ANGE POSTECOGLOU is a keen disciple of the mantra that in football, you shouldn’t get too high when you win, and you shouldn’t get too low when you don’t.
Such measured control of emotion though is a little harder to achieve for players out in the thick of the action, and harder still for the paying punters in the stand whose investment is more than just financial.
The Celtic fans – like any other supporters – are disciples of getting carried away when their team is flying, and plumbing the depths of despair when a result goes against them.
So, the thousands who have devoted themselves to the Church of ‘Angeball’ may have had their faith shaken a little by the defeat to Bodo/Glimt last week, and the manner of it.
As Celtic captain, it is Callum McGregor’s duty to spread the gospel that there is no need to panic though, with Postecoglou and his men travelling to the Arctic Circle this week in good spirits despite the 3-1 deficit they will have to overturn to remain in the UEFA Conference League.
McGregor admits though that while his belief is still strong in the path Celtic are charting, and in their chances of progress in the tie, the loss to Kjetil Knutsen’s side reminded them that while they have come a long way so far this season, there is still also a long way to go.
“We’ve seen enough from ourselves in good situations and possession [to know we can progress],” McGregor said.
“The reality is we have to score three to go through so we understand we have to put a wee bit of risk in the game and be concentrated.
“It then opens us to the counter-attack and we’re working hard to nullify that. This group have shown we can win big.
“It’s a new group and in terms of European football it’s been going really well. It’s a learning curve and we have to take that on board.
“When you get the goal back [in the first leg] everyone is up off their chair. We have to be cold and manage that game properly after that. But these things happen in football.
“Moving forwards we’ll analyse the game again. We’ve still got a chance to rectify it.
“When you play in European competition, no matter the team you come up against, they’ll always be fit and organised and that’s why it’s such a good level.
“You can’t drop, you have to be more aware, play quicker and make good decisions, and when you don’t that’s what happens last week.
“We’ve come a long way and we’ve got a hell of a long way to go as well. It keeps us grounded and makes us understand we have many layers to go.”
McGregor is frank in his assessment of the first leg of the tie, and in the areas where Celtic will need to show a keen improvement if they are to remain in European competition.
“One: concentration for the goals,” he said. “Two: the quality we have to play at.
“You have to play even quicker and be more aware of what’s around you. The spaces are there for a split second and you have to play the pass.
“When you step up again you have to be ready for that step and we’ve got a lot of learning to do.
“I’ve seen enough in the game [though], especially being out there. You can tell how the game’s going. We broke into good areas and lacked a bit of quality where we’ve normally been good.
“Sometimes you come off the pitch and think it was tough – and it was tough – but there were a lot of good situations for us.
“We have to dust ourselves down then go for it.”
There were also a couple of factors that conspired to Celtic’s detriment during the first leg in Glasgow, with their normally clinical touch deserting them in the final third, and the foothold they gifted the Norwegians in the game.
“Conceding the early goal doesn’t help us,” McGregor said. “We then have to chase the game and they’re a good outfit.
“They’ve shown that in the group stage – we knew the threat they had on the counter and that gives us a mountain to climb.
“We started to get control, had some good moments and lacked a bit of quality, which we haven’t done recently. We’ve been pretty clinical in those situations.
“That’s the difference at this level – they have three chances and score and in numerous situations we struggled a little bit, but it’s a learning curve as a group.
“You can’t think you’re doing well then you come up against a tough side and they beat you 3-1 at home. We have to try to rectify it this week and see where we can be better.
“We knew they were a fit side with some big boys who could get about the pitch. Maybe during pre-season teams get caught slightly cold but I’ve no doubt they’ve been working hard with this game in mind.”
If Celtic aren’t to be caught cold in sub-zero Bodo tomorrow evening, McGregor knows they will have to improve significantly on last week’s performance, but he is taking heart from the goals they have plundered on the continent earlier on this season against Real Betis, Ferencvaros and Bayer Leverkusen.
In each of those matches, they scored the three goals that will be required to progress from this tie.
“We’re that type of team,” he said. “We want to be aggressive.
“Even if we go away from home we want to play the same way and that’ll get us chances.
“It’s about being clinical and ruthless when the chances come. That can be the small difference.”