Coach Clinton Larsen is reaping rewards of squad overhaul as club seek’s to reach potentialTelkom Knockout success for Bloemfontein Celtic in Durban on Saturday fulfills in rapid time a target set by the club and opens the possibility to develop the team’s growing potential.
The 1-0 win over Mamelodi Sundowns delivered only a third trophy to the club in 43 years of existence but comes just months after Celtic set themselves the goal of at least one trophy this season.
It was predicated on a major overhaul of the squad over the last year as the club opened the purse strings and sought to considerably beef up their squad with several new additions.
On the back of being given better players, coach Clinton Larsen was mandated to bring home a piece of silverware.
Just a few weeks ago, the youthful coach was still lamenting the difficulty of assimilating the new players and how much longer than expected it was taking for his players to all gel.
Celtic were struggling away from home and just scrapping some success at home, leading to exasperation on the part of Larsen and a suggestion he was on a short lease.
Seeking a knockout trophy this season seemed a little far-fetched two months ago at the start of the Telkom Knockout given Celtic had lost a record 10 successive cup matches and not got past the first round of any competition in three seasons.
When a dreadful defensive error saw them go behind away at new boys Chippa United in Philippi in the first round, the cup curse looked well entrenched.
But Celtic somehow managed to turn around the score and come away with a last-gasp win.
The new-found mental strength carried on through a remarkable success over Orlando Pirates in the next round and onto the winners’ podium on Saturday night after several more testing fixtures.
With one of the season’s ambitions now fulfilled, Celtic can turn to a search for more consistency, including making home more of the fortress that Larsen often talks about.
The problem with that is that Celtic are currently squatting, their fortress in Mangaung closed for renovations that the Free State government cannot get off the ground.
The Seisa Ramabodu Stadium is where Celtic are at their most effective, in the heart of the township with regular crowds of passionate support backing them. The tardiness of the provincial government work is not being done and Celtic have no idea when they will go back home.
The Free State Stadium is now their home and they get good crowds for the more attractive games but it does not have the same intimidating effect that playing at the Seisa Ramabodu has.
Celtic’s passionate support – particularly the virtual non-stop signing at the stadium – makes them an increasingly infectious brand with a growing nationwide appeal. This morning Bloemfontein will be awash with citizens wearing the green hooped strip of the club and with the dynamism they evoke, they could go onto become a much bigger brand that wins more trophies with greater frequency.