Celtic must carry some of the weekend’s dominance into tonight’s match in Romania

Celtic began their domestic season with a phenomenal match on Saturday. And if this is the shape of things to come under Neil Lennon we could be in for a fantastic season.

Seven great goals without reply and a non-stop juggernaut performance by every Celtic player was a joy to watch. I don’t think anyone would have predicted such a scoreline in an opening domestic game home or away.

St Johnstone are a decent side and I rate Tommy Wright as a manager. However, Celtic barely gave his team a sniff as they kept at them in the both the first and second halves of the match.

The last two seasons haven’t been as exciting to watch and yet we have a treble treble with 9-in-a-row the next target. I’ve actually watched Celtic play better over some seasons and fail to win the treble.

Whether another treble is on the cards this season or not, is not my concern. Two fronts must be our priority – the league and the Champions League.

The league is not just our bread and butter. It’s our only way into the tournament that delivers the big money.

We are under no illusions about winning the Champions League and we certainly won’t be going bankrupt in a bid to win it. What does matter is maintaining a place in the group stages, season after season.

Every time we fail to make the Champions League group stage has a financial impact. Now, that doesn’t put the club in any financial trouble, but what it does impact on is the decision on what funds may or may not be available to use for strengthening the squad when and if required.

We have other income and a business plan for when European football hasn’t gone so well. The business plan does mean cutting our cloth accordingly though.

The other reason the group stages of the Champions League are so important is that the team needs to evolve. Over the last decade Celtic have had their ups and downs in Europe.

The club have been involved in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League four times each in a ten year period. Whilst the latter tournament supposedly offers a better chance of progression, Celtic have not faired any better.

Without the same level of reward I think it is safe to say I’d take the Champions League every time. Celtic may not be able to beat the best teams in Europe very often or at all, but we won’t improve by avoiding them either.

Every time we’ve failed to qualify for the group stages it has had knock on effect. Being involved doesn’t necessarily guarantee enjoyment or success, especially when you are getting stuffed 5-0 at home by PSG or 7-0 by Barcelona.

We can’t avoid these teams though and we will only get better by keeping our name in the pot, reinvesting the income and learning from our mistakes each season. We have to build every year and keep a reasonable level of consistency, but if we aren’t involved, expect cutbacks.

By all accounts, there has only been one season in the last ten years that Celtic have not made the group stages in either European tournament. Neil Lennon’s first season as a manager was a tough one and lost out in the playoffs of the Europa League.

The next season he made the Europa League at the expense of FC Sion, despite the Swiss club beating Celtic. Their decision to play banned players allowed Celtic to take their place despite the results.

Neil enjoyed a memorable first time in the Champions League group stages of the Champions League in his third season when he finished in 2nd place. The season after was disappointing though when the club ended up in 4th place of the same competition.

Ronny Delia failed to make the Champions League on both attempts, but he did reach the Europa League in his two seasons in charge. Brendan Rodgers took Celtic back to the Champions League on his first attempt, but only managed 4th position.

The season that followed was slightly better with a 3rd place finish. Last season though the wheels came off when Celtic dropped into the Europa League during qualification.

There were several factors involved during that summer of discontent and hopefully the club have learned from it. If Celtic look back over the last decade and see where they have succeeded and failed it could prove useful.

UEFA continue to empower and reward the financially well off leagues. It is not an even playing field.

More and more clubs are beginning to be vocal about this, but change is a long way off. Right now the best thing Celtic can do is their best.

The last decade has shown that we haven’t always given it our best at times. Sometimes victory has been within our reach and other times simply impossible and because of that we must separate our mistakes from inevitability so that we can progress without beating ourselves up.

Ten years on from when Neil Lennon first took Celtic into Europe as a rookie full time manager, we prepare for another qualifier on today. I don’t underestimate Cluj as an opponent, but I am optimistic about progession to the next round.

Considering that I wasn’t totally behind Neil’s appointment on this occassion, I have been encouraged by what I’ve seen so far. He doesn’t have all the players he desires right now, but as we’ve learned over the years in Europe, occasionally we make signings as we move through each round.

We don’t need too many more players if I’m being honest. We may even move some on as well.

On Thursday the English transfer window closes and with any luck, hopefully this Kieran Tierney saga as well. These headlines must have been very unsettling for the 22 year old.

The media have done everything possible to keep this story in the headlines to the point they’ll tell you a deal is imminent. Even if they do agree a fee, would KT want to even go?

I’m sure he’d enjoy the Premier League and a chance to boost his income. However, there’s no suggestion he’s even trying to engineer a move and there is no guarantee he wants to even go to Arsenal.

Kieran will have plenty of other options as the years go on. He will leave one day I’m certain, but in a year or two he may have other options including a better contract from Celtic.

Right now he is our player and on the road to recovery. Another issue which people don’t seem to mention.

Even if a deal was agreed, would he manage to pass a medical right now? Sorry, I’m using common sense.

Tonight it will all be about getting a decent result in Romania that allows Celtic to continue the hard work in Glasgow next week. I won’t see the game live as I’ll be somewhere over the Atlantic.

I’m hoping that by the time I can catch up with the recorded footage we are still in with a shout. We already know who we could face in the play offs for either competition now.

There’s only one competition we truly want to be involved in though. Keep the dream alive Bhoys.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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