In a desperate attempt to take something positive from last Sunday’s Ibrox debacle, I have come to the admittedly highly optimistic conclusion that when you hit rock bottom, by definition, the only way is up. Because that’s exactly what happened, as we plumbed the depths in that embarrassing second half. A Celtic that should have known exactly what to expect from a wounded Rangers (aggrieved and smarting at the half-time situation and bound to be fired up by a dressing room rallying call from their uber-bluenose leadership), capitulated and simply did not compete. It was the ultimate betrayal of supporters who had rolled up, or tuned in, expecting so much more. Sadly, their would-be heroes turned out to be pantomime lions in sheep’s clothing.
I say the only way is up; and I dearly hope so – but in the real world, we all know that’s not strictly true. No, in the face of adversity, things can always get worse. Indeed, nothing would give our many detractors and malefactors more pleasure and we’d do well to remember that.
“We Are All (… still …) Neil Lennon” – but Neil, the time has come for you and your squad to bring back the bacon and not just the promised thunder, welcome though that has definitely been. More pointedly, while we’re on the subject of meteorological phenomena, the last thing we need now is the lightning to go with the thunder … meaning, no second strike from those Dingwall upstarts who inflicted one of the darkest days in living Celtic memory in that nightmare 2010 Scottish Cup semi.
Ross County lie ominously in wait for us in their highland lair this evening; and they would love nothing more than to pile on the agony in the wake of our Govan humiliation. Understandably, they will be hoping to catch us on the rebound, vulnerable, still reeling from the onslaught that floored us in that miserable forty-five minutes of south-side dereliction. And quite rightly, from their point of view, they will be savouring the prospect of an outrageous cup double.
It cannot be allowed to happen!
In case you hadn’t noticed yet, Neil, the fatal weakness at the heart of our defence has been well and truly sussed. So, expect some fairly unsubtle probing of that shortcoming tonight; and please be ready for it.
And while we’re on the subject of defending, a wee word of advice on this zonal malarkey from someone reared on a much simpler philosophy. Call me naive if you like but I never heard yet of a “zone” scoring. So, either the system is fundamentally flawed (my own theory) or your players just don’t know how to play it – either way, the result is equally horrible.
Here’s a novel idea. Keep your eye on the opposing players – and attack the bloody ball! (Think Billy McNeill, Paul Elliott, Bobo Balde, Chris Sutton, Joos Valgaeren or … ahem … Johan Mjallby if in any doubt about that simple concept.)
Collectively and individually, you and your team let us down badly at Ibrox, Neil. You all know that. So, collectively and individually you now have to repair that damage and restore the faith that had built up such a head of steam prior to Sunday, despite the traumas of St Johnstone, Sion and Atletico Madrid, in no particular order.
Anything less than an emphatic win tonight is unthinkable and would almost certainly represent the first substantial crack in the dam of support and goodwill that has sustained you through thick and thin since taking over from the beleaguered Tony Mowbray.
“In Lennon We (… still …) Trust” – but faith and patience have bounds; and it really is crunch time, now.
Over to you, Neil!