I thought this blog would have been a barrel of fun to write this week, but there have been a few things puzzling me that I need to put straight in my own wee world.
Beating Rangers is great, it’s fun, it gives you a laugh… but, at the end of the day, you need to move on and see the bigger picture.
It’s early in the season and there are plenty of games left. It’s the same thing I would have said after a defeat. Yes, it was a good result after our last two performances, but the way we played against Rangers wasn’t vintage Celtic by any means. It was sturdy and simple, not mind-blowing, but that was exactly what we needed.
What has tickled me has been the reaction of the other side. Those that are saying that this is the worst Celtic team since EMF were in the charts. Those who said that obviously weren’t born in the nineties, can’t remember the nineties or can’t remember the last time Celtic rocked up to Ibrox.
Don’t mention the nineties
I can never remember Celtic turning up to Ibrox for the first game of the season as treble-winners in the nineties. That never happened. It would have been like finding a picture of Scary Spice without her tongue out in 1997.
Celtic were skelped by Rangers 3-0 in May this year. The winners of that largely meaningless fixture were heralded as ‘the real Rangers’ and we were told that the result would mark a turning point in that club’s fortunes. Such wild predictions in medieval times would have got you drowned for being a witch. I’m going to argue that the Celtic side that faced Rangers that day were in a worse state than the Celtic team
that went to Ibrox last Sunday.
Ange’s side at Ibrox in May was worse
It’s not a day that we want to remember, but the Celtic team that took the field that day was: Hart, Ralston, Yuki, Starfelt, Bernabei, O’Riley, McGregor, Hatate, Jota, Oh and Abada.
The Celtic team last week was: Hart, Johnston, Scales, Lagerbielke, Taylor, O’Riley, McGregor, Turnbull, Maeda, Kyogo & Abada.
If you compare the two sides then Sunday’s had three non-first choice players in their positions (Scales, Lagerbeikle and Turnbull) compared to five (Ralston, Yuki, Bernabi, Oh and Abada) last season.
Right, I can hear you all… Abada was not a first choice for a lot of last season. There were rumours of him being unhappy and his selection was due to him needing game time. This season is different, he is first choice in his position and we have given him a bumper new deal to strengthen this thought. He would have been buzzing last week going into that game knowing that the manager trusts him. This makes a massive difference to a player’s mindset.
Turnbull is also in that position. The new manager has given him a new lease of life and, with that, has brought confidence. That is not to say it will be a long-term arrangement and, while he was quiet last week, he still knew that the manager trusted him to act like the experienced player that he now is.
If we review the full-backs who lined up that day in May; we had Bernabei struggling to make any sort of positive impression and, off-field, he seemed to be struggling to adapt to a new country and becoming a first-time father in this strange place.
Ralston was coming back from injury and was going through a dreadful spell of form at this point, a spell so bad that Johnston was rushed back for the Scottish Cup final. Our full-backs last week are an upgrade, no question.
I’m not going to argue that we were inexperienced at centre-back at the weekend. You can’t debate that, but what you could debate was whether the two who played are better than Yuki?
In the midfield that lined up in May, Reo was coming back from injury and was suffering a loss of form. O’Riley that day was also struggling for form; he was missing the hulk and intelligence of Mooy alongside him. O’Riley this season is playing his best football. McGregor took to the field on Sunday with something to prove, whereas last season he had nothing to prove in the grand scheme of things.
Then we have the decision in May to give Oh minutes instead of Kyogo. This is no slight on Oh whatsoever but I’m sure defenders would rather face him than Kyogo.
The team in May was chosen to benefit players who needed minutes, whilst resting those who needed rest. It was also a decision made on the back of the league being won, an eye on a cup final and a manager who had already checked out the door.
The team on Sunday was a team chosen because it was the strongest and most experienced team available and one that the manager thought would react to being slapped in the face by all in the lead-up to the game.
Two different games, two different player mindsets and two different outcomes.
As for the worst since the nineties claim? Well, in October 1993 this team went to Ibrox and won 2-1 under Frank Connor: Bonner, Grant, Gillespie, Mowbray, Boyd, Byrne, McStay, McGinlay, Collins, Nicholas & Creaney. Payton and Brian O’Neill came on as subs.
We beat them with far worse in the nineties!
Kyogo has proved that he is the best big game player domestically since Larsson. Here is my tribute to him. Enjoy.
Sweet like chocolate,
Sweet like chocolate.
Phats & Small.
Kyogo is the sweetest of them all.
He’s my Dairy Milk,
He’s my Galaxy.
He makes me higher than Sunny Dee.
If he was a chocolate bar
I would have diabetes.
He’s Thornton’s best,
No’ from Aldi.
Glasgow he does own,
And we bought him for the price
Of a 99 cone from St Andrews
That didn’t even have a Cadbury’s Flake
As they’re no vegan friendly.