The tried and tested, ‘Callum McGregor at left back, strategy’ proved predictably reliable last night.  Callum is not a left back and throughout the game had no instincts for the position, lacking muscle memory and positional awareness.

His absence from the middle of the park, where he exerts a metronomic control over Celtic, had a greater impact.  Neither Scott Brown nor Olivier Ntcham can do this.  Two successive managers have now tried this strategy.  The outcome is so clear, it is inconceivable that Neil Lennon will contemplate doing so again against moderately difficult opponents.  Last night, he learned what you knew.

After the game, Neil said, “In the first-half we were so passive. No tempo, I don’t know where that came from.”  I know where it came from: play without your metronome and you lose tempo.

I am sure Scott Brown would have apologised to his teammates after the game.  The ‘Forrest, Christie, Johnston and Edouard Show’ got Celtic out of trouble.  Cluj looked like conceding every time they were under pressure, but Scott’s handball to concede a penalty fortified the Romanians, who were never again subdued.  Scott was also on his heels at the start of the move that led to the first goal, did not stop the cross and did not close his man at the third goal.

With his injury profile, I have been anticipating signs of Scott slowing down for years, but let’s be clear – this is NOT that sign, he still has plenty in the tank.  This was no more than a bad day, however, it is time we accepted the fact that the only man in the squad that can dictate tempo from the middle of the park is Callum McGregor.

Callum played more minutes than anyone did in world football last season.  For the player, this is a heroic achievement, but it is an awful indictment of Celtic.  It means we are too dependent on him, we ask too much of him and we risk ruining him.

Buy someone who can share the burden, or watch Callum and Celtic deteriorate in tandem.  And please, learn that having a man play more minutes than anyone else is the world is not a boast, it is a problem.

Going 3-2 ahead, with 14 minutes on the clock, game management should have kicked in.  Boli Bolingo should have come on (for Mikey Johnston, if he was tiring), McGregor moved to the middle and Cluj would not have been allowed possession beyond the halfway line.  Instead, nothing happened until we conceded again, when an unedifying two substitutes finally broke whatever shape we had.  Bayo must be wondering what he has got into.

Last season’s failure at the same stage to AEK Athens was mitigated by our main central defender being on strike and our manager playing games while saying who-knows-what to Moussa Dembele.   This time, there is no mitigation

Those who said we were going backwards with Neil are justifiably pointing to this and saying “Told you so”, and that decision sits with our board.  Unlike some, I will tell you when they do well, and they often do, a historic treble, treble, is proof, but we were knocked out of the Champions League by a team with a tiny fraction of our budget, due to a strategic planning failure to be ready for this day.  After last night, I have no counter argument.

This feels as low a point as Bratislava.  It cannot be acceptable.

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  1. AIK are 19 games into their season, sitting 2nd in the league, 1 point off the top and have won their last 5 games. We will need to play considerably better than last night to make the group stages.

  2. phil mac



    another idiot peddeling the myth that rangers will one day disappear.


    how this plonker gets clicks is beyond me.


    another utter BS story today.



    anyone who believe the claptrap this clown comes out with has bigger problems than the celtic defence



    what? NL didnt sign Jullien!!! after going to visit him?


    utter rubbish



    must be another pal of lennys trying to deflect blame for the indefensible



    at least it wont cost much to get shot of him

  3. onenightinlisbon on

    Lennon will be sacked when it suits the suits. People saying they feel sorry for him seem to forget that the last time he left it was clear he couldn’t work with Lawwell yet he is happy to accept the salary and become the boards puppet manager. his comments after last nights disgrace highlight one of his weaknesses, an unwillingness to accept he made mistakes. We are rotten from the top down and it may unfortunately take us losing the league to bring the necessary changes although I’m not sure even that would do it. We, as supporters need to take a stand before it’s too late.

  4. i'vehadtochangemymind on

    The excitement of the CL is gone


    The money of the CL is gone


    The 8 nil destructions of the CL are gone


    We are in a more appropriate competition


    We are still in europe


    A trust or understanding of where we are all going has gone

  5. Turkey, I reckon/hope the next week or two will be known as the Celtim Which trials… Which one goes first

  6. HeknowsWHOknows on

    If Phils source is on the ball then surely questions must be put to the Celtic Supporter Liason officer (Or whatever he is called).



