Ange and the press

One of the most remarkable facets of Celtic’s season so far has not been any particular performance on the pitch, but rather Ange Postecoglou’s performance off it, specifically dealing with the Scottish sports media.

Ange Postecoglou’s performance behind the microphone is one of several breaths of fresh air for Celtic FC this season.

Apparently, the Australian gaffer has taken to heart the words of warning from The Celtic Star’s editor when the gaffer met with non-mainstream media — that’s us, the bloggers and podcasters and the like — early in the season, when Postecoglou was told at the outset he’d have rough sailing with the Scottish mainstream media’s sports writers.

Coupled with the fact that, collectively, the sports writers and pundits in the Scottish press have the unique distinction of being a bigger joke than the SPFL officiating — clearly no small feat there — and Postecoglou’s performances behind the microphone have been, to this day, flawless.

On a personal note, the news media is something I know a little about. Until 2014 when I was part of the last layoff at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I had been in news field — in various capacities and on two continents — since the day Jimmy Carter was inaugurated president. That would be 20 January 1977, for those of you keeping score at home.

That said, I think I speak with a degree of authority on the topic when I say, by any journalistic standard, the bias in both the reporting and punditry in Scotland when it comes to professional football is an embarrassment only eclipsed by the state of disrepair in the game itself. On all levels — from the daily newspapers to the BBC, initials which can now easily stand for “Billy Boys Channel” — the nature of distrust that, ironically, has replaced the hallmark of journalistic integrity serves as a cautionary tale not only in football, but the news industry’s role in society as a whole.

The fact that Ange Postecoglou is not having any of it is absolutely refreshing. Compare any Postcoglou press conference with that of his predecessor, whose fumbling through the questions was literally painful, and you can see that the Celtic manager is all business, all the while not suffering the media’s fools — of which, unfortunately, there are many. Ange’s straightforward manner and tell-it-like-it-is addressing of questions that are completely nonsensical is a breath of fresh air in the staleness that has become commonplace in SPFL coverage.

Celtic did themselves a favor — and can continue to do so — by allowing more access to non-mainstream media outlets in order to provide a more balanced and nuanced coverage of the club; coverage that is, and has been, clearly lacking in the mainstream media.

But meanwhile, there is this: Angeball is great, but Angepress is better.

Anyway, tomorrow we have Ferencvarosi TC at Celtic Park at the odd Tuesday kickoff time of 3 p.m. (7 a.m. here on the U.S. West Coast), so I hope we can grab a win in this Europa match.

One more thing

Speaking of the Europa League, one of Celtic’s opponents in the current group — Bayer Leverkusen — had its lunch eaten by Bayern Munich yesterday in their Bundesliga match, when Bayern scored five in the first half. I watched another match yesterday while that one was going on — Hammarby and AIK in the Allsvenskan, the Stockholm Derby featuring ex-Celt Mikael Lustig, which Hammarby won 1-0 — but thanks to the modern miracle of ESPN+, I was able to watch a replay of the first half of the Bayer-Bayern game.

Putting aside for a moment that Bayern is near perfection when it comes to 90 minutes of football or that even I could manage Bayern to the Bundesliga championship with their depth of talent, Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky — a proverbial thorn in Celtic’s side as of late — really couldn’t be faulted for the first three goals which seemed to come from woeful defensive miscues, while the other two could be placed squarely on his shoulders. There was even one Celtic-like Bayern shot that glanced off the post, so it could have been 6-0 easily at the first half.

The point here is that while Leverkusen could be Celtic’s strongest opponent in our Europa League group, Hradecky’s bad day at the office should not be misconstrued as anything but that, and Die Werkself are still an overwhelming adversary in advancing to the next stage.

Mon the Hoops!

Break’s over: Back to work

Temporary opponents, permanent teammates: Japan’s Kyogo Furuhashi and Australia’s Tom Rogic meet up after their international match, which Japan won.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows how I feel about the International Break. For the uninitiated, though, let me just repeat that I hate it — while I understand it’s a player’s duty to participate on behalf of their country, the idea that they might come back to their club injured keeps me awake literally for the entire time, especially where the Bhoys are concerned.

Having said this, it’s a sincere source of joy — and restful sleep on the nights before Saturday’s match against Motherhell, sorry Motherwell, — that it appears the Hoops playing abroad, and even those playing for Scotland, will return relatively unscathed to resume the SPFL season for the Green and White.

