Hogmanay, a time for reflection. A chance to look back over the year, or in this case the first half of season 2017-18.
Emulating the standards set by last season’s ‘Invincibles’ was always going to be verging on the impossible. Last season Celtic drew 4 out of 38 league games en route to winning the league. Less than halfway through this season, we have already dropped more points than in the whole of season 2016-17.
On a positive note, the unbeaten run of 69 games was a phenomenal achievement and, like a lot of records, one that will, no doubt, only be fully appreciated in years to come. While some will doubtless try to downplay it, we are living in historic times. A sequence of results such as we have just witnessed hasn’t been done for a hundred years. Czar Nicholas was still on the throne in Russia when Willie Maley’s Celtic established an unbeaten run of 62 matches between November 1915 and April 1917. It included two games in a day, played against Raith Rovers and Motherwell and Patsy Gallagher and Jimmy ‘Napoleon’ McMenemy were the stars of a team which also featured Alec ‘The Icicle’ McNair. Celtic historians in the future will write of some members of the current side in the same glowing terms as those legends of the past.
Our thanks and congratulations to them all for a fantastic 18 months.
For any supporters out there who take this domestic success for granted, who found the ‘pressure’ of maintaining that unbeaten domestic run too stressful, please shut up, stop moaning, relax and enjoy it! The good times will not last forever.
I’m in my mid 50’s with a great future behind me. I endured the barren years of the late 80s through the 90s when Ibrox dominance seemed entrenched. I paid good money to watch Scottish football during the EBT years, years when Rangers (as was) basically cheated in order to try and stay ahead of us. The current team might have its faults but for those of us who endured the many trophy free years, when optimism, happiness and joy was in short supply, this is payback time.
Back in 1989/90 (the season after winning the ‘Centenary Double’) Celtic finished 5th in the league. Back then it was a 10 team league, with 36 games and 2 points for a win. Rangers won it with 51 points, Aberdeen were second on 44 points, Hearts third on 44 points and Dundee Utd were fourth on 35 points. We were 5th on 35 points, less than a point per game. We lost to Aberdeen in the semi final of the league Cup and the Pittodrie team beat us 9 – 8 on penalties in the Scottish Cup Final. And we managed to get knocked out of Europe by Partizan Belgrade on away goals after winning 5-4 at home. European heartache is nothing new! For only the second time since 1962, Celtic failed to qualify for Europe. I’ll take today’s domestic dominance over seasons like 1989/90 any time.
Domestically its been a reasonable first half of the season. If we can win the remaining games in December we will be well placed to, once again, win the league. Drop points in these games and the title race in the New Year could be a lot closer than we would like.
We need to earn the right to win the league, nothing should be taken for granted.
Historically, Celtic’s biggest problem hasn’t been the Scottish football authorities, referees or the laptop loyal (repugnant though they may often have been), it has been complacency. Complacency could yet cost us the title this season.
The management and players have worked hard to get us into this position, let us hope they continue to work hard in the New Year so we can once again celebrate winning the treble.
Despite the long unbeaten domestic run, European results should have rammed home to everyone – particularly our Directors – that the current squad is not good enough.
The manager needs to be backed with sufficient money to improve the team in the next few transfer windows, not only to maintain Celtic as the top team in Scotland but also so we can better compete in Europe.
The best time to strengthen is when you are winning, strengthen when on top.
Here’s a question to anyone who thinks this Celtic team can’t be improved: How many of the current squad would have started the UEFA Cup Final in Seville?
I would suggest that only Craig Gordon in place of Rab Douglas and Kieran Tierney in place of Alan Thompson would have made it into the starting 11 in Seville. A fit Mikael Lustig would probably have got in ahead of Didier Agathe but that is debatable.
That is all the proof I need to suggest our quality has deteriorated since Seville in 2003.
So, if Santa was to grant me a Christmas wish, it would be this: Get the Celtic directors to make sufficient funds available to the manager to allow him to bring in players who will improve our starting 11, thus helping us maintain our domestic supremacy and also enabling us to better compete in Europe.
Anything less would be a dereliction of duty.
Forget about investing in Hotels – concentrate on investing in players and improving the facilities in and around the stadium for the benefit of the support.
Martin O’Neill was no stranger to records while he was manager at Celtic. He was the first Celtic manager since Jock Stein to win a domestic treble and the first Celtic manager to take us to a UEFA Cup final. His Celtic side won a record 25 league games in a row in 2003-04 and from 2001 Celtic remained undefeated at home until April 2004.
Apart from his long list of remarkable achievements, among the many memorable quotes he left behind was this one: “You can’t afford to rely on history – you have to make it.”
I’m sure it’s a sentiment Brendan Rogers would endorse and we trust he’s already setting out to make it happen.
A Happy New Year to you all.
George of the Jungle 🙂