Neil Lennon has finally come out and said what must have been on every Celtic fan’s mind over the past couple of weeks.
It will be a very difficult task to find a Celtic fan right now who has enjoyed the international break. Sure, the Scotland national team did very well, winning all three of their games and congratulations to them. But was it worth it, considering almost every day brought the news of one player or the other either being in danger of exposure to the virus or actually testing positive.
Celtic suffered more than most other clubs. Odsonne Edouard, Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed all tested positive tests while with their national teams. On the other hand, Ryan Christie was placed in isolation for 14 days after it was adjudged that he had been in close contact with Stuart Armstrong, who tested positive while with the Scotland national team.
As a result, Celtic have been left significantly weakened heading into Saturday’s game against the Rangers. And we all know what is at stake this season. Every point is priceless, especially against your main title rivals.
Neil Lennon clearly is not a happy man right now. And he gave an interview on Sky Sports, saying exactly what has been on the minds of Celtic fans over the past week or so. As reported by the Herald, the manager said:
“It can’t go on the way it’s going because we’ve lost four players.
“Not just us, other clubs as well – even countries. Look at the Czech Republic in the previous round, they had to completely change the squad. It dilutes the quality and the integrity of the competition.
“It’s very difficult for me to say, ‘Look, you’re not going and playing for your country’. That’s something I would never want to do to a player but these are unprecedented times and we’re in a very, very difficult situation.
“Even at home, the virus seems to be ramping up again. Ideally, we don’t want them to travel but we’re not going to point the finger at them and tell them they can’t go.”
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One thing is for sure, international breaks are not a good idea in the middle of a global pandemic. And while the next set of international games are scheduled to be played in November, the governing bodies should seriously give it a second thought before going through with them.
It is not sustainable for clubs around the world if one or more of their players become unavailable for two weeks after every international break. Just take the example of Celtic, who have lost Edouard, Bitton, Elhamed and Christie as a direct consequence of them being away on international duty. A negative result on Saturday could have huge implications at the end of the season.
It is not just about Celtic though. All clubs who are letting their players go are in a same situation. Common sense needs to prevail here and international breaks need to be put on ice until the pandemic situation improves.