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. traditionalist88 on

    SCULLYBHOY on 14TH AUGUST 2019 3:57 PM



    I wanna, I wanna, I wanna be Ed Ward, I wanna, I wanna….




  2. Mike in Toronto on

    ADi @ 4:06



    whoever it was should never be allowed to coach another game at Celtic … you take away your key midfielder, which significantly weakened the middle of the park, and put him into a position where you know he is not suited, and which we all knew was going to be targetted last night by Cluj…. so, in one fell stroke, you weakened two key positions!



    and, you have to wonder what the decision did to Boli’s confidence … I would have to think it was shaky already.. but now he has to feel like the manager doesn’t trust him…. and we dont have an alternative.

  3. I remember the ” We are all Neil Lennon”. Now all I see are knives. It is all very well to be critical but some of the insults here would not look out of place on FF.


    As Jim Royal might say “Faithful through and through. My arse”

  4. Well there’s the first consequence: The Celtic v Hearts game rescheduled from Saturday to Sunday. How many travelling fans now have to cancel.

  5. My big fear now is somebody does a “Dembele” in the last few days of the window.



    Edouard, Ntcham, Rogic, Ajer, Christie, Jozo and CalMac are all excellent players and you can bet more than one of that list have instructed their agent to get them some options after last night.



    We cannot afford to lose any of them. We need to keep them all and bring in a LB, RB and LW. Although since it is Lenny we will probably just get 3 centre mids and he will squeeze them in somewhere as he likes a “technician”

  6. I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution


    Take a bow for the new revolution


    Smile and grin at the change all around


    Pick up my guitar and play


    Just like yesterday


    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray


    We don’t get fooled again


    Don’t get fooled again


    No, no!



    Meet the new boss


    Same as the old boss




    We won’t get fooled again. …Well at least not until next season.

  7. onenightinlisbon on

    CLINK\O/ 3X3 on 14TH AUGUST 2019 4:21 PM



    Faith is one thing, blind faith is another. The board have relied on blind faith to keep them in power. Time for a change.

  8. CLINK\O/ 3X3 on 14TH AUGUST 2019 4:21 PM



    I have not seen one personal insult about NFL on here.


    Plenty reaction about his strange team selection, his tactics and his after natch interview. As it should be.



    Now Peter Lawwell, that’s a different story.




  9. The Cluj cloggers must have been rubbing their hands when they saw the lightweight left side we put out. Crazy selection. We defended well in Roumania but like Fort William last night. At Greyskull the feel good factor will be at its highest. We have to get it together at the back or face a gubbing. What was Broonie doing , and whit’ s the goalie daein ?

  10. Mike in Toronto on




    As long as people keep throwing their money at the club, DD will be happy. As long as DD is happy, PL will be there as long as he wants ….



    I know Gandhi never actually said the quote (although attributed to him), but it is still true …Be the change you want to see.



    The fans do have the power to change things… we just have to realize that, and seize the power back.

  11. Bournesrecipe


    Good point about Elhamed. Maybe better in central fefence and Ayer at right back. In the few games playing there he has been outstsnding and offering an attacking threat.

  12. Phil is always writing about newco directors having a conclave to discuss some crisis or other – wonder if our directors are having a similar discussion

  13. Go tell the Spartim on

    Shall we have a sweep on how PL and NFL think they can get out of this one.



    Do we announce Taylor on Friday (no offence to the lad but it’s a NO from me) ?

  14. Gene



    The blew the PR battle with the Celtic fans about 5 managers ago. Selling, the family jewels for a competitive price was inevitable, not telling the fans how their money would be invested, was glib, to knock yourself out of the CL inside 7 days was outrageous.

  15. GREENPINATA @4:25 PM




    “I have not seen one personal insult about NFL on here.”




    I think Lawwell’s puppet is pretty insulting. There are other statements which are, at least, OTT.




    You do not have to agree with Neil Lennon or his tactics but, a bit of due respect for our club servant will make your point more tellingly.

  16. BIGSHUGGY – Well said.Momentum/confidence will play a part in how this season unfolds. Until a few short months ago, the huns were terrified to play us. They feared 5-0 humpings were the new norm. They were a laughing stock. You can still read on here posters saying that they are still an irrelevance, that none of their players would get into our team, that only Celtic can beat Celtic etc. etc.


    Play like last night or as we played there at the end of last season and Defoe and Morelos will destroy us. They know from last season how to swamp our midfield which is lightweight when we insist on playing with two wingers. If Brown plays like last night, the game will bypass him as they will play a high pressing game expecting defensive errors from us. Ibrox will be no place for Morgan or MJ. They will be brushed aside. Play Edouard up front himself and have Chrisite, MCG, Ntcham, Brown (or Rogic if fit) and JF in the middle.



