They say the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
And that certainly applies to Celtic, which has fallen pretty hard after nine years at the top of the world.
We have been less than 12 months into the Hoops’ attempt to start a “skirmish” era, but they have already given their rivals across town a fight for their money. Even the most ardent Celtic defender would admit they’ve been a mess since the start of the 2020-21 season as their insistence on Neil Lennon and indecision on Eddie Howe set them back years.
They’ve known for months that their long-time captain will go for free but have yet to replace him, and we’ve already heard their new manager – in office for a few weeks – criticize the board for criticizing their hesitation in the transfer market.
It’s mid-July and there’s hardly an 18-man squad of senior players.
In the midst of this chaos and much to the worry of their expectant fans, they have to negotiate with FC Midtjylland, who are traveling to Glasgow for the first leg on Tuesday evening, to qualify for the Champions League.
You’d be forgiven if you thought it would be a bit of a miracle if Celtic could survive this tie unscathed. The Danes represent a tough test at the best of times, but this is not a Celtic team of any kind for a European game.
Your ‘A’ roster for the Midtjylland tie makes for a pretty insightful read. They couldn’t meet the 25-player quota for the tie, and those who did it include; a 17-year-old center-back; a striker who did not play in pre-season; a left-back who was exiled to Basaksehir after breaking quarantine rules a year ago; and Anthony Ralston, their only right-back to have made one (only one) Appearance in all competitions of the last season.
When you consider that this is their first game under a new manager – who typically takes about six months to get their teams fired in the best of circumstances – it will be mighty impressive when they can take it all.
Postecoglou is a top coach, however, and he will know that if he can somehow get his paper-thin, ill-prepared squad off to a flying start, it could only set the tone for the season ahead.
This is the weakest team his Celtic team will ever be – new signings Liel Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi will add quality, and they will only be the tip of the iceberg of new signings – so if they somehow make their way into the third qualifying round thesis Circumstances, what does that say about what is to come?
The exam for Postecoglou on Tuesday and a week later in Denmark is one of the toughest of his managerial career. The odds are good against his team and they will need every bit of his experience, extolled by Christopher Jullien, Callum McGregor and James Forrest, if they are to make it.
For Postecoglou, however, it is a chance to put the gauntlet down in his first competitive game and warn the Rangers that they have a real fight ahead of them that must be sustained