Well,that’s the international breaks over for this year,at last. We still have another one due this season,in March,but until then we can get on with some proper football. Can’t wait,if I’m honest.
We have eight games to go in the league between now and the end of the year,plus two European ties and a League Cup Final. Eleven games in total. All inside thirtysix days. That’s a punishing schedule by any standards,and it could put a heavy strain on our playing resources. As always,I’ll be hoping that Lenny takes advantage of the quality and quantity he has available to him in the squad and uses a few of these games to allow some of our players a breather,while giving others on the fringes the chance to impress.
And as always,I’ll expect to be disappointed as he sticks with the tried and trusted,a tactic with which he is comfortable and one that he clearly picked up from his mentor,Martin. Martin was a firm believer in playing his best eleven as often as possible,with players generally only dropping out due to injuries and suspensions. But sometimes,in my opinion,you have to shake things up a bit,sometimes you have to realise that players can get a bit jaded-especially with such a punishing schedule.
The league season is 38 matches long. By the time the huns trundle up to Celtic Park,that’s exactly how many competitive games we will have played by then. Two days short of New Year!
But mustn’t grumble,really. In the 27 matches to date,we have only lost twice-once against Cluj,which wrecked our Champions League aspirations for another season,and the infamous no-show horror show against Livingston in the league. Aye,we’ve also had one or two disappointing displays-Hibs and Dunfermline spring to mind right away-but overall,we can be fairly happy at this stage. A domestic Final just around the corner,a controlling stake in our Europa League group-including two famous victories against Lazio and a superb performance against Cluj-and sitting pretty at the top of the league with 31 points from 36 and a ridiculous goal difference of +29.
What’s not to like?
Well it’s hardly our fault that such a high points and goals return in the league hasn’t got us running away with it,but the huns are matching that pace point for point and very nearly goal for goal. Even I can’t blame the board for that one-though I hold them responsible to a high degree for their very existence,an argument for another day. So how are they achieving that,considering that few if any of us would have any of their players near our squad?
There are a number of reasons for this,in my opinion. And yes,some-though not all-of them involve the usual paranoid Tim stuff,but we have had good reason for this over the years,and rarely have we been wrong.
For starters,the SPFL fixture computer has been uncommonly kind to them,but that will even itself out in the next ten games as both teams will each have faced the opposition home and away. We will see how the land lies at the end of it,and draw some comparison at that point. Another obvious point is that they are being refereed differently,the most obvious point being the number of yellow cards they receive-absolutely minimal-and the number their opponents receive-virtually every third foul. Our opponents get booked once every nine fouls,and that usually includes a late flurry to balance things out after them being allowed to use us as punchbags for the rest of the game.
Look at the difference in approach from Livingston,as an example. They were scared to go near a Rangers player for fear of a card,but they certainly didn’t have that concern against us. These are major over the course of a season-we will suffer injuries and suspensions due to how we are refereed,you can bet your bottom dollar that the huns won’t. Even Morelos has hardly been booked this season,and it’s not like the snarling thug has had a Damascene conversion! More likely,someone has had a word or six-and not with him,by the way,unless they are fluent in Spanish. Yes,he can be a little bit silly at times,that sort of thing. Remember,the huns have got form for this-in their previous incarnation,Sir Walter of Cardigan would often mention the small squad size,that they couldn’t afford suspensions. His word was their command,of course.
But here’s probably the most important reason that they’re still hanging onto our bootlaces. Scottish football is regularly decried as a long ball and no football league. And guess what? That’s exactly the type of game the huns play. Now,if it was a long ball and no football league,surely every other team would be able to cope with such a game plan? After all,they would be playing against similar teams every week! But no,it seems to unsettle them,they can’t cope with a get it up the park as soon as possible approach. Two dropped points in eleven matches against opposition other than us suggests that they have hit on a winning formula,one straight out of the Dave ‘Harry’ Bassett school of not-much-thought. But if it’s working,and it ain’t broken,why fix it? It’s certainly ideal for some of the heavy pitches they can expect in a Scottish winter,and also for that plastic guff at a quarter of our league grounds.
So,what am I saying? I’m saying that a third of the way into the season we haven’t shaken them off. They have a system that works and they are getting the benefit of refereeing which subdues the opposition. The other teams that have challenged over the years-teams like Aberdeen,or Hearts,Hibs,Kilmarnock-have all gone backwards alarmingly. We have got a challenge for our title,whether we believe they are deserving or not. Are we better than them? Of course we are-but that league table tells an alarming story at the moment.
Above article by BMCUWP. We always welcome contributions from our members on here,so if you want us to post your thoughts as Article of the Day,we always publish. Don’t worry about the presentation,we can tidy it up if necessary. Just mail it to Mahe,let us do the rest.