Vincent's Blog: No Excuses

Published on Tuesday 23rd August, 2011 by Celtic Trust

The thoughts of (Vice)Chairman Vincent Doherty. If you like it, tell us. If you don't, tell him

No Excuses

Sometimes there are no excuses. We can pretend there are. We can seek them out. We could rehash some old ones. We could even invent some new ones. But it’s all  playing with plasticine. The anaemic home performance against FC Sion which left us with an alpine mountain to climb in Switzerland in order to ensure European football beyond August for the first time since Gordon Strachan, and the shameful surrender to St. Johnstone are cases in point.

Such displays not only destroy our confidence they serve to illustrate an evident psychological frailty which has haunted our psyche for a number of years. Except when it doesn’t really matter we lack a killer instinct. It was a hallmark of our team during the ignominious reign of Tony Mowbray and company and it has overflowed into the early days of Neil Lennon’s stewardship. It is particularly pronounced on the European stage where we have consistently wilted like shrinking violets against very ordinary opposition. The performance on Sunday was in some ways reminiscent of the collapse in Inverness in April that cost us the League. Once again when put under a little bit of pressure we took on the appearance of gazelles being chased by a leopard, darting here and there without rhyme or reason whilst jumping excitedly during a workout. Such performances tend to result in supporters engaging in what psychoanalysts call ‘transference’ by transferring their frustration to the wrong target. The Board is blamed for not being forthcoming in terms of the transfer market or the Manager is placed under scrutiny for poor team selection. Let’s be crystal clear about this, blame for the shoddy display on Sunday cannot be left at the door of anyone other than the Celtic players. Compared to St Johnstone, and for that matter FC Sion, our players inhabit a different stratosphere, a privileged domain in terms of wages, coaching staff, training and medical facilities which are on a par with the best in the world. Not to mention 50 odd thousand season ticket holders, and a worldwide fan base running into millions who help finance these benefits. In the light of this there can be no excuse for the team prancing about like spoiled brats. The petulance on display after they fell behind was like an episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Instead of getting in and about them and ‘winning ugly’ like the ugly ones would have done we went into panic mode. Daniel Majstorovic in particular appeared like someone had spiked his half time energy drink with an industrial dose of THC. Most of his team mates, whilst not quite as comatose, did not give the impression that they understood what a privilege it is to pull on the hoops and that they needed to step up to the plate.

No worthwhile endeavour in life is possible without spirit. Little of value can be achieved in the absence of passion, desire or backbone. On all four counts we came up miserably short. We lacked spirit, we lacked passion, we lacked desire and we lacked backbone. And what is it with penalties? Is it some form of post modern malaise as described by Baudelaire or is it that our penalty takers see it as some sort of 50/50 engagement. It was not until I was a fully formed adult that anyone ever missed a penalty. As a bright young think I must have scored hundreds, thousands even. I have to admit that on one occasion my shot crashed back from the crossbar, but did I fall to the ground holding my head?  The answer is no I didn’t, because I was to busy heading the rebound back into the top corner. I have to say that during my formative years a penalty was the equivalent of a goal, in the same way that in Gaelic football three points is the equivalent of a goal.   For Celtic at the minute with some players they are the equivalent of a corner and with some players about as threatening as a throw in. Players need to know that they miss penalties at their peril. In this respect Lenny was absolutely right to have a go at Kris Commons for his latest squandering of a gilt edged opportunity. We go a goal up against St.Johnstone after 3 minutes and the game is over by half time such is the psychological impact. It still pains me to think of Big Sammy’s botched attempt at the bigot dome in March that kept that mob in the title hunt and since then we’ve gone from bad to worse. The Manager was also right in castigating his players and particularly what he called his front six for their collective inertia against St Johnstone. Sometimes it’s not the big occasions that seem to freak us out as much as the ordinary and the everyday, which of course are essential for any serious title challenge. We’ve gone into the last three seasons confident of winning the title, but in truth the boys from the bigot dome have managed the ordinary and the everyday better, albeit with the assistance of some dodgy decisions for the men in black


‘Man in black’ of the month competition.

Talking of dodgy decisions from the men in black, can anyone tell me of an occasion anywhere in the world in the long history of association football where a referee has awarded five penalty kicks in three games, to the same team? Even the famous ‘Billy Boy’ referee, WG Davidson, never awarded the boys from the bigot dome 5 penalties in 3 games. I’m not mathematician but according to my sums that 1.8 penalties per game in the  only 3 games to feature Rangers during the last 9 months and including the closed season. In fact a few more dodgy decisions and you might mix it up with the average size of the nuclear family. Can you name the official in question then? No?