This is obviously good news.

Travel fatigue aside — and the match sharpness that it removes from those returning from far away lands — the fact that Celtic returns to the pitch as strong as when the team left it is a good sign going forward. And in the advent of returning players like Christopher Jullien and James Forrest, all signs point to a stronger lineup going forward both in the SPFL and Europa realms.

It bodes well for Celtic to kickstart a run from the middle of the table to the top, where we belong.

One more thing

I don’t know how the rumor got started, let alone how it got legs — or how it got wings, for that matter (though I can imagine . . .) — but the latest that’s floating around is energy-drink giant Red Bull aims to either sponsor, or outright buy, Celtic FC.

If Red Bull is choosing to sponsor Celtic, swapping out the problematic Dafabet gambling sponsorship for nothing more innocuous than a corporate presence on the jersey, maybe a stadium name-change, and any other corporate trappings that sponsorship might provide, then I’m pretty much OK with it.

But if Red Bull is talking ownership, then I personally have a problem with that. A corporate takeover — however above-board and noble — flies in the face of the club’s founding, no matter how successful Red Bull’s entries in international football have become.

As an aside, it makes all those jokes about New York Celtic — the New York Red Bulls purloining the likes of Patryk Klimala, Andrew Gutman, and Cameron Harper — a little less funny at this point.

But it’s conjecture at this point — clickbait, to be sure — but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

Saturday at Fir Park, 7 a.m. Pacific time (thank you for the 3 p.m. kickoff, guys!). And if you’re a Celtic fan going to the game, Motherwell FC is holding a food bank collection, so if you can bring something to add, that would be great. Bring a can of beans, or something, for me.

Mon the Hoops!

Dear Neil Doncaster . . .

[Blogger’s note: I wrote this letter yesterday, put it down before going to sleep, and picked it up again this morning. After making a few changes, I printed it out and put it in the mail only a few minutes ago — great timing since my letter carrier arrived at the same time I was heading to the post office — and depending on how our damaged United States Postal Service (led by a Trump appointee) handles the letter, it may make it to Scotland sometime within the two or three weeks. However, here is the letter, verbatim.]

4 October 2021

Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive Officer
The Scottish Professional Football League
Hampden Park
Glasgow G42 9DE
Scotland

Dear Mr. Doncaster:

As a matter of introduction, my name is Larry Cafiero, and I am a football fan in the United States who has followed the Scottish Professional Football League since 2017 in my capacity as a supporter of one of its member clubs, Celtic FC. Insofar as my experience as a fan may be limited compared to others who may have followed the football in your league for much longer, allow me nonetheless to point out a situation that needs your immediate attention.

Mr. Doncaster, you have a problem. While it’s true that we all have problems, yours affects tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions, of football fans worldwide. It’s a phenomenally huge problem that, if not addressed immediately, is certain to hemorrhage football fans outside Scotland – and possibly within Scotland as well – from following your league.

No doubt you already know this: You cannot allow the inept level of officiating to continue in the SPFL. For the sake of argument, I will merely refer to the level of skewed officiating as inept; however many, both in Scotland and elsewhere, have made a very strong and compelling case for the officiating at Scotland’s highest level to be not so much inept as much as it is corrupt.

Of course, ineptitude can include corruption, but you cannot be corrupt and inept at the same time, at least not successfully. But I digress.

It was the great Jock Stein who said, “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.” However, contextually speaking – and this is how I, and others, interpret this quote – Stein was referring to officiating that is fair and objective in its execution. It’s beyond crystal clear that you don’t have that in the SPFL this season, and for all intents and purposes, you didn’t have it last season either.

The latest in the sky-high pile of “honest mistakes” was the red card on Hibernian’s Ryan Porteous on Sunday. Putting aside the fact that the challenge successfully separated the ball from the player in question, it bears noting that Ryan Porteous has only received two red cards in his SPFL career, both received from the same official, Nick Walsh, and both received in games where Hibernian played Rangers (source: Transfermrkt.com).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Can you, in all honesty, tell me with a straight face that this is a coincidence, one of hundreds this season and last? Would you really try to convince me, and thousands of other football fans, that this, and so many other calls made and not made, are really just “honest mistakes”?

