Season 2014/15 Preview

10
Jul
2014

Posted By kevingraham

Posted in Articles, Match previews, Opinion

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It feels weird writing a season preview when the 4 yearly jamboree that is FIFA’s World Cup hasn’t took it’s last breath.

UEFA feel that our rightful starting place is along with the Rabotnicki, Sutjeska Niksic and Zalgiris Vilnius off this world who also face a daunting route to the Champions League proper. There is no use moaning about this until the Scottish coefficent improves and we start over-taking the giants of Belarus, Romania, Cyprus and eventually the Swiss for the Champions of our top league to gain direct qualification for the group stages.

This yearly endurance test is not going to end any time soon though I do hold out some hope that Scottish clubs may start making nibbles into improving this. I base this on clubs being better run, employing better coaches and looking within instead of the shores of Europe for talent. The downside is that many of the clubs that qualify for Europe moan about the early start and the unglamorous nature of it all.  There was an interview with Stuart McCall last season that Motherwell’s run in Europe cost them money and impeded their league form. It wasn’t that when they were celebrating a dubious last minute winner against Aberdeen on the last day of the season.

The better organised, the better you coach and the better players you develop will see it become glamorous. I had to laugh last week when Aberdeen’s opponents, FK Daugava Riga, were being roundly mocked on Radio Scotland as being an unfit “pub team”. There was no thought that at one point over the last 10 seasons some Eastern European Chic Young has also uttered those words after watching the dire efforts of a Scottish team who looked like they have just been introduced to a football.

But it’s this we must face. We open our “Road To Berlin” two days after the World Cup final in the Icelandic Capital of Reykjavik. We open with a brand new management team, new philosophy but the same players (for now). There is an even bigger sense of transition this season than last season.  There is the sense of being on a rollercoaster blindfolded.

Neil Lennon’s departure didn’t come as much of a surprise to most of the support. I’m sure like me we have all had conversations over the summer that included the phrases: ” it was for the good of the club and himself“, “he had took us as far as he can” and “he deserved to be sacked after our performance in the cups last season“. To say his replacement was a surprise doesn’t do it justice.

After weeks of the usual suspects being touted and roundly moaned about we were greeted with the sight of a guy in underpants doing press up’s with the active sensationalism tag line proclaiming the new Jurgan Klopp. After the predicted greyness we were now faced with a guru manager, our own Wenger, a follower of Bielsa, a student of the game and  a philosophy. Ronny Deila is in fashion and it’s the good kind not the Andrew Flintoff Jacamo kind.

There can be two trains of thought regarding Ronny’s appointment. One is the club have made a bold statement in appointing this manager to further develop and better the plan we have seen over the last few seasons while promising exciting football and bringing on the youngsters that are already at the club. The other is that this just another downsize dressed upped as an exciting new dawn and that this appointment is directly due to the falling season book sales, attendances and lack of ambition.

There is merit in both views.

All fans want to see attractive successful football played by homegrown youngsters (I include foreign players in this that have been with us since a young age). It’s part of our footballing utopia. Though this excites me I’m also nervous. We have appointed a manager who has never worked outside Norway and our Champions League failure  where we were woefully inadequate is still fresh. The thought of that same squad – probably with a few absentees – with a few promoted youths taking on Europe’s best is not mouth-watering.

But, Ronny, John and John may have us running as an well oiled machine playing attractive, fast possession based attacking football not seen this side of Die Mannschaft.  To do that the players need to be on-side. Remember Tony Mowbray? He tried to change things far to quick and lost the dressing room. The coaching staff need to ensure the big players in the squad are on side.

The team and the last coaching staff have had a slightly bad press. They have been painted as unfit and unrefined in their approach to the game. Now, unfit was something I never considered us to be. The amount of late goals we scored is proof to that. Neil Lennon’s side were the mirror image of the two Celtic managers he played under. Big imposing players who had a physical side to their game to whom he showed unswerving loyalty to was pure O’Neill. The well coached and tactually disciplined but somewhat tactually inflexible was all Strachan. Like both of those managers Lennon’s team produced some fantastic attacking performances but also knew how to dig out a result. This is not a bad trait to have.

I mention Wenger earlier. He went into a successful Arsenal changing room and had to completely change a culture. Sure, that culture included alcoholism, drunk driving and gambling but the main players bought into it. Ronny’s task is far easier as I don’t think the culture shift will be as great as Wenger faced but he still needs the top men on board and quickly.

The loss of Scott Brown is a blow. For all his faults he is the heartbeat of the team and the new manager needed him. Kris Commons is the talisman and though I have doubts off how he will fit into a fast pressing and passing system he can’t be jettisoned. Charlie Mulgrew is the last of the gang of 3 that needs to be on message. Charlie will play at centre back, which is his best position, until Ambrose returns from his holidays and may stay there if we sell Virgil Van Dijk. If we need our centre back’s to be footballers then this is Mulgrew’s perfect role.

I was having a look at our squad list. I started writing down the players that this season is make or break for. It’s easier to write down the players who it isn’t make or break for. There is also a lot of unknown quality in the squad.

Taking this into account and also the new manager then getting into the Champions League will be another phenomenal achievement. The early part of the season could see very disjointed performances and it could be 2015 before we see the best of Ronny’s philosophy. A Europa League run may not be the worst thing to happen this season (hopefully after 6 games in the Champions League) and I would like to see a refreshing young take on the League Cup. Tell the laddies they are playing no matter who we draw in that cursed competition. I also predict that Stefan Johansen will be our player of the season.

One thing’s for sure. It’s not going to be dull.

2 Comments

  1. Wildrover
    Posted July 11, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Very nice. Agree, it’s a dicey proposition. It could very easily be another Mowbray. Totally agree on Charlie, I’d be very happy to see him at CB again.

    I would have thought twice about paying for CelticTV this year had Celtic appointed an ‘obvious’ choice as those bandied about in the media (although I never thought that was a possibility to begin with).

    My first thought was that the club gave me what I wanted (something different, continuing with a “young” manager etc.) and I was instantly skeptical as to their motives 🙂 Excited for the new season. Like you say, there’s a few lesser known gems in the squad. Cheers.

    • kevingraham
      Posted July 11, 2014 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      Thanks.

      There is a fine line between a few lesser known gems and the squad being seen as weak.

      It will be an interesting few weeks. Will Ronny ask the board to spend after he has had a look at what he has got? I really think he needs to…..

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