When I tried to analyse why this should be it occurred to me that in many ways the past year was replete with topics – on and off the field – which have not only filled cyberspace as it was, but given birth to new sites and blogs to inform and entertain everyone in Timworld.
I was aware that when the site was in its infancy that there was some obligation on the likes of Hullbhoy, James Kelly and myself among others to produce material on a regular basis to help establish our niche in Celtic Cyberspace and often times this was a motivating factor to tap the keys and stick something up on the site. Even though there was a sense of obligation to coin a phrase it was also fun and I received enough positive feedback to continue writing, sometimes about the past, other times simply commenting on the mad mad world of Celtic football club.
Which brings me back to the question why nothing for the best part of 6 months?
One of the factors which gave me pause for thought was the level of anger which seems to permeate Celtic cyberspace should a cloud cross our horizon. Even on a match day, if the match threads are a guide, just about every player is a target for the ire of many ‘supporters’ although it only requires a goal for an endless succession of yesses or smiley faces to flood the forums and all is well for a wee while.
It would appear however that certain characters in our world are doomed to perennially wear the black hat in the eyes of the masses – or in one case the sharp suit – although other pantomime villains such as gorgeous Giorgios or Scott Brown could give him a run for his money.
In a sense I can understand the immediate feelings of irritation when things on the park are not going to plan, but afterwards when the dust has settled my own mood becomes rather more reflective and tolerant of the shortcomings of players – with the possible exception of big Dan – and I find it hard to accept how angry and poisonous some of the reactions on the message boards are towards players and officials of a club we purport to love.
I found the mood swings surrounding the manager very hard to comprehend. He went from villain to hero to well regarded incompetent back to hero again all in the space of a calendar year. From where I sit, he is not only the best manager we could have at this time, but the only person who would fit the bill as a Celtic manager that we could afford.
The Blessed Martin once observed that we were looking at life in the slow lane for the foreseeable future and this was seen by many as a criticism of the board and raised the hackles of not a few commentators in Celtic cyberspace, but in my view it was what Fergus the Great would have called a reality check. The appointment of Gordon Strachan was shrewd piece of business by Dermot, his acquiescence in the Mowbray fiasco a brief moment of weakness and his apparent championing of Neil Lennon a return to form. You don’t make billions by repeating your mistakes and Dermot Desmond is nobody’s fool.
The present policy of surviving these difficult financial times by buying cheap and possibly selling at a profit is a sound one, but it is a strategy which has its flaws when the goods you are buying are footballers, some of whom may well turn out to be gems and others dross.
It is easy to criticise the scouting system when we look at the likes of Jos Hooiveld and Rasmussen – players who are now viewed as duds – but it was the same system which unearthed Emilio, Biram Kayal, Gary Hooper and our current great hope Victor.
I have watched Celtic teams for a lot longer than many, and have seen great players, good players and some awful players even during the good times when the team was successful. The impatience of many fans who are unable to see that an empire such as we now see at Old Trafford was not built in a day – that even Fergie had relatively dark times before the sun of success shone down on Manchester United – intrigues me.
A friend recently reminded me that when we were 15 points behind, I talked about writing an article to the effect that ‘the darkest hour is just before the dawn’ and that I had compared the present team to the pre-Stein Celtic. I repeated that comparison recently to a former Celtic player of my acquaintance and he agreed with the concept inasmuch as that team were capable of much brilliance, but were equally capable of falling on their faces the next match – just as our heroes did so often last season.
I once wrote an article for the E-Tims about the great Steve Chalmers and recalled a game at Love St. when he tore St. Mirren apart in a 7-0 win – the sixth game of an unbeaten run in which we scored 19 goals for the loss of 2. The next week Queen of the South came to Celtic Park and won 1-0!
An examination of the results for the two seasons prior to Big Jock’s return shows a team which, on their day could score bucket loads of goals, but who also suffered some very heavy and dispiriting defeats. That there was some anger cannot be denied – after the Q.O.S. defeat some fans demonstrated outside in the car park. Typically, the object of their anger – Bob Kelly – was not even present having gone to Palmerston to watch the reserves and no doubt to visit his Alma Mater – St. Joseph’s College.
My point is that we have to be patient with the manager and especially with young players. The sort of battle hardened consistency which so typifies the Huns is not an attribute of young teams. While Alan Hansen is pilloried for his view that ‘you don’t win anything with kids’ because of what Beckham, Giggs et al achieved in season 1995-96, nine times out of ten he will be right. That Manchester United team had a core of hardened pros including Roy Keane, Andy Cole, Peter Schmeichel, Brian McClair and later Eric Cantona.
We have at this juncture, no one with that battle hardened pedigree to nurse our young players through difficult times, so what they are achieving so far is pretty impressive. They are like, the pre-Stein Celtic, a collection of very talented players, but they are not a great team – perhaps not yet even a good team, – but there is enough raw talent in the group for individuals to pull the chestnuts out of the fire on most occasions.
I believe that they can win the league this year but it is not a given that they will. If they do, I think they will make the step up to be a real team to be reckoned with, and could dominate the domestic game for some time to come, but to do so they will require a lot of patience from those people who believe that they are the life blood of the club – the fans.
In short let’s try to keep calm for a few months and get behind the team, even allowing for the possibility of a slip up on the way. Such events are hard to take as they happen, but should such come to pass let’s cling to the belief that – Yes we can.
As for gloating – best done when the flag is raised.