To list all the “honest mistakes” in Rangers’ favour this season and last would make this letter the size of the Oxford English Dictionary, so I’ll spare you. You’re welcome. But in the meantime, this situation has reached a tipping point where your league has lost most, possibly all, its officiating credibility. Needless to say, this does not reflect well on the SPFL, and its effect on casting Scottish football in a negative light spills over Scotland’s borders.

In other words, it’s not a local problem for the SPFL. It’s global.

Here’s my perspective, from 5,000 miles away: I have a larger than normal group of football-loving friends here in the United States with whom I converse, many on a daily basis, and the general consensus here on Scottish football is this: It’s corrupt, and in its corruption the SPFL is relegated to a backwater status in the eyes of many of my American contemporaries watching and following football abroad.

Even recently, an acquaintance said to me in conversation about Scottish football: “It’s a joke. I’d rather watch the Allsvenskan.” And while admittedly this comes from a guy who my friends and I describe as a “Bundesliga snob” and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with Swedish football, I had nothing concrete to point to in order to counter his argument, because he is right: The SPFL, as it stands right now, cannot be taken seriously when only one club – a nine-year-old club at that – solely benefits from what appears on the surface to be a skewed officiating policy that consistently, and without fail, rules in their favour.

The choice is yours: As the league’s chief executive, you can fix this and make Scottish football respectable again. Or you can do nothing and contribute to its continued atrophy. It’s a simple choice, and I know you’re smart enough to make the right choice.

To be realistic, if I were a gambling man I would wager that this letter doesn’t make it past your secretary. Or your secretary’s secretary, for that matter. Regardless, while I don’t have the answers, I do have what I think may be the start of one.

Let me suggest this: You may want to try employing FIFA/UEFA officials from outside Scotland to officiate SPFL games. See if that works in the way of restoring objectivity and, in the process, credibility.

It goes without saying, but it bears repeating, that this credibility would foster respect, returning Scottish football to the status it once held — and a status it deserves — as one of Europe’s best; a justified respect for the Scottish game in both Scotland and beyond.

Football fans of every SPFL club deserve the best football officiating the league can provide. Of course, that can be said for any league in any country. That’s not happening right now at Scotland’s top level.

But it can be.

It’s your move, sir.

Sincerely,

Larry Cafiero
[street address]
[city, state, post code]
[country]
[blog post address]

Putting Harry Hood on the shelf

Those who know me, to any degree, know that I hate to repeat myself. Let me emphasize this loudly for those in the back who may have missed it: I hate to be redundant.

So there.

In bookstores soon, but don’t let that stop you from pre-ordering an autographed copy here. . .

But even after writing about Harry Hood’s American tour of duty with the San Antonio Thunder in an earlier blog post, this post bears repeating because Matt Corr — Celtic historian and author, master of Celtic European travelogues, and Celtic Star colleague extraordinaire, among other accomplishments — has written a definitive and official biography of the man they said was “twice as good,” and hence part of the title.

Corr’s previous efforts with Celtic Star Books have been outstanding. “Invincible” outlines in great detail the first of the Quadruple Treble seasons where Celtic went unbeaten (and, in a truth-in-advertising moment, I’ve also written about it here). And I have to admit to being remiss in not mentioning earlier how great his other book with Celtic Star Books is — that being “Walfrid and the Bould Boys” that he wrote with David Potter and Liam Kelly — in which the trio plumbs the depths of Celtic’s infancy to outline the foundation of the club we support today.

With the holidays right around the corner, I have to confess that getting an Ange Postecoglou black sweater/jumper is on the top of my list for Santa, but second definitely would be Corr’s book.

But for those of you who may want to forego the Ange sweater/jumper — because, unlike me, you may not share the Aussie gaffer’s physique — you can pre-order the book from The Celtic Star Bookstore already at this link. Bear in mind that pre-orders come with an autographed copy of the book once it’s delivered to you.

As an aside, in this upcoming holiday season, what could possibly be better than Elf on a Shelf?

Wait for it . . . Hood on the Wood.

Ba-da-bum.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress . . .

Mon the Hoops!

Happy half-century, Henrik

In his Celtic debut, he made an errant pass leading to the Celts’ defeat to Hibs. Then an own goal in a European match. Had Twitter existed at the time, they would have crucified him, but instead Henrik Larsson became the King of Kings.

Outside of his family and the most dyed-in-the-wool Hibernian supporters, Chic Charnley scoring on an errant pass from Henrik Larsson during Larsson’s debut with the Hoops, leading to a 2-1 Hibs win, is not remembered or talked about by many.