    Gerrard is not the dunce that many proclaimed him to be.


    I’d happily take a draw there on 1 Sept. First time in years that I have said that.

  17. traditionalist88 on 14th August 2019 4:13 pm



    SCULLYBHOY on 14TH AUGUST 2019 3:57 PM



    I wanna, I wanna, I wanna be Ed Ward, I wanna, I wanna….








    I take your point, but Rob MacLean (I think) constantly uses the correct pronounciation and Bonner just couldn’t be bothered (or else he is proving that he is touch with the common man). Recently Bonner was talking about Celtic’s striking options and said of Jack Aitchison – is he still at the club? In the grand scheme of things (especially after last night) this is a minor issue – so sorry for bringing it up and now that I have got it off my chest I will leave it.




  18. SFTB,



    For clarification to any persons just logging on here.



    I do not use or condone any personal criticism of NFL.



    As for the term ” Lawwell’s puppet” again i dont condone that sort of language, however an isolated poster using that is nothing compared to what Peter Lawwell gets daily and has for years now.



    Perspective CSC.

  19. mullet and co 2 on

    Celtic qualified for 4 from 6 Champions League Groups Stages.


    Prior to that Scottish team only failed on 2 from 15.


    Never been financially stronger and yet we are going backwards.

  20. My guess is that Broonie may have been dazzled by the lights for the handball.



    In football, you do see some crazy penalties awarded for handball and losing the flight of it seems plausible.



    As for the 3rd goal, it was an excellent shot that Bain beat out and, unfortunately an equally excellent finish from the rebound.

  21. Stairheedrammy on

    Two guys should be on final warnings after last night’s fiasco, NL and PL and as PL oversaw a similar lack of preparation last year he should be out on his arse. The flaws in formation and inflexibility in tactics was a real eye opener, sevco wouldn’t have lost 4 to that team and I now fear for our trip to the crumbledome. Interesting to see how we react as a club and a good barometer of our ambitions.

  22. Apologies for the broken link.



    It showed UEFA rankings :-



    Cluj ranked 288


    St Johnstone 223


    Lincoln Red Imps 243.


    Cork City 279.




  23. mullet and co 2 on




    If you watch it again you will see Brown look over and see the player behind him unmarked he then goes for the ball. It’s the marking and lack of left back that caused that.

  24. There have been plenty of insults flying about.


    Faith by it’s very nature is blind. It is a belief in something which can’t be proven. Anything else is just a calculated risk

  25. Neil Lennon is getting plenty of criticism from a support that had its doubts about him confirmed last night.



    The Celtic gaffer is a role with high pressure and high accountability ( no matter how many times we this and us that is wheeled out – the buck stops with the gaffer).



    I’ve no confidence in Neil going to Ibrox and getting the win. He’ll probably again try some weird positional changes to prove how really smart he is, then spend 90 minutes with hands in pockets doing nothing when it all goes tits up.



    We need to :



    Re-instate Sinclair and apologise to the man.



    Drop Bain.



    Drop Brown



    As an absolute minimum get a left back and right back in.



    Replace any further sales in this window.

  26. Gordon


    Elhamed Ajer Jullien Boli


    McGregor Brown


    Forrest Christie Shved





    Bain Simunovic Bitton Ntcham Johnston Griffiths Bayo



    Injuries and new signings (well, you never know!) apart, stick with that selection for the next 7 games (Dunfermline, Europa, Hearts, Europa, Sevco, League Cup Quarter, Hamilton) and reassess where we are on 14 September.

  27. 4 qualification failures in the last 6 years is institutional failure.



    Lennon however is doing himself no favours with his extremely irritating refusal to acknowledge his personal mistakes last night.

  28. Mike in Toronto on




    In the Encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), Pope John Paul II asserts the primacy of revelation in the Church’s quest for truth: as it has been described, ” Faith is necessary to discover the full truth; reason alone is not sufficient because its central weakness is its susceptibility to sin.”



    However, based upon the thoughts of such luminaries as Thomas Aquinas, who said that natural philosophy contributes to the understanding of Divine Revelation, he went on to argue that real Truth is discovered through the interaction of faith and reason together, and both are necessary to know God,



    Faith alone … that’s for the other guys




  29. More thoughts from last………. Celtic weren’t a complete shambles -there was much good attacking . But we weren’t able to manage to game when we were ahead.



    On the bigger picture I say its the huge wealth in the English PL and Championship that makes it so hard(impossible) for us assemble a quality squad .


    Even the English championship is a more attractive destination for players. And we can’t keep top players . Having said that we must be a lot richer than Cluj and they were too shabby.