John Kennedy is certainly growing into his current position managing Celtic, even if it is only on a temporary basis as the Interim manager. Yesterday his side produced the best best performance of the season and secured the biggest win of what has been a frustrating and disappointing campaign for the Celtic support.
Six goals, a clean sheet and a side that has caused Celtic problems twice already this year swept aside and thrashed.
Then there’s the situation with theRangers with the Ibrox club seemingly able to manipulate the Scottish FA disciplinary system for their own ends and their manager coming out with the most ridiculous of all explanations as to why they reckon one of their Covid breaching young stars should not be punished – because he’s apparently a good player.
Kennedy called out this nonsense which was admirable and what was even more impressive was the conformation he gave yesterday that he hadn’t spoken to anyone at the club (ie Peter Lawwell) before making these remarks but was speaking for himself, without fear of the consequences.
Then yesterday Kennedy after delivering the performance he promised on Friday that would lead to the desired result, told theRangers that he considers Celtic to be the best side in Scotland – despite the way the Covid-influenced Scottish Premiership has gone this season and his team fully intends to prove it on Saturday (royal funeral permitting) when the sides meet in the 4th Round of the Scottish Cup.
Deep down theRangers know that they got lucky. Credit where it is due, they got on with winning their games whereas Celtic season turned from one drama to self-inflicted crisis after another and needless points were dropped all over the place. Covid had a significant part to play in all of this and it has to be said that the Celtic Boardroom’s failure to act quickly enough when things were clearly broken did theRangers a huge favour.
But they won the league and given the way Celtic have played they cannot be conferred anything other than deserving Champions. However deep down they know they got lucky. They know that played Celtic at the end of October with so many Covid issues – Edouard and Christie both sidelined due to the implications of the virus and other out too. And in the two games this year they know that despite not getting the wins the performances merited Celtic were the better side on each occasion.
Now with the pressure of the Ten removed Celtic are planning to prove that they remain the best team in the country and yesterday John Kennedy reminded theRangers players of their long term insecurities as a side that has never been able to get out of the Celtic shadow.
It could work the other way. If theRangers win the Scottish Cup tie they will no doubt be talking about hanging John Kennedy’s words on the dressing room door. That though is a luxury that requires a victory and Kennedy senses that deep down they know that he’s right.
“I have full belief in the squad we have here, that on our day we are still the best team in the country. One hundred-per-cent. That’s the reaction you have to have. There was always going to come a point where we had a setback,” Kennedy said as reported by Daily Record, after the 6-0 thrashing of Livingston, a result that incidentally silenced their social media team, who trolled Celtic after the two January draws.
“It was a big one for us this season but the best always bounce back. It’s easy to give up and say ‘oh, we’ve had our time’, but I have said it to the players, it is very much about how we respond to that.”
And on the subject of the next game against theRangers Kennedy got his mind-games got underway.
“I think the last game and the 60 minutes at Ibrox we showed that. From my point of view in terms of our level of performance, how we can play and create, there were a lot of positives. We just have to be much more clinical at the top end and not be switching off at set-pay moments. That’s been the outcome of the games recently. We will be fully focused on that and we will try to build our performances.
“Our level of performance against (the)Rangers was good, I thought it sent a message that the gulf is not as big as everybody thinks it is. But ultimately it does come down to results so we want to take that one step further.”
Kennedy, still undefeated as Celtic manager, aims to build on the impressive showing yesterday starting at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup. “The performance gives us the foundation to get results. It’s been a case of building the structure, make sure everyone knows their role – and then the quality comes through.
“If you get the basics right you can control games and build up confidence. Today, our important players did damage in the opposition box,” he added. “It was really pleasing because I thought our decision making in the final third was very good as well. It was a top performance.
“We know if we’re on our A game we can cause (the)Rangers huge problems. So it was good to come out of a game scoring goals and having that extra bit of confidence.
“Hopefully we can take that into next week. Do we have something to prove against Rangers? There always is.
“Last time, we did in terms of performance but now it’s all about getting a result next week. I’ve felt this coming for a few weeks, as if we were going to give someone a bit of a hiding and today was a great example of that. We put it all together in terms of performance.”
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Whether James Forrest, a player badly missed this season along with Christopher Jullien, is fit after going off yesterday with a tight hamstring, remains to be seen. “We are not quite sure yet on James. He stiffened up around his back and hamstring so it was a case of not taking any risk with him,” the Interim manager stated.
“The scoreline allowed us to do that and give other boys game time. It’s too early to say about James for next week, we’ll have to assess him. When it’s general stiffness around the hamstrings, you usually concern yourself but hopefully we got him off quick enough.
“It’s a different area (from the ankle) and with players coming back after so long out, you do get niggles which are hopefully a day or two in passing. But I don’t want to say too much.”