Also, few people remember Celtic’s 6-3 win in Europe against FC Tyrol Innsbruck where, in his first Euro match in the Hoops, Larsson “scored” an own-goal for the now-defunct Austrian club.

Yet if Twitter had existed in the late ’90s when Larsson got his start with Celtic, can you imagine the hue and cry from the Celtic Twitter’s Whine Brigade, armed with torches and pitchforks at 280 characters per post?

Despite an inauspicious start, the history books — and the record books — tell a tale of near perfection for Larsson during his playing career at Celtic. Not only was he one of Celtic’s best players, historically speaking, he is also one of Sweden’s best ever.

For the Hoops, though, Larsson averaged 34 goals and 16 assists in each of his seven seasons, even missing the majority of the 1999-2000 season with a broken leg. He drove Celtic to four SPFL league titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups. Every Celtic fan can tell you that sealed the deal on one league championship with an opening goal against St. Johnstone in the final game of the 1997-98 season to keep Rangers from 10 titles in a row. He was the SPFL’s top scorer for five of his seven seasons.

So it’s no surprise today that on Larsson’s 50th birthday, there is a tsunami of well-deserved outpouring of love and respect on social media and elsewhere for the Celtic legend who is now an assistant coach for FC Barcelona. Celtic TV has a series of videos, available to subscribers only (thanks a lot!), of Larsson’s greatest hits during his time at the Hoops. The rest of us will have to go to YouTube or pick up videos posted on social media.

The fact remains: If anyone pesonifies Celtic excellence in the last quarter-century, it’s Henrik Larsson.

So, happy half-century and happy birthday, Henrik! May you have many more as your Celtic legacy lives on forever.

Mon the Hoops!

The four-leaf clover & the Jolly Roger

This is probably the strangest thing for a blogger to say — “Hey, put down everything you’re doing right now and read this,” and then point to someone else’s work. But be forewarned: I’m doing that right now.

Hey, put down everything you’re doing right now and read this: Patrick Rodgers wrote this excellent piece on “The Shamrock: A Celtic Retrospective” regarding the relationship between fans of both clubs. Rodgers nailed it perfectly, and it’s worth your time.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

OK, glad you’re back.

Several weeks ago, someone laughably tried to discredit an argument on social media — where else? — with, “Well, you support more than one club!” After laughing myself into a change of underwear, my repsonse was, “It’s football, not marriage,” before blocking this woeful guy, who seemed to be overly protective of his sole IQ point.

Despite the fact that “following” and “supporting” clubs is different, he is right about me following more than one club, and I gladly admit to following several. There are more than a few reasons for this: I like checking in and seeing how the Yanks (and even Canadians, like Alphonso Davies at Bayern) are doing in Europe — except for Christian Pulisic, because I hate Chelsea and the rest of the Blues Brothers (Hamburger SV and Glasgow’s other Premiership club) — and I like checking in on former Celts and FC St Pauli players have transferred to and the clubs for which they now play. I even have a soft spot for clubs that care about their community, as I’ve outlined in this past blog item about Nairn County FC.

As far as supporting clubs, I have two — well, more if you count any club that is overtly antifascist and align with my politics. And, of course, there’s the club I “co-own” with hundreds of other members, Clapton CFC; after swearing to the Tons that, as a leftist Yank, I have references who will attest to the fact that I am the “anti-Glazer.”

But back to the point, those two clubs I unequivocally support are, far and away, Celtic FC and FC St. Pauli. They are closest to my heart.

Rodgers’ post on The Shamrock outlines why the terms “Glasgow’s Green and White” and “Hamburg ist Braun Weiß” are synonymous.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know why I have both a four-leaf clover and a Jolly Roger next to my name. Now the rest of you know, too.

Mon the Hoops. Forza St. Pauli

Dom, we hardly knew you

Just when you think that the worst part of the International Break is speculating how long Kyogo Furuhashi might be out with an injury, now we have to deal with this: Dom McKay, after 72 days of steering hopeful and optimistic change in what was previously a dire situation at Celtic, is leaving the club for “personal reasons.”

Dom McKay steps down as Celtic CEO after 72 days of optimistic and positive changes to the club. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, with our complete and unequivocal wish that McKay successfully navigates whatever personal business he needs to tend to in order to make right whatever it is in his personal life.