    For the record this is looking like another Wilo adventure.



    I genuinely fear the self-destruction damages.

  7. Shambles, last night.


    Lenny was owned by Dan, tactically.


    In my eyes, he compounds it by defending it, after the game.


    No one, was being wise after the game, when the team was announced, my phone was going non stop.


    Callum has now played 3 games,at left back, we’ve lost all 3.


    I can’t understand why he didn’t shore the game up at 2.1 and 3.2, so tactically naive, it’s mind boggling.


    Near the end, no shape, nothing, just panic and long balls. Football from the 70s/80s


    It was almost like nothing had been learned from Sion, Braga and Utrecht.


    We’ve gone from a meticulous, thinking manager to essentially a guy that trys to motivate.


    I’m not sure modern day players respond to his out dated style of management.


    Certainly Timo Weah didn’t and Lenny wasn’t pleased, because Timo told him, it wasn’t appropriate/necessary to shout and ball to make a point.


    I certainly wouldn’t accept that in my workplace either.


    Lawwell doesn’t get a free pass, either, this shit storm has been 18 months in the making and all roads lead to him.


    Europa League football is not guaranteed either, as AIK were the hardest team we could have drawn, in our mini group.


    I think the most galling thing for me is that Cluj, weren’t really that good.


    It will be interesting to see how they get on against Prague, if they beat Prague, then my opinion is wrong.

  8. Go tell the Spartim on

    This was mooted earlier in the week



    If we didn’t need to sell KT why can’t we spend all the money? improving the squad (fees/wages/new contracts)



    It’s clear the money in the bank is to be used because PL just couldn’t be arsed trying to replenish the squad.



    If we had a strategy to prepare for qualifiers then surely all that would’ve been needed was a wee tweak here and there to take care of players moving on? We go thru this maelstrom every bloody window



    From ETims Twitter



    Word of the day that personifies PL




  9. so even the players think we have spent £10m on pish players or as i put it after 1 or 2 games ‘2 pigs in a poke’ and was shot down in flames for being so critical, give them time was the cry , well well well.


    youse are no listening LM is never and never will be a left winger.

  10. From previous.



    A direct quote from Peter Lawwell on May 31st, following Lennon’s appointment.



    74 days before we went in to last night’s match without a trustworthy left back.



    We realise the squad needs freshened and it probably needs strengthened. We’ve actually been working on it since February in terms of options and making enquiries. We know the direction we want to go in in particular positions.

  11. RON67 on 14TH AUGUST 2019 12:58 PM


    so even the players think we have spent £10m on pish players or as i put it after 1 or 2 games ‘2 pigs in a poke’ and was shot down in flames for being so critical, give them time was the cry , well well well.



    youse are no listening LM is never and never will be a left winger.






    Glad you get your chance to gloat.



    The coach cost us last night. He showed no faith in Boli and Julien. I won’t hold that against them.



    It wasn’t Lewis Morgans fault that McGregor can’t defend a deep cross or that Scott Brown punched the ball.



    I don’t personally rate Morgan but he’s not on the list of villains from last night.

  12. David 17 and RRDH,



    Spot on . Phil Mac is a fantasist and BS merchant of the highest order.



    But today is a good day for clickbait material on t’net.



    Bit of professionalism and leadership at our club would be preferred.

  13. traditionalist88 on

    JIMMYNOTPAUL on 14TH AUGUST 2019 12:57 PM



    A quite galling back catalogue of costly defeats in European matches against sides have been favourites against .



    The disintegration of the excellent home record the last few years a real worry.



    But one thing strikes me about all these lower budget teams that have inflicted damage on us – are they not making mistakes themselves?! They probably are, but evidently not on the scale that we are, from boardroom to dugout to pitch.



    On the pitch we are actually finding innovative ways to shoot ourselves in the foot and always getting punished.







    I really do fail to see the”Fail to plan”bit of your post.Lenny spent £ 7 million on a CH £3 million on a LB,£1.5 million on a RB.Thats short term planning in the time allotted to us for the qualifiers.Yes,we could have added some more Full Backs,but would they have been up to speed.Lenny obviously thought Julien was not.The one most fans have been moaning about,El Hamady,is looking the part.£10 million of new signings sitting on the bench.Our most consistent player so far,Biton,not played,Calmac at LB.To me,thats not bad planning,its either bad management,or bad recruitment.

