Acceptable Losses?

imageYesterday’s performance against Hamilton was a disgrace. Inept, lethargic and unimaginative; the one thing it wasn’t was surprising.

This website has been very supportive of Ronny Deila. I am personally on the record as thinking his appointment was a step forward.

He appeared to tick many of the boxes myself and others thought were more important than simply having experience.

For a start, he had won things. It doesn’t matter to me that he had done it in the Norwegian league. He had achieved success, and more importantly he had done it at a club with no record of winning trophies before, which is the hardest thing in football to do.

His philosophy appeared to be based on an attacking style. He appeared to favour giving youth a chance, which is always something Celtic fans will welcome.

Yes, Ronny Deila looked like the right man at the right time. So where the Hell is it all going wrong?

First, a question, and one a lot of people haven’t thought to ask: Is it going wrong?

I think, if you look at it, the signs are not encouraging.

We’ve played eight games in the league. We have won four of them and drawn two others. We’ve defeated Hearts in the League Cup, and we’ve gained four points in the Europa League, against the best two teams in our group, in the first two games, including a difficult draw away.

On the surface of it, this seems like a credible start. But we’ve also gone out of the Champions League twice, in humiliating fashion, and have lost two of our league matches.

It’s a record that any number of managers might be entirely satisfied with though, Champions League defeats notwithstanding. The difference is, Deila is the manager of Celtic, and to drop points in four of the first eight league games is purely and simply unacceptable. To have lost – comprehensively – against Legia Warsaw might be excusable, if you consider this is a new manager trying to bed in a team, but regardless of some people trying to reinvent them as a good side Maribor were beatable. We ought to have had enough about us to dispatch them.

In Europe, Deila has an alibi, and that is the disgraceful lack of ambition and imagination shown by our board of directors and their abject failure to deliver him anything other than the free transfer of Craig Gordon and a couple of players on loan. The challenges facing us on that front were made crystal clear last year, and the damning indictment of our board is that they sent an untested manager onto that stage with the shell of a team not good enough for it.

It is no exaggeration to say that our preparation for the biggest football competition on Earth was scandalous, and the blame for that lies squarely at the door of the boardroom.

There are those who will try to excuse that failure. They will talk about how it takes time for a manager to decide on the priorities, on what areas of the field need strengthening. This is a nonsense. Deila knew what his priorities were. He signed three wide players and two strikers, with the latter two signings – in our most pressing position – way too late in the window to make any difference to our Champions League fate.

The wide players are all here on loan, although they all have an option to buy. On the basis of what we’ve seen so far not one of them is up to snuff. Two of our other signings are on loan, and we don’t have a hope in Hell of keeping Denayer.

If the others are not signed the manager will face the same task before the start of next season … to rebuild the team with Champions League qualifiers looming.

This staggering lack of continuity and forward thinking virtually guarantees a second “year of transition”, and almost certainly more failure.

This is a shambles, and very little of that can be laid at Deila’s door.

What I have no problem laying at his door is an absurd level of back-sliding. He changes his mind like the weather. Loan players were not his preference … until he signed five of them. Attacking football was the priority, but he plays with one up front. He talked up Leigh Griffiths and then decided not to play him, preferring Anthony Stokes.

Every manager has his favourites, but Stokes and Mulgrew are simply not good enough to wear the Celtic shirt, and any manager who does not realise this is one who scares me to death.

His tactical inflexibility, and failure to understand that Celtic fans associate attacking football with playing two strikers, is worrisome. His failure to check into the history – Paul LeGuen already tried 4-2-3-1 in Scotland and paid with his job , specifically because packed defences are not going to fall to attempted crosses for a solitary front man – is worrisome.

He talked to the press today about the team “making progress.” How can someone say that losing at home to a side that hasn’t beaten us there in over 70 years represents progress, of any kind? We had seven shots on target, and 15 in total, but this is what you expect from Celtic. Making a like-for-like striker-for-striker swap with the team 1-0 down isn’t the way to make the most of those chances, and it doesn’t help when you leave on a striker who hasn’t scored in weeks … and continue to play him out wide, even when you’re still chasing with 20 minutes to go.

Despite winning convincingly against Dundee Utd and Hearts, this isn’t a team that’s even remotely playing well at the moment. The away win against St Mirren last week was lamentable. The win over Dinamo Zagreb owed more to the brilliance of Craig Gordon than the effectiveness of the team in the second half of the match, and defensively we’ve looked highly suspect in every game we’ve played so far.

