So the summer transfer window has slammed shut for another year and the Champions League is all but a dream once again. Now that the dust has died down on both those events, maybe now is the time to have an objective look at what state Celtic are in as a club. I’ve refrained from writing this until now as I did not want to be seen to write anything in the heat of the moment.
Let there be no doubt that the display in Malmo was horrific. Out thought and fought on the night, it was the nightmare we had all secretly feared, deep inside. They wanted it more and it showed.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was our captain, Scott Brown. At a time when we needed fight and leadership, neither was forthcoming from Celtic’s £25k per week skipper. If we are paying such an exorbitant sum (and it is exorbitant within the boundaries of Scotland) then we’re entitled to expect more on the big occasion. It’s okay running amok in the SPL but at that wage we should be looking for a match winner, a player who makes the difference on the big occasion. And Malmo was a big occasion.
In the cold light of day, had we qualified and got a difficult group then things could have got extremely messy. Think of the Camp Nou a couple of season’s back when we were humiliated by 6-1 and we could have been in for a few more like that.
Our difficulty is we play in a very limited league and are expected to raise our game significantly in the European arena. John Collins was spot on. There’s plenty of effort in the SPL when teams play Celtic but little technical ability and when we play teams of a higher level of opposition we can’t always cope.
What we really need is a player who can create and get us off our seats. Commons apart on a good day, we don’t have exciting players, and we cry out for the subtle talents of a Moravcik or a Nakamura.
The Europa League may not be a bad thing. It’s imperative that we keep our coefficient up to ensure that if we do make the CL qualifiers that we remain seeded, as we receive no help from other Scottish clubs in that respect. Speaking of the EL, the club should consider playing Thursday/Saturday fixtures to spare the fans any more inconvenience. Surely professional players are fit enough to play two games in three days ?
Ronny looked badly shaken during the Malmo game which is hardly surprising. That’s two years in a row his Celtic teams have failed to qualify for the promised land of the Champions League, when on both occasions, all we needed was a draw in the second leg to go through. Seeing his face on TV as we slid out of the CL brought back memories of watching Tony Mowbray at Love Street in 2010.
To listen to Harry Brady and the Ronnettes it’s sacrilege to criticise Ronny but he has it coming his way. Three goals we lost from corners against Malmo due to the shambles of zonal marking, yet we continue to persevere with it.
Zonal marking was invented by managers like Gordon Strachan, who like to put us mere mortals in our place. We don’t understand it, you see, because we never played the game. It’s like the Emperor’s new clothes, but when things go wrong you see it for what it’s worth. There is no accountability for zonal marking and the opposition get a run at the ball whilst our defenders jump from a standing position. To say that everyone uses it is not an excuse for retaining it.
Ronny is entitled to play the system he likes best so I’ll just have t swallow the one up front medicine for a while yet. However, it would be great to see him be more tactically aware and change things occasionally to suit our needs during a match. And the worry remains that when things go wrong, we rarely have a plan B.
Since arriving he has made great play of being a fitter team and playing a pressing game. Most games I see, we just back of the opposition and we don’t look a very fit team either. Witness the comments from the Malmo manager and the number of late goals we have lost recently.
Any talk of dismissing Ronny’s services at the moment is just madness. However, the pressure is mounting on him. Another CL failure in 12 months time and his position could be untenable. Bear in mind that Neil Lennon twice navigated his team through the difficult waters of CL qualification and we beat the Swedish champions on both occasions.
People compare Lenny’s side to Ronny’s unfavourably which puzzles me somewhat. Some on this site rave about the way Ronny’s teams play but I have to say, I can’t see it. We are functional but I don’t feel particularly entertained by the style of football we play.
We can no longer justify paying a chief executive £1M per annum when someone on a quarter of that salary could do a capable job. If you look at the income streams available to us they are all falling. In the last 5 years or so we have lost an average of 15,000 playing customers per match and despite several initiatives we are failing to entice them back.
The Celtic board mainly rely on two areas for finance. Firstly we have the yearly saga of trying to qualify for the promised land of the CL and the £15M or so that goes with it. Secondly, we have the yearly sale of our greatest asset. This year it was Van Dijk but next year may be different as we have no outstanding assets left to command a huge fee. You can only go to the well so many times.
A recent article stated that the board only budget for qualifying for the CL, two years out of every five. If this is true then they should all be sacked on the spot for a lack of ambition. With our budget, support and infrastructure we should be looking to qualify every season. And if the champions of Slovenia and Sweden are beating us then the board should be looking at giving the manager the necessary funds to ensure qualification. A wee bit of speculate to accumulate a great deal. But that comes down to ambition and it’s something the board have been lacking for some time.
We are long overdue for new blood in the board room. We have gone very stale at that level and some fresh faces, new ideas and greater energy could be the very thing to put some life back in the place.
At least we have an interesting EL group to see us through the cold winter months and if we qualify from that it will be a success and give us the bonus of Euro football after Christmas.
Domestically we could be in a three horse race which should gather more excitement. With the squad we have we should be looking to finish well in front again although the worry remains that if key players like Gordon, Brown, Biton and Griffiths are injured then replacements are thin on the ground.
This article may seem a bit depressing but to say nothing and carry on would be totally irresponsible. Hopefully Ronny and the Bhoys can rally and give us a season to remember at home and abroad.
I wish them well. C’mon the Leather Belts !