Celtic’s California Kid

California bhoy Cameron Harper takes the ball downfield during a recent match in Scotland.

Reading today’s report on Celtic’s 4-2 victory over Morton in the Reserve Cup at Lennoxtown, you see the usual suspects getting accolades: New signing Jonathan Afolabi hits the mark at the 19th minute, Armstrong Oko-Flex successfully coverts a penalty kick at 37 minutes, and Karamoko Dembele comes on in the second half to add to the score late in the game.

What’s buried a few paragraphs down in the report is a goal at the 51-minute mark by winger Cameron Harper, the Sacramento-born, Southern California-raised 17-year-old who wears the Hoops for the Reserves.

According to the Celtic FC report, Harper took a pass from Liam Burt, took a touch, and then drove a shot that went in off the post (you can see the goal on the YouTube highlights starting around 1:48).

Or as it was relayed by the Celtic FC Academy Twitter:

51’ – HARPER!

💥

“Harper is traditional winger who is right-footed but comfortable with his left and doesn’t have a preference for a side of the field,” writes Brian Sciaretta in an article earlier this month in American Soccer Now. “He likes to play out wide, get into 1-on-1 situations against defenders, make runs, cut inside for shots, or stay out wide to hit crosses. Like many in his age-group, he is confident like those in recent cycles.”

Harper played for the celebrated Pateadores Soccer Club in Costa Mesa, California. His play at Pateadores drew the attention of the U-16 team, according to the ASN article.

“It was with the U-16 team at the 2016 IMG Cup where he drew the attention of a Celtic scout who arranged for a trial later in 2017,” the ASN article continues. “Celtic were impressed by Harper on trial and he eventually joined the club.”

While Harper has a bright future ahead as he laces them up for Celtic and the U.S. U-21 team, it makes this Californian proud to see a kid from the Golden State making headway at the club. Harper definitely needs to stay on everyone’s radar going forward.

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

Moritz Bauer’s Two Assists

Moritz Bauer, right, was not finished on Sunday merely feeding Odsonne Edouard a pass for Eddy to score early in the 2nd half — Bauer also assisted in the Man of the Match interview by translating for Edouard as well. (Screenshot via Celtic TV)

Celtic took to Paradise on a beautiful Sunday yesterday afternoon and, after an inauspicious start that saw (among other things) James Forrest display a unique talent for hitting goalposts during a barrage of shots by Celtic which were near misses in the first half, the Bhoys in Green came away with a 3-1 win over Kilmarnock.

A game report is here. A better analysis, given on The Celtic Noise by the celebrated Sandman is here (warning: strong language). You’re welcome to go ahead and read them. I’ll wait.

Odsonne Edouard, who everyone wants to be, had two of the goals, and Ryan Christie put in the third for Celtic. But the top highlight of the game for me was the pass from Moritz Bauer to Edouard for the 2nd goal. On that particular play, the ball movement — 14 passes starting from deep in the Celtic half to Moritz finding a running Edouard and feeding him perfectly before Eddy popped the ball past Branescu, keeping goal for Killie — was simply phenomenal.

That was Moritz’s first assist of the day.

The second came when Eddy was giving Man of the Match honors, and Bauer translated a question to French for Eddy, translating back to the interviewer Eddy’s response. This kind of talent on and off the field makes Bauer a great find for the club.

Nevertheless, it’s on to the next game, a Betfred Cup match against Patrick Thistle on Wednesday. Oh, and a few more things of note . . .

Give the Scottish Sun a red card: Got to hand it to Scottish Sun Sports for lowering the journalistic discourse of Scottish news — I am told that is not really possible, but I digress — by this idiotic tweet regarding Fergus McCann’s appearance at halftime at Paradise yesterday. Had someone actually checked the history books — or even took a quick look at Wikipedia — they would have known that Celtic had already won nine in a row once before, between 1965 and 1974. But that would require, oh I don’t know, fact-checking, which I seem to recall is a staple of journalism everywhere. Except maybe at the Sun in Scotland.