Step forth from the darkness one Euan Norris. 5 penalties for Rangers in last three games he’s officiated at involving the boys in blue?  Put another way exactly a third of all the penalties he’s awarded in the 44 games he’s officiated at since 2008 have been awarded to Rangers in 3 games. In fact he given Rangers at least one penalty in 75% of the games involving them and two penalties on 50% of the games.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence and clearly any other interpretation is evidence of the neurosis known in Scotland as ‘Celtic paranoia.’ Still, as an old friend of mine used to say before a loyalist murder gang burst down his front door and shot him dead “Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”


 Paddy McCourt’s Fenian Army.

Long before he came to Celtic I was an admirer of Paddy Mc Court. In the first place, like me, he’s a Derry Bhoy. What’s more, some of those with long memories who’ve been around soccer circles in the city, say Paddy reminds them of a certain flamboyant young mid field general from the late 60’s early 70’s period who turned out to delicately tread the turf in the colours of the Waterside Boys Club. Modesty of course forbids me from declaring either the position or indeed the youth club with which I plied my trade as a youth, but it would be fair to say that I am still remembered as a precocious, if modest to a fault, talent to whom the title ‘talisman’ was regularly attributed. Not everybody knew exactly what a ‘talisman’ was in those days, and its true that my younger brother ‘Studs’ was perhaps better known and featured more frequently in the sporting pages of the Derry Journal than was the case of his talented older brother. Clearly Paddy who was no doubt immersed in the folklore of the Derry and District League would have had his own role models growing up but that’s as much as I can safely say without appearing vain. Besides, I digress.

I really think it’s an awful insult to a wonderful player to regularly throw him on just after panic turns to desperation. How on earth can anyone be expected to cope with such pressure given that its takes a few minutes to get to the pace of the game. When Alex Ferguson used Sholskar as he did for years as an ‘impact player’, he would give him at least 20 minutes if not half an hour. That’s the least that needs to made available to Paddy. Let me put my cards on the table, I think Paddy is a better player than Charlie Adam. Yet Charlie Adam only blossomed after he went to a club that recognised his talent and built a system designed to ensure he was at the centre of things. I may very well be blinded by subjectivity here , but there’s only one way to find out. Give Paddy a regular run out, if he doesn’t get up to the mark, leave him off as they say in Cork. He can’t be expected to warm the bench for another season. He was unfortunate that it was during his best and most consistent  period for the club that Kris Commons arrived and had a magnificent start in a Celtic jersey. Now that Chris is clearly suffering from ‘difficult second season syndrome’ I think  it’s time to give Paddy a few starts. I’d begin by giving him a run out on Thursday night in Switzerland. It’s the sort of stage on which I’m sure he would excel. He’s not afraid of the big lights and he’s not afraid to shine. If anything the Manager has been too cautious not to say fearful to give him the stage he deserves. The worse that could happen is that we could go out of Europe and that truly is a sobering thought. But the reality is we could go out of Europe anyway and are surely more likely to do so without someone who can inspire moments of genuine wonder, which might just very well be what we need in order to progress. Can we do it? Of course we can. Will we do it? I think we will.

Fly away home to Zion, fly away home, one bright morning when my work is over I will fly home.’ Away the Bhoys!

 It’s worth remembering when we’re at it that some teams score from corners. Can you remember the last time we scored as a direct result of a corner? Remember Steven Mc Manus, he was no great shakes as a striker but I’d suggest he comfortably headed more goals from Nakamura corners in a season that our entire team scored headers from corners in the whole of last year.


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Thomas says:
2011-08-26 23:54:54

It's a pleasure to read keep it going V


Graham 1888 says:
2011-08-26 23:21:57

Hi Vincent,

Good article. We've had the same problem for years in Europe, I just don't understand what goes on with us in particular in our away ties. Like you said a lot of the players don't understand what a privilege it is to wear the Hoops. For a club the size of Celtic to be out of Europe already is unacceptable.

Che67 says:
2011-08-26 09:56:38

our lack of threat from set pieces is alarming, makes me pine for Caldwell and big Mick, that's how bad its getting.

Great article


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