LISBON LION John Hughes has questions for Celtic boss Neil Lennon after the unacceptable, timid performance at the weekend.
Big Yogi – as the club’s seventh-highest scorer with 189 goals was affectionately known during his playing days – suffered with the rest of the Hoops fans during an x-certificate display from the champions in the disappointing capitulation at Parkhead.
And Hughes, now 77, warned: “There is no chance of 10 in a row if things are not sorted RIGHT NOW!”
The former fans’ favourite, speaking in an EXCLUSIVE interview with Celtic book author Alex Gordon for CQN, said: “I could hardly believe what I was witnessing on Saturday. The only resemblance between the Celtic team I played for and this Celtic team was the green and white hooped jerseys.
“Where was the passion? Where was the motivation? Where was the appetite for battle? I didn’t see it among this collection of individuals.
“We all know how counter-productive it can be if you take a scattergun to your observations or criticisms.
OFF TARGET…Mohamed Elyounoussi misses a glorious chance to equalise with a wayward finish.
“Confidence is everything to a player, trust me. I played alongside that wee magician by the name of Jimmy Johnstone. He was a player who could win a game on his own. But Jinky needed to know other people had belief in his ability. He needed reassured he was worthy of that Celtic shirt.
“He could walk onto that Parkhead pitch 6ft tall after Jock Stein and his team-mates had got to work on him before kick-off. If a player with the skills and talents of my wee mate needed injections of confidence that tells all you need to know.
“This Cetic team on Saturday lacked that vital commodity. It was evident from about ten minutes on. Callum McGregor, who, along with Scott Brown, at least stood up to be counted, had a marvellous run down the left in the sixth minute and tried to set up Mohamed Elyounoussi with a neat cutback. His close-range shot was blocked.
“I settled back and thought my old team had put down an early marker. How wrong could I be? Steven Gerrard’s team took over after that and ruled the remainder of the game. That was simply bewildering.
“Celtic did not have a single shot on target. I never thought I would say those words. Allan McGregor was not required to make a solitary save during a game at Celtic Park. I can’t think of too many goalkeepers over the years who could make that claim.
“Listen, I played in some struggling Celtic teams in the early sixties. We were playing in the shadow of Rangers. We were never at races as far as the league was concerned until Big Jock took over.
“Normally, we would be out of any sort of contention in the championship shortly after the turn of the year and our main hope of silverware was the Scottish Cup.
ON THE RUN…Leigh Griffiths poses a problem for Filip Helander.
“But Rangers knew they were in for a game when they played us. There was no way we would allow the Ibrox side to walk all over us. I recall even mediocre Celtic teams had some excellent results back then during those dark days when our last title success had been in 1954.
“It helped that a fair number of the Celtic players back then were Celtic fans, including myself. There was Billy McNeill, Bobby Murdoch, John Clark, Stevie Chalmers, Bobby Lennox and, of course, Wee Jinky.
“We would have played against Rangers for free just to get a good result against them.
“I didn’t see that on Saturday. Too many players just didn’t show up. Mohamed Elyounoussi disappointed and, of course, he had a wonderful opportunity to equalise only six minutes after Connor Goldson’s opener.
“He was clean through and lofted the ball over the bar. I heard someone say in commentary that he should have at least hit the target. Hit the target? He should have scored! No argument, he should have put the ball in the net.
“A half-decent player would have made certain. He wasn’t just off target, either – he was MILES out with his finish.
“These things can happen, of course. Then you look for a reaction from the individual to try to make amends. I can’t recall Elyounoussi contributing too much after that.
“I’m not picking on the player. I could go through more than a few of them.”
Hughes added: “I have to say I was a wee bit concerned when I saw the line-up. Patryk Klimala up front with Elyounoussi did not look a good fit.
“And I am not being wise after the event. I thought so at the time, you’ll have to take my word for it. I watched the game on TV at home and the missus gave me a wide berth!
“I would have had Leigh Griffiths and Albian Ajeti on at the start if the manager wanted to go with two up front.
“Okay, I understand Leigh’s game time is under half-an-hour for the season, but I would have had him on at the kick-off with the promise he would be replaced when there was nothing left in the tank.
PUZZLED…Neil Lennon discusses the defeat.
“Leigh has a lot more game-craft than Klimala and I’m certain he would have given the opponents’ back-lot a few more problems. He has a more potent goal threat, too.
“Then I would have introduced the Pole. As it was, Cetic got virtually nothing out of Klimala. To be fair, he didn’t get great service, but his passing was awful when he did drop deep in an effort to link up play.
“In the first-half in the space of a couple of minutes, he needlesly surrendered possession by hitting wayward passes for throw-ins. On both occasions, he was not under pressure. He didn’t look confident.
“Klimala has got a lot to do before he can consider himself a regular in Celtic’s first team squad, as far as I am concerned.
“Ajeti looks like a natural goalscorer who can play with intelligence. I realise he had been out of action since injuring a hamstring against Hibs last month.
“If neither Griffiths nor Ajeti was deemed fit enough to play any part in this game, they should not have been involved.
“Only players who could guarantee 100 per cent commitment fitness-wise should have had the opportunity to be on that pitch.
“Lessons learned? I sincerely hope so. There is a lot to be sorted out before our trip to Aberdeen on Sunday. We cannot afford to make any more mistakes.”
TOMORROW: Big Yogi gives his no-nonsense verdict on on the new Bhoys.