Celtic, Europa League, Scottish Football

All-Too Commons Complaints

Good Morning (and please vote ‘Clumpany’ by 30 October!).

Well that was an absolute shocker of a performance by Celtic last. It almost made the second leg against Malmo in the Champions League qualifier seem like a happy memory.

The post-mortem over the result, performance and disharmony in the ranks will go on for some time. Amongst the fans and in the media.

It should be remembered that Celtic are only two points off second place in their Europa League group and have important domestic games coming up.  One of the beauties of football is that there is nearly always another opportunity to get things ‘back on track’ pretty quickly. 

However Celtic need to regroup (again) and fast. And right now you wouldn’t put money on it. Which is a worry.

Because we’ve seen this movie before. Several times. Recently. 

Poor defending in lots of matches, a gutless and inept performance in Europe, and a manager seemingly unable to shake things up mid-game and give the opposition something to worry about.

Oh, and signs of disharmony in the dressing room. It seemed clear after the disastrous Malmo performance and the post-match comments from manager and players that all was not well. But Celtic somehow managed to improve the spirit and look more like a team in subsequent games.

Unfortunately however, the events of last night suggest that things have gone completely pear-shaped again. The poor defending and lack of concentration continued (conceding 47 seconds after scoring FFS!). Ronny took an age to make changes and then left most people feeling baffled by bringing off Kris Commons.

Ah, Kris Commons.

His reaction to being substituted involved several prams being divested of their toys, and was:

A) in some way laudable as it seemed to show he really cared about the ineptitude on display; but sadly it was also

B) embarrassing and unprofessional. 

…and I assume the club will rightly take disciplinary action to deter repeat performances by any player.

A lot of you will disagree (and that’s fine!), including perhaps the fans in the stadium, but I don’t want to see a Celtic player engaging in a sustained rant at the management team on live TV.

It distracts from the still-ongoing game, screams ‘problems in the dressing room’, gives critics a stick with which to beat the club, and gives future opponents a lift. Who wouldn’t want to know that their opposition is in turmoil? I have no doubt that Dundee Utd are now feeling more optimistic about the upcoming game against the Champions than they were at 8pm last night.

In my opinion Commons should have saved his strop for the dressing room. And Ronny should have batted away post-match questions about it rather than being drawn into making negative comments. 

However, in drawing attention to apparent problems at the club, Commons’ angry display might ultimately, helpfully force some difficult issues to be addressed. 

Things can’t carry on as they are. Celtic may be top of the League, in two Cups and still in Europe, but this extremely positive position doesn’t feel like a happy one. 

People are openly discussing the future of the management team: particularly whether they have what it takes to build a better-organised and flexible side in Europe, but also in domestic games. 

This assumes of course that they haven’t already completely lost the dressing room. Commons’ outburst might simply have been indicative of his own anger rather than a wider malaise, but either way, it seems pretty clear that the dressing room isn’t a place of serene harmony!

And that is a major problem. 

Questions are also (rightly) being asked  about the board. In particular, whether they will ever back a manager with the cash and autonomy to make their choice of signings to qualify for the Champions League group stages at any point in the foreseeable future.

It is just possible that heads can be banged together and the air cleared, leading to the emergence of a re-energised, better-organised and more ‘together’ Celtic side.

But does anyone think that is likely at this stage?

Many feel it is time for Ronny and John Collins to go, as the buck ultimately stops with them where dismal team performances are concerned. 

And they have a point.

Raw emotion following a horrible result can prompt knee-jerk reactions, but the concerns about Ronny’s Celtic side run deeper than disgruntlement about one game. People increasingly feel that things simply aren’t good enough. 

And that’s a problem for Ronny, who is likely to feel fans’ frustration more quickly and frequently than ever before. 

I suspect the Celtic board will not be rushed into immediate action, and nor  should they given the number of fronts on which the club is still fighting. 

In my humble opinion it would make sense to give him at least the remainder of the Europa League group stage campaign to get things on track. That period includes three more European games, a League Cup quarter final, and six league games, including a fixture against Aberdeen.

That’s quite a testing spell, and an effective management team should make a good fist of it.

I think Ronny is a great guy and we shouldn’t overlook his achievements last season. I want him to succeed. But last night’s events had a ‘beginning of the end’ feel about them.

I’d like to be wrong.

And I often am. 


Update: 1pm, 23 October 2015: Kris Commons has apologised for his outburst last night. That’s a good first step on the road to sorting out the current problems. But it is only a first step.

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