'I think the Celtic fans will go along with that': Why fanbase are likely to accept current situation

Martin O’Neill could be expected to question what exactly has changed at Parkhead since he was in charge in the early 2000s.

Ally McCoist (left) and Martin O'Neill help launch a new William Hill shop in Glasgow yesterday (Pic: Steve Welsh)
Ally McCoist (left) and Martin O'Neill help launch a new William Hill shop in Glasgow yesterday (Pic: Steve Welsh)

After all, he experienced only one defeat in nine Champions League home matches in the group stages of the Champions League. Celtic have won just once in their last ten Champions League group games at Parkhead under Neil Lennon, Brendan Rodgers and now Ange Postecoglou.

O’Neill insists the record isn’t relevant. Parkhead retains a special magic – as Real Madrid can attest to. It is all about this evening and securing the win required against RB Leipzig. Celtic have not tasted victory under the Parkhead lights at this stage since beating Ajax 2-1 in 2013 under Lennon.

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"I sometimes think you can take stats and manipulate them to suit things,” said O’Neill. “If you're in a Champions League with three home games, I'm not sure those stats matter. If you base stats on 25 games, that's different. It (home form) can easily come round again.

(L-R) Martin O'Neill, Steve Walford and John Robertson after a 3-0 defeat in Porto in 2001. Celtic lost only one home Champions League group game under him

"When Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid, who had just won the Champions League and play in a big stadium themselves, talk about playing in an atmospheric place like Celtic Park, then that's fantastic. The crowd tomorrow night will be important.”

O’Neill reflected on his own steep learning curve as he led Celtic into the Champions League in 2001. They started off with a controversial 3-2 defeat in Turin against Juventus. However, the way O’Neill remembers it, a subsequent 3-0 away loss to a pre-Jose Mourinho Porto was a valuable lesson for someone who might have thought he knew it all having won two European Cups with Nottingham Forest.

Postecoglou will likewise be picking up knowledge of how to cope at Europe’s top table although he seems unwilling to change tactics to date.

"If I went back to my first year when we played Porto, we went there and we played the three at the back,” O'Neill recalled. “For the first time, they pushed all three up against us. They played the game just outside our penalty area. Essentially, you could have forgotten about the rest of the game – it was three versus three.

"You talk about learning lessons from that and having a different approach. It made me start thinking about things.

“There will be things that Ange has learned,” he added. “He's no fool. He will still want to go and attack, and that's fine. Because it's their first year in it and they have a youngish side, I think the Celtic fans will go along with that.

"But don't get me wrong, from all three games (so far) he will have learned things. If he doesn't change, that's to his credit.

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"But I think he will feel that Celtic are capable of scoring goals. You can learn but you don't have to change everything because someone says, 'Oh, you're a bit open'. They have been a wee bit unlucky in games (so far).

"Considering they were away from home against Leipzig, they had some chances as well. This game is now massive. They really have to win it. But they are genuinely capable of winning the game.”

Martin O’Neill was speaking at the launch of William Hill’s newly transformed, state-of-the-art shop on Gordon Street, Glasgow.

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