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.

Closing the window

One of the advantages — probably the only advantage — of living 5,000 miles west of Glasgow is that the transfer window closes here before the sun goes down. Having the advantage of still being awake and usually on my third cup of coffee for the day, we will see if Celtic makes any further moves as the clock strikes 12 in Glasgow while striking the bewitching hour of 4 p.m. in California, but by all indications it looks like we’re staying put.

And after seeing the deadline pass, with or without any further additions and without any likely departures, I can go have dinner.

Yes, apparently we stay put, much to the dismay of some greeting fans who insist on Celtic spending money like a drunken sailor on shore leave on players just for the sake of signing someone — anyone — to fill in for adequate players who are coming off injuries and soon to return to the pitch.

I’m with Neil Lennon: “We have a good squad, decent depth, and once we get a few injuries back we will be fine.”

Contrary to what the armchair gaffers and PlayStation pundits might think, Lennon is right. Rather than acting like we’re on the brink of relegation, they might want to look at the bigger picture.

While there was also hair-on-fire panic during the last transfer window, in the end it was one of Celtic’s best in recent history. One can hardly make an argument against the fact that Fraser Forster, Hatem Elhamed, Mohammed Elyounoussi and Jeremie Frimpong have made a significant impact on the club. Even Moritz Bauer and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo — both unfairly criticized by some lately in the questionable objectivity of the Scottish football press, let alone the cesspool known as social media — are decent players who have shown they can contribute.

Boom, baby: Leigh Griffiths puts Celtic 3-0 up in the 26th minute on Wednesday, being part of a tag-team duo with Odsonne Edouard in front for the Hoops.

Leaving out the two new additions (we’ll get to them in a minute), Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffith are turning into a tag-team scoring machine. Greg Taylor rightfully may have bought himself a start in future games with his play against the Aints — sorry, the Saints — on Wednesday. Olivier Ntcham, who many think is packing his bags, is showing no signs of leaving while playing remarkably in the midfield. Scott Brown has been shutting down critics who say he has lost a step by having a banner year that defies his age. Until injured, Ryan Christie was unstoppable. I could go on until you are lulled into a coma of boredom, but the fact remains that the team is solid despite injuries.

But speaking of injuries: Christie? Back. Elhamed? Back soon. Elyounoussi? Back soon, hopefully. Jeremie Frimpong? Also back soon hopefully. All of them are joining Jozo Simunovic and Tom Rogic, now back from long-term injuries and getting back into form for the rest of the season.

So, who climbed in the window during this transfer cycle? Let’s take a look at the pair who joined the club this month.

Patryk Klimala

Patryk Klimala joins Celtic.

I have a friend here in the San Lorenzo Valley who is a huge Bayern Munich fan, and he’s pretty much plugged in to European football in general and Polish strikers in particular. He speaks highly of Patryk Klimala, dubbing him “Klimalendowski,” after Bayern’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski.

All joking aside, Polish Paddy’s 10 minutes against St. Johnstone did little to show his abilities — and that was outlined in Sandman’s ratings of the St. Johnstone game — but in those 10 minutes, he showed some speed and crossing skills in a cross that, had it not been slightly deflected by a panicked Saints defender, could have been his first assist. In addition, Klimala rejected a ball from the near post in the Saints’ final corner in injury time, saving the clean sheet for the Hoops.

In his introduction at his signing, Klimala said that signing for Celtic is a big step up in his career, and he insisted he is ready to prove his worth. If this brief introduction is an indication of what Klimala can do, then his wide range of talents are a welcome addition to the club.

Incidentally, he takes the number 11, which was worn quite succesfully by the recently departed — OK, a little dramatic, recently departed to Preston North End, that is — Scott Sinclair.

Ismaila Soro

Ismaila Soro shows his current colours — green and white — after signing for Celtic.

First things first: Apologies to The Proclaimers (and sing along if you know it) . . .

“My heart was broken, my heart was broken,
Soro, Soro, Soro, Soro . . .

While it may be too early to purloin the Hibs’ song for our own purposes, Ismaila Soro arrives to bolster Celtic’s midfield. The Ivorian signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with the Hoops after a multi-year stint with Israeli club Bnei Yehuda.

