In this Cynic classic, we give a talented panel a list of 4 statements and ask their expert (or not) opinions to determine whether the statement is, in fact, true or false. This week I’m pleased to welcome Eoin Coyne, Matt Evans, Ronan Kearney and Stephen Wallace.
1: Rangers pose a genuine threat to the league title this season.
COYNE: False: With our financial and player-for-player advantage Celtic’s biggest threat to Celtic’s domestic dominance is drumroll….. Celtic. Rangers will only win it, fuck, they’ll only get close, if we massively take our eyes off the ball. Not that this prospect is impossible, sadly.
KEARNEY: True: Rangers have strengthened their squad further this summer and the arrival of Joe Aribo in particular should see them go a little closer than they did last season. It wouldn’t surprise me if they pulled one more signing out of the bag before the start of the league on top of what has already come in. As in any job, Gerrard has had 12 months to put his own stamp on it so if they do not run Celtic close this year then it should be curtains for him you would imagine.
EVANS: True: They pose the same threat they did last year, which is to say they can only win the title if Celtic falter – which, thanks to our last-minute winners at Killie, Hearts and Dundee to stave off the challenge, didn’t happen. Celtic are clearly the superior team but Rangers need to be taken more seriously than the rest of the league.
WALLACE: False: If a Rangers team managed by Steven Gerrard were to pose a genuine threat to Celtic’s domestic dominance, it would have been the season just passed. With Celtic playing with half a team for a large part of the season and Gerrard relying on beginners luck at times, his moment has passed. He is an inexperienced manager who hasn’t shown any tactical skill when his team have been losing. I expect them to put up a fight in each Glasgow Derby game like we could see last season as getting himself and his players fired up was always one of his strengths as a player and captain. However, a season is more than just 4 games. In a tight run contest, I still expect Celtic to come out on top. Even Rangers ‘marquee’ signings such as Defoe, Jones and Aribo have no title winning experience. There’s also the small matter that their star striker could end up missing a lot of games again due to suspension.
Verdict: True 2-2 False. Our panel are split on the threat to the league from Rangers this season. Are we underestimating Gerrard’s fierce leadership or is he bound to slip up once more? This one’s for you to decide.
2. Celtic should sell the naming rights to Celtic Park.
COYNE: False: Burn this idea! Burn it on a big, Protestant bonfire! A step too far? Undoubtedly, but this is everything I hate about football. What would we do with the cash anyway? It’ll go on lights or hotels or a chop-shop for producing more celtic branded tat.
KEARNEY: False: No way. Celtic do not need the money and some things are more important that money. The commercialisation of football has gone way past a joke now. I can just see it now; I wake up from my slumber on the Celtic branded pillow before having a quick wash in my new Celtic branded hot tub. I jump on my Celtic foldable scooter and quick tail it down to the Bank of China Celtic Arena. Nah mate. I’m out.
EVANS: False, all day long: While some of the amounts bandied about for EPL stadium naming rights are north of £10M per year, there’s no indication Celtic would be offered those sort of deals. There’s no price that can be paid for one’s soul.
WALLACE: False: I have no idea about the financial side of football, but as a fan I would hate to see Celtic go down the same route as many of England’s ‘top’ teams. A big example of this is Arsenal. Having made over £100m from Emirates buying their stadium rights and shirt sponsors in 2004, what have they done with the money? Celtic are in no need to sell out, unlike our neighbours. It would also take some of the magical aura away from our iconic stadium, something that sets us apart from many other clubs. The stadium has so much history like the road to Seville, finishing the league season undefeated, pumping Rangers numerous times and of course, stopping the ten.
Verdict: True 0-4 False. There you have it, Celtic, stick to punting Monopoly because our panel have given an emphatic ‘no’ to the idea. With a sly dig at Rangers. You love to see it.
3. Scott Brown should start no more than 20 games this season.
COYNE: True: I say this in the hope that we’ll only need an ‘enforcer’ sporadically this season. We have some very creative midfield players hitting their peak and a couple more developing nicely. He definitely has a role, especially in big occasion games, but we can’t keep relying on him to drag us over the line in the manner he did last season.
KEARNEY: False: Hmmm. A tough one. I think that Scott Brown’s game time this season should be managed more than it has ever been. He has shown evident signs of slowing down last season but, at the same time, a lot of experienced heads have left us and Brown’s on-field management can be underestimated at times I feel. If you think back over the past 3 seasons, when Celtic have been struggling, it is normally Brown who will do something to get the team and fans back into it. He was also outstanding in the second half of the cup final.
EVANS: True: This has been something I’ve been banging on about for some time. Brown is useful in matches where some dig, nous and grit are needed – against Rangers or Hearts, and in Europe – but domestically he slows play down too much and adds a defensive layer that doesn’t need to be there. This is the perfect season to begin his transition into the coaching ranks.
WALLACE: True: As a very sentimental Celtic fan, my heart says Brown should be playing every game because he is that important to Celtic. However, my head says that his body couldn’t handle another 50+ game season. The 20 games he would play are crucial though. I would play him in every cup game because we need his level head and fighting spirit. I would also utilise him towards the end of the season when we are fighting for the title because he is clearly a calming influence on the squad.
Verdict: True 3-1 False. It’s the general consensus that Scott Brown still has a lot to give Celtic in terms of heart, leadership and a never-say-die attitude but only Ronan believes the talisman should start more than 20 games this season.
4. Scott Bain is a comfortable GK for the season ahead.
COYNE: True: He is comfortable, the question then is – is that good enough? In my opinion, Craig Gordon remained just below our absolute affections because he didn’t have that big performance for us in Europe. Forster and Boruc fared far better on the European stage. Does Bain have that kind of performance in him?
KEARNEY: True: I hadn’t even considered signing a new goalkeeper to be fair. Bain was a revelation for Celtic when he cemented his place in the team and his clean sheets last season earn him the right to be our number One. His early save away to Sarajevo also reminded us that he is a decent shot stopper. I think he struggled more than most with the transition from the Rat to Lennon and the slight changes in playing style at the back but with a good pre-season understanding of how the manager wants to play, I feel that Bain will be a solid keeper.
EVANS: True: I’ve never been too concerned with who the goalkeeper is anyway. Domestically speaking, the Celtic keeper is rarely troubled, and in Europe lately the goalkeeping performances are way down on the list of things that need fixing. Bain had an excellent half-season after taking over as the #1 in January and should be given the reins again to see how he performs over the full season.
WALLACE: True: I am saying true because I don’t believe that Bain has been given a fair chance yet. I am keen to see him in the Champions League group stages (hopefully) where he is likely to face a lot of shots. His distribution is far better than anything we have, and he clearly gets on well with the other players. His first run of games where he went on a run of not conceding a goal was brilliant and I feel like there is plenty more to come from him over a full season.
Verdict: True 4-0 False. It’s unanimous from our panel – a new goalkeeper shouldn’t be high up on Neil Lennon’s shopping list.