Pity About Celtic in Season 2020/21 – What Went Wrong

Those of us who know Celtic supporters well, know that they are never happy. Well, the last few days has seen most of us reasonably contented with life, let’s say. Eleven League titles in 12 seasons really has to be described as quite good, and if there is a conspiracy against Celtic involving the SFA, referees, Rangers, rolling up your trouser legs, VAR, playing flutes and shaking hands, then it must be the most unsuccessful conspiracy of all time! They can’t even cheat, it would appear! So let’s smile.

But what a pity about 2020/21! If it hadn’t been for that, we would have had 12 in a row, and for those of us who are unlikely to be around in 2032/33 when we eventually do it, it is a disappointment. So what went wrong in 2020/21?

1. The main problem was the world situation. It is now agreed that lockdown caused more problems than the illness itself did, and football was as affected by the general situation as much as any other facet of life. Basically, I honestly believe that this was a very abnormal season, and in better circumstances, Celtic might have won this season as well. All that went wrong stemmed from the reaction to the Coronavirus in the year that the world went mad.

2. No fans were allowed in, and we all had to watch Celtic TV. To do it credit, it did a good job, but the fact that we were not at Parkhead meant that Celtic were deprived of their greatest asset – their fans. When things began to go wrong, we might have been able to make our feelings heard at the right time. As it was, things were allowed to deteriorate, and fan power was eventually expressed in a violent and destructive way when it was too late.

3. Neil Lennon was not everyone’s choice as Manager, but he had come to our rescue in 2019, and in season 2019/20 had a good season, being far enough ahead to justify the SPFL “calling” the League when it did, and awarding the League to Celtic. He had also won the League Cup, so he was doing well enough until that season. But Neil, no stranger himself to mental issues (as he himself bravely admitted) found lockdown difficult to cope with. He never gave the impression of being totally on top of things in the season when even training and team talks must have been difficult. Nothing however can possibly justify the sheer moronic filth that was hurled at him by some people who called themselves supporters.

4.. Shane Duffy arrived from Brighton and looked the part as a centre half. Sadly he found the mad world of Glasgow in 2020 difficult, and simply had a bad season. The team lost loads of goals from set pieces – corner kicks and free kicks and poor Shane looked all at sea. No fans could shout at him, but they made their attacks on him through social media (which flourished during the pandemic) and poor Shane went from bad to worse. His must go down as one of the most unhappy spells at Celtic Park of all time. Yet he can play for Brighton and Fulham!

5. Other players were not happy either! It is perhaps invidious to single out some, and we can appreciate that it could not be easy for a foreign player to perform well in Scotland during a pandemic, but Mo Elyounoussi was inconsistent at best and dreadful at worst, and Odsonne Edouard the hero of the Scottish Cup final in 2019, was simply not happy – and how it showed, as he lumbered up and down the field radiating unhappiness, missing penalties and really looking as if he wanted to be somewhere else. Olivier Ntcham was similarly half-hearted, Leigh Griffiths got off on the wrong foot and continued to push the self-destruct button, and no-one ever saw very much in Ajeti at the best of times. Bad attitudes were sadly infectious and it would be hard to point to a player and say he had a good season.

Neil Lennon, Scott Brown and poolside after arriving Dubai ahead of the Winter training getting underway.

6. A major own goal in the decision to go to Dubai in January. This decision was borderline legal, and was certainly immoral and irresponsible, was much criticised by everyone and not even supported by Celtic supporters. They left after a feckless 0-1 defeat at Ibrox, and came back with several men either ill or quarantined and even Neil Lennon himself out of sight and the players looked after by the gallant Gavin Strachan, Their first game back was a 1-1 draw with Hibs, and the League title had already, in early January, disappeared.

Boli Bolingoli Photo: Jane Barlow

7. Earlier we had Bolingoli thinking he was entitled to a private holiday and disappearing without telling anyone. He did not stay much longer after that – possibly a good thing because we are now incredibly rich in full backs!

8. And there were two other good things to come out of that horrendous season. One is that in December 2020 we won the Scottish Cup to complete belatedly our quadruple treble. It did at least give us a Merry Christmas. The other good thing was that we did come out of it to appoint the right man to the job. Arthurlie in 1897 gave us Willie Maley, Inverness in 2000 gave us Martin O’Neill and the Coronavirus in 2021 brought us Ange Postecoglou – and our first reaction was “Eh? Who?”.

Yes, a bizarre season and worthy of being banished to its deserved obscurity. And if anyone wonders how strange it really was, all we have to say is that St Johnstone (yes, St Johnstone!) won both domestic Cups. Incidentally, the awful season of 2020/21 has also interrupted our run of League Cup successes. Since 2016 the winners of the trophy are Celtic, Celtic, Celtic, Celtic, St Johnstone, Celtic, Celtic. Anyone fancy a game of Monopoly?

David Potter

Matthew Marr is  Author, The Bould Bhoys – Glory To Their Name which is out now on hardback and also on Amazon Kindle, links for both below.

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About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.


  1. What went wrong? A whole lot of little things, but NONE of them the fault of Neil Lennon.
    There were players who got greedy, trying to hold the club to ransom while they sought big financial benefits if tgey hit ten in a row.
    Then of course there was Covid and the disgraceful way the Scottish government did all they could to harm Celtic and even Aberdeen at every opportunity while protecting “other” clubs.
    There was the blatant continued corruption by the sfa/spfl who were determined the Bhoys were NOT reaching ten.
    But that said, too many players underperformed which worked well for the sfa.

  2. Jim O'Rourke on

    Brilliant article as always David.
    Hopefully lenny and a certain section of our fans can forgive and forget each other. He will always be a Celtic legend to me