Mulgrew: Price to be paid for Euro ticket
Published 27/11/2012 | 05:00
Celtic full-back Charlie Mulgrew believes that the club's fans have the right to criticise manager Neil Lennon and his team when domestic results are below par, but he accepts that the club's European march this season must come with a sacrifice.
Lennon spoke about walking away if fans do not want him to stay on after becoming embroiled in an argument with disgruntled spectators during Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Mulgrew believes that outcome is unlikely and put the spat down to frustration on both sides. "It's one of those things in the heat of the moment when the game wasn't going our way," he said. "Fans have a right to an opinion and we just didn't take our chances. It wasn't good enough from us. They're entitled to their opinion and the manager got a wee bit heated.
"It shows the passion of the fans, the manager and everyone else at the club. We're all in it together."
Some people within the club attempt to pass it off as coincidence, but the fact is that 12 of the 17 points Celtic have dropped this season have been lost immediately after European ties.
However, with qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League a tantalising possibility, Mulgrew believes that their continued involvement in continental competition is a small price to pay for occasional domestic disappointments.
"Of course you sacrifice yourself for the Champions League – it's where every player wants to play," he said. "It's a huge (tournament) but I don't think it's affecting us too much. We need a couple of things to go our way and I'm sure we'll turn it round."
Even so, there is little doubt that Celtic's results in the Scottish Premier League this season have been poor. Bookmakers will have been delighted by their failure to win half of their 14 fixtures thus far, but fans take a dimmer view of those results.
With no Rangers to push them (Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen were the last club outside the Glasgow giants to be crowned champions, in 1985), Celtic were expected to be streets ahead of the rest by now.
However, they are just one point clear of the Dons and Hibernian (albeit having played a game less) and Mulgrew believes that there is a genuine title race this season.
"Of course there is," said the 26-year-old. "It's only people on the outside who are saying that there won't be one. No one's saying it in the changing room. We know it's going to be difficult. Every team wants to win against us – it's like their cup final.
"There are a couple of other sides going well, so it's not going to be as easy as people are saying. The last thing we are going to do is get sucked into thinking it's going to be easy. We'll have to keep fighting to get results."
Celtic's final Champions League Group G opponents, Spartak Moscow, will have a new man at the helm, having installed Valery Karpin as caretaker manager.
Meanwhile, Terry Butcher wants Inverness Caledonian Thistle to forget their momentous win at Parkhead and focus on Aberdeen at Pittodrie tonight. He said: "We are looking forward to the Aberdeen game now and we want to make sure all those thoughts about Celtic have gone.
"It is nice to think back about Celtic and what we have achieved, but that's history now. Sometimes when you have a big match against someone like Aberdeen at Pittodrie very quickly, you have to refocus very quickly.
"It is a top-of-the-table clash again, Aberdeen are going well, they have certainly had some great results and scored some goals as well."
Aberdeen manager Craig Brown said: "It would be great for the fans to find their team, and our team, at the top of the league.
"That would be my wish for them for Christmas but we've got to win to ensure that we're there and it will be a very difficult game.
"Inverness will be feeling the same, it's a great chance for them too. These are the kind of challenges we thrive on and that the players should thrive on." (© Daily Telegraph, London)