Celtic reaction: Postecolgou’s need to strengthen; irony bypass in sectarian slurs towards Lafferty; final consistency brings to mind the Lisbon Lions

Celtic’s seventh League Cup final in the past nine editions of a competition that was earned with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday prompted some unexpected musings.

Postecoglou’s need to strengthen

It could be easy to forget that the starting XI for a Celtic forced to dig deep to overcome a resilient opponent didn’t contain potentially four future first picks. Injury deprived Ange Postecoglou of Greg Taylor and Sead Haksabanovic, while new signings Yuki Kobayashi and Tomoki Iwata continue to bed in. If all four step up to the mark, then mainstays such as Carl Starfelt and Jota, and even Callum McGregor, could potentially find their status under threat.

The restlessness of the Celtic manager in his desire to upgrade, constantly, his playing pool led him to give the impression in his post-match chat he would be happy to push for a churn putting the entire current squad at risk in short order. Semi-final scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis and Josip Juranovic have taken up residence in the Celtic player departure lounge – where ghost performers such as James McCarthy and Yosuke Ideguchi have long resided. The Greek’s status has the club earmarking a new striker to challenge a Kyogo Furuhashi largely kept quiet at Hampden. At the other end, possibly another keeper to have 35-year-old Joe Hart – superb in the semi-final – looking over his shoulder might be considered. In Scotland, even the most dominant teams can have their edge blunted within 18 months of their zeniths – it happened to Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic invincibles of 2016-17 and the Rangers team with which Steven Gerrard enjoyed a loss-free, towering title success in 2020-21. Postecoglou appears hellbent on avoiding his players becoming comfy. In a ruthless fashion rarely witnessed in this domain. “We need to and I want to” make the squad stronger, he stressed. “I don’t want us to stand still at any point”. Celtic’s manager has no sentiment over which of his personnel are left in a spin by a dizzyingly-evolving situation.

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Celtic's Giorgos Giakoumakis performs a top-swinging celebration after his 95th minute goal secured the club's 2-0 Viaplay League Cup semi-final on Saturday night. And with the striker appearing on his way out, it seems the club's manager Ange Postecoglou is content for any number of his current personnel to lose their shirts as he pursues constant squad renewal.(Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)Celtic's Giorgos Giakoumakis performs a top-swinging celebration after his 95th minute goal secured the club's 2-0 Viaplay League Cup semi-final on Saturday night. And with the striker appearing on his way out, it seems the club's manager Ange Postecoglou is content for any number of his current personnel to lose their shirts as he pursues constant squad renewal.(Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic's Giorgos Giakoumakis performs a top-swinging celebration after his 95th minute goal secured the club's 2-0 Viaplay League Cup semi-final on Saturday night. And with the striker appearing on his way out, it seems the club's manager Ange Postecoglou is content for any number of his current personnel to lose their shirts as he pursues constant squad renewal.(Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Irony bypass in sectarian slurs towards

There would appear to be a section of the Celtic support who don’t do irony. From the twitterati among this band, a storm was whipped this week over Kilmarnock welcoming back – without much comment – Kyle Lafferty following his 10-game ban for a sectarian slur, in which he used the Fenian epithet. At Hampden on Saturday night, the striker was decried from sections among the 40,000 Celtic supporters with a sectarian slur in which the Orange epithet was used. Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes also suffered in such fashion. It is the settled view of the courts that Orange and Fenian are proxy words for Protestant and Catholic. Judicially reviewed, decrying anyone using either risks a charge for religiously aggravated breach of the peace. So how did Celtic’s keyboard enthusiasts react to some of their supporters trangressing in Lafferty-style fashion to abuse the 35-year-old? They appeared only to delight in it.

Final consistency

Celtic’s current cup consistency is jaw-dropping. Their weekend success will make the February 26 final their 10th out of a possible 14 in Scotland’s knock-out competitions. In the modern age, there is nothing that comes close. But the fact that, in turn, this doesn’t come close to what Celtic achieved under Jock Stein serves to remind how extraordinary that decade from the mid-1960s was for the club. Independent of the European Cup triumph and nine straight titles. From 1964-65 to 1977-78 there were 28 domestic showpieces between the League Cup and Scottish Cup. Incredibly, Celtic contested no fewer than 25 of these.