The gaffer has high praise for Soro. In a recent interview, Lennon said, “He’ll bring a bit of quality and support in the midfield area. He’s had a good career so far and has played in some tough leagues. He’s come from a team who, while they’re not the top team in Israel, he’s stood out by a distance with his performances there.”

We’re looking forward to it.

Random thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots 2: The sequel

Because I still have my head buried in a tsunami of documents related to my previous post — and thank you to Auldheid for the great interview — I thought I’d take a break from my “homework” to make a few observations about the last two wins by the Hoops, and other items of perceived interest, in the world of football; like the following, for example.

SPFL referee Bobby Madden sporting “The Scarlet Letter” of SpecSavers on his sleeve.

Oh, the irony . . .

Putting aside the numerous missed calls on hand-ball fouls by Celtic opponents this season, is it any wonder some marketing genius who holds the SpecSavers advertising account sold that company’s executives on the nearly infinite value of sponsorship of SPFL referees? Each referee has what is essentially a “scarlet letter” of less-than-ideal vision on their sleeves, and in so many cases it is justified. One of a plethora of examples is the 78th minute of the Celtic-Ross County game where Scott Brown was clearly fouled, followed by James Forrest fouled less than 10 seconds afterward. Of course that joins a long list of referee malpractice this season that, fortunately, has only been a minor irritant to Celtic fans everywhere, rather than history-altering decisions. But we’re only halfway through the 2019/20 season. . . .

Here we go again

Once again, we are in the midst of another transfer window. And once again, the armchair gaffers and PlayStation pundits are bent out of shape because we haven’t signed half of FC Barcelona — the good half, hopefully — and in not doing so, we just threw away 9 in a row. Just today, on the digital cesspool known as Twitter and other online social media, Neil Lennon is being unnecessarily raked over the coals for suggesting the Celtic may be done for this window. The fact of the matter is, frankly, that if we are done for January, it’s still not a bad window, and with the success of the previous window carrying over, we are in great shape for the rest of the season, especially those who are injured — Hatem El Hamed, Mohammed Elyounoussi, Jeremie Frimpong for starters — get back onto the pitch. Also, not given enough credit has been Moritz Bauer’s efforts in filling in for the injured Frimpong against Ross County; Bauer himself is another new addition from the previous window.

Even if Ismaila Soro is the last piece of the puzzle in January, we are looking great for the rest of the season. Some people really need to get a grip.

Cameron Harper scored the final goal for Celtic as the Hoops cruised past Huddersfield Town 3-1

The California Kid strikes again

The Celtic Reserves team hit the road to visit Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, and came away with a 3-1 victory in the friendly. Karamoko Dembele, Kieran McGrath and Cameron Harper scored in the game. We all know that Karamoko has already made the grade, but those watching the reserves have strong praise for Harper as well. We in the Golden State have high hopes for the Southern Californian to go on and wear the hoops for the first team in the near future.

Buy this guy a beer

Funny how The Rangers wanker — sorry, winger — and all-around world-class douchenozzle Ryan Kent can’t bring himself to gun down Hearts fans like he did at Parkhead last month. But this JamTarts fan has the right idea. If anyone in Edinburgh who knows this guy can buy him a beer for me, I’d be grateful. Oh, and the Hearts 2-1 victory over The Rangers? Fantastic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, FC St. Pauli is playing today and it’s gametime. See you tomorrow at the St. Johnstone game. Mon the hoops!

A Tangled Web: Sorting out Res 12, and more, from across the pond

Resolution 12. UEFA Article 12. LNS Commission and Decision. 5 Way Agreement.

EBT. Oldco/Newco. Rangers FC/THE Rangers FC.

Terminology that makes the heads of the most avid of Scottish football fans spin definitely has the ability to fry the brain cells of the average American fan of Celtic trying to keep up with all these issues.

Fortunately for me, I have the chance to discuss this with the blogger known as Auldheid, of Celtic Quick News (CQN) fame, who has graced me with this very informative, albeit lengthy, interview.

Grab some coffee.

A little about the source: Auldheid was born in a tenement in the Gallowgate, Glasgow, that a Billy Connolly mural now adorns, so he was in easy walking distance of Celtic Park. He endured the losing football of the late 1950s and early 1960s, but watched the Lions show off the European Cup on the back of a green-and-white bedecked coal lorry inside Celtic Park in 1967. Family came along and he moved away, kids arrived resulting in years supporting the two boys and one of his two girls from the side of public football parks. He managed an office team from scratch and on retirement wandered into Celtic blog land, mainly CQN.

