The Season Book Years – 2014/15
Finishing off the season book years series, remember that the one rule I set myself here was that I could only pick a game that was on the season book that I actually went to. As such, they’ve all been home league games. I might have mentioned other games from that season to put it into the context of the season, but the main focus was on that one home league game. So, with that in mind, for the final time…
Celtic 4-0 Motherwell, 21st January 2015.
Van Dijk 26, Griffiths 42, Lustig 76, 81.
This season as a season book holder has been an odd one. From the Commonwealth Games booting us out of our own stadium and sending us to Murrayfield for Champions League qualifiers, to the slow process of our new manager Ronny Deila trying to instill his tactics and methods into a team who were used to Neil Lennon’s way of doing things, it didn’t exactly start great with defeats at the hands of both Legia Warsaw and Maribor sending us tumbling out of the Champions League not once but twice thanks to some dodgy paperwork on the Polish champions part.
For me though, it was one long season of proof that it was time to bring this period of my life to an end. My rant at the end of August after yet another summer of watching Celtic try to rest on their laurels and still make the Champions League is one I stand by, but moves have been made since to make me think that this summer might actually be managed right. Whether that proves to be right or not won’t make any difference to me now, but hopefully it makes a difference for the team.
This season I’ve missed more home games than I have since before I was a season book holder. From flag day itself against Dundee United, to the 1-0 defeat to high flying Hamilton, and both home wins over Aberdeen, I’ve had other commitments now that I have a family. Throw in the fact that I cancelled my home cup debit scheme at the end of August and that means I’ve even missed cup wins over Hearts, Partick Thistle and Dundee United as well as the whole Europa League campaign.
The fact we’ve only had four 3pm Saturday kick offs out of nineteen home league games this season is just more proof of how football is changing away from the traditional, but we brought some of that on ourselves with the Thursday Europa League games and the cancellation of other home games to go and do things like bond in the Canaries!
But as much as I’ve moaned about games being postponed mid-season to make your own winter break, there’s a strong suggestion that the break actually did Celtic the world of good. Where prior to that January break Celtic had still been struggling to find their way under Ronny Deila, by the time they returned it was suddenly all guns blazing and everyone pulling in the right direction.
A 2-0 win at Hamilton was a good start, but it was the first home game after the break that really raised my eyebrows and convinced me that my faith that Deila knew what he was doing had not been misplaced. Now, for the first time, I was able to see that the players were buying into it as well and showing that they could play their part. That had always been the niggling doubt in my head until this game.
The Motherwell game in January was simply terrific. We had all the game, we had all the shots. The game wasn’t so much that Motherwell never intended to attack, but more that we never let them even consider it. It wouldn’t be the last time we’d do that either, and if anything the Dundee game less than 24 hours prior to clinching the fourth title – in a Friday night home game no less – was an even better example of it. But this was the first time we really saw it – if you ignore the curiously out of place drubbing of Dundee United on flag day that is.
The Motherwell game wasn’t perfect by any means. The first goal came from Anthony Stokes’ second attempt at a cross after his corner had failed to beat the first man, but it was accurate enough that Van Dijk headed home at the back post to put Celtic deservedly in front. Stokes was the provider again for the second goal as another accurate cross gave Leigh Griffiths the chance to head past Dan Twardzik in the Motherwell goal.
Motherwell could have, and probably should have, lost by more goals on the night. Emilio Izaguirre, not known for his scoring but still managed to go from one goal for Celtic to three in this one season, hit the crossbar. This was after another move where Izzy had set up Stefan Johansen who had hit the post with a header. Kris Commons was twice denied by Twardzik as well, who despite the scoreline actually had a good game against Celtic – a team where two of his brothers had spent their youth careers.
Mikael Lustig was the man to finally get the third goal after combining well with James Forrest, but it was the fourth goal that really stuck out on the night. A break up the park, initiated by Lustig himself, eventually found Griffiths who sent in a well placed cross for Lustig to fire home thanks to a diving header. For me, it was goal of the season. For others, that accolade apparently went to Commons in the League Cup semi final. Admittedly, we all looked daft after both Brown’s team goal and Bitton’s wonderstrike against Dundee after that award had been given out!
Lustig wasn’t done though. On a hat trick, the Swede became the third Celtic player to hit the woodwork as he fired in the last shot of the game. Another inch and the right back – who had only come on as a second half substitute – would have had a well deserved hat trick. As a fans favourite, that would have brought the house down.
Sadly, Lustig didn’t feature much this season due to injury. But if you were going to feature heavily in any game for Celtic this season, then this was one to do it in.
This game also said it all for Celtic’s season. Dominant, playing attractive and attacking football, but not quite hitting the back of the net as often as they probably should have done. Despite the refereeing in the Scottish Cup semi final, I can’t help but feel that last part had just as much of a part to play in why Celtic didn’t finish the season with the treble we probably should have had. Indeed, if I have on regret over these thirteen seasons is that we’ve never managed the domestic clean sweep.
Maybe next season. I may not be there as I have been these last thirteen seasons, but I’ll still be watching on and supporting from afar.
But first, there’s one final trophy to get.