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.”

They Did It. Looking Back. Looking Forward

So, the team did it. They bloomin’ did it!!! They went through an entire league season without defeat. 38 games played, 34 wins 4 draws and no defeats. Truly, truly incredible. We will never see this happen again, said Brendan. Brendan is right.

Brendan, bless his little cotton socks, is ALWAYS right. I don’t think I have seen a manager have a near flawless season like he has had and we are very lucky to have him. The way he has coached the players and the way he has managed them, the press, the support has been absolutely first class.

These are heady times for Celtic and if we do go on to win the treble then an amazing season will just go to another level. I admit I played down the whole thing about being undefeated. As a superstitious fan I did not want to jinx it. How could I jinx it watching on TV from Australia??? I don’t know, but I did not want to take that chance. What an unbelievable league campaign. Every time we needed a hero one stepped up to the plate whether it was in defence, midfield or attack our heroes delivered.

Thirty eight games. No defeats. Wow!!!!

I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat pre game as I watched the tifo at Celtic Park on Sunday. The theme was just right and it is easy to understand why even the best players in the World get a thrill out of playing at Celtic Park. Truly spectacular and unbelievably well co ordinated. Hats off to the Green Brigade. I am not a fan of flares but I grudgingly acknowledged the effect as a value add on “In the Heat of Lisbon”. For the Lions that attended it must have been spine tingling as they remembered their colleagues and manager who have passed away and who 50 years ago on Thursday produced the performance of their lives to win the Big Cup and bring it to Celtic Park.

I see that events will be happening all around the World and on Thursday night I might just watch a game from 1967 to celebrate the win for Celtic and the win for football. Our victory was more than just a triumph for Celtic. It cast off the shackles of cattenaccio and teams then played with a focus on creativity rather than negativity.

We now look forward to Aberdeen. Make no mistake this is going to be a very tough game. The two top teams in Scotland go head to head and wee Deek Mc Innes will be desperate to beat the Hoops. To be fair he has fashioned a decent team and players like Mc Lean, Hayes and Shinnie are all capable of taking the fight to us.

The most important thing for us is to be focused and to be prepared to match them physically. They will be physical – very physical indeed and it is up to us to move the ball quickly and to focus on playing as best we can. We know if they play their best and they play their best we will win. However they will attempt to disrupt and stop the game and our rhythm at every opportunity.

In the fiftieth year of our greatest ever triumph let us hope we finish on a high note that will cement the players as The Undefeated at domestic level.

On a final note, that Barry Bannan must be some player. Sad for Callum on a personal note that WGS has not deemed him capable enough to play for Scotland but from a Celtic perspective Callum will get much needed rest and recovery time after the end of the season and before we start the CL campaign.

Like many I don’t really bother with Scotland now ( I used to) and my hope is our players emerge unscathed and without injury.

Celtic Deny Fans A Firhill Frenzy. History Beckons

Celtic blew Partick Thistle out of the water at a sunny Firhill on Thursday evening with a five goal salvo. The Celtic fans were cruelly denied the chance to celebrate a come from behind win at what must be the most difficult stadium in Scotland to win , given the scale of celebrations there a couple of weeks ago. However it looked like our support more than made up for this massive let down by giving us some Lisbon style banners that looked wonderful. My favourite was the simple, but blindingly brilliant, “Celtic OK”The banners were brilliant and I believe there is more to come on Sunday.

When we move the ball quickly and people are making runs off the ball we are irresistible and some of the stuff was just an absolute joy to watch. I don’t think we will have wee Paddy in the team next season as some English teams will throw big money at him, but he is another one who has benefitted from Brendan’s coaching. Gone are the days of last season when the wee mhan would dribble and dribble and dribble, often beating a number of players before ultimately taking on one too many and losing the ball. This season and in particular more recently the tricky winger has been a much better team player and a much better player as a result of this. The wee mhan still has his skills and tricks and showed that with the last goal last night. However, he is contributing much more in terms of knowing when to pass and when to take players on. This makes him more of a threat and has given him an end product that was lacking previously.

