Celtic won their Scottish Cup quarter-final match against Greenock Morton on Sunday in just 35 mins. The Hoops went in 3-0 at the interval after goals from Leigh Griffiths (14), Gary Mackay-Steven (25) and a superb finish from Callum McGregor (35).
Despite the meagre attendance of under 15,000 at Celtic Park and the opposition lying 6th the Championship, Ronny Deila needed a response from his players. He got one as well with Celtic pressing Jim Duffy’s side from the beginning.
There was certainly more conviction with Celtic’s play on Sunday, something which has been missing in quite a few games recently. If it came from these so-called clear the air talks then it looks as though it had the desired effect.
To say that Morton weren’t any trouble though would be disrespectful. They drew two great saves, one either half, from Craig Gordon which the keepers deserves full credit for.
The truth though is that Celtic were pummeling Morton and should have finished more than 3-0 especially with the foothold they had in the game. Second half substitute Patrick Roberts hit the foot of the post after some fine work and Mackay-Steven rattled the crossbar.
Another substitute, Colin Kazim-Richards, came close as well but to his frustration hit the side netting. This was better from Celtic over all but as I said, the game was already won in the first half.
Speaking of which, Stefan Johansen’s game came to a halt at half time. A dangerous challenge by Mike Miller left the Norwegian’s writhing in pain.
Referee Willie Collum took no action on the incident. Instead he blew his whistle for half-time and trotted off, leaving a Johansen sprawled out on the Celtic Park surface like nothing had occurred.
Miller had just been booked moments before and given the nature of this challenge, should probably have received a second yellow. Instead, he walked in at half-time a lucky man but he was substituted 7 minutes into the second half which was probably a smart move by Jim Duffy.
Johansen was subsequently replaced by Kazim-Richards for the start of the second half. Later on, Patrick Roberts would replace an unhappy Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong came for Kris Commons.
So 3 goals, a clean sheet and a bit more conviction was a welcome boost. Then came the draw and a pairing with Rangers at Hampden for the semi-final.
This will be the second time Celtic have faced the Championship club. They met for the first time in their history last February in the semi-final of the League Cup at Hampden.
Ronny Deila’s players ran out 2-0 winners that day without the Ibrox club managing a single shot on target. Griffiths and Commons were both on target that day to book Celtic a place in the final which they would go on and win.
This season it’s the Scottish Cup and with Rangers looking very likely to get promoted to the Scottish Premiership, they will fancy their chances this time around. They beat Dundee 4-0 at Ibrox on Saturday to secure a spot in Sunday’s draw and already comparisons have been made by the media.
Dundee drew 0-0 with Celtic in the days before that game at Ibrox and as you can imagine, media mouths are watering already. The build up to this one is going to be unbearable.
The match itself is many weeks away and a lot can happen between then and now. It’s a must win game for Ronny Deila for many reasons though.
Firstly, a win means a place in the Scottish Cup Final and secondly, it keeps the dream of a double alive. There is also the small matter of Deila’s place among the fans which is a debate of its own.
Then there is the ‘rivalry’ between the two sets of fans. This Rangers is supported by the same fans as the old Rangers even if these same fans fail to admit they are two different clubs.
As someone who deals in fairness and justice in their working life, I will never accept this Rangers as the same club. After the old club cheated Scottish football as well as the taxpayers, I only see this current incarnation as a new club wearing the same colours as the one that no longer exists.
A new rivalry will be built and this fixture next month at Hampden is another part of that. Whatever came before is now confined to the history books.
No person in the media will ever say that right enough. After all, this is Scotland we’re talking about.
Let’s talk a bit more about Celtic though. Sunday was a solid performance but we need to see more of this kind of effort for the remainder of the campaign.
The debate continues as to whether Ronny Deila will be here next season or not. Right now, I think that idea needs to be shelved.
Celtic are in a winning a position and the focus must be upon winning. Recent displays have cast doubt over this team and the coaching staff as to whether they can secure a league and cup double.
There is certainly more ability in this squad than we have seen. There are a lot of players at Ronny Deila’s disposal compared to any other Scottish club.
Too many options in fact. From now until the end of the season, injuries aside, Deila must narrow those options.
We’ve seen too many changes. Some have been obvious alterations through injury or suspension but there are other issues that affect the choices made and I am not just talking about form.
James Forrest is a yo-yo and with his contract talks hitting the skids his appearances are now tainted. Tom Rogić suffered a similar story though he himself rubbished that.
Callum McGregor’s focus looked to be a factor when he was absent for a while following his drink driving case. This is all over and above the guys who, whilst have had their illnesses and injuries, never seem to get a proper run.
Kris Commons is a fans favourite and rarely gets a look in. Scott Allan has been waiting in the wings and after a short run of games has found himself out of the picture again.
You see all these guys, and even the ones I haven’t mentioned, must make selecting a Celtic team a total nightmare. There is no excuse though because this is one of Ronny’s own making.
He said a long time ago he wanted to trim this squad down. Well, it just keeps getting bigger.
I’m all for options but if someone is out for one reason or another we have more than enough options. The problem right now is that we have a first, second and third choice for virtually each midfield/attack position and can’t please everyone.
That’s without even considering the young players who in your worst case scenario would probably get a chance. You can’t even begin to imagine a youth player getting into the team right now.
If making the squad bloated is an indirect way of trying to push certain players out then its a strange business we’re running. Whether it is Ronny that gets to do it or someone else, this squad needs some breathing space to allow youth to develop as first team players.
For now, the best thing Ronny can do is channel the first team squad into a smaller group and stick with it. If a place becomes vacant then pick from his backup group.
There are too many fighting for the one spot and that would make me miserable as a player. If Ronny doesn’t know what his best team is then perhaps he should look at the numbers he is working with.