Come the season of honest mistakes 2010/11 and growing anger at referee performances, Auldheid attended an Open Meeting of CSA/CST and individual Celtic supporters at St Mary’s Calton, where his suggested resolution for accountable and transparent governance from the SFA and changes to the SFA Video Review Panel was adopted and eventually passed to Celtic. They found it useful to point out to SFA their supporters’ anger, and not long after, then-SFA CEO Gordon Smith resigned and the Review Panel process was changed.

The lesson learned here was the SFA could be made accountable via member clubs if member clubs wished to do so. Also in attendance at that Open Meeting day was another and still CQN stalwart, “Canalamar,” and therein lay the genesis – though he might say genius – of Resolution 12, subsequently augmented by Auldheid and two other CQN contributors, “Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan” and “Morriseythe23rd.”

In taking the opportunity to sit down with Auldheid and attempting to piece together Celtic’s role in the Resolution 12 fiasco, we are looking to answer the question regarding why Celtic has avoided pulling the trigger, so to speak, on the Resolution 12 issue, and the related issues that have led us to this point.

Larry Cafiero: To the average person – or at least to a relatively new Celtic fan writing from 5,000 miles away in the U.S. — Resolution 12 and the events that surround it are, as Shakespeare might say, “a tangled web” that Rangers/The Rangers and the Scottish Football Association have weaved, with a supporting cast of bit players like UEFA and even some on Celtic’s board and in its leadership. It may not be possible to encapsulate in a few sentences – and I understand that – but can you tell us how we’ve gotten to this point today?

Auldheid: What happened after the 2013 Celtic AGM to the 2019 AGM can be found at https://www.res12.uk/timeline-2-part-1/ from December 2013, supported by documentary evidence.

It is long read but necessary to understand how we got to where we are. It does not cover however the prequel to the 2013 AGM because in the years from the 2013 AGM to May 2018 Celtic had seemed supportive of Resolution 12 and that apparent support was necessary to give the shareholders the authority to pose questions of the SFA and UEFA and by getting answers making them accountable.

Resolution 12 began in May 2013 at a personal meeting with Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell when the matter of SFA professional governance came up after the LNS Commission Decision was announced. The CEO said that a “Dougie, Dougie” moment was needed to leverage change (a reference to an earlier event when a referee lied to a Celtic manager). Then, in June 2013, material relating to events in 2011 began appearing on social media.* (footnote appears at the end of this answer, prior to the next question)

The leaked material that suggested UEFA had been misinformed of the status of the tax liability was provided to Celtic, who requested it when told of its existence but without any response. Separately, Canalamar initiated Resolution 12, raising a number of points but focus was put on the processing of the UEFA License in 2011 and asked that UEFA investigate what took place. That was all that was asked, nothing more, nothing less. No accusations, just a clear explanation.

This was placed on the 2013 Celtic AGM agenda thanks to groundwork by Morriseythe23rd, but surprisingly Celtic did not support the resolution saying that it was unnecessary. They asked that it be withdrawn on the basis SFA had confirmed all was in order, but that was at odds with the material leaked on social media. A day later the idea of an adjournment was mooted. It would allow further investigation but at Celtic’s insistence confined to the SFA and not UEFA. Whilst not ideal, it kept the resolution alive and allowed time to explore and understand better the UEFA and Tax rules and pose questions to the SFA from 2014 and UEFA from 2016 all of which can be read on the Res12 link provided earlier.

Summing up: Everyone was happy until May 2018 ,when charges were made against The Rangers Football Club (TRFC, the successor to Rangers Football Club – RFC) that removed the grant period from scrutiny with no explanation and when hard evidence turned up that a payable and not a liability existed before 31st March 2011.

What changed from 15 May 2018 can be read at https://www.res12.uk/timeline-two-part-three-continued-after-the-trial-was-over-june-2017-to-date/ taking readers up to the 2019 AGM.

