One story which caught my eye last week was that we have 33 players out on international duty over this break, from a pool of 51 employed professionals (and that includes Derk Boerrigter). 13 Celtic players will join Scotland youth teams, with a further 6 going to other countries.
We know we can’t compete as we once did in the transfer market, so getting and developing the best youth talent has become an important part of the strategy.
All of this groundwork is for the long-term, though. Getting three points each Saturday and preparing for the challenges ahead is another question.
There was a moment on Saturday when Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, could have turned to his assistant and said, “If Killie hold on for another two minutes, the league is in our own hands”. That’s how close things got. Tom Rogic’s immaculate strike punctured that notion, before McInnes’ team’s second half collapse at Fir Park.
Now Aberdeen need us to drop seven points more than them, or eight if you consider goal difference. It’s not going to happen. Aberdeen didn’t just slip up on Saturday due to a couple of defensive lapses, this result has been in the post for months. They clawed their way into contention by gaining a series of marginal advantages – they haven’t won a game by more than a single goal since before Christmas – 14 games ago!
This season they have been ‘everyone’s favourite second team’ who have only just got over the line for three months of the season. This is a statistical anomaly. A more regular distribution of chances created and converted would have seen them win several of those games comfortably, but winning far fewer games. Their dopplegangers in England, Leicester City, are benefiting from a similar phenomenon. Both teams’ form could drop off a cliff next season, but the chances of either improving win ratios, if not performances, are slight.
Leicester are favourites to win in England because the behemoths, whose spending-power dwarfs most others, have been unable to dig deep to find a dirty win often enough. Like Celtic’s on Saturday. That, as we will soon declare, is why we’re champions!