What a turnaround, so who's responsible?
So a few months ago, like a lot of fellow Celtic fans, I was beginning to wonder if the risk Celtic had taken in appointing an inexperienced manager had worked. We had dropped consecutive points at home when we should have been consolidating a lead in the league; we subsequently drew away to a poor Hamilton team.
We were witnessing the usual amount of "honest mistakes" and the season was beginning to take on the old smell of lack of confidence and siege mentality. The only saving grace, if it was a saving grace, was 'they' were also dropping the odd point, so we were at least in touch.
Our tactics of 4-2-4 with two overlapping full-backs were leaving our slow and weak centre defence woefully exposed, we were all style and no substance, we were beginning to look 'Mowbrayesk.'
Our last hope was the January window; we needed two centre-backs, a right-back, a lead-the-line striker and probably another midfielder.
We got Commons. There was no thunder but it looked like a cloud was over our paradise.
So here we are now 8 points clear and playing the best football we have for a long time, we have just beaten our biggest rivals for the second time, turning our season around. We have now outplayed them three times in a row - two victories and a draw.
Who is responsible for this turnaround? Well the Manager and his coaches obviously, the players certainly, but there must have been a pivotal point to trigger this.
Was it the return of Kayal and Brown? Possibly. Brown out wide right now looks every bit the player we bought from Hibs. Kayal, well he`s been a revelation. Pace, energy, vision and can really play football. Once experience prevents him from picking up silly bookings, he will be the complete midfielder.
Was it Ledley? Well he has been a slow burner and struggled beside Ki. But with Brown, Kayal and Commons, he looks the prospect and big 'rep' player we went for. Is it Commons? What a signing. Like most Celtic fans I was originally underwhelmed with this signing. Boy was I wrong! He brings a directness from midfield, a goal threat from outside the box, and scores goals from midfield - and this changes how teams line-up against us and also their own tactics.
Has it been Hooper? We have a real 30+ goals a year striker and he is the real deal. Is it the re-emergence of Samaras? At times unplayable and regardless of how enigmatic, has played a major role in our two recent derby wins.
Is it Izzy, a real and proper left-back, or the re-emergence of Wilson? Is it Ki? For many of us we thought this guy had the skill but wanted too much time on the ball and was too lightweight for the SPL. This year he comes out and has added tracking back and tackling to his growing repertoire, making fans like me eat my words.
Has it been Lennon, who has changed his tactics and outsmarted Wattie three times now? He was the guy who played Samaras up front on his own against the Huns at Ipox, and he`s the man who played Mulgrew on the left of midfield in that game.
All of the above are certainly part of the turnaround but for me the critical or pivotal point was the moving of Chico Mulgrew to centre-back.
Here`s a player who looked slow and hesitant at left-back, opposition players went past him at ease. Fans including me looked upon him as a cross between a circus clown and a pantomime villain. Chico at centre-back, are you kidding me? We loan Joss (no loss), sell Misun, and have Dan and Loobrush hurt and we have to resort to Chico. Well if things were bad they just took a turn for the worse. What a gamble by Lennon. Especially on the back of failing to strengthen that area during the window.
So what happens? Well out runs this guy who looks like Chico but plays like Beckenbauer. I kid you not the guy has been a revelation at the back. He looks composed, reads the game well and starts attacks with long balls. Not only does he look good at centre-back, he looks like the best centre-back we have and maybe the best centre-back we have had in a while.
When you add the fact that he has posed a threat in the opposition box and scored, then it really is like a great new signing. So why imo has Chico taken the plaudits for being pivotal in our turnaround? Well think of the state we would be in without him. We would have had to play Wilson at CB or one of the kids. The guy has anchored our defence and been at the centre of all that`s been good about our current form.
I for one have to apologize to Chico for not seeing the player inside and thank him for helping my Celtic regain form. Lennon takes a huge slice of credit for taking the risk (and it was a huge risk) and for seeing the player he was. What an inspirational change of position for Chico.
So for me, Chico take a bow son, imo you have played a pivotal role changing things around for us.
Now not for me to say, but I hear Lennon fancies Murphy as a keeper, just saying .......