If he had done nothing else in his Celtic career, this would have cemented him into Celtic lore forever: Bertie Auld started singing “The Celtic Song” in the tunnel in Lisbon as the teams waited to go out onto the pitch for the European Cup in 1967, accompanied quickly thereafter by the rest of the club.
But he did more — so much more — that he became a Celtic legend.
The club reported today a confirmation that Bertie is suffering from dementia, and is being cared for at home.
“Everyone at Celtic would like to add their best wishes to Bertie and his family. Bertie is a true Celtic icon, one of our greatest sons and someone the Club and our supporters love and respect dearly,” the post from Celtic stated.
Bertie “gets it,” and has personified Celtic throughout his career, both on the pitch and off of it. Especially off of it, where he was always the perfect representative of the club with fans and the media. Always available and glad to talk to Celtic fans, he never put a foot wrong.
“Faithful through and through” describes Bertie perfectly.
I have said often on social media that Bertie Auld is a national treasure. I firmly believe that.
His jersey fit, both on and off the field.
Bertie understands and lives his life with the tenet of what football players should be, both on and off the pitch: always positive about the game, always accessible to the fans, always showing the good side of the club for which he played.
As with thousands of Celtic fans around the world, Bertie and his family are also in my thoughts in this challenging time.
So, finally, after a-hundred-and-whatever days, Celtic has a new manager, Ange Postecoglou. Celtic had this piece on their website this morning, and the video interview accompanying it is also worth a watch.
Also, now that much of the Celtic faithful have gotten a chance to know him a little better, apparently he’s being cut some slack for not having the European pedigree that so many have been seeking.
Which brings up an interesting point: In a worldwide sport like football, there are hundreds of well-qualified managers out there. Only the most myopic of football fans only gauge success within the borders of Europe. With a wide world of talent — both on the pitch and on the sidelines — it would clearly be in the best interest of clubs, and their fans, to recognize that the metric of “success in Europe” equals some sort of superiority over the rest of the world is a false one.
As a Celtic supporter from outside Scotland — outside Europe, for that matter — I especially want Postecoglou to succeed. Not only because I want the best for Celtic when getting this ship righted as we sail forward in 2021/22, but to show that coaching styles that are not native to Europe can succeed in the beautiful game.
In his interview in the link above, Postecoglou tends to hit all the bases and sounds entirely competent on all levels of the game. With a wealth of talent at his disposal — adding returning loanees to the mix of young talent in the reserves and the current first team — the Australian has nearly all the tools he needs. A couple of additions and Celtic should be set to take back their rightful place atop the standings.
A trivia tidbit: Dr. Jozef Venglos, who like Postecoglou also coached Celtic and the Australian national team, signed Lubo Moravcik. If that’s not a good sign, despite arguably being consequential, I don’t know what is.
While the exit door at Parkhead seems to be jamming a bit lately, the latest departure rumour has Odsonne Edouard, according to pundits’ recent reports, joining Leicester City (much to the dismay of fuming Arsenal fans) for an encore performance with Brendan Rodgers.
And with this news, of course, follows the tsunami of petulant, spoiled naysayers among the Celtic support disparaging Edouard’s phenomenal contribution to the Quadruple-Treble, whether on the wider social media front or even here in this thread in the Celtic Noise forum, with a raft of nonsense discounting his endeavours in the Hoops by focusing solely on this past season.
You know, the 2020/21 season. The season where Edouard was asked to play up front alone most of the time, despite being more successful — as nearly all strikers are — with a second striker to play off of. But let’s not quibble about that, oh spoiled petulant ones, when you can dump on a phenomenal player who can arguably be credited for most of the club’s high points over the last four seasons, right?
The “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” crowd, in their typical myopic and moronic manner, just want him gone. “He lost interest.” “Couldn’t be bothered.”
You know what? I wanna be Edouard. I still wanna be Edouard. And when he goes to play at Leicester City or wherever he ends up, I will continue to watch him, just as I do former Celts I miss playing in the Hoops, including Kieran Tierney at Arsenal, Moussa Dembele at Athletico Madrid, Scott Sinclair at Preston North End, Mikael Lustig at AIK, and closer to home, the Celts in America: Patryk Klimala, Cameron Harper, and Andrew Gutman at New York Red Bulls, and Lewis Morgan at Inter Miami.
With the exception of Mo Johnston and perhaps Boli Bolingoli — the player who sadly lit the match that ignited last season’s dumpster fire — if you wear the Hoops and play Celtic football, you’ll always be a Celt wherever you go.
