DRAWING on the famous support of the green and white faithful is more difficult now than it has ever been for Celtic players, and while Celtic Park echoes to nothing other than their own shouts they will have to look for inspiration from within.
Some creative welcomes as their bus enters on match days and a training ground visit have so far been all the players can use to convert the energy and passion of their supporters into a real feeling that an entire community of people are pulling behind them as they attempt to make history.
A morale-shattering performance in a derby defeat that hoovered confidence from their ranks, followed by a defeat against an admittedly strong AC Milan side meant that Celtic’s season reached a fever pitch in October.
The nature of life at Celtic means that lows are felt with a heightened sense of despair and, following an avalanche of bad press and—unfortunately—outpourings of dissatisfaction from those of a green and white persuasion on social media, many would have been forgiven for thinking that blue and white ribbons were already on the league championship trophy for the first time in a decade.
Steadying the ship
Following Celtic, of course, is a pursuit best understood in the stands of Celtic Park and on the road. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems when the support can band together and have their say in a way that encourages on their charges on the field.
To the credit of the playing staff, however, in the eye of this storm, they have started to take those small steps which can steady the ship for Celtic.
Firstly against Aberdeen on league duty Celtic rallied from a disappointing performance to take the lead before eventually conceding a late penalty to draw at Pittodrie. The fight shown to come from behind was a signal that there is life in Celtic yet.
Away in Lille—against another strong side—Celtic discovered some attacking flair to add to whatever fight they can muster by taking a two goal led against the French high-flyers. Again that lead was surrendered to ensure a 2-2 draw, but it once more demonstrated that there is resolve in this side.
Finally, in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden, Celtic got back to winning ways— dispatching Aberdeen for what feels like the umpteenth time on that field in recent years.
Not only did Celtic show the fight to keep a clean sheet and control the game on the back of a tough night in Europe, but they also looked a different prospect going forward. Tom Rogic, in particular, looked to be finding his old form with two assists against a team whose supporters must surely have nightmares about him.
The task now for Celtic is to make these signs of their old ways into the habits that will take them into the next Glasgow derby in a position to seriously damage the confidence of their city rivals.
History makers again?
Before that game takes place, of course, they will now have the opportunity to life yet another trophy—the 2019/20 Scottish Cup. Such a victory will mark an incredible achievement and demonstration of superiority. May 2016 was the last time a side other than Celtic had their hands on any Scottish trophy, and in those famine years for the rest of the game here Celtic have broken record after record.
The next record in their sights is no that of a quadruple treble, with only second-tier Heart of Midlothian standing in their way.
And not only does December 20 have the chance to be a gala day for both players and supporters as Celtic try to make history, it will also give an opportunity for new signings to blood themselves and lift a trophy in Celtic colours.
Players such as Diego Laxalt, Shane Duffy and Albian Ajeti look like they will be required to make an impact on Celtic’s fortunes this season, but while they are surrounded by decorated team-mates they are yet to taste glory in Celtic’s colours. The rearranged cup final, therefore, offers them a chance to become winners at Celtic in their own right and start to attack with real vigour the ultimate goal that lies in front of them this year.
Manager Neil Lennon, for his part, has endured tough times at Celtic in the past and his own roll of honour in green and white demonstrates the ability of the Irishman to overcome challenges and bring the best to Celtic.
For now, everyone in Celtic’s corner must pull together and do whatever they can to turn these first small steps back towards form into a powerful and unforgiving run towards a tenth consecutive title. Nothing else will suffice in this year of years for the club.