Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Faithful through and through

Faithful through and through
Most aficionados of Celtic FC will tell you that only Dundee United managed to defeat Celtic in domestic football during that marvellous 1966-67 season.  Both games were lost to United by the same 2-3 score line and  those results caused some ripples of consternation among the Hoops faithful. A few years later, Stein oversaw that incredible 4-1 defeat from Partick Thistle in the 1971 League Cup Final. Celtic, European Cup Finalists and conquerors of Leeds United a year before, astonishingly trailed Thistle by 4 goals at half time!  Indeed, Stein's final season at Celtic (1977-78) was a disaster as Celtic lost 15 league games and finished fifth and out of Europe. We understood though that the loss of Stanton and McGrain to long term injury coupled with Dalglish leaving greatly affected the side. Martin O’Neil’s Celtic defeated Liverpool at Anfield before heading north to face Inverness in the Cup and losing 1-0. Lennon’s Celtic side had some awful cup displays including defeats in semi-finals and a final by teams Celtic should normally beat. Where is all this leading I hear you ask?  Well these examples merely serve to illustrate that all teams, even very good teams, can lose football matches and no one has a divine right to win.

Celtic currently sit top of the SPFL despite not playing particularly well for periods this season. They have played 18 games won 13, drawn 3 and lost 2, scoring 45 goals and conceding 14. Celtic’s form is remarkably similar to last season when they finished the 38 game League Campaign with 92 points. Having lived through the traumatic times of the 1990s when Celtic failed to win a major trophy for 6 long years, I don’t consider this season’s record as poor. We suffered defeats, humiliations and disappointments in the 1990s which although painful at the time actually helped us celebrate the championship breakthrough when it finally came in 1998 with more gusto. As 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.’

There was a real camaraderie among Celtic supporters in those days, particularly the faithful supporters who travelled all over the country to support the team with passion and humour. In those days I was a regular on the Celtic Cross CSC and we had some great trips despite suffering many disappointments. Those hungry years strangely enough bonded us more closely to the team as we could see that guys like McStay, Grant and Burns were playing their hearts out for the club. In the end we got some reward for sticking with the team as the McCann revolution levelled the playing field and made Celtic more competitive. The new millennium has seen Celtic win 10 of 15 Championships played. It has also yielded 6 Scottish Cups and 4 League Cups. That is 20 major trophies in 15 years. However you judge the standard of the football the team are playing, the last 15 years have been very successful for Celtic. Indeed since the demise of Rangers there has been an increasing tendency to judge Celtic’s progress on European terms rather than any domestic successes. This mind-set has been fed by elements of the media who trumpet loudly Celtic’s European misfortunes while concurrently playing down their domestic dominance. Ronny Deila had a decent first season winning the SPFL title and the league cup. Indeed only some mystifying refereeing in the Cup Semi-Final against Inverness denied him at shot at the treble. His European results have been mediocre to say the least but it was accepted last season that he was building a team and a style of play and required time.

This season began with him losing the rock at the centre of his defence when Virgil Van Dijk and Jason Denayer left the club and that is a considerable hole to fill. So far this season the various combinations tried at the back have been shaky, especially in Europe, but good defensive lines need to play together for long periods to develop an understanding. Despite this, Celtic sit top of the table and still in all the domestic cup competitions. We accept that in the great cycle of football we aren’t particularly brilliant at the moment but when you follow a club you accept that you’ll have to take the rough with the smooth and stand by the team through thick and thin. We argue, row, debate about the way forward but are always united in our desire to see the Celts progress.

There is a vociferous minority however who make social media an utterly depressing place when Celtic lose or even just play badly. The negativity and insult poured out by some onto the Manager in particular is well out of order. I find it hard to recall a Celtic Manager in history who won two trophies in his first season and sits top of the league in his second and has had to endure sustained calls from a minority to have him fired. There is almost a sense of entitlement among a small minority of our supporters which mirrors that of ‘Rapeepo’ and it is not edifying to watch. Saturday’s loss to Motherwell was undoubtedly poor but all teams, all people, have a bad day at the office now and then. That makes 2 defeats in 18 league matches, hardly a crisis. How would these folk have survived the early 1990s when Celtic’s finishing positions in the league (1990-95) were as follows… 5th  3rd 3rd 3rd 4th 4th ? All I can say is thank God Social media wasn’t around then.

