Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Stephen Craigan: Celtic fans have short memories

Celtic manager Neil Lennon argues with a Celtic fan seated near the dugout during the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League match against Inverness at Celtic Park

Less than three weeks after Celtic's greatest ever victory at Parkhead in European football against the mighty Barcelona, Scottish football was stunned by Neil Lennon's comments on Saturday that he would QUIT his job if fans wanted it.

It came on the back of a second SPL home defeat of the season against Inverness Caledonian Thistle (pictured) in which some Celtic fans voiced their dissatisfaction at the team and their performance.

Lennon took it personally and got into a disagreement with some of the supporters which led to his outburst in the after match press conference.

I know football can be fickle and surely this is a prime example of it.

It just shows how a manager’s position changes match to match and that you’re only as good as the game you’re in. Unfortunately it would appear what you’ve done previously counts for nothing.

I think there are lots of reasons why Celtic have struggled to hit top form in the SPL but the main one for me is the absence of their big city rivals Rangers.

The competition between the two is usually fierce and Rangers not being in the SPL means the Celtic players have lost a little edge to their game.

Their mood and body language reflects that of a team who know they will eventually win the title.

That, however, brings with it problems because in football you have to earn everything you get.

Neil Lennon has to emphasise that to his players. It doesn't matter who you are you can’t afford to take anything for granted.

Something else that has had an impact on Celtic's performances is the Champions League.

By that I mean the intensity of the games in Europe and the quality of the opposition coupled with the fact Celtic spend long spells without the ball. The players are physically putting a lot of energy and leg work into these matches to contain the opposition and by the time Saturday comes the players haven’t recovered from their exertions.

This isn’t an excuse for Celtic, it’s a fact.

I’ve been in this situation myself when I went from playing big international games midweek to the SPL with Motherwell on a Saturday. I wasn’t used to playing at international standard week in week out and it took a lot out of me.

The same I believe applies to the Celtic players; the SPL isn’t on a par with Europe’s elite competition and that theory is backed up with the fact Celtic have dropped 10 league points in games immediately after Champions League encounters. Lennon has shown time and time again he is passionate about his football club and his players so it’s no surprise to me he confronted fans who were criticising them. Whether it’s right or not is a different matter!

Neil knows more than most results domestically need to improve but surely he deserves a bit more patience and to be allowed to get on with his job.

Supporters are entitled to their opinion as they pay their hard earned cash to follow their team all over the country but they have to be careful what they wish for.

They should judge their teams’ achievements at the end of the season and if things aren’t what they expected then express their discontent.

To put everything into perspective, agreed Celtic haven’t hit top in the SPL but they are still in both domestic cup competitions and they’re one game away from possibly qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League.

A win tonight against Hearts at Tynecastle will also see them remain top of the SPL so as a neutral I start to wonder what the crisis is!

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