Ange Postecoglou is always truthful, so when he said he did not rest anyone last night and that those absent were injured or otherwise unavailable, he is correct. It is the context that is a concern. Footballers always have an ailment. If not a class-one injury like a hamstring, there will be bruises, abrasions, strains and fatigue. When a player tells you he is 100% fit, he is almost always departing from the truth.
Would Kyogo Furuhashi and Joe Hart (whose absence was not material) have been fit enough for a place on the bench last night, had the context been a cup final? That is a different question to whether or not they were ‘fit’. Ange has a small and depleted squad. He gambled against Real Betis, lost Kyogo but did not drop a point or the cup until the Japanese was back playing. He gambled again by starting Tom Rogic on the bench against Ross County, which paid off very late in the game.
Starting Kyogo in the cup final was another gamble; once more, it worked. I suspect Kyogo would have played had St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin not ‘played’ Celtic by magnificently underselling their preparedness. Spend too long at the table and you eventually lose, that’s the Punters’ Rule.
I doubt I was the only one worried when I saw the team sheet and lack of forward options on the bench. Win the points first, then rest players with niggles, is always the wisest plan. When a manager holds players back, he sends a signal – ‘this one will not take too much effort’.
Players are not machines. After a big game, there is a natural lull. Managers know they need to work to get them motivated for the next battle, especially if the next battle looks more like a skirmish. All the signals were wrong going into the game.
A 6-point lead at the hallway stage of the season is as much as any fan could ask for. We were that miraculous Anthony Ralston goal last week away from the gap being 8 points. The immediate consequence is that Boxing Day’s visit to Perth takes on a heavier importance.
We’ll talk about the SPFL vote and its ramifications later.