Magnificent 7

Talk about announcing your presence with authority . . .

Celtic took to the pitch on Saturday to start the season and showed no mercy to St. Johnstone, taking a 7-0 victory from the Saints and establishing the tone for the season. The Celtic scoring tells only part of the story:

Mikey Johnston 9; Ryan Christie 26, 30, 68; Olivier Ntcham 73; Odsonne Edouard 80; Leigh Griffiths 87.

By now, no doubt, you’ve all read the reports about the game. I won’t repeat that here. But I did want to put out a few observations about the game.

Crisp passing contributed greatly to the Celts phenomenal 75 percent possession rate during the course of the game. Ball-handling during the last several games has been nearly flawless, and Saturday you had essentially a clinic on possession.

It looks like the new guys — Boli Bolingoli and Hatem Abd Elhamed, specifically — are getting in sync with the rest of the club, though Elhamed’s injury may be cause for concern. Johnston especially is playing his way into a starting position, and should be utilized in tandem with Edouard and Griffiths as a new trio of scoring threats.

Griffiths is back. Nitcham is back, and looks like he has something to prove, if he only wants to make Celtic a stop on his way to another club (and who are we to stop him if he wants to play out-of-this-world football?).

But the man of the match, and the player announcing his presence with authority so far over the last few weeks, is Christie. After a season-ending injury against Aberdeen toward the end of last season, Christie’s play so far this season, in the UEFA qualifiers and now in the first game of the regular season, has been flawless. If anyone were to tell you last year that Christie would come out of the starting blocks with feet blazing, you might have doubled over in laughter.

No one is laughing now. But you can definitely see the smiles returning to the faces of the Celtic faithful.

Finally, as we head into the new season, with 37 games to go in the Premier League schedule, clearly Neil Lennon has brought back the thunder. As we head to 9 in a row, it looks like we’re in for a great ride.

Buckle up.

[73 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: High]

Redemption

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, here is your thousand-word blog today. Earlier this week, Leigh Griffiths nailed a belter of a free kick shortly before halftime against Kalju to make the score 3-0 as the Bhoys in Green cruised to a 5-0 victory.

Welcome back, Super Leigh!

Photo credit: Celtic FC

[78 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: High]

5 Celts I Wish I Had Seen

Leave it to a couple of threads in Celtic Noise to give the inspiration for today’s blog item. First, credit the Celtic Noise contributor Winter who originally posted a thread about the top five players you’ve seen wearing the Hoops. Further credit goes to Celtic Noise contributor Bridie Bhoy for starting a related thread, Celtic player you wish you’d seen wearing the Hoops, which I was actually able to answer.

While I couldn’t answer Winter’s thread — technically I haven’t seen any Celtic players at an actual game because I haven’t been to one . . . yet (though I’ve seen nearly the entire 2018-19 season via broadcast) — I was able to answer Bridie Bhoy’s post, though choosing only one player was a chore.

So merging the two threads here, we’re going to take Winter’s “five” and Bridie Bhoy’s “players you wish you had seen” and put them together to make a list of the five Celtic players I wish I had seen. We’ll do this David Letterman-style and go from five down to one:

James McGrory (Credit: Wikipedia CC-SA-3.0)

5. James McGrory

You all know the song about William Maley: “And he gave us James McGrory and Paul McStay . . . “. One of Maley’s many gifts to Celtic was a goal-scoring machine who, for decades, defined Celtic excellence. Even at 5’6” his headers were lethal, earning him the nickname the “Human Torpedo.” With 485 goals over the span of his career, McGrory would have been great to watch. In addition, there’s the tale of McGrory staying at Celtic in the face of a then-stunning 10,000-pound offer that Arsenal bid to Celtic for a transfer of McGrory (are you taking notes, Kieran Tierney?). “McGrory of Arsenal just never sounded as good as McGrory of Celtic,” he was reported to have said.

Artur Boruc (Credit: Новикова Юлия [CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL])

4. Artur Boruc

The Holy Goalie. It’s unclear to me whether the nickname stems from the miraculous saves that Artur Boruc made, or whether it was because, as the story goes, he wore a T-shirt with the Pope’s likeness on it after a Rangers game in 2007. Or even because he had the audacity to make the sign of the cross at Ibrox at his first Rangers match the year before. But never mind: Boruc was a phenomenal, albeit tempermental, goalkeeper and his throttling Huns would be a constant highlight reel here. Thanks to the modern miracle of YouTube, you can see some of the greatness in this former Celt, who retired from Bournemouth in 2017.

Shunsuke Nakamura (Credit: Csansbury at English Wikipedia CC-SA-3.0)

3. Shunsuke Nakamura

Truth be told, I had seen Shunsuke Nakamura play once, but I didn’t realize it. When I was living in Japan in the late ’90s, a group of my English students took me to a Yokohama Marinos J-League game. Not being a football fan at the time, I only remember the Marinos running circles around their opponent that day. However I don’t remember seeing him specifically, though earlier this year, I contacted one of my students to ask if Nakamura played in that game, and he confirmed that he did. I couldn’t tell you the score or the opponent that day, but I can tell you the food selection at the stadium was pretty good. Fast forward to a few months ago and I’m bored out of my skull during the international break, and I start watching old videos of Celtic games and Celtic players. Nakamura stands out so much with his play that there’s one clip I keep just to watch when I’m feeling down: A goal against Rangers — not only is this a fantastic goal, it makes Allan McGregor look like a complete idiot, which is always a plus. To say nothing of these penalties against Manchester United. どうもありがとうございました、中村俊輔.

