Given a choice, you would rather a rival pitch up to play you with a lame duck manager who has clearly lost the dressing room, than sack him and allow players and coaches an opportunity to disavow some of his more glaring errors. Rene Weiler took Anderlecht to the Belgian title in May, his first season at the club. But, when he was sacked yesterday, they sat ninth in the Jupiler table with just two wins and eight goals in seven games.
They have a cup game away to lower league Westerlo tomorrow, the third consecutive away game in a series of four, before Celtic come to town in eight days. The Anderlecht board’s hope is that they can remain in the cup, then pick up a win against Waasland-Beverent (seventh, but on the same points as Anderlecht), in an attempt to stabilise the club before the crucial Champions League game with Celtic.
By any measure, Anderlecht have been rubbish this season, but they will employ the weapon all rubbish teams have, that of an embattled underdog who is capable of raising standards by exception. Their performance at the Allianz Arena last week, where 10-men gave Bayern Munich some nervous moments, is an indication of what we are likely to face next week.
The game in Brussels is not only our most important game of the next week, it’s the most important game between now and December, when Anderlecht visit Celtic Park. Despite their historical-comparative rubbish status, Anderlecht are better than any team we will face in Scotland. Notwithstanding that, our objective has to be a win in Brussels.
I was there at Hampden when Paul Wilson scored twice as we won the Scottish Cup against Old Airdrie in 1975. Paul was an exciting player during an era when our star was fading. We enjoyed the thrill of seeing a breakthrough, flamboyant, talent emerge. I still recall that header against Spain which seemed to affirm Paul as the genuine article.
The four years after nine-in-a-row finished was an era of decline. Kenny Dalglish carried the team to an extent we have never really acknowledged as a club, or a support. But Jock Stein’s period of pre-eminence was long gone before Paul Wilson and his contemporaries made their mark. Paul moved on in 1978 to little fanfare, as Celtic finished fifth and Stein was asked to leave the dugout.
On his death yesterday, he was noted as a trailblazing player of Asian descent in British football at a time when inclusivity was not a term society was familiar with. He was that, but for me, he was a young and powerful Celtic striker who put the ball in the net with ease.
Win tickets for Ibrox
Our raffle to win two tickets to the Celtic end at Ibrox for Saturday’s game ends at midnight TONIGHT!! If like me, you’re stuck without a ticket, this is your chance. Celtic sponsor and all-round good guys, Intelligent Car Leasing, provided the tickets to support our work with Mary’s Meals.
As you will know by now, over 3,000 children in Malawi and Liberia eat a school meal each day because of money raised by CQN’ers. This improves lives in a profound way.
To enter the raffle, answer this question:
Which Belgian team will Celtic face in this season’s Champions League?
Please donate a minimum of £5 to this MyDonate page. Then forward your confirmation email with your answer in the SUBJECT LINE to email@example.com . Winner will be informed early tomorrow, so make sure you include adequate contact information.
Many thanks to you and Intelligent Car Leasing.
NEW CQN PODCAST OUT NOW, BEHIND THE SCENES AT HAMILTON v CELTIC WITH BT SPORT AND AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS SUTTON – LISTEN BELOW