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!

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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.

Hats Off To Sevco

The Glasgow Ross County* deserve huge plaudits for their brilliant performance against the six in a row champions on the weekend. The plucky underdogs who have almost had a meteoric rise through the Scottish leagues since their inception in 2012 would have been thrilled at their ability to keep Celtic to two goals.

My Bhoy said to me just before the game that it was at this stage that the Sevco fans would be hoping that their team could conjure up a point from the game. Sadly for them they would quickly have seen that they were there only to play second fiddle to a Celtic team that did not hit any great heights in the first half but we’re still markedly better than the Ibrox side.

After the break Celtic ramped up the intensity and increased the pace of the passing. Game over. To their credit the Glasgow Ross County* defended wilfully and must have been ecstatic to only concede two goals. Hats off to Sevco.

From our perspective one player worried me and it was Dedryck. Every other player seemed happy to zip the ball about at pace and play one and two touch football. It seemed to me when the big fhella got the ball he slowed play down and was not comfortable and needed an extra touch. I know he is on his way back from injury but on Thursday morning, Oz time, he will be playing against better players and we will need him to bring his A game.

The skipper was imperious. That the Sevco manager wanted to fight him was cringeworthy and for the first time I felt a wee bit sorry for Pedro. I am sure he will be suitably embarrassed and will issue an apology in the next day or so.

Scott Brown may actually be the person that John Brown needs to speak to about ra deeds. Broony strolls about Ibrox as if he is the actual owner of the place and yet again the Sevco players could not get near him. His ability to control the game and infuriate the Sevco fans just by being better than their players is truly astonishing.

I think we will see Tom Rogic play better games for us but the Glasgow Ross County* players and fans are terrified of him. Tom’s ability to score important goals for us was to the fore again and he certainly despatched his shot past big Wes before the keeper could set himself.

Wee Leigh took his goal well but to be honest I don’t think he needs to wind the Sevco fans up to the extent he does. His ability to hurt them speaks volumes on the pitch and everything else just distracts from that.

I am sure the Scottish media will be all over the Sevco song book. What’s that Skippy? Maybe not. Nothing to see here. Move along.

The big game for us this week is v Anderlecht. If we can get any sort of positive result we will be in a happy place with a possibility of European football post Christmas. If not then we go again next week .

In conclusion Celtic were in a no win situation on the weekend and Sevco emerged with great credit to only concede two goals. There is much to build on for that team and they are , in my opinion, a good chance to make the top six this season.

* Apologies to Ross County fans.

Silencing Ibrox Is Celtic’s Sevco Challenge

Tomorrow’s game against Sevco pales into comparison in terms of importance with our midweek game v Anderlecht. However given my usual mantra of looking at one game at a time I will focus on what I believe will be a very difficult, but essential match for us tomorrow. I believe that our biggest issue playing in Europe is that we have to lift the level of intensity and often playing in Scotland does not afford us the opportunity to do that. Playing at Ibrox tomorrow will, in many ways, be a great way to tune up for Anderlecht next week.

I cannot see us cruising to a similar scoreline to our last visit there when we wiped the floor with the hosts. It was 5-1 going on 8 or 9 and we actually missed some really good chances. Tomorrow I expect to play a team who will be fired up and who will be keen to engage in some close quarters “tackling”. When I say tackling I mean similar to the tactics of Dundee. That odious little man who manages Dundee had his team flying into tackles with real intent and we are lucky none of our players were injured.

I expect Pedro will have his team primed to be aggressive and we can expect a fast start from the Sevco team in an effort to unsettle us and to involve their fans. They would know if we score first and subdue the crowd by playing possession football it could be a long and difficult game for them. I suspect they will be in our faces scrapping for every ball and intent on keeping their support in the game for as long as possible. We cannot be complacent and we must ensure our passing is slick and we dictate the game.

I believe that Sevco are a stronger team than last season especially in that midfield area and they will be under orders not to let our players dictate possession and the pace of the game. If we can get the ball wide to our wingers we can cause them problems.

I will miss my all-time favourite Sevco player Joey Garner. Joey was more comfortable grabbing our defenders legs and trying to head-butt their shins than he was with a football. I loved that he appealed every foul he conceded and wish him all the best in the obscurity of the English championship. I believe Morelos is reported to be a step up from Joey although I have not yet seen him play in a live game. I think, however, he has scored more goals already than Joey did all last season??

Tomorrow is all about us and if we turn up with the correct attitude and willingness to work hard and play our game we should be okay. I think Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic will come back into the team and I think on the basis of Wednesday James may get the nod ahead of Paddy. However paddy gave them a hard time in the last league game at Ibrox and the poor lad is still receiving therapy for trauma.

I used to get all tense in the lead up to a Rangers game and since their death this has gone. I now view the Sevco games with less emotion and on a more rational basis. The reality is that they, like Hearts, Aberdeen etc., will pick up occasional wins against us but that overall we are better than them. They know it, we know it. The old tension and fear has gone. They have aspirations to be a top two team and if we can put a dent in that tomorrow I will have no issues at all.

