Celtic FC: Champions of Scotland

I am diverting slightly from the specific theme of my blog to pay tribute to the Champions of Scotland. Although Celtic were confirmed as champions a few weeks ago, the game today against Rangers also confirmed the East End side's superiority.

Credit has to be given to Rangers FC for turning up and displaying a good performance in the first twenty minutes. I couldn't help noticing, however, that the Rangers players looked mentally exhausted. It is not difficult to identify the reasons for this, as the future of the club looks bleak. Uncertainty and pessimism are now ruling Rangers, because of the unacceptable and poor fiscal decision making.

Still, nothing may be taken away from Celtic. They managed to display enormous courage and strength of character, particularly when they were 15 points behind Rangers. This is my personal view, but, perhaps, for the first time, since 2009, the team displayed, this year, signs of maturity and discipline. I can't help thinking that they do apply the principle of "all for one and one for all." Some things are not for public consumption, but it is my firm belief that the manager has been trying hard to make the players understand that they must operate as a unit. Every single person in the club is important and this does not only relate to the playing staff.

This is evident from Celtic's way of playing this season. Having watched Celtic's each game on video several times this year [mostly because of Sammy's technical and tactical improvement], I have come to the conclusion that Celtic are now moving ahead with a different mentality. The addition of a few good players has improved the squad considerably, along with the re-emergence of Sammy, Adam, Glen and James. But in my opinion, the main reason for such a dramatic improvement this year relates mostly to the mental strength that was instilled in them.

The club is now looking ahead to the next season. Next month, important decisions will have to be made, with the financial element being the most important consideration. Whether the club needs strengthening, would depend on the priority of the targets for next season. My poll, in this blog, so far, indicates the the Scottish Premier League must be a priority. Others may see success in Europe as the most fundamental aspect of the planning. If the latter applies, it is evident that the squad needs strengthening. There are some players with international experience, but you cannot rely on them to have a successful run in Europe. The squad needs depth, particularly when certain weeks of the season would require the players to play 2 to 3 games per week. The manager has important decisions to make, but, as always, it would all depend on the Board's approval. 

Further, I need to state a few words for Sammy. It is true that this season he has displayed several aspects of his talent. At 27 he has matured and he is, perhaps, in his best playing years. He was given a different role this season and he performed extremely well. Although you may think this is not an objective view [and without offending any of his team-mates] I still believe he was player of the year for the club. I am saying this because I am in a position to know not only his on the field aspects, but the ones off it too. 

The manager has supported Sammy a lot and it appears that the mutual respect and recognition has benefited the team as a whole. Sammy has a difficult summer ahead of him with the national team of Greece, but I know Celtic would be constantly on his mind. I also know that he would be looking forward to meeting with the other players for the pre-season training. There is no point in dwelling on what his future holds. His contract expires in March 2014 and I see him as an integral part of the squad. Sammy is an all around player and his international experience cannot be dismissed at face value. His performance at Udine, this season, serves as a reminder as to how important he could be for the squad.

Finally, it would be an unforgivable lapse of courtesy if I were to close this piece without mentioning the fans. They have been tremendous, especially when things were looking grim back in October. Their love for the club is unconditional and the club's success depends on their continuous support. They saw battles on the pitch, this season and they saw court battles too [it is my intention to analyse further such legal battles with the legal advice given to the club elsewhere] and despite a few disappointments they remained faithful to the club. 

What I saw in 2008, when I first set foot inside Celtic Park, remains unchanged to this date: Celtic are more than a club; they are a big family....

Dr. Gregory Ioannidis

29 April 2012


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