On the last day of last month, Celtic lost 2-1 to Hearts in their cinch Premiership opener, hot on the heels of their Champions League exit to Midtyjlland. The mood was sombre around Parkhead.
The board got it in the neck, for not appointing Ange Postecoglou quick enough, for not signing players quick enough, for not winning games quick enough. Some pundits had already crowned Rangers de facto 2021/22 champions after one round of fixtures, such was the apparent tumult at Celtic.
The tables have turned. Since that loss at Tynecastle on July 31, Celtic have embarked on a steep upward trajectory. In six matches, they’ve scored 24 goals, stand on the cusp of the Europa League group stages, play a brand of attacking, free-wheeling football that has the supporters happy again and morale is high ahead of Sunday’s derby clash with Rangers.
In that period, they’ve put six past two teams twice. Dundee were given a steamrolling earlier in the month and then, on Saturday, poor St Mirren – who weren’t helped by an early red card for Alan Power – got the same treatment. Celtic may not top the standings, but they have the gait of league leaders.
David Turnbull bagged a treble against the Buddies, while Liel Abada scored twice and Odsonne Edouard netted. The only surprise was that the prolific Kyogo Furuhashi didn’t get on the scoresheet. Perhaps he is waiting for the bigger stage of Alkmaar on Thursday, or a pièce de résistance at Ibrox.
So what has changed at Celtic in the past 23 days? “It’s probably just getting used to the way we were playing,” mused defender Stephen Welsh, who is well-placed to comment on the transformation given he suffered the pain of a wretched 2020/21 campaign. “It was very new. We’ve brought in new players as well who have now adapted to the system – like Liel, Kyogo and Carl [Starfelt, Welsh’s centre-back partner]. We’ve got another couple in as well.
“They’ve adapted to the system that we want too play very well and I think it suits them – fast, high-paced, intensity. It really suits the players we’ve brought in.”
The vanquishing of St Mirren was another example of Postecoglou’s mantra, another performance which left the opponents totally helpless.
“I thought we really took he game to St Mirren,” continued Welsh. “In the first ten/15 minutes, we were all over them.
“We got a clean sheet as well which on a personal note is good for me.
“That means as much as the goals we’re scoring. If we’re keeping them out then we know the boys are going to create chances and score goals at the other end.
“It gives them room to go and be creative, to try and create chances if we’re solid at the back.
“The intensity was there right until the end. That’s what the gaffer said at half time. Even though we were four goals up and they were a man down, he said that the next 45 minutes we had to keep up that intensity, show a level and show how good we were.
“I thought we did that. We could have scored more goals.”