Celtic are still active participants in four competitions, but the margin for error in three of them is zero, and this is a side that looks increasingly fragile. Only in the league can we afford to wait for things to change, but for how long?

In our magazine, All In The Game, I said in one article that there have been years in our recent history where our league form would have beaten all comers, a decent Rangers team included. But there have been other years when such was our lack of consistency that a team in our league that was just a little bit better than the others, and was capable of beating them on a regular basis, would have stood a chance of catching us, although we were on a different financial plain.

Only the fact none of our SPL opponents is markedly better than any of the others is keeping us out of severe trouble right now. Sooner or later that is going to change, and when it does we’re going to get the fright of our lives if we continue down this slippery slope.

There’s a section of our support that looks at games like the one just past and is willing to write them off as “acceptable losses” because “we will win the league in the end.” Will we, really? Lose enough matches, drop enough points, and you don’t win anything. That’s how the game works. Aside from this arrogance, it is the kind of thing that insults those supporters who go to games, week in week out, and particularly those who make huge sacrifices in order to do so.

Maybe it’s just me who sniggers whenever I hear how Celtic fans really crave competition. What sports fan in the world actually wants harder games and tougher campaigns? What’s the point in asking for a stronger team, for an evolution that moves you steadily forward, if you’re secretly crying in your coffee or your beer about your team being too far ahead?

This is the kind of thinking that baffles me, and always has.

Not that it matters. Keep going backwards and you’ll get competition soon enough.

I want us to win every game we play. I want Celtic to crush every opponent. Otherwise what’s the point? Do we watch our club just for the Hell of it? Isn’t the point to win?

There are no “acceptable losses”. Ask Sevco fans how they feel about McCoist’s recent comments that he’d settle for promotion via the play-off route. They don’t want to hear it, and nor should they. It’s an act of surrender and they are as pissed off as I am when I hear people say Sunday’s result doesn’t matter.

Yet, for all that, nothing’s going to change at Celtic Park, however bad results get in the next few months. Barring an absolutely unacceptable defeat which registers on the Richter Scale and can’t be ignored, this guy’s job is safe … and even then, I wonder who will want to wield the knife.

There’s a moment in the third season of The Thick Of It when the terrifying spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker is riding in the back of a car with the Secretary of State for the Department of Social Development and she is fretting about being sacked, although she’s only been in the job a week.

“Stop worrying,” he tells us. “The PM’s not going to sack you after a week.” Before she even has a chance to process this he lays some reality on her, and I have to paraphrase slightly.

“Sacked after twelve months, it looks like you’ve screwed up … Sacked after a week, it looks like he’s screwed up …”

Whatever we think of how things have gone so far, the manager is going nowhere. As bad as things might look, getting rid of him now would have serious questions being asked about the judgement of those above his head, the people who couldn’t retain O’Neill or Strachan, and who hired Mowbray and thought it a good idea to give an untested Neil Lennon the job on a full time basis.

In short, we could stumble on like this for months because the alternative would be for these people to admit they blew it.

These people are due those serious questions, and if this managerial appointment ends in tears, as I am starting to fear that it might – events do seem to be taking on a certain horrible, wrenching, momentum and the air tingles with a sickening inevitability – those people will have nowhere to hide. Some of them should have gone already. There is no way they can avoid following him out the door.

Until then, we have to simply suck it up and see where we get to.

There are some who are still willing to give him a chance, and on balance I am probably one of them although I see the present trajectory as a cause for great concern.

Deila told us not to worry today. A lot of Celtic fans are saying the same. When I listen to that, I can’t help think they’re avoiding facing the truth, and it doesn’t help our present position if the very real concerns aren’t being acknowledged.

In the very same scene in The Thick Of It, after Tucker has clued her in on why her job is safe, for now, she peers out the window, and says, in a voice that suggests she believes it; “I’m not doing terribly, am I?”

Tucker looks out the other window, suddenly animated. “I love the way they’ve sandblasted everything around here,” he says. “It’s so clean ….”

Even Nicola Murray gets that message.

There’s still time left to turn it around, but very little. And the clock is ticking.

This is Celtic. There are no “acceptable losses.” I hope our manager understands that, and gets it together fast.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

14 thoughts on “Acceptable Losses?

  • 6 October, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I’ve given up on him.

    I’ve given up on the Board.

    I’ve given up on Scottish Football.

    But not on Celtic.

