Just Can’t Get Enough Begun, before the laughter rose once again at Penny Arcade. This time, the laughter was less rampant, and the beat of the music intensified. I opened my eyes, desperately trying to establish a pattern, wondering why the celebration had transported me to the darkness of the night. Penny Arcade, that awful, catchy piece of squalid nothingness, battered my eardrums like cold raindrops in the wind. Everything turned, yet the dancing and the joyous nature remained. Except we were on the outside, enviously sneaking a look at something we desperately wished to escape from. The replaying of the second half in my mind, no matter how many times I wished to convince myself that the power of thought could create the perfect ending, only served to reinforce the hurt even more. I woke up in a cold sweat, in the chill of the autumn night. 300 miles from an Ibrox that at half time I was grateful beyond belief to be enclosed within.
Neil Lennon failed. Hopefully the pathetic notion that he cannot win the big games has long since been eroded, but taking matters on just one game, he failed.
Team selection was not the biggest failure, but the dropping of Ledley was especially harsh with the hindsight of Ki’s anonymous showing and Kayal being such a pale imitation of his former self he may as well have been a snowman planted in the middle of the park. At half time, it was obvious beyond reason that Rangers would try to press for an equaliser straight away. The rattled aspect of the Celtic defence suggested that they were simply not expecting a team 2-1 down at home to their greatest rivals to play with a high octane approach. Celtic seemed lacklustre and at times, disinterested. The defence were woeful, and the strikers simply unable to, yet again, create a fluid partnership.
Time to panic? Not at all. For a football fan, the internet is a wonderful vacuum to air thoughts and emotions. Sadly, unlike a vacuum, the words are never merely sucked up into the abyss but lie there with their honest, exasperating or reactionary connotations. Message boards and social media sites are going to be littered with diversity in terms of opinions, with the ones who shout the loudest hoping that theirs are heard the most, like the drunk person in the corner of the pub desperate for their rants to be noticed. Sites and social media have, in many ways, become far more potent than the rant in the pub. Faced with the faceless, fear and ration dissipate as anger prevails. Having nobody to directly challenge ensures the most outrageous statements are only challenged with words, not a bunch of folk in the pub politely telling you to shut up. Therefore, in the aftermath of any Celtic defeat, there will be pitiful supporters bellowing their personal hatred for Samaras (no matter what he does) and calling for Lennon’s head. In a world where quick fixes are encouraged across many facets of society, one defeat becomes an instant disaster that must be tackled right away.
Would things have been any different a mere fourteen years ago? My first Celtic game was a 2-1 defeat to Dunfermline in August 1997, and twitter and the like would have been polluted with folk screeching for Jansen to get sacked and for that dreadlocked Swedish striker to be punted as he is just not Celtic class. How about when Big Jock failed to land ten in a row? People would have still called for his head. Ranting to mates mean words are abruptly lost, whereas we can now analyse everything people say within the heat of the moment.
Reflecting on Sunday’s defeat, it was an embarrassing display. Even at 2-1 up, Rangers looked the more aggressive and attack minded team. It’s a far cry from laughing at Walter Smith in February after the 1-0 score line in the cup. In his post-match interview he actually admitted that, although they had lost and were poor, 1-0 was an improvement on the previous 3-0 defeat at Celtic Park. Celtic fans smirked, Rangers fans called for his immediate removal. Luck, or a change in mentality, but the ethos and attitudes in terms of both clubs with regards to the footballing approach seemed to alter in the aftermath. With each subsequent meeting, Celtic have played well within themselves. Fear is creeping in like a thief in the night, whilst Rangers are dynamic and rapid, even with a poor side. They had balance and speed, we did not. Celtic are not in as bad a state as they were in February, but for the sake of the future, we need to respond just as well as they managed to. Lennon needs to quickly restore success from the ashes of failure, and to give us joy in reality, and not just within the moments of hopeful dreams.