Normally, I’d have “One More Thing” to add here, but today I’m going to have to pass. It’s a beautiful day here on the Central California coast and, with nothing burning (so far) and nothing football-wise to watch, I plan to take full advantage of it.
To be honest, I’ve purposely been avoiding the “someday-we-will-all-laugh-about-this” saga of bringing in new manager Ange Postecoglou because, well, I am protecting what little sanity I may have left. But also being honest here, I have to admit it’s unfortunate that we’re releasing Kris Ajer into the wild, where he can flourish in a league beyond Scotland.
You can’t fault him for wanting to go. Accoring to various news reports, he committed to stay on for the 10 — despite a former agent who said otherwise — and played his heart out for the Hoops in a disastrous season. He even spent most (if not all) of his Celtic career playing out of his natural position, a midfielder playing center-back for Celtic. Not only this, he played out of position without complaint, and sharpened his defensive skills in the process.
So while I wish he’d stay — just as I wish those who are also slated to leave this summer would stay — I completely understand why he would go. The thing is, I hope he ends up with a club that can utilize his wide range of talents best.
It’s not like he hasn’t drawn attention already. All season we’ve read reports about AC Milan being interested in Ajer, and lately he’s been tied to Norwich City and Newcastle in the EPL, and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
Kris, if you’re reading this, go ahead and join Jeremie Frimpong at Bayer Leverkusen. Rather than join a couple of EPL backmarkers, Bayer Leverkusen has a fair amount of potential for success.
As with other Celts who have punched their tickets in Glasgow and have moved on, I wish Kris Ajer all the best and will be looking in on him from time to time. Naturally, I will miss the big Norwegian’s gazelle-like stride when taking the ball up the field further than a defender should, resulting in the occasional goal, but I know it’s for the best. Lykke til, Kris!
One more thing
Speaking of former Celts, it’s worth mentioning that Manny Perez, a Celtic who never made it to the big club, is now playing for the expansion team Austin FC in America’s Major League Soccer. Perez also took the time to help Garner (North Carolina) High School’s soccer team with new kits for next season. Perez is not a star with Austin, but he doesn’t forget his roots and the purchase of the kits for the high school’s varsity and junior varsity teams is a grand gesture. Way to go, Manny!
Also, before we part, if you’re a Celtic fan and you’re not following @lfmunro on Twitter, you should. This profoundly deaf Celtic fan has a series of videos instructing people on sign language — some football-related and some not — and they’re well worth a watch to learn. Fantastic work, Lou, and keep it up!
Now to add “Postecoglou” to my spell-check list so it doesn’t keep popping up as an error . . .
Now that the horrendous dumpster fire of a season is behind us — and the further behind us in the proverbial rearview mirror, the better — and while we ponder who will be taking the reins for next season, it might be a good idea to take a look at some of the facets of the disaster that are not often talked about but should never be repeated.
A few quick observations about what wasn’t talked about nearly enough would have to include the following.
Second is, well, second
After a perfect storm of mismanagement on the pitch and in the boardroom assisted by some remarkably questionable outside circumstances and decisions by both league and government officials, you would think that Celtic had finished sixth in the Premiership this past season.
Yet despite the symphony of disaster the club navigated in 2020/21, Celtic finished a comfortable second in the table. You want to say, “Yeah, well, second is the first loser”? Go ahead, but it would be my duty to inform you that this is a remarkably shallow and moronic take. In this case, second is ahead of 10 other teams in the league. True, it’s not what we want — not what we demand — as Celtic fans, but that’s the reality. I understand we’ve had worse finishes than this in the past.
Departures and injuries
Not enough was made of injuries to some key players, specifically James Forrest, Mikey Johnston, and Christopher Jullien. The absence of those three alone had a profound effect on the performance of the club, to the point that whatever lack of magic or improvisation from the technical area — and it can be successfully argued that there was a complete lack of that this season — showed in the lackluster and uneven play on the pitch by the Hoops.
Another aspect that was mostly discounted during the season was the lack of fans in the seats. Celtic’s 12th man was clearly missing, and it is something that contributed to the uninspired season. In this first season of COVID football, it wasn’t only Celtic which felt the effect: Liverpool, whose fans carry their club in the same manner Celtic’s fans do with the Hoops, stumbled this season as well.
