When Celtic were dumped out of the Scottish Cup last weekend by a resurgent Aberdeen, much talk was of Celtic choking and Lennon’s cup record once again. Not much was made of Aberdeen being the better side, merely how poor Celtic had been.
Since then we have seen players and the management team rolled out to try to smooth over the cracks at Celtic with comments and quotes that are nothing other than polyfilla. At the end of the day, Celtic are the top side in the country, their league standing is evidence to that fact and with that standing comes the notion that with little or no competition in the Scottish game, Celtic should sweep all opponents aside and they should.
To be dumped out of the cup by Aberdeen is not embarrassing given where Derek McInnes’ side is in the league, but the Parkhead club’s defeat to Morton in the League Cup is on par with defeats to Clyde and Inverness Caley in years gone by. But Lennon’s comments that the Dons defeat was worse than Morton is comical, whether Celtic were at full strength or not against Morton – a side who were bottom of the Championship should not beat even a second string Celtic side.
Out of the Celtic side that faced Morton, five were regular first team players [Ambrose, van Dijk, Mulgrew, Lustig and Brown], while Teemu Pukki, Nir Biton, Tom Rogic and Dirk Boerrigter were recent transfer acquisitions. Dylan McGeouch and Lukasz Zaluska also started the game. All players capable enough to beat a spirited Morton side.
The game went into extra time with Celtic having brought on another three first team regulars in the guise of Kris Commons, Adam Matthews and Anthony Stokes. So by end of 90 minutes, Celtic were at full strength bar Lukasz Zaluska who was deputising for Fraser Forster. IF Lennon is still of the mind that his Celtic side on that day was neither capable enough nor at full strength to beat Morton, then he really should quit now.
Celtic do not have a divine right to win every game and every competition they enter, but the expectations of their support means if they do not win the league along with at least one of the domestic cup competitions – as well as qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League. Anything less than that then the season is a failure in my opinion.
Lennon either has an allergy to winning cup competitions or his charges underestimate the opposition, either way the blame for being knocked out of the club competitions lies squarely at the feet of the players and Neil Lennon.
Mulgrew’s comments this weekend that, he would rather take qualification to compete against the Euro elite above the Scottish Cup every day of the week, may be the truth but it is derisory to the historic competition, the clubs playing against Celtic and above all the Celtic supporters who pay good money to go to games home and away only for players to peddle comments like that. It is a slap in the face of the supporters.
The former Aberdeen defender could be excused from the Dons defeat as he wasn’t playing, but it doesn’t give him a get out of jail free card over his comments. The fans love Celtic playing against the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan etc as do the players and the board for different reasons, but at the end of the day silverware is what counts the most and out of the three domestic competitions Celtic entered and should have won, they will only win the league.
If the greats of Celtic past like Stein, Maley and Burns were still around – Mulgrew would have been read the riot act [along with the rest of the players]and what it should mean to play football at Celtic and what is expected of them at all times. It seems that many are forgetting what it means to pull on the Hoops.
And if Rangers do secure a Cup final berth and win it at Celtic Park, then it will be a further slap in the face. Time for Lennon to read that riot act to his players and ditch the excuses.