When I came out of Mass this morning, the usual crowd of Celtic fans came over and gave me their views on Saturday’s performance. What they said rather surprised me. Oh! there were a few who thought the team had played quite well against Caley; the majority, though, were not convinced by the showing and were of the opinion that the ordering-off had played a major part in the outcome of the match.
Now, I happen to agree with the latter view. In situations like that, I always try to put myself into the shoes of the offending player and try to assess just what I would have felt at the time. Frankly, at the weekend, I would have been raging if I had been ordered off for something as negligible as that touch on our player’s face. It might have merited a yellow (I would still have been complaining about that) but a red card was a very harsh decision…..and it did make a considerable difference to the outcome of the match.
However, there are times to be pragmatic about a situation. There have been times in the past when we have all felt that decisions have gone against us and I have no doubt that before the end of the season, we will be hit by what we all call the adverse moments, times when the officials seem to be totally biased towards the other side. So, if a decision seems to go our way in a match – and I think that definitely happened in Inverness – then we should just accept it and carry on.
It is also important to look at the bigger picture. Few of us would have been excited by the quality of Celtic’s play but the important matter was that we picked up three points while our chief rivals only collected one. Sometimes results are more important than the performance. And we were not the only club to demonstrate that on Saturday. Most analysts assumed that, even at home, Swansea would struggle to contain Manchester United in a Premiership league match. In the end, Man U did pick up all three points but only after a pretty dire performance. In the race for the league title, though, the three points gained by Man U was, for them, the most important aspect of the game.
As for Celtic, they now lie ten points behind Rangers, with the chance on Wednesday to pull that back to seven when the Hoops meet Dunfermline at Parkhead. The Pars are struggling financially – they have just closed one of their stands as a cost-cutting exercise – and on the field of play, have only won three matches out of fourteen in the league campaign. It looks as though they are there for the taking; surely Celtic will take advantage of that.