The waiting is the hardest part

First things first, a thousand mea culpas for missing yesterday’s post (which, obviously, appears before you now, a day late). I had to get fingerprinted for a freelance job (go figure), and then I got sidetracked by the Bayer Leverkusen game — way to go, Bayer — before I contacted all the Celtic Supporters Clubs in North America asking them for their news to post here on these electronic pages.

Before I knew it, it was already 8 p.m., and I hadn’t gotten to this, which is really Thursday’s post.

I blame Scott Brown.

Like most of you — all of you? — going a week without the Celts borders on making me stir-crazy. To be honest, between weeks like this and regular delays like the winter break, I surely have watched all the Celtic videos on YouTube and I’ve watched the 1967 European Cup final so many times I can give the commentary.

Now, in this late-breaking development, it appears the Scottish Premiership is taking a break, and the match between Celtic and The Rangers — not to mention all other fixtures — is now off until further notice.

Well, it’s back to YouTube for me. And, of course, off to Celtic TV, because I just can’t get enough of the Lazio game in Rome . . .

Oh, and one more bit of news developing as I write: It has been confirmed that adidas — apparently the small “a” is correct, according to the press release — will be supplying the kits for the Bhoys for the next five years, so at least now we can expect to see a plethora of kits posted on social media regarding what adidas has planned for us.

Meanwhile, I am going to try to weather the current lack of football by just posting some humorous posts I’ve found about Celtic, mostly found on The Celtic Noise. I hope most of these will hold you over until . . . whenever.

Yep, know the difference between Bolingoli and the other thing.

“Take me to your Paradise, I want to see The Jungle . . .”

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

Tweet from Nicola McFadden: “When your da takes you to see the celtic.”

Another Twitter post . . .

And one last Tweet from yours truly . . .

[NOTE TO NORTH AMERICAN CSCs: I’ve sent most of you an email requesting information on your groups in order to publicize your activities and news on this blog for the benefit of Celtic fans worldwide. If you did not get an email from me, check your spam folder. If it’s not in your spam folder, comment below and I’ll get back to you.]

Best fans in the world

A painting of The Huddle graces the room in Fiddler’s Green in Millbrae, California, where the San Francisco CSC watches Celtic games.

I spent Saturday’s match against St. Mirren with about 15 of the most passionate and dedicated Celtic fans, cheering on the Bhoys in Green from 5,000 miles away.

Those at the Millbrae, California, pub called Fiddler’s Green early on that Saturday morning make up the San Francisco Celtic Supporters’ Club, or CSC, which meets at the pub every game and watches each game — win, lose or draw — with the same passion and conviction that the most ardent local supporter in the stands at Paradise musters for 90-plus minutes.

The only difference is this: We aren’t there in person. And some of those in the room, like me, unfortunately have yet to step foot in Paradise, though it is in our plans and in our dreams, if not always in our hearts.

CSCs like the San Francisco group make up the worldwide extension of the “12th man” on the field, and the chants of Celtic Park are echoed by the attendees in the room where we watched. In addition in Millbrae, an impromptu chorus during the game of “Boys of the Old Brigade” was sung, started basso profundo by one member, with those who knew the song joining in. At Callum McGregor’s penalty, some of us started singing the “Hawaii 5-0” theme song while it played at Paradise.

We’ll get back to CSCs in a minute.

Unfortunately, there is a microscopic segment of Celtic fandom — a minuscule, small-minded, and tragically misguided segment — that seems to think that somehow some of us can’t be real Celtic fans because we’ve never been to Paradise. That somehow, those who go to home-and-away matches are better fans, and a class above those who cannot make the games for whatever reason.

I seem to have missed that memo: I was not aware that loving Celtic was some kind of competition.

Of course, it isn’t. But you wouldn’t know it by the attitudes of by this tiny-numbered, and tiny-minded, portion of the support.

On more than one forum, I’ve been accused of a.) being less than a fan because I have never attended a game, despite the insurmountable barrier of 4,378 nautical miles and 10 hours of flight time between San Francisco and Glasgow, making attendance at matches, home or away, just a tad difficult; or b.) being a local poseur and not really a Californian, in reality a Glasgow kid in his mom’s basement (Note: My mother lives in suburban Miami and has no basement); and, best of all, c.) the “gotcha” that if I have only been a fan since the 2018-19 season (true, as documented elsewhere), I must be a fake because I praise Shunsuke Nakamura and it’s impossible for me to have seen him . . . as if YouTube and Internet connectivity have never existed.