But there’s no denying this: McKay left a lucrative and successful tenure at the Scottish Rugby Union to take the reins at Celtic. This, of course, made him an outsider in a club where, quite unfortunately, an “old boys’ club” tends to be part and parcel of the Celtic board. McKay envisioned modernization, moving the club forward with unprecedented moves — hiring Ange Postecoglou and overseeing one of the most active transfer windows — and now he’s walking away before seeing these changes come to fruition.

That’s suspicious, even to the least skeptical of us. Evidence is a funny thing, and since we have so little of it, there’s nothing left but speculation. But at the outset, everything points to this: A culture in the Celtic boardroom that is as toxic as many have pointed out in the past. A culture that, when faced with change, became unmanageable for the CEO, forcing him to step down.

If this is, in fact, true regarding the culture of the Celtic board, it needs changing. Right now.

There could be other reasons, and until we know for sure, the suspicion will always be that McKay was forced out, either overtly by the board or covertly by the board’s resistance to McKay’s changes to enact his vision of a successful Celtic.

The lack of transparancy that sadly has been a hallmark of the Celtic hierarchy will always lend itself to such speculation. McKay was clearly on the right road to recovery from last season’s woeful debacle, and with the installation of Celtic’s director of legal and football affairs — and, as some have mentioned, Peter Lawwell clone — Michael Nicholson stepping in as interim CEO, what once seemed like a bright future in building a strong Celtic side has dimmed somewhat to the potentially lackluster business-as-usual that brought us last season’s mediocre results.

Time will tell. In the meantime, godspeed Mr. McKay, and let’s hope the back office hasn’t blown this one.

Again.

Mon the Hoops!

Ennui in the transfer window

First things first: With the transfer window closing soon — closing by the time I finish this post — it goes without saying that Celtic has had a more transfer activity then they have had in recent windows. And that is a good sign, despite those packing up and leaving take with them not only their talents, but a piece of our hearts.

It has come to this. So long, Ryan Christie. Au revoir, Odsonne Edouard. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you, Leigh Griffiths.

Their replacements have moderately large shoes to fill, and we’ll see how that pans out as the season progresses. From all indications so far, it looks like the Celtic hierarchy is making the right moves in filling the positions, despite the “it’s-not-enough” mantra so prevalent in social media this evening.

It’s not enough, they say. As if, to the PlayStation Pundits and Armchair Gaffers, it ever is.

Nevertheless, to those who have made their mark on the Celtic time line, it is time to bid adieu.

So long, Ryan Christie

The “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” caucus of the Celtic support all last season used Ryan Christie as one of their whipping bhoys last season for what they thought was substandard play. I never bought into that. Sure there were a few too many shots that left the stadium, but the kid brought heart and soul into every game he played in the Hoops, whether it was the game winner in the 2018 Betfred Cup to getting his face smashed and almost losing an eye for the club against Aberdeen.

Ryan Christie's instagram after Aberdeen game
‘Yeah, but you should see the other guy . . .’ Ryan Christie on Instagram after his injury against Aberdeen.

Not only this, what could have been just a showcase of his talent for Bournemouth, Christie showed a renewed sense of purpose and ratcheted up his game a few notches — was it a preview of things to come for players who want to play for a manager like Ange Postecoglou rather than going through the motions as some did last season? — and he seemed early on to be the Ryan Christie we all knew and loved in his usual nonstop mode.

Three assists in the Dundee game a few weeks ago speaks volumes to his contributions in the Hoops. As does the hat trick against St. Johnstone a couple of years ago in a 7-0 win.

I choose not to remember the errant shots — those happen and should be quickly forgotten — but I do choose to remember these contributions, and others, that Christie made to the Hoops. And while Bournemouth is clearly a step down for Christie, if that’s where he wants to be, then go with all the best of luck, Ryan. You’ll never walk alone.

Au revoir, Odsonne Edouard

Even now, while I write this, I wanna be Edouard. Forget about all the naysayers who need so desperately to get a grip — Odsonne Edouard was an integral and irremovable part of Celtic’s winning a quadruple treble, whether or not you think he was just mailing it in lately (and I don’t).

Odsonne Edouard was often criticized for having a lack of enthusiasm. Not sure what those who said that were referring to, if this photo is of any indication.

