What a difference a couple of weeks has made for Celtic and John Kennedy.
We’ve only conceded one goal under the former centre-back, putting paid to some of the “defensive coach” myths from 20-21. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, we’ve dominated an opponent and have the scoreline to prove it. There may have been little at stake in terms of the Premiership. Make no mistake though, today was a heartening and impressive outing for the Bhoys.
Livingston, famously, are a team that the Hoops have struggled to make headway against. Two draws and one win from our prior meeting this season had given cause for concern. Today, though, no such worries as we put Martindale’s side away with consummate ease.
Martindale, for his part, has talked up John Kennedy’s chance of getting the Celtic job long-term. After the final whistle, the Livi boss said [Daily Record]:
“There was a hunger and an appetite with Celtic that I haven’t seen in a while.
“It looked like a team who were playing for their manager. If John has any chance of the job, that will have done him the world of good.
“You could see the players were playing for John, they were enjoying it.
“Obviously, we made that easier for them and I don’t think we were anywhere near it after half an hour.
“We just didn’t get close enough to Celtic’s players.”
Very obvious Celtic improvement under John Kennedy
Granted, it couldn’t have got much worse in the latter parts of Neil Lennon’s era.
But compare our last three performances to much of anything we saw this season. Frankly, we were unlucky to draw against Rangers, while easier opposition in the form of Falkirk and Livingston (again – a bogey team of sorts) have been handled with ease. It’s not just the results, though, it’s the manner of them.
When Neil Lennon came to Celtic the second time, he actually improved the team immediately. Players had so much freedom, and played with less tactical rigidity. That’s fine, but only for a little while. Eventually, the lack of organisation and vision showed.
Under Kennedy, there seems to be both cohesive strategy and players who are simply far more confident. Kris Ajer, for example, has been driving forward with incredible intensity. Scott Brown looks brand new, and has gone unheralded as Celtic’s form has improved.
Obviously, he clearly benefits from James Forrest’s return. We can only talk in hypothetical terms about the impact the winger could’ve had this season.
Still, it’s night and day. You can talk about the pressures of the league evaporating and all the rest. But Celtic being solid at the back and entertaining up front is only good news.
Has the John Kennedy door creaked open? We’ll have to wait and see.