Was it all worth it?

Picture courtesy of Celtic Football Club

On the day Celtic were due to play Hibs in a postponed Premiership match at Celtic Park, they announced that the club had a number of players and coaching staff self-isolating. It followed the news that broke day before that one Celtic player had tested positive for Covid-19 whilst in Dubai for the winter training camp.

After much speculation, it transpired that the player in question was none other than Christopher Jullien. The French defender was already out injured having collided with a goal post in the game against Dundee United and was expected to have a long lay off.

With the news breaking that Jullien was both the player to test positive and cause of 13 players and three backroom staff, including Neil Lennon and John Kennedy to isolate, questions were being asked far a wide why the injured French defender was in Dubai at all. People were already wondering why Celtic had chosen to travel to Dubai the most critical phase of this pandemic yet.

Whether the Scottish Government, SFA or SPFL agreed that Celtic could go to Dubai or not, it did not gone down well with many. It caused a divide amongst the support, but I would say realistically that the majority of the support are pretty much of the opinion, especially now, that the club should not have gone.

We know permission was obtained back in November, but the climate has changed significantly since then. Someone in or outside the club should have been putting the brakes on that.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t even know they were going until I saw that first picture of Lennon and club captain Scott Brown lying on sunloungers with a beer by the pool. I don’t know if players are supposed to drink at any point during a season, but in today’s playing culture it doesn’t look particularly professional if you do.

It doesn’t mean that the team weren’t actually training, but the picture certainly didn’t look good. You would question whether “elite sports” professionals should be seen bevying during a training camp at all.

They have the privilege of doing something most of us cannot right now. I feel for those who coughed up for the “Passport to Paradise” this season and this is what they are greeted to off the back of an abysmal five months of “football” across all competitions.

Celtic released a statement earlier in the week regarding the debacle:

Celtic Football Club confirmed today that Christopher Jullien has tested positive for Covid-19 and is self-isolating at home. We wish Christopher a speedy recovery.

While all of the other members of the squad and backroom team have tested negative, we have been informed by the authorities that, having been deemed ‘close contacts’, Celtic manager Neil Lennon, assistant John Kennedy and 13 first-team players will be required to self-isolate on a precautionary basis as required by the current regulations. 

The Club would like to thank the Scottish FA, JRG and the Scottish Government for their assistance in managing this case. Celtic will, of course, fulfill its fixture against Hibernian this evening. 

Clearly we are hugely disappointed, as we know our supporters will be. The contacts were identified during the period from Wednesday last week, primarily around flight and team coach travel, during which time Celtic applied the same rigorous protocols used for pre-season training camps, UEFA match travel and for all domestic match arrangements in Scotland.   

These protocols have served us well in the past, as the Club has not had one positive case in our own ‘bubble’ until now. As we have already stated, Celtic’s decision to travel to Dubai for a training camp was for performance reasons. Whilst we were in Dubai, the announcements made on January 4 significantly changed the COVID landscape. 

The reality is that a case could well have occurred had the team remained in Scotland, as other cases have done in Scottish football and across UK sport in the past week.

Celtic has done everything it can to ensure we have in place the very best procedures and protocols. From the outset of the pandemic, Celtic has worked closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish football and we will continue to do so.

Some of that content was embarassing. It just about sums up this Celtic regime and how bad our season has truly been so far.

We’re well aware that the new travel guidelines didn’t come into place until after the team flew out to Dubai. For the club to them say that the same situation case could have occurred had they remained in Scotland, is a ridiculous defence statement.

The club keep talking about how their protocols have stood them in good stead all this time. Well they didn’t do them any good on this occasion.

They were quick to criticise anyone who put their players in jepoardy whilst on international duty this season. There can be no doubt that on this occasion the responsibility rests solely on Celtic Football Club.

The isolation of 13 players meant that Celtic fielded a significantly weak side on Monday night. On top of that, Gavin Strachan was in charge in the dug out along with, Tommy McIntyre and Stephen McManus.

