Our Anger Over This Continuing “Old Firm” Insult Is What Must Drive Us On Today.

Celtic F.C.Today Sevco will play against Celtic at our home ground, for the very first time. Two matches at Hampden against a Ronny Deila team have lulled some of these players into a false sense of security. Some of them have never been in an atmosphere like this in their lives.

The media has hyped this game up, as they will forever more. I’m resigned to that fact, but it should give us the upper hand more often than not, because as long as we’re in front of their club they are the ones who have to rise to the occasion.

I don’t want to get into knocking Ronny today; that’s an era at our club that delivered two titles and he deserves credit for that. But in two matches against Sevco we never once showed the limits of our superiority, except for a spell in the first one. It was as if, in that tie, we played within ourselves, treating it as a simple exercise in going through.

I was delighted at the time, but it’s burned me since. We ought to have stuck six past them that day, and I will never fully understand what stopped us from doing so. They were a demoralised shambles, ripe for us handing out a right good tanking.

The second game was a disgrace, pure and simple, with the most negative tactics I’ve ever seen administered by a Celtic boss in a domestic cup match. Back in the days when Rangers were around, I saw Celtic managers who went into those games spectacularly outgunned, but until Hampden last year I never saw one go out and play for a draw.

Brendan Rodgers is not Ronny Deila; he understands what drives our club. He gets it, and as long as the media wants to call this a Celtic – Rangers game, I expect him to approach it as if it were, whilst understanding that we’re much the superior team. In short, I expect him to feel the same raw emotion as we do, the same will to administer the football equivalent of a punishment beating today. This mob are more than just jumped up upstarts; they are vain, arrogant, boastful, prideful and in need of bringing rapidly, and painfully, back to Earth.

Today should hurt. Today should be psychologically wrecking. We should start at high speed and not stop until the final whistle. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Barcelona in midweek is a much more important game, but that should not be used as an excuse or a reason to be soft today. Our players and our manager know how important this one is.

The existence of Sevco, playing in the guise of Rangers, the assertion that they are one in the same, is an insult to every club in the land, but Celtic especially.

Because we’re the club who was damaged most in the era of Ibrox cheating, and we are the club the media endlessly tries to shoehorn into this corrupt notion of a rivalry based on hate, and it doesn’t matter what we as supporters say or do. This website has written a thousand times that we want nothing to do with this. I wrote it on E-Tims and on The CelticBlog, and every other Celtic blogger is unanimous in saying the same.

I can’t put it more plainly than to say this; every single word I’ve written on that club in the last four years has been a reaction to this debased idea. As a Celtic fan and a Celtic blogger I do not want any part in this media inspired, PR fantasy and I don’t care whether they call themselves after the OldCo, accept they’re a NewCo or get fully on board, at last, with the facts as we know them; just leave us out of it.

Stop trying to drag us into your grubby circle.

I care about the Survival Lie only inasmuch as it affects Celtic and the reason I am such a passionate advocate of calling this what it is, is that as long as the media pretends they are Rangers they will drag us into the swamp chained to the hated Old Firm term.

So, I suggest this; if the media and their supporters put their guns away, I’ll put away mine. I’ll stop banging on about them being a NewCo. Hell, I’ll even stop calling them Sevco. As long as they accept, at last, that Celtic fans could care less, and just want shot of them.

Take this millstone from around our necks, consign that ugly phrase and loathed tag to the dustbin of history, treat this like just another game, and as far as I’m concerned they can get on with pretending to be whatever the Hell they want and I’ll be as happy to indulge their fantasy as I would be to grant the local glue sniffer his fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Because all I care about is the well-being of my club, and this rancid association and its toxic connotations has been smothering us for far too long.

Back in 2012, when liquidation and death overwhelmed them, any number of their fans and media apologists clung to the idea that, deep down, we needed them and wanted them, as if they were necessary to validate our own existence.

Over the four years of Sevco, one of the things that’s bothered them most is the slow dawning realisation that we weren’t even remotely kidding … if they’d been swallowed up completely and no version of them ever rose again, we wouldn’t have missed them far less mourned them.

They call us obsessed anyway, not recognising for a second that nearly every single word on this blog and others in relation to them has been written from the perspective of people who are happy their club is dead and would be even happier if no version of it existed at all. They can call that hate as they like, but I’ve seen what real hate looks like.

