Personally Speaking


for authority. Instead, we got anxiety. We craved cohesion. We got confusion. We required poise. We got panic.

This was far from a classic performance from Celtic against Dundee at Dens Park.

Yes, we scrambled a win and collected three vitally important points to remain in pole position with a mere four games to play  before the curtain comes down on the league crusade with a visit from St Mirren on Saturday May 18.

It was all very commendable that Brendan Rodgers’ side got it over the line on Tayside, but, dear reader, is your humble scribe missing something here?

Why on earth should we be producing a backs-to-the-wall performance to dig out a result against a Dundee team we annihilated 7-1 the last time we played them on February 28? Have they improved to such a remarkable extent in such a short period of time?

Or are Celtic colossally underperforming at a crucial stage of the campaign? And, if so, the question has to be: Why?

A LOT TO PONDER…Brendan Rodgers at the conclusion of the 2-1 win at Dens Park.

I have got no intention of becoming an arch critic of the club that has been closest to my heart for over six decades. There are enough folk out there who are all too eager to put the boot in to all things Celtic without me taking my place in a disorderly queue.

However, I have genuine concerns about how Celtic are attempting to manoeuvre their way to a league and Cup double. I said so last week after mind-numbing show against Aberdeen when the players displayed an unhealthy desire to push frantically on the self-destruct button.

The Scottish Cup semi-final should have been done and dusted in the regulation 90-plus minutes. Likewise extra-time. On both occasions, the holders of the silverware flirted with disaster to invite their opponents back into the contest and in the end Joe Hart was required to save a penalty-kick to annex a place at Hampden on May 25 against Philippe Clement’s side.

Hopefully, that showpiece occasion will be mercifully devoid of the apprehension that laced the last-four confrontation with the Pittodrie club.

As Rodgers and Co strive for a semblance of the form you and I know the players can produce, one thing is abundantly certain. The club are on a journey where they are not equipped to carry passengers.

And way too many are failing to convince at the moment. Unfortunately, Callum McGregor is among that number.

IT’S ALL YOURS…Callum McGregor leaves the field in the 62nd minute after handing the captain’s armband to Cameron Carter-Vickers.

You do not require 20/20 vision to clock the Celtic captain is way below the standards he has set himself. He has laboured to emulate the consistency of earlier this season when he was the undisputed conductor of the champions’ symphony.

Whether Big Phil agrees or not, McGregor produced a midfield masterclass in Celtic’s 2-1 derby triumph at Parkhead just before the turn of the year. Rodgers’ players inexplicably lost their focus after their 10-man opponents – with Leon Balagun banished for decking Daizen Maeda in the 71st minute – as the encounter neared its conclusion.

James Tavernier swirled in a free-kick in the 88th minute and the hosts unarguably wobbled in the 10 minutes of stoppage-time. That fade was just a tad concerning, especially after the team had led by two goals since early into the second-half after Kyogo Furuhashi memorably added to Paulo Bernardo’s blaster in the first period.

And you don’t need me to remind you Celtic led 2-0 at Ibrox earlier this month before surrendering two points to a sloppy goal in added-on time when Yang Hyun-jun alarmingly forgot it was within the rules of the game to tackle an opponent.

McGregor is an imitation of his former self since his Achilles injury that saw him miss four games before returning as a second-half substitute in the 3-3 stalemate in Govan.

I’ve already made a plea for the team’s onfield head honcho not to be in too much of a hurry to get back into action – you can check it out


– but what we are observing at the moment is a hollow No.42 shirt.

ENDGAME…Callum McGregor is embraced by boss Brendan Rodgers after his substitution.

There are others who are failing to reassure anyone of their capabilities just now, but McGregor is the most obvious of all simply because of the expectation levels of the team’s anchorman who has produced so consistently over the past seven years or so.

However, the guy I have watched in recent outings looks like a Callum McGregor imposter. The air of command normally exuded by a fine leader of the band has become distorted as passes go astray, tackles are missed and creativity is close to non-existent.

I have no memory of a probing, rearguard-shredding, laserbeam pass from the skipper at Dens Park yesterday.

I realise the only way the player can achieve match fitness is to play in matches. Stands to reason. But I would query the perseverance of the manager and the club captain, impeded by pain, for appearances at this stage of the season when it’s clear he is not up to the task.

A brutal summing-up, I accept, but this is a journey which requires everyone putting their shoulder to the wheel. There can be no free hurls for anyone.

Not even the captain.


Click Here for Comments >