Celtic legend Kenny Dalglish’s comments on Scotland’s playoff matches are well-intentioned, but they should fall on deaf ears at Parkhead.
As we all know, Scotland have managed to book themselves a playoff date against Israel on March 26th at Hampden. If they win that, they’ll face either Norway or Serbia on March 31st for a spot at Euro 2020 (UEFA).
Celtic, however, recently rejected a proposal to have their March 21st game against St Johnstone at Parkhead postponed (Glasgow Times). This was apparently due to the grueling second half of the season we could have on our hands.
Dalglish, meanwhile, encouraged Scotland’s top-flight clubs to do all they can to help the SFA. He stated in his Sunday Post column that clubs shouldn’t be negative towards the postponements.
It’s made things more difficult considering Israel have scrapped all of their fixtures the weekend before their side face Scotland. Celtic could have as many as six players away too.
Celtic over Scotland, and it always will be
When it comes to decisions that Celtic make regarding postponements, there’s no room to be generous. If we were to suspend the game against St Johnstone, goodness knows when we’ll be able to play it.
If Celtic manage to keep progressing in the Europa League, which we would plan to, that will continue to eat into the midweeks too. If we reach the quarter-final of the competition, that will take us beyond Scotland’s playoff fixture(s) (UEFA).
You also have to wonder why Neil Lennon would want to risk his own club’s success for the good of the national team. Lennon isn’t Scottish after all. Neither are the likes of Christopher Jullien, Boli Bolingoli, Tom Rogic, Patryk Klimala, Odsonne Edouard etc. Will the players really want to postpone the fixture too?
It’s easy to look at it and say “well, it’s only St Johnstone at home”. Sure, if Celtic decide to write off that one and allow Scotland to take their players early, you would expect us to beat Saints. But we shouldn’t be taking any risk, and that’s the point.
We may be able to take care of Saints, but it could leave the players drained for tougher fixtures in April. Celtic travel to Easter Road before the split comes into effect after those internationals. That means we’ll only be playing top-six opposition. The last thing our players need is to be running out of energy at that point in the season.
Dalglish means well of course and was happy to acknowledge the challenges the likes of Celtic face. But there’s no point in pretending we should be doing Scotland or Steve Clarke a favour. Besides, it’s Scotland after all, we’ll probably bottle it in any case.