Today I noticed a petition had been started online to have the Manager sacked. This is rock bottom for me, one of the most clueless things anyone claiming to be a Celtic supporter has ever done. What purpose does it serve? It’ll be lucky to get a few hundred signatures and will be totally ignored by the club and most fans. It states the following…

‘’Ronny Deila has tarnished the reputation of the club in Europe with poor performances in both the Europa League and UCL. Winning the league and domestic cups are no longer enough for a club like Celtic looking to expand and become bigger and better. Celtic need to perform at a much higher level than they are under Ronny Deila. #SackRonnyDeila’’

So it’s all Ronny’s fault, not the board who year on year sell off of the best players? So it’s all Ronny’s fault, no blame whatsoever for the underperforming players who continue to make schoolboy errors on the pitch. So it’s all Ronny’s fault that players he didn’t even sign are performing poorly or not at all and that his Captain and leading scorer are injured? There are no doubts elements of Ronny Deila’s tactics and man management which have been suspect but he is the Celtic Manager and deserves better treatment than this silly petition which may or may not have been created by a Celtic fan. It certainly has those with no love of Celtic, in the media and elsewhere, gloating. Deila himself stated that media is having an unhealthy influence on things…

"There are always ups, very high and very low, it's never something in between. But if you see the overall situation when you are leading the league, into everything (League Cup and Scottish Cup) then I cannot understand everything is so unbelievably bad. It's about getting clicks on the internet and it's about selling newspapers, because it is unbelievable. There are hundreds of media and everybody needs a story and everybody gets caught into this and it affects everything. It affects the players, it affects the club and we need to stay calm inside. That is the most important thing. We need to be together and that's what I feel. I feel united with the players and with the staff and the people in the club.’

Celtic supporters are savvy enough to know the media mind games but also savvy enough to know that when things are not quite right on the pitch that is when the team needs them most. Whatever happened to loyalty? Whatever happened to faithful through and through? The simple answer is that some have developed an unhealthy sense of entitlement and that really is something new among Celtic supporters. Victories need to be earned and the big prizes are given out in the Spring not December. We win together, we lose together but above all we stick together. We also need to see the big picture and have a little patience.

I know many are struggling to see progress under Deila but the vast majority of them would, despite their reservations, never turn on a fellow Celt. Celtic Managers such as Brady, Mowbray, Barnes, Macari and yes even Billy McNeil and Tommy Burns went through rough patches in their careers but were never subjected to the sustained flak Deila is getting. Perhaps that’s because social media is a relatively new phenomenon and offers a forum unavailable 10 years back or perhaps some people just have less patience these days. I’m not saying criticism of Celtic players, Management or board is unacceptable as healthy debate is good for any club. However some of the nonsense spouted, including on that petition, are just not the Celtic way.
We are surely better than that.







  1. Excellent piece. I went to my first Celtic game in 1962 and believe me I have seen some bad Celtic sides. Never though have I wavered in my support for the team. I would not have believed that our fans would become so Blase that they would want a manager sacked while top of the league and in with a chance of winning a treble, something only done three times in our history. It's not just the manager, the treatment of some of the players, Ambrose and Ciftci in particular, is awful. We support Celtic through good and bad and We'll never walk alone. Hail Hail.

    1. I agree completely John, my old man told me of a time in the late 50s & early 60s when the Celtic forward line was known as 'the five sorrowful mysteries.' But his generation stuck with it, showed loyalty and eventually got their rewards under the Lisbon sun. Well said Sir, perspective and common sense.

  2. let's face it and most of us won't want to admit it but since the demise of rangers our ambitions are priorities have had to change. in that time we have managed to clear our debt and once rangers are back on the league and back due to their own merit and not with the help of the SFA our priorities and ambitions will come back. Okay we are no longer a force in Europe but we are the best team in Scotland and we should be proud of this. we have not had the embarrassed of playing in the lower leagues of Scottish football. Not having rangers in the same league has affected both financially and from a footballing point of view but the club have managed to do many good things out with on the pitch. Look at our stadium for example and the Celtic way we should be proud as supporters to have such a beautiful stadium and infrastructure. Yes on the park things haven't been great but we were one goal away ( a very late goal) this year from getting into the group of champions league. Let's face it we aren't ready for the champions league just as man United aren't ready to compete in the champions league or win the English premiership after the Sir Alex Ferguson era. the past 18 months for Celtic has been about rebuilding and their are going to be mistakes along get the way as is life. The manager is trying to implement a system and currently it's evident the some players are not suited to this system and some transfers haven't worked out but it's about getting a core in place and when new players come in these players are able to help them adapt to the system. it's going to take time. let's be patiently lets be proud of being the best team in Scotland as in years to come we will look back at this time and be thankful we've came through it and various through it by being faithful through and through. If u r struggling I buying a present for someone a present for this year get them a ticket for a game, let us turn out at Parkhead and make some noise and support Ronnie and the boys. Hail Hail!!

