As the last warmth of late summer turns to autumn, a sense of foreboding greets the long winter ahead. Football dreams begins to fade in the gathering gloom around Parkhead. The annual hyperbolic dust of the transfer window has settled into a familiar pattern at Celtic Football Club and the silt of underwhelming new signings has cleared to very little excitement. Fairly and squarely we’ve been booted out of Europe by a better team and then luckily re-instated via the Law Courts. However, we’ve also played two key fixtures since and lost both far too convincingly. Athletico Madrid, playing very obviously in second gear, didn’t have to do much to sweep us out the way and more painfully a 4-2 loss against an unimpressive Rangers at Castle Greyskull four days later. The omens don’t conjure huge amounts of hope for success in the months ahead.
Most football fans of second-tier, non-Champions League clubs will be familiar with these feelings. Discussions have started in earnest about how to fix the now obvious holes in the squad. Talk of a “commanding centre half, a midfield enforcer and a striker who can score goals” bubble up regularly. After every loss or draw these will intensify with the vitriol directed at the current players until the realisation hits. The horrible, horrible realisation that every single area of your team lacks a world-class, quality player. Then, as if by magic the transfer window will re-open and the merry-go-round of delusion and false hope starts again.
The continuing mystery surrounding the absence of arguably our most potent weapon, Kris Commons, is leaving Neil Lennon in the unenviable position of having to select the lazy enigma that is Georgios Samaras. A player so out of form and uninterested he makes Dimitar Berbatov look like a true grafter
Until then, as the saying goes, you can only piss with the cock you’ve got. Currently this would appear to be a very flaccid central defensive partnership and a lack of any real striking threat up front. Luckily it looks like Udinese are not putting their key weapon into the heat of the Glasgow battle with Di Natale to remain in Italy as part of his “carefully managed schedule”. Having seen him scare the pants off an already terrified Arsenal team in the Champions League Play-offs I’m very glad he won’t be embarrassing Glenn Loovens or Daniel Mastjorovic on Thursday night. Two Northern European centre-half warriors shorn of their best years, their confidence shattered around their ankles in small, painful shards as they visibly wilt in the face of any skill and pace from opposition forwards. Our options for replacing the hapless duo? Charlie Mulgrew, a competent central defender who will be forced to cover at left back against the Italians due to lack of squad depth and a 19 year old Scandinavian, Thomas Rogne, who hasn’t played a game for 6 months and appears to have bones made of muesli. Not great in other words.
There are some reasons to be cheerful. Not many, in truth, but the form of James Forrest in the midfield is giving cause for optimism and Gary Hooper has his scoring boots well and truly strapped on. However, the continuing mystery surrounding the absence of arguably our most potent weapon, Kris Commons, is leaving Neil Lennon in the unenviable position of having to select the lazy enigma that is Georgios Samaras. A player so out of form and uninterested he makes Dimitar Berbatov look like a true grafter as he loafs about pretending to be a football player whilst actually imitating a stoned baby giraffe. Add to that the diminished crowd at Celtic Park, thanks mainly to the ridiculous 6pm kick-off and it may prove difficult to win fixture. A creditable but inadequate draw is probably on the cards. Hopefully we can avoid any further injuries, particularly at the back, before our media friendly trip to Tynecastle on Sunday, scene of the infamous attack on Neil Lennon last season. Basically, when you’ve finished second in a two horse race for three years and you’re up against a team who finished fourth in Serie A last season you’re in danger of getting found out. So far this season when the tough questions have been asked of this Celtic squad, the answers have not been forthcoming and neither have the points. Let’s hope this game changes that all too familiar pattern before the winter unfolds into one of true discontent at Celtic Park.
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