Speaking of Patrick Thistle: According to our friends at The Celtic Star, former Ranger Ian McCall will be named as Partick Thistle manager today, which is unfortunate timing for him, as Patrick Thistle’s next game is the Betfred Cup match on Wednesday against, well, us. Apparently, McCall opined recently on the air that both Alfredo Morelos and Jermain Defoe are better strikers than Odsonne Edouard. As I wait for the laughter to die down, I’d like to remind Mr. McCall that this kind of talk usually ends up on the bulletin board of the opposing team and serves only as inspiration for Celtic to run up the score, as I hope they will, on Wednesday.

Lost in translation: Meanwhile in Hamburg, FC St. Pauli “praised” their Japanese winger Ryo Miyachi on social media with the line, “Ryo, Du Rakete!” Which, as you might assume, translates into English as “Ryo, you rocket!” The reason that the club is praising Miyachi is that this Boy in Brown has been deemed the fastest player in Bundesliga 2, which is no small feat. However, as I understand it, being called a rocket in Glasgow is not the most flattering of terms. But as the car ads say, your mileage may vary.

Busy day in the blogging week this week, another one tomorrow and a game on Wednesday, followed by a scheduled Thursday post. And the beat goes on. Hail Hail everyone.

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

Ready? Steady? Draw!

On the shores of Brittany — OK, a little further inland, perhaps — the Bhoys in Green started the next chapter of their Europa League hunt with a draw at Stade Rennes. While the Celts played far above par and should have come away with the win (more on this later, of course), the 1-1 final proved that Christopher Jullien may be on to something: That Celtic has arrived in Europe with serious intent to go far.

That might sound funny coming as a result of a draw, but allow me to point out five things to state my case. And then I will gladly leave it to a jury of my peers to decide.

In no particular order . . .

1. Kristoffer Ajer, put on this dunce cap

Truth be told, my guess is that no one feels as bad about that, um, “tackle” in the box than Kristoffer Ajer does. Judging by the kind of player he is, I will grant him that, and my hope is that he doesn’t beat himself up too much over it.

But dude, really?

If we were back in my fifth grade classroom at Holy Family School in suburban Miami — with Sister Julianna wielding the mean ruler which, by this time, is surely encased in its own exhibit in the Nun Hall of Fame — she would probably sternly say, as only she could, “Kristoffer. Vassbakk. Ajer. Please. Stand. Up.” At which time, the mighty Viking, humbled, would stand up and be ushered to the “desk of doom” at the front of the class, where he would sit and complete his punishment. More than likely, it would be writing, “I will not grab an opponent’s jersey and drag him down in the box” 500 times, and then he’d be sent to confession at the church next door, where he’d probably get the standard penance of 10 Hail Marys from Msgr. Delaney.

But I’m sure he feels bad enough about it as it is, and I would spare him the Catholic school treatment. Suffice to say, though: Kris, you’re an ace in the defense — you don’t need to resort to that.

Lesson learned. Class dismissed.

2. Who are these guys in black?

I know, I know. Chapter and verse from Jock Stein: “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.” But I’d be willing to bet that somewhere in the ether of the afterlife, Big Jock was looking down on the game on Thursday and saying, “Damn! Are you kidding me?”

According to ESPN, and I don’t think these stats are official (though I’d be glad to post official stats if someone can give me a link), Celtic committed 23 fouls to Rennes’ 12, which only explains how the game was not so much a Europa League match for the hosts, but in reality a qualification for the French Olympic diving team.

An entirely Spanish referee squad, led by some dope named Jose Sanchez, would not be worthy of overseeing a under-13 tryout, let alone a UEFA Europa League match. The card-happy Sanchez went out of his way to lose control of the game, only to fall victim to an Oscar-winning performance by Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, whose face was nowhere near Bayo’s foot when the second yellow for Bayo was drawn out of Sanchez’s incompetent pocket.

[Chris Sutton even agrees with me on this one . . . .]

Seriously. Where do they get these guys?

3. Who are these guys in red and black?

First, this needs saying: As I understand it, Stade Rennes is France’s champion. We are Scotland’s. Yet, here we are, both of us in what is essentially the “consolation prize” round of continental football.

