PROSPECTS Arise, Celtic! Arise!
By David Potter
Sometimes I think it is just as well that we are not endowed with the ability to tell the future. But then again, we have the ability to MAKE the future, never more obviously so as our beloved club begins its 132nd season (if my arithmetic is correct!).
So what kind of future are we going for? We are going for our 51st League Championship and 9th in a row, our 19th Scottish League Cup and 4th in a row, and our 40th Scottish Cup and 4th in a row. Winning all three Scottish trophies would bring about a barely credible quadruple treble. No-one would like to say that another treble is likely; but most of us believe that it is possible.
There is also the question of Europe. We have now had long years of lack of success in Europe. Some of our performances have been quite disgraceful over the years. 2003 was obviously a good year, and we have on occasion managed to lay a glove and even inflict a little damage on the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United, but the awful nights against Sion, Malibor, Malmo and AEK Athens keep rising to our recollections, and even the most sympathetic of Celtic chroniclers must describe the European record as shameful. A disgrace, in fact.
And why is this? There are several excuses that I will NOT entertain. I will not listen to any suggestion that we are up against the best in Europe, and therefore we should lie down. We often hear depressing rubbish like “Real Madrid are different class” “How can we possibly cope with Bayern Munich?” “We cannot hope to compete against Liverpool”. Oh, yes we can, and indeed we must. It is about high time that we did, for those of us who recall Lisbon are now a diminishing breed and endangered species.
We lose in Europe for two reasons. Our play is usually woefully naïve, and we really must make an effort to eliminate basic defensive errors, as well as take every chance that comes our way. If we can do things like that we will do a great deal better. The other reason is that we do not really believe in ourselves enough. We have to believe that we are better than the opposition. We have the best support in the business, and they deserve more than the usual woeful European exit either before Christmas or soon after. Worse still is having to watch those European Cup finals in the summer, knowing that we could have done a great deal better. And then we have people telling is that Virgil Van Dijk used to play for us and Andy Robertson is a Celtic supporter, so we should be happy for Liverpool! No, I would far rather they did it for Celtic.
But enough about Europe. But what about Scotland? Well, no prizes for guessing who the main challengers will be. Will they be the only challengers? Probably, but that must not encourage us to despise or in any way to minimise the other teams. Teams like Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs, possibly Motherwell and Kilmarnock, will not win the Premier League, but they will definitely have a say in who will, and of course they are in with a chance of either or both of the domestic Cup competitions. The game at Ibrox on Sunday September 1 will be significant, of course it will, but it must not be endowed with some sort of magical or supernatural status. Win or lose, it is only three points. And how many points do we get for beating St Johnstone? Or Hamilton Accies? Or Livingston? Funnily enough, three points as well!
So in terms of players, what do we need? Without going into specifics, I feel that we really need two men for every position. We hear much talk about the “need to reduce the wage bill”. This is actually quite hard to take when you look at a packed Parkhead, and just try to imagine how much money is generated by the refreshment stalls, the programmes, the lottery tickets and the Superstore, let alone season tickets and TV fees. In fact, I think we will need every player that we’ve got. Assuming we get reasonably far forward in the Scottish Cups and the European ones, we have to play more or less every midweek and every weekend until late May. That is well over 60 games. We need loads of cover.
And yet I am looking forward to the season. There is nothing better on earth than the sight of a full Celtic Park watching an attacking Celtic team taking on the opposition. I would make on plea to the Green Brigade. What about the resurrection of the old “Cel-tic!” followed by three claps chant. That used to be absolutely awe inspiring in the 1960s, and I’m sure it would work wonders in the modern age as well.
Arise, Celtic! Arise!