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.

Five takeaways from Celtic-Lazio

With roughly 45 seconds left in extra time, Olivier Ntcham sends the fascist hordes in Rome home in tears as Celtic beats Lazio 2-1 on Thursday. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

So the second of the two good-versus-evil football matches transpired in Rome yesterday, and leave it to a black Muslim Celtic midfielder — Olivier Ntcham — to shut down the team so favored by Mussolini back in the day and so favored by lily-white fascists everywhere — OK, at least fascists in Rome — in the present.

Shut them down with about 45 seconds to spare, no less. Merci beaucoup, Olivier.

The legendary Sandman of The Celtic Noise fame has got his ratings on the game here, and it’s definitely worth a read before you continue. I’m glad to wait.

Now that you’re back, here are five takeaways from the successful conquest of Rome.

1. This team is awesome

While it’s probably obvious that this year’s Celtic team is one of the best in the last several years, it’s not often said enough. Down one goal early to one of Italy’s best teams? Not a problem. James Forrest comes back and evens it up, and in the interim, the Celtic defence tightened up and Fraser Forster lived up to his nickname after allowing a “gimme” at the 7-minute mark. One could easily argue that this team can play with, and beat, anyone anywhere, and that wouldn’t be hyperbole.

2. Neil Lennon is awesome

Try as I might, I’ve been attempting on Twitter to give a “hat tip” to those who are coming out and saying, in effect, “I was wrong about Celtic hiring Neil Lennon.” However, after about the 240th post, I gave up. So here’s a blanket “hat tip” to all of those who have admitted to being wrong to have preferred someone else to lead Celtic — someone who would have used Celtic as a stepping stone to another post — rather than Neil, whose gaffer skills are now hitting their stride with a more-than-able Celtic team and whose dedication and devotion to Celtic, like Julius Caesar’s wife, is above reproach.

3. Olivier Ntcham is awesome

I’m going to bet the mortgage that we’re going to see more of Ntcham in the Celtic lineup after the victory in Rome. Why we don’t see more of him — especially after the missile he sent into the net from about 35 yards out against Partick Thistle, the first of two scores by the Frenchman in that game — is a mystery. But I get it: When you have a club that has got so much talent at midfield, it’s hard to start everyone, though those who have been calling for Callum McGregor or Scott Brown to get some rest might have a good case to put in Ntcham in either one’s place.

4. Chris Sutton is awesome

I get it, BT Sports. You block your video feed to the United States because, well, you want to ignore a potentially huge untapped market in North America with a growing number of “soccer” fans in the U.S., hungry for what you can offer. Well, that’s your loss. But thanks to the modern miracle known as the Internet (and how long the video clip stays up remains to be seen) and thanks to a Twitter user named Adam Lynch, we get what is probably the best call of the season, so far, in Chris Sutton on Ntcham’s goal. A HD version is here. “Wow! Wow! Wow! Rome. Conquered.”

Three things about Ntcham’s goal, and Sutton’s reaction, that deserve special mention: a.) After watching this clip about, oh, 900 times (so far), I have no idea who the Lazio player is passing to, other than Odsonne Edouard, unless he is passing to his teammate to his right; otherwise there is no teammate within about 30 yards of him, b.) the funniest reaction, next to Sutton’s, is that of Mohammed Elyounoussi, who just raises his arms and walks — walks — toward Ntcham while his teammates run past (long game, he’s tired, I get it), and c.) there is no sorrier lot on the planet than the greeting clowns who took to social media calling for BT Sports to fire Sutton for his reaction.

5. Fascism still sucks, and has no place in football

Somewhere on social media, a Celtic fan reposted a tweet from a Lazio fan saying something to the effect of, “I am a Lazio fan, but I hate fascism.” Sorry, mate, but you’re an enabler — maybe an unwitting one — of fascism. If that’s your club, you own them. No excuses. Full stop. You own the goosestepping assclowns marching in Glasgow throwing up Nazi salutes. You own the deaths of Tottenham Hotspur fans several years ago at the hands of your fans. You own the stabbings of three — a third, according to a report late on Thursday when one of the buses carrying fans broke down — Celtic supporters. Rome is a large enough city to have more than one club — Italy itself has hundreds — and if it’s your choice to support a club that embraces fascism while UEFA and FIFA both turn a blind eye to it, then you own it. There’s no place for fascism in football. There’s no place for fascism anywhere, period.

On to a match against Motherhell, sorry Motherwell, on Sunday.

Five takeaways from Celtic-Hibs

Captain, Leader, Legend: Scott Brown scored two goals against Hibernian on Saturday, as the Celts cruised to a 5-2 victory over Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday in the Betfred Cup semifinal. (Photo: The Celtic Star)

To be honest, I really, really like the 12 noon (or thereabouts) kickoff times in Scotland. Yes, I have to drag my sorry butt out of bed at some ungodly pre-sunrise hour, but at least I get to watch the game live and, for the most part, unfettered.

