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Season Review 2007-2008
|Matches & Pictures: 2007 - 2008 | Champions League 2007-08 | Statistics 2007-2008 | League Table 2007-2008|
This season can be described as nothing less than a roller-coaster (again!) surprisingly even more so than the past season. It all started very shakey with a difficult and even embarrassing pre-season where we were bizarrely routed in friendly games in Switzerland with some rotten performances. However, competitive games is what matters, and with Walter Smith at the helm at Mordor, along with Ally McCoist, then things were going to be a lot more difficult this season than last season as shown by the end-run.
WGS spent and sold in the summer heavily which boded for some hoped for change. Bringing in Scott McDonald, Scott Brown and Donatti was seen as wise but lightweight whilst selling Kenny Miller for £3m was seen as incredible! Defensively, little was done and most fans remained concerned. In many ways the transfers were to prove a very mixed bag, and showed more a push along WGS’s philosophy of football against graft players which sadly was to cost us.
Early days and we coped well with some good results under our belts, but the crunch as always was the first game v Rangers, and we were hopeless with a pathetic performance that saw Rangers romp to victory and bizarrely saw 9 of our players carded somehow by referee the Rev Mike McCurry (later in a scandal about alleged bias/cheating by Dundee Utd in favour of the Huns). Regardless, we still managed to remain ahead in the league and had the advantage early on.
However, that wasn’t to last and in the second half of the year we let it all slip losing 9 pts in December with some bad displays by substitute goalkeeper Mark Brown amongst others (deputising for a period when Boruc was injured) and Rangers went in front. Taking KDS as a barometer most fans wanted the manager gone.
The question is just how was WGS expected to cope? The support had supported his right to carry on as manager for this season but truth be told many were not enamoured with him or his ideas, and as the season went on and his difficult personal persona saw the fans at war with him.
Regardless, its Europe where WGS is to be judged and the truth is that the final verdict was “ambiguous”!!! On paper a huge success, coming through against difficult opposition from Russia (Spartak Moscow) in the qualifiers to win dramatically on penalties at Parkhead to get into the group stages, and then we qualified through the group stages in second spot in a very tough group, only to then lose against semi-finalists Barcelona. In reality a different story. We drew home and away v Spartak so only got through by the skin of our teeth, whilst in the group stages, as much as I hate to say it, we were damn lucky and are possibly one of the luckiest qualifiers ever. Shaktar Donestk totally threw it all away whilst Benfica only got their act together quite late. We won all the home games (with a wonderful win via current champions AC Milan) but lost all three away games (again!) and scored no goals away from home. We went through but luck also played a part in all this, but two years in a row qualifying can’t be argued.
Against Barca, we simply played against a better side and lost, but we threw away a chance to beat them in the first leg with a poor defensive performance whilst in the away leg WGS baffled us by playing 4-5-1 when we needed to win by 2 goals! Frustration also by picking Donatti in the midfield. Combing through the evidence the truth is that there is no final verdict wrt WGS and this European adventure.
Back to the league, and being now behind in the league all looked poorly with the Huns bumped out into the Champs Lge and somehow jammily making the UEFA cup final to become the worst team ever to have reached a European final! They were on course for a quadruple! We’d been embarrassed in the League cup going out to Falkirk whilst over two games v Aberdeen we were bumped out the Scottish Cup (even though we totally dominated both games)!!! This season was fast becoming something to forget. We stuck out and a loss to Motherwell seemed to seal it for the Huns, but a late rally by us beating the Huns twice in the league at home (in possibly the most exicting Celtic Rangers games for years), and then a collapse by the Huns (with inevitable excuses) and we were amazingly back in it with a chance to win the league.
The final decision on the season down to the last game (Dundee Utd (A) for us and Aberdeen (A) for the Huns), and in what was to be the most emotional game Celtic had played in since Man U at home 18 mths beforehand, we beat Dundee Utd with Aberdeen assisting nerves to defeat Rangers (who really had to win by 5 goals to win the league). It was an incredible achievement!
Away from the Celtic pitch, this season must also be remembered for two of the saddest events to have touched us at Celtic in recent years. Firstly, the shock death on the pitch of Phil O’Donnell at the end of a Motherwell game (ex-Celtic player), whilst also Celtic great stalwart Tommy Burns (ex-player, ex-manager and now coach) died from recurring Cancer just over week before the end of the season. RIP, you’ll never be forgotten. The league victory was dedicated to the memory of Tommy Burns and a testimonial was played at Parkhead v Motherwell to celebrate his career and to raise money for charitable causes.