[* There had always been suspicion about the award of a UEFA License in April 2011 when in August 2011 Sherriff Officers turned up at Ibrox to freeze assets in pursuit of payment of an overdue tax bill of £2.8M. This was in respect of tax unlawfully avoided using Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) to pay players De Boer , Flo and Moore from 1999 to 2003 under a Discount Option scheme (DOS) know at Ibrox as Rangers Employee Benefit Trust (REBT) . It became known as “ the wee tax case” to distinguish it from a replacement EBT scheme from 2003 under the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT ) known as ‘The Big Tax Case that was under appeal until 2017 when it too was found to have been used unlawfully by Rangers FC.]

LC: Clearly the fiscal malfeasance by Rangers/The Rangers has been documented and outlined in the press – whether it is documented enough is another story – and in publications like the book, “Tangled Up in Blue” by Stephen O’Donnell, among others. However, one of the mysteries that needs solving is how Rangers/The Rangers were granted a UEFA license, possibly under the most dubious circumstances, and who misplayed this, so to speak: UEFA or the SFA?

Auldheid: Before the 2019 AGM, a forensic report from a neutral professional accountant, which will be made available on social media in due course, was asked for. It finds that Rangers failed to report the £2.8 million liability properly in their accounts (a breach of FFP in itself) and that, along with the “proof” of a “liability under discussions” rather than a payable (overdue or not) provided by RFC auditors helped mislead the SFA. However, the report goes on to blame the SFA for failing to meet the requirements of scrutiny required by UEFA FFP rules. The SFA were either complicit or negligent but regardless of either it is behavior that shareholders believe Celtic should be compensated for and reflected in their shareholdings which gives us the right to ask questions, no matter how uncomfortable.

LC: One thing that would need explaining to those outside Scotland is how a club like Rangers/The Rangers could be liquidated, and yet the SFA allows them to retain their claim to honors and trophies of the liquidated club. How is that possible?

Auldheid: Commercial expediency under a 5 Way Agreement that possibly breaches UEFA Article 12, the basis on which the Head of UEFA Club Licensing called the current applicant for a UEFA license from Ibrox a NEW club/company with emphasis on NEW! (8 June 2016 Source at https://www.res12.uk/timeline-2-part-2/ )

UEFA did not recognize the discretionary transfer of SFA Membership from RFC to Sevco/TRFC under the 5 Way Agreement as conferring continuity which is why TRC had to wait 3 years to be considered eligible by UEFA to apply for a UEFA License not having been a member of the SFA for 3 consecutive years from 2012.

UEFA Article 12 is there to protect the integrity of UEFA competitions. The 5 Way Agreement arguably has destroyed the integrity of Scottish football and should be revisited for the good of the game, as should the LNS Decision that legitimizes 10 years of paying Rangers players by unlawful means not open to member clubs and at UK tax payers expense.

LC: Simply put, in the most American of terms, did the SFA, the SPL – and maybe the Old Firm partners at Celtic – think that Rangers were “too big to fail”?

Auldheid: Probably, right up to the bank crash in 2008 when banks ran out of the money loaned to bad debtors. That was the game changer. No industry can afford to lose 50,000 pay-at-the-gate customers, especially when other income from TV, etc., bears no comparison to other European leagues. In an interdependent industry which is football, Rangers going bust threatened the existence of other Scottish clubs, and even if Celtic were financially secure enough to stand the loss, they were at risk from having less opponents of reasonable quality to play if the SPL collapsed.

LC: It seems that the Resolution 12 issue was a contentious one at the 2019 AGM back in November. It appeared that Peter Lawwell tried to sweep it under the rug prior to the meeting. And in the meeting, nothing came of the issue. Lawwell said at the AGM that UEFA was not interested in pursuing licensing inconsistencies for Rangers/The Rangers from 2011. Yet Ian Bankier went on to say at the same meeting that UEFA investigated and found nothing. Many Celtic fans are seeking – and rightfully demanding – an answer. Which of these two versions of the story do you think it might be?

Auldheid: The new Resolution 12 at 2019 AGM to transfer any investigation from SFA jurisdiction to UEFA was rejected by Celtic, even although the SFA had reportedly passed their right to pursue justice to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) because of a clause in the 5 Way Agreement between The SFA, The SPL, The SFL, Sevco and Rangers FC made on 27 July 2012.

