Mama said there’d be days like this

With their 1961 hit single, the Shirelles got it right about Celtic’s foray to Rugby Park on Sunday. And while the wailing and gnashing of teeth continues regarding the 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock, believe it or not there are some positive takeaways from Sunday’s game.

First things first: Sadly, a considerable segment of the so-called Celtic support has been taking the post-game time on Sunday to post absolute full-panic-mode nonsense; sheer idiocy rivaling what followers of Glasgow’s other club tend to produce. Yes, Christopher Jullien let the team down by his foul, leading to Killie’s only real chance to successfully score, but who in their right mind would seek a replacement? Yes, probably we should have played a 3-5-2, with Odsonne Edouard and Patryk Klimala (for the absent Leigh Griffiths) up front all game, but firing Neil Lennon for not doing so? Seriously?

For those who are ready to pitch it all because you imagine that your hair is on fire because Celtic needs to buy every player on the planet and fire Lenny in the process, Eddy would like to have a word with you . . .

Edouard says, “Calme-toi, crétins.”

Now for a couple of positive takeaways — yes, there were a couple– from Sunday’s game.

Vasilis Barkas had a good debut

The Athenian Fenian started his first game between the sticks for the Hoops and, aside from Jullien’s gaffe leading to a penalty kick, Barkas played a fairly flawless game. The penalty kick aside, he stopped everything that came his way, and his ball distribution was pretty admirable, though I think he could have launched a few more long balls than he did. But that kind of thing comes with time and if Sunday’s game is any indication, it looks like he’s going to be a solid mainstay in goal.

Hard to play against a 10-0-0 alignment

As previously mentioned, the 3-5-2 which brought us to 9 in a row should probably not be deviated from. It’s hard to ascertain — and it’s not for me to question — if Lenny went with one striker up front because Griff is in the doghouse (again) or he felt our second striker option, Klimala, was not ready, then that’s the call. It’s water under the bridge now. However, Kilmarnock seemed to have come onto the pitch with a 10-0-0 alignment, with 10 defenders, no midfielders and no forwards, which makes things a little difficult for the freewheeling Hoops.

Regardless, both Greg Taylor and Jeremie Frimpong — the former moreso than the latter — got the ball in on several occasions only to have the effort fail in a sea of blue jerseys. To his credit, Ryan Christie nailed an absolute stunner of a free kick which rattled the back of the net and Callum McGregor just missed a shot which went inches over the bar in a game that lacked clear chances to score.

Jock is right about refs, but . . .

We all know Jock Stein’s quote by heart: “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.” However, the right call on a ball out of bounds over the right touch line immediately prior to Jullien’s penalty should have been a throw-in to Celtic. I’ve watched it a few times — thanks, Celtic TV — and the ball was completely over the line and out. Of course, one out-of-bounds ball does not win or lose games — just as one penalty kick does not win or lose games in and of themselves — but, in this case, a correct call by an attentive lineman would have changed the complexion of the game.

Where’s Uncle Albert?

One of the things I missed about this year’s visit to Rugby Park is the lack of Kilmarnock fans, especially Uncle Albert — the bearded chap who was the recipient of the Leigh Griffith Tape Hurling Award during a game last season. In fact, I don’t know if he is the same fellow, but I recall last season when Celtic TV, whose play-by-play man and match analyst have to sit painfully close — such is the case at Rugby Park — to the fans, and the broadcasters had to keep apologizing for a garbage-mouthed oaf whose profanities were picked up by the Celtic TV microphones.

Maybe he was at home saying “aye” to a Kilmarnock Pie. Who knows?

Next up is St. Mirren on Wednesday, kickoff at the glorious hour of 6 p.m. in Scotland and 10 a.m. North American Pacific Coast time.

Here we go again . . .

Midweek meanderings: Free agent to consider and quality kits

Now that it’s midweek with no game to watch, unfortunately, it’s the perfect time to let the mind wander after reading the Celtic news of the day. And to paraphrase Douglas Adams, I love transfer rumours — I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by. That said, let’s take a look at a couple of items to ponder . . . .

