When Ross County defeated Celtic 2-0 on Sunday, it may have condemned the Hoops to failure in a domestic competition for the first time since 2016, but in truth the result was bigger than one loss.
“Don’t sleep at the wheel’ was the message that Green Brigade ultras group unveiled in an August 2019 Europa League fixture against AIK.
It depicted chief executive Peter Lawwell and majority shareholder Dermot Desmond in the front seat of a car, with manager Neil Lennon’s head poking through at the back, and came as a reaction to the club’s failure to invest significantly in the team following the £25 million ($30m) sale of Kieran Tierney to Arsenal.
Days earlier, they produceda similar banner claiming “the board are gambling 10 in a row”.
Celtic failed to heed the warning from the most vocal section of their support – and at a pivotal moment in their history.
This season should have been their crowning glory: perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seal a 10th successive Scottish league title. Instead, it is threatening to degenerate into shambolic embarrassment.
Celtic previously managed nine-in-a-rowbetween 1966-74,before Rangers responded in the 1990s by equalling that achievement. This was their shot at becoming the first club to hit double figures.
The fragile state that they haveallowed themselves to downgrade to has been highlighted since they suffered a 2-0 Old Firm loss against Rangers on October 17.
A result that galvanised the Ibrox side appears to have broken Celtic, who have barely won since.
Of the Hoops’ last 10 games in all competitions, only two have resulted in victory. Five have ended in losses, while the Glasgow club had to come from behind to salvage draws against Aberdeen and Hibernianin the league.
They are already out of the Europa Leaguewith two group games to go havingtwice been battered 4-1 by Sparta Prague, though they are only in the competition because of their premature exit from the Champions League.
Star players, such as Odsonne Edouard and Olivier Ntcham, look demotivated and disinterested. Others have stagnated and are simply out of form.
Eleven points behind Steve Gerrard’s Rangers in the standings, albeit with a couple of game in hand, the prospect of 10-in-a-row – which looked a likelihood when the season kicked off back in August -now seems a distant prospect.
The scenes that followed the Ross County defeat – a baying moboutside of Celtic Park that injured two policemen amid a shower of expletives and security fences – came from a support frustrated by the inertia that has gripped the club for at least 18 months.
Gerrard’s appointment has been the catalyst for a sharp and impressive improvement at Ibrox, marked by a visit to the last 16 of the Europa League last season.
It should have raised alarm in the east end of Glasgow;instead, the board have barely raised an eyebrow.
The appointment ofLennon to replace Brendan Rodgers was symptomatic of the malaisethat has gripped the Celtic board. It was the cheap option, more about getting a ‘Celtic minded’ man in the dugout than a more expensive, higher quality candidate.
And indeed, Lennon has become the villain in chief of Celtic’s downfall;the figurehead of a team that looks lost.
He is not the cause, though, of the club’s issues; he is merely a symptom.
The board, with whom Lennon enjoys a cosy relationship, is unwilling to bow to fan pressure and sack their man.
Candidates to replace him are thin on the ground. Former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is the bookies’ favourites, yet until this circus of a season is over, the job may understandably be toxic to him.
Other realistic options include Gordon Strachan, who has been out of work for three years and has not spent a single season in club management over the last decade, and John Kennedy, who is Lennon’s right-hand man and considered as a Celtic manager in waiting. But at this moment in time, both would be regarded as a roll of the dice from a board that does not like to take risks.
Celtic’s greatest concernis that their issues have been allowed to run so deep for many months, so there is unlikely to be a quick fix.
Source : goal.com