A number of shareholders who supported Resolution 12 are unhappy at the answers given to them at the AGM and have since written to Celtic seeking clarity on top table responses supported by the forensic professional accountant’s report into events during the period when the UEFA License was granted in March/April 2011. Celtic were asked to read and digest then if they agreed the conclusions to pass to the SFA to bring the matter to a close by March if not sooner. The shareholders await a response and the full 18-page report, and 65 pages of appendixes that support it, will be made available online.

LC: So let’s look at the SFA’s involvement in how we are in this situation today. UEFA has asked the SFA to “tighten their ship,” so to speak, regarding the checking of overdue payables to tax authorities. To your knowledge, or to anyone else’s, has the SFA exhibited any evidence that they have done so?

Auldheid: News that the SFA had been asked to “tighten their ship,” specifically with reference to overdue payables to players AND tax authorities, was contained in the UEFA Compliance and Investigation Activity report 2017 to 2019 that can be downloaded from https://www.uefa.com/insideuefa/about-uefa/news/newsid=2637525.html It was not publicized to my knowledge but it does beg the question, how far back does the noncompliance go and it certainly supports the findings of SFA negligence at best in the professional accountant report sent to Celtic by shareholders in early January.

LC: So to see if I understand all this – as an American witnessing this from across the ocean in a sports environment that is somewhat different that what I am accustomed to here – terms like Resolution 12, LNS, and a 5 Way Agreement are somewhat foreign. I would imagine that the best way to ask this question is in three parts. First: How could Peter Lawwell, the CEO of Scotland’s biggest club by awards won on the field and money raised through commercial operations and match play, state that pursing the club’s interests as directed by the club’s supporter/ stakeholders through Resolution 12 is not in the PLC’s interest?

Auldheid: That is a question Peter Lawwell and The Celtic Board have to satisfactorily answer to shareholders and the failure to do so combined with directing shareholder representatives down an SFA path in 2013 that has parked that supposed investigation in a CAS cul de sac, for 18 months, which was the alternative to involving UEFA, only adds to the perception that he/Celtic has/have something to hide.

LC: The second part of the question: How could Lawwell allow the LNS ruling to stand unchallenged after the HMRC victory in the Supreme Court?

Auldheid: The appearance of challenging LNS and being refused by the SFA is contained in a series of letters between the SFA and SPFL released in September 2017 http://cdn.celticfc.net/assets/downloads/SFA_Correspondence.pdf

The SFA did recognize that the Craig Whyte court testimony justified investigating the UEFA 2011 license issue but not LNS. The SFA did suggest the SPFL present Lord Nimmo Smith with the Tax Tribunal testimony of Sir David Murray that EBTs were used by Rangers to secure wage competitive advantage, but it is not clear if this was followed up along with the details of the unlawful DOS EBTs kept from LNS scrutiny that had been provided to Eric Riley in 2014 as a member of the SPFL Board.

The detail of that saga can be read at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6uWzxhblAt9dnVHSl9OU3RoWm8/view

The latter concealment of significant evidence should have overruled any legal advice the SFA sought in 2017 and in any case the LNS Commission was a then SPL-led investigation, so why could the SPFL in 2017 not ignore the SFA and conduct a review? They instigated LNS and if that Commission had been misled by non-disclosure of unlawful EBTs with side letter with related HMRC correspondence surely they could shout “red card, red card” (foul!)

LC: And the third: How could Lawwell claim at the AGM that as Celtic CEO, he had never seen the hugely important change to the rule book that is the 5 Way Agreement. Did he mislead the AGM or is he negligent in his duties to shareholders in not having made sure he had seen this document and had a say in what it said before it become part and parcel of the Scottish game?

Auldheid: Again, that is for Peter Lawwell to explain. It is simply not credible and would be bordering on total negligence not to have been involved, but the 5 Way Agreement final draft was attached to an email from Neil Doncaster dated 26 July 2012 to then SPL Board members including Celtic Director Eric Riley and to Peter Lawwell. No reply or challenge by next day would be taken as agreement, so even if at that late stage the contents of the attachment were not known, simply by not opening it Celtic gave the SPL their approval to its contents.

