On the morning of the Shakhter Karagandy match, I was given a sedative to undergo some dental treatment, by the time I watched the game, I would say it looked like the sedative had transferred from me to our players.
The first thing that most people look to do is find someone or something to blame after what is a pretty disastrous defeat. In this case, I think there’s a combination of factors which caused the result.
Some fans seemed to question whether or not we were entitled to be annoyed about the defeat ? I believe so, I certainly don’t like booing players during a match or being overly critical during a match but at full time, us fans are allowed to turn into the experts so I think most criticism aimed at the club is justifiable. Do I think people calling on Neil Lennon to leave were correct to do so? No, but that’s different from aiming criticism towards the team.
When any football team, regardless of how good or bad, loses the spine of their team, they are going to struggle. We haven’t replaced Kelvin Wilson, Victor Wanyama or Gary Hooper and it has shown.
Can we blame the centre half pairing of Steve Mouyokolo and Virgil van Dijk for not playing very well? It’s a pairing that has never played together. Why play them together in such an important match – did we under estimate the opposition? Who is to blame for that? The manager or the board? Who allowed Wilson to go when they did, knowing that we had such an important match coming up?
I don’t want to put too much blame on van Dijk and Mouyokolo as I know it can take time for players to settle but I feel that playing them together wasn’t the best idea to begin with. Yes, we were light in central defenders but why can’t Charlie Mulgrew be played in centre half ? That’s something that I have been going on about for a while. He won player of the year at centre half so it makes sense to play him there.
In the middle of the park, for this particular game, I feel that we should have had enough quality to overcome the Karagandy midfield. That said, my hazy memories of the game were mainly of them playing a long ball over the top and cancelling out a lot of the midfield.
Moving to the front of the team, we had two strikers on the bench, Amido Balde and Anthony Stokes. While chasing a game against inferior opposition, we waited until less than 10 minutes to go to bring on Balde. Now, what was he expected to do in that time? In the past, when games were close, I used to be critical of the fact that Paddy McCourt was often brought on with about 10 minutes to go and expected to go and do something magic. We have saw similar things with Tony Watt, will the same thing happen with Balde ?
So far, I have already pointed the finger at the board and the manager so that just leaves the players. For me, Kris Commons was the only one on the park for us who I thought looked ok. The rest of them, should have been ashamed and I really hope that they are fired up for next week and are ready to fix the mess that they have created.
I was of the opinion, prior to the Cliftonville game, that we would be unlikely to spend very much money until we knew what European competition we would be playing in this season. As much as I disagree with that, I think my prediction has been correct.
I know that Celtic at home is a massive obstacle to overcome for any team so it could be that the clubs gamble not to replace the three departed guys that I mentioned will pay off. If not, I think there will be a very flat football season ahead of us.
If we fail to make the Champions League there is the Europa League which will provide us with a good quality of opposition but for any of us fans who were at the recent Europa League group games, you will know what I mean when I say that it’s just not the same.
Yes, we all know what happened to our former rivals, they no longer exist because they spent cash that they could never afford to pay back but surely £3 – 5 million on a recognised striker after losing our main goal threat, combined with the amount of money that we have had coming in, isn’t an unreasonable request ?
Next week, we can only hope that the stadium is as full and as noisy as it was for the Barcelona game. For me, this match is far less glamorous but it’s far more important. And let’s face it, if we have to earn the right to play and defeat the big teams so if we can’t defeat Shakhter Karagandy then we don’t deserve to be in that Champions league. Over to Neil and the players.