  15. Turkeybhoy, do you honestly think Boli is a Lb? lwb possibly, but he no real defensive awareness or instinct, and he isnt exactly 17…. hell be fine going forward against most spl but above that – far from convinced

  16. TIMALOY29 on 14TH AUGUST 2019 1:01 PM




    so even the players think we have spent £10m on pish players or as i put it after 1 or 2 games ‘2 pigs in a poke’ and was shot down in flames for being so critical, give them time was the cry , well well well.


    youse are no listening LM is never and never will be a left winger.


    Glad you get your chance to gloat.


    The coach cost us last night. He showed no faith in Boli and Julien.



    not gloating just stating the bleeding obvious.

  17. Good article Paul.



    I stated some of the same points when I got home from the game,as I knew sleep would be difficult.


    I cannot believe Lenny made so many errors,from selection,to substitutions,he seemed devoid of ideas from such an experienced person,player to Manager.



    They were not a great team in my view,we could not consolidate a winning situation three times,at 3-2 they were devastated with 14 mins to go,shop should have been shut then.



    I am not a Board basher normally,however not impressed with the lack of desire to learn and rectify,I could in the past understand the reluctance to spend to get into the CL and hope the subsequent earnings would pay the outlay,we are in a position now to have done this,yet have penny pinched right back to the McGinn saga,which who knows could have triggered the BR discontent.



    Had PL acted swiftly McGinn would have been here before having his head turned,and I know had he wanted he could have signed, but we dithered and allowed him to consider.


    This is typical of most activity.



    As we stand we have now Mis-Managed the Club from Dominance to Marginal advantage, with confidence at a very low ebb.


    Shake up urgently required.

  18. HeknowsWHOknows on

    The game is done. Thes the harsh reality.



    As much as we all moan and complain we want the best for the club in our own ways.



    We can continue to mourn the destruction which like all on here will agree is sore and pure downright pish.



    Once again we will trundle on and let the board do what they damn well like and there’s nothing we are doing about it collectively.



    Apparently it’s our club!!!!!! Doesnt feel like it……… Does it?

  19. I won’t be alone in saying that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of me last night. To lose 4 goals in the manner we did is inexcusable. The Brown brain fart especially so.



    For the second season in a row we have went out of the CL to an inferior team on a fraction of the budget and wages we pay. Individual errors again, by experienced pros, proving pivitol



    We can make every excuse going, but the reality is we are not very good and it looks like worse is to come. Buckle up lads, it’s gionna be a bumpy season.

  20. Loves A Good Salad on

    Love Lenny, but out of his depth, shouldn’t have been appointed permanently.



    Our CEO on EPL wages.. Needs to go to the EPL. We can’t afford to maintain such expensive assets (sic) in the environment we currently operate. Plus he’s a f*cking charlatan.



    And to Mr Dermot Dividend, please sell up.. Go now. Just f*uck off. I’m sure we’ll cope just fine without you!

  21. eddieinkirkmichael on

    We’ve collected £53m in trader fees over the last yr yet we can’t attract ready made player to come here as we apparently can’t afford the wages of these quality players. Yet because we aren’t willing to break the balance sheet to pay these players what they can get elsewhere we effectively lose out on £30m per season.


    This is madness, what other club wouldn’t gamble on paying a player maybe £1m more per season to make sure he signs Andy give you the best possible chance of qualifying for CL group. The only explanation is that the board are happy that we just stay ahead of the domestic competition while Euro becomes a lottery Ray every season.




    Appointing the Ex Hibs coach way above what his abilities and past history in coaching is frankly farcical, the.guy is out his depth at CL level. Someone in the boardroom or major shareholders need to wake up soon before this season really is fecked.


    Some have tried to dress up his past coaching role with us as being some kind of success, well not for me. On off games against Barca while immensely pleasurable at the time, were mere one off results and should be looked at as such. Lenny was schooled by The Cardigan in a season where we actually had the league almost won only to throw it away against Inverness. The next season only the administration and financial crash of cheats fc enabled Lenny to secure his first title. Let’s just sweep over his abysmal record in domestic cup competitions.