I grew up sharing a city and a country with it, and it didn’t flow from their ordinary supporters, amongst whose ranks I’ve had colleagues, relations, great love affairs and lifelong friendships. No, it flowed from the institution itself, because it was built on that emotion, marketed on it and for years thrived by sucking greedily at every morsel of that hate which spilled into the public sphere. I am entitled to hate the institution a little because of it.

What was it Liam Neeson said in Michael Collins?

“I do hate them. I hate them for making hate necessary.”

When Sevco was formed, it had a chance to consign that hate to the grave.

It didn’t.

It used it as a foundation stone, and so along with the Survival Lie the Victim Lie was born.

They say that Scottish football depends on them, and Celtic most of all.

Paul67 is the guy I credit with best getting right to the heart of the matter; “Whichever part of my club is dependent on Rangers, I am quite willing to lose,” he said, in 2012. He spoke for a great many of us that day, almost every single person I know.

But one of the many truths they just can’t face is that Scottish football thrived without all this, even as every day at Ibrox there was another psychodrama in the media. Four long years of their dirty laundry, hanging out there for everyone to see, as they struggled to stay relevant in a world which wouldn’t have given a shit that they were there at all but for the constant wailing, like a child trying to get attention.

Yet strip it all down and what do you find?

You find the real obsession.

You find the real dependency.

It’s all tied up in the Old Firm tag.

Because they are like a junkie who just can’t kick the habit.

They need it, like a vampire needs blood; they need it for their very survival.

You never read reference to the Old Firm on Celtic sites unless, like here, we’re denying we want any part of it, but it is promoted, endlessly, on theirs, along with the pitiful, almost pleading, suggestion that without it we’d be less than what we are … which is their way of admitting that without it they would be absolutely nothing at all.

Because they do define themselves by this rivalry, and in the end it’s all they’ve got, the one thing they cling to that makes them important in a world that otherwise would have passed them by a long, long time ago. Their backward, irredeemably narrow appeal renders them insignificant without the Old Firm name because without that who outside of Scotland would even care they existed at all?

I believe Celtic survives quite well without it.

Our existence as a football club and a social institution neither relies on nor is helped by an ugly PR invention at the end of which are fist-fights and stabbings and drunken yobs fighting in the street and the promotion over and over and over again of blind hate.

Today I want us to win, and I want us to win big, and it’s not because they are our biggest rivals.

It’s because they aren’t.

It’s not because we’re participants, willing or otherwise, in this rivalry they call the Old Firm.

It’s because we’re not and we don’t want to be.

I want the win, the big win, because I want to be done with this nonsense once and for all, and I’ve come to believe that the best way to do is to expose the lie for what it is, but not by UEFA letters or media admissions, or changing the minds of their ridiculous fans … the best way to do it is to burst the fantasy bubble, to expose this idea to the ridicule it deserves, to destroy the notion that this is a rivalry at all.

Because once that illusion is gone, I think the Ibrox operation will collapse, and then we might well get what we should have in 2012 … a world where the Old Firm tag is never used to define our football club again.

If there was ever a good reason for wanting to see our team win a game, that’s surely it.

In Brendan We Trust.

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The Killing Fields

JS90873954So yesterday the registration deadline for the third round of Champions League qualifiers came and went without our club bothering to make a signing. Just how big a problem is that?

Well, in the first leg of the last round we played Efe Ambrose at central defence, with the predictable results. Such was the magnitude of that disaster – our worst result in our history – that we dropped him entirely from the second leg and played three at the back with our young full-back Keiran Tierney deputising for the night as a centre back instead.

Brendan Rodgers knows we have problems in that area. He has asked the board repeatedly, publicly and privately, for the signings he needs. One of the names he and his assistant have trailed over the weeks has been Shane Duffy. Today we discovered that the club is yet to make a formal bid for the Blackburn Rovers defender.

It makes you wonder how hard people are trying.

This is a perilous place for our club to be. Brendan Rodgers is the huge managerial appointment the Celtic supporters wanted. His is the name we craved. But we didn’t get this guy off the slag-heap. He wasn’t waiting around for our call, and willing to go anywhere. The chances are very good that if this guy hadn’t been appointed at Celtic Park that he would have been unveiled as the England boss this very week. Forget Allardyce and others; England’s FA would have passed over these second raters for Brendan in an instant. That’s how good a boss we’re talking about.