It wasn’t just injuries that sent players off the pitch. Hatem Elhamed had family issues borne of selectively restrictive immigration policies — the same restrictive immigration policies that kept Americans Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez stateside and, as a result, now playing for other clubs in the MLS — and Elhamed chose to return to Israel rather than stay in Scotland. I suspect Jeremie Frimpong had enough of being slammed by hammerthrowing nobodies like Kilmarnock’s Alan Power and Hibernian’s Alex Gogic and jumped with both feet at the chance to play in the Bundesliga, a slightly more prestigious league than the officiating-challenged SPFL.
[An aside: The SFA has a monumental problem on its hands in its officiating corps, which this past season set the gold standard for awful, overall, and could easily be seen as biased toward one club. Not only does the quality of Scottish football suffer immensely because of it, it makes the Premiership a laughingstock in the eyes of the rest of the world.]
Who’s on the horizon?
Although his legacy is will be firmly cemened as the gaffer who blew the 10, Neil Lennon still holds an overall positive place in Celtic lore. And while much is made of the lengthy Eddie Howe courtship — if he even accepts the proposal from the club — it is more important to take a look at the shape the club is in.
Here’s a minority viewpoint: The club is in good shape going in to the next season, and here’s why: With the fresh slate of an injury-free squad coupled with a significant bumper crop of young talent, most of whom are coming off successful loan spells to return to the club, next season looks promising even without having to acquire outside talent. In a post-COVID football world, clubs that are most prudent with their spending will be the strongest, and Celtic has only a couple of gaps to fill.
A partial list of returnees: Vakoun Bayo, Jack Hendry, Maryan Shved (if he chooses to return), Luca Connell, Jonathan Afolabi — all players who have made an impression with their loan clubs.
So despite a season that is best left in the bin of bad dreams, the ship will be righted by next season and Celtic will return to its winning ways.
Count on it.
One more thing
With the relegation of Hamilton Academical and Kilmarnock, it looks like two plastic pitches have been removed from the purview of the Premiership, leaving only Livingston’s pitch as the only artificial surface to be played on. Two out of three ain’t bad. So can we bring back Jozo Simunovic?
Also, speaking of Kilmarnock, it’s amazing how Killie took a monumental nosedive in the wake of Steve Clarke’s departure from the club. All of which is to say that if he wasn’t coaching the national team — getting the most out of the players and having the Scotland squad punch well above their weight — he’d be a good choice to put Celtic back on track.
What may have flown under the radar last week was that Manny Perez, on loan from Celtic to North Carolina FC in the USL has been picked up by Portland Timbers FC of MLS and loaned to the MLS expansion club Austin FC.
The Texas club announced last week that they had acquired the 22-year-old on loan from the Timbers for the 2021 MLS season in exchange for Austin FC’s 2023 natural third-round draft pick, with the option to trade for the player’s permanent rights at the conclusion of the 2021 season. Additional conditional General Allocation Money could be delivered to Portland based on performance benchmarks.
“Manny is a player with great potential who is motivated to make an impact, and we are pleased to welcome him to the Austin FC family,” said Austin FC sporting director Claudio Reyna in a release by the club.
“I feel blessed and honored to be part of Austin FC,” Perez said. “I look forward to giving my best on the pitch for our fans, my teammates and coaching staff.”
Perez was on loan from Celtic to the USL Championship’s North Carolina FC for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. With North Carolina FC, Perez made a total of 25 starts in 37 appearances, scoring one goal and contributing five assists.
The North Carolina State University and North Carolina FC Youth Academy product spent two collegiate seasons with the NC State Wolfpack, being named Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Freshman of the Year in 2017 and earning All-ACC honors twice while in college.
On an international level, Perez has played 12 matches with the U.S. Youth National Team, making five appearances, and scoring two goals with the U-18 team. He has had six appearances and scoring a goal with the U-20 team, and made one appearance with the U-23 team.
Perez was part of the 2018 U-20 Concacaf Championship team, which secured qualification to the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland.
Though he’s not in the Hoops, Austin FC’s home kit is green, as is Portland’s. So with that in mind, good luck, Manny!
As this season’s dumpster fire draws to a close while we wait to see who’s actually going to manage Celtic next season — not to mention that it’s once again Glasgow Derby weekend — it might be a good idea for a small diversion in the form of season superlatives.
Hence, it’s about time for Celtic’s Player of the Year, Goal of the Season, and Young Player of the Year. It’s pretty simple, and the process starts by going here and voting.
How did I vote? Glad you asked.
Player of the year
This one is easy.