    Lenny was appointed because he was cheap and easily influenced by the board, he also is aware he will never get another high profile gig as this. THis is the top of the tree for Lenny and he knows it, he won’t do the honourable thing as he thinks he is better than he is as a coach.

  22. mullet and co 2 on

    Seems as though we have a basis for progress now if the support unite and demand change.


    There are enough shareholders to ask uncomfortable questions. Enough supporters to publicly ask for change.


    P67 spot on.


    It’s worth £5m a year to hire the best coach, manager and scouts. How much for a proper Director of Football.


    I would strip out the Football department root and branch and higher a completely different team.


    Has Lennon got an assistant as yet?



    The model is sell high and buy low. We are buying at the wrong time with the wrong people making the decisions on who to buy.



    What happened with Arzani? Who signed Shved or said he was the guy? Who didn’t sign Castange, Piccini or Fabian Schar? What left back did Rodgers want but want pursued?


    If you signed some of those guys last year you don’t take 3 months to bed them in this summer.


    The way to stop stick pilling crap is to stop buying large volumes of it.


    Was Shved another Man City scouted player passed to us to sign and develop for them?


    James McCarthy signed for Palace for £3m. No interest from us?

  23. Maybe I am mistaken,but I seem to recall deep joy at the signing of Julien,and Boli,throughout the faithful.I seem to recall deep dismay,at the signing of El Hamady.The same fans telling us that Taylor is a dud,thebRosenborg boy is terrific,Gumny is brilliant.Forgive me if I pay scant attention to these experts.


    By the way,many saying we did not replace Benkovitch.He was on loan,for Gods sake.


    The same fans who were putting Mikey Johnston on a pedestal,when it was glaringly obvious,he has a great deal to learn.I was shot down for saying he needed to go out on loan somwhere to toughen him up.


    Lenny soley to blame for last night,but he IS Lenny,so I forgive him.Even the great Rodgers made a pigs ear of games.We still have a great squad,who can get us the 9.Is it so hardvto back them?

  24. Exactly Paul, it’s not acceptable.


    In any circumstances frankly.



    The job of the manager is to manage. And coach. There was no evidence of Lenny doing either last night.



    But when you’re incapable of putting the right players in the right positions, then Celtic fans should be concerned.



    On the evidence of last night I’m deeply concerned.

  25. well im flabbergasted ! I was expecting your usual spin and deflection Paul when your article came online. Good to have you on board , better late than never

  26. 90% of people didn’t want NL as manager. the fact they never looked for anyone is a shambles and PL should be sacked for that alone. Mainly should be sacked for not investing in team…last summer… We should be buying a year ahead to get players in play-offs who haven’t just walked in the door.

  27. Mike in Toronto on

    Growing up, you went to the same restaurant every Sunday for family dinner. You grandfather took the family, then your dad took the family, and now you took your family. A nice steak and a bottle of Bordeaux. Not cheap, but it is your one treat … and, it’s a family tradition.



    A few years ago, a new guy was brought in to run the place. He’s not a restaurateur, but knows how to cut corners.



    As usual, you order filet mignonette and a nice bottle of Bordeaux. Recently, instead of steak and wine, they are serving you hamburger and flat McEwans lager (which you suspect they have spat in), but continue to charge you the same prices.



    When you complain, the owner’s only response is that he is surprised. The last chef, who at least made a pretty good burger), quits because he says he was promised fresh beef, and the owner now wants to substitute frozen meat patties. So, the owner hires his old friend (who is not a great chef, but the owner knows he needs the job, so won’t rock the boat).



    Are you going to keep going to that restaurant every Sunday? And paying for a filet?



    If you do, whose fault is that?




    I agree,not a LB as such,but Lenny played with someone a bit similar.Agathe.Not a great defender,in fact,made into one,but very effective going forward.I am of the opinion,give players time.Not a popular opinion,right enough.I do like Boli further up the field.Good footballer.

  29. HeknowsWHOknows on




    That’s sums it up. It’s clear it’s not our club. They don’t care except for our money.

