Another week, another failure?, another bad decision and another ‘Tweet’.
I do not usually make much remark on Celtic. I do not support the team and therefore it is not really my place to comment on their affairs. Nothing Celtic or Neil Lennon do has any outcome on me; but after quite some time I feel it is time to have a small snigger and a friendly jibe.
First of all, let us have a look at Celtics season thus far.
A poor start to the league campaign and also Europe where Celtic would have been dumped out before the starting whistle if it had not been for the poor practice of Sion. Well beaten in Europe but is that in any way unusual for a Scottish team in this day and age – certainly not.
Some rough and tumble legal dispute later and Celtic were correctly allowed entry into the Europa League where they played some decent matches at times and certainly never shamed themselves. In my opinion – a positive step for Celtic. Udinese are still sitting in the top 5 of Seria A; it would be unrealistic to expect any Scottish team to compete with that. Celtic gave them a fright though when they played their football.
Back at home the wheels were falling off the bus in remarkable style. It seemed that hardly a week went by where Celtic weren’t dropping points. Rangers on the other hand were winning, week in week out. I was at those games – there was nothing at all convincing about Rangers victories and everyone could see that Rangers were only 1, possibly 2 players away from trouble. The new signings at Ibrox were looking poor and there was a constant murmur of ‘administration’ settling in the back of everyone’s mind.
By the time we reached October – the phone in’s and websites were filled with ‘Lenny must go’. The same man that the Celtic faithful held a candle-light vigil for only months before was under some intense scrutiny. Indeed Lennon himself has stated that had his team lost that fated day at Rugby Park he felt that his time would be up. You have to admire Neil Lennon on one thing: he is honest as the day is long.
Fast forward from that day – the wheels did indeed fall off the Rangers bus. The loss of Naismith to injury against Aberdeen was the straw that tipped the cart. Rangers embarked upon a run similar to that of Celtics earlier in the season and meanwhile Lennon and his team embarked on a magnificent run of…what was it, 28 games? Fully deserving them their title as SPL champions.
Valentine’s Day in February seen Rangers enter the administration that we all sensed was coming. 10 points deduction as per the rule book and the league was all but over. This coupled by the earlier sale of Jelavic, injury to Naismith, Whittaker……there was no way back for a Rangers team that looked devoid of ideas and lacking of heart and spirit.
Indeed Celtic have gone on to win the SPL crown for this season. Naturally there are cries of ‘tainted title’ by many but I am not here to claim such. I have always said that you can only beat the teams in front of you, and that includes their circumstances. As long as Celtic cross the finishing line more than 10points ahead of Rangers this season, then they have won the title fairly and squarely. There is nothing tainted about it.
Rangers are in a mess. The rest of Scottish football looks poor and on the back of a 28 game run Celtic look virtually invincible in Scotland.
Thoughts then turn to what is possible for Celtic this season. A Treble? Winning the league at Ibrox?…..
Like any rival fans, the possibility of winning a treble and the league at your stricken rival’s home is irresistible. Lennon would be almost untouchable if he were to achieve such a goal on the season that Rangers look to be on their way out – the death rattle, so to speak.
First up – Kilmarnock. Personally, I seen a whitewash – Kilmarnock looked like a team that could leak goals at any time and Celtic looked like they could score at any opportunity. The perfect cocktail for a right good humping.
It did not happen. Kilmarnock gave as good as they were given and for the most part Celtic didn’t look up for it. Sure, they had patches in the match but that is what you would expect – a string of good saves by Cammy Bell and that was it. The match was over. Naturally – in true fashion there had to be a contentious Penalty decision near the end of the match that became the whole talking point of the match for most Celtic fans. Robbed? Nope…one penalty decision like that doesn’t mean anything over the 90 minutes. Celtic had plenty opportunities to put Killy away and failed at every one. Credit to Killy – they played well that day – and they ruined the chances of the Treble that all Celtic fans dreamed of.
Not to worry, a minor blip – victory at Ibrox soon after would cement the league title at Ibrox and sweeten the victory so much more. I must admit I dreaded that day – I couldn’t see where Rangers were going to stop a Celtic team that would surely be full of anger from losing the cup final the week before.