Personally, this departure hurts the most. Yeah, I know he was going to leave sometime, but does it have to be now, when things are starting to get good? If that’s the case, Edouard leaves for Crystal Palace after having a hand in Celtic’s historic recent success, and even being a bright spot in Celtic’s not-so-successful season last year: Even under the shroud of unwarranted criticism that he wasn’t trying, Edouard led the SPFL in goals last season.

As an aside, once again, to those of you wondering why there is such an outpouring of gratitude toward Edouard when all you myopically see is someone who didn’t try last season, let me make this simple for you: No Edouard, no Quadruple Treble. It really is that simple.

So many Edouard memories stand out: Taking the pass from a Mikael Lustig header to score against Heart of Midlothian to win the Treble Treble (as well as the literal last-second goal against Hearts to cause Craig Levein to rethink his life’s purpose), all Edouard’s goals against Glasgow’s other club, and all those times he threaded his way through multiple players — once six Staggies during a Ross County match — to put the ball away.

The non-football aspects of Edouard’s persona made him likeable as well. A big but friendly guy who was quick with a smile. Interviews in English were always a hurdle for him, as outlined in the oft-quoted, “I don’t book,” in response to a question about reading. And then there was the Man of the Match interview in one game where the multi-lingual Moritz Bauer gave him an assist.

Someone need an assist? Moritz Bauer, right, helps Odsonne Edouard with translation after Edouard won Man of the Match.

Edouard is clearly way above caliber for a club like Crystal Palace, and no doubt the end of his career will not take place there. My guess that he will end up somewhere on the continent, maybe someday back at Paris Saint-Germain, but wherever he goes, he will always be Forever Celtic. Bonne chance, Eddy, et tu ne marcheras jamais seul.

See you later, Leigh Griffiths

A tragedy wrapped in an odyssey: How many chances were we going to give Leigh Griffiths to get it right and straighten out his life? We’ll never know the final number because we’ve shipped the troubled striker off to Dundee FC on a season-long loan, where maybe — just maybe — manager James McPake can set him right.

Leigh Griffiths tying the scarf on an Ibrox goalpost is one of the most iconic Celtic photos ever.

It seems that McPake and Griffiths have a long history, and maybe this connection could be the solution to the tsunami of off-field self-inflicted problems that Griffiths has endured over the past several years.

Still, when someone scores 123 goals for the Hoops during the course of his career, as Griffiths has done, as well as being a constant thorn in the side of your most bitter rival, you still have to recognize those as feats worthy of recognition.

So even if Griffiths never wears the Hoops again, if he were to get his career back on track with Dundee, it would be a remarkable feat. Good luck, Super Leigh, and thanks for the memories. We’ll see you later when The Dark Blues come to town.

One more thing

Speaking of ex-Celts, I don’t know if many of you have seen how well Mohamed Elyounoussi has done for Southampton right out of the starting gate this season. On the bench for the first game against Manchester United, he started the next game last week against Newport City, where he scored a hat trick on the way to Southampton’s drubbing of the Steelmen, 8-0.

Makes you wonder whether Moi would have flourished under Ange Postecoglou. I think he would have.

It’s the international break, and we don’t get back to work in the SPFL until a week from Saturday against Ross County. In the meantime, Mon the Scots and Mon the Hoops!

We interrupt this program …

Like virtually each and every football pundit following Celtic or even Scottish football for that matter, I had a lot to say about yesterday’s match at the Bigotdome in Glasgow, where a close match didn’t go Celtic’s way. But after writing the post yesterday, I deleted it because it hadn’t said anything new or compelling.

When one set-piece goal is the difference, you can tell these clubs are fairly evenly matched. And that is clearly and unequivocally a compliment to Celtic’s opponents on Sunday, who without the help of Kevin Clancy and his ilk in the black shirts, Celtic’s opponents would be Livingston in blue kits.

What do you expect when you don’t allow opponents’ fans into your stadium?

Instead, what I’d prefer to talk about are the peripheral happenings at the match — the bigoted behavior of thousands of Rangers fans inside the stadium, and the scores marching in Glasgow outside the stadium, all of which seems to be going unaddressed by the Scottish authorities. But you might expect that when a large group of fans is allowed to march, with police escort, through Glasgow singing anti-Irish songs.

It begs the question: Where are the voices of this club’s supporters speaking out against this behavior? I can answer that: They have been all but silent. If there are any, to begin with. If it wasn’t for Michael Stewart, who is risking his job at the BBC for telling the truth, the Scottish mainstream media would also be silent as well.