  • 6 October, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    We were lucky to get four points in Europe – that is all down to Craig Gordon. This is a team which is going backwards fast with players being asked to play a system which is completely alien to them. Good managers make the system suit the players. They don’t try to make the players fit the system. Get them playing to their strengths, Ronnie, and don’t force them to do something they can’t.

  • 6 October, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    CELTIC fans who are happy to sit back and accept yesterday’s performance as just one of those ” bad day at office” type games are infor a monumental wake up call, these are the fans that LAWELL loves because he knows their easily conned, believe me when I say that the RONNY AND JOHNNY HORROR SHOW needs stopping NOW,otherwise we will still be having this exact same debate at Christmas when we’re 10/12 points behind, then again in March when it’s 10/15 points behind with only 7 games to go and the league has slipped away in the most disturbing fashion, the board are definitely to blame for a vast majority of this clusterfuck but when a man who thinks playing a lone striker system every game, a man who thinks playing 2 wingers and having 2 more wing backs all falling over each other whilst the central midfield is getting horsed is the sign CELTIC are improving then we are totally FUCKED!!! Wake up bhoys and smell the panic before it’s far ro late,” Ronny out now” HAIL HAIL, FUK THE SUITS, SUPPORT THE HOOPS+

  • 6 October, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I am afraid I had written of this man even before we played Europe, yes after the friendlies. I will not be back until he has gone. As for the board they should hang their heads in shame. Sickened.

  • 6 October, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I really don’t think the manager does get it.
    There seems to be no one at the club, like a Tommy Burns, to take him through our history, and explain why so many people have so much commitment to our club.

    If I may take exception to your board comments that they ‘couldn’t keep Stachan’ then a large section of the support singing for him to GTF was not a great moment in our history. Considering the guy had already one a couple of titles and was chasing another at the time then that speaks volumes for how fickle fans can be. The media liked him no more than they did Fergus and started a campaign that unfortunately a big part of our support swallowed hook line and sinker.

    Strachan was brought in to cut costs drastically and did that while winning the league and bringing guys like Nakamura. Deila has not built up that level of stock and it looks like he won’t.

    There are a few basic, yet fundamental rules, in football;
    One is that you do not alienate your players until you have replacements in place. Telling players they are not fit enough and impinging on their diet has put noses out of joint.
    Two is that you do not ask players to play in a system that they cannot do. This 4-2-3-1 should IMMEDIATELY be dropped for a rigid 4-4-2 until we get things stabilised.
    Three you do not ask players to play in positions where they are not comfortable. Wakaso playing wide right when he is clearly left footed springs to mind.

    He has failed in these three critical aspects of man, and tactical, management.
    The writing is on the wall.

    I’m also a big fan of Malcolm Tucker.
    I remember him sitting in his office and there is a knock at the door and he roars “Come the F*@k in or F*@k the F*@k off!!!

    I know where I stand on Ronnie.
    He appears incapable of learning the basics of Scottish football and coupled with the fundamental failings above then he is already on very thin ice.

    We created enough chances to win yesterdays game five or six two but we did not take our chances. Guidetti’s miss when clean through and Stokes two glaring headers to name but thre were shocking misses at this level.

  • 6 October, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Wondered when a movie reference would show up!

  • 6 October, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    We were crying out for a competitive league, the lack of such was boring, boring to the point where the crowd is disapperaing like snow off a warm roof. Well just maybe by default we have created what we have been looking for. Can we cope with it is the question we are now asking ourselves, I sincerely hope so but RD has to get his act together and soon.

  • 6 October, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Good read James.

    Sat there yesterday with more resigned sadness than the boiling frustration of those around me ( 2nd half esp).

    Ronny may not be the man or may come good. His ideas on overhauling the playing culture are welcome and I feel will bear fruit BUT whether he is around to witness it is now in the hands of a group of very average players IMO.

    That wasn’t what bugged me as I watched. It’s that the club has become so detached from the support it’s laughable.

    The board didn’t miss a free header from 4 yards yesterday, but they have made this great club an irrelevance in European and Scottish terms.

    Tolerating unprecedented SFA corruption whilst being blamed by an empowered Govan lynchmob for ‘relegating’ them. Yep that’s Celtic.

    Ceaseless media attacks without a single response? Celtic

    Resolution 12? Forced by fans and shareholders into defending yourself? Celtic

    Publicly mocked and sneered at by the Beeb and the Legia Warsaw chairman? Celtic

    I know you like your movie references James , the one at the start of JFK
    “to sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men”
    encapsulates everything about how our club has been run in the past 4 years.

