It was Lord Melchett in Series 4 of Blackadder who blustered, “Doing precisely what we’ve done 18 times before is exactly the last thing the enemy will expect us to do this time.” That line of ludicrous pomposity is exactly what I thought of when I read the team sheet prior to the match against Ferencvaros. An astonishing starting line up with no strikers. Our seemingly unending knack of not having a squad big enough or ready to deal with these qualifiers is now something that we should simply assume will happen every year it would appear – as are the results that inevitably follow.
Lets get one thing out of the way to start with. The manager should be under severe scrutiny for last night and he should not survive the post mortem. Any confidence I had in him, vanished after this tie. Against Cluj it was McGregor at left back. Against Copenhagen it was Ajer at right back. Last night it was the decision to play Christie up front with two strikers on the bench. An unbelievable situation to have allowed to occur. But that isn’t even the end of it. Even when we had the initiative during the game, the manager wouldn’t make the required changes. El Hamed had been struggling all match and was on a booking. Bringing Frimpong on was a “no brainer”. Unless of course you’re the Celtic manager who waits until the inevitable fatal mistake occurs. Against Cluj, Copenhagen and last night we have been undone by simple punts up the park and the opposition allowed to get in behind our defence.
The manager’s catastrophic night would continue after the 90 minutes. His post match comments were – as many Celtic fans have noted – Gerrardesque. Throwing his players under the bus with comments about some not wanting to be here. Stuff that should have stayed indoors but was frankly a failed attempt by Neil Lennon to lay the blame elsewhere.
We have now qualified for the CL Group Stages in two years out of the last seven. The illustrious Ferencvaros join Legia, Maribor, Molde, Cluj, Copenhagen by beating us at home in European football during that time. In this Hall of Shame, AEK managed a draw at CP. Only Malmo was a home victory and even then it was kamikaze defending in the last minute at home that was to prove crucial.
Any professionally well run club the size of Celtic would be going, “WTF” and having an inquiry into what on earth is going here. These are not one offs. Having a Celtic player make pathetic mistakes in these crucial games is what you should be putting your money on. Last night it was El Hamed. Against Copenhagen it was Simunovic, against Cluj it was Brown and the handball, against Maribor, it was Izzy’s inept failure to deal with a cross, against Legia it was Ambrose getting needlessly sent off, against Malmo it was Brown again and his failure to deal with a punt from the opposition penalty box, against Molde it was a 40 year old showing more determination than Tyler Blackett and against AEK it was a whole back four watching crosses trundle across our penalty area to players unmarked.
We are going out in poor games to poor teams and giving away the softest of goals. The teams that are handing us our dinner (and nearly always at home) have a far fewer resources than we do. Yet they have managers who can get them organised and pounce on our inevitable errors. The most damning thing I can say about the Ferencvaros tie is that Rangers would not have gone out to that mob. For all Gerrard’s deficiencies and the fact that his squad is poorer than ours, they would have the organisation to have got through that. That is a shocking indictment.
In financial terms going out to teams in Europe in this way will have cost us £130M plus in 6 years. Those are the kind of financial figures that should see a board meeting being convened immediately with a decision to review why we seem unable to navigate a path to the CL group stages against teams we should be able to beat at home. But does anyone seriously think that will happen ? Does anyone expect the board to put the manager under the microscope after yet another amateurish 90 minutes in a crucial game.
No, no we will be told to just think of the “10”. And if you look at social media unfortunately, many Celtic fans will buy into that. It is however the most unambitious, insular thinking possible. If we prepared properly for Europe and put the likes of Ferencvaros to the sword, then the “10” would take care of itself. If the “10” represents the extent of our ambitions then we’re stuffed as a club at European level. And I’m far from convinced that the league will be the cake walk that so many Celtic fans seem convinced that it will be. In 97/98 Rangers threw away the league. They had a better record in games against us. Especially given how we have started and the financial ramifications of last night (does anyone expect Edouard to still be here on Oct 6th), I would take nothing for granted. Any Rangers fan watching our latest European exit should be thinking they’ll never have a better chance to stop us.
Lets look at our transfer dealings in in the last three January windows :-
In the Jan 2018 window we signed the following : –
Only Bain is still there now and is a reserve
In Jan 2019 we signed
None of the above are currently at the club.
In Jan 2020 window we signed :-
Neither of the above featured in Europe other than a brief subs appearance for Klimala in the last round.
You cannot make any excuses for the above. Yes Congerton was allowed to leave for Leicester in the summer of 2019, but January 2020 saw us yet again buy players either not ready or deemed not good enough for a qualifier against Hungarian opposition eight months later. We allow Simunovic to leave (rightly IMHO) but have yet to sign a replacement. Its been known since January that the manager didn’t fancy Bolingoli but we have as yet signed nobody to take his place. Scott Brown has been a brilliant captain for Celtic. But there must be serious doubts about him at this level now. At the moment there is no replacement in sight and you fear that he will become the butt of jokes rather retiring in a blaze of glory.
The likes of the Red Bull organisation clearly watch potential coaches and managers like they would scout players. But to get a gig in a Celtic dugout at various levels it would appear that you most likely have to be an ex Celt or closely know somebody who was (our new assistant manager being a classic example) That says everything about the lack of foresight and imagination at the club And please don’t bring up Ronnie Deila. He was originally ear-marked as Lennon’s assistant and was brought to the club’s attention by the CEO’s son by all accounts.