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!

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

My only regret about today’s phenomenal game against St. Mirren is that it was merely a 6-0 victory for Celtic, and not a 24-0 win — the crew at The Celtic Noise will get that reference. I’ll go into why later, but first let’s look at some of the superlatives from today’s game.

First, let me just leave the stat sheet here for your consideration as I walk away for a moment.

I’m back. Did you miss me?

While I don my Captain Obvious costume, let me state that Celtic was relentless on both sides of the ball today, and it would be safe to say that the Bhoys in Green are back. This is nothing new, of course, and it parrots every other Celtic pundit on the planet, where credit is rightfully given to new manager Ange Postecoglou.

An aside: When you think about it, with the success that Postecoglou has had invigorating the current Celtic roster — giving new life to Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic and others, combined with a mix of phenomenal new talent like Leil Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi — you have to wonder what he could have done with some of the players who left. Postecoglou could have made Patryk Klimala into the second coming of Robert Lewandowski.

But I digress.

In today’s match, Abada was phenomenal and he’s only 19. Abada can be a star for the future, and he’s a treat to watch. David Turnbull? A mere hat trick does not justify the sheer tonnage of praise he deserves for his play today. Christie was all over the pitch playing like a man possessed, as was Greg Taylor. Odsonne Edouard? His body language spoke volumes about how he wants to play for the Hoops, despite what the former manager told the BBC earlier in the day.

Then there’s a defense that shut down the Saints fairly remarkably for 90-plus minutes. Could Carl Starfelt finally be settling in while the rest of the backfield takes control? Possibly. Starfelt, Stephen Welsh and Anthony Ralston all pitched in to give Joe Hart a fairly easy day between the sticks.

The down side is that despite Furuhashi playing his usual high-octane game, he is starting to get his “introduction” to the goonish reality that makes Scottish football a worldwide disgrace. Fouled repeatedly, once off the ball midway in the first half he was flattened by a forgettable nobody in a St. Mirren kit. No foul in that particular instance, of course, and no goal for the lad today overall, but that’s OK — daijobu desu, Kyogo-san — because just having the threat of his scoring leaves others open to do the deed in his place.

When he doesn’t do it himself, that is, which he has and which he will. Remember where you heard it first.

All of which leads me to why the score should have been run up more against the Buddies — someone’s buddies, but not necessarily mine.

There’s Alan Power, the poster boy for the oft-waived SPFL player who has no discernible football skill other than to injure opposing players, and who will retire to bleak anonymity someday. Someday soon, and the sooner the better. Ever wonder how much better off the SPFL — hell, how much better off humanity — would be without Power in it?

I do. All the time.

No one was more surprised than me, gasping with mouth agape 5,000 miles away around sunrise, that Willie Collum actually found his red card and actually used it against Power for an assault on Turnbull that was a textbook red card.

Actually calling a legitimate foul on a Celtic opponent. Willie Collum. You don’t see that every day. . . .

So I don’t know what was said in the locker room at halftime, but if I were Postecoglou — and I have the sweaters and shirts, to be sure, but not the hair and beard (let alone the football knowledge, of course) — I would give the bhoys a green light to light up the scoreboard when the opposition pulls hammerthrowing nonsense like St. Mirren did on Saturday. Ring them up, and while 6-0 is a sure ringing, I would have preferred more — like a double-digit, talk-about-it-generations-from-now, song-inducing score.

OK, call me selfish.

But the fact remains that if we keep playing like this, whether it’s in Holland on Thursday against AZ Alkmaar to wrap up the Europa League stage or at the Bigotdome against the Tribute Act next Sunday, the goals and the points will come.

Here we go again, we’re on the road again . . .

Glasgow Times’ own-goal

To be fair, it’s pretty safe to say that I know my way around news, having been in the field since the late ’70s and involuntarily leaving the field thanks to a layoff in the mid-2010s. In fact, it’s in my blood, proverbially speaking, since my father was also a newsman by profession. Even moreso, I’m a third generation man-of-letters, since my grandfather was a mailman.

But I digress.

But here we have the front page of The Glasgow Times on Monday, with their front-page teaser headline mentioning yesterday’s Celtic game, highlighted in red by an observant Twitter poster.

Well, yes and no . . .

This publication may know Glasgow best, as they proclaim in their banner, but they don’t know either a.) football, or b.) how to get a reporter to the game to report on it.

Regardless, let me give you some insight on what’s happening on the front page here, and I understand this as an editor: Whichever editor wrote this was trying to get “Heart” — as in “Heart of Midlothian,” Celtic’s opponent — into the headline. I get that, as I have had much experience in shoehorning readable concepts into three or four words on the page. It’s not an easy task, to be sure.

But you want more accurate? How about, “Hearts avoid pumping” as a front-page teaser headline, maybe?

There’s a degree of accuracy — a significant degree, in this case — that is lacking in the printed headline which makes it woefully inaccurate. And regardless of whether the article is of the quality that would win it the U.K. equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in the U.S., the front-page teaser in the red box above does it a great disservice.