Henrik Larsson (Credit: Adam4267 [CC BY-SA 3.0])

2. Henrik Larsson

I can hear some of the more, um, “critical” Celtic fans — those, of course, are small in number but loud in volume — after Henrik Larsson’s inauspicious start of his brilliant Celtic career: An errant pass against the Hibs goes for a goal in a 2-1 loss. Followed later, of course, by an own-goal (which meant nothing in a 6-3 victory) in his first European game, and the cries for “put him on the bus” were probably heard in chorus by the more fickle fans. Good thing the club consistently turns a deaf ear to them, because by any and every metric, Larsson turned out to be one of the greatest players ever to put on the Hoops. Again, during the course of this year’s international hiatus, I had a chance to go back to watching a variety of clips of Larsson and there is no question why he is considered the king of kings.

Jimmy Johnstone

1. Jimmy Johnstone

Simply put, Jinky was a magician with the ball. If you watch the 1967 European Cup game against Inter Milan, Johnstone’s ball handling is astounding, to say nothing of his bravado in coming on to the field in Lisbon calling out his Italian opponents. I’ve watched the game three times, breaking it down and analyzing it ad nauseum, and aside from Tommy Gemmell’s and Steve Chalmers’ goals, the play by Johnstone is clearly the highlight of the match. While doing research on European players who crossed the Atlantic for a final payday in the U.S., I found out that Jinky played briefly for the North American Soccer League’s San Jose Earthquakes, which now plays in the MLS and is the closest team to me here in California. To be sure, I will be looking more into his career with the Quakes for a later blog item.

Mon the Hoops.

[72 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Low]

They’re playing our song

Mornings in Felton are pretty much the same, especially in the summer. The drill is simple: Crows wake up the neighborhood, I stumble into the shower, shave, make coffee, see if there’s anything edible in the refrigerator, look at the newspaper, check the wildfire threat level (Moderate today, thanks to an overcast sky), and then go online to check, if anything, is worthy of attention.

After glancing at a plethora of news sites and checking my email to see who wants or needs me — Nobody? Great! — my next stop is usually Celtic news sites to pick up on what’s happening, and then finally to Celtic Noise, a forum of Celtic fans operating on various levels of sanity.

OK, I’m kidding about that — all good people, mostly, and all Celtic faithful with a deep love for the club.

Yesterday, while fighting with the text for yesterday’s blog post (honestly, I posted it yesterday, not in May of 2016), I was thinking about this video of FC St. Pauli fans singing “67 in the Heat of Lisbon,” which I originally found on the Facebook group Celtic FC to the Core.

To its credit, Celtic FC to the Core is one of the more solid fan pages on Facebook, providing significantly sound links to Celtic updates and commentary, unlike many of the fan pages which seem to be resigned to a tsunami of, “Can I get a ‘Hail Hail’ for my dog?” posts. Not that I have anything against dogs — in my opinion, all of them deserve a “Hail Hail” — but when I’m looking for Celtic news and commentary, let alone rational discussion with other Celtic supporters, many of the Facebook pages fail dramatically.

And don’t get me started on Twitter. Sheesh.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the video, take a look. And if you’re not doing anything else on this Saturday morning, swing by Celtic Noise for some discussion.

See you there.

Mon the Hoops.

[62 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Moderate]


Tap, tap, tap … is this thing on?

At the urging of several friends and one family member (thank you, darling daughter) — and whether or not it’s a conspiracy remains to be seen — I have been urged to write a blog about one of my current avocations: football (or what we call “soccer” here in the U.S.) in general, and my favorite club, Celtic FC, in particular.

So here we are: ’67 in the heat of Felton.

Of course, there’s really nothing that ties the great Celtic team that won the European Championship 52 years ago to this small town six miles northeast of Santa Cruz, California, at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains amid the redwoods. Other than, of course, me and my new found passion for the Hoops.

But amending the song title slightly to mention my current hometown in the blog’s title goes well with the song that, to this day, is still sung at Celtic games (or at punk rock venues by the Quadrofenians).

A team of Viennese specialists would have a field day with that, to be certain.

Regardless, May 25th is now a holiday on my calendar, and I wear green and white at every possible opportunity. I have acquired a new taste for jelly and ice cream. I have been known to break into the Broony when something good happens. After one season — an exceptional one, to be sure, with the Treble Treble — I am here for the long haul.

You can find me from time to time at the Celtic Noise forum — with a lack of creativity measured in sheer tonnage, my handle is simply lcafiero — and I welcome all Celtic supporters to join the discussion on Celtic and non-Celtic topics.

How I became a Celtic supporter is outlined in the My Back Pages/About Me page, if you’re interested. The TL:DR version is this: Given my political leanings, Celtic’s history was an inspiration and a natural club to offer my support.

The outlook for this season is fantastic, and I am looking forward to providing commentary on the season going forward.

Mon the hoops.

[59 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Moderate]