For a variety of reasons I have not been adding any blogs recently but hopefully can begin to get back on track particularly with what lies ahead as we enter the final stretch of the season. Whilst I will leave it to others to comment in detail on events which have recently taken place in relation to our manager, Neil Lennon, I feel that to ignore it would be disrespectful towards him.
If STV continue to run their ‘Football Years’ series into the next decade then this season will be characterised by ‘Dougie!, Dougie!’, Hugh Dallas, George Peat, SFA v Celtic and Paul McBride. Running parallel to all of this, however, has been the disgraceful and consistent abuse, character assassination and threats dished out to Neil Lennon. With today being Good Friday I will resist the temptation to play the religious card (although it does play a part). For me the issue with Lennon lies also in the fact that he is committed to Celtic and is a winner who will stand up to any challenge thrown his way. He will back down to no-one and I do not believe the threats and abuse would have been at such a level had Celtic been failing. Regardless of how this season concludes the admiration and respect I have for this man knows no end. Lennon, against the backdrop of these threats, has Celtic playing football in the manner which our club has built all of its success. He has shown he has the mental strength to ensure that he separates his personal issues from his job and the performance on Wednesday night against Kilmarnock was as Lennon’s mentor, Martin O’Neill, would put it, “scintillating”. I wrote a blog which advocated for Lennon to get the job longer term and I stand by that belief now more than ever.
With the title run-in ahead it has been suggested that our squad are young and have not been over the course before whilst Rangers have experienced players who have and this tips the balance in their favour. The squad may not but our manager certainly has and with the mental strength he has shown personally then I do not believe this will be a factor in determining the outcome of the title.
Sunday’s match against Rangers is being billed as the ‘title decider’, however, I do not think it will be should there be a clear winner of the match. Of course it will give the victorious team a massive boost psychologically but I believe there will be points spilled elsewhere. Rangers are at home and if we factor in a positive result for us against Inverness Caley then they trail us by 2 points. The pressure, therefore, is all on them to come out and win this match but do they have the personnel to open themselves up to our superior technical ability – I do not believe they do. A point for Celtic on Sunday keeps the title in our hands but there are plenty more challenges ahead.
Rangers (A) Celtic (H)
Dundee Utd (H) Motherwell (A)
Inverness CT (A)
Kilmarnock (A) Hearts (H)
Hearts (A) Dundee Utd (H)
Motherwell (H) Kilmarnock (A)
So from the remaining 6 league games we have, 4 will be away from home whilst from Rangers remaining 5 they only have 2 away days. I must admit that I am pleased not to have been sent back to Fir Park although our recent scrappy 1-0 win on a similar surface at St. Johnstone has shown me that Lennon has learnt as a manager and selected a starting XI which dealt with the conditions. Rangers will not be pleased with this prospect and the next 2 weeks could be defining as to the destination of the trophy. Celtic’s run of 3 away games will obviously be crucial but there is, in my opinion, a positive side to this scenario. Being away from home may actually help the players as we as a support I sense are of late becoming increasingly anxious in our desire for Lennon to win this title. With the team being young and inexperienced it is important that the supporters back them 100% regardless of a missed tackle, bad pass or goal conceded, all of which are as inevitable as night following day. Our role in this run-in is just as crucial and I tend to find that the away support are more supportive and tolerant than those at home which will hopefully help the players.
A concern which I do have is not with the future but with the past and specifically the month of December and the 3 draws in a row, particularly against ICT from being 2-0 up, which may come back to haunt us. Sunday, however, gives us the opportunity to make sure this is not the case by taking the game to Rangers and playing the same way as we did against Kilmarnock.
Here’s an interesting concluding thought should the League go down to the last day……..Motherwell come to Parkhead the week before the Scottish Cup Final and lets say Celtic need a win. Should Celtic win the title then it would be advantageous to Motherwell as this would guarantee them European football next season regardless of the outcome of the Scottish Cup Final. So what sort of team would Stuart McCall (ex-Rangers player) select? Would the pre-match team talk be as passionate? Interesting, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that as I don’t think I can go through another last day decider.
So as they come around the bend they are neck and neck, who has got enough left in the tank to get over the line first?
In Lennon We Trust – Hail Hail