I’ve dismissed all that, since it’s all world-class ridiculous on an astronomical level. And I know the vast majority of Celtic fans at home in Scotland recognize and appreciate Celtic fans abroad — those of us who make the popularity of the Hoops a worldwide phenomenon — and realize that we are brothers (and sisters) in arms in the cause of the Green and White.

The club surely knows the importance of the CSCs, and whether it’s San Francisco or Johannesburg or Vancouver or Tokyo — or any of the 91 CSCs around the globe — we know that we are part and parcel of Tommy Burns’ iconic quote, “They’re there, and they’re always there. And God bless every one of them.”

Every one of them: From the decades-long season-ticket holder to the newest fan who just found Celtic yesterday. From the fan who travels to every away game to the fan who watches halfway around the world and may never see a Celtic game in person.

The passion is the same. The green-and-white scarf doesn’t shrink to fit inferior fans, and all who truly love Celtic are worthy to wear the scarf.

Every one of them: And those fans are everywhere.

Faithful through and through.

’67 in the Heat of Felton appears on a regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule, often with game observations following Celtic matches.

Living(ston) on the edge

Credit where credit is due, part one: Livingston, a club which seems to have Celtic’s number for some metaphysical reason, lived up to their reputation as a home team that is very stingy about letting visitors score, and punched way above their weight on Wednesday to put Celtic in battle-stations mode for much of Wednesday’s game.

Credit where credit is due, part two: Celtic didn’t fold, remained focused, and kept coming after the Tony Macaronis shortly after going down 2-1 early in the 2nd half, constantly attacking the 10-0-0 Livingston formation for a better part of the second half before Tom Rogic finally got one to go in during injury time to equalise.

But before getting into some of the details, let’s backtrack a bit, going off-script for a moment, to talk about officiating over the last couple of games. It has been laughably deficient and blatantly awful.

At Pittodrie, Andrew Dallas borked most of the calls and non-calls in the Aberdeen game, which Celtic won anyway. Same at Kilmarnock with Kevin Clancy, who for the most part really has no business calling a game between teams of 8-year-olds, let alone games in the Premier League. But we still prevailed against Killie.

On Wednesday, Willie Collum may have looked at those games and said, “You think that’s bad? Hold my beer.”

Collum clearly was rendered temporarily blind when at least two Celts were clearly fouled in the penalty area during the course of the game, not to mention a variety of other fouls on the pitch. He also missed not one, but two handball fouls by Livingston on Odsonne Edouard’s free kick late in the game, to add to his usual all-over-the-map WTF method of refereeing.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The greatest marketing ploy ever, in the entire history of advertising, is SpecSavers sponsoring the SFA referees.

And I know, I know: Jock Stein said, “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.”

But even after Wednesday’s game, Big Jock is surely looking down from heaven and saying, “Damn, dude.” Or whatever the Scottish equivalent to that California phrase might be.

Meanwhile, back at the original point of the blog: Despite coming away with only one point — and thank goodness Glasgow’s other club made that “academic” (thanks, Chris Sutton!) by dropping their game against Hamilton — Wednesday’s game in the Italian Restaurant Arena was a completely watchable game; despite being a watchable game that we should have won by a score of 5-2 given the penalties we should have had.

OK, I’ll stop.

Wednedsay’s game was one of those grind-it-out affairs, where we lacked in a couple of areas — Fraser Forster uncharacteristically mishandled a ball that ended up as a fluke goal for Livingston early in the first half, and their familiarity with a quirky pitch augmented by defensive misplay on Celtic’s part led to their second — but we still came away with a draw. Because that’s what champions do.

A couple of bright spots in the game: As he often does when he’s fit and on the pitch, Nir Bitton makes a good case for being a starter for Celtic. His play yesterday was nothing short of solid, and I suspect — and I could be off here — is that we’ll be seeing more of him as the season progresses.