However, once again the same team turned up at Ibrox. An early goal by Rangers followed by the Celtic self-destruction meant that for 85minutes it looked like Rangers were going to have a very happy day. Indeed Celtic did then turn up for five minutes and scores two goals but it all counted for very little as for the second week on the trot the expectant Celtic fans went home after a bit of an anti-climax.
Not to worry, the SPL title and the Double with the Scottish Cup would amount to a very successful season for Lennon and his troops that have been assembled over only one previous season. Credit where credit is due to Neil Lennon, I remember the team that he inherited from TM only one full season ago. It was a mess. Some of the usual over exaggerated media persona claimed that it could take ‘5 years’ for Celtic to sort out that mess. Indeed, arguably, Lennon had done it in only a few months.
At long last, the next match and an emphatic Celtic victory resulted in the SPL crown returning to Celtic park. Congratulations on that, the league is won over the whole season and in my view – Celtic have been worthy winners.
Next up, the small issue of Hearts for a place in the Scottish cup final. Again, defeat.
No one could accuse Celtic of not being at their best during the match. At times they played some good football and created plenty of chances. Indeed it appeared that it was only a matter of time until Celtic broke the deadlock. They didn’t – Hearts did. Celtic got back into the game, queue the last minute penalty and goodbye double. Was it a penalty? Personally I thought it slightly harsh but, like eggs..hard or soft, it’s still an egg. Celtics goal was offside also but I didn’t hear too many grumbles about that decision from Mr. Lennon.
So, the season is virtually over and Celtic has won the title. It is a good job that they did, because otherwise you would need to ask, “Have Celtic really done THAT well this season?” . It is not my place to judge that, I don’t support Celtic and therefore my opinion on such is pointless. Only Celtic fans can say if they are happy with the footballing achievements this season or not, and even that will be subjective.
Many will say that the league was the priority and having achieved that anything else would have been a bonus. Fair enough, I am not here to contest such.
My whole reason for writing this piece was not to give a full blow by blow account of the season that has unfurled, as eventful as it has been.
No, my whole reason for writing was rather on the new devised split I have recognised in the Lennon camp. Whilst there are still some staunch supporters of the club legend, there has developed a strong undercurrent of uncertainty surrounding him.
Defeat in both cup competitions coupled with failure to win at Ibrox would be only a taster of the reasons why. Indeed many Celtic fans are becoming increasingly alarmed that in one off games, where winning is imperative, Celtic seem to fall at the last hurdle.
I do not wish to go down the old cliché road of, “Bottle crashing”. I don’t believe in, “bottle” and I don’t believe that Celtic players therefore, “lack bottle”. After all, if, “bottle” is such a subjective thing then how on earth would it be possible to pick a team of “11 bottlers”? You would have more chance of winning the bloody Euro-millions.
There are many reasons that a team could appear to fail at the last hurdle: luck being one of them. Secondly, it is just possible that perhaps on that day you were not good enough. It happens to us all. Yes, it is frustrating but it happens. Managing the expectation of Old Firm fans is something that the management will always have to deal with. Many would expect to crush all in their path to glory but for the players on the park, it is 11 v 11 and any opposition is good opposition.
When it comes to managing expectation, perhaps silly statements about winning the Champions League, no matter how over hyped by the media, were ill advised. It is up there with Jelavic saying Rangers couldn’t be caught and Kris Commons, “younger, fitter, better”. Perhaps clubs could do with lessons in keeping shtoom.
One thing that is certainly not to blame for Celtics ‘failures’ this season is the decisions of Referees. Neil Lennon might like to take this crusade on every single time but you know what: Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Lennon?”. As it stands: no one.
Anyone that believes referees are responsible for Celtic not winning a treble this season are living on the same planet as those that still believe Craig Whyte has the best interests of Rangers at heart.
The simple fact is that Lennon is now beginning to cry wolf. This is not purely my opinion but the opinion of many Celtic fans also. They are not hard to find right now on phone in’s, hotlines and among the hordes in the pub.
Neil Lennon has had a problem with referees since taking charge at Celtic. I am not going to suggest for a minute that it is all unfounded as at times his team have been on the end of a few dodgy decisions. So also, have 11 other teams in the SPL.
Twice this season Celtic have benefited from goals where the ball was never over the line. Rangers and Hearts. I do not recall Mr Lennon chasing a referee up the park to remonstrate over such decisions then, do you? Of course not, what idiot would contest a decision that benefited their team.