The 5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. Pacific) kickoff puts me right square in the middle of a workday on a Saturday or a Sunday (yes, I work weekends. Don’t ask). And, generally speaking, while the Bhoys seem to excel when I’m away from the screen — thank God for Celtic TV and their rebroadcasts (best $18 a month I’ve ever spent, and I highly recommend it) — I’d really like to be there watching when the action actually happens.

So I get home from a fun-filled work day — yes, that’s sarcasm — and spend two hours watching the game, start to finish, and head over to The Celtic Noise to talk about it with the merry band of forum denizens who have had a head start. One thing I always look forward to is Sandman’s ratings, which are posted first on the Noise and then posted on The Celtic Star; quality analysis and it can only be found here.

But anyway, my five takeaways from the Celtic-Hibernian game are as follows:

1. Captain. Leader. Legend.

Broony. Damn. Just damn. You worry as the seasons pass that a guy who carries the team might– just might — be feeling the trappings of the twilight of his career, and you think to yourself, but dare not say aloud, that he may retire before the 10 in a row. But then he pulls something like this to make you feel like a complete idiot. Two goals. Two brilliant goals, as a matter of fact. And instead of buying just one Broony DVD, you’re tempted to buy a whole case and give them out as Christmas presents (“Here, Mom, Merry Christmas!”) because . . . damn. Scott Brown has definitely earned his place in Celtic history, and the process for commissioning a sculptor to create his statue outside Parkhead should start soon.

2. Mohammed Elyounoussi should stay

Mo Elyounoussi is a goal-scoring machine. Full stop. It must be a blessing to know where to be, showing up at the right place at the right time, as Elyounoussi seems to do. Both of his goals were impeccable, whether it was a header on a cross from James Forrest or a pass from Odsonne Edouard in front of the net (more on this in a bit). I would like to think that the board will pony up the money to keep Big Mo wearing the hoops, but that remains to be seen. One can always hope, no?

3. When Boli is out, an attack vector is lost

First things first: This is not a knock on Jonny Hayes. Hayes is a solid player and can start pretty much on any other team in the league. His speed and ball handling are impeccable, and we’re lucky to have him wearing the Green and White. However, when Boli Bolingoli was taken out at halftime — I understand it’s a hamstring — the Celts lost one of its two threats down both the left and right side that kept Hibs unbalanced for pretty much the first half. Here’s hoping it’s not a serious injury.

4. Unselfish Edouard shares the wealth

No doubt goalkeepers everywhere have nightmares about Odsonne Edouard. Those nightmares — at least the ones that don’t involve the goalkeeper standing in the goal mouth in his underwear — probably consist of Edouard coming down the pitch with the ball and eluding all the goalkeeper’s defenders and delivering a Celtic goal. But add one more layer to this nightmare: French Eddy passing the ball to another Celt for the assist instead. It happened twice against Hibernian: One went to Callum McGregor and the other was on Elyounousi’s second goal. Eddy ended up with a grand total of zero goals and two assists; not that he was complaining. When Edouard approaches the goal, defences start to collapse around him, freeing up one or two teammates who are ready to score. So now, not only do goalkeepers have to worry about Edouard scoring, they have to worry about him passing it away to open teammates.

5. Hibernian is not really that bad

At the moment, Hibernian is staring relegation in the face in the standings. But truth be told, the 5-2 score betrays the fact that they played Celtic fairly strong in the Betfred Cup semifinal. Sure, Celtic should have won 8-2 if not for some unlucky bounces — damn goalposts! — and Melker Halberg was clearly offside in their first goal. But never mind. I am sure that the coaching staff have some positive takeaways from the semifinal game. Also, completely unrelated, “Sunshine on Leith” is a great song — probably second to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as far as football songs go.

Meanwhile, Celtic takes on Nazio — sorry, Lazio — in Rome this week, and it would be great to steal a win away from the fascists.

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.]

Thank you, Socceroos

The Bhoys in Green playing for their respective countries during the International Break.

International break is a challenging period of time in which I have to find a diversion or two (or three) to make up for the lack of Celtic games for the span of nearly two weeks. A daunting task, to be sure, but because I haven’t really paid attention to baseball all summer — shocking, I know — and because now that the Oakland Athletics are out of the playoff running, there’s really nothing to watch.

Maybe I’ll sign up for Netflix.

In the past, the International Break has involved watching a lot of YouTube videos of Celtic, like the ’67 European Cup Finals or Henrik Larsson’s Greatest Celtic Hits or All the Celtic Goals by Shunsuke Nakamura (and I never, never get tired of watching his first goal against Rangers where he made Allan McGregor look like an idiot). Now that I have Celtic TV, maybe I can dig around there for some uncovered gems.