As the two goals showed, his confidence is through the roof and he seems to be revelling playing in front of our fans who, to be fair, know a decent winger when we see one. Paddy seems a bubbly character when I have seen him on CelticTV and it would be nice if we could afford him. I think we need KT to have a word…

Invincibility awaits. Hearts stand in our way and if we can produce a win, or even a draw it will top off an unbeaten season and put this team into the history books. It is down to us. The crowd on Sunday will be willing the team over the line and Brendan and the backroom staff will ensure we play the game at a pace that gives us every opportunity of making history.

We know that if we do we will have completed a season that will be unrivalled for maybe another Century. If we don’t, well it will have been the most marvellous run of form and the football has been electric at times. It is in our hands to make history.

There is a real joie de vivre about our play and even ghuys like wee Leigh want to stay on the park at all times. Andy Walker, in commentary, tried to fuel a nonexistent fire. Brendan spoke after the game and reminded Leigh and everyone it is a team game and the wee fhella has two more important dates in his diary between now and next week. Publicly Brendan ensures a unified, harmonious front. Privately I would imagine he and Leigh will have a few words. This is the sign of a good manager. It comes back time and time again to Brendan being emotionally intelligent and knowing how to get the best from his players.

Bring on Sunday… and the Lisbon Lions Tifo, the league trophy and hopefully another game without defeat. Enjoy your weekend.

Jags, Class Acts and Managerial Spats

Partick Thistle tonight – or tomorrow morning at 4.45 am for the majority of the Aussie  Tims. Part of me hopes we secure an easy win and do not pick up injuries. The other part of me would love a last minute winner so we could celebrate like we …ahem….. er…actually won a game. Or maybe not!

To be fair to Thistle their reaching the top six is their equivalent of us reaching the Champions League group stages. That in terms of points Ross County have more than them will not matter to them or their fans. They are playing with the bigger and teams and snared another visit from the six in a row champions. That will boost their coffers a wee bit more than a game against Inverness on a Thursday night!!

The last time Thistle played us they sat deep and then had a go late on but mind you that was when we were in the middle of our current slump. Sadly for us this slump continues as we have moved ever further away from our main rivals, Aberdeen, and we all hope the slump can extend for a few more games.

There is a real feelgood factor about Celtic right now as we race towards the end of the league season, the forthcoming Scottish Cup Final and the 50th anniversary of our greatest ever triumph, in Lisbon. I cannot wait until Sunday night when I see the tribute tifo and I just know it will be phenomenal and give me goosebumps.

Regardless of whether we win tonight or not this has been a fantastic season and Brendan and his team has really connected with the support and I am sure this has been reflected financially with takings online and at the various Celtic shops are through the roof as people clamour to buy merchandise associated with Scotland’s number one club.

I have been very cagey and wary about being undefeated in the league. All it takes is for the opposition to raise their game or for a few of our players to have a poor game and before you know it you have lost. I agreed with Broony’s assertions around the semi final against Sevco at Hampden where we only annihilated them 2-0 whereby he stated that the team knew if they turned up and performed we would win. Everyone in Scottish football knows that is the case and basically we have the team to win or lose games. When others play us they HOPE that they perform and we underperform whereas we know that if we perform nothing the opposition does is good enough to beat us.

The best guard against complacency is Brendan and the backroom team. Their insistence on setting standards and ensuring the players train, play and maintain those standards is impressive. Talking of impressive everything that I have heard or read that Chris Davies has said has impressed me. He presents as a bright, thoughtful, articulate young man who has represented the club with great confidence and insight. He seems to be the perfect foil for Brendan. We are lucky to have them at the helm.

So fholks lets hope the run continues and we leave Firhill with a shot at glory on Sunday ( enough rubbish film referencing – Ed).

PS….I see Derek McInnes and Pedro Caixinha are having a bit of a verbal spat. You have gotta love it. I give this round to wee Deek.

The Best Thing Happened At Pittodrie

Our six in a row champions kept the amazing unbeaten domestic run going with a 3-1 win against Scotland’s second best side. This win was great in that it helped maintain the streak, but where it was unbelievably helpful is that it shows that we are nowhere near the finished article and there is still scope for Brendan to shape and develop Celtic.

I believe that the boss would have learned a lot from the performance and it will strengthen his resolve to further improve his team for next season and the hugely important Champions League qualifying campaign.

