Time To Bring It Celtic

Tomorrow morning’s game is huge and the most important thing to take into account is that we must not panic if we don’t score. Our opponents have come through two potential banana skin ties themselves and like us have Champions League aspirations. I expect the game to be tense, tough and with scoring chances for both teams hard to come by.
Whilst it would be wonderful to win handsomely tomorrow and put the tie to bed the realist in all of us will know that any victory will do at all and even if we don’t score a nil-nil draw is not the end of the World. Rosenborg away showed we can be disciplined and confident in going away from home and playing our game.
I know that it has been said many times over the years but the fans in the stadium will have a huge role to play. The ability to intimidate the opposition and at the same time lift our players to great heights makes Celtic Park one of the must play destinations on the European stage.
For that reason our support will go beyond our borders and into the professional ranks of footballers throughout Europe. I think guys like CR& will have watched and read about Barca players marvel at the atmosphere at Celtic Park and I am sure that the pros would welcome an opportunity to play here rather, and I mean this with all due respect to our formidable opponents, in Astana’s stadium.
So how can we win tomorrow? I am looking for Scotty Sinclair’s season to burst into life. I know he has a few goals from the competitive games we have played thus far but it would be truly magical, wonderful if Scotty can produce a performance that will electrify Celtic Park.
There have been some eyebrows raised over big Nir being given the nod over Kris Ajer in central defence. On the surface this appears a gamble by Brendan but I reckon we go with his judgement as he has not been wrong on too many things thus far in his tenure.
Tomorrow will be gut wrenching in the Stayinguplate household with every Astana attack being viewed through a lens of panic and fear and every Celtic attack being willed on by every sinew and emotion. Yup it will be THAT tense.
I wonder what the midfield combo will be? I wonder if Stuart Armstrong will be given the opportunity to drive Celtic forward from the heart of the midfield at the expense of Olivier Ntcham and whether the potent goal threat of Tom Rogic will be favoured over the more industrious Callum Mcgregor?? Only Brendan knows at this point.
In the media in Scotland there appears to be an obsession with NFL. His gesture towards the Sevco fans appears to have caused great offence and caused the hordes to give Neil abuse before Hibs scored, not just after the goal. Maybe the Sevco fans were anticipating Neil noising them up and decided to get their retaliation in first. They are a bit pro-active that way.
So early mark for me tonight to get as much sleep before the 4.45am kick off. Come on the Hoops and come on ( almost) everyone in the stadium, lets roar the team to hopefully a great performance and a famous victory.

Celtic Just Do Enough

This mornings game at Firhill won’t live long in the memory. Let’s start with the positives, and there were a few. Three points-tick, a clean sheet-tick and a first Celtic goal for Olivier Ntcham ( aided by Broony)- tick. I would add the performance of KT who was our most threatening attacking player.The kid is just an absolute joy to watch.

The first half hour we zipped the ball about well and gave the Jags the run around…then it began to slowly unravel. Passing was sloppy and this gave Thistle some hope. Broony and wee Callum seemed to over or under hit passes and to be honest we did not really pose a goal threat. Sure wee Jamesy tried hard but our wingers, Johnny Hayes and Scotty Sinclair created very little. I think wee Johnny Hayes is still coming to grips with the expectations of playing for us and hopefully will improve as the season unfolds. I don’t know if it is just me but is anyone else a wee bit worried about Scotty Sinclair?

The ghuy had such an amazing first season that I wonder if he may be suffering a wee bit from second season syndrome? I hope I am wrong and that the wee ghuy gets back to beating defenders for fun and creating chances for himself and his team mates. I seriously hope that by the end of this month people will be telling me that I was wrong to be worried and that Scott is doing what Scott does best.

My view is that Celtic play best when we fully respect our opponents and it seemed to me we were a wee bit casual at times. Maybe it is all part of Brendan’s Grand Plan as I am sure any Astana representatives would be reporting back that we are there for the taking.

FFS mate, lift the mood- Ed.

Come Thursday morning I am sure we will be fired up and ready to give Astana a torrid time. Key to winning the game will be the support in the stadium.Fholks in attendance will need to support the team very vocally for the full ninety minutes. It would be great to record a comfortable win but recent seasons have shown that it is likely to be tight.