There was no sign of his Strachan’s laptop. One can only assume he his anti-virus software did not cover Covid-19. (shameless stolen from somewhere else on social media)

I tuned into the Hibs game purely out of interest at seeing our younger players more than anything else. It wasn’t a great game, but David Turnbull’s free kick was a belter.

The late equaliser by Hibs just about epitomised Celtic’s season though. I was finally put out of my misery, though to be honest I think I was already there.

Celtic’s fall from grace this season has been spectacular. It’s not as though they were running a close race and trailing by a point or two.

Everything the club have done this season has been a total disaster. I’ve written on here several times what it may or may not be that has brought the club down to this level.

I’m mentally exhausted from the amount of times I’ve generated some reason for one failure and how Celtic will bounce back in the next game. Then before you know it, they’ve shot themselves in the foot once again.

I feel some relief that I no longer have to stress about chasing a lost cause. The truth is we’ve been failing from the moment Fernencvaros dumped us out of the Champions League.

Ever since then we’ve limped on, suffering disaster after disaster on and off the field. The frustrating part is that nobody at the club has an answer to why we’ve fallen so far.

This team of individuals have demonstrated their abilities season after season. We are not a poor side, but things have turned sour.

When it was suggested that Lennon had lost the dressing room I wasn’t convinced. The body language between him and the squad didn’t support it.

He openly criticised individuals after the Fernencvaros game about commitment. If he was in any doubt about certain players then why even play them?

There have been a number of empty jerseys this season. I’m not going to dissect the entire squad because in general we simply haven’t been at the races.

It’s a miracle we even won last season’s Scottish Cup given how poor we’ve been. I thought it might be the catalyst to (once again) turn things around, but we know what happened on January 2nd.

When you’re not getting results and your nearest rival is having an unexpectedly and near flawless season you would think at some stage, you’d rise to the challenge. And all we’ve done is go in the exact opposite direction.

That’s why from next summer, Neil Lennon and his coaching team cannot be in place. A rebuild was always on the cards for this summer given the expected amount of departures but we were equipped enough to provide more of the same before twe brought the curtain down on a era.

This season was about keeping everyone together one more time. It should have been business as usual, but we blew it pretty much as soon as the season began.

There has been more than one opportunity to dig ourselves out of this hole. We’ve seen little evidence of that ever happening despite most keeping the faith until very recently.

Coupled with constant tinkering with the team selection, formations and obvious tactical mistakes, this has been a landslide failure of a season. If you’re a coach and know what you’re doing it is possible to turn things around.

Either Neil was clueless in what to do or he simply couldn’t get these players to do it for him. Whichever way you look at it, the manager is responsible.

I’ve always liked Neil Lennon. Player and manager.

He was a good rookie and brought the first titles of this 9IAR. That’s a huge achievement.

I was disappointed when he left having endured more than any manager in the history of Scottish football has had to then go onto succeed. When he later managed Hibs, I agreed with friends that I’d like to see him return one day.

I didn’t expect that to be when it came about or even under those circumstances, but how could he refuse? I was 100% glad to have him help steer home the ship as caretaker, but I didn’t think he was the right man when the permanent job was offered to him for the second time.

I was concerned the club had evolved and that he may not have been able to adjust to that. Indeed he touched on his own adjustment to the change in culture within the club since his last spell in charge.

Last season’s eventual purple patch in Europe coupled with an excellent post winter break had me convinced that Lennon was breaking new ground as a coach. This season though, it has all fallen apart in a way that makes absolutely zero sense to me.

When you’re financially sound, have retained the majority of your squad and spent decent money on more talent, you expect to see history being made. We didn’t get anywhere near that at all.

I have nothing left to offer in the way of thoughts or opinions about this Celtic regime or the season we’ve been subjected too so far. Simply that it is time for fundamental changes from top to bottom.

With 12 or so weeks until season ticket renewals, the club better start coming up with some good ideas. If they don’t, they’ll need more than an empty Peter Lawwell apology on Celtic TV to bring back the support.

All that Celtic have remaining this season is fighting for second place. Some are hoping for null and void, but realistically the best you can hope for is that the SPFL call an early end to the season and put us all out of our misery.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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