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State of the Club Report, December 2018

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Empires rise and fall but it is usually not until well after the event that the signs of decline or rise are appreciated.  In April 1970 Celtic players took a lap of honour after winning both legs of the European Cup semi-final against English champions, Leeds United, before a record European crowd.  They were in their second European Cup final in four and hot favourites to take the trophy again.  If ever Celtic looked imperious, this was the moment.

Few watching that lap of honour could have imagined 33 years would pass before Celtic next beat a side from one of Europe’s biggest five leagues.  Decline came slowly, a European Cup final loss in extra time, two more semi-final appearances and four more league titles, then decades as an irrelevance in Europe.

Today Celtic are nothing like that force in Europe, but 2018 saw the club secure the domestic treble for the second successive season, the first time this has been achieved in Scottish football.  They also retained the League Cup this month and are hot favourites for both league and Scottish Cup.  No team has ever been this imperious in Scottish football, not even the Lisbon Lions.

Celtic have lost four league games this season, four more than they lost in the whole of Brendan Rodgers’ first season.  They failed to reach the Champions League group stage, losing to what proved to be a poor AEK Athens.  This year has seen significant players lost: Dembele, Armstrong and Roberts.  Although the latter two were mostly squad players when by the time they left, they still made important contributions.

The club broke its transfer fee record for the first time in 17 years to secure the permanent signing of Odsonne Edouard, but the deadline day shenanigans of Dembele and absences of Leigh Griffiths placed a heavy burden on the 20-year-old.  Filip Benkovic was secured on loan from Leicester City but further attempts to reinforce central defence and the right back position have been ineffective, while the predicted signing of John McGinn from Hibs proved to be nothing more than a PR disaster.

Form during the early part of the season was well below standards of the previous two years.  It was not until two first half injuries in the League Cup semi-final at Murrayfield to Ebouie Kouassi and Olivier Ntcham allowed Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie to take up central midfield roles, that Celtic started to play with fluency.

Three wins were secured in a very difficult Europa League group, meaning we travel to Valencia in February with a fighting chance of progressing, but you could sense the air escaping from Celtic during December, as eight points were dropped on top of a home defeat to Salzburg.

The question is, was Saturday’s arresting defeat at Ibrox a sign of Decline of Empire, or another sign of retrenchment?  To answer that we need to look at the fundamentals.

Celtic are financially stronger than anyone else in Scottish football.  We spend significantly more, not just on transfers and wages, but on scouting, sports science, analysis and any other metric you care to mention.  We may only be top of the table on goal difference, with a game in hand, but the first leg of the treble is complete and we are the only Scottish team still in Europe.
This season, the rest of the league are getting closer, but if points earned is their measurement, they are not getting any better.  Celtic’s lead is small, not because we face better opposition, or because we have fewer resources, but because some in the squad have aged and declined, while attempts to strengthen have not been good enough.

If you are searching for signs of Decline of Empire, keep looking.  This is Celtic at the bottom of the curve – with back-to-back trebles, the League Cup secured and resources available to kick on.  We cannot win every game, or play well every month.  We can’t even win every trophy, but the fundamentals of Scottish football have not changed.  Use this week to get in touch with how it feels to be second best in a domestic game.  It could be a while before it happens again.

Have a great New Year.

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968 Comments

  1. BOURNESOUPRECIPE on 2ND JANUARY 2019 10:01 PM

     

     

    Fulham are going down. How do you like them Tuesday night trips to Bristol and Swansea.

  2. CHAIRBHOY on 2ND JANUARY 2019 9:56 PM

     

    CELTIC40ME @ 9:43 PM,

     

     

     

    For me we don’t have the depth of quality, so when we get injuries and international call ups we become threadbare.

     

     

    We were total keech at ibrox, but the problem wasn’t the missing players, it was the man of the match from August and the rest of the players who had strolled through that game. Our best players let us down

  3. Delaneys Dunky on

    D17

     

    Bristol is magic on a Tuesday night.

     

    Hauf price drinks night wi loads of mad wee students gettin mad wi it. Great experience ??????

  4. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    D17 – hear you. We probably agree on much.

