EVEN by the exceptionally low standards we have come to expect from Scottish club sides in Europe, last night's tame Celtic capitulation in St Petersburg was shite.
Bobby Murdoch - how Celtic could have done with someone with his passing range
It's not as if the Russians were a particularly good side. I will be amazed if they get through the next round. The victors weren't very good, but, they didn't have to be to win – so devoid of ideas and talent were Celtic.
Celtic had a huge amount of possession – more than 40 metres from the Zenit goal; possession they did nothing with. They moved it left to right across their back four, then a short ball was played forward, to a midfielder who immediately played it back. Barry Ferguson used to get pelters every week for passing square and backwards. Bazza had the passing vision of a Jim Baxter or, more-tellingly in a Celtic context, a Bobby Murdoch in comparison to the Celtic players last night.
There was one wee vignette I noticed last night. Celtic had possession, but nine of the ten outfield Zenit players were between the ball and the goal – stretched-out, Rugby-style across the park. It was calling out for a diagonal pass between a couple of them, to a Celtic player sprinting round the outside. The right pass, and James Forrest or Kieran Tierney would have been behind the defence, heading for the by-line and able to cut the ball back to supporting runners into the box. It didn't happen.
When you have a team incapable of playing such a basic ball, against a simple defensive tactic, you are not going to get far in football. Zenit were quite happy to drop into their defensive formation and allow Celtic to pass the ball across the park in front of them – there was no penetration, not a single Celtic player could see, far-less complete, the killer through ball. They were never gong to advance, once that first Zent goal went in.
And, what a dumb goal that was to lose. It's not as if they didn't know about the Ivanvic aerial threat, but, they gave him a free header. Amazingly inept. As for the second goal, the go-ahead one in the tie. That goal demonstrated what we all knew – De Vries is not Celtic class.
Yet, this Celtic team, having had its many deficiencies cruelly exposed on the big stage, is still nine points clear of the field in Scotland.
Altogether now: “We're shite, and we know we are.....” repeat ad nauseum.
Football finance is now so slewed against small leagues, in small countries such as Scotland – not even Celtic can afford to recruit and pay the top-quality ready-made players they will require if they are to start to again feature regularly at the sharp end in Europe.
The Lions - I refuse to believe a Lions Mark 2 could not be assembled
But, even back in 1967, Celtic would not have chosen to match the wages being paid in Italy and Spain, yet, with a largely home-grown team of players, all from within 35-miles of Glasgow, they triumphed in Lisbon.
I do not believe these days are past, and in the past they shall remain. I believe, difficult though it would be to keep them together long enough – with the money available in England, and greedy agents trying to sell-on their clients, the Kelly/Stein formula could still work.
It would take great management, players who WANTED to be Celtic greats, and bloody hard work, but, it could be done – in spite of the shortfalls of the Scottish game.
Scottish clubs cannot compete in today's player market, so, they have to go back to basics, to making sure Scottish kids are technically accomplished, mentally strong and fit. Get back to playing Scottish football – the passing game, played at pace, and, forget about buying-in cheap foreign imports. That, for me, is the way ahead.
NEVER mind, we always have real fitba – the Juniors, with the Quarter-Final draw for the Scottish Junior Cup being made in Glasgow, yesterday.
The last eight line-up is as follows:
Beith Juniors v Lochee United
Bo'ness United v Hurlford United
Carnoustie Panmure v Auchinleck Talbot
Yoker Athletic/Wishaw or Forth Wanderers v Kirkintilloch Rob Roy
The Quarter-Final ties are due to be played on Saturday, 17 March.
We're only at the last eight, but, I would not be surprised to see this picture retaken - Talbot boss Tucker Sloan with a big trophy he has got to know rather well
Looking at that line-up, my immediate thought is – who are Talbot going to be playing in the final? A Beith v Talbot show-down at Rugby Park would, the vagaries of the draw notwithstanding, be my favoured outcome, but there are some famous names still involved at this stage.
IAIN KING, past RWM of the Lap Top Loyal, former Head of Scottish Sport at The Sun and, for all that – one of the good guys, occasionally blogs on his website:
I commend Kingie's musings to the House, his is a terrific tale, of a poacher turned gamekeeper, or perhaps it's the other way round. Kingie gave up one of the top jobs in Scottish sports journalism, to follow his dream of coaching professionally. He sunk over £20,000 of his hard-earned cash into getting his UEFA A licence, coached at East Kilbride, then at BSC Glasgow, before a short spell as CEO at Airdrieonians.
Iain King - his blog is consistently good reading
He is now coaching in Canada with North Toronto Nitros, and loving it. When he comes to write his memoirs, and Kingie is a mere stripling, it will be a great read – who knows where he might end-up before he finally sits down to write the book.
Unfortunately, Kingie, who has such a lot to offer Scottish football, may join that long and distinguished group, the Scottish Diaspora, and may never return to put his ideas into practice, which will be Scottish football's loss.