A treble of chances

Today Celtic must bounce back from yet another European disappointment. Once again, capitulation at the hands of Molde means another response on the domestic scene.

Both Aberdeen and Hearts won on Saturday, so Ronny Deila will be looking to reestablish the six spoint gap achieved after Aberdeen’s recent slump. He’ll need to win at Dingwall though, despite the current gap of three points, just to ease the pressure on him.

The fans are not happy with what is happening on the European scene. That, we are all agreed on.

In response, Ronny spoke of his disappointment in his players. The players also spoke about how they didn’t do well enough on the night.

So the coaching staff and playing staff appear to be of the same opinion here. I’d love to know what the general consensus is on the board of directors.

As I said recently, there is no sense Deila leaving before the end of the season if at all. This is his second season in charge and it isn’t even half way yet.

There is a treble on the table, which if managed would put Ronny in the history books. Whether that happens remains to be seen but there are still two Europa League matches to be played out as well.

Even though Celtic are still in with a chance, we haven’t seen enough to convince us that we will qualify. Away to Fenerbahçe will be tough in the final game so winning at home against Ajax would be essential.

Talking of chances, Ronny finally mentioned something that I’ve been talking about for months now. That his predecessor was given three cracks at Europe before they finally got to the Champions League.

It’s a fair point, hence the reason for me bringing it up again. Despite this, it isn’t changing peoples minds about him but I think it is something we should keep in mind and assess matters at the end of the current season.

The focus is on today and getting all three points. At this point in the season it is vital to stay ahead.

Fans will be making the long journey north for today. They will not want to be let down.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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The Deila Quandary

Celtic may as well burn their passports because right now they simply aren’t good enough to compete in Europe. Last night offered an opportunity to improve on a stuttering start in Group A of the Europa League but that failed to materialise.

Putting to one side any bad decisions we’ve had or unlucky moments, Celtic have not progressed this season. Last season we started badly then steadily things picked up.

Before this current campaign began I felt Ronny Deila could build upon that learning curve. A league and cup double as well as a last 32 place in the Europa League wasn’t bad for a first season in charge.

Considering how things started for Ronny, it was a reasonable finish to the season. He won over some fans and even put some critics on mute but they’ve merely been on standby until now.

As it turns out Celtic haven’t really made the progress we expected or wanted. We’re top of the league earlier than last season but we have regressed in Europe.

The funny thing is, there are actually some great individual positives in the team right now. Tierney, Bitton, Rogić and Griffiths are all in excellent form and ironically we’re still not out of the Europa League.

On the downside, our defence is weaker than ever and some players are playing well below the standard right now. We are also lightweight in attack with only one form striker in Griffiths.

However, it is our performances in Europe that concern us. We’ve missed out on the Champions League two years running and parachuted into the Europa League, which in all fairness isn’t any worse than Neil Lennon’s first two seasons in charge.

However, the chances Celtic have had to enter the Champions League and the opposition that have stood in our way were totally beatable. That is one of the biggest issues about those opportunities.

This season we might not make it to the last 32. For that reason alone, the numbers of Celtic fans calling time on Ronny Deila is on the rise.

I understand the opinions of those fans. However, I don’t see Deila being shown the door.

We all agree that in Europe it isn’t working. With a treble still on the table though, the club aren’t going to axe Ronny.

If he was getting pummelled by Aberdeen or Hearts then he might be seeking other employment. However he isn’t and he’s not.

Fan’s identify different areas to our current situation. For some it’s the coaching team, for others it’s the players but the board and Lawwell are also getting it in the neck.

Yet we’ve out spent some of the teams who have overcome us with ease. That raises questions about the coaching and players.

To solve the problem you have to identify what the issues are. In the league we’re doing okay but it could be a lot better.

In Europe we’re devoid of ideas and lackadaisical in defence. The passion and desire are not there.

Ronny’s methods appear to be fresh forward thinking. Are they getting Celtic the results the need or will they ever?

He could continue winning the league year after year in the current climate. Unless another club really can push Celtic or the tribute act survive long enough to make it to the Premiership and mount a challenge, there isn’t really much danger of losing the league.

It is in Europe that most if not all Celtic fans want to see progress though. We live for these occasions but Ronny is coming up short.

Playing Inter Milan last season had me foaming at the mouth about Europe given how unlucky we were. I’ve been brought crashing down to Earth on that matter given our current continental performances.

Europe is difficult territory. It can take money to get to the pinnacle but to compete it merely takes guile and tactical nous.

The latter comes from the coaching team but we appear to be suffering in that department. Sure, the players are making mistakes but is it all down to them or are the instructions and tactics flawed for Europe?

Getting rid of Deila will not change anything in my opinion. Unless Celtic are recruiting someone who can improve things in Europe then it’s a pointless exercise.

I like Ronny and would like to see him succeed but in Europe he is tactically naive. It was a very similar story for Neil Lennon in his first two seasons as well.

We can discuss player errors and individual performances but putting the defensive predicament to one side for a moment, this squad of players should be performing much better as a team than they currently are. I don’t think there is much wrong with the overall quality, but there is a question mark over motivation, game plan and leadership.

Something has to change. We can start with hearing some honesty from Celtic Park.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

Breaking the Molde

Celtic’s season in Europe is not over. Tonight though, they will need to jolt it into life against Molde.