Actually, it was a bit difficult. In a lackluster year, you might think it would be difficult to pick a standout. But that’s not the case, since each of the nominees had their bright spots during the course of the season. Not only this, for me it came down to two Norwegians.
Sorry, Mohamed Elyounoussi, but I had to go with Kris Ajer this year. Ajer has been a rock in the Celtic backfield this season, and admittedly he’s been very versatile in filling the spaces when advancing the ball forward into the opponents half. In fact, why Ajer doesn’t do this more often is a mystery, but his solid play this year earns him the nod from this voter.
Goal of the Season
This is a tough one. So many good choices here: Odsonne Edouard dribbling through the entire population of Reykjavik — OK, five or six KR Reykjavik players — or James Forrest’s goal against Motherwell to break his dry spell, or even Ismaila Soro’s launch from a few miles out against Dundee United. Unfortunately, my favorite goal of the year doesn’t count because, technically, it belongs to last season: Edouard’s penalty looping over Craig Gordon and Hearts in the previous year’s delayed Scottish Cup final.
But perhaps the best of this bunch is Mohamed Elyounoussi against Lille. Of all the good candidates in this bunch, any time you get the goalkeeper to do his best impersonation of a statue while the ball hits the back of the net is a feat in and of itself. Nice one, Moi!
Young Player of the Year
I hate to say it, but it can be successfully argued that we can see how our young players are developing by watching the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer stateside this season. There’s Cameron Harper, Andrew Gutman, Patryk Klimala . . .
OK, now that this is off my proverbial chest, my vote went to Stephen Welsh, a Celtic Reserves player who made his mark on the club without having to actually leave the club, playing solid defense since his call-up to the first team. Welsh has a bright future with the Hoops, and I hope he can prove that the Celtic Reserves can produce players that stay with the club.
Again, here’s the link to cast your ballot. How did you vote? Post in the comments below.
Well, at least it’s now official: Polish Paddy becomes Broadway Paddy as the New York Red Bulls of the U.S. Major League Soccer signs Patryk Klimala to a multi-year deal, the third Celtic player to join the Big Apple club this season.
“We’re delighted to complete this deal and welcome Patryk to our club,” said Red Bulls’ head of sport Kevin Thelwell in a press release. “Patryk is a talented young forward who has proven that he can score goals and create in a variety of ways. We believe he has the ability to impact games in MLS now, and the potential to continue to grow and succeed in years to come. We look forward to welcoming him to New York and getting him acclimated to our club.”
Klimala, who had limited playing time at Celtic, scored three goals and had one assist for the Hoops, and he joins former Celtic players Andrew Gutman and Cameron Harper in New York.
New York Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber welcomed Klimala to the club with high praise.
“I’m very happy with Patryk’s decision to join us,” Struber said. “At both the club and youth international level he has shown that he has high potential. He demonstrates a strong work ethic against the ball, which is very important to our style of play, and has very good instincts around the goal. His movement and ability in the final third give the team another weapon.”
Klimala signed a four-year MLS contract with a club option, the New York Red Bulls announced Thursday, filling a Young Designated Player and international spot on club’s roster.
A club statement from Celtic stated, “Everyone at Celtic thanks Patryk for his contribution to the club and wishes him every success in the future.”
The Hoops are reported to be recouping the 3.5 million pounds they paid for the Poland U21 international, who came to Celtic in January 2020 from the Polish club Jagiellonia.
On a personal note . . .
Like Cameron Harper, Patryk Klimala should have been part of Celtic’s plans going forward. He was one of the several members of the first team ready to come off the bench and make his mark, only to be pigeonholed and given only limited playing time. He showed a commitment to the club by working hard in the COVID “offseason” with his noticeable efforts in strengthening and conditioning, and he always showed huge potential in those chances he had to play. My hope is that he thrives with his former Celtic teammates in New York, and there’s every indication that he will.
You have to hand it to the scouts at the MLS club New York Red Bulls: The backroom staff there certainly knows talent when they see it, and it comes as no surprise that they’re focus is on Lennoxtown and Celtic for quality players.
It’s my hope, with fingers crossed, that if Patryk Klimala — now being wooed by the Red Bulls — does go to New York, he goes as a loan and not as a full-fledged signing. But we will have to see.
Despite scoring only four goals since signing in January 2020, Klimala has a good future for whomever he plays for. Klimala has shown a commitment to Celtic, and I believe he can be an integral part of the club’s offseason rebuild.