  30. The Battered Bunnet on

    It’s a difficult morning to attempt to rationalise what happened at Celtic Park last night. The reaction on the usual social media platforms might be best described as thermodynamic, with greatly more heat than light generated. On reflection, there are three main topics to consider: The Team; The Performance; and The Context.



    The Team


    Pre-match, all the talk was of solving the riddle of the team selection. Many have suffered foot cramps from chronic involuntary toe curling while watching Callum McGregor at left back in the past, so obviously, OBVIOUSLY!, Neil Lennon wouldn’t play him there in this critical match.



    My own view was that Celtic would set up with three at the back, and a central midfield 4 designed to pick up and use the second ball from Cluj’s habit of going long quickly. Risky granted, to go one light at the back, but it seemed logical given the team lines. After all, McGregor is a clever midfield player, and you play your best players in their best positions, right?



    It is also worth noting that one of the highest paid and most impactful players at the club – Sinclair – wasn’t included in the squad for the match at all, Johnston getting the startig place wide left and Morgan the nominated substitute.



    Within seconds of kick off, it was apparent that McGregor was indeed playing at left back. One assumes the aptness of Boli to repeatedly give the ball to the opposition was the central concern, but…



    The Performance


    A pair of Brown and Ntcham in the centre with Christie one ahead seemed to suggest that Celtic were not particularly concerned with the second ball lottery or the challenge of playing through the (expected) high press, further evidenced by the relatively advanced positioning of the wide players.



    Concern at left back crystallised when Deac ran in front of McGregor at the back post to head the opening goal, Brown having failed to stop the cross coming in from the right.



    Celtic started this match ahead in the tie given the away goal, but were a goal down at half time. Within 15 minutes of the restart Celtic were ahead again through goals by Forrest and Edouard, a precarious 3-2 aggregate lead lost to a penalty following an inexplicable handball by Brown, who otherwise endured a second half episode of pure-mad-mentalness.



    Ahead again following some terrific football by Christie and Edouard, and with fewer than 15 minutes to play surely Celtic would tighten it up and see it out. Surely. Nope. Morgan relieving Johnston was the only change, which didn’t alter the shape of the side, didn’t close down the middle of the park, didn’t close out the match, and didn’t prevent the loss of a third goal with 10 minutes remaining; a shot across the goal from outside the box generously pushed into the feet of the rebound-ready Omrani by Bain.



    Thereafter, with a front line of Edouard, Griffiths, Bayo and Simunovic supported by Christie, Forrest, Morgan and McGregor, the loss of a fourth goal was simply a coup de grace at the death, Celtic having already self-exsanguinated.



    The Context


    The champion teams from 44 countries enter into Champions League qualifying in the recently revised ‘Champions Route’, with only 4 progressing to the group stages following 4 rounds of ties plus a preliminary round; UEFA’s triumph of self-interest over sport. Those who make it through have won an accumulator with long odds.



    For Celtic, despite the advantage of being seeded in each round, the probability of qualifying in this new system is around 20%. I say this because the arithmetic says so. Celtic are considered to be the favourites in each round they play, but as the rounds progress the quality of opposition increases and the probability of winning each tie is reduced.



    We might beat the champion team from Bosnia or Moldova nine times out of ten (90% probability) in the first round, but the champions of such as Norway or Sweden are a step up in the second round, and perhaps the probability of beating such a side reduces to 75%.



    By the third round, the competition is stronger again, with opposition drawn from the champions of the likes of Greece, Poland and Romania. What is the probability of Celtic beating such a team? One might like to think that Celtic would be strong favourites, but recent (painful) history suggests otherwise. Let’s allow optimism to trump experience and consider that Celtic would beat such a side 6 times out of 10, a 60% probability.



    By the time of the final qualifying round the outcome is entirely in the balance, with eight teams of equivalent standard, each able to beat the other on their day. It’s a coin toss, and the likelihood of Celtic winning through is 50:50.



    The roll-up for Celtic is a 20% chance of qualifying through the rounds to the group stage; one success in five attempts. You can play about with the numbers above, but however assess the chance in each round, even if you’re hopelessly optimistic, by the time you’ve multiplied out the probabilities you’ve chosen, Celtic will be odds-against qualifying.



