Why I am glad Pedro has gone.

I awoke this morning to some good news. I was worried about Pedro and am glad he is gone. This is a guy who knew that the players he inherited were not sufficiently good enough to mount a league challenge. This is a guy who moved on so many of Warburton’s duds and was in the process of weeding out more underachievers, this was a guy who I was afraid would have assembled a team in a couple of transfer windows to realistically mount a challenge to Celtic.
For that reason I am glad he has been sacked and the incoming manager at Ibrox will have to start a rebuild. It will be absolutely fascinating to see how all the players that Pedro has brought in react to the reason they are in Scotland being sacked.

I wonder if the alleged cultural schism that we have heard about will now be intensified now that the manager who signed the Latin players has been dismissed. Bruno Alves, friend of Ronaldo and Pepe COULD have used these friendships to lure these top Portuguese players to play with him and for Pedro at Sevco. The chances of that happening have, I would argue, significantly decreased. I think Scottish football will look back in a few years and ask why we were denied to see Bruno Alves’ close friends from the hugely successful Portuguese national team playing at grounds all around Scotland. The answer is that there is no Pedro to lure him.
I think Celtic has dodged a bullet with Pedro’s departure. I think he would have proven to be a worthy adversary for Brendan Rodgers over time and I wonder if the Celtic boss is secretly pleased that the Portuguese supremo has been sacked.

I think it is really ironic that money that we have recently won for Sevco will be used to pay off Pedro and as such will not be invested in new players. I think Scottish football has lost one of its great characters and a man who would have stopped at nothing to win Sevco a first major honour. His passion for Sevco was evident and I guess he has paid the price for the players he has inherited undermining him and not performing to the standards he would have expected, no, demanded from them.

I wish Pedro and his backroom team all the best and note that they too will require severance pay in lieu of notice.

It will be interesting to see if players of immense potential like Dalcio and Herrera reach their peak without the guiding arm of Pedro around their shoulder and whether a class player like Pena who has contributed more goals than Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong this season will continue to work hard at improving his game?

Time will tell, but Scotland has been robbed of potentially the greatest manager Sevco will ever have.

Good luck Pedro.

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Sensational Celtic Demolish Dons

Celtic absolutely battered Aberdeen into submission at a packed Pittodrie to go three points clear in the League. We dismantled a decent Aberdeen side with ease and it made me think that teams playing us in the SPFL is the equivalent of us playing the Euro elites. Celtic slowly warmed up and then we absolutely dominated. The rotation, the ball movement and the confidence of the players was through the roof.

The first goal was sparked by a sublime Rogic flick to set Moussa down the right. Moussa sent an inviting ball across the face of the goal which KT thundered onto and smacked a shot off the bar and in. For the second it was all KT. His run from his own half, his dismantling of Logan and the ball in for Moussa were all outstanding pieces of skill individually but collectively they were breathtaking. Moussa sidefooted a volley home with aplomb and basically the game was won.

Our players were sharp, passing was crisp and Aberdeen were opened up with ease. I actually felt sorry for Shinnie who worked his socks off trying to get close to Broony but with little success and no support. Our captain ran the show, anchored the midfield effectively and allowed our attacking players a base to flourish.

Into the second half and justice was done as we netted a third and Moussa completed his double after being taken out of play moments earlier. Too easy, too good. From then on in we coasted, conserving energy and Aberdeen only looked like scoring when big Craig was playing straight passes to midfield and our players were not able to scan. Really good players and teams can hurt us if we do this.

We were a joy to watch. This is why we love Brendan and why we are clear again at the top. The team also works its socks off to press, close down and harry the opposition when we don’t have the ball and then in possession to help team mates and create options. Beautiful to behold. I thought we played as well as I have seen up to three nil and if we really had to score again I am confident we could have. We sent a message to everyone that come the big games we are well and truly up for it and the style and speed were there despite Brendan tweaking the system and having Scotty Sinclair and Paddy on the bench.

KT and Moussa will rightly take plaudits for their involvement with the goals but for me Rogic and Bitton were top class too. Big Tom had the sort of game where he finds space when there is none and his ability to see and execute a pass or find space for a shot on goal is truly outstanding. Big Nir just strolled the game in a Connellyesque fashion, starting passing moves and bringing the ball forward with aplomb.

Credit to the Aberdeen public for turning out in numbers and the Dons will be a stronger team with Ryan Christie in their starting eleven. I still expect Aberdeen to be our closest challengers and on their day they are capable of beating us. Scottish football needs and should be thankful for a strong Aberdeen.

