So much negativity has surrounded Celtic for the last 48 hours. TalkSport branded us a “League 1 team”, the Scottish media have ripped us apart and the majority of fans have been fuming at another poor result in Europe.
Failing to qualify for the Champions League for a fourth consecutive season is disappointing, but not the main cause of concern this time around. The defeats to Maribor, Malmo, AEK Athens, Cluj and Ferencvaros of recent years represent disasters when the Champions League group stages were in sight. This time qualification seemed a much harder task with PSV and further hurdles standing in the way, but losing to Midtjylland has triggered fear for the season ahead. It’s a poor result to add to the European graveyard, alongside Utrecht, Sion, Legia Warsaw, Sparta Prague et al. However, the real concern is that it suggests we have a long way to go in terms of the rebuild at Paradise.
All I’ve heard over the last two days is talk about the inexperienced backline, players wanting away and the goalkeeping situation. I’ve listened to skepticism surrounding new signings and a real sense of pessimism when it comes to discussion about the club getting more players of the required quality through the door. Any mention of Ibrox in a few weeks sends shivers up the spine, the UEFA Conference League gets brought up when talking about Europe and there is an immediate fear of being behind our rivals in the title race by 10pm on Saturday night.
Ange Postecoglou has himself stated that the squad is light and that he hasn’t convinced people at the club to bring in all the players he wants. Pundits have bemoaned a lack of planning, preparation and ambition going into the early stages of this season. In short, they add to the fears outlined above.
Yet, last week there was a more positive outlook. Furuhasi was an exciting striker, Abada looked impressive in the first leg, Celtic should have won the game by two or three goals, and the performance was very good. Instead of doom and gloom, fans were asking ‘is Ange building something?’ and ‘has he already changed the speed and intensity in our play?’
Victory in Denmark could have kickstarted the campaign and added confidence. Conversely, defeat has undone the optimism of the first leg, highlighted the problems at Celtic and shown the magnitude of the rebuild. There’s a sense of apathy among the support before the first league game has even been played. It’s a bizarre malaise, stemming from a sense that nothing has improved from last season’s car crash. Therefore, Saturday’s game is massive.
If Celtic win at Tynecastle then it’s a small positive step with a long way to go. However, if Celtic lose then it’d heap incredible pressure on the team, management and board. The negativity could grow and the rebuild could be set back. If Celtic are to gather any momentum going forward then we must get off to a strong start tomorrow. This is no ordinary start to a season. It’s a case of win to keep the wolves away, or give ourselves a mountain of criticism, pressure and despondency to climb before the campaign gets going.
Let’s get the job done and build a confident environment for new signings to join. Things can quickly turn.