An experienced centre back on no one’s radar

There’s a free agent currently out there on the market who, I think, has a proven record of success. Yes, he’s a little injury-prone and should probably stay away from the plastic pitches that occasionally pop up on the Celtic schedule. But when he has been on the pitch playing for his team, he has been a steady player who has come up from time to time with some significant play for his club, and has been more than a footnote in his club’s history.

Of course the free agent I’m talking about is Jozo Simunovic. And he even comes with his own soundtrack.

Sure, the key here is whether a smaller contract and a reduced role will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Croatian, and probably playing back-up to whomever is playing that position — Nir Bitton? — but as an insurance policy in a season where Celtic players wear huge targets on their backs for the league’s hammer throwers — and watch the Hamilton game again for a preview — it wouldn’t hurt to have someone who knows the system and, from time to time, knows where to be at historic moments.

I’ve said here and elsewhere that releasing Simunovic and Jonny Hayes was a mistake. Hayes is away for good, playing for deferred payments for Aberdeen. But Jozo is still available.

In this day and age where a virus has changed all the rules of footballing business and funding in general, and player aquisition with said funds (or lack thereof) in particular, all options should be on the table and “thinking outside the box” is not only necessary, but prudent.

World-class club, world-class kit

Now that the adidas strip has been rolled to great fanfare — and thank you Celtic FC Store online for putting the New Balance kits on fire sale prior to this, so poor fans like yours truly could score a quality jersey at a bargain basement price — it seems that some of the other clubs in the Scottish Premiership have not been, let’s just say, as fortunate.

Normally I don’t really like to use these pixels to talk about anything other than Celtic, but I will make an exception today to point out that it’s not all that rosy in the kit rollout for Glasgow’s other club.

While it’s not polite to laugh at other people’s misfortu . . . wait. I think we can make an exception in this case. Taking a moment to read Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s post yesterday — a belter, as Phil’s posts usually are, and I’ll gladly wait if you want to go ahead and read it — you might see in the photo of Kemar Roofe a certain lack of editing on his jersey. Saty in Control? And where’s the “t” in “Castore”? That is, if you aren’t already distracted by the “d” in “Ready” falling off the display behind Roofe.

Add to this some of the, um, “problems” that fans of Glasgow’s other club have had in getting their ordered kits in, well, unscathed form, and you have the recipe that only the orcs from Ibrox can cook up. Waiting for the laughter to die down . . . .

Anyway, that will do it for today. Don’t forget that the bhoys get back to work on Sunday — we’re on the road again against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, a 4:30 p.m. kickoff (8:30 a.m. on the North American Pacific Coast).

Mon the Hoops!

It’s Academic(al)

Oh my days: Jeremie Frimpong scored the 2nd goal for Celtic at the half-hour mark on the way to the Hoops’ 5-1 victory over Hamilton Academical on Sunday.

So now that the first game is finally under Celtic’s proverbial belt, a convincing 5-1 against Hamilton Accies at home on Sunday, there are a few positive takeaways from the classroom on the pitch at Celtic Park.

Before we start, however, there are two glaring observations that need to be dispensed of at the outset.

First, if today’s game is any indication, Celtic is playing like a team destined for the history that awaits them, namely winning 10 in a row.

Second, however, and probably more importantly, is Sunday’s game shows Celtic fair warning: If the hammer throwers at Hamilton Academical are any indication, the other 11 teams will ply a trade of constant bodily harm in order to thwart the Hoops’ date with destiny.

That said, let’s take a look at Sunday’s game. Take out your notebooks, boys and girls.

Odsonne Edouard is uninterested?

Yeah, that was the run-up, all-encompassing question prior to Opening Day: Was Odsonne Edouard, as they say in France, too indifférent, as even some were saying paresseux? Pardon my French, but one hat trick against the Accies later, and all that nonsense seems to have évaporé. Any preseason evidence suggesting that Edouard is not ready to get to work for the 10 was vanquished on Sunday, and let’s look forward to more of this, s’il vous plaît.

The Passive Aggressive Hoops

In his post-game interview, Neil Lennon said that he thought, “we were a bit too passive in the first half.” While that may be true, in typical Celtic fashion the club came out of the gate storming in the 2nd with their usual aggressive attacking football, which is something we had seen all season when the Hoops won their 9th in a row. Sure, it would be great for the Celts to get up to speed quicker and lay down a marker earlier in the game. But when the results are a win, who cares when they pull away from their opponents?

