Oh, Hampden in the Rain…

Celtic goalkeeper and demigod Fraser Forster and gaffer Neil Lennon hoist the Betfred Scottish League Cup as champions of the Scottish League after Celtic defeated The Rangers 1-0 at Hampden.

There I was, laying in bed on Sunday morning looking up at the red 3:45 on the alarm clock. The internal alarm clock always says, “Get up, it’s game day” at this time, despite the fact that 5,000 miles away, the game is starting in another four hours.

I turn, lie awake and then try closing my eyes, begging my system for a few extra hours of sleep. No such luck, it’s game day.

So, I’m up. Today’s game is like no other this season — the Scottish League Cup, which now as a first name, Betfred, thanks to sponsorship– being played between the club like no other versus the club that really shouldn’t even exist.

Shower, suit up, coffee, and let’s put on the F.C. St Pauli game before sunrise to pass the time (sadly, they lost, and generally they’re having a pretty mediocre season so far). Breakfast? No. Too nervous to eat. Coffee, black, will have to do for now.

By my count, the game was 96 minutes and 47 seconds of abject terror and unmitigated aggravation until the final whistle. You’ve all read the game reports by now, no doubt, and naturally here’s The Sandman’s ratings for the game which, as always, are worth a read. But as usual, I have five takeaways from the Betfred Scottish League Cup final, which Celtic won 1-0 over The Rangers as follows:

1. Sign Fraser Forster right now

Oh. My. God. If anyone deserves a statue right now, it’s Fraser Forster. It could be simple: Not a statue of the man, arms aloft, awaiting a corner, but just a brick wall in front of a goal mouth. Simple and quick. His play today was the stuff of which legends are made. That said, like signing Neil Lennon the day after the Treble Treble, Peter Lawwell needs to open the tin and get Fraser Forster signed as a Celt right now. I don’t care if it is past 11 p.m. in Scotland as I write this, wake them both up, offer The Wall a king’s ransom, and keep him in the Hoops. The icing on the cake in Sunday’s game, or the jelly with the ice cream, was Forster’s fantastic save on El Muffalo’s non-penalty penalty. Poetic justice and karma came together and were wrapped with a nice bow.

If Lawwell balks, let’s start a GoFundMe to raise money to sign Forster. I will even put my car up for sale and donate the money. I would gladly use public transit exclusively if it meant keeping the kind of goalkeeping that Forster provides game in and game out for Celtic.

2. Jullien utilise son pied, pas sa tĂȘte

Irony. It’s when Christopher Jullien spends much of his time using his height advantage to try to score headers game after game after game this season, only to hit the back of the net Sunday with a flick of his right foot for the only goal in the game. And it was a beauty. What adds to it is the wailing and gnashing of teeth by The Rangers complaining that he was offside through their tears. He wasn’t. You see, cheating only works one way, The Rangers way, and this, my friends, is a perfect example of karma.

3. Morelos so wants to be Edouard

First thing first: A shout-out to Jeremie Frimpong, who was one of the bright spots for Celtic for the better part of 60 minutes or so, until the referee had nothing better to do than red-card him. In fact, there’s one video of Jeremie mixing it up with Alfredo Morelos, and the lad is not backing down. Pure Celtic, that Jeremie.

But wait, look at that video again. What’s that on Morelos’ hand? Does he have his hand taped up like . . . hmm, which other striker in Scotland has a hand injury and has his hand taped up? Poor Alfredo, so far from God and so close to Celtic, against whom he has yet to score, even when the referees try to help.

4. Some quick math

A quick one for our friends who are mathematically inclined:

10 Celts > 11 Rangers

Class dismissed.

5. Meanwhile, in the Lustig household …

Before the game, there was a nice post from Josefin Lustig on Twitter about how she and her husband, KAA Gent defender and former Celtic policeman Mikael Lustig, were going to enjoy a day off together and watch the game. Of course, when El Muffalo missed his penalty shot, this was the scene in the Lustig household, which goes to show that Mikael’s heart is still green and white. I still miss the Mad Viking playing for the Hoops, and I don’t care who knows it.

Last, but not least, this is the top candidate for my Christmas card this year (yes, I know “Seasons” needs an apostrophe, but I can fix that later). Thanks, BT Sports!

We had a bad game today, but we still prevailed. That’s why we’re champions. On to Cluj later this week. Hail Hail, all.

Five takeaways from Celtic-Livi

Let’s all do the Broony: Scott Brown got one to go in yesterday against Livingston, when he wasn’t slapping around Lyndon Dykes for most of the game, in Celtic’s 4-0 victory. Photo: The Celtic Star

Revenge is a dish best served cold, as the saying goes. And enough time has passed between the last game with Livingston and Saturday’s match that the 4-0 thumping of Livi was an entirely welcome treat. For an in-depth analysis on the game, you’ll want to read what The Sandman has to say about it here, but my five takeaways from the match are as follows.

