First was the defence of the strategy, which is being mounted by a lot of Celtic fans who see no problem with the club being defined in terms of what it can’t do these days rather than in what it wants to.
Before I start with the general point of this piece, I want to say something to my fellow Celtic fans that maybe got lost in the last 24 hours.
It is this.
We’re all part of a Family here, and I love all of you and have the greatest respect for how you see our great club.
And we are still a great club, albeit one in rough waters at the moment. I never forget that, measuring that, as I do, by criteria other than the team sheet or the balance sheet or which particularly European competition we’re playing in.
I know everything you’ve said in the past day or two has been said out of love for Celtic.
I only wish I believed the club loved you as much as you do it.
That it had the same affection and respect for you as you do it.
But I don’t believe that at the moment.
Yet in real terms it couldn’t matter less.
This club is something we’ll pass down through the generations, something we’ll give to them, and that makes it bigger than any player or director or manager enjoying a temporary sojourn within its walls.
We’ll see off whatever challenges come our way or whatever disasters impose themselves on us, because of that.
I wanted to say that, right from the off.
This club is lucky to have so many supporters who do believe in faithful through and through. I think they take advantage of it, but my awe at your sacrifices and depth of feeling for Celtic is immeasurable whatever they might think.
So yes, the defence of the strategy and where our club is right now … that was wholly predictable.
The media response was too, and I have to take a minute to cover that as well.
A lot of our fans, for understandable reasons, are angry at some of the press and their depiction of the defeat as being a consequence of bad management either from the boardroom or the boot room.
The thing is … these guys aren’t always wrong.
That some of them have waited a long time to write these headlines doesn’t detract from the simple truth in much of what they are saying.
The hacks, for one reason or another, are often on the lookout for anti-Celtic stories and an anti-Celtic slant … but there are times when they are fully justified in their reporting, albeit the tone in some of it.
I’ll get to that shortly. It’s the point of the piece.
But let’s not pretend there isn’t a lot of truth in the current criticism.
There most certainly is.
The hyperbole is what we’ve come to expect – especially that concerning the future of the manager – but in the main, they are asking some of the questions I’d want them to.
Some of the tone in certain quarters has, however, been quite gleeful and mocking and gloating.
That’s the third thing I expected, and it amuses me most of all.
But there’s a part of me that chafes at it, and I freely admit that.
It really is something to see a litany of joy in the tweets from the supporters of clubs outside Glasgow at Celtic being knocked out of the Champions League.
Now, I accept that certain sections of the Celtic support weren’t exactly mourning on the night Inverness went out, or Aberdeen failed to reach the Europa League groups, but I suspect that was a minority, as I suspect the guys on Twitter celebrating Celtic’s exit are too.
Because it takes a peculiar short-sightedness to be so delighted at your own club losing out on a £250,000 windfall, which would have been heading their way had Celtic made it, in much the same way as I find it baffling when my own club’s fans can be happy seeing other Scottish clubs tank with all the damage that does to the co-efficient.
We know, of course, that such silliness is often just a result of banter.
There are a few, a sad, tragic, few, who do get delight out of seeing other Scottish clubs crash, and in particular when it’s the big boy on the block who’s hitting the skids … but they are rare.
They, of course, are a different species again to the genuine haters.
You know who I am referring to.
Confession time; way back in the sands of time, when they still followed a club called Rangers, and not the one we refer to by its founding name, Sevco, I used to take enormous pleasure and satisfaction seeing them get stuffed whenever they strode onto the continent.
But that was at a time when we were genuine competitors.
My glee was as much about seeing them lose major income and the advantages that conferred as it was about seeing the glum faces of their fans on the telly – although that used to occasion great hilarity in this house.
They had much the same outlook on it, as we would frequently be playing in Europe in the same week, and if you suffered a reversal it made it all the more imperative that your rivals did the same, or there was a risk of them opening up a gap on you.
Now, I always knew that on a very real level this was a form of madness.
Those who wail right now about us having to play three qualifying rounds in the Champions League, with all the attendant risks that brings … well, this is a consequence of those days and every time we danced jovially as Rangers were pumped.
On those nights, our own future path got that much harder to navigate.
This is only one of many reasons I find their glee so absurd.
Their own path towards European football will be hard enough, but once (if) they get there they can forget being a seeded side for the next 100 years. Success for their fellow Scottish clubs would have lessened the extent of their problems on that score.
They’re not interested in that.
I really don’t have much of an issue with them wishing us ill, but they were as pleased to see the other clubs fail as they were to see Malmo beat us the other night.
