The Scottish game is at a low ebb, with the national team extending its exile from the finals of major tournaments to two decades and counting while our clubs, severely disadvantaged by the obscenely lucrative broadcasting deals enjoyed by the top tier in England, struggle to make a dent in continental competition.
Unsurprisingly, then, many footballers and managers south of Hadrian’s Wall have a low opinion of the Premiership.
With 289 appearances at Chelsea, Charlton Athletic and West Ham United, former England striker Carlton Cole – who yesterday signed a deal which will make him a Celtic player until the end of next season – could be forgiven for viewing this move as the equivalent of Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard heading for the MLS.
However, the 32-year-old has underlined his commitment to succeed by revealing that he is undergoing sessions with a sports psychologist to make sure that he does not underestimate the division he finds himself in or the opponents he will face.
Cole made his debut in England’s top tier for Chelsea in a 3-0 victory over Everton at Stamford Bridge in May, 2002. He made his 289th and final appearance in the Premier League for West Ham at Newcastle in May of this year.
“The Premier League is massive and I have played there all my life but to come here [thinking] that it is going to be easy is the wrong attitude,” he said. “Consequently, I am going to be working with a sports psychologist up here that the club have supplied to make sure I am always on top and not thinking that anything is going to come easily.
“I want to think that every game is going to be a hard game and that is the most important thing – that you respect the league and the players you are playing against. I’ve heard that it is a disaster to draw a game and a crisis if we lose two games on the bounce. We had a big meeting the other day. It was after a win but the manager wasn’t happy and I was thinking: ‘We just won the game!’
“But I can understand where he was coming from. The performance was okay but he wants us to be winning with proper intent so we don’t get to that point where we have lost one game and then another. Complacency can’t creep in so the standard has to be kept high. That is why he has brought me in because he knows I will always try and push the boys and use my experience to help the team.
“I’m no longer at a mid-table club where I can play a big team and it’s all right if you play well but don’t win. It can’t be like that any more. You have got to win every game.
“It’s why I need the sports psychologist. It’s a massive step-up. I want to be the main guy, going out there and winning the game. I already have the quality but I need to get the mindset that I need to win every game now.”
That, though, is not the only step Cole has taken to guarantee he will be firing on all cylinders when he makes his debut for Ronny Deila’s side. “I’ve also employed a personal fitness coach who will keep my nutrition and everything else up to speed because I know I’ve got to be on point every time I go out there,” he said.