WHEN criticising VAR these days, it is somewhat hard to resist that smug feeling of self-satisfaction those people who have been into bands long before they hit the big time always have.

But just as I am enjoying the wider football world collectively losing their heads over the way the technology is now being implemented, I just can't help but point out that I was a huge critic of its early stuff too.

From the get-go, anyone who factored in the practicalities of its implementation, how it would affect the in-stadium fan experience and the potential it had for skewing the reality of incidents that happen at full speed and then are replayed frame by frame in slow motion, could see that it was ill-suited to a free-flowing sport like football.

READ MORE: VAR 'getting silly' as Celtic man blasts use of still images

So, it gives us early sceptics little pleasure to see our worst fears playing out before our eyes. Well, maybe just a wee bit. But outside of some holdouts in the refereeing community – though even they are increasingly rare – it is now common wisdom that the sport is unquestionably worse off for VAR's presence.

Take the sending off of Celtic's Daizen Maeda against Atletico Madrid the other night. In real time at the stadium, it appeared little more than a coming together of two players who were wholly committed to contesting a 50/50 ball.

Having both steamed in from a few yards away from one another, Atletico's Mario Hermoso got there just before Maeda, resulting in him kicking the ball away and Maeda instead making contact with his opponent's shin. It was a fraction late, and a foul, no question. It was hard to argue with the yellow card. But a red?

In those halcyon pre-VAR days, the decision of the on-field officials would have stood, and the only people who would have raised an objection would have been the uppity occupants of the perpetually outraged Atletico bench.

The game would have carried on, Celtic may well have still taken a doing, but the contest would have been far keener. And far better viewing for the fans who had paid their money either to be there in person or in the form of TV subscriptions to see it.

Former Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou was bang-on in his assessment too of the diminishing authority of referees in the wake of Tottenham Hotspur's farcical encounter against Chelsea on Monday night. The game is now being refereed by people miles away from the stadium, who cannot possibly have a feel for the flow of a match or judge an incident in its proper context.

With the Maeda incident, the approach and speed of both players is discarded. The focus instead is on a single frame that shows the contact with boot to shin, stripping out the fact that his leg was dangled out limply and was hardly placing his opponent in danger of injury. Despite his ridiculous reaction.

But we've all now been conditioned to accept it. I even heard myself saying it in the press box at the Estadio Metropolitano when I saw the slow-motion replay. "Ach, there it is. There was contact." Contact, yes. But context? No.

So, the Celtic players and manager Brendan Rodgers were right to have their gripes and groans after the game in Madrid over an incident that made a hugely difficult task an impossible one.

All of that being said, the manner of their capitulation in losing six - and it could have been more - was disappointing. Especially after some encouraging performances in the Champions League so far this season.

Listen, when you are a man light and coming up against players like the ridiculously brilliant Antoine Griezmann and the deadly Alvaro Morata, particularly in their own hugely impressive and intimidating stadium, then sometimes you are going to take a doing.

The worrying aspect of the thumping from a Celtic point of view though was that it was all too familiar a tale, particularly under Rodgers, who has overseen some real tonkings for Celtic at this level over the years.

Criticism of him for leaving two men up after Maeda was ordered off though rather conveniently ignores the fact that it is a strategy that has paid off for him in the past. Particularly a few years ago when Odsonne Edouard bagged a famous winner at Ibrox for his ten-man team.

But this Atletico team is a different beast altogether to the Rangers outfit of that era, so perhaps a little damage limitation would have been the wiser course of action in this instance.

In fairness to him, he has rather been left in a position where he is taking a water pistol to a gun fight.

Celtic won the league last season on May 7th. It was clear for some time before that they were going to. But somehow they arrived at their first Champions League group stage game against Feyenoord on September 19th with a team that had been downgraded in several positions from the one who won that game at Tynecastle, and was nowhere near ready for the step up in level.

Yes, they have changed manager since then. And yes, injuries to key men like Cameron Carter-Vickers meant that they were forced to throw in guys like Gustaf Lagerbielke, who clearly isn't yet equipped to handle such occasions.

READ MORE: Atletico 6 Celtic 0: 10-man Celtic see red as Griezmann and co put on a show

But that is rather the point. Rodgers was publicly begging his board to help him out and bring in some quality players who could slot straight into Champions League football, but such pedigree never arrived.

He has now reiterated that call ahead of January, but even though Celtic should press ahead and improve their starting XI in that window with an eye to next season, it will come way too late to salvage this European campaign.

It wasn't the thumping defeat to Atletico that killed them. Such results can happen given the disparity of resource between the Scottish champions and the best teams in La Liga. It was the loss to Feyenoord with what amounted to a shadow team. The last gasp defeat to Lazio, in which Celtic played well, but just couldn't get over the line. And these defeats were borne from a lack of readiness and failing to push the boat out to really have a crack at this group.

So, yes, while I am always happy to welcome new converts onto the anti-VAR bandwagon, the issues with the technology shouldn't mask the issues Celtic have created for themselves when trying to compete at the top level.