Also, after coming back from an injury where his mobility may have been hampered (possibly permanently), Jeremie Frimpong looked as fast and sharp as he was before professional hammerthrower Alan Power of Kilmarnock assaulted him earlier this season.

And Rogic: It appears that after a few games under his belt upon his return from his lengthy injury time-off, the Wizard of Oz is finally getting his touch back.

Add to the mix the return of players like Hatem Elhamed and Mohammed Elyounoussi — the latter who had a tough time on Wednesday (it happens) and the former who Neil Lennon wisely didn’t play on Wednesday on a plastic pitch — and the Road to Nine looks clear.

While close games may be exciting to watch, it would be nice for Celtic to maybe blow out St. Mirren on Saturday. Personally, I could stand a “boring” 7-0 victory by the Hoops from time to time . . .

One more thing: Kudos to Celtic TV once again. The power went out here in Felton shortly before the 2nd half started — Pacific Gas & Electric has rolling blackouts from time to time in their effort to keep their failing infrastructure from burning down all of California — and I missed the live broadcast of the half. But thanks to their available video of the 2nd half, I was able to watch once the power was restored.

All of which is to say, one of the best investments Celtic fans abroad can make is the monthly (or yearly) subscription to Celtic TV. And while he’s no Sutton, Tom Boyd’s insights — both the significant and the quirky — are top-notch; especially the Monty Python references.

Oh, and before I forget, the Sandman’s ratings are here.

’67 in the Heat of Felton appears on a regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule, often with game observations following Celtic matches.

Bits and bobs

Greg Taylor, wearting much of the pitch, during Celtic’s 1-0 win at St. Johnstone.

A lot has been said about the game on Sunday at McDiarmid Park — or maybe it should be referred to as McDiarmid Bog from here on in — where Celtic eked out a 1-0 win thanks to a goal by either Chritsopher Jullien or Ryan Christie sealed the game well after 80 minutes. In fact, it deserves special mention that the club overcame the elements AND Bobby Madden to advance to the semifinals of the Scottish Cup.

But others have talked about that, so we won’t go into it here. But I will point your attention to the celebrated Sandman of Celtic Noise fame, who has published his ratings on the St. Johnstone game here, which — say it with me — are worth a read.

Instead, I think it would only be fair to share a few observations over the last week or so while we prepare for the Tony Macaroni Gang . . . I mean Livingston, on Wednesday.

Cameron Harper: Burger aficionado

A little known, nearly under-the-radar announcement on Twitter last week revealed that Celtic reserve and California dude Cameron Harper signed a shoe deal with Nike recently.

But that’s not all. In addition, Celtic TV featured an interview with Harper during halftime of the St. Johnstone game, which is now available to Celtic TV subcribers on their page (EDIT: Celtic TV, in their infinite wisdom, put the interview on YouTube here).

Harper’s polite manner and California cool came across well in the interview, and the highlight — at least for me — was when he was asked about his favourite food. His answer, at least for us Californians, is clearly a no-brainer.

Hamburger heaven: The In-n-Out Burger sign at the La Mirada franchise in Southern California.

In-N-Out Burger. For those of you who have the misfortune not to live near one of these burger joints, they make fantastic burgers and fries — an animal-style double and fries (a 3X if I am hungry), along with a root beer float, hits the spot for me — and the Southern California phenomenon has reached northward to San Jose and San Francisco, and beyond. So thankfully, Cameron, we’re covered up here with what was once a purely Southern California phenomenon.

Now if only there was a way to get an In-N-Out franchise located in Glasgow . . .

The Ghirls are all right

While the bhoys were slogging around McDiarmid Park on Sunday, the Celtic FC Women battled windy conditions to take a 4-1 win over Spartans FC in Edinburgh and assuring their spot in the quarterfinals of the Scottish Woman Premier League Cup.

American Summer Green started the scoring after taking a pass from Natalie Ross at the 40-minute mark. Sarah Ewens, Kathleen McGovern and Josephine Giard also scored for the Ghirls in Green.  

The victory put the Celtic FC Women atop Group A heading into the cup playoff. A full report can be found here.

Come on, you ghirls in green!

A few years ago, Leigh Griffiths tied a scarf around an Ibrox goalpost after a Celtic victory there.