There’s a caricature of Brendan in some parts of the English media, that he’s vain and ego-driven. They point to frivolous stuff like his having his teeth done and hair fixed and the diets he went on. They point to his good looking young fiancé, who he proposed to just after formalising his divorce from his ex. In short, they think he’s a bit of a Jack the Lad.

As far as Celtic fans are concerned, all of it is nonsense because it has nothing to do with his ability as a boss.

Yet there’s undoubtedly truth to a lot of it anyway, and that does give us some insight which might be important.

Brendan has a very healthy self-regard.

He likes the limelight and he likes to be seen to be doing well.

This is not a negative. This is a guy who won’t settle for second place, or for failure. That’s why we appointed him.

It’s also why we will struggle to hang onto him if the board of directors continues to fail him when it matters.

There’s a moment at the start of the fantastic 1997 movie Twin Town where two corrupt cops are having a discussion about a piece of corporate art, etched into the stonework outside Swansea Train Station.

It reads “Ambition Is Critical.”

As they discuss the meaning, the older of the two men claims that it’s a response to an alleged Dylan Thomas quote, that Swansea is “the graveyard of ambition.”

A local poet wrote the three word answer to that. He worked for the council.

They adopted it as the town’s moto.

I always laugh at that scene, especially Dougray Scott and his assertion that it’s a dreadful slogan. His own three word take on Swansea a “Pretty Shitty City” at least rhymes.

He is scornful of the notion that anything, far less ambition, can thrive in such a place.

Ambition is critical though, and if someone had inscribed those words on the stairs at Celtic Park I think most of us would get the point at once. What I’m not sure of is that everyone who stepped over them on the way into work in the morning would.

Ironically enough, Brendan made his name in Swansea and it wasn’t the graveyard of his ambitions at all.

It was the proving ground for them. It was his performance there that took him to Anfield, and made him a contender. It was the place where he showed the world what he could do, where he’d have first come to the attention of Celtic.

He arrives at our club via a sojourn at Liverpool, where things went spectacularly right and then horribly wrong.

Is he here to rebuild his reputation?

No, I wouldn’t go that far. He says Celtic is a natural fit for him, and I agree. We are still a massive club, with huge pull for the right man, someone who “gets it”, someone who understands.

I was furious last week when, in the aftermath of the Red Imps result, Brendan Rodgers offered his glib, unconcerned response to the club’s stunning defeat. The result was easily the worst over 90 minutes in our history; some have argued that, but none has been able to find another occasion where we lost a competitive game to such a side.

There are simply no comparisons that come even close.

In my heart of hearts I know Brendan was angered by that result, and that his comments in public hid a deep frustration in private. He knows how that result makes our club, and him, look in the eyes of the world.

He’s not the kind of man to take that lightly.

He’ll know something else; he’ll know that good managers have come to Scotland before and died on their arses.

Some say Scottish football is the graveyard of ambition; it’s not.

These are the killing fields.

It’s not widely talked about, but Scottish football hasn’t just stalled careers. It has wrecked them. For such a small place, such a little corner of the footballing universe, this place has a helluva reputation for ruining folk, and Glasgow in particular.

Look back over the recent history of football in this city.

There are a parade of names who have come here, and then gone bust.

At Celtic, John Barnes career was obliterated before it had properly begun. He didn’t manage at another club for nine years, when he went to Tranmere, who sacked him after just eleven games.

Kenny Dalglish, who was a hero in English football, especially at Liverpool and Blackburn, wilted under the pressure of trying to steer the team after Barnes was fired. He won a League Cup but it was nowhere near enough. The Celtic board’s decision not to give him a permanent crack at the job was vindicated when they appointed Martin O’Neill instead.

It would be almost a decade before Dalglish returned to management, for a brief spell as caretaker boss at Anfield.

On its own, success in Scotland doesn’t guarantee the kind of advancement one might expect either, but failure here, even perceived failure, can undo good work that might otherwise count in your favour.

Martin O’Neill had a right to think he would have been a contender at any top club in England when he got Celtic to the UEFA Cup Final in Seville, but when he left the club the league title resided at Ibrox and that must have been a bad sign for some down south.