Also, I can watch the Bhoys in Green playing for Scotland as well, which I will certainly do, though I understand that I should brace myself. Nevertheless, I trust Steve Clarke to do the best job at the helm, and I know Celts Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Ryan Christie, and Greg Taylor will be up to the task.

But more importantly — perhaps most importantly — I want to thank the Socceroos in Australia for only taking Daniel Arzani to play for the Aussies, and leaving Tom Rogic to continue his recovery so he can regain his prior form and be the force in the midfield that he has been in the past.

Tom Rogic, the Wizard of Oz.

I know that it could be a disappointment for Rogic not to make the national team, and I empathize with the Wizard of Oz. However, as history shows, Rogic always returns from international duty dinged up, to put it mildly, and hopefully his break from the rigors of international play will bode well for upcoming games for Celtic.

Meanwhile, Odsonne Edouard dons the jersey of “Les Bleus” and plays for France, and the Norwegians get the services of Mohammed Elyounoussi and Kris Ajer. Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed suit up for the Israeli team, while Ireland’s U21s get the services of Lee O’Connor and Jonathan Afolabi. Northern Ireland’s U21s features Conor Hazard and Liam Hughes.

[62 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: High. Rolling blackouts imminent.]

5 Takeaways from the Cluj game

The Green Brigade’s display at Celtic Park was nothing short of awesome: The Muhammad Ali quote, “Ain’t northing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”

Well, we’ve put the Transylvanians in their place, finally — a wooden stake through the heart of Cluj in a 2-0 victory at Celtic Park on Thursday. For a recap of the game from the one and only Sandman of Celtic Noise fame, go here.

So, let’s look at five items from the game on Thursday.

1. Best. Transfer. Window. Ever.

Remember several weeks ago when some people were standing at the top of tall buildings, looking down and contemplating a swan dive over the fact that Celtic hadn’t signed anyone? Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth by some of the so-called Celtic faithful who repeatedly dumped on the club because we hadn’t yet signed Messi? Well, you can see the results of Celtic’s very, very, very successful transfer window in this game: Hatem Elhamed is a beast in the Celtic backfield, Boli Bolingoli has gotten his centering passes down (or up, in the case of the one to Odsonne Edouard on Eddy’s header for 1-0 bhoys), and Christopher Jullien will get those headers to go in sooner or later, hopefully sooner moreso than later.

Mohammed Elyounoussi scored in the second half to put the game away for Celtic on Thursday.

But Mohammed Elyounoussi . . . wow. Mo played a hell of a game against Cluj and finally got the ball in the back of the net. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t textbook — in fact it glanced off a Cluj player. But that’s irrelevant, as it’s point scored and game on. Just as Jullien, Elhamed and Bolingoli have all started to click, the Cluj game was Elyounoussi’s coming-out party and hopefully he’ll be contributing to Celtic’s ongoing success.

2. Scott Brown, the enforcer

First things first: From kickoff, Scott Brown was taking no shit, period, full-stop. It was pretty clear that if there was a Cluj face to be in, Broony was in it. Hell, if there was a referee’s face to be in, Broony was in it, too! And more power to him; clearly, opponents are going to try to exploit the players who are — how can we put this tactfully? — a little long in the tooth, and SFA refs being what they are, I adds, with my voice trailing off and my shoulders in shrug mode . . . . Brown showed why he is truly the Captain/Leader/Legend we know him to be.

Something I always think about when Scott Brown comes up in conversation, or while watching him play, is that he was born and raised in Dunfermline. My grandfather, too, was born and raised in Dunfermline, and while my grandfather’s midfielding skills probably left a lot to be desired, a happy demeanor atop a tough personality, that he and Broony share, is not lost on me.

3. Ryan Christie, the machine

To be honest, I hated to see Neil Lennon take Ryan Christie out of Thursday’s game. For all he did, I really wanted to see Christie score. But I certainly understand. Christie has been a force of nature — in a good way — ever since the start of the season, and Thursday was no exception. Check that, Thursday WAS an exception, since Number 17 just did not stop. For me, so far, he’s the player of the year for Celtic if he keeps up this pace. He is definitely going to be a headache for opposing defenses as the season continues, and that can only be good news for us.

4. Hail Hail to the Green Brigade

Muhammad Ali is a hero for the ages; a man who stood on principle despite losing everything when he defied the U.S. government when drafted to fight the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, and gained it all back through his talent in the ring. So when the Green Brigade quoted Ali in their display on Thursday, it almost brought me to tears. Great job and hail hail, Green Brigade — one of the best displays ever.

5. We should all be this kid

This kid — according to YouTube, his name is Joshua Adams — posted highlights from an earlier game, Partick Thistle I think — but he also posted highlights from the Cluj game. And starting with his a capella version of “Celtic Symphony,” he broadcasts nearly 10 minutes of highlights from Thursday’s game. The great thing about the video is we can hear him cheer and sing along during the game. We should all have the same enthusiasm for Celtic as Joshua. Give him a follow on YouTube, too.

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