It just keeps going, doesn’t it? By my reckoning over the course of a sixteen-day period in August Celtic have scored 24 goals and in doing so have given every supporter of the club a shot in the arm, one that has a strange side-effect of turning the corners of our mouths up to create a permanent irremovable grin.
Whilst the ghosts of the season past haven’t entirely been exorcised the pain has been numbed greatly by an Ange Postecoglou administered dose of footballing novocaine. Can this level of form and goalscoring be sustained, of course it can’t but what can be sustained, with a little help from the Celtic Board over the next week, is a title challenge this season, something we were miles off last term.
The turnaround in confidence, style, endeavour, passion and in turn performances has been nothing short of remarkable at Celtic. Whilst all of that can be countered by the fact the season is very much in its embryonic stages surely, we can all be forgiven for embracing the positivity exuding from the players and staff and dreaming just a little that we really are seeing a revival.
If nothing else the standard of play we are watching is night and day to last season and even if that can’t be delivered twice a week every week, if it comes along on a semi-regular basis football at Celtic will at least be entertaining again and for most of us that is exactly the sort of foundations we want laid as the rebuilding takes shape.
This football is also being noticed elsewhere; I’ve had messages over the last couple of weeks from fans of many teams – but not all – not only complimenting the style of play but also wishing Celtic well in their title endeavours.
As David Potter of this parish pointed out in an earlier article there are a great deal of fans from other clubs who do not wish Celtic any ill, and indeed would be happy for our form to be sustained if it means certain other clubs are adversely impacted. The feedback I’ve had is there are ways to win and last season the winners perhaps weren’t as magnanimous nor as suitably well behaved in their celebrations as they could have been. Such things it appears linger in the memory.
There are ways to win as well as ways to behave and Celtic are winning well and putting on the style to boot. Yesterday’s win against St Mirren was all about style and the football was exhilarating to watch, as it has been all month. Yet from a behavioural aspect it is clear Celtic have already frustrated opposition players. Yesterday Celtic got a surprising level of protection from a referee who issued a red card for an act of on-field thuggery, where previous referees at times this season have turned a blind eye.
Now Scotland I appreciate prefers a less sanitised version of football, we do still like physicality in our game but there is a line and Alan Power, a man with previous, crossed that line yesterday.
Power was given the correct punishment but if we wish to attract footballers who entertain to Scotland then those who referee our games and those who manage their performance need to find that balance,
Willie Collum did that yesterday but other have been loathed to protect punishment meted out to Kyogo Furuhashi, Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor and Liel Abada in recent weeks. Was yesterday a sign that such protection may be offered to those tasked with entertaining us? I’d like to hope so but on previous evidence I won’t be holding my breath.
As such when we are not afforded such protection Celtic need to be vocal and public in calling it out. Alan Power was punished yesterday but was surprised when he was, we need to get to get the position of on field governance that players don’t even attempt such on field assaults as they know it will not be tolerated. Win or lose Celtic need to make public their fears for player safety and turn the magnifying glass onto those in charge of implementing the laws of the game.
On field physicality aside Celtic were simply breath-taking to watch at times yesterday, as they were against Dundee and also when showed their form could transfer to the European stage with that confidence building Europa league play-off win against AZ Alkmaar. Yet most of that form this month has come at Celtic Park, we now have some real tests ahead in the coming days. AZ Alkmaar proved they were a good side, one who could create chances and it will be a real test for the Postecoglou revolution when we go to the Netherlands on Thursday for the away leg. Then on the back of that the biggest domestic test of the season comes at Ibrox. Celtic however will go into both encounters with confidence and confidence breeds momentum and Celtic are certainly building up a head of steam far earlier than expected.
And while such form has been noticed by supporters of other clubs it will too have been noticed at Ibrox too. Their own form is patchy, there is less consistency in performances than they showed last season and the recent ticket fiasco of invalidated tickets for the Celtic support shows advances at Celtic have been noticed across the city. There is likely a displeasure in the Blue Room at present that the Ibrox club cannot invalidate the credentials of Ange Postecoglou and the Celtic team ahead of next Sunday the same way they locked out our support, though you wouldn’t put is past them to try!
For now, we can all wander around with knowing grins plastered across our respective faces on the back of another six of the best handed out at Celtic Park. In seven days time we’ll know if such form can translate to big wins at tough venues. If it does the Ange Postecoglou train will take some stopping and the grins on all our faces may require surgery to have them removed.