He ended up at Villa, then at Sunderland, instead of one of the clubs he craved.

The same could be said of Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon, good men both, one of whom got us out of two Champions League groups in a row and the other who masterminded a win against Barcelona. Gordon left Celtic having lost a league title. Neil left after a Champions League group stage car-crash, but one no-one could blame him for. Nevertheless, only Bolton offered him a job.

At Ibrox, the same pattern emerges.

Alex McLeish became Scotland manager after leaving there but his managerial career petered out with moves to Birmingham, Villa, Forest and finally a move abroad, where he took over at Genk. He was in Egypt managing a club at the turn of this year, but they sacked him after just a few months in the job.

Even the big names to take over there encountered disaster.

Dick Advocaat left Ibrox to take on the Dutch national team, and ended up at Zenit St Petersburg with all their money, yet it could be argued that his career ran onto the rocks in this city when Rangers dispensed with his services after Martin O’Neill proved he had the mastery as Celtic stormed to two titles on the bounce.

Advocaat arrived at Ibrox with a huge reputation. He could have ended up anywhere, at a top European club, but this country exposed his limitations with a brutality that must have taken him by surprise.

The same thing happened to Paul LeGuen and in even less time; his was a glittering CV which less than a year here absolutely shredded. He was never to recover the ground he lost in that 12 months. He went to Paris St Germain from Ibrox, before money transformed that club completely. They were 17th on the day he was appointed; no other club in France would touch him.

What I’m trying to say here is that no-one should be under the misconception that Scottish football is some kind of soft option or doss. None of the guys named above left on a high, save maybe for Lenny. Even Gordon and Martin left after surrendering league titles.

Ronny Deila is an exceptional case because he actually lost his job despite winning the title.

But none of these guys was head-hunted by a bigger team.

None went on to “better things”.

Failure here is like a near-death experience and these are the guys (Barnes excepted) who got out without being absolutely humiliated.

Tony Mowbray had his reputation as a title winning boss at West Brom to fall back on, but his time at Celtic Park had made him toxic to most clubs in England; ironically, he replaced Gordon Strachan at Middlesbrough shortly after Celtic let him go.

Which is to say nothing for Ally McCoist, whose failures at Sevco were about as colossal as one could ever hope to see.

I predicted in 2012 that he would never manage a top flight team again and I see nothing at all to suggest I was mistaken then or now. Indeed, he may never manage in football again; that wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Brendan Rodgers doesn’t see Celtic as a “stepping stone” but that doesn’t mean he’d be willing leave our club with his reputation in the toilet. The current squad isn’t good enough; he knows it and the more dreadful events of last season have left us in no doubt about it. If we needed further evidence of it we got it last week. This is a side that more and more resembles one needing radical surgery. Sticking plaster solutions just aren’t going to cut it and we’ve got big problems ahead unless we refresh it with some new blood.

If Brendan Rodgers thinks he needs certain players to take the Celtic team forward I know for sure that he will fight for them; he has to. Never before in our history has second place been worth less to us, never in our history has it been so absolutely unacceptable, and if that’s the case for the fans it’ll be even more so for a manager who does think a lot of himself and who might still fancy managing at the highest level if and when he leaves Celtic Park.

Hell will be paid for failure, and not just in the manager’s office, but it’s the manager who will pay the highest price and it’s to be wondered if his career would recover from it. His days of managing top clubs would certainly be at an end.

Brendan Rodgers won’t accept that.

He knows, furthermore, that only a quantifiable success in Europe will keep his career from ending as those others did.

That quest was dealt a shocking blow last week.

With Astana next up, there clear potential for something just as bad.

Brendan Rodgers will not accept that.

He won’t tolerate having his hands tied.

This guy has a deep affinity for Celtic, but I absolutely believe he would be willing to walk away and scorch the Earth behind him if he thought his own reputation was being damaged by working here with no backing. He won’t do it right away, of course, but he’ll already be angry and concerned and if, in Astana next week, Champions League horror follows on top of last week’s Champions League horror, when all the signs were there, when the need for at least one signing who could play in the team was acture, I think he’d have valid concerns and be harbouring serious doubts about the commitment of those above him to make good on their own “ambition.”

This is a man who will not quietly fall on the killing fields.

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