Personally, I have no problem with Neil Lennon having an argument over the refereeing standards in this country. I complain myself from time to time. What I do have a problem with is the way that he seems to go about it. Time and time again he defends his team in public whilst publically lambasting referees in one manner or another. Neil: it is time to shut up.
No one should deny his ability to contest or discuss a situation with a referee. If Mr Lennon wants to go into the referee’s office after the game and have it out with the referee then that is fine and dandy by me – but chasing him up the park? Neil Lennon’s actions at the weekend were paramount to assault in the threatening manner he pursued the referee. What does he plan to achieve? To vent some anger? Or more importantly to detract the attention away from the simple fact that his team had again failed where they were expected to achieve? Personally, with the regularity and pattern that is developing recently I am tempted to go for the second option. Deflect and detract. It has worked quite well up until now but as I have alluded to; rather a few Celtic supporters are now beginning to say, ”enough is enough”!
Perhaps the penalty wasn’t a stone wall decision, I have seen it a few times myself and without being an expert on the rules of the game these days I must admit I would be shaking my head if it were my own team. What I wouldn’t be doing is putting the defeat in the sole hands of the referee. The referee did not stop Celtic scoring for 90 minutes; the Referee did not go out of his way to stop Celtic winning. Celtic done that all by themselves and if Neil Lennon wants to rant and rave like a Looney after the match: I would point him in the direction of his players changing room. Only by putting the ball in the back of the net do you win football matches.
Now, to them go home and put on twitter that it is, ’personal’ is bringing the professional integrity of the game into question. Two different reports for the Old Firm game? Clutching at straws.
Now, this is why I think Neil Lennon should learn to shut up.
The newspaper’s report that Lennon now faces a 20match ban due to the host of disciplinarians that he has ahead. I have no idea how this is calculated but what I do know is that Celtic don’t quite tick the same way when Lenny is in the stand. 20 match ban, although I doubt it will come to that: would be catastrophic for Celtic. Indeed, what would be the point in having him in charge if on match day he must retreat to the director’s box like a supporter?
Neil, do yourself a favour…..stop pissing into the wind.
Is it personal? People can make up their own mind.
What I would say is that referees are the judicial body of football matches. If you keep pissing them off then they are not going to do you any favours. Impartiality? Let’s look at a real life example. For anyone has ever been to court you will be advised to turn up smart, be polite and punctual and for fuck sake don’t annoy the Sheriff. At the end of the day if you follow those guidelines you will probably find yourself in a better position than if you turn up like a dugs dinner, swear and generally act like a tube.
Well, Judges are completely impartial. (Sic). Referees are impartial also; it is their job.
They are also human beings.
Shouting in the face of a referee and generally being abusive and threatening may allow Mr Lennon to vent his anger but I would advise that it will do him and Celtic heehaw favours in the longer run. Right or wrong? You decide, but it is human nature. Nothing will change that. We all work with someone that we think is a bit of a dick….do we favour others over them? Professionally and socially?
So again; is it personal? Well….maybe you have just hit the nail on the head their Neil, perhaps it is personal. Perhaps referees also feel it is personal when you chase them half way round the park like a man possessed.
At the end of the day Celtic have the bragging rights this season, and judging by the current financial plight of Rangers they should continue those bragging rights for a long time to come. Perhaps this summer, should Rangers not survive – Celtic will achieve the ULTIMATE bragging rights of seeing their oldest and strongest enemy die out completely.
Celtic are champions of Scotland, Neil Lennon has done a remarkable job in transforming a team in such a short time and in the process unearthing some very good players. Celtic are a very good team, but they are not THAT good and perhaps sometimes Neil Lennon should concentrate on fixing those problems rather than exacerbating a situation between himself and Referees in a war that he will never win until the introduction of goalmouth technology and action replays.
Stop pretending it is everyone else’s fault Neil; you have the hearts and the mind of Celtic supporters in a way that is only paralleled by Kenny Dalgleish at Liverpool. If you build it people will come; and come in their thousands to support Celtic and to support Neil Lennon. Celtic supporters understand that the team cannot win every single week. Most of the posts I have read on Celtic fan sites are paramount to this opinion and are prepared to accept that winning the league was the important part.
Build the team Neil, make Celtic better…….stop making an arse of yirself……….