I remember getting annoyed at the grief Gordon Strachan took after David Fernandez inspired Dundee United to a draw at Celtic Park. It was disproportionate, despite the poor performance, and ignored the sporting reality that weaker teams can get it right and leave Celtic Park with a point. As well as a lot of credit for their efforts.
Positives first. Many things didn’t work for Celtic yesterday but James Forrest looked to be back to his best. There was only one occasion he didn’t get past the Killie fullback all day, and he recovered to dispossess two opponents and win the ball back.
For James, it’s all about fitness and confidence. Right now, he has both.
I looked at the clock: 3 minutes had gone, Jozo Simunovic was still on his feet. ‘We’re breaking new ground’, I thought. Kilmarnock defended their penalty area all day, so we were seldom troubled, but you and I have seen enough football to know that’s not the whole story. Jozo was immaculate, didn’t put a foot wrong, covered ground with pace and precision. Threw himself into tackles and won the ball.
The contrast with recent defensive performances could have scarcely been more marked.
Elsewhere it didn’t go so well. Tom Rogic and Nir Bitton were both inhibited. Stuart Armstrong prodded but seemed out of sync with his team-mates. Passes regularly found an opponent. From my seat, it looked like our movement and use of space was inefficient.
The last 30 minutes of the game saw Kilmarnock clear their lines and regroup under sustained pressure. During this period, I was confident the goal would come, it usually does. Maybe the extra dimension we hoped we’ve recruited in Carlton Cole, out ill yesterday, would have given our wing play more of a target.
Since writing on the subject on Friday night I’ve seen some of the sectarian abuse left on Facebook about our director, Ian Livingston, amid a diatribe against refugees and all sorts of people who are minorities in the UK.
Years ago I wrote that there are few values we can anchor the club to. Scotland is changing, as are peoples’ sense of identity, no more so than when it comes to religious identity. We can’t, nor should we, impose restrictions on who becomes a Celtic fan. Our demographic is largely left of centre, but a Lisbon Lion went on to become a Tory councillor, so there’s no political bar to supporting Celtic.
I also know an Ulster unionist, who for several years joined his family and friends as a Celtic season ticket holder. He was always made welcome, and didn’t find the celebration of Irish heritage at Celtic incompatible with his identity. As the generations pass, we’ll see more of this. People will care less about 20th century politics (not to mention 17th century) and your view on transubstantiation.
Our founding value is that we are open to all. You will find a welcome at Celtic irrespective of colour, race or religion, you don’t need to care about Scotland or Ireland, we have Poles, English, Norwegians, Americans, Aussies and many more. Few of them had an Irish grannie.
These values are under threat across Europe. We should take every opportunity to reinforce them.
I took some advice on whether to out those behind the racist abuse yesterday, but I’m glad Ian Livingston did so direct on the Affiliation site (and apologies for the direct quote appearing on a CQN article, I pulled it as soon as I saw it).
I was also challenged over the weekend for criticising the chairman’s right to use any available platform to call out racism. I don’t feel qualified to say that’s not allowed.