We all imagined a Celtic side buzzing on green and white adrenaline and a team ready to literally to go out there and murder the opposition to the point where the groundsmen would literally have to hose Ian Black’s intestines down from off the crossbar, scrape the flayed skin of David Goodwillie off one of the advertising boards with a spatula and post it back to Tannadice in a jiffy bag or we’d cheer as team captain Scott Brown did a lap of honour around Celtic Park holding the decapitated head of Kyle Lafferty aloft wearing a blood-soaked “DON’T COME TO CELTIC PARK, WE’LL SET ABOOT TEARING YOU LIMB FROM LIMB” t-shirt.
Ok, maybe i expected too much from Lennon’s Celtic side but we were all hoping Lennon would put out a side that would take the knocks and deliver a few knock-out blows back.
No longer would we be a side which would be as brittle as a damp bus ticket, as we were under Tony Mowbray whose mantra to “take it on the chin and move on” was one of the most infuriating phrases most of us would listen to constantly last season, Mowbray’s Celtic side had taken so many hits on the chin that Celtic became a toothless and jawless side with no bite or bark at all.
Tony Mowbray’s woeful tenure resulted in him departing from the club and the resultant sigh of relief from the Celtic faithful was almost enough to start a hurricane force wind that would’ve blown Glasgow off the map itself and into the Irish Sea.
When Neil Lennon was announced as caretaker manager, some believed his inexperience would be detrimental for Celtic, and many of us believed after the debacle of that game against Ross County that the worst was to come.
Thankfully, it worked out in Lennon’s favour and we won 8 SPL games on the trot, including a 2-1 home victory over our bitter rivals Rangers.
As we all know, Neil Lennon was like a warrior in the Celtic side Martin O’ Neill put out onto the pitch, a player who was always up to fight for the Celtic cause, no-one ever doubted his love and passion for this club because he was one of us.
As was the case with his mentor Martin O’ Neill.
If you read most interviews with the players O’ Neill managed at Celtic, most of them say the same thing – “You would run through brick walls for Martin O’ Neill”, something i expect is the exact reason why some Villa players criticised O’ Neill’s training methods, Nicky Shorey couldn’t run through a cobweb without suffering from a minor concussion but that’s beside the point, this mindset is something Martin O’ Neill was famed for instilling into the players’ mentality at Celtic and many of us wondered if this same attitude has been absorbed into, or at least influenced, Neil Lennon’s own coaching style.
Despite the SPL being largely derided for it’s lack of quality, competiveness and attraction, Celtic under Martin O’ Neill was a tough opponent for some of Europe’s big guns at home and we shown no fear on the park. We didn’t always win but we would compete.
In the league and domestic competitions, competing isn’t enough, winning is everything and more often than not, we would win.
This attitude had long dissipated since Martin O’ Neill left us and in Neil Lennon’s appointment, we would hope the essence of Martin O’ Neill’s management style is evident in Neil Lennon’s own approach to football management but in the pre-season games, we are still left asking the same questions of certain players from last season.
Our team captain Scott Brown continues to frustrate and bemuse a large section of the Celtic support, a player who Lennon believes reminds him of his combative self, seems to have made no progress as a player or as a captain, despite the high hopes we all had when we were told he’d kicked on a lot in training sessions of late.
In pre-season games as well as the Champions League qualifying games against Braga, he is still a fine purveyor of a multitude of misplaced passes to the point where i’m surprised Celtic’s sports science team hasn’t been testing him for chronic colourblindness by now because he seems to have a severe problem with knowing how to make a pass directly to a team-mate of late.
As well as that, he seems to pick up bookings and give away unnecessary free kicks for silly tackles and in terms of his decision-making, i think the term “headless chicken” is nearing overkill when people talk about Scott Brown, it’s safe to say at the moment he epitomises the very spirit of Bernard Matthews’ career in that he acts like a complete turkey on the park.
We’re also wondering why Neil Lennon chose to bring back Charlie Mulgrew to the club too. A player universally renowned for his inability to be able to defend with any competency is not the answer to the long-standing issue that has plagued Celtic for many seasons now – THAT LEFT-BACK ROLE.
Judging by what i’ve seen from Mulgrew so far is that he looks so out of his depth at Celtic that he will need to spend a season in a decompression chamber to recover, in fact i’d go as far to say Heather Mills would do a better job trying to defend the left flank if she was hopping around on one leg wearing a single clown shoe.
Cha Du Ri looks like a more sturdier and robust right-back than Andreas Hinkel, whom i think will be another exiting through the revolving doors in the next few weeks, he has a great burst of pace and has the strength to cope with the SPL.
The centre back positions are also still a great cause for concern and that much has been evident from the pre-season games as well as the dire displays against Braga in the Champions League qualifiers.
Glenn Loovens has all the pace of a water buffalo trying to drag a caravan across a frozen lake, and if you ask me, Lennon will be doing well if he manages to jettison this player for a fee before the close of this transfer window.
