Right now I am frustrated. Not angry, and definitely not in despair but frustrated. I saw an opportunity to capitalise on Ranger’s financial plight and it was not to taken. This season the same feeling rises in me. Our greatest rival is on it’s arse and we are not pressing home the advantage.
One of the reasons cited for that is that we are going through a period of change. Tony Mowbray has been tasked , so it seems , with changing the way Celtic play football. To a certain extent that’s true and God knows I , like the majority of Celtic supporters , was not happy with the way we played the game least season. Though not exactly delighted with his appointment I was somewhat excited by our new manager’s commitment to playing the game in the right way. The notion of Celtic being successful is not something new but what has always set us as a football club and a culture aside from Rangers fc is our expectation of how you play and indeed ‘win’ the game. For them victory must be gained at all cost. As we are now seeing this has been the case literally. For me Murray’s arrogant notions of ‘We’ll spend a tenner for every fiver they spend’ is completely in sync with the culture of that club in that victory is to obtained no matter what the cost.
Of course having experienced the trauma of the Kelly / White regime we know that is flawed from a financial perspective but from a purely footballing point it is the opposite of what we have always admired about our club. If it is done via corruption of the rules, the finances or the ethos of the game then we have always believed that ‘winning isn’t everything’.
That said we still expect our team to play in manner , if not at least fulfilling then at least meeting our expectations. As a result I don’ think it is unreasonable to expect a manger tasked with overseeing our club taking into account the team’s ability to defend. I think we can all agree that this season it has been that ability which has been lacking.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that Tony Mowbray is attempting something far different and indeed somewhat risque compared to our former manager. In many ways I admire him for doing so but what it all comes down to is where our team is sitting in that league table on a Saturday evening. We live in a time for Scottish football where winning literally is everything. The difference between sitting top or second in our league has never been so great.
Indeed even today we have all had a rude awakening ,so to speak, as to how important it is. After next season a guaranteed place in the Champions league and the exposure and riches that brings will be no more. Such a place will have to be fought for tooth and nail. This season we have seen how difficult that can be via our games against Dynamo Moscow and Arsenal. Off the pitch, going by recent financial results, the difference has never been so highlighted between playing in th Champions league, even if unsuccessfully, and not being involved in Europe’s premier club competition.
Having a romantic notion of Celtic is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed it’s the reason why we all support those Bhoys in hoops kicking a leather ball around the park. But it’s important not be just realistic but clinical when it comes to our ambitions.
Having a bad season is one thing but sacrificing another and possibly another upon that in order to obtain some kind of ‘vision’ of how the game must be played is both illogical and self defeating.
Bluntly put, to have our club maintained in the lofty position it’s currently held and to move forward in our ambitions there is little margin for error. When I criticise Tony Mowbray I don’t mean to undermine or indeed turn my nose up ignorantly at what he is trying to achieve. I simply seek to remind everyone of exactly what is at cost via lack of success.
No one will be more happier than me if the vision that Tony speaks of is attained. I love Celtic and I love free flowing football. But more importantly I want to see Celitc regarded for as much of the achievements they obtain on the park as for the kudos they get for how they played on it after the trophies have been given out. Winning isn’t everything but in the modern day you would be foolish to think it doesn’t directly and significantly affect your club as a whole.
I wish Tony Mowbray all the best for the rest of the season. I’ll put down his absurd comparisons to the current state of our club to Fergus McCann’s revolution as ill advised and possibly born out of exasperation. But let’s not forget that only victory brings success and trophies and let’s not get tied up in notions that our apparent footballing ‘principles’ are more important than our long term well being.