I hear those words so often in life and yet some things never change anyway. Celtic away from home in Europe seems to be one of those.
For as long as I can remember, Celtic have made the same mistakes in Europe time after time after time. We panic in possession and give the ball away cheaply. We can barely get out of our own half at times. Players who usually look calm and can find an easy pass are suddenly frantic and put the ball out of play or give it straight to an opponent.
And then there’s the defence.
I remember watching Celtic go to Portugal and get hammered 3-0 by a Porto team as a usually solid Celtic defence was all over the place. We were lucky it was only 3-0 that night.
That’s 17 years ago now, and I’m now watching a Celtic team with players barely old enough to remember that game taking place making exactly the same mistakes.
How is that even possible?
The manager, the players, even the Celtic board are all different faces. The only constant in that time are the poor guys who travel hundreds and even thousands of miles at great cost to watch Celtic play like they’ve only just met.
For 45 minutes on Thursday it looked like it might be slightly different. Sure, we were still conceding easy possession as always, but we were occasionally looking good going forward and most crucially we actually looked solid at the back.
Sadly that disappeared in the second half.
Red Bull Salzburg are no mugs, but yet again we gifted far too much of that game to them. We had them rattled with the early goal and even had the ball in the net a second time. Maybe we should have done better with that and not had an offside rebound, but to be quite honest we might still have lost the game given how poorly we defended in the second half.
It’s utterly bizarre how we keep making the same mistakes over and over. I’m at a loss to explain that pattern, but every manager has done it for Celtic at some point. The occasional variation like O’Neill’s run to Seville or Mowbray’s 3-3 come back in Austria or Lennon’s 3-2 win in Moscow proves it can be done – but each of those at some point had us with our head in our hands. O’Neill in Basel was the prelude to the Seville run, Mowbray was 3-0 down in that same game, Lennon’s side were 2-1 down in that game.
I hope Rodgers can find the answer, but right now I don’t see how. We have enough problems with the current side without trying to figure out how to solve one that’s been there since Kieran Tierney was in nappies.
Right now the immediate problem to solve is picking up our first away win in the league. We’re one of only three teams in the league without one, the other two both live West of us, but at least we know we can do it with this one.
After all, we only just visited McDiarmid Park last month in the League Cup.
That 1-0 win was tight, but showed some promise in a number of areas. The Leigh Griffiths goal was all we had to show for it, but it was enough to send us to Hamp…
Murrayfield for the semi final. Assuming they don’t change it on us again that is.
Now we have to do it all again, this time in the league. Of course we have to do it off the back of a defeat in Europe. Those are always tiring affairs.
Although I happen to know the team were back long enough that Mikael Lustig was seeing Kevin Bridges on Friday night. So hopefully he and the rest of the squad have had enough rest for this next game. If nothing else, I know Lustig had a good laugh. It was a brilliant show.
St Johnstone will want revenge for that League Cup defeat, as well as a chance to move themselves up the table a bit. Then again, we want to do that too.
Leaders Hearts travel to Ibrox and a draw there would be nice. Hearts will definitely be tested over the next few weeks and we need to be ready to capitalise on any slip ups. We need to build a run of wins for ourselves ahead of hosting Hearts in the league a week after we face them in the League Cup. We also need to keep up with Hibernian and Kilmarnock who both won yesterday, and even Livingston managed a draw.
Scoring more than a single goal in any game would be nice too. But as long as we’re keeping clean sheets, single goal victories are fine for now.
But we also need some performances to get the belief back. Scott Sinclair looks like he’s starting to get his back certainly after his goal last week, and that’s the kind of thing that can help. We need a few more though, then maybe we’ll see the Celtic we all know and love.
Do that and then maybe we can start to worry about how we perform away in Europe again. Our visit to Leipzig isn’t that far away. I don’t really want to watch yet another away trip end in us having awful passing and awful defending.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And if there’s one thing we really should know at Celtic, it’s our history.
Krys (Twitter @krys1888)