Greg Taylor: Man of the Match

Yeah, I know: Edouard gets the nod by virtue of three goals, but Greg Taylor had a phenomenal game on Sunday. Taylor and his counterpart on the other side, Jeremie Frimpong, kept the Accies busy all game with crosses to the center of the pitch, essentially keeping them back on their heels for a majority of the game. The ball handling by the entire team earned special mention, but the play from the wing — both of them — was unusually good this time around and shows promise for success going forward.

Scott Bain did well

Playing under the shadow of possibly — or maybe even probably — being replaced at some point soon is daunting; a dead-man-walking scenario to be sure. But Scott Bain did not falter and turned in a good game against Hamilton. Not perfect — the pinball for the Accies that went in off of Callum McGregor and Christopher Jullien was a quirk of nature that really no one could have stopped, not even Fraser Forster. But Bain showed some good distribution and make a few good stops and earned the win at his end of the pitch.

[As an aside, pity Ryan Fulton in goal for the Accies: Normally a 5-1 outing would earn a goalkeeper a good thrashing, if not a dawn appointment with a firing squad (no pun intended). But he made several great saves in a game that really should have been 9-1. At least.]

Polish Paddy on the score sheet

Patryk Klimala continues to impress, and now that he’s got a shot at being the number two striker for Celtic, it would probably come as no surprise that the Polish kid will be working hard to claim that spot. His goal at the 90-minute mark in the game came as he outmuscled a defender after a long pass from Jullien. And even after not getting a really clean shot off, it still danced cleanly into the back of the net. At which time — quite possibly — somewhere at the Leigh Griffiths household, Leigh got onto his stationary bike for some additional training time . . . .

One more thing

Not directly Celtic-related, but there has been a debate brewing in the advent, and in the wake, of Arsenal’s 2-1 win in the FA Cup on Saturday about whether it is OK to send our long-time defender and current Arsenal fan favourite Kieran Tierney well-wishes and congratulations. If nothing else, KT is living, breathing proof that the Celtic system, from the youth level to the first team, is sheer quality. When that is given the stage as massive as the FA Cup — regardless of whether you like or dislike the EPL (and I don’t) — it puts the spotlight on our player development system being an unqualified success. So go on with your bad self, Kieran, and congratulations on bringing those championships borne of the Celtic tradition to wherever you might play.

All of that said, it was clearly a great win for the Bhoys on Sunday, and hopefully we can stay at the top of the table wire-to-wire going forward.

Class dismissed.

North American CSC update: LA CSC to open season

This bulletin just in from the North American Celtic Supporters Club news desk: The Los Angeles CSC will host a gathering to watch the Celtic opener against Hamilton Academical at their usual meeting spot, Joxer Daly’s Pub in Culver City.

Masks are mandatory — let me repeat that: masks are mandatory — and admission is free for members and $10 for non-members (and, yes, L.A. CSC will be checking membership at the door).

It’s an 8:30 a.m. start time on Sunday on the U.S. West Coast as the Hoops take the pitch to start the season at Paradise at 4:30 p.m. Glasgow time.

Joxer Daly’s is located at 11168 Washington Boulevard in Culver City.

It’s roughly 300 miles from here to Culver City, but it might be worth the drive to watch the bhoys with like-minded masked fans . . . .

Any other North American CSCs gathering for the season opener, with proper precautions (of course), on Sunday? Let us know in the comments below.

Miracles on Mondays

Patryk Klimala scored two goals — one arguably stolen from Leigh Griffiths — against Hibernian in the final preseason game for Celtic at Celtic Park on Monday.

There’s a saying here that goes something like this: “There are no miracles on Mondays.” Yet to watch the Celtic-Hibernian preseason match at Paradise on Monday, the Hoops may have proved that wrong. In the second game in as many days at Celtic Park, the kids took over on the pitch and ran amok.

In a good way. In a really good way.

Patryk Klimala? Ready to go. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but in the 2nd half when Celtic went with two strikers up front — Klimala and Leigh Griffiths, sprung from the doghouse and onto the pitch — things happened. Good things. Ver good things, like two unanswered goals.