And it comes down to this: You can’t say, “I’m not a bigot” if your club freely condones bigotry, and has the full force of the Glasgow Police to back it up. You can’t say, “I’m not a fascist” if your club harbors fascist supporters, like Lazio or Real Betis. You can’t hide behind, “It wasn’t me” or “It isn’t me” because the club you support reflects your values.

Silence is complicity, pure and simple.

For those who say football isn’t, or shouldn’t be, political, you need to return to reality from your unicorns-and-rainbow fantasy world. For better or worse, football is political. And you can’t separate the politics from the club.

Again, football reflects values, and Celtic reflects mine. And I’m proud to say that because of the club’s origins and what it has stood for over the years. I would find it hard to believe that a fan of Glasgow’s other club can say that without being disingenuous or hypocritical. But admittedly, they couldn’t even raise enough money to save the original club when it was liquidated in 2012, so the history of this more recent one is pretty scant.

While some of the bhoys are on International Duty this week, we don’t go back to SPFL action until a week from Saturday at home against Ross County. Hopefully those who are playing for their national teams will come back healthy. Mon the Hoops!

The numbers game

As a relatively new Celtic fan — only four seasons still makes me a neophyte in the grand scheme of Hoops history — one of the things that, at least to me, has always ranged from a mild mystery to a downright conundrum is the club’s assigning of player numbers.

This observation first occurred to me while I was still grieving the departure of Mikael Lustig, who had sadly moved on from Celtic to KAA Gent, before ending up now at AIK in Stockholm. His number 23 went immediately to a new acquisition at the time, Boli Bolingoli. I thought it was odd that the number of a beloved Celt would be transferred so quickly, but I guess it is par for the course in the football world.

You move on, and your number is up for grabs, apparently. It’s as simple as that.

Or is it? Is there more to it than meets the eye, a certain metaphysical reason behind a player ending up wearing the number of a legend?

This number 8, Kyogo Furuhashi, has the monumental task of filling the legacy of the previous number 8, Scott Brown. History is on his side, because Brown admirably filled the legacy of a previous number 8, Paul McStay. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

We have a new number 8 who replaces a recently departed number 8 — departed in a football sense, that is. Little has been said about Kyogo Furuhashi inheriting Scott Brown’s number. On the surface there may seem to be few similarities between the two, but if you look back the Hoops legend from Dunfermline and the new kid from Nara may be more alike than meets the eye, primarily and most importantly, both are quick and good with the ball. Also, it can be argued that Brown inherited the number from another Celtic legend, Paul McStay, and Brown admirably filled the legacy of that Hoops great.

We could go on and on about this, because examples here are plentiful: Liel Abada’s number 11 runs through the scenic route of the retraced steps of Scott Sinclair back to Bobby Lennox, while the number 5 has a magical and mystical significance insofar as the last player to wear it, Jozo Simunovic, scored after 67 minutes in a game honouring the greatest number 5 to play in green-and-white, Billy McNeill.

Then there’s the iconic number 7: Last worn with historical significance by the King of Kings, Henrik Larsson, but with a lineage that goes back to the greatest of all Celts, Jimmy Johnstone.

Josip Juranovic or Gary Hooper? Time will tell . . . Photo credit: The Celtic Star

Today, photos of new Celtic acquisition Josip Juranovic have the new player wearing number 88, that of a Celtic historic goal-scoring magician, Gary Hooper. During his time with Celtic, Hooper — who is still playing in Australia — was an exciting player to watch, and it remains to be seen whether the magic of the number rubs off on the Croatian defender joining Celtic from Legia Warsaw.

This magic sometimes transfers — Brown to Furuhashi seems, at least so far, to be proof of that.

But sometimes it doesn’t — Lustig to Bolingoli being Exhibit A here, to say nothing of Albian Ajeti’s number 10, with a pedigree that spans the timeline through Moussa Dembele, Jan Vennegor of Hesselink, John Hartson, Tommy Burns, and Bertie Auld.

You can say it’s only a number, but fate, superstition and the football gods may have other intentions. No one knows for sure.

Nevertheless, on Thursday we have the second leg against Alkmaar Zaanstreek — AZ to the cool kids — away in the Netherlands, bringing with us a 2-o advantage from last week’s Europa League match at Parkhead.

Mon the Hoops!