     

     

    For example – no room for complacency as the first team needs a fresh injection.

     

     

    That said, we are better than the pack including one team whose fans and acolytes are deploying every dirty trick in the book to foment unrest.

     

     

    We should all rise above it.

     

     

    Hail hail

  5. DELANEYS DUNKY on 2ND JANUARY 2019 9:22 PM

     

    Scaniel

     

     

    Hope Bertie and the other dunkys are warm tonight. Biting cold in Bankieland.

     

     

    YNWA

     

    All tucked up in lovely big beds of straw. Minus 5 here last night, looking much the same tonight.

     

    As for the ElDorado, yum,yum and much better than that muck BSR drinks- Emma Cream….give me Lang’s Liqueur any day. Actually scrub that, both EL D and Lanliq were products of apartheid South Africa. Silly Days.

  6. D17

     

    Fulham are 2 wins away ( actually only 5pts) from safety

     

    Well worth the gamble, with money available in EPL, getting a Centre Half in to help

     

    Not sure the 3 clubs sitting 4pts ahead of them feel safe just yet ?

  7. Delaneys Dunky on

    Scaniel

     

    My dad was drinking Eldorado on Isle of Bute as a teen. A wee hauf boatle for a winter warmer for the match in Paradise. Magic Jungle Memories.

     

    Mon the Dunkys!

     

    YNWA

  8. NORRIEM on 2ND JANUARY 2019 10:19 PM

     

     

    Well worth the gamble for Fulham yes, not worth the gamble for Dedryk surely ?

  9. And has Boyata GTF yet?

     

     

    An absolute imposter who after numerous injuries, arriving from City with a reputation in tatters, has re-built his career with us, and then likely cost us CL revenue and prestige as a way of thanks.

     

     

    He who postulates that money is not important, but shafts the supporters because he can’t get his…erm…big money move to the land of bloated wages.

  10. Lawwell under big pressure now,£2.3 mil bonus,ridiculous if you look at the turnover, this next 5 months could be the huns best/only chance to stop the 10,the referees were always on board ,but no point in their obvious cheating for a team with no chance of the league, Saturday gave them a chance.We MUST react,or he will get hunted…

  11. Scaniel

     

     

    Tis the season for the ole mulled El D.

     

     

    Lanny the thinking man’s Buckfast

     

     

    Scotsmac file under p**h

     

     

    Harveys Bristol Cream only available in the West End

  12. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    NORRIEM on 2ND JANUARY 2019 7:42 PM

     

    Maybe just me ?

     

     

     

     

    Jonny Hayes, was as good as anyone else playing on the left hand side of a team in Scotland, when we signed him, this included numerous games at left wing back for Aberdeen.

     

     

     

     

    He has suffered a knee injury, then a double break in his leg, trying to play for us

     

     

     

     

    He needs games, but from what I have witnessed, never let us down to any great extent

     

     

     

     

    A very decent squad player for FtSPFL

     

     

     

     

    I struggle to understand the criticism of him.

     

    =================================================

     

     

    I agree .

     

     

    Puts things in perspective.

     

     

    I have been right in his corner since the Naysnith incident .

     

    Give him time.

  13. D17

     

    Quite sure at least bouncing his salary would help ?

     

    Maybe a deal to allow moving Jan 20 if not still in EPL ??

     

    Just think for Fulham, and Boyata, worth the gamble ?

     

    We know he is not staying with us

     

    I think we should be accepting reasonable offers

     

    Looks like Jack Hendry out on loan, Compper reputedetly prepared to move ? Benkovic got another 6 months

     

    Let’s hope we have scouted at least 2 or 3 new Centre Halfs ???

     

    Oh and if Big Vic’s available on loan, he will do

  14. CRC: email received and returned. Was really hoping Jonny H would make it. Really bad luck with the injury.

     

    DD at 10:21 Remember going to Paradise with a few of the auld cronies, I mean regular customers, for a game versus Dundee United. Carry oot tanked by half time, ( 0:0) but auld Jimmy was hanging on to his bottle of Lanny till we scored. 70 something minute and we finally put the ball in the net. cue huge celebrations and Jimmy throws his arms up in the air and lets go of the bottle as it crashes to the ground. Didn’t deter him, though. On his hands and knees trying to scoop up the remnants. Those were the days….I’m afraid!

