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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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  1. glendalystonsils on

    Happy and healthy New Year to all on CQN ,from the happiest clapper to the most greetin faced board basher ,

     

    from this lurker who can be a bit of both!-))

  2. Hogmanay Memories

     

    The Highlight of the year

     

    Hogmanay was a real treat, the highlight of the year. Children would be allowed to stay up late in anticipation, waiting for the bells. It was never certain just who would turn up at the door, but someone always did. The food was laid out on the kitchen table covered with a pristine white tablecloth. Sandwiches, shortbread and black bun. Also, bottles of beer and a half-bottle of whisky, with bottles of cordial, a sort of sickly sweet concoction which virtually guaranteed that dentures would later be a necessity for the imbiber!

     

    When the pub closed, well before midnight, Uncles Angus, Duncan and Alex would appear, with their favourite tipples in carrier bags, and a lump of coal as an omen of health, wealth and prosperity for the coming year. Grandad would enjoy a quite dram and a puff at his pipe, whilst Uncle Angus would, once again, re-create his part in the winning of the Battle of El Alamein in North Africa in 1942, using the salt and pepper and a box of matches. Everyone had heard it all before, of course. Mum and Dad enjoyed the commotion simply because it was an event in those days, a unique event, before the advent of late-pub closing and urban sophistication had made every Saturday night an event.

     

    On the television would be The White Heather Club, with Andy Stewart and bagpipes, tartan, singing and lots of dancing, in black and white, of course. Then, finally, the moment we had all been waiting for- the countdown to the bells. In a frenzy everyone would refresh their glasses and listen to Andy Stewart intone the magic phrase, ‘Happy New Year!’ Everyone would give each other new year greetings, the ships in the docks would sound their foghorns, fireworks would ascend into the night sky and the celebrations would commence. Uncle Eck produced a guitar and would sing some rock and roll, followed by Harry Lauder’s Roaming in the Gloaming, just for Granny. After every verse she would laugh uproariously and cry out, ‘yir an awfy man, Harry!’ Neighbours would appear bearing records and these would be stacked on the Dansette record player, The Beatles, Helen Shapiro and, of course Cliff Richard and The Shadows for the younger ones. Strip the Willow, The Gay Gordons and The Dashing White Sergeant were then performed in the tiny living room, as grand as if it were the Royal Albert Hall.

     

    More neighbours appeared from the landing, part of a giant impromptu conga which had spilled out from Mrs Findlay’s, three doors down. Her son, Big Tam, had been a Piper in the army and he was in the lead playing Heiland Laddie on the bagpipes, around three times faster than usual.

     

    The party would begin to wind down around three in the morning, Mum’s favourite phrase to us protesting children was, ‘remember, it’s New Year tomorrow, as well.’ One by one, the revellers would leave after another rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne. When they were gone, the table, once pristine and orderly, would now be a reminder of another Hogmanay. Another year over and the new year still to come, what would it bring? Stored in the ‘Press’, the ubiquitous pantry, the large, pre-ordered steak pie would be waiting for the traditional New Year dinner.

     

    Many Hogmanays have come and gone since then. Although perhaps more sophisticated and grand, they will never outdo the special magic of those, perhaps, more innocent times. Most of the people I remember, including my uncles, have gone as well, but I can still hear the laughter and the music and still feel the sense of optimism and hope as the bells signalled the start of ‘Neerday’, looking to the future whilst remembering the past and absent friends. Still, whatever time we live in, whatever the ways of the world and the complexities of modern life, the greeting Happy New Year, is, and will always be, the cry at Hogmanay, A very Happy New Year to everybody.

  3. Sin City Bhoy

     

    Clydebank seems subued tonight.

     

    Result on Saturday still annoying us. Maybe

     

    YNWA

  4. WEET WEET WEET on 31ST DECEMBER 2018 10:02 PM

     

    Hogmanay Memories.

     

     

    Soooooooo very true. Thanks for the memories.

     

     

    Cheers and HH.

  5. I think we’re all a bit shell shocked DD, I knew they would eventually beat us just like we did them Iin the 90s, however it was the manner of the loss, a bit different from ould Sean saying that they sometimes got a bonus when they got beat for the manner of the loss. Mibbees that mob on Saturday should be fined similar tae the side in Montevideo and the money given tae charity.

  6. KEV:

     

    Enough, every post you put up where you attack the integrity of any Celtic Supporter or insult the Celtic Support will be deleted. Any problems with that contact P67 directly.

  7. thomthethim for Oscar OK on

    TET,

     

    Thanks for the acknowledgement.

     

     

    It’s difficult for some to accept that they are a big part of the problem.

     

     

    I have noticed that the accepted description of Morelos’ game is that he “plays on the edge”.

     

     

    Compliments of the season to you and yours, not forgetting Felix, of course.

  8. Saturday was a huge disappointment, especially our performance. The team who implemented their game plan won. We lose sometimes but there will be plenty of good times ahead I believe.

     

     

    Speaking of good times, I’d just just like to record my sincerest thanks to Teuchter Ár Lá, Torontony, Mike In Toronto and all the other TO Tims who afforded me and my Bhoys the most hospitable of welcomes on Saturday. We all had a great time amongst the Celtic diaspora and look forward to returning the favour when they cross to this side of the pond.

     

     

    Tapadh leibh.

     

     

    Enjoy your night, Tims & Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh go léir.

  9. My dad worked in the shipyards for a fair part of his life and had his ashes spread on the Clyde. He was an amazing man who lived an amazing life, film/book material. Every New Year we didn’t listen for the ‘bells’ but went out into the back garden to listen to the ships on the Clyde and their foghorns welcoming in the New Year.

  10. CorkCelt: from earlier

     

     

    “Jamesgang I’m getting long in the tooth & lately haven’t been feeling the Mae West not sure there are too many more Glasgow trips in me”.

     

     

    Sorry to hear that. Hope you get to see many more and to be there with you.

  11. MODERATOR 2 on 31ST DECEMBER 2018 10:58 PM

     

    #####

     

    I had not read that area again, so I was unaware that you had did that.

     

    Ach, move on eh.

     

    All the best.

  12. WEET WEET WEET Brought back a lot of memories,Sadly Hogmanys are not the same,it’s street party now,what has annoyed me is how Glasgow the city of my birth,has over the years there is no Fireworks display,the gathering of thousands around the Trongate,so sad especially the largest City in Scotland.

  13. Pog

     

    Have always lived Clydeside. My dad took us out just before midnight to hear the horns fae Clyde ships. Will happen in 25 minutes too.

     

    YNWA

  14. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    WEET WEET WEET on 31ST DECEMBER 2018 10:02 PM

     

     

     

    Marvellous work.

     

    ” The press ”

     

    A word which has disappeared , but conjures up memories of home , hearth and , as you say, loved ones long gone.

     

     

    Thanks.

     

     

    Hogmanay.

     

    ” Auld alliance ” French , meaning apparently ” the egg of the year” .

     

    If so , a lovely poetic description .

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