A history making season has just finished and the Double Treble has been secured. Let me just type that again. The Double Treble. It is an amazing feat and I don’t think it will never be achieved again but this season’s peaks just weren’t as often as last season. Should we be complaining about this and stating the league is becoming more competitive or is our sense of entitlement now so high that we DEMAND to win every domestic game we play?
Let’s look at and consider a number of things from last season before turning our heads and looking forward to next season. This is an opinion piece and whilst you may disagree with some points that is fine. We cannot expect everyone to hold the same opinions and I respect all views.
For me, the season became a success in August when we qualified for the group stages of the Champions League. I know our club budget is not fixed on the strength of qualifying but that thirty million plus GBP doesn’t hurt. The only downside that I have with qualification is that I now expect us to have a couple of heavy defeats. The problem with the defeats is that it undermines our credibility, but the sad fact of life for us is that in European terms we are a minnow. I believe UEFA like us to qualify as they bask in the reflected glory of Celtic Park on a European evening when the atmosphere crackles and sizzles so fierce that even the greatest players have it seared into their memories for all time.
European football for me is a bonus and whilst I would love us to do better the reality is that third place in a group is as much as we can expect. We can hope for more but to be honest the Champions League is so money driven that you and I can probably name the eight quarter finalists for next season now.
Domestically in many games our play was laboured and we played very narrow. I think Celtic getting to the bye line and cutting the ball back or putting crosses in is a thing of beauty and examples like Odsonne Edouard’s goal v the Ibrox franchise in April was case in point as KT exploded past the defence and fired a delicious ball across the face of the goal. When we do this it is just breathtaking. When we come inside constantly and narrow the game we are less fluent and easier to defend against.
The League Cup was secured in routine fashion and the biggest challenge we faced from Motherwell in Cup Finals this season was staying fit and healthy. The undefeated record went, in spectacular fashion against Hearts, and at that point, I was thinking the monkey was off the back and our performances would lift, especially after the New Year.
The team showed that when it was required they could lift considerably for crucial games. And how we lifted! The away performance to Aberdeen sealed with KT’s goal and the away performance at Ibrox when we went to ten demonstrated an ability to perform when the heat was on. The Ibrox team emerged as our bunny in the Scottish Cup semi-final and the league game after the split as they were embarrassed and we scored at will. With their new high profile manager, it will be very interesting to see how they will perform next season. They will surely be aiming for second place as Aberdeen are constantly outperforming them ( head to head games excepted).
The league was duly secured and despite winning fewer games and scoring many less goals in all truth it was won comfortably. It wasn’t in the style of the swashbuckling excitement and entertainment of the previous season but there was a clinical efficiency that carried us over the line with no real dramas.
To the Scottish Cup Final and the chance to make history. Well, make history we did and goals to Cal Mac and Olivier meant that this team achieved back to back trebles. For me the highlight of that day was watching the open top bus rumble up to Celtic Park as thousands of fans stood on every available vantage point to welcome the all-conquering team home. Hats off the Celtic TV for Eat Sleep TREBLE Repeat.
This season Broony cemented his place as THE MAN. Teams seemed to be lining up to have a go at him and Craig Levein seemed to want to blame him for everything from a hole in his socks to a threat to World peace. Broony was the glue that held the team together and drove them on when they were up against it. KT was efficient and at times spectacular. My only worry for this potential superstar is burn out as I think for one so young he is playing too many games. The defence causes me concern but collectively they had many clean sheets and our goalkeeping situation seems strong at the moment. I really expect Scott Bain to make a concerted bid for the starting spot next season. Craig Gordon is an excellent goalie but Scott seems assured on the ball.
Tom Rogic emerged as a guy who loves the big stage and his equalising goal at Ibrox in March was just ridiculous. The Govan side are terrified of him and if the big fella can stay fit we have a fine footballer signed for the next five years.
Cal Mac and Oli glittered at times and Stuart Armstrong would have had many more games under his belt but for injury. I like Kouassi Eboue but Brendan doesn’t seem so keen on him going by the limited number of appearances he has made. He must make his mark next season or move on.
Our forwards had a relatively poor return in comparison to the barrowloads of goals they scored last season. Wee James aside I am not sure if they all felt that they hit their targets for a number of reasons. Moussa and Leigh were dogged by injury and Scotty’s form seemed to fall off a cliff. The plus side of this is that goals were shared around the team and our forward-thinking midfielders chipped in with some crucial strikes.
I am an Odsonne Edouard fan and I would spend the cash to buy him. He is still very young and I think he is a talented young man. Speculation abounds as to whether John Mc Ginn comes. Aside from our games, I don’t see Scottish football but he has played well against us this season. We have Ryan Christie coming back and young Lewis Morgan coming in.
We will seek to strengthen the team during the close season. I think the majority agree that Constable Lustig may have peaked and isn’t going to improve further and as one of my mates says Dedryck gives him THE FEAR. I reckon that Moussa may go and Stuart Armstrong looks like he will be in England next season. I suspect two or three of Dedryck, Jozo and Marvin will be gone and big Nir may also move on.
When Moussa is fit and firing he is a joy to behold and the bigger the game the better he plays. If he does leave us I do hope he goes to a really strong club and not, with all due respect to Southampton or Stoke or someone like them.
So for me, the team needs a refresh and Brendan will be aware that the challenge from Ibrox will surely be greater than the last few seasons. Aberdeen has done well of late and Hibs performed well once they got into their stride. It will be interesting to see if Killie does as well again as they were organised and performed well, if not entertainingly, against us.
So with European qualification appearing to be harder every year and with the glory of last season behind us we must aim for eight and if we can get to CL again that would do me.
We live in heady times and watching Celtic lift trophies is something we never tire of. Not too long until the CL qualifying games begin!!!