There are several parts of Tuesday’s performance which could be improved upon, parts which will be exposed by the rigours of Champions League football, but we looked like an experienced European team, one who could go away from home, roll with the early season uncertainties, but still have enough in the tank to win comfortably.
For the last couple of years we have watched a team mature while Neil Lennon has continued to add young blood to the squad. Fraser Forster has become an adept shot-stopper, puncher and kicker-with-both-feet. Joe Ledley has developed into a disciplined anchor in midfield while Adam Matthews, Victor Wanyama and Beram Kayal have progressed even quicker than I am sure the manager expected.
Last season’s Europa League campaign contributed significantly to the development. The team seemed to grow a few inches during the home win over Rennes, which propelled them onto the league title. A Champions League examination will present no fears but will expedite progress.
We could be on the verge of the first sustainable, successful, team development plan in 40 years, one that delivers titles, significant progress in Europe and lives within its means.