1. Celtic fans lift the team
Not having the Celtic fans at home and away games has negatively impacted the performances of the players and results of the team. There’s a famous idiom about fans sucking the ball into the net and the players have evidently missed the impetus that our support gives.
2. ‘The Other Half’ have been relieved of the pressure from their fans
It is well-known that the Sevco fans put their players under pressure when things aren’t going well on the pitch. Their captain published his opinion in the matchday programme last year that their players fold under pressure.
3. The hiatus killed the Griff-Eddy partnership
When we returned from Dubai in 2020 after a shaky finish to 2019 we had a renewed vigour encapsulated by a dynamic partnership of Edouard and Griffiths ripping teams apart – the team was averaging 3.4 goals per game. After a four-month break in games (8-March to 17-July) Griffiths was too out of shape to even be a sub in a pre-season friendly and has failed to get back to an adequate level since then.
4. Players lost and not replaced
Jozo was offered a new contract which was withdrawn when the pandemic hit. Lennon was told to choose between Hayes and Bitton. Gordon was let go / given a derisory offer because we assumed Forster would sign and were tightening the budget. Of those three only Jozo was first-choice in 2019/20 but none were replaced. At one point early in this season we couldn’t field 3 CBs and had to abandon 3-5-2. Gordon would have played every game after Barkas was found out and Hayes has been a loss to the changing room and would have probably played 20+ games too.
5. Fewer Champions League games to get up to speed
In previous years we have lamented the early Champions League qualifiers but it has provided one big positive in that we’re at (slash close to) full speed by the time the first league game kicks off. The deferred start and one-leg affairs meant we had two league games before we even played our first qualifier and only played our fourth European game on 1st October.
6. COVID kept Gerrard employed
Sevco were in such wretched form in the first quarter of 2020 that Gerrard was publicly stating that he was considering his position. The media were being briefed to air the narrative that no “Rangers” manager had ever survived two trophyless seasons. If the early 2020 form had been extrapolated to the end of the season and we had finished 20+ points ahead and then celebrated a Treble then Gerrard would have been gone rather than leading them to their first ever top flight honour in 2021.
7. Bolingoli / SFA / ScotGov put us two games back
We haven’t been on a parity of games played since this triad of conspirators caused our 3rd and 4th games of the season to be suspended indefinitely. Celtic fans who remember when there was a challenger called Rangers* will know what a difference it makes to have your game on the Saturday to put pressure on your rivals who play on the Sunday. Well, we essentially spent the majority of the season playing two weeks behind. Don’t come back Boli.
8. Deferred Scottish Cup knocked us back further
Having been knocked out of the 2020 Scottish Cup, our running ‘mates’ across the city were given a chance to get an even bigger numerical and psychological gap over us while we played catch-up on last season’s games. The decision of Neil Lennon / the club to prioritise the cup by not playing one of the postponed games in the vacant midweek before the final meant that we were complicit in this disadvantage.
9. Lennon would have been gone in November under normal circumstances
If we assume that results would have been the same in a normal season then the situation that kept Lennon in the hot seat as a lame duck would not have transpired. The ‘fans’ would have vented their frustration inside the stadium rather than outside it which caused Desmond to dig his heels in and stick with Lennon. There also would not have been the compelling sentimental reason to ‘give’ Lennon his first Treble as a manager.
10. International player handicap
In a normal season it is hugely advantageous to have a squad full of international players. More quality and greater return on transfer fees being the principle reasons. However, this season, forcing players from different squads/bubbles/countries to mingle has been a particularly asinine move by FIFA/UEFA/SFA. This was exacerbated by the repeated mismanagement of players and protocols by national associations – most notably the Scottish and Israeli FAs. Bitton, Elhamed, Eddy and Turnbull all picked up the virus on international duty ahead of the Glasgow Derby. Ryan Christie had to self-isolate after being exposed to it. Moi, Ajer and Duffy were all exposed while on international duty but were lucky to avoid infection and isolation. Add to this the fact that international windows were now squeezing in 3 games – Duffy played 300 minutes of international level football in the 8 days preceding the Glasgow Derby – in which he had a stinker and has never mentally recovered from.
Taking an injured player on an international training camp led to subsequent form of 1 win, 3 draws and 1 loss (6 points from 15 possible) and hammered most of the nails in the coffin of ‘The Ten’.
12. January Transfer Window
“We want to come out every transfer window stronger than we’ve gone in” – Peter Lawwell, Feb 2018
Players in: Jonjoe Kenny (loan from Everton)
Players out: Jeremie Frimpong (10m to Bayer Leverkusen); Hatem Abd Elhamed (810k to Hapoel Beer Sheva); Olivier Ntcham (loan to Marseille)
13. Unsettled new arrivals
As touched on before, the spirit and camaraderie created by players like Hayes and Lustig has been missing this year and Scott Brown has been unable to carry this can on his own in socially distant circumstances. The only signing from the summer window who has settled in and contributed well is the one who didn’t have to move house/country/leave family behind – David Turnbull.
14. It’s cursed
It’s a statistical anomaly that three times in Scotland a team has got to 9 failed at ‘The Ten’. Juventus might also be feeling the curse too this year as they fail to hit 10. It might have something to do with the 3 year cycle of a team that Strachan and Alex Ferguson alluded to. Or maybe the devil is currently in possession of the soul of one Celtic fan from the 90s and one Sevco fan from last year.
Written by Sean Connolly, 11th March 2021