Ismaila Soro? Game ready. Not only that, he’s SPFL ready as well, passing superbly in the Hibs game while prepared to dish out punishment to the hammerthrowers that populate the Premier League, showing no mercy to both Ross County and Hibernian clods over the last two games.

Luca Connell? Let’s find this kid some playing time. Can he play right back? Center back? Connell was pretty impressive in this game and if this game is any indication, he may be up with the first team sooner moreso than later.

Even Conor Hazard did well enough for 90 minutes, making some quality saves in the game.

The list goes on: Karamoko Dembele, when he wasn’t being planted into the turf by Hibs thugs, shone with his first senior-side goal and a neat assist on Klimala’s goal. Ewan Henderson showed a considerable amount of range, affecting play on both ends of the pitch. Stephen Welsh and Kerr McInroy, the latter who played yesterday, also impressed on Monday.

Of the first-team regulars, Hatem Elhamed appeared to be in his same early-season form as he was last season when he arrived at Celtic. The defensive aptitude that Elhamed, coupled with his occasional play up front — he missed a header in the first half — consistently shows will be key to Celtic’s success once the season starts.

And then there was Griffiths, who seemed to be in good enough shape once he was put in and, arguably, really scored the goal that Klimala put in for the latter’s first of the game.

I don’t know what game captain Olivier Ntcham said in the pregame huddle, but whatever it was, it seemed to have worked.

With the season prepared to start, it appears that Celtic is ready. Until we play Hamilton Accies on Sunday to start the ten-in-a row season, here we go again . . . .

141 days of starvation ends

The Huddle in a post-Covid world . . .

After a drought of 141 days of no games at Paradise, no one was happier to get up at Oh-My-God-Thirty in the morning Pacific Time and put on my jersey and scarf to watch Celtic play at home.

The Ross County preseason game on Sunday had its ups and downs, as we’ll discuss here, but overall the Hoops are fine-tuning their game for the upcoming season. With Neil Lennon letting the first team run for the full 90 minutes — Greg Taylor excluded (and we’ll definitely get to that later) — here are five takeaways from the Ross County game.

Mugging Odsonne Edouard

Already there are grumblings among some of the more . . . oh, let’s say . . . “restless” Celtic supporters that Odsonne Edouard is mailing it in and not trying. I would completely disagree here, primarily because opposing teams have now caught up on the strategy of swarming Edouard, triple- and even quadruple-teaming him. Clearly, one of the reasons 3-5-2 had worked so well last season is that Eddy was not alone up front. In France and against Ross County yesterday, who was alone up front? Edouard. How did that work? Not so great. Was Eddy mailing it in? Hell, no. Get a grip.

Bain worked for his clean sheet

One of the highlights of the game was the play of Scott Bain. While Ross County’s chances were few and far between, those that got through with a shot on goal were met with some quality goalkeeping, and none of them hit the inside of the net. Like Fraser Forster — who as of this writing, according to the rumour mill, may be making his way back (fingers crossed here) — when Celtic has the ball for the great majority of the game, percentage-wise, keeping goal becomes a game of keeping your head in the game. Forster was — is — a master at maintaining concentration, and Bain proved equal to the task on Sunday.

And on the other side . . .

Additionally, a hat-tip should also go to the Ross County goalkeeper, Celtic loanee Ross Doohan. Doohan couldn’t really do anything against the own-goal, but he made some spectacular saves as the game developed.

Kerr McInroy stepped up

When Greg Taylor went down to an ankle injury thanks to a yellow-card quality foul from Connor Randall — and remind me to include Randall in my list of “SPFL Players to Meet while Swinging My Louisville Slugger” — my first thought looking at the available subs was . . . Stephen Welsh? Maybe Luca Connell? No, Lenny was a few light years ahead of me. Kerr McInroy was slotted in and performed pretty well as Taylor’s sub. McInroy moved the ball well and at one point took a shot on goal that went off a Ross County player. He also made a sharp cross which, had someone been there to receive it, would surely have been a goal. Like Welsh last season, to see players like McInroy stepping up and doing well is a promising sign.