Back to WGS, this season has seen him lose the support of many of the fans, however the death of Tommy Burns and his near breakdown after the loss of the close friend and work colleague showed a side of him which many had not seen before in his time here. We all felt for him and just how much the job and the club meant to him. Winning the league against the odds appears to have moved the fans and has now split the fans opinion on him whether to stay or go.
This season for WGS can be termed a success on paper. To quote him, the team has achieved what he set out at the start of the year: we won the league (three in a row) and we got through the group stages again (two in a row) which cements us as being more than just a flash in the pan side as others in the past have been. We sold Kenny Miler for £3m (amazing!), we bought in a few quality players like Barry Robson, we beat the Huns twice at home in very entertaining games and so on. Adding in that we were seven pts (plus a game played more) behind the huns going into the end of the season, WGS must be given his due even by his harshest critic for leading the team to somehow come back and win the league! We won our last seven games (which inc 2 wins v the Huns) and got our pride back. That can’t be smirked at by anyone, and the last win came a week after Tommy Burns death (not an easy time).
At the end of the day though, his style of football was uninspiring and unentertaining, and he seemed to stick with some players way beyond what he should have (e.g. Caldwell, Donatti, JVoH), possibly showing an inability to accept criticism and that he has been wrong. A public rift with Derek Riordan depicted an unsettled atmosphere in the changing room although other comments by players like Mark Wilson, Pressley and van Hesselink said otherwise praising WGS for his man management skills. Brining in Robson into the Celtic team seemed to show an admission that he needed steel in a lightweight side (and what a change he made to the team), whilst Hartley was a revelation this season and deserves all the praise in the world. Boruc as ever was great, but a kick up the back side was needed as it took him a year to have a game where he didn’t lose a goal away from home, although the defence has been ridiculous at many points and unsettled in its formation.
Allegations were thrown at the Celtic support that we were spoilt (see this story) and that we didn’t like him as he wasn’t a Celtic man! Complete balderdash and its simply sloppy unfounded journalism. The fans pay up good wages to watch Celtic and many a time the performances were dreadful to watch with the manager unwilling to admit change was needed and seemed to anger many, esp when he criticised the fans for not understanding what he was trying to do. The zonal play was not working, the formations weren’t working and certain players need a kick up the backside. We lost v Inv Caley when we were two ahead, we lost against Hibs, Motherwell and even struggled in games v Gretna. We lost the first two games v Rangers, with poor tactics amongst other things to blame for it. Transfers weren’t working out, esp the enigma that is Donatti, and taking in we’d spent more money than the huns, it was embarrassing to be behind in the league and watching them going upto the end for a very undeserved quadruple.
Adding all this up and WGS has to take the flak, and is deserving of it. However, as said his emotions after Tommy Burns as said revelaed a different side to us and we all felt for him. In my opinion, this season may have shown him to be more of a coach than a great manager, but unlike the other pundits on television at least he puts his money where his mouth is and takes up the challenge of football management. Moving on to next season he should learn from what has happened and become a more all rounded manager.
The season is a success in that if we were asked at the beginning if the Champions League KO stages plus league victory was what we wanted, we would have taken it. However, not all has been perfect and has been difficult to go through. Winning the league this year has been described by many as the best since one in a row in 1997/98, but should it really have been as difficult as it was? Would Rangers have won it if they hadn’t tripped themselves up with congested games schedules having progressed so far in the UEFA cup? If some of the games at the end of the season have gone the other way, what would have happened (and many were very close)? How long’s a piece of string?
Must be said, any manager who wins three in a row must be doing something right, so maybe the fans are wrong and he’s right. A late find in Barry Robson have been a revelation, whilst bringing Lennon into the coaching staff has seemed to freshen things up.
Regardless, we won the league and this time we will be going in automatically into the group stages in the Champions League. Looking forward to it already.
- Matches & Pictures: 2007 - 2008
- Champions League 2007-08
- Statistics 2007-2008
- League Table 2007-2008
|-||Jean-Joel Perrier Doumbe|
|-||Jean-Noel Perrier Doumbe|
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