1. Jeremie Frimpong: 21st Century Jinky

There. I said it. I know it might be heresy, but I don’t care: If you watch old clips of Jimmy Johnstone and then watch Jeremie Frimpong play this season, you can see the resemblance. It’s uncanny. Just as Jinky tied up defenders in knots with his ball-handling skills, leaving them in the proverbial dust, so does young Jeremie. No amount of jersey grabbing or hard tackles, as Frimpong experienced yesterday, can stop the kid. In a transfer window that has garnered so much talent, his signing is probably the best of the lot. That’s saying much in the face of acquisitions like Fraser Forster, Hatem Elhamed and Mohammed Elyounoussi. Now, as Scott Brown attests to here in jest, if only the kid works on his shooting skills . . . .

2. Scott Brown scorching the scoresheet

Captain. Leader. Legend. DVD star. Goal-scoring machine. Yep, that just about sums it up in describing Scott Brown, as “the captain” — as he’s called to an annoying degree on the Celtic TV play-by-play broadcasts — has a new-found, and completely welcome, propensity for hitting the back of the net. On a personal note, watching the game in my office on Saturday morning, when Brown scored, I did the Broony and knocked three binders off a shelf in the process. All of which is to say, I can easily get used to Broony scoring, as well as picking up binders from my office floor every time he does.

3. Welcome back, Griff

Truth be told, every time Leigh Griffiths gets onto the pitch, I hold my breath. There’s a lot of pressure there to perform at the level in which he is capable, and my main concern is that it doesn’t do him in. Though I’m not his Dad or anything, there are few things in life that I want more than to have Griff play up to his potential of games past. Though he did not end up on the scoresheet yesterday, his run against Livi showed a lot of promise, and the timing on some great passes to him yesterday will come in the next game or two. Welcome back, hunskelper!

James ‘Flash’ Forrest on his way to one of two goals in yesterday’s game against Livingston. Photo: The Celtic Noise

4. Flash: King of the impossible

Yes, I’m going to buy the book. Yes, I will go see the movie, when they make it. James Forrest is quietly awesome in his own right, being at the right place at the right time and making things happen on the pitch for so many years for Celtic. Yesterday was no exception, with two goals to his credit. He needs a song, and the same folks who came up with an adaptation to the Stone Roses “I Wanna Be Adored” for Edouard should put on their thinking caps and adapt a song for Jamesy, to this maybe . . . ?

5. Greg Taylor is a welcome addition

Greg Taylor hit the post on what possibly could have been a deflection on his first shot on goal for Celtic, which is a pity because it would have been great for him to have scored his first Celtic goal yesterday. Watching Taylor yesterday, I have a confession to make: I had serious reservations about signing him because, to be honest, a.) I didn’t like him very much at Kilmarnock, and b.) I thought taking on Taylor was a “panic signing” as the club hemorrhaged defenders. But if you would kindly pass me that plate of crow, I will gladly eat it while completely admitting I was wrong about him. And then I’ll apologize to Taylor.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch the Celtic Christmas video again — I just can’t get enough. On to the Stade Rennes game on Thursday which, as an aside, is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

A Takeaway from Aberdeen-Celtic

No truer words were spoken: The hosts at Aberdeen got a high-pressure pumping by the Celts on Sunday, as the Bhoys in Green cruised to a 4-0 victory at Pittodrie.

First things first: My apologies for this late post. Thanks to the power company Pacific Gas & Electric, which had turned off the power in my area “for my safety” on Saturday night (turning it back on again last night), I had to scramble to find a place with power and Internet connectivity on Sunday to watch the Aberdeen-Celtic game.

At 5 a.m.

A shout out to the Satellite Felton workspace, located at the traffic light (Felton only has one, two if you count the one on Graham Hill Road and Mount Hermon — and the former road is named after the actual hill here, not the British Formula 1 driver of the same name), which had both power and connectivity.

Thanks to the modern miracle that is Celtic TV — I am completely serious — I re-watched the game finally this afternoon; the game that I came in late on early Sunday morning. It was as awesome as it was on Sunday morning, but a second look at the game led me to notice something really awe inspiring.

It wasn’t Jeremie Frimpong’s goal, though it was great to see the lad score his first for the Celts, and to see how well the talented young lad is fitting in with the club. He’s definitely a keeper.

It wasn’t the fact that Celtic dominated the game from start to finish. That’s always a welcome sight, no matter who the opponent is. And, of course, thrashing some opponents is better than thrashing others.

