Celtic’s winter training camp in Dubai attracted close attention and scrutiny.
With the country in Tier 4 Lockdown, the merits of being away were under the microscope, and led to comment from the kitchen table all the way up to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
I’m not privy to any conversations that took place between Celtic and the Scottish Government, or SPFL and SFA.
However, I do not recall them being asked not to travel.
Plenty of people had their say after the Hoops players and management flew out last Saturday night.
The only dissenting voice I heard before they left was from Hibernian, who expressed their dissatisfaction about the Premiership fixture at Celtic Park being put back 48 hours to tomorrow night.
That complaint was absolutely fair enough.
But the condemnation didn’t stop after the Celtic party had landed in Dubai.
Concerns were raised when a picture appeared of Neil Lennon, on a sun lounger next to Scott Brown, with pints of liquid on the table between them.
Why does that need to be looked upon as a negative? Why was a negative spin put on that photograph?
For a start, nobody apart from Neil and Scott know the exact content of that conversation.
My view is that the conversation looked quite serious.
It could have been about Scott’s future, and what he was thinking about doing next season.
Maybe it centred on how Neil was feeling after a difficult few months as manager, and he was confiding in his captain.
Or it could have been a discussion about how they turn their season around, and get back at Rangers to make it a real fight for the Premiership title in the remainder of the campaign.
My guess is that what they were talking about was both constructive, and deep-rooted.
Listen, any manager and player will tell you it’s amazing how many serious conversations are held over a beer or a glass of wine.
Sometimes having a wee bit of liquid down you is what’s needed to say exactly what you are thinking.
Remember, some straight-talking is what’s needed right now at Celtic.
I’m sure some harsh realities were aired in Dubai this time last year on the back of losing 2-1 to Rangers at Parkhead.
Steven Gerrard’s team were hot favourites for the title back then.
But on their return to home soil, Neil and his players rallied to go on a brilliant run to take advantage when Rangers were dropping points to the likes of Kilmarnock and Hamilton Accies.
Celtic will be hoping the same happens again this time as they try to reduce the 19-point deficit, with the help of their three games in hand.
We will get a real feel for it all at the end of this month.
Rangers will hope to keep their momentum going by beating Aberdeen at Pittodrie this afternoon.
It’s certainly hard to see Steven’s men losing that game.
For the Dons to take all three points, they’d need to score, and it’s hard to see Allan McGregor conceding a goal right now.
He was the difference in the Old Firm game last Saturday, and in his two spells at Ibrox, he has been first-class.
He may be about to turn 39, but he remains an outstanding goalie.
Indeed, Allan looks as though he’d be one of the very few to have a good future – even at his age!
There has been debate all week about whether or not he is better than club legend, Andy Goram.
Both have made exceptional contributions to the club’s history, though right now, The Goalie is the more-decorated of the two.
But Allan and his colleagues have hit new heights in this campaign. To have conceded only five goals in 22 league games is quite incredible.
All of the players deserve huge credit for that, including back-up keeper, Jon McLaughlin who has played several games this season.
From the goalkeeping position, right throughout the team, they all appear to be focused and determined to do well. They are going to take some shifting.
Despite that, Celtic can’t give up. There is too much at stake.
They need to keep things going, and push it all the way, starting with Hibs tomorrow night.
If they can do that, it will give them confidence that they repeat the achievements of last season.
But that would also need to involve Rangers collapsing. And right now, I can’t see that happening.
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