On Your Marks …

The Ref

HERE we go again – and from the off, despite a pre-season that was consistent only in its disappointment and a less-than-totally-convincing launch of the quest for renewed European glory, we’re being told what a walkover it’s going to be for Celtic domestically. The dire state of Scottish football and all that. How our season’s over before it begins if ( … perish the thought! … ) we don’t qualify for the CL Group Stage.

Well, I don’t buy it this time around any more than I did last time the myth was peddled.

Sure, Scotland doesn’t produce the quality-in-depth of yesteryear any more – but even in those allegedly halcyon days, our game was, by and large, similarly dominated by the (then) two Glasgow giants … so, what’s so very different? Apart, of course, from the fact that one of those giants has since been slain – by it’s own black heart and grasping hand!

Could it be that all the disdainful fuss about lack of competitiveness is predominantly an extension of Scottish MSM and societal disquiet at the mere prospect of a glut of Celtic success, let alone its reality?

The truth is that, despite the indisputable fact of a drastic drop in our national quality GDP in football terms, the playing stock of every club in the land is fitter, more intensively coached, more physically and medically monitored, more cossetted and more tactically primed than at any time in the history of the game up here. They are professionals who will not take kindly to being so comprehensively written off in advance and who will battle long and hard to smear some egg on the faces of their openly-declared superiors.

Accordingly, while (by virtue of their undoubted advantages in financing, resources and support) Celtic will rightly be hot favourites for every domestic competition in season 2013/14, they are by no means racing certainties. They will have to scrap and fight for every point and in every cup-tie, at home and all across the land. Any hint of complacency will be deservedly punished by determinedly resolute opponents who will relish the prospect of ramming such smugness down our collective throats.

So don’t be fooled, Celtic … don’t be lured into the trap of believing all the cynically mischievous advance publicity.

St Johnstone’s recent fantastic two-leg victory over Rosenborg entitles them to renewed respect; and I confidently predict stern domestic competition from them and / or a couple of others that will emerge from the pack of usual suspects over the coming months.

A “treble” is a rare and elusive bird, indeed … to consider it, or for that matter, any component of it, as a given, would be the height of folly; and I trust Lenny and his back-up and playing staff will be having none of it.

That tired old adage, “One game at a time, Bhoys!”, remains as relevant as ever.

So, let’s live the age-old cliche, beginning with Elfsborg on Wednesday night … and carry it right through a season in which most of the present prophets of pre-determination will be yearning daily for us to fall, crash and burn at the next hurdle.



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