Be that as it may, to Celtic’s credit and despite a 52-48 percent ball possession advantage to Rennes, the home team spent a significant portion of its time on its heels. With a couple of remote exceptions, Rennes could not break through, and got a gift that keeps on giving — at least for 90+ minutes — from Ajer in their only real scoring opportunity.

Despite an earlier exit in that other tournament, the fact that we’re now firing on all cylinders, where once we weren’t, is a testament to how good Celtic has become at this Europe thing. True, it didn’t come earlier, and that’s unfortunate. But this is where we are now.

One more thing: Sorry, Rennes, but your kit looks like the joker on a deck of playing cards. Is that really the look you want to go with?

4. Jonny Hayes, take a bow

True story: On my free time (and because I don’t have much of a life outside watching Celtic and political organizing in local peace and social justice activities), I like to watch old clips of Celtic games on YouTube. A couple of days ago, I happened upon the 2017 Scottish Cup final (I think) where Jonny Hayes was tearing up the pitch for Aberdeen against the Bhoys. I kept thinking, “Thank God he’s playing for us now.”

Today, that thought was especially at the forefront, as he came in for Boli Bolingoli and took control. Hayes is truly an unsung hero for the Celts, and I hope he has a chance to get some playing time with Boli now injured. Of course, Greg Taylor may have something to say about that, but as far as an all around utility player and pretty much a godsend to Celtic, Hayes is second to none.

And that tackle in the second half on Hamari Traore? That was outstanding; it was Simunovic-on-Miller caliber. Though Traore does not exactly join Miller in orbit, it was one of those tackles they should show in clinics worldwide about how tackles should be executed.

5. Keep talking, Christopher Jullien

Earlier in the week, Christopher Jullien said that the Celts will go far in the UEFA Europa League competition. Many thought it was just locker room rah-rah enthusiasm, possibly aimed at lifting his teammates for the immediate task at hand on Thursday. Some may have thought he made an overconfident boast. Others still may have thought he was just plain nuts.

Regardless, he was right. Under Neil Lennon’s steady hand and with a group of phenomenal players who are beginning to gel under his leadership, Celtic is starting to show its true colors — sorry, colours — as we head into both the SPFL season and whatever continental tournaments are part and parcel to this year’s schedule.

In conclusion, despite all the aforementioned adversity in Thursday’s game, the Bhoys came away with a solid game and a draw that, arguably, should have been a win, but could have gone wrong very easily, through no fault of their own.

I’ll take it.

Your Honor — sorry, My Lord — I rest my case.

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

Random thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots

After Saturday’s win at Hamilton — the pitch where one end is painted with fans sitting behind advertising (and, as I understand it, behind that facade is a practice ground) — I thought it would be good to take a moment to just reflect on a few observations at the outset of this season, which incidentally appears to be starting well.

Like . . .

We’ll win the Europa League, according to Christopher Jullien: You’ve got to love the big guy, even when he’s not goofing off with teammate Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo. He’s settled in to a defense that has been stellar in the past few games, and now he makes what can arguably be described as a huge boast.

Can the Bhoys bring home the Europa hardware? “We will take it game by game and see what it is but if you were to go into our locker room now and ask each of them what their goal was they would tell you it is to bring that trophy home – and I’m just following them,” Jullien has been quoted as saying in the mainstream press.

Whether he is serious or if it’s just a ploy to get his teammates psyched up for the game against French Cup holders Stade Rennes on Thursday, it’s good to see a confident mindset as the default mode for the club.

Odsonne Edouard scores yet again.

I Wanna, I Wanna, I Wanna Be Ladbrokes Premiership Player of the Month for August: A tip of the chapeau to Odsonne Edouard and congratulations to the Celtic forward for winning the Labrokes Premiership Player of the Month for his play last month. On top of an outstanding display as a sub for France’s U21 team scoring four goals during the international break, Eddy has been phenomenal for the Hoops in the start of the 2019/20 season.

Edouard’s press conference, posted on YouTube and it helps immensely if you speak French (despite the presence of a translator, who does an excellent job), Eddy says at around the 9:30 mark that he’s happy to be a Celt and he doesn’t foresee going anywhere, contrary to rumors that have been floating around. Which is good, because we’d like to have you around as long as possible, Eddy!

