Dunfermline must pay a heavy price for Celtic's Champions League exit
Tuesday’s result has hit Celtic fans hard. There is no denying it. But for the Celtic management and its players they now move on to the weekend’s Betfred Cup tie against Dunfermline. It is a chance to put the Cluj debacle to one side and give the fans a distraction albeit temporarily.
And for Dunfermline, they must surely be onto a hiding from nothing. The Celtic fans demand it. The management team must look for a morale boosting victory and the players will look to prove themselves all over again by putting the Pars to the sword - and they must do so with ruthlessness and in style. Anything less and the daggers will be out once again.
Saturday’s game could see Celtic win their 28th successive cup game, but it is expected that Celtic Park will be less than half-full for the cup tie - whether that is simply down to an unglamorous cup tie, lack of money, family and work commitments getting in the way, or the fans choosing to send the board a message; it is anyone’s guess.
There was much talk and criticism levelled at Lennon for keeping Christopher Jullien and Boli Bolingoli on the bench for the Cluj game, especially given his choice to play the club’s best midfielder out of position at left back, but you can surely expect the duo to return to the fold to get much needed game time. But if they fail to start the game there will be more questions to answer for Lennon and the Celtic board - Who signed the duo? Why is Lennon not selecting £10 million worth of players?
Saturday’s game is perfect to rest the likes of Scott Brown, Odsonne Edouard and James Forrest, so that the likes of Maryan Shved, Leigh Griffiths and Scott Sinclair can get some game time also. With Callum McGregor back in midfield where he belongs alongside Ryan Christie.
Craig Gordon will be expected to take the number one jersey with Scott Bain out for one game with a hand injury.
Fall out from Cluj
While the stadium will be half full at best, there could very well be a protest against the Celtic board after Tuesday’s game to show that the fans have had enough of Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell gambling with Champions League qualification - hoping to do it on the cheap.
Whether this will be inside the stadium or outside it - a message must be sent to the Celtic board that the fans have had enough of the duo’s ineptitude and unwillingness to strengthen the side ahead of our participation in the Champions League.
With just two weeks remaining of the Summer transfer window - we are still looking to sign a dedicated left back, another midfielder and by the sounds of it another striker. And while there has talk of Celtic close to signing Rosenborg defender Birger Meling - there is more chance of Lennon having to settle for what he has got if experience has taught us about the Celtic board’s unwillingness to splash the cash after a Champions League exit.
The board have remained silent over Tuesday’s debacle and their demand for more supporters’ cash for next week’s Europa League clash against AIK Stockholm is a further kick in the teeth for Celtic fans who pay out their hard earned cash year in year out, with the only reward being a pre-season friendly free on their season ticket and maybe an early Champions League qualifier for their troubles. While the likes of Peter Lawwell cashes in his extravagant Chief Executive’s salary and healthy bonus - despite overseeing further failure in Europe.
Saturday’s game is a must win for Celtic. They must put on a show for the fans and send the Pars back to Fife on the end of a serious hammering. Lennon and the players will be under huge scrutiny and any slip ups or poor performances will be jumped upon and quite rightly so.
Celtic must send out a message that Tuesday was not acceptable the club will do much better going forward - their talking will be done on the park, but for the fans we also demand the board to come out and face the music or the furore and anger against them will intensify.
Put Dunfermline to the sword Celtic, otherwise face the consequences.