On Sunday, Celtic Football Club made another piece of history. It is something we have become accustomed to as Celtic supporters in the 21st century.
As I poured over the online stories and comments on Monday, I found the bitterness surrounding Celtic’s success quite staggering. It is astonishing, yet evident, of how much the club’s achievement appears to have upset so many.
Going into the game, Celtic had picked up back-to-back wins for the first time in around two months, but they were far from being out of the woods. The delayed Scottish Cup Final was the one piece of silverware missing from last season’s targeted treble and to get it they had overcome Aberdeen in the semis and Hearts in the final.
We’ve had to wait seven months to see that final. In that time we’ve had two lock downs, last season ended prematurely and begun a new season without achieving that coveted treble.
Let’s face it, this has been far from the fairytale season we had all hoped for. Europe has been an abject failure, league form has been bettered by a near flawless Ibrox side and the first domestic trophy has now slipped from our grasp.
We still don’t know why Celtic have struggled. Everything was looking good by largely retaining the bulk of the squad whilst adding more talent to it.
Then it occurred to me in the build up to the Scottish Cup Final that with last season being ended early, there never was any 9IAR celebration. All the efforts put in by the players and coaching staff, especially since the beginning of the year when they really began to click, was mesmerising.
Having been awarded the title, there was nothing to mark the achievement. As a fan, let alone a player, that’s almost a bit of an anticlimax.
You spend all those weeks and months going through the motions, especially when they were pushed in the final game of 2019 at Celtic Park. You then come back from the winter break and set about every team in front of you then….nothing.
As a player you aim for the glory, but the players as well as the management team, have missed out on that day of celebration with the fans. Instead it is replaced with a board room decision to end the season and award the title on an average points per game basis.
Whilst I understood the decision taken, as well as the correct decision to award the title to Celtic, I don’t think anyone could foresee the onset effect. There WAS NO TITLE PARTY and you could see from the size of the celebrations on Sunday what this team and back room staff have been missing – that moment of joy on the park.
Even without fans in the stadium to rejoice with, this is the first celebration the team would have had collectively since they won the League Cup in 2019. What an effect must that have when you don’t get to have that public display of success.
Instead, Celtic came back in the summer as every team did, but without that crescendo moment from the season past. That feeling not to have had the game to mark the occasion must be deflating.
How do you build on that or motivate yourself especially when you are still without the fans that act as your 12th player. For those club’s who ended the season with nothing, the impact of the finishing early and no fanfare would have been no loss becasue Celtic have basked in all of the glory for four straight seasons now.
Is it therefore possible, that a major part of Celtic’s problems this season has been the disconnect with last seasons achievements? On a psychological level, I think you have to consider the impact that might have on a profession that thrives upon glory, especially at a club like Celtic.
Perhaps, with the celebratory experience of the Scottish Cup victory it will boost morale and bring the closure from last season that the team never really got as a collective. And it should because it is a remarkable feat in world football and it brings down the curtain to last season’s treble and the quadruple of trebles that was at the forefront of their thoughts and is now finally cemented in history.
The big question is how will the team respond in the remainder of the domestic campaign and is this the point from which we see a reaction? There are obviously still many concerns about the defensive frailties, but if morale has been under a cloud from last season then maybe, just maybe we should see a change in atmosphere from hereon in .
Celtic are 16 points behind top spot in the league with three games at hand. Even if those matches are converted to wins, they are still 7 points off the pace.
Neil Lennon and his players must use this Scottish Cup victory and quadruple treble as a catalyst to push on. They must also ensure they are solid from now on too.
As much as they need to keep winning, they also need their rivals to make a slip up or two. That will only occur if they keep the pressure on them because up until now, they haven’t.
The first sign of chink in the Ibrox armour came at the hands of St Mirren a week ago. A win by the Paisley club in the League Cup meant another trophy slipped through the hands of Steven Gerrard as it did with Celtic against Ross County in the previous round.
The Ibrox club bounced back from their defeat by beating Motherwell 3-1 in the league. Motherwell had taken an early lead in the first half, but Gerrard’s players levelled on the 73rd minute.
Eventually Gerrard’s side won, scoring in the 82nd and 94th minute. I have to say though that there was enough in that game though to suggest that despite the comeback they were a little rocked by the cup exit.
They will only feel the pressure if Celtic keep winning. Hopefully Celtic’s cup victory will have had a positive effect and they can get their season back on track.
Tonight they must over come Ross County who halted their League Cup run recently. Ironically, County have since parted company with the manager who beat Celtic on home turf.
They’ve now reached out to former Celtic player John Hughes to get them back in the fight for survival. The Staggies are 4 points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership behind Hamilton.
Their own personal battle and now under new management may present Neil Lennon with a challenge or an opportunity. Celtic must not waver in their quest.
Nothing but a win will do. A batch of goals and a clean sheet would be even better.