As 2019 started, so did 2020. Newco ended 2018 by beating Celtic and carrying momentum going into the winter break, but a 2-1 defeat on their first away game after the break gave Celtic the upper hand, which they would not relinquish. Newco did equally well by beating Celtic at the close of 2019, but yesterday went down 2-1 to (still) bottom of the table Hearts, their first away game since the break
It is not that Newco did anything wrong during the break and its certainly not, as Gerrard suggested, “eight players…..were passengers”. It takes a team to win a game but it takes a squad to win the league. Injuries and suspensions are only part of the story; players become jaded and opponents learn how to play them, all of which means sometimes you need a deep squad, even to play teams at the bottom of the table.
On Saturday, Celtic kept a clean sheet without three of their first-choice back four. They did not look comfortable defensively, but they had enough to get the job done. It is this second, and sometimes, third, tier of player that gets you through the winter months.
I could not believe Gerrard’s more general comments after the game. Instead of putting some perspective on a defeat after an impressive run of wins, he raised the spectre of slipping out of contention, “We need to avoid that level of performance from now until the end of the season otherwise we might not be in a title race never mind competing for the league.”
Can you imagine what this does to players’ confidence? He added, “I still think we have the bottle.” He THINKS they have the bottle! The last thing a player should hear from his manager is talk about bottle in a title run. Let others do their best to infect your club with poisonous words like this, a manager needs to contain setbacks, not turn mention of an innocuous container into a Molotov cocktail.
He has never won a league and with comments like that, no wonder.