The above apocryphal statement which is described in many sources as ‘The Chinese Curse’ could be said to apply to the present circumstances surrounding Celtic Football Club.
Of course to those who follow Glasgow’s Green and Whites every little detail concerning our hooped heroes is interesting, but it is arguable that many who pledge allegiance to the cause seem almost to take some satisfaction from difficult times compared with the good.
That the press and other media contributors love ‘interesting times’ is a given. I recall several years ago reading that more papers are sold when Celtic are struggling than when they are on the rise, but the advent of the internet and social media has given voice to a wider group of commentators than was the norm before the days of Clive Sinclair and the first personal computer.
That we all have our views about the team, the management and the board is no surprise – it was aye thus – but I am constantly taken aback at the level of anger – indeed rage – which I see on forums or other social media platforms from folk who in theory support the same club. The term internet bully seems an apt description for some contributors to the debates about Celtic but that is a subject for another time.
Circumstances this year meant that I was unable to attend our exit from the Champions’ League – both of them – and while the team toiled at Celtic Park the other night we were safely tied up in the Marina at Tarbert, Loch Fyne. Most readers of this site will recognise the condition I was in – trying not to think about it, but unable to concentrate fully on anything else.
I have described here before how hard I find it to watch Celtic from afar in matches of this magnitude. Being in the Stadium is a unique experience – an experience that you feel part of and in some way that you can influence. Watching the game on T.V. or listening to the radio is a form of purgatory and until the victory is secured – to me – no fun whatsoever.
At half time I turned on the radio to be told that our bhoys were struggling. As I walked around the village I saw a pub with the match on T.V. The score was 0-0 and looking through the window for a couple of minutes all I could see was Celtic giving the ball away constantly – not a happy prospect for continued viewing, especially with a dicky ticker.
On returning to the boat and knowing that the game was nearly over I took the chance of switching on the radio. When the commentator announced that one of the minor teams had scored to take a league cup tie to extra time and added – with some relish I felt – ‘Can Celtic take this game to extra time?’ my worst fears were confirmed..
In the aftermath the usual suspects – Tom English, Murdo McLeod et al – lined up to take pot shots at the manager, the players, the board and notably the villain of the piece in the eyes of many, Peter Lawwell. Paddy Bonner at least sounds as if he cares, the others one feels are relishing our current predicament – it gives them something to talk about.
As an aside, two relatively new contributors to the BBC pundits panel are Packie and Mark Wilson. At this time they both talk about Celtic with a degree of insight and one feels sympathy. You have to ask how long will it be before they are required to disengage their brains when talking about our club and simply come out with the usual garbage that passes for punditry on the radio and T.V.
Having reflected on the events of recent weeks and chatted to a couple of my friends of a green and white persuasion, and having watched Twitter and Kerrydale street for several days I will throw in my tuppence worth on where we are and where we might go from here.
Firstly – I have felt for some time that Celtic are a Europa League team with Champions League aspirations. That we actually qualified in the last two seasons was an achievement but we were seriously out of our depth and the qualification two seasons ago for the knock-out stage had a sense of the centenary year. Those of us who recall that time will be aware that in such years Celtic perform miracles, and the 125th anniversary and the emotion leading up to the Barcelona game was a heady mix to which everyone responded.
Last year I felt we were tactically inept and were hampered by the sending off of both Scott Brown and Nir Biton which ruled them out for key games while against A.C. Milan at Celtic Park we were as bad as we had been good the previous year against Barca.
However to repeat myself, I consider that the Europa League is a level that we might have a reasonable chance of performing in all things being equal. At the start of the season if I had been able to take the C.L. Money and opt for the Europa League as an environment in which we might prosper that would have been my choice.
If I want to watch Real Madrid, or Bayern Munich I can see them on the T.V. but seeing Celtic, as we are at present, struggle to avoid embarrassing defeat is not something that I find particularly attractive. I would rather we were competitive with a chance of winning than that we worked our socks off to avoid humiliation.
I will happily try to get tickets for the Europa League. From an interest point of view it fills the winter nights, and those of us who bother to follow it rather than to accept the viewpoint that it is somehow sub standard, will be aware that it can provide fascinating matches.
I have vivid memories of how disappointing it was when Martin O’Neill’s team lost to Basel in 2002. How many of the thousands who went to Seville and who enjoyed the many great games on that road could foresee what lay ahead that night.
I hope and pray that Ronny Deila is given time to mould a team that we can enjoy watching. I have some sympathy with the view point expressed by St Anthony on a recent podcast that perhaps he should have used a system that the players were accustomed to before trying implement his vision.
Indeed I once had an argument with a Director of Education that his vision was developed with people he had chosen and to simply force it on to a new group of workers made little sense until they had confidence in him as their leader. I do however recognise what Harry said in response when he asked when do you implement your vision if you have some success using the old model.
To do this effectively he will clearly need to buy players and more importantly to get rid of those who have no future at the club.
A feature of discussion on radio and the internet is to criticise the club for buying ‘duds’ and long are the lists which folk advance to support this viewpoint. My own take on it is that few if any – perhaps Lee Griffiths is the exception – were seen as bad signings, and in his case the objections were less about his ability than his character.
Some like Thomas Rogic and Amido Balde were seen as ‘projects’ and the club was investing in what was seen as potential. Almost every other player was a success at the club they came from – and this includes Mo Bangura, Joos Hooveld, and others. The current whipping boy of many is Teemu Pikku and yet he is an established international who came from the Bundesliga.
There is clearly some dysfunction between those signed and how they perform in a Celtic shirt. That is something that does need attention but whether that is a consequence of how the team is managed rather than a weakness in the recruiting strategy is a moot point.
It will be interesting to watch the rest of this season, but the news today that some doubt exists over the arrival of Stefan Scepovic as a result of our defeat the other night shows in a nutshell the environment we now work within.
Author is on twitter – @lachiemor1