I suspect wee Leigh will start and we have to hope he can a) last the ninety minutes and b) provide that focal point in attack that means we can really create and hopefully convert our chances.I think Brendan has a decision or two to make about the midfield. I wonder if he will be bold and play Tom Rogic or whether he will go with Callum or even Stuart Armstrong.I would go with our Aussie magician. His ability to receive the ball in tight areas could be invaluable as could his ability to spot a pass and shoot from distance. That we are even considering Stuart Armstrong as a possible bench player would have been unthinkable at the end of last season.

Stuart seemed set to become a very valuable and valued player over the following few seasons but has shown a reluctance to sign the dotted line.

We know Stuart is a very intelligent young man and I am sure he knows his worth.Maybe Stuart feels that the offer on the table does not reflect his worth and is holding out for more. Maybe Stuart’s head has been turned with the chance to play in the EPL and earn a lot of money.If that is the case then he will be sold but I would expect the bidding to start at about eight million, pounds not dollars.

I know there is not a lot of loyalty in football but I do wonder if Brendan is feeling a wee bit let down by the player…after all Stuart was not exactly setting the heather alight until Brendan played him in his favoured midfield position and made him a central part of the Invincibles.

Whatever happens has to best for Celtic but it would be a fantastic boost if Stuart signed before the midweek game, with a release clause built into his contract if a team in England is really prepared to break the bank for him.

Will Patrick return? I doubt it but what a boost that would be if he did.

It will be interesting seeing the outcomes of the other league games this weekend. I think there will be a message from Ibrox as to whether Hibs are going to be a force or whether Sevco will be realistic challengers this season.

All well on the pitch and off?

 
Celtic smashed Kilmarnock 5-0 in a Scottish League Cup game at Celtic Park. That we did by starting only three of the players who started v Hearts shows that all is well on the pitch at Celtic Park. The competition for places seems pretty intense and it does no harm to give Scottish football a show of strength by using a team packed with youngsters and packed with potential. This was exciting, fast flowing football at its best.
The youthful side skippered by KT (wonder goal scorer) who dominated Kilmarnock just underlined how far we as a football team on the pitch have come in the last 15 months. Our possession levels domestically are truly phenomenal and it gives me great joy to watch Celtic dominate the football. One of these days a team will take a double digit hammering if we are truly relentless in finishing the chances we create.
One of the things I love about Brendan is the way he is all about developing and improving players. This was backed up by Kris Commons statement this week where he stated that Brendan did not take too kindly to a player doing “extra work” and being mocked for it. It is indicative, said Kris, that following Brendan’s response that virtually everyone was spending more time on the training pitch and in the gym. Reading this made me feel warm and happy and underscored Brendan’s determination to instil a culture of development and improvement. It is fair to say that our fitness levels are fantastic and our play is becoming quicker the more we practice playing at a high tempo.
We next play v Partick Thistle at Firhill on Friday night (Saturday 4.45am Aussie time). It is absolutely vital we remain focused and ensure they are treated with respect. If you recall last season I think Thistle were very close to denting the Invincibles record at Celtic Park in a one all draw. They created a couple of chances late in the game and could have scored. Let’s start at a quick tempo, match the aggression Thistle will play with and put this one to bed.
So on the pitch we are looking okay…and as long as either Leigh is fit we are in with a 50/50 chance of making the Champions League and the riches it contains…but what of off the pitch?
At times like these, more than any other, Celtic fans must keep a cool head and stick together. We have seen recently that the mainstream media loves to pounce on any perceived divisions between our fans. The recent situation with the Green Brigade is evidence. Bottom line, unless anyone can tell me differently, every single person who sits in that section (111) whether they are Green Brigade members or not, is a Celtic fan.
Being a member of the Green Brigade does not make you a greater or lesser fan than anyone else. People who go to the games, who went to the games in the past, or who will go to games in the future want the team on the pitch to win. Bottom line.
Yes some people have had concerns over the corporate direction of Celtic in recent years but times have changed and whether we like it or not we are living in an age whereby big money dictates what happens in any football club.
In terms of title stripping I read a fascinating debate on the ever brilliant (IMHO) CelticQuickNews as to the role Celtic should play in response to the recent revelations/titillations about 2003 and Dunfermline. Some fholks were for charging in there and spilling the beans everywhere and anywhere to expose alleged corruption/ cheating. Others were more circumspect with a slowly, slowly catchy monkey approach. For what it is worth I believe we give the footballing authorities every opportunity to demonstrate that they are serious about governance in relation to their respective roles and by doing this we ensure it is not a Celtic v Old Rangers issue. If they are unable to do this then I say we publish and be damned. My worry is that if we went in all guns blazing it would quickly die down and be swept under the carpet.
Talking of sweeping under the carpet I am still waiting for someone, somewhere to make a statement, NOT on EBT’s as they were not illegal at that time, but on illegal player registrations, i.e. those players with side letters. Competent governance would indicate that games where this occurred would automatically be 0-3 results against the offending team. Then, and only then, can we all move on.