John Hartson in the booth

I like John Hartson a lot. I follow him religiously on social media, and I was looking forward to hearing his insights on the Celtic TV broadcast. Overall he gets high marks for his commentary on the game and at halftime. However, I thought he spent a little too much time scolding Jeremie Frimpong on his gaffe in the 2nd half which left a Ross County player alone with the ball in the box. As it turned out, crisis was averted and it amounted to nothing. I think that falls under the no harm/no foul category, but Hartson wouldn’t let it go. Again, this is preseason and hopefully Hartson will get some good broadcasting practice in before the start of the season.

Until tomorrow’s game against the Hibs, here we go again . . . .

Now let’s get to work

Customarily, I watch Celtic games twice before writing about them. It’s a luxury afforded to me by being an overseas Celtic TV subscriber. After seething for a couple of hours watching the Paris Saint-Germain game live, permit me to bear down on my masochistic side and go through this ordeal once again and pick out the upsides for Celtic of this game — and, yes, there are some.

Putting aside the fact that we’ll forget about this whole French trip soon enough — as we do with all preseason matches as we roll into the new season — here are some takeaways from the game.

Taylor and Frimpong impressed: Both Greg Taylor and Jeremie Frimpong moved the ball well against one of the world’s top teams, which bodes well for the upcoming season. If you’ll permit me a “Captain Obvious” moment, Celtic won’t be facing anyone with PSG’s defensive talents in the Premiership, so it stands to reasons that with the kind of performance the wingers put in in Paris, we can run all over any club in Scotland.

As did Christie, Elyounoussi, Ntcham and others: Ryan Christie did his best Energizer Bunny impersonation by going and going and going, even after being mugged without call several times during the course of the game. Olivier Ntcham was a one-man wrecking crew in the midfield, dishing it out and taking it while on the pitch — Ntcham’s flattening Mitchel Bakker around the 36-minute mark was a gem. Moi Elyounoussi was pretty stellar, too, amid a few muggings he suffered himself. Subs did pretty well, too, on the whole: James Forrest and Tom Rogic looked ready for the upcoming season in the limited time they played.

Yes, we could use a goalkeeper, but . . . : When Scott Bain went down to a PSG knee to his head early in the second half, you could feel the collective breath-holding by Celtic fans worldwide. As much as I like Conor Hazard, he’s clearly a light-year or two from being Number 1 material, so perhaps this is a wake-up call to those responsible for signing players to fix the goalkeeper situation as soon as possible. That said, though, Bain only really borked the third PSG goal — the other three would have gone past pretty much any other goalkeeper. Possibly even Fraser Forster. And a little perspective here: There’s a really good chance that Forster would not have come away from this game with a clean sheet. With a couple of gaffes notwithstanding, Bain did a pretty good job against a world football power.

Demoralizing? No, not really: One of the common post-game themes among the keyboard gaffers on social media is that this defeat was somehow demoralizing for Celtic. Not quite. Sure, normally when you lose 4-0, it’s demoralizing — if you lose 4-0 to Partick Thistle then, yeah, banishment to a deserted island forever would be a viable option. That’s demoralizing. But losing 4-0 to Paris Saint-Germain? Well, if could have been worse, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t.

Celtic played a much better game than the score indicated, and since it is a preseason friendly — Neymar excluded — then it doesn’t really matter. The bhoys got their minutes in and we came away without injuries.

One more warmup against Derry City FC on Saturday and then we go to work. Until then, with your culture and your faith wear the green-and-white.

A tale of two masks

While I wait for my Celtic FC mask to come from the Celtic FC Store – the latest news is that they’re releasing them into the wild on 28 July and hopefully it will arrive on these shores a week later – I bought another green-and-white mask from an artist on RedBubble a few months ago that I wear nearly on a daily basis, with daily washings of course. With a face that is perfect for a mask, it looks like this:

Protecting a face only a mother could love against Covid-19 while wearing the Hoops . . . .

I also have a FC St. Pauli mask sent from Hamburg that I wear almost daily (same cleaning regimen) as well. It looks like this:

. . . and warding off the virus with a skull-and-crossbones, courtesy of FC St. Pauli.

In this new era of mandatory facialwear, it is common to see people wearing masks of their favourite sports teams; here it would be baseball or American football or basketball. In my current jobs as a freelance writer and as a part-time supermarket bookkeeper, I get a hefty dose of interaction with the public, especially at the supermarket.

