Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Team I loved so well…

The Team I loved so well…

I was listening to a bit of Paddy Reilly after Celtic’s surprise exit from the league cup. It’s surprising how music can sometimes define your mood. As the big Irishman sang ‘The Town I loved so well,’ a song about Derry in the troubles, I reflected on a bad night for Celtic. As if on cue big Paddy reminded me that we can’t rewind the past and play the game again and that we should take defeat on the chin and move on. He sang…

‘For what’s done is done and what’s won is won

and what’s lost is lost and gone forever,

I can only pray for a bright, brand new day

for the town I loved so well.’

In the aftermath Celtic's unexpected defeat to a plucky but rather fortunate Morton side this week, there was considerable soul searching, not to say anger among the supporters. For three matches running (AC Milan, St Johnstone and Morton) our misfiring forwards have cost us, or almost cost us the game. The Morton match saw us have 66% ball possession 27 corners and 25 attempts on goal and we still couldn't score. That is worrying when you consider we fielded a relatively strong side. Neil Lennon isn't an unintelligent man. There is no doubt he sees the striking issue as one which needs to be addressed. His post-match analysis that 'It just wasn't our night' is only partially true. Yes, now and then any team can miss chances and lose games they dominated but there is a worrying pattern of this developing which needs to be addressed. It didn't go un-noticed that Gary Hooper was on target for Norwich on the same evening. If we are to sell such players then we must replace them with players of equal stature or the quality of the team will go down. We all know the flaws in the team at the moment but even accepting that they should still be capable of beating Morton. If there was a bright spot on a rather dark evening for Celtic it lies in the fact that we dominated the game and created many opportunities only to spurn them all. That wasn’t always the case on such occasions.

I recall well the cup exit to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 1999. On that occasion Celtic were woeful and barely created a chance. We also had Mark Viduka and coach, Eric Black literally fighting in the dressing room at half time. It took half the team to separate the two of them and Viduka refused to play in the second half as the Highlanders deservedly won. Morton, for all their pluck were fortunate but we wish them well and move on. It would be churlish to mention the fact that their penalty was yet another in the ‘debatable’ category. Their defensive performance and sheer doggedness meant they deserved a result. Yes, they rode their luck as teams must do when faced with superior opposition but I seem to recall Celtic putting in a ‘backs to the wall’ performance against Barcelona a year ago and emerge victorious. That's football. It's the most unpredictable ball sport on Earth. A game where a bad bounce, poor refereeing decision, poor finishing or inspired defending can change the outcome of a game.

When you buy into following Celtic, you accept the ups and downs. What you should never accept players giving less than 100% for the club as we saw from Viduka back in 1999 when he refused to play in the second half of a game in which we were struggling and needed him. I can’t say the team didn’t try last night because they did. A mixture of good defending and appalling finishing did for us. But if the, sometimes, bitter taste of defeat teaches us anything, it's to savour our triumphs all the more. A poet once wrote…

'For what in life is pleasure
If we do not consort with pain?
It's the rod by which we measure
The prize we seek to gain.'

Tuesday night's defeat was painful and some would say embarrassing but focus is required, not dissention. We face a game at Kilmarnock this weekend and this is followed by the daunting task of taking on the brilliant Barcelona again. What's done is done, we look to the future as we must and follow the dramatic story of Celtic FC to the next chapter. Trust me; this season will leave us with more cheers than tears. Eyes on the Prize and keep the faith!


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