Where are we going?

I’ve come across a lot of negative material throughout this season. Some from the media, some from the fans and probably even some from myself at times!

Much of this has stemmed from a season where team performances have been far from convincing or entertaining. The European exit at the hands of Zenit St Petersburg last month was probably just the opportunity fans needed to vent their frustrations further.

In truth many supporters have been disgruntled as far back as the summer when, in all honesty we hadn’t seen much of the Invincibles in their second season. So we never really knew how this season was going to pan out way back then.

There was most likely a bit of concern and disappointment at Celtic’s summer signings with some basing their uneasiness on quantity over quality. Celtic retained most of their key players whilst saying farewell to many others as Brendan got the squad size down to a manageable number.

Then injuries began to rack up and has continued throughout the current season. Even now, Celtic are still without key individuals though hopefully not for too much longer.

On top of that many of last seasons stars have been posted missing. Unable to recapture their form from a treble winning first year under Brendan Rodgers.

And yet here we are, with one trophy already retained, a cup semi-final place secured next month and ten games of the league campaign left to go, with a game at hand over our closest challenger who are six points behind. So why are we so unhappy?

Well it’s all down to a lack of spark in the team. Few have been able to provide special moments this season.

We’ve had a handful of interesting games. Excitement has been sadly lacking though.

Our best players have been a very tired looking Kieran Tierney, a resilient leader in Scott Brown and James Forrest in surprisingly fine form. I’d also give a special mention to Kristoffer Ajer and Odsonne Edouard, neither of which were expected to contribute so well, but they have.

One player who has been worth every penny is Olivier Ntcham. He got some stick from certain quarters, but he’s certainly proved them wrong now.

The guy is a superb talent and has demonstrated his ability and influence in key games. When he hasn’t, he’s generally got it in the neck.

This has puzzled me greatly. The guy is 22 years old and doing a job few of his age group can only dream of.

Because of this he won’t be with us for long. He’ll be snapped up by one of the big league clubs eventually.

With injuries and mixed form included, I’d say this Celtic squad has been functioning at a vastly reduced capacity for the entirety of the current season. And yet they’re still ahead of everyone thus far.

Were still not happy with that though. Some fans have even questioned Brendan Rodgers’ credentials.

Why, given our domestic superiority, that we aren’t out of sight. I think factors like injuries are obvious whilst others such as form, cannot be accounted for.

Now let’s be brutally honest, we’re miles off the pace in Europe. It doesn’t matter who you put in charge.

Financially we cannot compete. That gap will continue to grow as it has until UEFA see it as a problem which of course they won’t.

In the last two decades Celtic got themselves back on the European map. They’ve also lost ground on that landscape several times in the same period.

Some of that failure is self-inflicted. Some of it isn’t.

We’re a giant in Scotland and well-known in Europe, but we fall short in the big competition. We aren’t alone in this situation.

Around Europe there are other big clubs in countries that have weak league, but come up short in the big game. Celtic have a controlling share of the domestic game, but it doesn’t serve us particularly well.

The club do enough to keep themselves above the competition. At times even more so.

To sustain that isn’t economically viable or rewarding. Celtic are hindered by the environment they operate in – Scotland.

When Rangers went down the tubes, Celtic cut their cloth accordingly. The business model in place allows Celtic to function with a degree of flexibility.

The problem is when they push out in front alone. More importantly in Europe.

It isn’t Celtic’s fault that the other Scottish clubs aren’t pulling their weight. That’s up to their owners and our governing bodies.

The Scottish game is flawed from top to bottom. With no competition it will continue to go sideways or decline and that is the environment that Celtic are working in.

This is what we must remember when looking at Celtic. As fans we want better, but our hands are tied top a certain degree.

That’s the deal Brendan Rodgers signed and he’s doing the best possible to make things happen. We can criticise players, coaches and the money men, but we’re in a dire economy.

If other clubs were as savvy as Celtic we might just have a more interesting time of it. My faith in Scotland’s other clubs is non-existent though.

Is there potential to be better than this? Of course there is.

We have clubs, players, coaches, stadiums and fans. We need to play to our strengths though.

The game needs to be remodeled entirely. I’ve said this many times before and we missed a good opportunity to do so several years back.

All that happened was a bit of re-branding. It may have been passed off as direct action, but in reality it was a to token gesture at best.

I’m still uncertain as to who actually believes it sorted our game out. Right now the SFA are without a Chief Executive and its a position I believe should stay that way.

Until a business plan is put in place to take Scottish football forward – from grass-roots level and league formation right through to marketing, sponsorship and TV revenue – we need to stop this cycle. We’ve been on a downward spiral since the 80’s.

The global game has evolved. Scotland has not.

Celtic are a role model in Scottish football and have earned plaudits in the business community for strength and growth. More clubs need to do the same though not by cheating or risking collapse – we all know what can happen there right?

The clubs need to be united in a forward moving venture. The governing bodies are institutionalised and outdated representatives who serve only themselves.

Until we get reform things will continue in the same cycle. Until then Celtic will have to keep pushing the boundaries in this small pond.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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