But I wanted to go back to the first half, at around the 17-minute mark, where Celtic ended up passing the ball 46 times, by my count, before ending up with a corner. This was not the “death of a thousand passes” that was so loved by the former manager, now at Leicester City. Under the former manager, where 46 passes might — might — have gotten the ball to midfield.

This was pure ball-handling artistry — a game of keep-away that was frustrating Aberdeen — which I hope Celtic will continue during the course of the season. Add to this the 14-pass sequence before James Forrest’s goal — started after a sixth pass was intercepted by an Aberdeen player and his first pass was picked off by Frimpong to start the sequence — and you have a ball-control nirvana that any team would die for.

Also, it was great to see Kris Ajer and Christoper Jullien playing up. Ajer and Scott Brown literally had acres of space to run during the course of the game, and both took advantage of it, while Aberdeen hunkered down in defense in their own side of the pitch.

It’s play like this that make me proud to be a Celtic fan, even if I have to get up before sunrise and, in Sunday’s case, scramble for a place to watch.

Mon the hoops!

Obligatory match report: If you’re not on Celtic Noise talking about all things Celtic, you should be there. Right now. One bonus is the match rundowns from the celebrated Sandman, which are first posted on Celtic Noise, you can find on The Celtic Star here.

Now it’s on to St. Mirren tomorrow at Parkhead. Keep it up, bhoys!

5 Takeaways from Ross County

First things first: If you haven’t been reading the ratings following each Celtic game by the Celtic Noise poster known as Sandman, you should. This fine fellow usually hits the nail on the proverbial head every game, and his observations — with the wit and wisdom only the Sandman can provide — are always of the highest quality.

[Also, if you’re a Celtic supporter and you’re not on the Celtic Noise forum, you should be. A lot of news and insight can be found there, along with some non-Celtic banter as well. Tell ’em “lcafiero” sent you.]

As for Saturday’s game, Ross County held on for as long as they could in the first half after a stunning attack by Celtic, only to have the floodgates break open at the beginning of the second half, where Celtic cruised to a 6-0 win.

Five takeaways from the game are as follows:

1. Thanks, Manchester City

An observation: There are few clubs south of the border in the Premier League that are, as of today, more soulless than Manchester City. It may not have always been so, but it appears on the surface that they said, “Jeremie who? Yeah, whatever,” before letting young dynamo Jeremie Frimpong leave for the Hoops. And there are probably a few — several? a score, maybe? — Man City fans who are bemoaning the fact that he’s no longer at that club, but their loss is our gain. No doubt Frimpong’s moves on the pitch has sent more than one Ross County player to the trainer’s table to treat a twisted ankle, and his assist on James Forrest’s goal was a gem. The kid looks like he’s got a promising career with the club.

2. Welcome back, Wizard

Tom Rogic gave the Celts a full 90 minutes on Saturday — when was the last time we could say that? While it was pretty much an unremarkable game for Rogic — a few opportunities missed, and a couple of miscues which could be credited to “shaking off the rust” — one facet of his game stood out against Ross County: defence. The Wizard was on the receiving end of several of turnovers by Ross County, which as it turned out constantly kept the Staggies on their heels. Great to see the big Aussie performing on both offence and defence, and clearly it’s been a long time coming. Welcome back, big guy!

Dude, where’s my goal? Mo Elyounoussi, left, scored a second goal at the 72-minute mark on a cross — or a shot — by Boli Bolingoli, right. Scott Brown joins the celebration.

3. Dude, where’s my goal?

It’s great to see Mohammed Elyounoussi starting to get into the swing of things for Celtic. He’s definitely a welcome addition to the club and, sure, I’m even willing to give him a pass for saying that his Norse countryman Kris Ajer may go on to bigger and better things someday — is there any argument there, as much as we’d like The Big Viking to stay at Parkhead? But I have to draw the line when Elyounoussi starts stealing goals: Boli Bolingoli took a shot late in the game, around the 72-minute mark, that could have been his first goal as a Celt; except that shot was deflected into the goal by Mo Elyounoussi. No doubt that was part of the discussion during the celebration of Mo’s second goal . . . .

[I kid: Mo’s second goal was a great deflection, but I’m still waiting for Boli to get his first.]

4. Damn that post!

Chances are this is a direct quote from Callum McGregor after his shot in the first half glanced cleanly off the post, and Odsonne Edouard couldn’t get the rebound to go in. It matters little, because in the fusillade of shots that finally went in at the beginning of the second half, McGregor got his goal back. Which leads us to our fifth takeaway . . .