    1. No one doubts there are problems on the pitch and the media like to stoke things up. We have a good infrastructure and the team does have potential if we can sort out our defensive failings but the article was, as you said, about the supporters backing the team in the Celtic manner. Some are such whingers these days, Rome wasn't built in a day, back the team, show some patience & we'll get there. HH

  3. I blame the plc money & profits is all that matters to them... The 1 thing i always thought made us a better support than the zombies was that we could accept defeat gracefully & we didn't feel we had to win every trophy, I hope this petition is a 1 off its not the celtic way

  4. the board have obviously taken the decision that we should win the title each year with rangers gone but there's no requirement to win it by 20-30 points, just win it. Therefore Ronnie has built a team of that level and the hope is that with coaching and development they could make some sort of impact in Europe. By that I mean maybe get 1 or 2 decent results and possibly get out a group. (EL or CL).. Whether we like it or not, thats what Ronnies remit is and he is carrying that out. The positives are the the number of Scottish players in our 1st team squad. Its a fact that Scottish talent was suppressed while every club almost bankrupt themselves to bring in overpaid players from abroad, trying to keep up with Murray and his fraud. With that over, not only Celtic but other clubs as well are finding the room to bring in Scottish talent which will sow the seeds of recovery at International level. Ronnies tactics of 1 up front are my biggest frustration. If we have a leaky defence that should be countered with a fearsome attack, much like Tommy Burns team in '95. I 100% agree that a petition is ridiculous, and embarrassing to us as a support

  5. Great article, well said. I've constantly said that I've sat through worse, and I think it is a mixture of social media and some fans not having went through the 1990s you describe in your article. They've just got too used to the successes we have had over more recent times. HH.

  6. Absolutely spot on Pat I have been arguing these points over online for days now and had no end of Sheidt for it from some.
    I have been saying for around 4 years now that there is a sense of entitlement within sections of our fan base brought on I think by the success since the Martin O'Neill era.
    Success brings it's own issues you only need to look at the recent behaviour of both Van Gaal and Jose to see that.
    To me it is hunesque in it's appearance and not something I would associate with true Celtic people like yersel.
    Every game needs to be fought and one no matter who you play and none of them should be taken for granted.
    The comments leading up to and during the Molde games typified this for me the sheer arrogant dismissive attitude of some towards a side who went to Fenerbahce and scored 3 times to win in Turkey was incredible.
    Molde would pump every side in Scotland this Season regardless of where they sit and in what League they play in.
    The fact we had so many players that never turned up concerned me more as a fan?
    Highly rated players who cannot pass a ball 10 feet to feet on a bowling green of a pitch? That's Deilas fault?
    Aye right.
    These players need to start owning their input or lack of as the case may be for some up till now.
    Keep up the good work Pat and as always Keep The Faith.

    1. As I said in the blog, we win together, we lose together and we stick together. That sense of entitlement coupled with tantrums if Celtic don't win is becoming more apparent with a vocal minority. We need to earn success as a club not dismiss sides because they have less money or fewer supporters than Celtic. At the end of the day it's 11 v 11 and the players need to step up. Deila got flak after Ajax game but not Griff who was 1 on 1 with keeper & fluffed it? Collective responsibility, working as a team is how we will succeed.

  7. Absolutely Griffiths to his credit is one of the ones who will hold his hands up if he's not produced same with Lustig there is no shirking of their part.
    This minority seem to dismiss anything like that as "he's only saying that to protect Deila" which feeds their anger more?
    No bhoys they are saying that because they are owning their responsibilities as players.
    The loss of Denaayer and Van Dijk has been huge for Ronny's plans.
    The injuries to Mulgrew Lustig Janko Jozo Brown Johansen and the poor form of Izzy Amstrong Ciftci and Mackay Steven have made this even worse.
    Trying to bed in a new Central partnership in defence is difficult enough with 2 young players but lose the support of guys like Mulgrew and Lustig whilst you do makes this even harder.
    To go through the early qualifying rounds with an unfamiliar back 4 then to have that back 4 chop and change on a weekly basis is not great preparation for Europe?
    So many seem to have overlooked these conditions as normal?
    Yes maybe throughout a Season but in the space of 2 months? Bullshit.
    That to me reeks of fans simplifying things to suit their agenda and that agenda being Deila out.