The power of the scarf

The story goes that Leigh Griffiths, after a win against Glasgow’s other club on their home ground a few years ago, tied a Celtic scarf around a goalpost at Ibrox. Popular or not — and apparently the football authorities were not pleased with Griffiths at the time — the subtext here is that the scarf is more than just a clothing accessory.

It’s a symbol.

It marks the fact that you belong to something greater than yourself. That first scarf is your pledge of allegiance. The scarf, and the symbol it represents, associates one with their club — and our scarf associates us with the greatest club in the world, a club like no other — and it almost becomes part of you over time; the older the scarf, the more cherished it becomes.

Much was made of a lad chucking his scarf onto the field after the disappointing Copenhagen result last week, and rightfully so, as outlined in this article in The Celtic Star. In addition, you also might want to watch this video, released around Christmastime, capturing the essence of the scarf.

Honor the scarf.

The comic gift that keeps on giving

Generally speaking, I have a rule — a rule that I’m going to bend here — about writing about other clubs on this blog (unless, of course, it relates to Celtic, however directly or indirectly), especially the other Glasgow club in the Premier League.

However, the continuous slapstick which seems to be part and parcel of their very existence since their formation in 2012 is sometimes impossible to deflect or avoid.

And let me be clear: I abhor rumour-mongering — its comic value aside in this case, I don’t think any of this is true, as funny as it might be — but it’s too good to pass up.

Remember the hubbub about someone tampering with brakes under Alfredo Morelos’ Lamborghini, where that paper-thin tamperer turned out to be, most likely, a private investigator trying to put a tracking device on the car at the behest of the pregnant Señora Morelos, who suspected her husband was straying from their bed?

Well, there’s possibly a twist in this sordid tale, according to more than one source, true or not. But as the “story” goes, the PI was not hired by Señora Morelos, but by none other than Ryan Kent, who suspected the striker — in more ways than one, maybe? — was seeing either Kent’s girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, depending on the “story” you’re following.

The amusement never ends with that bunch.

And now, on to Wednesday’s game. Mon the Hoops!

’67 in the Heat of Felton appears on a regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule, often with game observations following Celtic matches.

The real tragedy of the Europa exit

Understatement of the season: Not a good day at Paradise on Thursday night, as Celtic drops a heartbreaker to Copenhagen 3-1.

To state the obvious, last night was awful on a variety of levels; levels of awful which have been dealt with an analyzed ad nauseum already — correctly or not — in the press and the blogosphere, to say nothing of the tsunami of toxic sludge washing over social media.

But let’s kickoff this post — no pun intended — with the real tragedy of last night’s 3-1 loss to Copenhagen.

It must be truly heartbreaking to the throngs of football geniuses who missed their life’s calling by not currently being in a position of football management at Celtic — or anywhere else, for that matter — outside of the confines of their computer keyboards and their Internet connections. It’s always tragic to miss your calling in life.

As a result, the pain is now shared as we have the collective wailing and gnashing of teeth from self-proclaimed experts that comes with a Celtic misstep. Yeah, we left the Champions League under inauspicious circumstances and now we’re out of the Europa League for pretty much the same reasons.

It sucks. No argument there.

And make no mistake about it: It is painfully ironic that a team as good as Celtic will not be in either tournament thanks to glaring missteps in both, while other substandard teams are about to walk into the woodchipper of far superior continental teams as they advance in both European tournaments.

But that’s how it goes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. And we didn’t.

Mire CSC aptly points out in this tweet the kind of fans Celtic doesn’t need.

Meanwhile, some fans need a quick reassessment of the current situation. Here you go: Celtic currently sits atop the table by 12 points, with a 20-goal advantage in goal differential to the second place team. One trophy won.

You’re welcome.

Clearly, Thursday night’s result was a disappointment. However, it bears recalling what “faithful through and through” really means. If you can’t back the club when it stumbles, don’t show your face for the club when it shines.

We have the rest of the season, the quadruple-treble, and history awating us in the coming months. We need to pick ourelves up, dust off, and move forward, starting with the St. Johnstone game on Sunday.

One year later: In Neil we trust

There’s a part of the “Broony” DVD where Scott Brown talks about meeting Neil Lennon for the first time as Celts. As the story goes, then-manager Gordon Strachan sent Broony up to a meeting room for a talk after he takes care of a couple of things beforehand.