Confidence has improved recently but the 3-1 away defeat to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side is a result Celtic need to overturn. That opportunity awaits Ronny Deila and his players at Celtic Park tonight.

Despite injuries Celtic have momentum. The errors against Molde must be exorcised this evening in front of the home fans.

It will go a long way to gaining some support and belief. It can also keep the club’s Europa League hopes alive.

A lot of fans threw in the towel after the game in Norway. They also decided enough was enough and Ronny Deila should move on.

Since then Celtic have responded with a good run of games. They need to carry that onto the European scene though.

I’ll be looking to our current star performers Griffiths, Rogić, Bitton and young Tierney to lift this team. Equally, it is time everyone else stepped up.

I’ve got nothing more to say on the matter for now. The task is simple – win.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Strip Their Titles

It was the phrase used back in 2012 when they went down the tubes. Now it is back in use once more as Scottish football fans seek justice following yesterday’s verdict in the Big Tax Case.

Within that judgement, there is a clear indication that demonstrates Oldco had an advantage above all other Scottish clubs. Not a natural ‘above board’ advantage mind, an illegal one.

This isn’t news to us though. We knew this to be the case all along.

In fact we were reading about this and talking about tarnished trophies long before the Scottish media were willing to admit or report Oldco went under. When they did begin to report, they did so in their own way and only after it was undeniable.

To put spin on a story of this nature to protect a club who cheated the HMRC out of millions is appalling journalism. More importantly is that all Scottish football clubs have been cheated in one way or another by Oldco whilst gaining the support of the Scottish football authorities and the media who chose what to write.

This scheme allowed Murray and co to purchase and pay players (and staff) they would have had no hope of procuring without the EBT’s. That unfair sporting advantage took titles and trophies out of the hands of others.

Bring the house down.

For that reason alone, especially with yesterday’s verdict, every trophy won by Oldco during the years of that scheme should be stripped from them. Furthermore the titles and trophies should be awarded to the then runners up.

It’s been claimed that the SPFL and/or SFA do not have a process or directive that would allow them to do this. Well we have news for you, Scottish football fans don’t have a mechanism thatbis willing to accept that.

There is no way Scottish football fans will let this one go based on “the computer says no” theory.

There is more to this than just Oldco though. The SFA and SPFL have questions to answer about their role in seeing Newco into the 3rd Division, fit and proper appointments and even the untenable position of one Campbell Ogilvie.

This isn’t just about Rangers. It’s not even about Celtic v Rangers.

It is about seeking justice and fair play in Scottish football. We demand it.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Defiant Deila, sheepish McInnes.

What negative Celtic headlines will we be reading in the coming days? After a convincing win over Aberdeen on Saturday lunchtime, will the media continue to chip away at Scotland’s best football club and their head coach, Ronny Deila?

I’ve mentioned to quite a few people over the years how the English press lay into their national football team in every way possible. They treat then almost as if they are the enemy and I just don’t get it.

The Scottish press are a similar bunch with one difference. They’re supportive of our national side (unless they are truly are honking!) but they stick the boot in to Celtic at any opportunity so long as it makes a headline – fact or fib.

This is part of the reason why many Celtic fans, including myself, despise the sporting media in Scotland. The other part stems from the protection and promotion of our deceased rivals across the city.

The Scottish media’s failure to report the truth about their demise was every bit as blatant as the decisions they received over the years from referees and the SFA’s agenda. Officials and the media are of course two totally different areas of the game though populated by people with similar leanings.

If you dare to report the truth about the dark side or even utter anything factually correct, they’ll take it as far as it needs to. Just ask former BBC journalist Jim Spence, the most recent victim of abuse from the tribute act.

However, I digress. The point is even now with our old rivals long gone, their phoenix club potentially meeting a similar fate, and rivals Aberdeen fading faster than Derek McInnes’s tan in December, Celtic remain the media target.

It doesn’t matter whether they are having a good season or not. The media will do everything and enlist anyone to push Celtic’s buttons.

David Tanner and Andy Walker were at it yesterday during the Sky Sports coverage apparently. I didn’t see the game live but Ronny “losing the plot” and “being lucky” were being banded about on Twitter.

Gordon Strachan did not jump on their bandwagon though. For a guy who played for Aberdeen, did a great job for Celtic and still never won over all the Celtic support fans, he’s never ever stuck the boot in on Celtic like some ex-Celts have.

When he resigned a rather large portion of fans were happy to see him go and his replacement, Tony Mowbray, walk in. And we all know how that turned out.

So let’s see how our media handle Celtic this week particularly with a home tie against Molde in the Europa League on Thursday. Criticism has been rife this season and not without good reason but I sense Celtic have unity among the ranks even if some fans have lost faith.

Aberdeen have slipped into third. Hearts are the new title challengers and we disposed of them in the League Cup last Wednesday.

Celtic are still the best team in Scotland by far. It’s a shame they aren’t given the credit they deserve particularly when they have earned it.

Top of the league. Mind the gap.

The only footage I’ve seen of the Aberdeen match so far contained the Leigh Griffiths header and James Forrest goal which were both sublime in the build up and the finish. I also caught the tackle by Graham Shinnie on Nir Bitton which was horrendous.

That was a red card in my opinion and in Europe he wouldn’t have been so lucky, not that Aberdeen know what Europe is like these days. I’ve seen players sent off for less and any attention Shinnie received from the Celtic players throughout the match was most definitely warranted.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac