Four Cynic writers explain why they think five statements on the current happenings at Celtic and in Scottish football are true…or false. This week it’s the young student squad of Stephen Russell and Rory Price taking on the rapidly ageing crew of Eoin Coyne and Keith McGinty.
The performance and results of Celtic under Neil Lennon this season should be almost irrelevant – whether good or bad – when it comes to whether he should get the job permanently.
RUSSELL: False. A full review should be held and, while determining his fate solely on this season would be ridiculous, disregarding what he does or doesn’t do for us now is hardly fair. We can’t celebrate his wins while excusing poor performances with how he hasn’t had enough time to ‘put his stamp on the squad’. It all counts.
PRICE: False. With Lennon having a fairly brief period in charge I do not think that the results themselves should have too much of an influence. For me, it’s the performances en-route to those results that matters more. So far in Lennon’s reign the football has for the most part been turgid and Celtic have all too often faded miserably in the second half – the most concerning example being the loss of control against ten men Rangers last week. Would that have happened under a manager with the tactical nous of… I don’t know…. Brendan Rodgers?
COYNE: True. I think it is important to recognise that this is an inverted firefighting job where instead of desperately trying to stay up we’re desperately trying to build up enough momentum to fall over the line in two competitions. They’re not his players and they’re not using his tactics (not fully anyway) and with so much change to come this summer with so many set to leave it would be much of a clean slate then anyway.
McGINTY: False. Whether or not you think Lennon should have got the interim role of manager doesn’t really matter. He’s here now and effectively taking part in a ‘working interview’. It is only fair that he be considered for the position and that his performance is scrutinised accordingly. What should be irrelevant is his previous period in charge of the club. Celtic’s off field preparations have evolved dramatically since Lennon was last prowling the technical area. Has he evolved as a coach in those 5 years and can he successfully build upon the foundations built by Rodgers?
Result: True 1, False 3. Verdict: False
Next season, to help avoid injuries over a very long season and keep focus on League & Europe, Celtic should make a conscious choice to only field players on fringe of squad together with the most talented youngsters, in both domestic cups.
RUSSELL: False. Being at Celtic means every game matters. The Scottish Cup isn’t like the English FA Cup where a reserve XI is commonplace. Plus, I’m hoping for a big clear out over the summer because our squad, and therefore wage bill, is way too bloated. Use the cups to give players trying to break into the squad a chance (Bayo, Hendo, maybe Arzani come next season) but in no way should it mean weakening the whole squad.
PRICE: False. If you really think that I would be so materialistic as to put the fitness and development of the best players in our squad at jeopardy and risk potentially burning them out before they even reach the peak of their fledgling football careers just so we can win treble after treble then….. you would be absolutely correct. In all seriousness, I think that there is a balance to be found in this respect with room for more squad rotation, depending on the difficulty of the tie.
COYNE: True. You do get to a point where you think, how many trebles are enough? We apparently have a decent crop of younger players at the moment, we’ll only know if they’re good enough if they get game time. Ideally they’d be sprinkled in among a senior backbone though, just throwing 11 reserves and kids out to get mauled can be counterproductive.
McGINTY: False. While I feel our academy players will only improve by playing first team matches, momentum in the early part of the season is too important. We also don’t want to give any momentum to our domestic rivals: Wim Jansen’s 3-0 win in the League Cup Final against Dundee United gave his team the belief and validation that they could win trophies and, ultimately, stop the 10. I just hope that the new manager is brave enough to use some more of our squad players throughout the season and not just in the cup matches.
Result: True 1, False 3. Verdict: False
Either Karamoke Dembele or Armstrong Okoflex will have scored for the Celtic first team by the end of this season.
RUSSELL: True. Glasgow derby and yet another Dembele bags a hattrick on his first go. Blue scarves hanging out of bins all down London Road. 10 in a row all but confirmed. Inject it straight into my veins.
PRICE: False. They are undoubtedly both very special talents and, should we hold onto them long enough, are bound to score many a goal for the hoops. When watching them tear apart helpless reserve teams it is easy to forget that Okoflex and Dembele were born in 2002 and 2003 respectively. In other words, if they weren’t so good at the fitbaw they would be in 4th and 5th year at school sitting their National 5 and Higher exams. Whilst Jack Aitchison got his chance at the end of Ronny’s reign (we miss you, sweet prince), they are probably just too far down the pecking order with the likes of Weah, Bayo and Griffiths all be wanting to rack up some minutes between now and the end of the season.
