Celtic: The implosion. The imagination of a screenwriting genius would have been required to piece together a chain of events that are now far enough removed from fiction to fatally undermine what was billed as a historic season.
The big plans for a 10th consecutive title are long gone; instead, Celtic’s collective decision-making made the club a laughing stock. Their supporters, normally so fiercely defensive of reputation, were united in horror at the dismantling of a setup that seemed untouchable 12 months ago. It didn’t take much to overthrow this plasticine empire.
There are dismal multi-million pound transfer episodes, the case of the left-back who broke travel rules for a holiday to Spain without the club’s knowledge, Nicola Sturgeon’s lines, European embarrassment at the hands of the Ferencvaros and Europa League sides who rocked in 19. goals in six group games, before we even managed to unleash fans outside Celtic Park as national dominance began to disintegrate. Just when such noise had calmed down to the point of being accepted – Rangers’ victory in the Old Firm match on January 2 secured the title in all but the name – came a trip to Dubai and the spinoff that make “ill-advised” as a euphemism of the year.
By the time Celtic entered the pitch against Hibernian on Monday night, 13 players and three coaches – including manager Neil Lennon – were in isolation. Celtic season ticket holders, handed over a streaming code for their money, watched a reserve team limp to a 1-1 draw as Lennon instructed substitutes via air modules.
It sums up the incredible scenario that Christopher Jullien, taken to Dubai despite a long-term injury, was the player to test positive for Covid-19 and to gain the attention of athletics teams. If Celtic – and not Rangers – had a 21-point advantage, fans really wouldn’t care about Dubai and the drama associated with it. But here we are: Celtic are working hard on the pitch and an unholy mess. The form of the Rangers League has been exemplary, but Steven Gerrard has to be laughing at himself.
Celtic’s board hate any accusation of appeasement. The club opposes any claim that their self-proclaimed scale is undermined by two-bit behavior. Yet it is impossible to foresee a situation in which Dermot Desmond, the absent owner, would submit to such mismanagement at one of his other businesses. Celtic’s mess in Dubai is a sign of terrible decision-making and a culture of arrogance.
It cannot be overstated that Celtic should be in a different competitive stratosphere than this, due to the years of leeway offered by Rangers’ financial implosion. Instead, punters stoned Hamilton Accies beatings as managers presided over the managed decline. The means by which this has all come to a head are spectacular, but the signs have been there for years. Lennon was offered his job in the locker room showers after a cup final.
The Celtic declaration that confirmed Dubai 16’s housebound status was as extraordinary as it was daring. Rather than offering a hint of remorse, it served as a reminder of a culture of law. ‘The reality is that one case might well have happened had the team remained in Scotland, as other cases have done in Scottish football and British sport over the past week,’ reads. we. A club founded on grounds of decency and compassion has acted with blatant disregard for a troubled and broader image by unnecessarily stepping away from a charter flight to the Middle East amid the pandemic. They go to Dubai every year, so why not go back? It is the attitude of a petulant adolescent, with the chutzpah boosted by the dozens of observers too frightened to criticize such an important entity.
John Kennedy, Celtic’s assistant manager, reported on Saturday that Shane Duffy “would miss the [Hibs] game because he left the bubble ”. Duffy had left Dubai early to deal with personal matters. Monday night, the Irishman played at the central back.
Scottish clubs have indeed returned positive cases of Covid, without the need for such a count of isolation. Celtic people are not at all used to being told they are wrong; and certainly not from the Scottish football administration. Their level of power can skew the outlook. An apology to Celtic supporters should have opened any ballot. Instead of? Hubris.
The Celtic journey has two parts. On the one hand, he was chronically deaf against a backdrop of severe restrictions at home and underperformance on the pitch. On the other, it seems from this distance that he was madly inviting the risk of coronavirus. Celtic does not fly to any domestic date.
As the photos emerged from a seemingly “relaxed” environment, the control only intensified. “I have my doubts, based on how the club themselves have described it, as to whether Celtic’s trip to Dubai was really essential,” Sturgeon said. “I have doubts based on some of the images I have seen whether the compliance with the bubble rules was strict enough.” Celtic did not break the laws but abused their spirit.
Gavin Strachan, left in charge in the dugout against Hibs, doubled the club’s position. He said: “It is unfortunate that one person caught the virus, but there is no regret about the clearance we got and the protocols we followed, which we did. all season. It is unfortunate that we had a positive, which we could have had at any time.
“It’s a trip that has been done over the last few years and has yielded very positive results, so the thinking behind that was to keep that up and try to galvanize and push into the second half of the season. It may have escaped Strachan’s attention that a number of things deemed absolutely perfect “over the past few years” are not on the table at the moment.
Andy Walker, a man immersed in Celtic, was wonderfully resuscitating during Sky coverage on Monday night. “What Celtic’s support deserves is a little contrition from someone who has a bit of strength at this club,” said the former striker. “They are being changed and this is completely unacceptable.”
The mess leaves the Scottish Professional Football League – quite unimpressive under normal circumstances, let alone a crisis – in a pickle sort. After St Mirren and Kilmarnock were unable to play matches earlier in the season, opponents were awarded 3-0 wins. The clubs appealed. Boxing Day – months after the meetings in question – saw a hilarious but necessary reconfiguration of the table due to said calls.
Not only did SPFL allow Celtic to travel to Dubai, but the league moved the Hibs game – much to the chagrin of the Edinburgh club – to make it easier. As this absurdity unfolded, Celtic had two matches in hand. Neil Doncaster, the managing director of FPSL, was previously very reluctant about the schedules. Celtic were allowed to take out the midweeks while behind in matches based on the winter sun.
The SPFL appears to be much more interested in Covid’s results than the causes, especially when it comes to small clubs with small teams. Celtic played Hibs, hence the integrity of the competition and damage to the image beyond apparently doesn’t matter. Hibs asked Celtic for a new test, a perfectly valid request even on the optics level, and was refused by their opponents and the SPFL. There is complete silence from Doncaster, its chairman Murdoch MacLennan, and non-executive directors involved in yet another farce. This is, however, predictable.
Dubai will forever serve as an inauspicious point of reference in this 2020-2021 Celtic campaign. Even in such an inconstant affair, it will take a lot for the club’s support to return to the side. The sequel will only portray a happy place if Celtic admits glaring failures.