LC: We in the U.S. are not strangers to controversy in our sports governing bodies and some of our teams. Our list is long: Incidents like the USC student scholarship scandal and the National Football League’s slow response to both drug abuse and spouse abuse among its players (to say nothing of Major League Baseball’s mishandling of the steroids epidemic) come immediately to mind. So far be it from me, an American, to throw stones at glass houses, so to speak. But we like to think that elsewhere – particularly Scotland – sports governing bodies would be held to a higher level of scrutiny by the public, by the media, and most of all by the member clubs and the bodies themselves. Ideally we like to think that these governing bodies, particularly the SFA, live up to the task of honesty and doing what’s best for football. So how, in your opinion, does this all play out for the best outcome? What is your ideal endgame?

Auldheid: Truth followed by reconciliation. The commercial pressures put on the SPL/SFA as a result of Rangers FC dishonesty over ten years from 2000 as result of unlawful use of EBTs and reckless bank borrowing is understandable, but fear of Rangers disappearing off the football landscape and consequent loss of income to the industry gave those wishing to take the place of Rangers a strong negotiating hand, which led to concessions that have all but destroyed the integrity of the sport and the credibility of the SFA as fit and proper to run Scottish football.

Additionally had the degree of dishonesty been known in 2012 then it is doubtful if any form of Rangers could have been allowed to continue in Scottish football at all, so the charges made had to be of lesser seriousness than blatant dishonesty. For example.

The charges against Craig Whyte of bringing the game into disrepute omitted reference to the unpaid wee tax bill of £2.8 million that he undertook to repay.

The LNS Commission was premature, and in pursuing registration failures found Rangers guilty of a lesser breach than acting in bad faith to fellow member clubs over ten years by paying players by a means other clubs could not lawfully adopt. The registration failures attracted a fine of £250,000. What would the sanction for ten years of bad faith to fellow members been?

The UEFA licence issue that caused Resolution 12 and has dragged on since 2013 that has uncovered not just dishonesty in 2011, but ongoing dishonesty in terms of covering up the true seriousness of Rangers and The SFA’s behavior over the EBT years.

Enough time has passed, a form of Rangers with 50,000 customers is still in the game although it is foolish to ignore the risk of repeating the 2012 insolvency posed by their dependency on unsustainable debt currently standing at £10 million with high litigation costs to come. So before that happens causing a collapse from which Scottish football might never recover I believe is time to face the truth and look at reforming the SFA. These ideas from 2011 stand the test of time. http://celticunderground.net/sfa-reform-one-down-three-to-go/

Orange Juice sum it all up in the title of their song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-RTZ3kHuUs

Buffalo gals, won’t you come out tonight?

Americans Summer Green and Sarah Teegarden join the Celtic FC Women.

While a lot of the focus on “who will Celtic sign” is aimed primarily on the men’s team at the moment, the newly professional Celtic FC Women have been hard at work, signing players and a new coach.

Not only is the focus on quality players local, Celtic FC Women have been looking abroad as well, and the squad is bolstered by two American stars, Summer Green and Sarah Teegarden.

I wish they all could be California ghirls: Born in Arcadia and raised in nearby Monrovia in Southern California, Sarah Teegarden grew up a star in the area as a player for Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, before a stellar college career at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. She was captain for two years while starting all 75 games she played for the Demon Deacons, logging a total of 6,648 career minutes on the pitch.

Teegarden sandwiched a short stop with the North Carolina Courage of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2018 between a stint with Gotenborg FC women in 2017, where she spent most of her European playing time, and Lille OSC in 2019.

Summer Green, a forward, graduated a year early from high school in Michigan in order to start her college soccer career at the University of North Carolina (incidentally, a rival of Teegarden’s alma mater, Wake Forest). A mainstay in the USA teams at the U-17, U-20, and U-23 levels, Green has the distinction of setting a record of 12 goals in five games during the CONACAF qualifications as a U-17 player in 2012; a feat that included three hat-tricks during the tournament.

After being drafted in 2016 by the Seattle Reign in the NWSL, Green sat out the season due to an injury she picked up in the NCAA college tournament. She was traded to the Chicago Red Stars for a draft pick the following season, and played for Chicago before moving to Vittsjo in Sweden in 2019.

It’s great that both Teegarden and Green bolster an already strong Celtic Ghirls squad, joining new signees Chloe Logan, Keeva Keenan, Chloe Craig, Sarah Ewens and Natalie Ross, all of whom have agreed to new professional contracts with the club, along with new head coach Fran Alonso.