How many of you remember Leighton, Rougvie, Miller, McLeish, McMaster? That was the back line of Aberdeen in the early 80s. It is so memorable, that even 36 years after its most famous win, the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg, it still rolls off some Celtic fans’ tongues.
We remember it because it was always there. Squads change more quickly these days, but managers are still reluctant to vary their back line. This is the area of the team where regularity produces ever-higher returns. Defenders learn where their team-mates are and what their goalkeeper is likely to do.
In three weeks since facing Cluj, Celtic have had three play at right back (Elhamed, Ajer, Bauer), two at left back (McGregor, Bolingoli), five in central defence (Jullien, Simunovic, Bitton, Ajer, Elhamed) and three goalkeepers (Bain, Gordon, Forster). That’s not counting late substitutions.
Sunday was a defensive masterclass that belied the makeshift nature of the backline. We will have to wait at least two weeks before Greg Taylor makes his debut but it will be longer still before a settled and intuitive defence emerges.
Selection for the next game, away to Hamilton Accies, will reflect fitness requirements, but who gets the shirts for the following game, away to Rennes, is very much a First World Problem. Get it right and we will be in good shape.