Normal Service Is Resumed On Flag Day

The Jambos came, they tried their best to disrupt us by fair means or foul….and they left empty handed. Lovely to see Broony unfurl the flag and the Champions pick up where they left off last season on a day where it looked as if there were four seasons in one half.

Yesterday the Hoops won with the minimum of fuss and played some of the pleasing, attacking football that brought the Treble home last season. No  Moussa, no Rogic and no Armstrong….no problem. Wee Leigh, Scotty and Callum stepped into the breach and delivered the goals. We conceded a late consolation for Hearts but that served only to irritate that we did not achieve a clean sheet.

Broony looks to have picked up where he left off last season and he dovetailed well with Olivier Ntcham to give us a strong grip in midfield and thereafter it was just a matter of time before the goals came. The third goal, wee Leigh’s second, was a thing of beauty and the wee fella does love a goal against the Jam Tarts.

Big Nir strolled through the game in defence and the biggest threat from Kyle Lafferty was not in front of goal but in injuring one of our players. It was no surprise to see the big Irishman hooked before he received an inevitable red card. I actually think he thought he had to try too hard and as such did not concentrate on his football.

I had a chuckle at Jon Daly’s comments about Brendan. The former Sevco front man sought to deflect that his managerial debut ended in a comprehensive defeat and had a pop at Brendan for his sympathetic words for Ian Cathro. Poor stuff by big Jon and Brendan’s calm and measured response just made him look a little silly.

Our manager excels in his handling of the media. He is composed and confident and exudes authority at all times. I love that he stated that what he does at Celtic is defined by Celtic and no other club. We should really enjoy him whilst he is here.

Yet again we are the sole Scottish club left in Europe beyond the first week in August.  I had high hopes for Aberdeen but alas they went down the path of St Johnstone and Sevco and failed. It is left to us once again to fly the flag for Scotland.

I am sure that all of Scotland will get behind us in our quest to get to the group stages of the Champions League. Worst case scenario is that they will be supporting us in the Europa League.

Elsewhere I see Hibs marked their return to the top tier with a victory and Ross County picked up a nice away win at Dundee.The Hibees should be a top four team this season and look to have recruited well.

I expect us to be pushed harder this season and the coming few weeks will highlight whether it will be Aberdeen, Hibs or Sevco who will emerge as our closest challengers. The chances of doing back to back Trebles is highly unlikely and at one point this season I expect the Invincibles to lose a game, but you never know……

 

 

The European Gospel According To Brendan

 

Yes I am back- and not by popular demand. The importance of the game v Rosenborg was just too big to ignore and I thought I would add my tuppence worth. I said last year that when we qualified for the Champions League group stage I considered the season a success. I want us on the biggest stage of all. I know the odds were stacked against us qualifying from the group last year but to attract players we need that exposure. Don’t get me wrong the money comes in handy as well but I want Celtic to be in among Barca, Juve , Bayern Munich etc. I know we cannot compete against them financially but we can always give it our best shot on the field.

We are now two games away from a return to the Champions League and there was just something different about this morning, getting up at 4.45am with the temperature a chilly -1.0C. Thankfully CelticTV was hassle free and the pictures were coming through clearly, unlike last week.

Sure I was fretting and a couple of fellow Hoops in Canberra were fretting too. This is based on years of being conditioned to a) losing an early goal or two and b) being passed off the park by some teams. Not this time, not under the watch of Brendan. On reflection we were so remarkably in control of the game that the biggest surprise was that it was only a one nil victory.

I was as relieved as anyone that this morning means eight more European games before Christmas and maybe if we are lucky it will be in the Champions League, not the Europa League. Last season was miraculous for us with the transformation of the team under Brendan and the Invincible season and this morning gave me an insight as to why the players were relaxed and confident even if those watching were not always as sure and certain of a winning outcome.

Brendan speaks in almost evangelical terms. He speaks of trust, belief, faith and confidence. This is a ghuy who gets his staff and his team to invest in his ideas and instils in them a certainty that what they are doing is right and will produce positive outcomes. It did today and the players, aside from a ten minute spell after half time, looked assured and full of belief.