As he tells the tale, Brown walks into the room, there’s a big circular table, and Neil Lennon is sitting behind it, alone, in the room. “And I’m like, ‘Oh no.’ This is possibly my worst nightmare. We’ve been kicking the crap out of each other for the last five years, not saying a good word to each other on the park, and the first person I run into when I sign for Celtic is Lenny.”

“I had a lot of admiration for him, even though I didn’t show it on the pitch at the time,” Lennon said in the video.

Brown continues in the video about how Lennon made him feel at home, sat him down, told him about how the club works, and how Brown fits into the scheme of things.

Lennon countered in the video that because Brown is a Celt now, it was Lennon’s responsibility as captain — albeit the outgoing captain that Lenny was — to make sure his transition was seamless, which apparently he did.

Adversaries united for a common good: This, in and of itself, shows the kind of leadership that Neil Lennon brings to the table as the gaffer for Celtic.

Superstars on the field don’t always make the best managers. In many instances, it’s the player who puts in the extra effort on multiple levels that makes the step to the leadership rung on the football ladder. These players-to-gaffers, mostly unrecognized during their playing days, have to put in extra time on the training ground and the weight room — to say nothing of being a constant student of the game — to succeed at the highest level of the sport, and it pays off later in their football life.

One example of this is a textbook case in American baseball. Ted Williams, arguably the best hitter in the history of the sport, was a lackluster manager, to put it diplomatically. Bruce Bochy — I can hear you all saying “who?” — was a nondescript catcher with the San Diego Padres during his playing career who became the last decade’s best manager with the San Francisco Giants and a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Watching videos of Neil Lennon as a player (thanks, YouTube!), he was not a flashy player, but he was solid and got the job done. And while it might be a cliche, the stars get all the accolades, but it’s really the supporting cast that always makes the club work.

A year ago, when the former Celtic manager departed for Leicester City, arguments ensued about who should take up the reins at Celtic. Names with high price tags were listed and debated on social media and forums, but there was really only one choice: the caretaker appointed at the time, Neil Lennon.

Then, when the myopic and anguished hue and cry on social media and in the forums persisted after his hiring immediately after delivering the Treble Treble, Lennon has silenced the critics with the level of play that Celtic has delivered this season.

Where we stand now this season: Top of the table, 12 points clear of the second place team, with a goal differential lead of 20, one cup won. All this with injuries to key players from time to time as well.

While it’s true that Lennon does not do this alone or operate in a vacuum — he has great support from John Kennedy, Damian Duff, Stevie Woods and others on the coaching staff — he is the one whose leadership makes the Celtic ship sail.

He has brought the thunder.

So one year after “the crisis,” it is an undisputed truth that Neil Lennon is the man most qualified to lead Celtic.

And for this we are truly thankful and say, confidently, “In Neil we trust.”

Drawing conclusions

First things first: I wish I lived closer to Millbrae, where the San Francisco Celtic Supporters’ Club meets to watch Celtic games at an Irish pub called Fiddler’s Green. While my only other experience with the group was watching the Billy McNeill game last season with a grand total of five folks at 4 a.m., the 10 a.m. start time for the FC København game drew a wide range of Celtic fans — old, young, men, women — and the 25 or so of us enjoyed the game, and each other’s company, for the 90 minutes and afterward.

For those of you reading in places far from Paradise, you should definitely connect with your local CSC. If you don’t have one, think about starting one. If you live in the Santa Cruz, California, area, email me for details.

That aside and setting our sights now on Thursday’s game, Celtic either seems to have lost its second-half magic or they were simply outplayed by an invigorated Copenhagen team which stepped up its game against Scotland’s best.

Or, possibly, a combination of both.

Thursday’s draw — not a great result, but not the disaster some claim it is — has brought out the armchair analysts and PlayStation pundits in droves yet again. Rather than waste your time by repeating the nonsense on social media when results aren’t ideal, you can check that out for yourselves, if you wish.

There are a couple of takeaways from Thursday’s game.

Fraser Forster saves a penalty during the FC København game on Thursday. He needs to be signed to a long-term contract. Now.