5. Ross County: New kids on the block

Ross County played better than the score would indicate. That may sound funny coming on the heels of a 6-0 drubbing, but hear me out: As the new kids on the block, so to speak, in the Premiership, Ross County had every expectation to come to Parkhead with stag-in-the-headlights sensibilities. But they hung in with the treble champions for 45 minutes, at least, and Ross County keeper Ross Laidlaw (say that three times quickly) made some pretty remarkable saves in the first half. Laidlaw and a Ross County defender — or defenders — lurking in the goal mouth in the right place at the right time prevented Celtic from being up at least 3-0 at the half; specifically a Christopher Jullien header and a rebound from a shot by Bolingoli, both successfully cleared. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due, and while you have to play a game for the full 90 minutes (86, so says Steven Gerrard, if you play for The Rangers™), Ross County clamped down pretty hard on the Hoops for awhile there, and while lessons were learned, hopefully they will recognize that there are some positives to come out of this thrashing.

But note, Ross County: Nir Bitton can kick anyone’s ass on your team, either individually or collectively. Please keep that in mind.

[Blogger’s note: My apologies for this post being so late. After a power outage last week, my WordPress settings have been hell to fix, and I finally got it up and running yesterday. Also, because we are no longer in fire season here — but not yet out of the woods, so to speak — I am going to forgo the wildfire threat level posts at the end of each blog item, resuming it in the spring.]

5 takeaways from Wednesday

Spending a hot Wednesday morning trying to stay cool here in Central California was made even more difficult — in the best possibly way, mind you — when Celtic turned up the heat on Wednesday evening in Glasgow, when the Bhoys in Green cruised to a 5-0 win over Partick Thistle at Paradise.

Bayo scored, Tom Rogic scored, Olivier Ntcham scored twice and Scott Sinclair came off the bench to score. In his first league game, Jeremie Frimpong gets the Man of the Match. You can read a recap of the game here (and for the legendary Sandman’s report, the PG version, click here), and you can continue to the next paragraph and beyond for five takeaways from Wednesday’s game, like . . .

1. The Wizard goes the distance

Tom Rogic came into the game on Sunday against Kilmarnock, seeing his first action after a long absence due to injury, and was not a factor. Some (not me) said that he looked lethargic, but all I remember from Sunday was gritting my teeth after he was taken down by a hard tackle late in the game.

Well, the Wizard came back for a full 90-minute shift against Partick Thistle and scored at the 46-minute mark. That’s fantastic news for Celtic supporters everywhere, giving Neal Lennon more options at midfield. Hopefully we see more of Rogic during the course of the season.

2. MOTM is not Olivier Ntcham?

Don’t get me wrong: I love this kid. Jeremie Frimpong had a storybook start to his professional career on Wednesday, starting his first game for Celtic and playing remarkably well. But with Olivier Ntcham scoring twice — the second goal a real scorcher, too — doesn’t he at least deserve honorable mention?

OK, I get it. Olivier Ntcham’s snub for MOTM on Wednesday could very well be his punishment for acting like a jerk earlier this season, when he was looking to play elsewhere. Fine. Lesson learned. Now that this is out of our system, we can only hope that he plays every game from here on in like he did on Wednesdsay, and racks up Man of the Match honors going forward.

3. More Hayes, more Sinclair, more subs

If having an overabundance of choices can create headaches for a gaffer, then someone please hand Neil Lennon this bottle of migraine tablets. With all the talent that Celtic has, it has got to be a chore to pick the right lineups and have them firing on all cylinders in every game, let alone knowing when to pull a player and replace him with another (and Lenny addresses this a bit in his post-game interview).

So thank God we’ve got such remarkable talent on the bench. Although Jonny Hayes started on Wednesday — and a successful argument can be made for starting him more often — he is usually a boost off the bench, as he showed against the Rangers at Ibrox a few weeks ago. Scott Sinclair, who lately has been keeping the pine warm (sorry, a baseball expression), showed his talent of games past after coming into the game on Wednesday, and there’s no reason why he can’t be a weapon off the bench, unless of course he finds his form from seasons past and breaks into the starting 11.

4. How about Bayo and Edouard up front?

Now that we’ve gotten a good look at Bayo on Wednesday, could I be the only one who finds the potential of both Bayo and Odsonne Edouard playing up front, at the same time, a source of sheer ecstacy? I mean, seriously — who in the Scottish Premiership could stop this dynamic duo? Oh, and one more thing . . .

5. It’s not ‘Patrick’ Thistle, you idiot!

Just hand me that pointy hat that says “DUNCE” on it and I’ll go ahead and make my way to that seat in the corner of the classroom. For the last few days, in social media and in correspondence, I have to confess that I have been writing “Patrick Thistle” instead of the club’s actual name, which is Partick Thistle. My apologies to the club, and I’ll do my best Emily Litella impersonation: “Never mind.”

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