They say it’s the hope that kills you.
They are wrong.
It’s a gutless display that really sticks the knife in and twists it.
Sure, Celtic shouldn’t have had a goal chalked off, and there was some refereeing tonight that would have had Scotland’s men in black nodding their heads in admiration.
It was that bad!
But it was also pretty irrelevant. Because that was as atrocious and disappointing a Celtic display as you are likely to see in many a year.
In the history of ‘performances relative to occasion’ that was one of the great let-downs.
As we all know, Celtic made life more difficult for themselves than it should have been by letting 2-0 and 3-1 leads slip during the first leg.
But there was no reason at all why a performance akin to the first half at Celtic Park last week wouldn’t have seen the Hoops get through to the Group Stages of the Champions League for the first time under Ronny Deila.
The talk from the club, manager and players was all upbeat and optimistic over the past few days.
And the fans were quite happy to ‘believe’, because it seemed there was good cause to.
But on the day the team – apart from Craig Gordon really – was abysmal.
Griffiths -who has been fantastic of late – was lucky to stay on the pitch after ‘allowing’ his knee to make contact with the ‘groin’ of Anton Tinnerholm.
Scott Brown largely disappeared rather than imposing himself on the game, and Bitton was lucky to be hauled off by Ronny before he was sent off.
I could go on…
But suffice it to say that Celtic were awful in almost all departments and deservedly lost to an outfit that – while no better on paper – simply seemed to want it more.
Quite how Ronny and John Collins managed to put out a team that played in such an insipid way, and quite how the players managed to virtually sleepwalk through much of the game is a mystery.
However, it should not remain a mystery for long.
This was a performance worthy of a post-mortem. The club, manager and players need to take a long hard look at themselves to try and understand what went wrong, and what needs to be changed.
In the short, medium and longer term.
It was heartening to hear Scott Brown say after the game that he was “ashamed” of the performance, although I would have preferred to see a bit more of that kind of passionate feeling on the pitch tonight
Champions League football has to be the aim for Celtic, and they have fallen short for a second successive year.
They do not have the domestic TV riches to enable them to compete with the ‘biggest’ European clubs, but they can certainly hope to win through qualifying and then make a decent showing in the Champions League groups.
And that hasn’t happened.
So questions must be asked.
But that’s enough doom and gloom for now!
Celtic’s hitherto improved performance in Europe this season means that they have Europa League football to ‘fall back’ on.
Without any involvement by the Court of Arbitration for Sport!
As we saw last season – especially against Inter – Europa League football can be exciting and occasionally epic!
How many seasons have there been in the past where Celtic’s European campaign has ended before the domestic one has really got going?
This season, European football is guaranteed for several more months.
Celtic also have the domestic competitions to look forward to, where the challenge from Aberdeen and Hearts in the League looks set to be strong, and where ANYTHING can happen in the Cups.
The beauty of football is that there is always another game around the corner.
A fresh challenge.
Another reason to get excited.
Tonight’s shocker has to be taken on the chin and learned-from.
Painfully. And I dare say with a big dose of schadenfreude from fans of other clubs or ‘clubs’.
But then we dust ourselves down and go again.
Because you can be certain that the magic isn’t over.
There’s plenty more to come.