Former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill believes Covid-19 has had a “huge” effect on Celtic, and called out Boli Bolingoli for his actions back in August.
Boli caused the Hoops to have two games postponed against St Mirren and Aberdeen respectively. That allowed Rangers to generate some momentum and storm ahead at the top of the table. This all came from the Belgian flying out to Spain when guidelines strictly informed players not to travel abroad.
The government protocols meant that the Celtic squad had to go into isolation, and this cost us key ground in the title race. Fast forward several months and Celtic now sit 11 points behind Rangers having still played two games less. Boli, meanwhile, has been farmed out on loan to Istanbul Basaksehir, who are currently in the Champions League.
It’s difficult to see a way back for Boli, but O’Neill believes he needs to carry the can for playing a big part in Celtic’s decline this season.
As quoted by the Daily Record, O’Neill said: “Can Celtic get it back? Absolutely they can get it back. Covid issues have been huge.
“Boli Bolingoli talking himself off for a jaunt to Spain put Celtic in bother because those games in hand aren’t a problem until your rivals are picking up a bit of momentum and then all of a sudden there is a bit of psychology at play.
“Right now they need to forget about all of that. Stop looking at what Rangers are doing and where Rangers are. You get the head down and you focus and you make sure everyone around you focused. This is total concentration now. On paper they are the better squad, the experienced squad who have done it before but titles are not won on a bit of paper.”
Boli can’t be blamed for Celtic form; this squad should be bigger than that
It’s easy to point the finger of blame at Boli for just about everything that’s happened this season. He got the cogs turning when it came to turning this campaign upside down, and he was punished for it.
It’s also difficult to see him having any sort of long-term future in Glasgow again. His presence back in Scotland will be poisonous for many supporters, and even though he’s playing Champions League football this season, he likely won’t play here at any point down the line.
However, you have to draw the line somewhere. At some stage, Boli’s influence on things stops and the blame game must be directed elsewhere. You simply cannot accuse the Belgian left-back for being a key instigator in why we have now failed to win six of our last eight games.
There have been plenty of opportunities over the last two months to start building momentum once again. That we haven’t is more of a reflection of the current squad than Boli.
Yes, it was stupid from the former Rapid Vienna man, and he likely won’t be welcomed back here again. But if we fail to go on and win the title, it won’t be anything to do with Boli’s actions. This is a squad that should be stronger than that in mental terms.
So we’ll see how things go as we close in on the end of 2020. One thing’s for sure – Celtic need an instant response if we’re to save the 10.