First, and I know I’ve said this before, sign Fraser Forster. Now. Don’t wait. Just hand him the pen, have him put his signature on a new contract until, oh I don’t know, 2080, crack open the tin, and be done with it. The Wall is a cornerstone to Celtic’s current ongoing success, both this season and in seasons to come, so to say it would be in our best interest to keep him around is the biggest understatement ever.

Second, it looks like FC København did their homework. Not that other opponents don’t, but they knew that in games past Celtic shifted gears in the second half and usually motored away with the victory. They essentially beat us to the punch in the final 45 minutes in this regard, and their tempo was, let’s just say, uplifted for the second half where Celtic was unable to get a foothold.

Also, VAR sucks. Period. Full stop. Once you take the human element out of decision-making on the field, it’s pretty much game over. There is no way that Ryan Christie’s arm position in that hand-ball situation was anywhere near what can be considered a natural state. Not even for Christie, who I understand has the best dance moves of any Celtic player.

One last hat-tip to FC København for being a class act as an organization, and to the Celtic fans on the road again, who drew praise from the Copenhagen police. Prior to the game, the Danish Club and Audi promoted this video stating that “at least Celtic are still in Europe” — take that, Brexiteers — and after the game they tweeted this message: “Dear @CelticFC It was a pleasure to host you tonight. We look forward to visiting you for another exiting match. Have a safe trip home.” The Copenhagen police also got into the Twitter act with this tweet: “We want to thank the fans of @CelticFC – it’s been great having you guys in town – no registered problems during the night. We wish you a safe journey back to Scotland.”

Now it’s back home to take on Kilmarnock on Sunday at Celtic Park before exacting revenge for Thursday’s draw later in the week. Mon the Hoops!

‘You Gotta Have Heart(s)’

In the musical “Damn Yankees,” the manager of the Washington Senators breaks into one of the theatrical performance’s songs about having “heart.” It’s guts, the will to face adversity, the ability to believe that you can overcome sometimes overwhelming odds.

One can only hope that Heart of Midlothian FC were paying attention. Because after the thrashing they received at Celtic Park yesterday . . .

When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win
That’s when the grin should start

Celtic’s Callum McGregor shoots and scores at the 52-minute mark to put the Bhoys in Green up 3-0. Celtic went on to beat Heart of Midlothian 5-0 at Celtic Park on Wednesday night.

After its usual methodical — some might say “slow” — start with Olivier Ntcham scoring off a rebound at the 30-minute mark to go into the locker room at halftime with a 1-0 lead, Celtic shifted into another gear and, in quick succession scored at 46 minutes (Christopher Jullien) and 52 minutes (Callum McGregor), waiting a bit to score again at 67 minutes (Ryan Christie) and then at 80 minutes (Jozo Simunovic).

All unanswered.

And while it could be a little disconcerting to some to think that Edinburgh could end up a city with only one club in the Scottish Premiership, Celtic on the other hand is a club that is reaching new highs.

Putting aside for a moment the fact that the league, for the second year in a row, may have been won again at Rugby Park — this time by Kilmarnock’s Eamonn Brophy slotting a right-footer against The Rangers making it 2-1 Killie with two minutes remaining — the Celtic team that put on a show Wednesday night in Glasgow fired on all cylinders.

Greg Taylor is fitting in nicely and delivering crosses with apolmb. Christie walked on to the pitch in the second half and, a few minutes later, ended up on the score sheet. Even Simunovic, who many of the so-called Celtic faithful have written off (shame on them!), marshalled the ball around the Celtic half of the pitch on defence for most of the game and, on the last Celtic corner of the game, headed in a delivery into the net with a quick nod to wrap up Celtic’s scoring.

My Man/Woman of the Match? Whomever put on the “Theme from Hawaii 5-0” on the stadium PA after Simunovic, who wears number 5, scored to make the tally — wait for it — 5-0.

OK, seriously: This time, I’d give it to Ntcham, whose ball handling and passing in traffic has been outstanding as of late. Putting back the rebound early in the game didn’t hurt, either, but the Frenchman is showing his worth to the Celtic. Though Taylor is getting better and better now that he’s got a few games under his belt, he easily could have been considered the Man of the Match as well.