Jos Hooiveld came here with a lot of promise but due to his injury problems last season, i think he requires a decent partner alongside him as well as more time on the park, however he seems to have a pre-occupation with lamping the ball diagonally up the park to no-one in particular, in short we may have bought the Dutch equivalent of Stephen McManus. Here’s hoping we haven’t.
We’re continuing to be linked with Nottingham Forest’s Kelvin Wilson, Groningen’s Andreas Granqvist and Real Mallorca’s Ivan Ramis, whether or not we bring in one centre-half or two is still up in the air because it’s obvious Thomas Rogne will be in the first team squad as he has certainly been showing a lot of promise but where Darren O’ Dea and Josh Thompson are concerned, i wouldn’t be surprised if either of them are sent out on loan.
One thing that has always bemused me about Celtic in the past few years is the obsession with signing midfielders.
So far, we’ve signed an Israeli defensive midfielder called Beram Kayal(whom i know nothing about), Joe Ledley and Efrain Juarez, the latter being particularly impressive looking from what we’ve seen so far from him.
Juarez looks like the kind of driving force we’ve needed in midfielder since Stan Petrov left the club and have never truly replaced, which some people might say is an OTT comparison but from the few glimpses we’ve seen from his game, i think he could become that kind of player for us with his energy and drive, i will go as far to say that if an offer came in for Scott Brown, i think we’d consider letting him go because Juarez looks like a readymade replacement if we did decide to accept a bid for Scott Brown.
Paddy McCourt and James Forrest have shown in the pre-season fixtures that they will be providing great competition for starting places on the wings in the side this season. McCourt especially will be giving a chance to stamp his mark on the team now that Aiden McGeady is completing a £10m move to Spartak Moscow, the jury is still out on whether or not McCourt can last for a full 90 minutes without needing to nip off for a crafty Silk Cut or three.
Shaun Maloney is a player who looks like he needs more time on the park to get back into any kind of form. His running looked jaded and sluggish, almost like he is trying to carry a month’s shopping up to the top of Ben Nevis.
I think the biggest competition he might face for a starting place in the team is likely to come from Paddy McCourt, and that constant adage that seems to emanate from the Laptop Loyal in the press could well be utilised for Paddy McCourt in that tying him down on an improved contract could be seen as being “like a new signing for us”.
Upfront seems to be a concern for many of us too, despite the fact we’ve brought in Gary Hooper from Scunthorpe United, who has shown in the few matches he has played in so far that he knows where the net is and it won’t surprise many if he hits double figures this season.
Morten Rasmussen still has the build of a player who looks like he is no stranger to a Burger King drive-thru, which in this being Lennon’s first season as manager will be needing every player at his disposal to be giving 100% to the Celtic cause, if he gets any bulkier i think Rasmussen will end up being accused by the groundsmen at Celtic Park of committing grievous bodily harm to the grass.
Another signing that confused me was Daryl Murphy. Lennon said he decided to sign him to take some knocks upfront so by saying that, he’s some kind of battering ram, or soccer dodgem.
In the pre-season games i have seen of him, he plays out wide and seems to be the kind of player whom Hooiveld will lamp the ball to for Murphy to pick up and he has scored a few goals and may go on to have a good season in the SPL, some of the comparisons i’ve noticed on some forums is that “he’s our version of Kyle Lafferty” which makes me want to vomit my own skull through my nostrils.
Samaras and Fortune continue to show glimpses of class and quality in flashes during pre-season but you doubt whether they can show consistency to turn up week in week out.
The main news today was that Celtic have made a loan move for Craig Bellamy and it’s a move like this which could revitalise and reinvigorate the team, he inspired us the last time he was here and it’s surprising Manchester City don’t seem to want him when he was one of their best players last season.
If we do get him, he will bring the much-needed quality to the team as well as putting arses on seats at Paradise again.
Another pressing concern which is causing much debate is the goalkeeper, it’s been evident from the pre-season games that Lukasz Zaluska doesn’t inspire any confidence between the sticks at all but in turn, it’s also difficult to when the players in front of him are playing woeful too, and it’s obvious Neil Lennon is working hard to bring in a suitable No.1 he believes will be a natural successor to Artur Boruc.
Maybe in the next few weeks we’ll have more answers as to how successful the Lennon Revolution will be in bringing the thunder back to Celtic Park.
Maybe our wishes will be granted and we’ll see a new goalkeeper, a new left-back, a new striker and hopefully two new centre-halves in the coming weeks. A wide player as well would also be a bonus.
If Lennon brings in the right players and moves out the duds then the start to his tenure could be a glorious one. It shall take a while for him to make sure they blend and gel together but i believe Lenny is the man to make it happen with his new management team behind him, and i am also glad that saga with Stuart Baxter has been scrapped, Neil Lennon must be left to stamp his own mark on this side.
If we bring in those players then i absolutely believe we can win the league back, especially since Rangers have a very thin squad that needs to compete in the Champions League and in the SPL too, an injury or two to that team could cause problems for their own title challenge.
Let’s hope Lennon’s statement of intent delivers everything he is promising to bring back to Celtic Park, and as soon as possible.
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