Football

Phelim Warren: Celtic’s Defeat in Gibraltar Wasn’t Embarrassing…It Was Scandalous

Phelim Warren: Celtic’s Defeat in Gibraltar Wasn’t Embarrassing…It Was Scandalous

It’s not embarrassing Brendan, it’s scandalous.

That was a quick honeymoon. Celtic’s defeat to Lincoln Red Imps in Brendan Rodgers’ first competitive game can be described in countless terms and one can add the following ad nausea.

Hopeless, clueless, brainless, leaderless, inept, shambolic and utterly unforgivable.

I welcomed (as I’m sure the vast majority of Celtic fans) Rodgers’ appointment wholly. He is young, seemingly popular among previous players, came very close to winning the EPL with Liverpool and his appointment lifted the spirits of Celtic fans at the tail end of a really dreary second season under Ronny Deila.

Rodgers’ first competitive game has absolutely no positives to talk about, despite Rodgers’ quotes elsewhere on talkingbaws.com

Yes he has inherited every player who played (I used the word advisedly) apart from Dembele.

The team selection however and set up of that team I found curious before kick off, although nobody could’ve foreseen the result or performance from the fourteen players who partook in the match. I’m assuming Rodgers has seen previous footage of Efe Ambrose’s time as a Celtic player.

He will have seen his calamitous and repeated crucial disasters that have befallen the hapless Nigerian in his time at the club. From Lennon to Deila, and now already Rodgers, Ambrose has proved he should not be starting for even the worst Sunday morning amateur team, never mind a club of the stature of Celtic Football Club.

He is a repeat offender and it worries me greatly that Rodgers retained him at the club never mind selected him against the not-so-mighty Red Imps despite the absence of other centre half alternatives.

So dismissive was I of Lincoln that I tweeted in reply to a worried Celt over Ambrose’s selection, that we should
“throw our hat at it” if the Imps worried Ambrose.

Well I’ve thrown my hat at Ambrose now. I’m done. He should never get onto the pitch ever again as a Celtic player.

Next is the position of Leigh Griffiths. An outstanding centre forward, Players’ Player of the Year last season, 40 goals scored, yet the new gaffer moves him to a widish right position to accomodate his only signing Dembele.

Is this Rodgers laying down a marker that he’s such an authoritative boss that a 40 goal centre forward matchwinner has to take one for the team by moving away from his clinical position?

That is pure folly in my opinion and on top of the selection (and remaining on the park for 90 minutes) of Ambrose, the positioning of Griffiths makes me aghast and angry.

Roy Hodgson got pelters for playing his England players out of position. That Rodgers sees fit to do this to Griffiths is a most worrying start to his tenure.

Who’s next? Scott Brown. I cannot remember the last time Brown had an effective or telling contribution in a Celtic shirt.

Agreed he has struggled with injury in recent years, but he is a pale shadow of the swashbuckling, in-your-face, defiant warrior who intimidated opposition players, incensed opposition fans and lifted Celtic fans’ when games were in the balance.

In short, he’s gone and has been for more than a season. Rodgers has a big decision to make with Scott Brown. Every player finally loses his edge and influence, in my opinion this is the case with Brown and Nir Bitton.

Between him and Brown, Celtic’s midfield is ponderous, one paced, predictable and completely ineffective. Bitton has had some decent games in his time at Celtic, but consistency has been a major weakness in his game.

That he could be so glaringly ineffective against the part-timers from Gibraltar is another indication of a player no longer worth a starting spot at Celtic any longer.

Celtic have had their fair share of dud centre forwards in recent years but Nadir Cifti in my opinion is the worst of that hopeless bunch. That somebody at Celtic Park saw fit to recommend this plodder to pass through Parkhead’s gates is a damning indictment of how low the club’s stock is falling.

He was farmed out on loan last season after a disastrous few months at Celtic and has returned again and Rodgers threw him in to rescue the first leg against the mighty Imps. He bombed. Again.

Another sub James Forrest, is another who doesn’t merit another appearance in the hooped shirt ever again. He is/was looking for a way out, well the fans will show him that way out gladly.

Another with promise who for whatever reason has utterly lost all semblance of being an effective and consistent player required by a club like Celtic and its justifiably demanding fans. How Rodgers left Patrick Roberts sitting on the bench behind the clueless Forrest is another early disquieting decision by the gaffer.

Third sub Stuart Armstrong was also ineffective and will need massive improvement to win over Celtic fans, especially following a hugely disappointing 2015/16 season for the most part.

As regards the rest of tonight’s selection, Gordon probably couldn’t be blamed for the goal and we know we have a top class keeper for a start. Janko at least set up a decent chance for the unlucky Griffiths to strike the bar in the second half, but for an ex-Man United player, he has massive room for improvement.

Sviatchenko is still relatively new at the club and he has the misfortune of having Ambrose beside him, so I can somewhat absolve Erik from scorn for the horror show. Tierney is also still a baby at the highest level, but by his standards of last season, his passing was poor tonight but he is the future.

The likes of Brown, Bitton, Ciftci, Forrest and Ambrose are not. Ryan Christie is another with too much inexperience to be slaughtered in my opinion, and hopefully he’ll learn.

As a Celtic player, he will need to.

Dembele showed some promise in the first half but disappeared completely in the second, again as it was his first competitive match, he can be given more chances (remember a certain Henrik Larsson’s first game?).

Rogic too often was surrounded in a congested central area and seemed to lose heart as the game wore on and he was unable to make any sort of telling impression while he was on. I believe strongly in Rogic but he will know he must do better given the opposition tonight.

Rodgers’ post-match comments also leave me concerned. As was his habit at Liverpool, a poor performance was rarely, if ever admitted by Rodgers and he regularly attempted (but failed) to place a positive spin on a reverse. Sometimes one can do this with justification, but too often at Liverpool there was no justification for it and so it reared its head tonight.

He refused to go along with the description of the loss being an “embarrassment”. He described their goal as “one ball up the pitch and they’re in” yet Lincoln could and should have added to their lead. A statement of “you let the local team have their night” is something that I cannot believe he would come out with. Celtic’s fourteen players should not let this happen and as Manager, Rodgers should ensure his players don’t let this happen either.

At half time, with Celtic fans bemoaning the performance on Twitter, I stated we should “relax” as it’s only 45 minutes into the season. By the 55th minute I had completely changed my view and my outlook. By the 94th minute, the word “relax” had been completely erased from my memory bank. It was replaced by “shameful” and other
similar thoughts.

Yes it’s Rodgers’ first competitive game. Yes, it’s likely Celtic will overturn the deficit next week at Celtic. That will not erase the carnage of probably the worst competitive result in Celtic’s long and illustrious history. It makes the infamous Caly Thistle Cup defeat under Barnes seem like a glorious misfortune.

Rodgers however has major surgery ahead of him with this squad of players. He must immediately return Griffiths to his centre forward position. He must never pick Ambrose again. He must show bravery with Brown and give Sviatchenko the captaincy.

He must show he means business with this squad and get players with the proper character and ability to replace those who don’t.

His honeymoon is well and truly over after one sorry excuse for a performance.

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