Amid the enormous events of the season it is easy to overlook the remarkable transformation in Celtic from a team which was bumping along in third place in October. The 3-3 draw at Rugby Park, when Celtic recovered from a 3 goal deficit in the final 20 minutes to grab a point, is often referred to as a turning point but I don’t subscribe to this, Celtic drew 0-0 at home to Hibs two weeks later as the deficit from the top of the league headed towards 15 points, albeit with two games in hand.
It’s not often I’m told “get a grip of yourself” but that’s exactly what was said when I suggested to our chief executive that if we lost the next game away to Motherwell we were in danger of finishing third.
He then went on to quote me the points gained/lost ratio Neil Lennon enjoyed between becoming Celtic caretaker manager until his team lost at home to St Johnstone in August – a remarkably successful period. He knew the same ratio between that St Johnstone game and the 0-0 against Hibs, which he said was a problem that would be fixed. For good measure adding that we would beat Rangers on 28 December and go on to win the league.
Refreshing, though it was, to hear such utter conviction in The Plan, I wasn’t convinced. Rangers were on a roll and we just couldn’t put a series of wins together. The change came against Rennes on 3 November. Celtic came from behind to win the game 3-1, playing a tactically different game than we had all season.
Since then Neil Lennon has bravely changed tactics with more regularity than any Celtic manager I have known, even during games we have often seen three different strategies deployed. Not all have worked but he has shown a willingness to take chances and has learned plenty about his squad in doing so.
This willingness to take chances and to learn has delivered the league title.
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