Anyone watching the game knows that Celtic was in control the entire time. John Beaton couldn’t give Hearts enough of an advantage with ludicrous calls and non-calls — especially non-calls. If it wasn’t for ex-Celt Craig Gordon’s exemplary play between the sticks for Hearts, it would have been a massacre. Hearts only scored on a gifted penalty and a meaningless goal with a minute left in injury time, making the 3-2 final score an anomaly.

Don’t believe me? Numbers don’t lie.

I like to think that, from a journalistic perspective, the story inside reflects these numbers more accurately than the front-page teaser. But from my exposure to the Scottish media covering Celtic, I can’t say I’m terribly confident that it does.

So, walk it off, Times, and do better next time.

Mon the Hoops!

Night and day

Night and day. Day and night. The difference between last season’s dumpster fire of a season and getting out of the starting blocks nearly in full sprint this season is nothing short of astounding. Clearly we have Dom McKay and Ange Postecoglou to thank for that, for starters.

And let’s talk about the new gaffer for a bit, the no-nonsense leader of the club who is in control of the training, of the sideline, and of the press conference. Postecoglou is a breath of fresh air, telling it like it is and not afraid to call out nonsense from the stenographer corps masquerading as Scottish sports “journalists.”

Making black sweaters on big guys cool again, among other things: Celtic gaffer Ange Postecoglou walks off the field after Celtic’s Europa League victory against FK Jablonec last week at Celtic Park. Postecoglou is overseeing a resurgence at Celtic this season. Photo Credit: Jeff Holmes/The Celtic Star

But McKay and Postecoglou aren’t playing on the pitch for 90+ minutes. Add to their presence at the helm the recent player acquisitions to the club — Kyogo Furuhashi and Carl Starfelt, to name two — plus the resurgence of dormant players like Anthony Ralston, James Forrest, and Tom Rogic (not to mention Ryan Christie, who was absent in Sunday’s game) give the Celts the right formula to return to being at the top of Scottish football.

Where they belong.

Anyone less than Craig Gordon between the sticks for the JamTarts on Sunday and Hearts would have been in a far deeper deficit than only three goals, so a hat tip to the ex-Celt for a good game, albeit in a losing cause.

As for Celtic, it was nothing short of a phenomenal game on Sunday. Not perfect, of course, but pretty damn near. Over 80 percent possession in the first half during a 2-0 halftime lead courtesy of goals by Odsonne Edouard and Stephen Welsh — and on Welsh’s goal, does anyone else think that was a designed play moreso than mere happenstance? I keep watching it and thinking that maybe it was.

And Furuhashi — Kyogo-san — taking down mouthbreather Andy Halliday early in the game was a welcome treat. Kyogo’s play overall was outstanding, as expected, and his goal was a gem, to be sure. But seeing him getting into the thick of things on both ends of the ball is a joy to behold. He’s not a one-trick pony, and the fact he’s willing to switch on the defensive jets when Celtic doesn’t have the ball is a joy to watch.

John Beaton, try as he might, couldn’t give the game to Hearts. Also the SkySports late narrative that this was a close game was phenomenally laughable.

Celtic is playing beautiful football, but it isn’t perfect. Yet. My colleague Niall J on The Celtic Star said it best in his commentary on the Sunday’s game:

“It may take a little more work in the transfer market in the next two weeks to ensure the defence is effective as Celtic’s battering attack but for now the attacking intent remains a joy to behold.”

For those of you who are slighting Starfelt for being a “bombscare,” I would suggest you buy a dictionary and actually look up the word. The big Swede is getting used to the Scottish game and he may be one or two more games away from being up to speed. Despite a couple of miscues, overall his game has been pretty good to date and the potential for improvement is clearly there.

And imagine a backfield of Starfelt, Ralston, Greg Taylor, and Christopher Jullien once the Frenchman gets back onto the pitch.

If the club can make that one last acquisition on defense and play inspired football like they’ve been playing, it may be time for another treble.

One more thing

Gerd Muller takes the ball down the pitch for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium. Muller donned the Red and Gold for three seasons in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Perhaps the only good thing that the North American Soccer League brought to U.S. soccer was the wave of European greats who played for one last paycheck in the land of milk and honey. That said, I got to see Gerd Muller play for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the coda of his career in the late ’70s/early ’80s. So it comes with a bit of sadness to hear that Muller passed away today at 75.

Like having Gordon Banks in goal, having Muller on the Strikers was a treat since he was one of Europe’s best — albeit both of them playing in the autumn of their careers in a league where many of the American fans didn’t fully understand the game — and I remember how unstoppable he seemed to be whenever he had the ball. As a side note, my first soccer jersey was not a Strikers jersey, but a German national team jersey that I wore to Strikers games in Gerd’s honor.

Requiescat in pace, Gerd, and may you find the pitches on the other side green and the goals as wide open as they seemed to be for you here.