In broad terms, the computer engineers I mostly work with in writing software/hardware documentation are not the most football-fanatic people, as you might imagine, and they don’t really care what’s on my face.

But the general public that come into the store? Well, that’s another, and slightly different, story.

The supermarket I work in is in a small town in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Silicon Valley. Many people live here and work there and there are a few football fans in the area, mostly fans of the nearby MLS franchise, the San Jose Earthquakes.

Other than Mike, a regular customer to the store and a fan so beholden to FC Bayern Munchen that he often wears the full adidas Bayern training kit into the store (while handing out Bayern stickers to anyone who wants one), I don’t come across many people I personally know who follow football.

However, there are some who visit the store who wear their allegiances on their clothes – caps, T-shirts, etc. – and the occasional kid with his favorite team jersey; one kid, who I call Ronaldo, comes in wearing a Juventus jersey all the time.

In any case, I always strike up conversations with people I think may even remotely have an interest in football because, well, there’s not that many of us around. And even those who aren’t: One day, a woman came in to exchange a product and I noticed she had a Saltire on her wallet.

“Ah, you’re Scottish,” I said.

She nodded. I smiled underneath my mask.

“Do these green-and-white stripes mean anything to you?” I asked, pointing to my face.

She just looked at me and said, “No.”

Definitely a Rangers fan.

Then there’s the Liverpool FC fans. I’ve encountered several at the store over the past few months. I am always gracious, truthfully so, in bringing up what a good manager Jurgen Klopp is (and he is), while congratulating them on having a great season in winning the league (which they did).

When my support for Celtic comes up, they always respond – every time and without fail — with something about . . . Steven Gerrard.

Every. Damn. Time.

“Right, the manager who can’t win a trophy to save his life,” is my most common response.

Or, “Right, the guy who slipped against Chelsea and lost the title for The Reds.”

Or, mostly to myself, “Yeah, well, maybe you should walk alone. Off a cliff.”

The FC St Pauli mask does not get many responses, other than fear because of the skull-and-crossbones. However, I did have a conversation with a German woman who, seeing my FC St. Pauli mask, was surprised that anyone in the U.S. would even remotely consider supporting Die Kiezkicker. But yep, here we are – flying the antifascist flag even in small towns in America.

Nevertheless, if you’re going to cover your face – and you should – you might as well make a statement, and supporting your club (or clubs) is the best way to go.

[Blogger’s note: Thanks to a glitch that originated, I think, either with my ISP’s transfer of this site to a new server or a boneheaded move on my part adjusting my WordPress settings, two recent blog posts — here and here — regarding Celtic’s games in France did not appear on the Celtic News Now feed. Fearing that I had been unceremoniously waived by the Hoops news aggregator, I later found that it was a setting, not my writing, that was the culprit.]

Against Lyon, the kids are alright

Two men — Celtic’s Scott Brown and ex-Celt Moussa Dembele — who still infuriate a lesser half of Glasgow by their mere existence.

While it was not the result Celtic fans would have particularly liked — dropping a 2-1 decision to Lyon on Saturday — for the second time in two games there are positive takeaways from a draw and a loss in France, believe it or not.

First, to quote The Who, “The Kids are Alright.”

With Neil Lennon throwing the youngsters out onto the pitch to start the game under the watchful eye and the temporary leadership of Olivier Ntcham wearing the captain’s armband, the Hoops performed like a group which needed to play together more. But despite their Dembele — Moussa — scoring about four minutes in for Lyon, our Dembele — Karamoko — did a fairly adequate job as the “mini-Frimpong” (if that’s even possible). Patryk Kilmala again showed that there’s no place on the pitch where he can’t — or won’t — play, being just about everwhere and anywhere and constantly in the thick of things.

And then there’s the guy to watch. So far in this French series, the player who has impressed most of all is Ismaila Soro, who has suited up in both games with a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach in trying to win a place in the already crowded Celtic midfield. Soro consistently dispossessed both Nice and Lyon players of the ball in the past two games, and showed considerable defensive presence in absolutely flattening Moussa Dembele around the 38-minute mark of the game; a foul to be sure, but a statement nonetheless that Soro is not to be messed with.