They really did expect, at the start of what they once called The Journey, to rise to an SPL that had been devastated in the absence of an Ibrox club.
They wanted that.
Their own need for vengeance at the perceived injustices – it makes me laugh – was all consuming, and it still is.
It burns them that Scottish football hasn’t collapsed.
It aggravates them and it troubles them because if they get promoted this time around they won’t be facing part time teams next year but sides in robust health, who’ve got a taste of European football and the winning of trophies these last few years and who will see them as the upstarts they are.
Last week, I wrote an article about how reasonable performances on the park have helped to gloss over the gaping holes that still exist in the superstructure of the RMS Sevco, and the response I got from their supporters was to accuse me of wishful thinking and being motived by hate.
Not one of those responses addressed a single point I made.
Not one of them attempted to argue that I was wrong in any way.
It was a typical fingers in the ears, “nanananana not listening” reaction from people who really do think they’re only a couple of seasons away from taking our place in those qualifying games.
Man oh man … you’d think last season would have dissuaded them from such fanciful and stupid thinking but nope.
A few good performances and they’re world beaters.
They are about ten years away from where Celtic is right now.
I firmly believe the Icelandic champions would have been confident of taking their current side over two legs. Quarabag would certainly have beaten them, and Malmo would have had the tie finished in a half hour.
The total spend required to get their team even to the level of ours, far less to the level needed to reach those Groups year in year out, is beyond them, beyond even their limited comprehension, and I say that as someone who thinks my own club has stopped even trying.
They are in a mighty rush to tell us we’re not as good as we think we are.
I laugh at that too.
What do they really believe our level of self awareness is?
No-one has to tell Celtic supporters about the limitations of our side.
Not a single one of us is unaware of what our level presently is.
Many of us believe this has been imposed on us because of lack of ambition in the boardroom.
The rest believe it’s simply a consequence of our financial position in relation to the English game and the Champions League’s structure, designed specifically to let certain clubs and nations hoover up all the money.
I may debate those who believe that, and they are certainly ready to debate me, but we are united in understanding where it puts us.
Not a one of us believes in fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Not a single person who supports this club thinks we’re two or three signings from the Champions League quarter finals.
We’re a Europa League team at present.
No-one believes anything else.
Reality, you see, is something we embrace rather than deny. Because to do otherwise sets you up for crushing disappointment at best … and at worst sends you tumbling into the abyss.
We have a business plan that takes into account these failures, and that’s about the only positive thing I can actually say about the strategy as it presently stands. We can absorb these shocks precisely because we don’t spend too much.
At Ibrox they are already banking on future European money, although they are, at best, another year from being able to even contemplate that stage. Their entire “business plan” is a sheer fantasy, based on achieving goals that are so financially prohibitive for a club presently losing £700,000 a month that even if they did realise them the cost of doing it would certainly put them in a graveyard hole next to Rangers.
I said in the post on the night before the game that the result, come what may, would need to be handled with a sense of perspective.
Had we won it would not have made us ready for the Groups any more than a defeat leaves us at deaths door.
I think for our club to move on certain fundamentals need radically altering, but the notion that we’re on the verge of crisis or collapse is risible, and anyone making that suggestion – and I’ve read at least one lunatic example of it on a Sevco site – needs a reality check.
It simply ain’t true.
What Sevco fans have witnessed over the last few days is not the soul searching of fans of a club in despair but an internal debate between Celtic supporters on how to take the club to the next level.
None of it has resembled the lamentations of doom, whatever their febrile minds imagine.
Europa League income, along with season ticket sales, would, even without Van Dijk or someone else going and netting Celtic a pretty penny will give us a heavy financial advantage over Sevco for the 12 month accounting period.
That gap is getting wider, not smaller, with every passing year.
It would have been wider still with the Champions League money … but no-one at Ibrox should be kidding themselves that they’re catching us up.
Gloating is all well and good when you and your rivals are on even keel and you’re watching them suffer defeat in the knowledge that it weakens them in relation to you.
What they are celebrating is our vanishing over the horizon. We’re not moving as fast as we might have been, but we’re outpacing them, easily, without breaking sweat. Even if we were standing still … they are a loss making club without a credit line.
Deep down they’re not unaware of that.
The defining moment, as far it relates to us in comparison to them, didn’t come on Tuesday. It came at full time in the Quarabag away match, when we secured our place in the Group stages of the Europa League.
Only a fool would have failed to grasp that.
But then we’re not exactly dealing with The Brains Trust here, are we?
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