The only down side to tomorrow’s game is this insistence on using the Old Firm tag. I do not know any Celtic fan in Australia or Scotland who uses that term anymore yet you can be sure that it will be the most used phrase in the media tomorrow. This ridiculous effort to put the financially stricken club on par with us is both annoying and contemptible. Come on Celtic – widen the gap tomorrow and keep the unbeaten run going.

Going For 56 As Celtic Face Dens Challenge

The six in a row champions take on Dundee in the league cup tomorrow morning in a quest to defend the first leg of the treble. Fresh from a comprehensive victory over Ross County the Hoops will seek to continue a quite stunning 55 match unbeaten domestic run.

The team will be prepared for the Dundee game and the Dundee game alone. Future games will take care of themselves and whilst I believe that the league cup is the least prestigious of the domestic trophies the professional pride that Brendan has instilled into the team will hopefully ensure we pay Dundee every respect and work hard to extend the unbeaten run.

I liked that some players received a rest on the weekend and hopefully we will be able to utilise the strength of the squad and ensure that every member receives ample game time. I think we are particularly strong in the midfield area in terms of depth and I really like the look of young Edouard up front. He has great game awareness and movement and although it is early days, my opinion is that he can really value add to the team.

A further observation from Saturday is that wee Leigh looked overly anxious to shoot in an effort to retain his spot. If Leigh focuses on the team scoring we will create the chances that the wee mhan can convert. I think Leigh feels pressure with the return of Moussa and is aware that a fully fit Wolf of Kerrydale Street is likely to be first pick when we go one up top.

It is nice to be top of the league and getting players back from injury. The more competitive the squad is can only be good for the support with the eleven chosen to play in any game determined to show the manager that they are worthy of selection. No one encapsulates this more than Callum McGregor. Not always a first pick Callum continues to work his socks off and never lets us down any time he plays.

I expect that after tonight young Mr Ralston will be given a rest. He certainly had his hands full playing against the repulsive Neymar who it is reported is now demanding Cavani be removed from PSG.What an odious exceptional talent Neymar is. Young Tony was unfortunate not to score against Ross County when his shot cannoned off the post. It will be interesting to chart his development over the coming weeks and months.

The emergence of Tony will have serious implications for Cristian Gamboa who appears to have fallen out of favour in terms of selection.

Apologies for the absence of the blog in recent days. Here’s hoping for 56 in a row.

RIP Paul Wilson. Too soon.

The Pain Game. Skipper Excels

Boom!! You will have had your dinner Celtic. That was a slapping we received and I totally concur with Brendan who stated we did not compete. On the basis of that performance tonight we looked as if only one of our players would grace their line up and for me it was our captain. In a first half where Stuart Armstrong and Olivier Ntcham weppre AWOL only Broony sought to get and to try to keep the ball. Second half we were a bit more in the game – albeit PSG were coasting and Broony again was to the fore.

I thought both Paddy and Scotty Sinclair tried hard but were often left isolated and outnumbered. They never stopped trying and that is to their credit. Wee Leigh was so far off the pace he MUST have been still injured. Both full backs were pinned back and rarely able to get forward to provide an option for the wide men. The centre backs were under siege all night and I felt for the defence as we did not receive much support from our midfielders.

Mona alert for two paragraphs: I went into the game hoping we could have a crack at it. Unfortunately we capitulated and we were basically watching the opening stanza waiting for them to score their first goal.

What annoyed me more than anything was that they worked harder than us without the ball. It has been a trait of Brendan’s Celtic team that when we do not have the ball we press, harry and harass our opponents. To be brutally honest it must have been very sobering for everyone associated with our team. We may be top bananas in Scotland but we have a looooong way to go to get there in Europe. Yes they can buy better quality than we can but I watched this morning expecting us to be up for the challenge. Instead, not only were we out played, we were out-enthused and that is disappointing.

The games v Anderlecht were always going to be crucial for us and by all accounts they put up a good show against Bayern despite playing for 80 minutes with ten men. The game in two weeks time is going to be so vital to us and if we can get anything from that it will put us in pole position for third spot in the group. However there is a fair bit of football to be played prior to that.
My rational self tells me that just by being in the group stages means we have had a successful campaign, but I do not want us just to be making up the numbers. I want us to win, of course we all do, but I can live without winning if we are competitive.

Brendan faces the task of lifting the players ahead of our next game at home to Ross County and I expect more than a few changes as he seeks to freshen up and energise the team. For starters I think Tom Rogic ,Callum and possibly Nir Bitton if Broony needs a rest, will be back in the team on the weekend. Some of our bhoys looked knackered at the end and it was because we were chasing the ball throughout the ninety minutes. PSG did to us what we regularly do to teams in Scotland and move them around until they get exhausted.

PSG did well to take the crowd out of the equation and their support sounded very vocal on TV. Their passing was crisp and very fast. The passers job is to deliver the ball to a team mate as quickly as possible. The pass recipients always seemed composed and confident in their touch no matter the ball speed and we must never stop working towards that level of confidence, trust and belief in team mates.

Anyway the CL is parked for the moment. Let us ensure we get back on track on the weekend by delivering three points in the quest for that seventh league flag in a row.