It’s a good problem to have — indecision regarding who to give Man of the Match to when there are so many good players performing at peak levels.

But officially, the Man of the Match on Wednesday was McGregor. And rightfully so.

Next up: Aberdeen on Sunday. Mon the Hoops!

Game-day rituals: Yours, mine and ours

A quick post while we await the start of the match against Hearts at Paradise: I know everyone probably has their own game-day rituals, some perhaps more elaborate than others, and I wanted to share mine before actually starting them for today’s game.

So, every morning before game time, I go out on the terrace, face the forest, and sing ‘Celtic Symphony.’ Not really. But I wish I could.

Personally, I have two, depending on whether I am working during the game or not. While I do my best to clear my schedule for the night games in Scotland — weekend games are no problem, as they start in what you would call the “wee hours” prior to sunrise — there are times when I have to work at either my part-time job as a bookkeeper at a local supermarket or as a freelance documentation specialist for computer hardware and software, which puts me at the beck-and-call of tech heads and engineers at several Silicon Valley firms.

First, fortunately I have this innate ability to wake up at 3:45 a.m. every morning, weekends especially, at which time on game days I will wash up, get dressed, don my Celtic jersey, put on my Celtic scarf, sing sotto voce either the Celtic Song (home game) or Celtic Symphony (away — “we’re on the road again”), and make my way to the computer, boot it up, plug in the headphones and log in to Celtic TV.

Shameless and unsolicited promotion: I love Celtic TV, and I would suggest anyone who absolutely, positively needs to watch Celtic games — and watch the games more than once, as I often do — to get a subscription. It’s reasonably priced at around US$25 a month (you can buy the entire season for around US$200, I think). The analysis is good, the play-by-play is adequate (the puns mostly hit, and the occasional Monty Python references are always welcome), and Celtic TV gets high marks for breaking the gender barrier by having Celtic FC Women’s captain Kelly Clark doing pre-game/halftime/post-game commentary. To her credit, Clark is more than just a token addition: She displays a deep understanding of the game that rivals, if not surpasses, her male broadcasting counterparts.

Meanwhile, back at the original topic . . .

Second, if I have an attend-or-die meeting in the Silicon Valley or have to go in to count money at the supermarket, I don my white Oxford shirt and wear a green sweater — Larry’s green and white — and take my scarf and my tablet with me; ever the professional. I have had a few engineers watching the games with me while I write or edit their manuals, and I am hoping this low-key evangelism will convert some in the tech arena to the Celtic faithful.

On the rare occurrence I am able to make it up to the San Francisco CSC at Fiddler’s Green in Millbrae (just south of the city), it’s the jersey, scarf, and excellent company with the lads up there in suburban San Francisco. One personal highlight: I watched the Billy McNeill game up there last season, which was completely magical in both the result and the camaraderie at the pub. Excellent group, those SF CSCers!

Enough about me. What are your game-day rituals? Feel free to post them in the comments.

Oh, and today’s game? Clean sheet, Griff (2) and Eddy score, 3-0 Hoops.

Focus, focus, focus

Taking a look at all that’s going on in Scottish football over the last couple of weeks, it appears that distractions are rearing their ugly heads and overwhelming the general public in general, and football fans in particular, in tsunami-sized waves of falsehoods.

To recap:

Celtic fans tried to kill Alfredo Morelos. No wait, that paper-thin perpetrator under Fredo’s Lamborghini is actually a private investigator hired by Morelos’ pregnant wife to place a tracker on his car to keep tabs on him.

So, let’s deflect.

Sky Sports — let’s turn on the Sarcasmatron and see what it calls them . . . it says “a paragon of sport journalism” — produces an interview with a player who can’t understand English, yet he claims there’s racist abuse directed toward him at Celtic Park. But wait: Those subtitles aren’t exactly a match to what he’s saying. In fact, they’re arguably not even close.

The total weight of this disingenuous behaviour could stun a team of oxen.

Thank God for Michael Stewart, who has both the gravitas and the courage to tell the truth, taking to heart the Latin phrase, Fiat justitia ruat caelum — let justice prevail though the heavens fall. To his immense credit, Stewart is doing what journalists should be doing everywhere, but sadly aren’t; especially in Scotland, apparently.