    In that context, the primary imperative for the leadership and management of Celtic is to optimise the chances, something that in recent seasons they have found curiously challenging. Last season’s exit to AEK was presaged by all manner of foot-shooting, leading to the loss of Boyata for the tie, Champions League for the season, Dembele to Lyon and ultimately Rodgers to the dog house.



    This season Celtic have replaced left back Tierney with a player the manager clearly doesn’t trust in the position he was bought to play, while the €7M signing Jullien sits beside him on the bench. Meanwhile, and seemingly absurdly, Celtic’s bank balance at year end June 2019 will likely exceed their annual wage budget.



    A note to any budding CEO – cash in the bank doesn’t win football matches; Players do. For the love of God, use the money!

  31. I commented to my brother after 3 or 4 minutes last night that we could well be in trouble.



    It wasn’t just the direct affect with the Calmac switch (double whammy of him not being good LB plus the massive absence of him being an excellent central midfield playmaker).



    It was that the team did not look up for it – they looked out of sorts and I think a big part of this was the mental affect on the rest of the team of the Calmac situation.



    It was an absolutely huge risk to take and I blame NFL alone for that.

  32. Turkeybhoy



    Lenny soley to blame for last night,but he IS Lenny,so I forgive him.Even the great Rodgers made a pigs ear of games.We still have a great squad,who can get us the 9.Is it so hardvto back them?






    That’s blind followership. I just expect a degree of professionalism from those running the club with highly paid jobs – a capable manager, coaching staff, a better CEO, a strategy beyond buying assets for value, an academy producing, a scouting network and a FT head of recruitment, science and health in abundance, fitness, etc etc. Have an identity and be where our buying power should be in Europe. We are regressing.



    We’ve become complacent and sloppy with x-in-a-row. The news that Neil’s mate Darren O’Dea is getting a coaching joib smacks of cronyism. Our dugout looks like a bunch of amateurs.



    Worrying. I hope last night was a wake-up call. I’m not convinced. Sadly we have to reach lower for that to happen.

  33. From BCommyCSC



    As a group we have became consumers and not supporters, Celtic Da’s get slagged but they got rid of charlatans on the board none of whom made millions from our hard earned cash. Lennon isn’t the problem he is the symptom. When will we wake up and tell him enough is enough!

  34. The hands cant hit what the eyes cant see on

    @ TIMALOY29 on 14TH AUGUST 2019 1:01 PM



    Neil’s tactics were inexplicable, but he was a cheap option appointed by the board (the announcement for which was buried in the celebration of the treble treble; much like the announcement for the sale of KT- made during an important CL qualifier. We talk about Sevco being cynical, but god knows we are as well).



    Truth is, Morgan wasn’t at fault, but neither he nor MJ should constitute the first team options on the LW for Celtic in an important CL qualifier- both are good prospects, but just that for the moment. SS is obviously being given the cold shoulder to try and get him out the door. The gamble to extend his contract to recoup a transfer fee looks like it has backfired.



    We essentially played RD’s team last night. We needed to spend more and we didn’t.



    From Moravcik67 on twitter:



    “Just to cheer you up.



    Last night was only the 3rd time that we’ve conceded 4 goals at home in Europe, out of 182 home games.



    The other two? The infamous Partizan Belgrade 5-4 game in 1989, and the scudding PSG game us 2017.”

  35. ulysses mcghee - a demographic of one on

    I lose track of Phil Mac and his absurd nomenclature fetish – leaves just enough wiggle room for denial of veracity.



    I suspect Jullien was definitely part of our projected interests/signings – and as such had been offered to Celtic before and if not we had him on a list – but how does the Phil balance Lennon visiting the player to safeguard his arrival?



    He fills that yearning in the part of our support (and bloggers) who get more from reading bollocks about the lights going out across the clyde.



    Had he any real inroads to our club – you think he’s be pursuing Dembele’s thoughts – Boyata’s experiences or even Timo Weah’s (10M player btw)



    As it stands we have 4 games til going over the river – and that will be a crucial game – as it seems anyone who fancies it against us and is willing to get in amongst us can do so.



    I hope we take these games as a route to defining roles and positions and tactics bloody sticking to them.




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