    The fervour has been hoovered out the Celtic I knew inlittle over 4 or 5 years . Will it come back ? IMO only once faceless suits move on.

  • 7 October, 2014 at 12:55 am

    James, I admire your concerns ref next seasons CL dont worry mate with RD kept in place we wont be competing in it !
    I said on this forum many weeks ago, it is Mowbray all over again, even his excuses and lets get on to our next match mentality Is so Mowbray.
    Six points behind a team simply not functioning and “lost the dressing room RED lights flashing for al to see.
    RD said he would love the tribute act In a cup, under his tutelage it could be the biggest HUMILIATION in our history.

  • 7 October, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Sorry guys have said since they announced Deila as manager that he is out of his depth.His sympathisers can say what they like,I have seen nothing to change my mind,and I also said on record if he was still manager at Christmas we would be lucky to be in the top three!!

  • 7 October, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Great piece yet again and the comments too, I had a season ticket since 1982 and gave it up when Mowbray got the job as he shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near paradise after his team passed the ball about with the sons of satan, where was his expansive football that day. This is my second year as a season ticket holder again.

    I admit that I liked the idea of getting a unknown with relative success on his cv from somewhere in Europe, but before a ball was kicked Ronnie was reminding me of Mowbray. Sure Celtic weren’t brilliant under Neil Lennon but I felt he was our leader and stood up against the establishment for us, brought us,well myself anyway, a bit of pride back in being a supporter.

    Now I would take my money in a nano second if offered, I couldn’t even get angry on Sunday it’s just disbelief that I felt and feel now, our club is being dismantled bit by bit, bringing in players that would make us pine for the glorious footballers brought to the club by Lou Macari.

    One part of me is saying he needs more time, another is saying get rid now, but it’s not only his fault the club is eroding from the top down. They know that supporters will turn up because it’s emotional blackmail.

    Hopefully the unthinkable won’t happen and we can still have a half decent season no matter who’s in charge, but this is my last season ticket for a while.

  • 7 October, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Well said James !!

  • 10 October, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Sorry James I love your articles and you a great writer but your demean yourself and Celtic by this ..

    As much as I hate defending Boyd, the decision is correct.

    Boerrighter dived I a not defending that, he also allowed the player to be booked .. he didn’t protest to the referee or try to stop the player being sent off. (I know that’s part of the game) ..

    You can’t really argue the ‘intent’ here is the same as the intent in Boyd’s case ..

    Boyd did nothing wrong … as much as I wish he had.
    Boerrighter committed the act …

    You should really compare it to the Raith Rovers incident where Hill was punished for Hammill’s play acting …

    Sorry I have to disagree with you on this … wish you’d pull it. Looks like whinging.

  • 10 October, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Versus Hamilton…Gordon. nothing to do and couldn’t be faulted for the goal, Efe, not a right back but plays as best he can there,defensively sound but going forward ran into the cul-de-sac that was Wakaso. Issy again in well and linked up with Stokes but crosses, EVEN WHEN MORE CELTS IN THE AREA were again poor, VVD again sound defensively and more than once showed his frustration that he had nobody to hit, bit half hearted at the 40-60 for the goal..Denayer does not possess the ability to bring the ball out well, casing Brown to come back and take it from him. His default get out is Efe on the right (see previous) which Hamilton shut down straight away just inside their own half. Partly at fault for this, and Sutton’s goals .Brown..good but cannot boss the middle with Johansson not helping and uncreative. Stokes at least got into positions and he put Issy in often (see previous) but misses were amateurish and at least he got in which is the idea with one up front. Commons was as bad as he can be good, not fit after Zagreb ? Gaudetti never made runs, unless it was to press and usually McGovern, straight,bent or otherwise,and
    was marked extremely easily because he doesn’t possess the guile, craft or even bare strength to cause basic defenders like Devlin/Tena or McManus problems. Wakaso…trying to think of a positive because he was shocking but I honestly cannot, As poor as I have seen in Hoops for a long time. Tonev actually looked better and was more positive.
    Play Mc Gregor, Henderson and some others (not Mc Connell, not yet) and we will benefit from their games in the long term. We have previous here…sell very good players and replace them with less than average and unless you are Jock Stein, Shankly or Clough you will get average displays and results. Who is recommending these players ? Is John Park complicit in the mess ? We, the fans, need to take on this slow motion train wreck and force the Board to change course in the way we are run and how this impacts on the first team. Once again,,,WE are the Club !

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