After the storm…

There can be little doubt that the manager will be bitterly disappointed with his side’s showing at Tynecastle. Not for the first time over the past year, there have been question marks raised by Celtic fans over the commitment of some of the players.

‘Commitment’! A very necessary component of the make-up of a star performer. Sometimes it comes under the heading of ‘drive and determination’; at other times, it means ‘being a jersey player’. Whatever the expression used, it embraces the same idea, ‘giving your all for the club’. It would indeed be worrying if that attribute was lacking from Celtic’s play.

The manager says he does not think his side is lacking commitment and I can empathise with that. I think they do put in a shift but, as Neil rightly points out, they do not always do it at the same time or in conjunction with each other. Whatever the problem is, if it causes three defeats in the first 9 matches of the league campaign, then it needs a quick remedy. Unfortunately, just when the side needs some tinkering and togetherness on the training ground, an international break looms, when, for a multi-national club like Celtic nowadays, many of their stars head for far-off fields to represent their respective countries.

At the end of the two-week break Kilmarnock will be lying in waiting, with Celtic travelling down to Rugby Park for the encounter. Under the new management of Kenny Shiels this season, Killie are attempting to play a passing game, even their defenders instructed to play their way from the back rather than employing the long ball. It’s a risky strategy for players not used to it and so far, has brought the club 2 wins, 4 defeats and 4 draws. It seems to me that a scenario like that is just the job for Celtic. They can control the play and test the defence of the Ayrshire men on a repeated basis. What a shame we have to wait a fortnight for the game!

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Only a few days after that Kilmarnock match, Celtic travel to Rennes for the next match in the Europa League. Rennes lost 0-2 to Lille at the weekend but still lie around 6th in the French League. Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 with Seville and Udinese beat Bologna 2-0.

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Last Friday was a very special one for Scottish football. The proposition of football matches being played on a Friday evening has been put forward a few times over the years but the authorities, in particular the police, were never very keen on the idea. However, this season, everyone seemed to want to test the market, so two matches went ahead.

At Pittodrie, Aberdeen gave a very good performance to beat Dunfermline 4-0. The match attracted a crowd of 8,333 on what was almost a tropical night up in the north-east and everyone seemed to be delighted, both with the result and the attendance, which was better than Aberdeen’s average this season. Unfortunately, over the weekend, somebody with a financial back ground –they never do get carried away, do they? – pointed out that the Dons need 11,000 on a home match just to break even!

Down at Firhill, Partick Thistle, now managed by ex-Celt Jackie MacNamara, thrashed the First Division leaders Morton 5-0, the attendance of 3,380 better than the three Saturday afternoon crowds so far this season.

Incidentally, Thistle have a big day coming up on the 23rd of this month. That is when the club will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 4-1 League Cup final win over Celtic. I came on as a sub that day for Jimmy Johnstone – Celtic were two-down at the time – and it was a terrible afternoon at Hampden for us all. Thistle were in top gear and had a very good side at the time. However, when I watched a re-run of the game recently, I did notice that we missed a number of good chances in the second half which could have pulled us level.

It was at Firhill that I had one of the most memorable moments of my broadcasting career. Thistle were on the attack against somebody ( I cannot recall the opposition?) and were awarded a corner late in the game. Chic Charnley grabbed the ball, ran over to the corner, put the ball in the arc, then took a few steps back and leant against the wall round the ground to decide where he would hit it. Suddenly, a little boy ran across on the other side of the wall, tapped Chic on the shoulder and – when he turned round – produced an autograph book. Rising to the occasion, Chic signed the book – with all his teammates plus the opposition still waiting in the middle- before sending a high ball across the goalmouth. Now, that’s what I call PR!

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Be sure to join me again later in the week. My own country is out of the rugby World Cup, so I have a dilemma. Who do I now support?

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2 thoughts on “After the storm…

  1. Commitment to the Celtic cause is something that must go hand in hand with skill as a necessity for Celtic players, and a marriage between the two should see us play most SPL opposition off the park. The problem is that there are apparent failings in most of our players and key areas of the playing pitch at the moment with both commitment, skill levels and overall performance not being acceptable. Now the major problem for the manager is that for whatever reason the team is not functioning, that it is his neck and career on the line – if the SPL title rests elsewhere than Celtic Park come May, I doubt that we will have our current manager start the summer still in his role as manager. Undoubtedly this International break is at a bad time but there it’s up to the players and management to restore the faith of the supporters by going on a long unbeaten winning run in the SPL. Personally all the cups this season are meaningless if there is no SPL title to accompany them.

    As for who to cheer on Jim this weekend in the RWC, get the shilileagh out for 6am on Saturday, then out with the beret and garlic for the game at 08:30!

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