The mundaneness of how Celtic ended their mirabilis of a year was quickly and easily forgiven by Brendan Rodgers yesterday.
The most uncomfortable afternoon he has endured across eight derby experiences as the club’s manager, the Irishman could offer mitigating circumstances for the unimpressive display in the scoreless draw.
Not difficult when Celtic now embark on the winter shut-down following a 61-game 2017 calendar year that brought three trophy successes, a treble claimed without domestic defeat, and only one reverse at the hands of Scottish opponents.
“We were playing our 38th competitive game [of the season], ninth in the month,” Rodgers said. “That is a real taxing period for the players mentally and physically and we showed a different side today. OK we weren’t quite as bright, but it is all natural.
“Very much so [we need a break]. It is obvious in terms of the number of games we have played and everything that goes into it. Up here, you virtually have back-to-back seasons so there is no real rest. It is similar to this time last year, in terms of the performances in December were maybe a wee bit tired. Even though we got the victories in them, they maybe weren’t spectacular.
“Credit to the players, though, because I have seen it many times over the years where you can maybe lose that one [today] 1-0. Not take your chances and then your opponent gets a goal and all of a sudden you are on a disappointment. But the resilience of the players and the resolve they showed, they have done really well. If you can’t score then you must make sure you don’t lose it.
“That is our fourth clean sheet in a row now, after our game when we conceded four [against Hearts a fortnight ago]. First half we were the better team without too many moments of quality. Second we huffed and puffed a wee bit.
“First 20 they came out and had some opportunities but I thought towards the end our physicality could come into it and get us a goal but didn’t happen. It was probably a fair result in the end. I thought the game lacked quality, to be fair. It was a wee bit frantic, which these types of games are to be fair, but there wasn’t a great deal of quality in the game.
“Lots of effort, lots of commitment – these things are an obligation – but we just lacked that wee bit of quality today, especially in the final third.”
Celtic players will now be given a week off before they head out to Dubai to build up for the second half of the season. There were suggestions that Moussa Dembele indulged in farewell gestures at the end of the encounter, with speculation remaining intense that he will leave for around the £20m during the January transfer window.
Largely discarded squad players such as Erik Sviatchenko and Liam Henderson seem sure to be on their way, with a deal expectant to be imminent for St Mirren attacker Lewis Morgan following the £1m capture of experienced SC Freiburg centre-back Marvin Compper.
“The players who’ve been with us need the recovery and rest. They’ll be worked on as well,” Rodgers said. “And there will be players going out as well, who want to move on and get games, so it’ll be a revolving door over the course of the month, but certainly we want to strengthen.”