If you were sitting in the Cliftonville dressing room tonight, you would fancy your chances against Celtic. They are a team reportedly playing the best football in their club’s history and are packed with professionals who are focussed on the task in hand. Celtic have vastly greater resources, but the fact that we have a list of excuses ready for a below-par performance is concerning.
The plastic pitch, the departed Wanyama and possibly departing Hooper, the tactically non-existent preseason and the fact that the deciding game will take place in Glasgow next week, are all available excuses, and teams with ready-made excuses often take them.
None of the above hold water, though. I would be surprised if Celtic players didn’t spend more time working on a plastic pitch at Lennoxtown than they spend on Celtic Park. Wanyama and Hooper were each absent from substantial Champions League victories last season and whatever gave Celtic the blues in Germany is a consequence of poor form, not a reason for it. Celtic can draw or even lose tonight and will still be favourites to proceed in the tournament but this is a game of football, and deserves to be respected as such.
The momentum for last season’s triumphs started to build after a solid win in Helsinki. A win tonight in Belfast would take the pressure of next week, allowing Neil Lennon more freedom to prepare for future challenges.
No excuses, Celtic.
To kick off the new season we’re having an Internet Bampots session on Friday at the (always excellent) Columba Club in Blantyre. Paul McConville, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and myself will be on stage for a Question and Answer session from 19:30.
Tickets are available at the door. See you there.
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