The Night Before…

As I sit here as an unemployed university graduate, possessing a bank balance which has not reached the mythical figures of £0 for almost a year (does anyone know how long your student overdraft remains interest free?), I really should have plenty to worry about in life. When will I get a job? Where will I get a job? Will I EVER get a job?

In reality though there isn’t “plenty” I am worrying about. Obviously my parents won’t want to hear this, but I’m pretty satisfied waking up at midday, taking the dog for a walk before spending the afternoon sunning (burning) my pale body in the garden.

I do have one worry however. One big worry, and it’s the same big worry every Celtic fan has at the moment. That is the increasingly likely prospect of crashing out of the Champions League tomorrow night before the competition has even really begun.

Last weeks defeat to Legia Warsaw was a disaster. I don’t need go through the match in any detail as I am sure that that particular nightmare will be etched into the memory of every fan who had the misfortune of witnessing it.

Tomorrow night, on the other hand, can be discussed. The outcome of the “home” leg is monumental to Celtic’s season, and future. I will be the first to admit that, like Frank McAvennie, I had never heard of our new manager until one morning in June, when, as is my daily routine, I flicked through every Celtic related twitter account I could find to see the name Ronny Deila popping up in almost every tweet. After doing a couple of hours research of my own I had convinced myself he was the perfect fit for us. A student of the game. Not only had he worked wonders at Stromsgodset, but he had spent time at Manchester City, Ajax, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, watching their training methods in order to improve his own footballing knowledge and progress as a coach. The articles on Ronny were vast as were the comparisons to the ever popular Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp. What was not to like? The video of Ronny stripping to his pants in celebration of keeping Stromsgodset in the Norwegian top flight had me sold. Not only did I agree with his footballing philosophies, but he appeared to have a lively, charismatic personality. Something I think you need to have if you are going succeed at a club like Celtic, otherwise the pressures from the fans and the media will get on top of you. It is something Neil Lennon had. Something Tony Mowbray, unfortunately, did not. I never want to hear the phrase “We’ll take it on the chin” muttered by a Celtic manager again.

If, as I expect, we go out of the Champions League tomorrow night, Ronny Deila must ensure the players have at least left everything they have on the pitch and have given a positive, winning, display. For his own future, he needs a win tomorrow night. Not necessarily the three goal margin which will see us through (as brilliant as that would be) but a win that will lift the team and the fans, and demonstrate that his ideas for the season will improve us as a team.

Last week the players let everyone down. But at the same time some of Deila’s decisions were baffling. Starting Matthews at left back & leaving Izaguirre on the bench was surprising but throwing Berget straight into the starting XI only a day after signing for the club was truly bizarre. Not only would he barely have known any of his new teammates names and vice versa, but also it sent out a negative message to first team regulars Anthony Stokes and Leigh Griffiths who were summoned to the bench to make way for a loanee from Cardiff who had only trained with his new team that day for the first time. As I said I don’t want to go into detail about last week, for my own mental health as much as anything else. Tomorrow night, though, Ronny must get every decision correct. I believe with time he will improve us, at least in the style of football we play. At times it has been a chore watching Celtic over the last couple of years. We are by far the strongest team in the league so we should look to win in style. When Neil Lennon’s side clicked they were a joy to watch. Hopefully Ronny can have us performing like that more consistently, but he mustn’t change too much too soon. We’ve seen it before with teams like Chelsea. Andre Villas-Boas was brought in in 2011 with a growing reputation. He wanted to do everything his way immediately and the senior players who were not in his plans revolted.  Ultimately Villas-Boas was dismissed. I do not think that that is how footballers should react to change, but unfortunately it appears to be the reality. 
Tomorrow night we need to see our strongest XI in a system that suits them where they are just now. In a few months hopefully they will be playing the high tempo 4-3-3 that Deila wants to produce but for now we need to give ourselves the best chance we can.
As is part of being a Celtic fan I am clinging onto the small hope that we will sneak through after a 3-0 demolishing of Legia with the famous Murrayfield crowd at our backs 😉
Without the Champions League we will almost certainly have seen the last of Fraser Forster and Virgil van Dijk, and I cannot say I trust the board to spend any significant money if that does happen. We need the Champions League to progress as a team and not allow the powers that be an excuse to sell our star men without reinvesting in the squad.
Let’s see a special night tomorrow that can lift the whole atmosphere surrounding the club at the moment and leave me feeling horrendous the morning after for all the right reasons. We’re all due a good hangover. 
Show us what you’ve got Celtic.
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