There was an unusual reaction at full time last night. Some attempted to boo, but the applause from the majority in the crowd soon drowned them out. Not all defeats are the same, this one came after one of our best performances of the season, against an undoubtedly better team.
It was important to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League. Bereft of domestic competition, Celtic need to test their abilities against top teams, they need to be stretched, forced to defend for long periods, parts of the game which simply never happen in Scotland.
It’s also important to see tangible signs of improvement. Those four weeks of summer, which saw defeats twice to Legia, to Maribor and Inverness, were signs of a team in crisis. They cost us Champions League football, and revenue, but finishing our Europa League group in second place behind Salzburg is the top end of where we expected to be three months ago.
I’m not happy with this morning’s line that we qualified thanks to the result in Romania; we qualified because we collected eight points from our opening four games, including a highly respectable draw in Salzburg. Win, lose or draw last night, the qualification work had been done. We can now start planning for the second half of the season.
Those three months since the summer crisis passed with only one defeat, an ultimately costless, if embarrassing, reversal at home to Hamilton. We can afford a similar episode on the next three months, but not this Sunday. The visit to Tynecastle is our most important game in the next two months, considerably more so than last night’s.
Commons and Forrest return to full fitness will be closer, while it would be good to see Denayer and Lustig available again.
It was kind of Rangers International to publish their accounts as a pick-me-up for us when we got home last night. More tomorrow, if we have time.
Shocked and stunned at the news Roy Keane has chucked it at Aston Villa. No way did I ever see his appointment as assistant to Paul Lambert looking like a pointless distraction so quickly. Next time we appoint a manager, cut the lines to Barbados and keep Martin’s mobile engaged!
Pre-orders are being accepted for the 2015 CQN Annual, which will be posted week commencing 8 December. Get your orders in now…