline in our team.
    So much for fast flowing football and athletes on the field, most of our players wouldn’t last 10 minutes in a decent team.
    It’s not all down to Ronny, Collins has to take a lot of the blame, he’s the fitness freak but if his training methods are making us play like a pub team then time to make changes.
    I apologise for the pub team remark and if it offends anyone but compaired to many minor european teams that’s how we look.
    After being a season ticket holder for around 20 years I will be holding off renewing, even the thought of them coming back to our league won’t sway me to part with my money, until I see a drastic improvement in the players bought and the way we play football.
    If we can’t afford to buy decent players then let the young players come through, would much rather see our young talent than a bargain basement foreigner who can’t cut it.
    The Celtic shirt now shrinks to fit any inferior player.

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