Neutral fans who tuned in to Saturday’s Celtic-Hearts match (and, let’s be honest, most without a rooting interest passed it by) had to be scratching their collective heads. After all, it was the home supporters, at Celtic Park, whose side were at the top of the table and fresh off a domestic treble-winning campaign in 2022-23 singing, “Sack the board.”
The Full Scottish
Meanwhile, the traveling support from Edinburgh, with the Jambos in a distant third, 16 points off the pace, were in rapture.
Such is the state of play in Scottish football. As we noted in this space last week, a loss in domestic competition for either Celtic or Rangers amounts to a crisis. Consecutive losses? Well, that’s the apocalypse.
At Celtic, it hasn’t happened since 2013, way back in Neil Lennon, Part I. Those vociferously singing “Sack the board” and telling club chairman Peter Lawwell to, well, First Touch is a family publication, would argue the signs aren’t good.
The Hoops are out of Europe (while rivals Rangers are in the knockout stages of the Europa League. They also fell out of the League Cup early (a competition ’Gers won on Sunday). And, they only sit five points clear at the top of the league table (with the Ibrox side having played two fewer matches).
Lack Of Quality
As we noted here a few weeks ago, current Parkhead manager Brendan Rodgers has complained about the lack of “quality” within the squad to compete at the Champions’ League level.
However, even casual observers know that, given the increased resources at the club’s disposal (compared with most of the other clubs in the Premiership), they should have more than enough talented players to dominate domestically.
Which is the point. They haven’t dominated, what with the aforementioned loss in the League Cup play at Kilmarnock in August and the consecutive defeats (the first of the season) in league play at Killie (again) and at home to Hearts. Even many of their victories haven’t been convincing.
So, what’s missing? Well, the easy answer is Ange Postecoglou, who left in the summer to take over at Spurs, enabling the return of the prodigal Rodgers.
But it’s not that simple. Much of the core of the squad remains unchanged and the tactics are similar, and while the Aussie’s teams did well domestically, they were routinely pumped in European play.
Celtic also dropped points in nine matches during Postecoglou’s first season, and in six his second, losing three times both campaigns, albeit none at home. Thus, theories abound. Has the squad not taken to Rodgers? Are players looking to move on? Is Rodgers’ heart not in the job? Has the absence of the banished Green Brigade affected the performance of the players on the pitch?
Anyone who says they know exactly what’s going on at Lennoxtown is lying. Because those who do know, the players and staff, aren’t saying. Leaving the rest of us to guess.
What is for certain is that Rodgers must turn things around quickly. One could argue he needs to win the four matches remaining before the winter break—including the Glasgow derby on 12/30—to stay in post. Failure to do so could lead to a lot more singing. And even without the Green Brigade, the choir is getting pretty loud as it is.