Credit to Aberdeen. They seemed to dominate possession and I was very surprised to see that we actually had more of the ball than they did over the course of the ninety minutes. Guys like Shinnie and Mc Lean relished the physical battle and our midfield , without Broony, struggled to contain them. I speculated yesterday that Brendan would have a choice to make between Tom Rogic and big Nir. The boss went with the Aussie playmaker but opted to shore things up later in the game with the introduction of the the Israeli. I suspect we won’t really know about Kouassi Eboue until the start of next season as the boss is going with what he knows.

The defence did well in their primary duties but we have been used to them not only stopping, but starting attacks. The passing from the back line seemed off and they did not look as composed as we have seen them in previous games this season.

It would have been easy for the boss to think that after a dominant season we are the finished article but the Dons side would have shown Brendan that we still have to improve our team.

I loved our start and we looked as if we were really going to rack up a big score after we rattled in three in the first eleven minutes. We still looked dangerous on the break but most of the players would have left the pitch last night knowing there is scope for improvement.

That we limited the Dons to a wonder goal showed the resolve of the team and how difficult we are to score against. However we won’t be playing against guys like Stockley in Europe who scrap in aerial battles and that is where the focus will be as soon as the final whistle blows at Hampden in a fortnight.

The other highlight came after the game when Brendan told the players to give their shirts to the travelling Hoops fans. Wee gestures like this solidify the bond between the players and supporters and would have ensured some very happy young fans would have been travelling home last night with a cherished Celtic top.

We hit the last  week of the league campaign with two games. We have a massive game at Firhill on Thursday evening, Scottish time, before finishing at home against the Jambos. I know we laughed at the over the top celebrations at Firhill as Sevco came back from the dead ( see what I did there) to win but I suspect the elation was triggered because they were outplayed by a confident, buoyant Thistle who will certainly pose problems for us on Thursday night/ Friday morning.

If we can get out of Firhill unscathed both in terms of results and injuries then that will please me no end. Press on Celtic.

Meaningful But Not Critical

Aberdeen stands square in front of the Celtic Football Club 2016-17 season juggernaut on Friday night/ Saturday morning ( Aussie time). This game is likely to be billed as a dress rehearsal for the Scottish Cup Final in a few weeks time but the reality is that the outcome of this will have no bearing whatsoever on the destination of the Cup.

This game has to be played, and hopefully won, on its merits. Aberdeen has shown they are the second best team in the country this season as they sit comfortably in second place in the league and reached the League Cup Final as well as the Scottish Cup final. They deserve credit for this and whilst I am no great fan of their manager and his ability to lose to Sevco on a consistent basis I am pleased that Scotland has a challenger to Celtic. Who knows next season whether Hibs, Sevco or Hearts will emerge as Scotland’s Third Force? I think it is fair to say Aberdeen deserve the mantle as the second best team in Scotland.

After the introductions of youngsters Tony Ralston and Mikey Johnston I expect we will see a more experienced line up at Pittodrie and that is likely to see the return of Scotland’s Player of The Year Scotty Sinclair ( love Celtic, hate racism) and the vastly experienced Mikael Lustig.

I also expect to see Callum back in the team but I think the manager has one big decision to make…and that is whether to play big Tom Rogic and sacrifice the equally big Nir Bitton and play Callum or Stuart in the “Broony role”. I suspect Brendan will be pragmatic and go with Nir who offers a more protective option than the Aussie playmaker. If we are behind the silky skilled Rogic could be introduced to create chances.

Pittodrie has traditionally been a hard place to go to and win so I am going to state upfront here and now…I may be wrong but I suspect both sides would not be unduly disappointed should the match end in a draw.

However we can take nothing for granted and must be prepared to match an Aberdeen team who will be very physical and fired up in front of their own fans.

With the season rapidly drawing to close it has been one to remember. Some of the football, as we have discussed throughout the season, has been scintillating and some of the results have been truly historic.

There is such a feelgood factor about everything Celtic at this moment in time and it even seems like the club is getting all the big decisions right as we near the 50th anniversary of our greatest ever day as a club. I think Brendan Rodgers arriving has been the catalyst for this and whilst I think we will still be playing a Moneyball transfer strategy I think we will be doing so at a level where there is less risk involved (there will always be a risk) and we can offer players an opportunity to try to get us to the Champions’ League group stages. If we do that we can sustain the gap between ourselves and the rest of Scottish football.

So Friday night or Saturday morning this weekend let’s hope we are cheering the Hoops to another victory in what is a successful, and may even be a historic, season.