Interesting that Motherwell are on a roll at the moment and are up to third. Good luck to them and they will be hoping to continue their current form into the League Cup Final.

Next up is a resurgent Killie team who took a point at Ibrox courtesy of a last minute equaliser. Steve Clarke is a good coach and he will be disappointed his team dropped two points. We need to remain focused and not look beyond Saturday. There is enough of a squad there to ensure no one slacks off in the fight for places and this can only be good for the team going forward. If we treat Killie with respect and everyone battles hard for the team we have quality on the pitch to make the difference. If the attitude is right the rest should follow.

Playing football the Celtic way and winning three nil away from home v a decent Aberdeen side is not too shabby. Thank you Brendan, thank you Bhoys.

Winning 101. Some Things Baffle Me !

How to get the job done 101. Celtic were clearly fatigued from their Bavarian trip this week and Hibs would never have a better opportunity to reach a Cup Final than on Saturday. That they didn’t is down to the mental strength of our team, the belief the players have in the system and the spirit and fight to ensure the Cup Final prize was attained. We can only marvel at how strong the collective will of the team is.

We did not play particularly scintillating football but we were always in control of the game and our game management was fantastic. We had the bonus of doubles for Moussa and Mikael and bottom line is that the mission was well and truly accomplished. Our players have a mindset and strength of belief and thus the undefeated run continues. But for how much longer??

Just a word about the, ahem, penalty, ridiculous. I think that is the word I am looking for. Ridiculous decision making also denied about 8000- 10000 Celtic fans the opportunity to watch the game live and in a time of financial pressure also took about 200,000 ponds out of the equation. Baffling!!!

The undefeated run will come under even more pressure against Aberdeen on Wednesday night/ Thursday morning. Mc Innes has fashioned a team that once again look like our main challengers and he will have them pumped up for the game. The chance to end Celtic’s undefeated run is one thing, but the chance to go clear at the top of the league will be a hugely motivating factor for the Dons.

I am not a Mc Innes fan, but it would be churlish not to acknowledge that he lost a few players but is still at the top of the league, tucked in behind us.

This same opportunity will be there for Celtic. To go three points ahead given the congested run of fixtures would be a tremendous feat. If we can come away from Pittodrie with three points it will strike a huge blow. I would not be unhappy with a point as the top two teams in Scotland collide in what will surely be a monumental contest. These are the games that define seasons and everyone must be well and truly at the top of their game in what will be a hostile atmosphere.

I am looking at Moussa, Tom Rogic and James Forrest starting the game for us and I would go with wee Callum too as we need composure and ball retention in what is sure to be a frantic game. I thought big Nir had a strong game on Saturday and whilst he is not a long term solution in central defence he is someone the manager trusts and has confidence in.

Looking back to the semi-final and forward to the final we will be facing a hard working Motherwell team who clinically disposed of Sevco with the minimum of fuss. Well done them and they will provide a stern challenge for the Hoops next month. Commiserations to both Hibs and Sevco and they can now focus on league positions before the Scottish Cup comes around in the New Year.

Neil Lennon and Pedro Caixhina will be able to ensure their sides are compact, well organised and in harmony with each other.

So in summary a huge game on Wednesday night and an opportunity to go three points clear in the league. We are in a Cup Final and have a decent chance of European football after Christmas….and are on an unprecedented unbeaten streak. This is Celtic in 2017. Not too shabby is it?

It Could Have Been Worse But Hope Springs Eternal

Celtic fell to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich and the only consolation we can take is that the defeat was not heavier. Brendan spoke about the need for composure and playing our football and being brave on the ball. Unfortunately the majority of our team folded yet again away from home and if Bayern had been more ruthless the score could really have blown out.

I might be viewed as being controversial here but I was not impressed by Craig at either the first or the third goal. For the first I know Lewandowski was unmarked when he headed goal wards but the header to my mind, when I watched the replays, did not look particularly powerful nor was it in the corner. To be honest I would have expected Craig to make the save but I felt he could have done better by palming sideways instead of teeing it up for the gleeful Mueller. Harsh, maybe?

There was no stopping the second goal as we were cut open yet again and Craig had no chance with a well placed header back across him into the corner of the net. I felt he was culpable for the third in two ways. First being really sloppy with a pass forward that put us under immense pressure and led to the corner from which Hummels converted and second not having a man on the post as the ball sped netwards. I am a big Craig Gordon fan but tonight he was below par with his distribution. He had a couple of fine saves as well but I wonder if I am the only person disappointed with the first and third goals?

