A few years ago, it was a running joke in the blogging and podcasting world that it was much easier to write and talk about things when they were bad. It’s so much easier to pick holes and complain than it is to compliment and praise.
Well, here we are. Celtic’s first domestic defeat in nineteen months saw Celtic self-destruct in style. A 4-0 defeat at Hearts, the Edinburgh side’s biggest win over Celtic since 1895, was about as bad an all round performance as I ever remember seeing. James Forrest was probably the one player who came out of the game with any praise, while the rest either weren’t at the races or worse made crucial errors at crucial times.
Whether that’s the sight of Jozo Simunovic slipping and falling, or the sight of Leigh Griffiths having a fresh air swipe doesn’t really matter. Sunday was a collective failing of a team who have been struggling at times in recent weeks. This had been coming, but I don’t think any of us could quite have predicted just how bad it would be in the end.
Nevertheless, a 69 game unbeaten domestic run is something that will be remembered for generations to come. The 2-1 defeat to St Johnstone in May 2016 and the 4-0 defeat to Hearts in December 2017 will probably be remembered more by statisticians as time passes than anyone else.
Well, maybe not. Those of us that witnessed them, at the game or on television, will probably remember the latter.
But once the dust has settled a little, we’ll all look back on a remarkable period of Celtic’s history. We all have our favourite moments in it. Whether it was the dramatic 4-3 win at Fir Park, one of the 5-1 wins over the other lot in the city, the two wins over Aberdeen that clinched the cup trophies, or even the 3-0 win at Pittodrie this season where we simply blew away a form team, there’s many more memories in there too.
The invincible treble will never be taken away from us.
So what now? Now that the run has come to an end, what next?
Well… you start again. Ronny Deila’s 7-0 win over Motherwell was the first of the 69, perhaps tonight’s game against Partick Thistle will be the start of a new unbeaten run. I certainly hope so, whether it goes on to be equally as impressive, lengthy or record breaking.
After all, we have a title race to deal with!
In all the talk about unbeaten records, the number of draws we’ve been having and now a defeat are slightly concerning. We’re still top of the league, but it’s only by a couple of points ahead of a team we’re due to face later this week.
A couple of points plus a game in hand, which we play tonight. And it’s not insignificant match either, it’s a Glasgow derby.
Partick Thistle have their own problems at the moment. Last midweek they amazingly found themselves 3-0 up on Motherwell, and although they were pegged back to 3-2 in the second half they still managed to hang on to clinch some much needed three points.
That win was their first since the end of October and has kept them within touching distance of the other teams at the bottom of the table, but right now they are still two points behind second bottom Ross County. They could really do with starting to pick up points, and losing 3-0 away to third bottom Dundee at the weekend certainly didn’t help. Those are the teams they need to be taking points from, not table topping Celtic.
Except where that game is a game in hand, then it becomes almost as important to try and pick them up.
Thistle will come to Celtic Park tonight with little expectation, but they’ll still come with a game plan. More and more teams are showing the same pattern of trying to ensure Celtic don’t get time on the ball and it worked wonders for Hearts. Whether Thistle are as capable of doing that as Hearts remains to be seen, and hopefully Celtic Park won’t be as unusually slippy as Tynecastle was!
One of three things is likely to happen tonight. One, Celtic come out to prove a point and absolutely thump Partick Thistle. That’s the one I’m sure we’d all like to see, but I suspect we’re more likely to get option two – a narrow victory that at least gets us winning again. The last time the teams met was only a 1-0 win thanks to Olivier Ntcham’s strike after all.
The worst thing that could happen though is option three – a continuation of Sunday. The players need to show confidence in their ability tonight and not weakness. This team didn’t go 69 games unbeaten domestically by accident, so we all know its in there. The trouble is, they haven’t really shown it recently.
Perhaps the unbeaten tag was becoming a burden, perhaps the sheer volume of games has been just too much this season. Regardless of the reasons, it’s up to Brendan Rodgers to lift them and get back to how we all know they are capable of playing.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)