When the first team got onto the field at the 60-minute mark with Celtic down 2-0, the tide turned from Lyon cruising to Lyon aiming to hold on. First-team passing was crisp and, while there was still rust to be shaken from the long layoff, timing will come. It wasn’t until 87 minutes that Moi Elyounoussi, looking like his pre-injury self from last season, put the Hoops on the board.

So it’s on to Paris for the last of the three games on Tuesday against the league winning Paris Saint-Germain. The Bhoys have their work cut out for them, of course, since PSG has beaten their last two opponents by a combined score of 16-0.

See you Tuesday.

Nice game, Bhoys

The usual 11 suspects, plus a cast of thousands: That was the lineup for Celtic against Nice on Thursday.

Watching 131 straight days of reruns of every Celtic game of this past championship season — thanks, Celtic TV — I am grateful, like all other Hoops fans, for this: Celtic finally took to the field against Nice on Thursday for the start of French friendlies to tune up for 10 in a row. As is the postgame custom in this blog, we’ll take a look at some takeaways — namely three of them — from Thursday’s game.

VAR sucks, and the SPFL doesn’t have a monopoly on bad referees

First things first: VAR sucks. Full stop. And I have said in the past that I find the offside rule an unexplained mystery that rivals how gravity works or the what the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey” really means. But watching Odsonne Edouard sandwiched between two Nice players while the ball passes all of them leads me to believe that he was clearly onside and the goal should have stood.

Add to this the arbitrary calls and non-calls during the course of the game by a referee who definitely has been away from the game far too long and needs just a bit more practice, and what turned out to be a rust-shaking 90 minutes could have been a Celtic win.

But you know what Jock Stein says about refs.

High marks for everyone

In the first half with the starters on the pitch, Celtic got into a pretty good rhythm and did not lack chances on goal. Credit a combination of getting timing down in the first game with a few phenomenal saves by Nice’s goalkeeper Walter Benitez. With the exception of a couple of good moves and a shot by Kaspar Dolberg (after a foul downfield against Mohammed Elyounoussi which was not called, but never mind) to make the score 1-0 to Nice after 38 minutes, Scott Bain played well, making a few good saves in his first start in several months.

Then came the wholesale team change in the second half, as Neil Lennon went with the subs. They all played well, and some were phenomenal. Boli Bolingoli had a fairly remarkable game where his defense was solid, his passing was crisp and he had a shot on goal that, although wide, shows that his first for the Hoops may not be far off. Hatem Elhamed, now number 44, showed the speed and defensive form that made him a fan favorite early last season. Ismaila Soro also impressed with his defensive play, with many of his passes getting the Hoops out of danger.

And then there’s Patryk Klimala. Not only did Polish Paddy score to equalize on a misplayed ball by the Nice goalkeeper, but his play during the second half was pretty remarkable. What should have been more notable during the game was Klimala’s range — he was all over the field and he made a couple of defensive plays in the Celtic end that saved potential scores.

Which, of course, leads us to consider another Celtic striker who is currently not with the team, so . . .

Meanwhile, back in Scotland . . .

As widely reported, Lennon has dropped the hammer on Leigh Griffiths for coming into training overweight and for his social media exploits, keeping him off the roster for the French games. And with Klimala already impressing on the pitch, Griffiths’ work is cut out for him to regain his spot.

Unlike a chorus of social media pundits who think Griffiths is through, I would disagree. You read it here first: Griffiths will come back with a vengeance. In the best of all possible worlds, I am confident that Super Leigh will take this latest wake-up call and make the best of it.

One more thing

The refrain from the Grateful Dead’s “U.S. Blues” would be a fitting verse to sing for the person who raised the 9-in-a-row Celtic flag atop Glasgow City Hall last week: “Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.”

And as you might expect, the social media response to this has been pretty hilarious, now that each of the staunch statue guardians becomes a “flagpole sitta” (thanks, Harvey Danger). This one below is of special note . . . which has drawn requests from NASA to investigate (although my guess is that the American space agency will pass).

Don’t forget, Michael Collins was the Command Module pilot on Apollo 11, while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the lunar surface in 1969.

Until the Lyon game, we are Celtic supporters, faithful through and through . . .