Both Bayern and Celtic had legitimate goals ruled out and the biggest plus for me was that we only conceded the three goals. Defensively we were all at sea and their two wide players gave Gamboa and KT an absolute using. I have never seen a game where KT was so uncomposed that he continually gave the ball away by lumping it up the pitch. The two Bayern wingers were class acts and KT will have learned from playing against someone as good as Robben.

It is my view that of the starting eleven only two deserved pass marks. I thought Broony was immense and was badly let down by Stuart Armstrong and Olivier Ntcham in midfield as they continually coughed up possession and it appeared to me that Broony was doing their work as well as his own. The other I thought did well was Scotty Sinclair. Scotty appeared willing to run at them and he worked ever so hard to try to help KT out defensively. With hopefully more of the ball at Celtic park I think Scotty can trouble them. Paddy was isolated repeatedly and crowded out and it was hard to judge wee Leigh as the service he received was pretty poor.

It is difficult to swallow but the reality for us is that we had our success in qualifying for the group stage. We have unlocked the door to a huge amount of money and hopefully we can hold on for third place in the group above Anderlecht. We have equalled our points total from last year so with three games to go we could surpass that and if we get into the Europa League we will receive more cash to go on strengthening the team.
Even though the game was lost we continued to try hard and I felt all three of our subs value added when they came on. I just hope when we play Bayern again we are more confident and believe in ourselves more. A final word on our fans. I heard them throughout the ninety minutes and as ever they were amazing. Truly phenomenal.

We have a huge game on Saturday against a fired up Hibs team and I am sure Brendan and the staff will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of a 60th domestic undefeated game. I expect one or two changes from last night and the only consolation we have is that with all due respect Hibs won’t have players like Robben, Lewandowski, Thiago and Kingsley Coman. They do have players who can hurt us if we do not respect them and match their work rate. However we must go into this game with a very positive mindset and show that we are, and remain the best football team in Scotland.

Today’s result hurt, but we will not be judged against Bayern or PSG but against Anderlecht and Hibs. Come on the Hoops.

Games That Win Leagues. Bayern Await

We have been used to seeing a lot of champagne football over the past season and a half and watching Celtic has been an absolute joy, but there is more to the current team than just pretty football. The Dundee game is the type of game that wins league flags. Celtic did enough to win and did so with a performance that didn’t scale the heights but secured the points.

The determination to keep the unbelievable domestic undefeated run can not be underestimated. This team can turn it on but can also show a steely side and this is a quality that can win leagues. With Aberdeen hot on our heels and Sevco looking stronger than last year then the importance of the result is reflected in our position at the top of the table.

As far as things go the points were won but any watching Bayern scouts would not have been unduly concerned or threatened with Celtic. This may be to our benefit as the German giants might take our challenge not quite as seriously as they might have if we had won four or five nil.

This game is going to be a cracker. Bayern are a top class side with a glittering array of superstars. They would have expectations of being in the last four of the Champions League as a bare minimum.

This will be a test as to where we are in the grand scheme of things. I don’t expect us to win but I do hope we can go there and play some decent football and show we can play passes and keep the ball against a top notch side.

Brendan will be hoping that a couple of our injured players make the game. It is in this type of game that players want to play and I hope that our players go out onto that pitch with the mentality that we belong there. Yes we have to get in Bayern’s faces when they have the ball and work as hard as possible for each other but equally as important is our courage with the ball. Celtic players have to be brave enough to play and receive passes under pressure in tight areas. Players have to go looking for the ball and we have to move cohesively as a team.

Celtic is sold to potential signings as a team where you can have the opportunity to play massive clubs in the Champions League. I know Brendan and his staff will ensure the players are prepared as well as they possibly can be. It will then be up to our individual players to ensure they are part of this huge occasion and that they contribute positively to the match.

Good luck Celtic ! Belief is everything!

Bye Bye Gordon. Back To Home Comforts

As the dust settles on another failed Scottish international campaign two things became clear to me….One. Place trust in six in a row champions players and you will be fine.

Two. If you think you are a smarty pants and can revert to the players that put you in the sh!t before the Celtic players led the way in digging you out then you deserve to be sacked. Sorry WGS. You had to go. As for genetics. It has been said before by other fholks tell that to Barcelona players or Spanish players that they are no good because they are too small. Quite silly really.

