I THOUGHT the bomb wouldn’t work. So said one chap to his movie date at Falkirk Cineworld as we all scrambled out of the foyer into daylight after three hours in the dark watching Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.

The world’s first nuclear explosion on July 16, 1945 – which as foregone conclusions go in any film ought to have been a clue to this lad even as he adjusted his eyes to the outside world after what felt like an eternity in the darkness of the movie theatre – may have been at Oppenheimer’s apex, but several other build-ups of tension between lovers, colleagues, over money and Machiavellian politics, culture wars and major powers battling for hegemony in the Cold War setting had also combined to set off a chain reaction of explosions everywhere.

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There are still some Scottish football supporters adjusting to the contrast between the shiny new season starting and the cinch Premiership’s annual summer blackout who, like the dilettante cinemagoer, are questioning whether Celtic will win the title this season. As foregone conclusions go in any football campaign, this one more than most has a predetermined feeling to it. There is of course that moment of jeopardy in the film, where the chances of a catastrophic chain reaction causing the whole earth’s atmosphere to ignite were explored (with the probability settled, menacingly, on “near zero”). Celtic under Brendan Rodgers this term would have to reach this doomsday level to squander their title based on the data available at present – short of the scattered parts of Michael Beale’s new-look Rangers somehow fusing together and exploding into action themselves.

You might point to some of the Parkhead club’s other machinations going on in the background – the swift departure of treble-winning manager Ange Postecoglou to Tottenham Hotspur; the return of the so-called traitorous Rodgers who himself carved that path for his successor to the Premier League when he jumped ship to Leicester City four and a half years ago; there have been the departures of first-team regulars Jota and Carl Starfelt to the money-drenched Saudi Pro League and La Liga respectively: one for the cash and the other, among other reasons, for love (Starfelt wanted to be reunited with his girlfriend, the former Celtic Women player Jacynta Galabadaarachchi who quit Fran Alonso’s side for Sporting CP in Portugal at the start of the summer).

Glasgow Times: Jacynta greets Carl Starfelt after clinching the titleJacynta greets Carl Starfelt after clinching the title (Image: SNS)

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You might be forgiven, amidst this hurricane of activity, for thinking that Celtic’s inauspicious start to the 2023/24 campaign has been something of a damp squib. It’s easy to forget that they have only played two competitive fixtures amidst the maelstrom of the Viaplay Cup group stage, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian’s European qualifying campaigns and this weekend’s Viaplay Cup knockout-stage fixtures. But it’s a 100-per-cent record for the Northern Irishman thus far on his return, and you sense behind the steely veneer that he’s keeping the cogs turning as he moves towards the date set in his diary where the real nuclear test arrives: on August 31, Rodgers will discover his group-stage opponents in the forthcoming Champions League, and those six fixtures against Europe’s elite will be the real examination of the start he’s made to his second spell as Parkhead manager.

Matt O’Riley, Celtic’s Danish midfielder who scored in both the 4-2 flag-day win over Ross County and the 3-1 victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie, this week proclaimed his goal of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League after amassing a mere two points against Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk under Ange Postecoglou last time out.

Glasgow Times: Matt O'Riley has scored two in two for Celtic this termMatt O'Riley has scored two in two for Celtic this term (Image: SNS)

It may sound a touch fanciful, but this goal reflects the growing stature O’Riley seems to have gained since the arrival of the former Liverpool and Leicester manager during the summer. The former Fulham trainee fits the Rodgers mould of a player striving to reach his undoubted potential. At just 22 years old, he has plenty of time to do that, and who knows where his career will lead (you’d hope it’s beyond the Saudi Pro League), but he is just one component of the overall blueprint Rodgers is putting together for his assault on the continent.

Main Premiership rivals Rangers, if they can overcome PSV Eindhoven in their play-off which begins on Wednesday, will join Celtic in the draw in Monaco at the end of this month dizzied from a blitz of August fixtures. The Ibrox side may have scurried around the market for munitions in the form of Danilo, Cyriel Dessers, Abdallah Sima and Sam Lammers in the hope they can regain territory from Celtic who currently hold a domestic hegemony, but despite a relatively quiet window, Rodgers’ side remain ahead in the arms race with just one, lethal weapon in the form of Kyogo Furuhashi, who signed an extended deal this summer.

Rodgers and the Parkhead board are currently working on tying down Liel Abada, another prospect who can thrive under the Northern Irishman’s guidance, and playmaker Reo Hatate, who could provide the next bumper transfer sale if he continues at the rate of development he is showing. Rodgers is going about his business quietly at present, but rest assured he is plotting and preparing for the real tests in the background. His hope is it will all set off when the Champions League kicks off for real.