Lights, Camera, Action: Remember photo day at school? Well, the bhoys went through that exercise recently and had their annual team photoshoot. Of course, as shown here, getting the lads all on the same page and not photobombing each other was no small feat. Watch to the end to see a typical Broony move (and I mean that in the best possible way).

Jozo out, Wizard in: Unfortunately, one of my favorite Celts — and expert Kenny Miller launcher — Jozo Simunovic goes in for arthroscopic surgery on his knee, and it looks like he’s out for about two months. But while he’s healing up, on Saturday we saw the return of the Wizard of Oz, Tom Rogic. While Rogic wasn’t a factor in the game on Saturday, it’s great to see him taking to the pitch and I hope we will see more of him. As for Jozo, get well soon, big guy!

‘Hamburg is Brown and White’ as FC St. Pauli wins the Hamburg Derby 2-0 over Hamburger SV.

Meanwhile, in Hamburg: Yesterday, in the Hamburg Derby at the Millerntor between home club FC St. Pauli and Hamburger SV, the Boys in Brown played a phenomenal game and came away with a 2-0 win. Judging by some of the tweets by Celtic fans I follow, the derby there rivals the one in Glasgow. The Diamond — Dimitrios Diamantakos — scored one for the Boys in Brown and an own goal sealed it. Sankt Pauli looked very sharp yesterday, and hopefully they can carry this momentum forward to upcoming games.

Going out on a limb: There seems to be some trepidation about the game on Thursday against Stade Rennes, especially with some on one of my favorite online hangouts, Celtic Noise. Well, I have absolutely nothing to base this on other than faith in the club, but I think we come away from France with a 2-1 win before returning to Paradise to meet the squirrels of Kilmarnock on Saturday.

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

A window closes, a door opens

The bewitching hour for the so-called transfer window came and went, and with a flurry of activity — as Cinderella ran from the ball, leaving behind her glass slipper — Celtic roped in a few more players before the window slammed shut, opening the door to 9 and 10 in a row.

Rest easy, Celtic supporters — especially those of you who only functioned in full-panic mode over the last several weeks (and you know who you are).

We did well.

Arguably Celtic had done well over the course of the window prior to the 24 hours before its closing. Though scouting may be an Achilles’ Heel to be remedied (and quickly), the club didn’t panic and, in retrospect, went about its transfer window business in calculating style.

New bhoys on the block — From left to right, top to bottom: Christopher Jullien, Luca Connell, Boli Bolongoli-Mbombo, Hatem Abd Elhamed, Jonathan Afolabi, Fraser Forster, Moritz Bauer, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Greg Taylor, Jeremie Frimpong, and Lee O’Connor.

Early signings Christopher Jullien, Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo, and Hatem Abd Elhamed have fit into the club nicely and have been contributing over the last several games, and it bodes well for latecomers like Moritz Bauer, who was baptized into the Hoops at Ibrox and showed his massive throw-in talent while proving to be Sevco kryptonite against a now out-for-the-season Jordan Jones.

Additionally wearing the Hoops this season are Fraser Forster — returning to Celtic from Southampton and putting in a solid game between the sticks for a clean sheet against Sevco — Luca Connell, Jonathan Afolabi, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Lee O’Connor, Jeremie Frimpong, and former Killie defender Greg Taylor — bet he’s thankful he doesn’t have to play half his games this season on the rug at Rugby Park any longer — bringing his Scottish League experience to the Celtic backfield.

What’s also notable about this transfer window is seeing who stayed, most notably Olivier Ntcham. At one point, Ntcham seemed to be on the way out, but for now he may be putting on a showcase for potential clubs in the event he wants to move on. I sincerely hope he doesn’t, but if that’s his wish and he wants to play top-notch football to attract suitors, who am I to stop him?

And that glass slipper left at the ball? We’ll have to see whether it fits a championship-caliber player when the next window opens. As of now, after a great start to the season, Celtic looks like it’s in great shape for the season.

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