Anyway back to the real important stuff and the visit of Dundee this week. With players arriving back from International duty a little earlier than usual (Tom Rogic and Mikael Lustig excepted) most of our players should be fit, firing and ready to go.

I read that Brendan thinks Jozo, Broony and Stuart Armstrong are going to be ready for the Bayern game. This is all well and good but my priority and focus is on Dundee. They played against us last game at Dens Park with a willingness to leave their foot in and we were lucky that there were no serious injuries.

I am sure that Mc Cann will have them fired up to play with energy and, ahem, enthusiasm against the Hoops and it is absolutely vital that we match their efforts. If we do that we have the quality to get the three points. Ghuys like Scotty Sinclair and Paddy will be desperate for a game and the opportunity to play at Celtic Park at three pm (1 am our time in Australia) in front of a big crowd is a tremendous motivator.

The game v Bayern will take care of itself so let’s focus on the domestic challenge of Aberdeen and let’s ensure there are no more dropped points at home. Brendan will be buzzing at being able to work with the full squad again and it is vital he maintains the players focus and ensures that all eyes and minds are on Dundee.

Brendan made a great point when he said that everyone who has come into the team has done a sterling job. This is true and the competition for places will only serve the players to aspire to achieve more and to show the manager that they deserve a place in the squad. By my reckoning there are only five guaranteed starters if everyone is fit and healthy. They are Craig Gordon, KT, Broony, Jozo and Scotty Sinclair. I would have said Moussa last year too but I think the Griffalo has given Brendan some food for thought with his goals and all round performances. I think there are first picks for most positions but I would not say that players like Tom Rogic, big Erik, Olivier N’tcham or Paddy are guaranteed a start.

Our Aussie playmaker Mr Rogic will be in and out of the team in the run up to Christmas. He has two more playoff games for Australia and his air miles account will be even greater as he heads back to Australia and off to Honduras.

Come on Celtic. Three points tomorrow please!

WGS And The Importance Of Humble Pie

International weeks usually leave me concerned as to whether any of our players will get injured and miss games for the Hoops. There is also no sense of anticipation as the game approaches the way we feel when Celtic near kick off. With Broony and Stuart Armstrong out for Scotland I don’t have to worry about them getting injured. They already are. With those two missing there is a gaping hole in the midfield area for Scotland and to my mind only one man can fill it and only one man stop him.

Step forward Callum Mc Gregor. The wee mhan is Mr Reliable for Celtic and is a player who is tactically aware and comfortable on the ball. On that basis you would think Callum is an absolute shoe in for a starting berth, but one man has the power to stop him.

Step forward Gordon Strachan. WGS has proven to be increasingly abrasive and cantankerous as he has got older. His managerial career reached its peak when he managed Celtic and he did a good job. Maybe 15 years ago we would have laughed when WGS was firing off quick fire one liners to journalists but over the years he has appeared less tolerant of anyone who has not played the game professionally and indeed some who have.

As Scotland manager it would be fair to say WGS has not set the World on fire and this , in my opinion, is partly down to his stubborn streak and misguided loyalty to run of the mill players playing lower league football in England.

It has not been until recently that WGS has loaded up his Scotland squad with some quality players from the six in a row champions and what do you know the results have reflected the fact that the team has been improved by the inclusion of quality and tactical awareness. In fact I read this week that WGS was now advocating the importance of possession as a means of attack and a means of defence. I could almost hear him speaking with Brendan’s Irish brogue.

Anyway, when the squad was announced last week there was no room yet again for Callum. WGS’ stubborn streak wouldn’t let him choose Mr Reliable and it was until the call offs that Callum finally got the gig.

Now I am pretty confident that after working with Callum directly for a few days WGS will have realised that he has a talented, disciplined player who can do a job all over the park for him. The question is will he pick Callum?? Gordon has to eat humble pie and admit he got it wrong in omitting Callum from the original squad.

I would argue that if he doesn’t then he will be signing his own resignation letter.

I see a few people clamouring for Celtic to sign young John Mc Ginn. The question I have to you all is were you saying that before last weekend and do you think he would value add to our squad. I like the look of Mc Ginn but I am not sure if he would value add to our team and the big question I think for our manager is whether he thinks he could further develop the player.

Let’s hope all of our players survive the International break and get back to doing what they do best and that is playing for the Hoops.