THE swift shift in the mood of Celtic fans within a mere four days was intriguing.
Last Wednesday, following the mauling at the Metropolitano, the disappointment was tangible. Yet again the Bhoys had suffered Champions League humiliation – compounded by a contentious red card that effectively killed off the game after 22 minutes.
That’s not to say Brendan Rodgers’ men would have won against a side chock-full of quality players and World Cup winners, but the Celtic Park game showed they were capable of at least causing problems for the Spaniards.
As is typical following such a hiding, fans conduct a post-mortem which seeks to right the wrongs of everything that’s wrong with their club.
In Celtic’s case, scrutiny fell on the board’s frugality during the summer transfer window, Rodgers’ refusal to shut up shop at 3-0, and how it came to be that the ‘best’ man for the head of recruitment job happened to be the son of the ex-CEO and current chairman. All fair points, but Celtic’s problems aren’t going to be solved quickly.
In the short-term, you can only look at what’s ahead. With Rangers enjoying a new manager bounce under Philippe Clement and seeing off Livingston in the early Sunday kick-off (with the aid of their now standard two penalties, of course), pressure mounted on the Hoops to clinch three points against Aberdeen.
The Dons weren’t even 72 hours removed from a gruelling Europa Conference League contest in Greece against PAOK, where they battled to a 2-2 draw.
Right from the outset at Parkhead, it was clear how much the European exertions had taken out of Barry Robson’s men. They could barely hold the ball for more than a few seconds as Celtic ran rampant in a perfect response to the embarrassment of a 6-0 defeat.
A first Hoops goal for Yang, an Oh double, a Luis Palma penalty and strikes from Kyogo and David Turnbull saw the Bhoys dish out their own 6-0 mauling and restore the eight-point gap at the top of the table.
Rodgers said: “The performance level is improving all the time. The cohesion and synchronisation of the team is getting better and I thought the players were fantastic dealing with that game in midweek.
“The intensity was impressive, the guys who started gave us a good base and the guys coming into the game finished it off very well for us. We’ve made a very good start, but I will always demand more. We have to be hungry to improve.”
The manager, on the domestic front, doesn’t have anything to prove. His trophy haul from his first tenure speaks for itself. But despite that success, there are still those who can’t resist putting the boot in.
Take journalist Hugh Keevins for instance, a man no stranger to predicting gloom and doom for Celtic.
During the week, he penned a Daily Record article in which he linked the Champions League struggles to a potential title capitulation.
Then there was also the tripe of a “resurgent” Rangers, Clement “casting a giant shadow in the background”, and the cherry on top of the cake – that he’d be astonished if Brendan Rodgers was still in charge of Celtic next season.
What planet does this guy live on? I’d like to ask him the following questions: Who are the champions? Who are eight points clear? Which club has over £70m at their disposal when the other, even with Champions League income from last season and the sales of Calvin Bassey and Joe Aribo, still managed to post a £4.14m loss [the £252k profit was nonsense] in their annual report?
Which club had the much tougher run of league fixtures in the first part of the season?
Anything to play down Celtic and talk up Rangers. And just when you think things couldn’t get any more ridiculous, Kris Boyd throws in his two cents.
Following the win on Sunday, the former Rangers player outrageously claimed that Aberdeen will be more motivated for their upcoming game against Rangers than they were with Celtic.
He said live on Sky Sports: “You look at Aberdeen and think ‘you’re 3-0 down in 92 minutes, get back on that bus and get back up the road at 3-0.’ You end up losing three goals, three goals inside seven minutes and it’s now six.
“It’s embarrassing... But I’m sure Barry (Robson) will have absolutely no problem getting them up for it in the next game, that’s for sure. Because Rangers are in town, fact.”
Not the first time he’s had an on-screen meltdown, and it won’t be the last.
It always gives me a good laugh when he’s having a gurn, and if you’re an Aberdeen player listening to that, you’d only be too happy to dish out another league defeat against Rangers this campaign.
But, for now, it’s more international fixtures before another difficult run of games.
Heading into the break on a high is always important and Celtic will soon have key players such as Reo Hatate, Daizen Maeda and Liel Abada back from injury.
There’s no denying that the European results aren’t acceptable, but there’s still a fighting chance of nipping third spot in the group. A repeat of the 2019 heroics in the Olimpico will be needed.
Better hope they can pull it off though, because if not, it means the Celtic kingdom will crumble and the mighty Gers will swoop to become top dogs in Scotland.
Keep on dreaming, Hugh.