Celtic need their experienced players to step up and be counted

Celtic’s slump in form has come as a shock to all those associated with the Scottish club. This is a team where winning is simply the norm, and any drop below those levels of excellence can rightfully be considered a crisis.

Such has been Celtic's dominance in recent seasons, and the fact that Ranger's off-field issues have prevented there being a serious rival for the Hoops, this current drop in standards seems even more dramatic. After all, this team has won pretty much everything over the last four or five years, and the prospect of not winning the Scottish Premiership will seem alien to the youngest Celtic fans.

Such has been Celtic’s dominance in recent seasons, and the fact that Ranger’s off-field issues have prevented there being a serious rival for the Hoops, this current drop in standards seems even more dramatic. After all, this team has won pretty much everything over the last four or five years, and the prospect of not winning the Scottish Premiership will seem alien to the youngest Celtic fans.

But that is the reality facing Celtic, as Rangers sit pretty at the top of the Scottish Premiership table, 11 points clear of Celtic in second, although the Hoops have two games in hand. There’s been a lethargy about the team this season, an inability to hit the heights expected of them and to deliver the consistent victories that Celtic supporters demand.

Much of the blame has been laid at the feet of Neil Lennon, who took over for the second time after the departure of Brendan Rodgers in February 2019, but the Northern Irishman has faith that they can turn it around.

“For 20 years, I have done everything in my power to bring success to the club and the fans,” he said. “That is not going to change on the run of a bad month or people being upset by my style of management. It only takes a flick of the switch. I think we are lacking a little bit of confidence, a little bit of belief. But it can turn around very quickly and then it is baby-steps after that, build, build, build, build.”

But while Lennon must of course take part of the blame for Celtic’s dismal start to the season, some of the responsibility must lie at the feet of the players too. If the Scottish Champions are to live up to that status once again, they need their senior players to take the bull by the horns and produce the goods on the pitch to bring that feel-good factor back to Parkhead.

“The players are behind the staff and the staff are behind us,” defender Christopher Jullien said recently. “The dressing-room is just unified like never (before), so strong together. I still feel we have so much in front of us and we are going to fix that by being unified. We just keep trusting ourselves.”

An obvious way to help fix the club’s current rut is to get their hands on silverware, and they have the chance to do just that when they take on Heart of Midlothian in the Scottish FA Cup final later this month. The match is the culmination of the 2019-20 edition of the tournament, and Celtic are understandably the favourites in the Scottish FA Cup odds to emerge victorious.

Victory would help alleviate the pressure on Lennon, but it would also prove that this squad of players has what it takes to overcome difficult times. What Celtic need is a spark to reignite their winning mentality and sense of dominance. It’s up to the players to provide that.

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