But more importantly, is this merely a large U.S. club purloining Celtic players or could it be the advent of a potential partnership between New York Red Bulls and Celtic?
There are precedents that apply here when it comes to partnerships between MLS and European clubs. The most notable of these is Dallas FC’s partnership with Bayern Munich and the San Jose Earthquakes’ partnership with Tottenham Hotspur. So it begs the question: In light of the Red Bulls’ recent “interest” in Celtic players, would a partnership be a viable next-step?
To be honest, the International Break drives me crazy. With no Celtic (or no anybody, really) to watch as the nations line up to qualify for the World Cup, the best I can do — after watching endless past games and the Broony DVD multiple times — is watch the bhoys play for their respective countries. If there is any consolation, it’s seeing things you don’t normally see when the Hoops play in the SPFL.
Like . . .
Norway. Why did it have to be Norway?
It seems that whenever I line up ESPN+ to watch whomever is playing at any particular time over the last week, Norway seems to be at the top of the list for broadcast. It could be worse, obviously, but it’s good to keep an eye on Kris Ajer and Mohammed Elyounoussi (not to mention watching the antics of Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland). Overall both of the bhoys have been playing well for Norway despite the team’s lackluster results, especially Elyounoussi — I don’t have the stats in front of me, but he seems to have stepped up his game in the take-away department. Ajer, of course, has been the Viking enforcer in the back who does not fear taking the ball up the pitch when the space is available to him. We’ll have to see how it pans out for the Norwegians.
Oh no, Nir! Not again!
One reason — perhaps the main reason — I loathe the International Break is that Celtic players tend to get banged up in the process. Call it the “Tom Rogic Effect.” Once again, an injury rears its ugly head as Nir Bitton tore a groin muscle in the final training session for Israel before they started their games, and now he returns his injured self to the training table in Glasgow. To be fair, Bitton was not 100 percent when he was picked to play for Israel in the first place.
[As an aside, anyone watching the Israel-Scotland match notice how in-the-groove ex-Celt Hatem Elhamed was in defense? Pity he couldn’t stay.]
Kieran Tierney, assist king
Meanwhile, back at home — yours, not mine (over here in the States, we’re still fuming over the fact that the U.S. Men’s Team didn’t qualify for the Olympics, while waiting for some heads to roll) — the Scots under Steve Clarke seem to be holding their own in a group where they precariously hold on to second in Group F. The Scots pretty much had their way with the Faeroe Islands 11 yesterday, 4-0, thanks in large part to three assists by ex-Celt Kieran Tierney; all of which were beauties, and one of them which came from a cracking pass from Callum McGregor — pity there’s no stat for “assists-on-assists.”
It begs the question: Is there anything Tierney, the kid with the Tesco bag, can’t do?
Shocker: Edouard gets the penalty
Take notes, SFA: When you have referees who are not — how can I put this tactfully? — playing the 12th (or 13th or 14th) man on behalf of Glasgow’s other club, you get what can best be described as fair officiating. Proof of that, of course, is the call in France U21 game against Russia where Odsonne Edouard, who was clipped with the same intensity as he was in the Glasgow Derby, getting not a yellow card for simulation but a real, honest-to-God penalty kick, which he slotted away in his usual Edouard way.
Amazing, isn’t it? I’ve always said that there was much more to the SpecSavers’ sponsorship of the SPFL officials than meets the eye.
(Pun completely intended.)
One more thing . . .
Two actually: First, I caught the end of the Germany-North Macedonia game, with the Germans scrambling to draw unsuccessfully at the end of the match, which went the North Macedonian’s way 2-1. First loss at home for Germany in, like, forever, and a boost to the tiny landlocked nation just north of Greece.
Second, it looks like the MLS in the U.S. is starting to expand its scope of players loaned from European to American clubs. That is, when they are not signing them outright, as in the case of ex-Celts Cameron Harper and Andrew Gutman. News from Hamburg has FC St. Pauli midfielder Leon Flach joining Philadelphia Union, a rival to Harper’s and Gutman’s New York Red Bulls. Interesting note that Flach goes to Philly to join Stuart Findlay, who came up through the Celtic youth system and played with Kilmarnock before heading stateside.
Not the strangest MLS loan transaction, though. The winner of that one, so far, would be Sporting Kansas City’s acquiring Mexican player Dani Rojas on loan from AFC Richmond for, wait for it, a metric ton of barbeque sauce. Don’t believe me? Here’s the press release from SKC.
Wait a minute. Anyone have a calendar? Ah, that would explain it . . .