I had aimed to publish this on Monday, but with the transfer window closing yesterday, my attention was elsewhere! So here goes.
Before kick off on Sunday I had no inkling as to how the match at Ibrox would play out. Only because over the last twelve months our stock had fallen under Brendan Rodgers and the spoils between each club and each manager were shared.
What I saw in the ninety-plus minutes on Sunday lunchtime was a measured performance by Celtic. They allowed possession to their opponents, pressed when it suited and defended when it mattered.
Let me just get it out in the open. Under Steven Gerrard, the Ibrox club are a much more organised team than they were under Ally McCoist, Mark Warburton or Pedro Caixhinha.
Gerrard, or at least his back room staff, have assembled and drilled this squad in a better fashion than their predecessors. But in terms of quality and style, Celtic are still way ahead.
Many thought after the summer of discontent that Celtic were falling apart and that with the defeat at Ibrox in December the gap was closing. After Sunday, it doesn’t seem so.
When they had as much of the ball as we did, they didn’t know what to do with it. It reminded me of the movie quote: “I’m like a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one, you know, I’d just do…things.”
And you know what? They didn’t know what to do.
It was very scrappy at times by both teams. I’d even go as far to say it was cagey.
They were the home side though, sloppy in possession and wasteful. There isn’t a single Rangers player I’d consider a threat or able to get into our team.
I don’t say that disrespectfully. I’m being genuine.
I recognise their organisation and effort under Gerrard and his team because it has got them wins where they have faltered in the past. On Sunday though, it confirmed to me that Celtic are still the superior side by far.
I said before the game that I was pleased with the way we were playing overall under Neil Lennon. That continued on Sunday.
With Elhamed at right back, Jullien and Bitton at centre back and Bolingoli at left back, they all put in a great shift. This was a back line that hadn’t played together or in this fixture with the exception of Bitton.
Brown and McGregor were tireless in the midfield. Christie worked his socks off not as a number 10, but as a number 8.
Whilst Forrest struggled to get into the game on the right, Johnston was effervescent on the left. And as for Edouard, he is on course for big things at Celtic and beyond.
Forster, back in his first Ibrox match since the 1872 club were liquidated, had virtually nothing to do all game. To be fair, the same can be said of his opposite number with the exception of picking the ball out of the net twice.
I even applaud the efforts of Bauer, who was summoned with 24 minutes of the game remaining, to make his debut. He played his role well, even though he was chopped down by an opponent, who turn received a red card as well as a long term injury for a reckless challenge on the Austrian right back.
Ntcham had a big hand in Celtic’s final push towards the end of the game too. He was instrumental in much of the link up and recovery play when he came on.
And what about Jonny Hayes? On in 84 minutes to seal the fate of the home side just seven minutes later.
A wonderful moment for the Irishman. He kept his head and enjoyed his moment.
Neil Lennon spoke to the media afterwards and laid it out straight. Before kick off, most people, even the bookies, favoured Steven Gerrard’s side.
Nobody had given Celtic a hope of winning. Lennon stated “maybe now people will respect us.”
I don’t just think that was aimed at the media. That goes for the fans too.
Because after the Cluj result, many had the knives out. I wasn’t short of criticising Lennon myself, but I certainly wasn’t calling for him to be sacked.
We have been playing well over and above that one blip. A huge blip, but a blip nonetheless.
Transfer activity has been slow over the summer. Look at yesterday though.
Three out, three in. All of our positions are covered for the season ahead.
Yes, we perhaps didn’t move on all of the players we had hoped, but I’d rather have that than have a weak squad. We can offload as the season progresses if need be.
The most important thing is that Neil Lennon has us playing good football. The football people were berating him for when he came in last season was not his.
He said it often enough, but it wasn’t within his remit to change things. Just to steer the ship home with a treble on board.
And he delivered, even if it was ugly. Now though, we are seeing his football.
We have a good squad and are undefeated at the top of the league. We are in the group stages of the Europa League with a very good chance of making the last 32.
There are players coming through the ranks who in the future will carry on the great name of this club. They are being integrated and developed with the additional talent we have recruited.
In the last 48 hours I have been really pleased with what has happened at Celtic. We’ve had to wait, but on the face of it we’ve topped off a great result at Ibrox with a great end to the transfer window.
Now there’s a bit of a break and a chance for Celtic to take a rest from what has been a very hard two months at home and abroad. I look forward to the next chapter in this season.