Deflation at the perilous position in which we find ourselves following the latest loss of a game we should have won comfortably (at Tynecastle, a week past Sunday) I have found myself strangely lost for words ever since. To be perfectly honest, for the first time in over 50 years following Celtic, I found myself closer to disinterest in matters Hoopy than I would ever have thought possible – and that prospect shook me rigid!
The disintegration of Celtic’s 2011/12 SPL campaign thus far has been as baffling as it has been shocking. Not so very long ago, it seems, despite the opening day setback of Izzy’s crippling injury, we were sitting fairly comfortably, two points to the good and ready to slide effortlessly into overdrive. Battle-hardened Lenny was poised to lead us to a sweeping rout of rookie Sally’s financially, morally and ability-wise bankrupt also-rans … then the wheels started falling off, courtesy of the sickening home defeat to St Johnstone (a game that should have been won by the length of London Road) and the shameful second-half capitulation at Ibrox, where we snatched abject humiliation from the yawning jaws of opportunity.
Without those two aberrations, the Hearts game would not have been so desperately vital and would probably have become a routine stepping stone on the road to league consolidation.
So, how has it all gone so badly wrong?
Well, first off, cards on the table – Neil Lennon hasn’t become a write-off overnight. I, for one, still believe he is the man for the job; and all is not (quite) yet lost.
Having said that, nothing less than an immediate and sustained upsurge in form and results can salvage both Celtic’s season and Lennon’s long-term prospects in the Parkhead hotseat. Frankly, such is his depth of feeling for the club, the likelihood is that NL would walk voluntarily before he was pushed if he felt Celtic had reached the absolute point of competitive no return under his watch.
It’s no use carping from the touchline, though. Scatter-gun criticism helps no-one … and while I have neither any idea whatsoever how Neil and his lieutenants intend to turn the presently alarming situation around, nor the competence to offer a detailed alternative strategy, I would like to offer them a simple three-point plan that I feel would point us in the right general direction.
First, the glaringly obvious. Sort out the potentially terminal problems at the back, once and for all! (A wee clue, here – think Mulgrew/Rogne.)
Second, the blindingly obvious. Make the most of what you’ve got!
Third, the equally obvious. Stop the fiddling around. Decide on your best team and within the bounds of circumstances, play it!
Now for a little meat on those admittedly bare bones:
What have we got?
Well, for starters, we’ve got a potentially electrifying strike force that has an intuitive mutual understanding and an uncanny habit of being on the winning side – when they’re played together. Neither of them is quite the same player in isolation, or in combination with any other available partner. No names, no pack drill. A no brainer, really.
We also have a genius in our squad. Geniuses see things, make things happen, win games – but they have to be on the park to do so. Bench-warming blunts their mercurial instincts, sows doubt in their unfathomable psyche. They also thrive on love and trust. It seems Lenny and Co either don’t love our genius enough, don’t consider him worthy of a regular place in their starting line-up, or they don’t trust him – or all the above. I beg to differ on all counts. No name, no pack drill. Another no brainer.
We have potentially world class midfielders; but they are withering on the disheartening vine of collective under-achievement.
Throw in the unparalleled backing a rampant Celtic team can rely on in the form of the thunder Neil Lennon promised (and has delivered) and our back-room team has plenty to work with – and plenty of hope for the future, despite the current sad state of affairs.
Over to you, Bhoys!