Star player for me was Jozo. I thought he was outstanding and coped with the loss of big Erik well. Nir Bitton was not placed under a great deal of pressure and looked composed and comfortable on the ball. I was very worried about Stuart Armstrong and I have never seen him give the ball away so much and look so out of synch with his colleagues. I believe we need to really focus on guys who want to be playing for Celtic and to my eyes I am not sure Stuart knows what he wants.

The introduction of the Griff gave us a real focal point in attack and it was lovely to see wee Jamesie not only score but race the defender on the outside. Johnny Hayes, a signing I supported, spent far too much time cutting infield and playing back the way. I want my wingers to drive at people and commit them to tackle. If the defender wins the ball then fine but Johnny is going to have to be a bit bolder than today’s game.

It has been an interesting few weeks on the fan front but when we all focus on the team we are stronger together (excuse the political slogan- I hope I don’t get a UEFA fine). Let us never lose sight of the fact that we are there for the team and everything is about supporting the team who wear the jerseys.

 

 

We Will Never Be Defeated. Thank You All Round

 

What a season. Undefeated domestically and a treble. We will never see this happen again.

For me the season was a success the moment the ref blew for full time v Hpoel Be’er Shiva. This was on 23 August 2017 and whilst it was a 2-0 defeat, it was a success with a 5-4 aggregate win. Brendan’s remit was to make CL group stage if possible. He did. He inherited a team low on confidence and transformed them into the Invincibles.

What came after that though was nothing short of amazing. The 5-1 pummelling of Sevco at Celtic Park, the even bigger 1-0 pummelling in the semi final of the Scottish League Cup was more impressive. The way we took Aberdeen apart in the final was something else. The creditable, if ultimately winless group campaign (first game aside) in the CL. The remarkable comeback at Motherwell with a last gasp Tom Rogic winner (more on those later). The second half at Ibrox where Sevco were steamrollered as the Aussie New Year arrived at the end of the first half. The mid season break in Dubai to refresh aching limbs and the charge for the league, secured at Tynecastle in some style with five unanswered goals. All phenomenal and suddenly we were in April and had the chance of a treble AND going undefeated in the league. Could we do it?

Beating Sevco in the Cup semi final was straightforward enough. Thrashing them a week later at Ibrox was just funny. It could have been eight, nine or ten that day if we were really clinical. I remember old Rangers and they were genuine rivals. That shambles playing at Ibrox this season were not rivals. They were cannon fodder.

We scored three at Pittodrie in eleven minutes and then withstood a spirited comeback from the Dons to beat them for the fifth time this season, but they sent us a warning that game that the Cup Final would be a difficult game. So it proved to be.

Before the game there was concern that Mr Madden might have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

A cleverly worked set piece gave them the ideal start and their body language said they were up for it. As was Mr Madden and his team. Yes we won but how many times should we have had a throw or a corner or a goal kick and it went the other way? I really wish Celtic would highlight the wee things as well as the big things like the penalties and the unpunished assaults. The honest mistakes were piling up within minutes.

Aberdeen gave us a good game for an hour or so and then the magic of Hampden kicked in. Broony went from struggling in the game to being gallus. When that happened we stepped it up. Suddenly we were coming at them in waves. Their goalie was tremendous (as was Craig Gordon) and their defence threw bodies in front of shots that were raining in. But this is Celtic and there is no way Brendan’s team was going to be denied.

I felt we were headed towards extra time but Canberra Bhoy Tom Rogic (yes I know he wasn’t born in Canberra but we have truly claimed him) saved Aberdeen from a real heavy defeat by slotting home a magical winner in stoppage time. The players went ballistic. Hampden went ballistic. Pubs, clubs and homes all around the World went ballistic as the Aussie playmaker scored a history making goal and wrote himself and his team into the history books.

Wait a minute- rewind. Did you just type saved Aberdeen from a heavy defeat? Yup they were out on their feet and if it had gone to ET we would have scored three or four so superior were we at that time.

Hats off to Aberdeen. The second best team in Scotland by far. They played their part in an absorbing Cup Final, but as was the case all season, we were irresistible. Not irresistible. Invincible!

Tom Rogic’s goal celebration epitomised what it means to play for, to BE Celtic, but for me the most emotional part was KT with the Cup when he grabbed his jersey and showed the Cup to the support in the stadium. This bhoy is not your Jorge Cadete or your Paolo di Canio type badge kisser. This bhoy is the real deal and we should cherish watching him whilst we can. It was nice to see his best mate Paddy R wear KT’s shirt in tribute. Good luck to Paddy. If we see him next season that will be fantastic but he may force a breakthrough at City. Don’t rule that out.

