Every team with the exception of the two games to which I have referred have illustrated the potential to hurt them – indeed some have – and it has required something special to get them out of a hole.
Do not misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that they have been lucky to win their games – they have patently deserved the success which has come to date, but there has been enough wrong in most matches to encourage the opposition. Great – even very good – teams do not do this.
On a number of occasions the manager has expressed concerns about what appears to be an attitudinal flaw at the start of a number of matches, and the defence to date has never convinced me that they are operating as a remotely cohesive unit.
Injuries have not helped the coach in his efforts build a settled team, but it is equally true that few players have demonstrated total reliability – or at least to the degree that Martin O’Neill’s players did in his early weeks, but then again he had perhaps better players – no not perhaps – he had better players!
Izzeguerre is the only one that to my mind has performed in an outstanding manner in all of his performances, but that is to damn him with faint praise since he has only played a handful of matches and now is injured. Foster has shown he might have the right stuff, but he has not been overworked although his efforts on Saturday were crucial to the eventual win.
Almost all of the others have shown signs of great ability, but they have all also had really poor games and it is no surprise that Neil Lennon has suggested that he does not yet know what his best team is.
My concern over this stems from the fact that they are due to play the FOD in a matter of weeks.
I have made it my business not to watch the Huns until and after they have been beaten. To date this season therefore I have not seen them.
I cannot comment therefore on how good or bad they may be, but what is clear from their results is that they have not lost the knack of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Add to this quality the always to be relied upon support of the masons in the black, in the way of timely penalties and enough added time to achieve their joint goals and you have a potent mix which seems destined to cause our own boys a degree of discomfiture.
I worry that Lennon may be inclined to follow the model of Tommy Burns when he was Celtic’s manager, in that he may stuff his team with good footballers that he thinks will have sufficient quality to overcome Smith’s sonderkommandoes.
The knight in waiting however seems unlikely be drawn out from his siege lines until we make a mistake or until we frustrate ourselves battering at his gates as was so often the case with the other Red Haired One’s teams in those dark days of the ‘90’s.
I would love Celtic to horse them in the manner of O’Neill’s first encounter with them, but Dick Advocaat is no Smith. He put out an attacking team which actually played very well in an open game. Smith on the other hand will come with a point and it will be his objective to leave with at least one, but his knowledge of this fixture will encourage him to believe that he can go away with all of the spoils – not necessarily through their own virtues but on the likelihood that we will shoot ourselves in the foot at some stage.
I realise that this is a deeply pessimistic look forward, but as I have stated above, I have yet to see real evidence that our own team is up to the task that faces them.
I pray that I am wrong, that Neil will have the tactical nous necessary to out fox a manager whose philosophy of the game makes Cattenacio look like an attacking formation, and that a new hope will dawn over our club.
During WGS reign I penned a piece for this site entitled ‘Industry is a better horse to ride than genius’ – a truth which Smith has demonstrated on fields all over Europe. That they were so often undone at home was because in their arrogance they forgot this mantra and thought they could beat teams by playing football. I doubt if there is any chance of this happening in a fortnight’s time
This is Neil Lennon’s chance to put down a marker. Last season’s win was effectively meaningless. This will be the first time he has crossed the Huns in a game which really matters. If you only get one chance to make a first impression, let us fervently hope that Neil Lennon’s team make a good one.