As a former journalist, I can go on for days here regarding how important Stewart’s statements are and the heroic nature of the stand he is taking, just by merely highlighting the truth. But I will spare you.

You’re welcome.

The Dynamic Duo: Leigh Griffiths hugs Odsonne Edouard after Edouard’s opening goal at the 9-minute mark at Fir Park. Celtic went on to beat Motherwell 4-0.

But speaking of the Motherwell game . . .

All distractions aside, what I did want to write about today was yesterday’s game at Fir Park, where Celtic got off to its usual meticulous start in the first half, going into the locker room with a meager 1-0 lead, and came out of the gate in the second half like gangbusters, ending the game with a 4-0 score, and a wider goal differential in its seven-point lead in the table.

Rather than do the usual “five takeaways,” I am going to make this brief, sort of.

During the transfer window, we had a flurry of greeters bemoaning the fact that we need [fill-in-the-position-of-your-choice-here] or we are doomed to extinction. This while ignoring that there really was only one blemish on the season so far, on Dec. 29. One misstep that has seen us atop the league virtually all season and accomplishing one of three steps toward the Quadruple Treble so far.

So I am going to assume they will go contentedly silent now. Maybe.

It’s not only the obvious things that set us apart atop the rest of the league, like the tandem of Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths — twin strikers from separate mothers — working like a well-oiled machine at the front, or how the crowd in the 3-5-2 midfield is seemingly flawless in their ball-handling, moving the ball efficiently up the field. It’s not only Fraser Forster rejecting everything that comes remotely near him in goal.

It’s also in the little things, too: Patryk Klimala and Stephen Welsh both showing promise; the former showing speed and skill in two brief stints at the end of the last two games, and the latter having a good game in his debut. Tom Rogic and Jozo Simunovic getting back up to speed; especially the latter, who has put together back-to-back adequate games as a starter. And then, to add to the returning wounded, Ryan Christie showing some flash in the Motherwell game, starting the Christie to James Forrest to Callum McGregor goal in the second half.

But wait, there’s more. Mohammed Elyounoussi is training and will be back soon, followed by Hatem Elhamed and Jeremie Frimpong. Once we’re back to full strength, we should be unstoppable.

Most importantly, what someone needs to do, or should have done, immediately after the final whistle at Fir Park was to wake up Peter Lawwell and have him sign Forster immediately after the game. For life. Right now. As great as our backups are — and both Scott Bain and Craig Gordon are top-notch, even though we haven’t seen them all season — neither one of them is making these same saves. The Wall is in his own class, in his own league, in his own universe.

Forster needs to be Celtic for life.

The same applies to Edouard as well. Though he’s under contract until the end of the 2021/22 season, he needs to be kept around at all costs. Chris Sutton is absolutely right when he says Edouard is “the closest thing to (Henrik) Larsson I’ve seen in a Celtic jersey.” If anyone on the planet can speak with authority on this topic, it is Sutton.

One more thing

Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien might be getting slagged a bit on their defensive lapses in the Motherwell game, and there is no argument there — Ajer’s missed tackle could have sullied the clean sheet that Celtic came away with had Motherwell scored. But they didn’t. And to their credit, Kris and Chris are always in communication, and you can see them discussing play during the celebration of Edouard’s first goal.

Additionally, Motherhell — sorry, Motherwell — clearly have worked hard on consistently being a team of hammer-throwing Steelmen; no secret there. They also happen to be third in the Scottish Premiership table, which makes them first-of-the-also-rans behind Celtic and Glasgow’s other club. They’re third in the table for a reason, and on Wednesday, taking advantage of Celtic’s defensive lapses is probably the main reason why they lead the rest of the pack.

Now, for the rest of the season, let’s focus.

Focus on our positives far, far outweighing our negatives, because they do. Neil Lennon has been nothing short of masterful in handling suitable lineups in the face of multiple injuries. Focus on the two prizes needed to complete the next treble; one cup down, one cup and the league championship to go. Focus on the fact that, despite all these infantile shenanigans going on in Scottish football drawing away everyone’s attention (and we’re not even going close to the disciplinary garbage the SFA is pulling), Celtic is playing its best football in quite some time and, barring any disasters, we should prevail.

Focus, focus, focus.