Celtic's Kieran Tierney lifts the Scottish Cup trophy

 

The treble was the second leg of the weeks quadruple whereby we went undefeated in the league, celebrated the Lisbon 50th anniversary and had the Legends game yesterday. I will watch that tonight! Last night I watched the ‘Glasgow 1967’ documentary. This was more than the Lions story. I laughed cried and felt immensely proud to be connected to the people and the team. What a club!!!!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5wI9WMD06I

I am finishing the blog on this high note. I decided to start last August to give it a go. It is hard finding stuff to write about from Down Under, and it will be impossible during the close season. There can only be so many Tom Rogic features!!! BTW the big ghuy just has magic in his feet and gives us a wee bit different when he plays. Of course I could have just written about Sevco and their woes but there are many better Celtic blogs that do this so well and that I love to read. James Forrest and Phil Mac, among others, thanks for keeping me up to date and laughing!!!

I have had a hugely enjoyable time writing the blog and thank you for reading. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment and contributed. Thanks fholks. Really appreciated.

Can I go all luvvie and thank a few people? ( Of course you can, it’s your last blog – Ed) ….Firstly to Gerard S, Gerarde T ,Laurence D and Paul O’D in Inverclyde and Ian S ( Greenock/ London) who unfailingly share the blog. Cheers! Thanks to Paul Brennan of CQN who permitted me to post on CQN, the best Celtic blog in the World IMO.  Thanks to Gavin Devine who has allowed me to post on some of his Celtic websites, notably the Glasgow’s Green and Whyte and World Huddle Facebook pages. Thanks to Mandurah, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide , Gold Coast, Sydney, Central Coast and New Zealand CSC’s for allowing me to post on their pages on FB. Sorry for members of more than one club for the multiple posts.

Biggest thanks are to you right now. Yes you, the Bhoy/ Ghirl reading. It has been a pleasure to make the trip through this history making season with you and thanks for taking time out of your day and other days throughout this season to read my ramblings and ill informed opinions. Hail Hail

Gerard

What It Means To Be Celtic

The Lions have been honoured, the League secured without defeat , and a Cup Final tomorrow. Not a bad week for Timdom.

Hot off the press …I have just received a copy of Brendan’s team talk for Hampden tomorrow night. It may or may not be Brendan Rodgers’ speech but it is by Brendan someone I am pretty sure, kind of, I think…….

 

“This is it Bhoys. The next ninety minutes will determine whether we go through an entire season with no domestic defeats. This is your opportunity to move beyond invincibility to immortality. This is your chance to write another line in the story of this most famous club. We are going to write those words and this is why we will do it…

Today you represent more than a football club. You represent a movement. You represent people and communities who have pinned their hopes on Celtic Football Club and who, in the direst of times, have viewed Celtic Football Club as something worth fighting for.

From Brother Walfrid and his aims and ambitions to feed the poor children of the East End of Glasgow to the present day there is, and always has been, something magical, no , something mystical about this club.

Sure we born due to inequality and oppression but by founding this club we have given millions of people joy. Throughout the past 129 years we have given people a light in their lives and a symbol of hope. We have fed the poor and we have risen to achieve admiration and renown across the footballing World.

We are Scottish, we are Irish but we are many nations united today. Our sense of social justice and commitment to tackling injustices defines us as a movement.A family, a cause a people as Tommy Burns said.

We have had players and people in our history that are legendary and we do it for them. We must do it for the people across the World willing us on and we must do it for the people you hear singing in the stadium this afternoon. We are the focus of their common bond and we must win the Cup for these people. They, above all others, are the lifeblood of Celtic. Do it for them. Wear this, the most recognisable football strip in the World and represent this badge with all your heart, soul energy and skill.

This week we celebrated the Lisbon Lions and I want you to invoke their heart, their passion and their drive to win for Celtic.

Do it by moving the ball quickly. Pass and move. Work harder than our worthy opponents today and greatness is yours. We have worked hard all season. Everyone knows their jobs and I know you are all capable of doing your job and winning your individual and collective battles. I trust in you. I believe in you.

Press and harry Aberdeen and make them turn the ball over. Drive at them down the flanks and deliver quality balls into the box. Make sure you don’t give Mr Madden any opportunity to blow for fouls against you. Be strong confident and believe. You are Celtic and you can do this for everyone.

Broony, lead them out there. Remember bhoys. We are Celtic.”