  15. Delaneys Dunky on

    MacJay

     

    When we signed Stuart Armstrong we signed the best player in Scotland outwith our team.

     

    When we signed Johnny Hayes we signed the best player in Scotland outwith our team.

     

    Stuart handled playing for Celtic. Johnny Hayes hisnae handled it. Yet?

     

    YNWA

  16. BSR- What about Lucky Numbers (365)? Maybe only available in The Sarry Heid. Gut Rot r Us.

     

    Ill just thinking about it

  17. !!BADA BING!! on 2ND JANUARY 2019 10:26 PM

     

    Lawwell under big pressure now,£2.3 mil bonus,ridiculous if you look at the turnover, this next 5 months could be the huns best/only chance to stop the 10,the referees were always on board ,but no point in their obvious cheating for a team with no chance of the league, Saturday gave them a chance.We MUST react,or he will get hunted…

     

     

    ———

     

     

    My feeling is we will bring in numbers but not necessarily quality. I listened to the Harry Brady interview, Lawwell’s words ‘if you react to short term you’re dead’. Within the walls of Celtic park they think we are all hysterical lunatics. PL will stick to his strategy i believe.

  18. We have a Fergus McCann scenario in reverse here, spend to stop the 10 has become spend to do the 10.

  19. Just watching Black47..

     

    The main actor (Martin) is Anthony Ralston by the looks of it.?

     

     

    D. :)

  20. SIN CITY BHOY ?

     

     

    Scaniel

     

     

    Big plastic drum with a tap?

     

     

    Our supporters bus was christened The Bar – C special, after Barchester Cream Sherry which came in big square bottles ( and cost very little.)

  21. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    BOURNESOUPRECIPE on 2ND JANUARY 2019 9:52 PM

     

    “ it’s a long long time since i saw the Celts humbled by that mob ”

     

     

     

     

     

     

    First time i’d seen it.

     

    =====================================================

     

     

    I grew up watching it .

  22. There’s a distinct ,’Sack Brendan’ thread on this blog. It has its roots in a 1-0 defeat a few days ago.

     

     

    Some who now post on here subscribe to that proposition. These bloggers hold fast to a version of Celtic which could only exist in their own heads.

     

     

    Believe me, and I am quite sure of this, the Celtic haters, the seriously deluded and the ‘Brendan needs help’ brigade have found a safe haven here. Fortunately, they remain a minority.

     

     

    But in the best traditions of clinical psychiatry it is not a kindness to indulge them in their delusions. Remember that. But also always bear in mind they are quite unrepresentative of the Celtic support.

  23. ASUPPORTERWHOGOTLUCKY

     

    Welcome to the funhouse wev’e even got Scotsmac , Lanny and Emva Cream on the go tonight !

  24. Delaneys Dunky on

    BSR

     

    Olly Ncham was motm at Paradise and Hunskelper who scored to beat them.

     

    Such a fall from grace for a young French lad in Glasgow now.

     

    Give him time or sell?

     

    YNWA

  25. DELANEYS DUNKY on 2ND JANUARY 2019 10:48 PM

     

     

    When you cant trust a player to give his all he needs to go. Celtic jerseys were not made for such players.

  26. Bada Bing

     

     

    I actually agree with your earlier comment that the most likely reading of the Boyata scenario is that, after his AEK strike, manager and CEO promised him a Bosman if he stayed to plug the gap this year.

     

     

    And those of us with more than a short term memory will remember how good Dedryk was on his return to the team, keeping his head down and playing quite well (with occasional brain freezes) until his disaster with 8 team mates at Ibrox. Even then, as he played badly, he was needed to counter the aerial threat that was their main form of attack.

     

     

    Now, if keeping Boyata was a necessary step, and knowing Hendry has not made it and Comperr never will, should we take the bath on his transfer fee and keep him till June, or sell for a few million now (we won’t get £9m with 6 months to go) and risk not getting enough new players of quality to fill this threadbare area. There are no Development Squad CB’s ready to step up and there haven’t been any since John Kennedy, I think.