COYNE: True. If we can get the league won in a timely and competent manner then there should be a chance to get a look at one of these lads at the very least. Both have looked good for the reserves and will be bursting to get the chance. Why not?
McGINTY: False. If their participation in Celtic’s media team’s adverts are anything to go by these two are destined to be superstars. However, we only have two games left at home this season, to Kilmarnock and Hearts respectively. Trophy day could potentially be against our Scottish Cup Final opponents. I would rather build momentum in that game rather than write off the match by resting first team players and using fringe ones. That leaves Steve Clarke’s Killie. By all means play the wains but I would not be surprised if Clarke oversaw another clean sheet against us.
Result: True 2, False 2. Verdict: Eh…
Current fan behaviour at Scottish grounds is a major cause for concern, regardless of the hyperbole spouted among politicians and the media.
RUSSELL: False. While I do agree that some football fans go too far, it’s not exclusive to football. If somebody is tooled up and wants trouble then there will be trouble be it at the football or Sunday mass. Nobody’s at fault except the person causing trouble. It’s a crime problem; it is not a football problem.
PRICE: False. I’d be lying if I said that current fan behaviour in Scotland is exemplary. Is it worse than it might have been in previous years? Probably. Has the reaction to the events of recent months been over-dramatic and slightly hysterical? I’d say so. Personally, I don’t want some ex-footballer or journo sitting and telling me about concepts like strict liability (which they clearly don’t understand) or drawing false comparisons to the 1980’s (which they clearly don’t remember). It’s time we all put our sensible and rational heads on and remember what happened the last time such hysteria was drummed up about fan behaviour.
COYNE: False. Fucking media/politicians/police – this is like when there’s a ‘spate’ of dog attacks, you know? You read about two or three happening within a small timeframe and all of a sudden it’s a ‘dog attack’ crisis. Because the press are lazy and people are easy to rile up you have your perfect storm to drive your clicks or sell your stupid, hateful paper. Bottom line; there are pricks everywhere (including at the football) but you get the impression that there is some lingering resentment from the removal of the SNP’s moronic Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and an institutional resolve to make every Scottish football fan pay for that.
McGINTY: False. There is nothing that goes on within Scottish football grounds that isn’t already covered by existing legislation. There needs to be more engagement with fans with regards pyro. It is not enough to tell them that it is dangerous and illegal when they see weekly displays from around the world done safely. Cooperate with the Ultras to give their movement the chance to express themselves and Scottish Football will be a brighter and better place for it. As for the violence that we see being attributed to football, I would like to see the police, politicians and media taking a share of the responsibility and work together to tackle wider societal issues through football instead of using it as a scapegoat.
Result: True 0, False 4. Verdict: False
Celtic will win the treble this season.
RUSSELL: True. I’m not confident that Lennon is the man to take us forward, but something like this runs deeper. Think back to Scott Brown in the huddle before beating Motherwell for the double treble: “no matter what, we win this f*cking game”. Think back to an injured and drugged up Kieran Tierney sprinting into Hampden to lift the Scottish Cup. Think back to Kris Ajer celebrating his tackle at the end of the last derby. These are not players who will let this go. These are champions. Treble Treble incoming.
PRICE: True. Sunday’s semi-final showdown with Aberdeen is the biggest hurdle in this teams’ gallop into Celtic folklore. Aberdeen is a tough nut to crack and do have players within their ranks capable of causing difficulty. But not one of those Aberdeen players would find themselves a place in Celtic’s starting 11. Hearts is the likely opposition in the final and their collapse since we broke them in the space of a few weeks in October/November has made their fans even angrier than usual. The chance to clinch the treble treble against Levein come May will make Celtic fans, including Neil Lennon, very excited.
COYNE: True. This is more hope then expectation, but look, Lenny’s relatively rotten Hampden record has to end at some point, everyone at the club must know how close they are and, I would like to think, want to prove a point considering how turbulent the season has ended up being. This summer brings ominous clouds of uncertainty, let’s at least head into that on a high.
McGINTY: True. Although Derek McInnes is undefeated against either of the teams Lennon has managed against the Dons this season I have faith that Celtic will have enough class to edge past them next Sunday, with key creative players returning to fitness and form just in time.
Result: True 4, False 0. Verdict: True