Back again, in more ways than one

First things first: Thanks to a lightning strike just north of here a couple of weeks ago, the area has been in the throes of a massive wildfire. Now contained at 35 percent, we are allowed to “repopulate” our homes in Felton as of Saturday, and not a moment too soon. All of which is to say that it has been a perfect homecoming for me as the Hoops win 3-0 against Motherhell — sorry, Motherwell — at Paradise on Sunday.

So the minor blessing in disguise is that I missed much of the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the past week, and only intermittently — when the absence of rolling blackouts would allow — got to witness the travesty against Ferencvaros and the drama on social media that followed.

But the game against Motherhell started off slowly and picked up momentum when Neil Lennon decided to play two strikers in the 2nd half. James Forrest finally got onto the score sheet in the first half, 2nd half sub Albian Ajeti took an excellent pass from Kris Ajer and found himself one-on-one with a helpless Motherwell keeper to hit the back of the net, and Christopher Jullien put the game away late on a cross from Jeremie Frimpong.

Wakanda Forever: Christopher Jullien pays homage to the recently departed “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman after scoring a goal against Motherwell on Sunday.

I’m going to forgo the takeaways to simply make a couple of observations moving forward.

3-5-2 uber alles

I get it, Lenny and I’m with you here: It’s impossible to play two strikers up front when your star gets his Achilles tendon raked by some hammerthrowing ned in the previous SPFL game and your new acquisition has not played in awhile (to say nothing of the other striker who is in the doghouse for making too many Tik-tok videos when he should have been training). But the only way you’re going to get Patryk Klimala to sink or swim is to throw him into the deep end of the pool, so to speak — and my money is on that he’ll swim. Fast.

Let me also add this caveat to this observation: I am new to football, and I expect my observations may be that of a neophyte. I played a grand total of three games when I was in my early 20s — a fullback whose specialty was standing in the near post during corners in our end — as a favor to a goalkeeper friend whose team needed bodies (and only three games because the team eventually disbanded). Normally I watch games twice before writing about them, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and I pore over the games to get a better understanding of the nuances in each game. All of which is to say, yeah I’m new to this, but I’m doing my homework.

So subbing in Klimala changed the complexion of the game pretty quickly, even though he did not score. Adding Ajeti to the mix, who did score, also proves that we should have started with two strikers up front from the start. But rather than do what many of the self-proclaimed experts that populate social media are doing, I’m willing to give Lenny the benefit of the doubt and trust that he’s learned a lesson here. Going forward, I think we’re going to see more of Klimala, possibly starting, and possibly Ajeti, too.

So while I’m giving out advice, let me add this . . . .

Start Jeremie Frimpong

Hatem Elhamed has been doing great over the last few games, but there has been something missing when Jeremie Frimpong is not in the lineup. We saw just what is missing in the 2nd half of the Motherwell game. The kid has the moves, both on and off the ball, and the post-game Motherwell training tables were full, no doubt, of twisted ankles of players who unsuccessfully challenged the Oh My Days Kid.

I’m not sure what the solution is to getting Frimpong into the game, because someone will have to be pulled in order for him to make the starters. Elhamed has been phenomenal overall for the Hoops and unless we can move someone in the midfield, maybe, and put Frimpong there . . . it’s a difficult call which I’m sure the brain trust at Celtic are currently dealing with.

One more thing

For those of us in California, it is heartening to see our native son Cameron Harper picked for the first team over the last few games. We are fully aware of his talents, and it’s good to see they’re being noticed by the club.

So it looks like the Hoops are back on track with their win over Motherwell. And barring any other wildfires that may cause further evacuation, it looks like this blog is back as well. Now to fill in the time during the international break before we go into Victoria Park against Ross County a week from Saturday.

On hiatus: I just can’t get enough

So, I don’t know how you all are weathering the Coronavirus situation — first and foremost, I hope you’re all well and safe — but being without football has been driving me into an advanced state of insanity masked by cabin fever.

The only way I have figured out how to cope with this is by watching, and re-watching, and re-re-watching this season’s Celtic games, thanks to Celtic TV.

On this note, Celtic TV has been the best $28 per month I have ever spent. I can watch (and re-watch) all the games I want this season, and there are a lot of feature shows that they also throw in (like this interview with fellow Californian Cameron Harper here). So again, they don’t pay me to pitch it, but I am Celtic TV’s biggest fan.

In watching the season again so far, where we’re 13 points up in first place and 25 or so ahead in the goal difference, and while ignoring the tsunami of statements from Glasgow’s other club as the sun sets on them, I have a few observations about this season that bear mentioning. Like . . .

Celtic’s Mr. Indispensable

I know what you’re thinking: Mr. Indispensable? Got to be Broony. No, maybe it’s Odsonne Edouard. Wait, it’s Fraser Forster, definitely.

Nope, though all of those players are vital parts that make the Celtic machine hum in all gears. But the player we really can’t do without is Callum McGregor. While The Celtic Noise’s Sandman, in his game ratings, has likened him to a metronome (and I assume he means that in a good way), CalMac has been nothing short of perfect in the midfield this season, providing an outlet to those who have been shut down on the wing, and distributing the ball with aplomb. He also is not shy about taking a shot when he sees fit.

This epiphany regarding CalMac came at the end of the Lazio game in Rome. If you watch the replay of Olivier Ntcham’s Rome-conquering goal, BT Sports (sorry, Celtic TV) shows a wide-angle view of the field after Edouard intercepted the errant pass and started downfield. You can see in the background both Scott Brown and Callum McGregor advancing, but who is sprinting forward, essentially catching up to Odsonne before he passes to Ntcham? Sprinting after 94 minutes of game time?

Callum McGregor, head still in the game, still ready to contribute.

It’s that kind of never-say-die play that makes CalMac indispensable, game after game, season after season. If anything, it boosts his chances on being Player of the Year again this year, if the votes go his way.

Odsonne Edouard says, “calm down,” and vote for the Celtic Player of the Year.

Speaking of the POTY vote . . .

You still have a chance to vote for the Triple Crown of Celtic greatness in the Player of the Year Awards, which is broken down into three categories: Player of the Year, Goal of the Year, and Young Player of the Year.

How did I vote? Glad you asked.

Player of the Year: Despite singing Callum McGregor’s praises a few paragraphs ago, I opted for Odsonne Edouard for Player of the Year. French Eddy rises head and shoulders above all other strikers in Scotland, not to mention many in Europe as his exploits in the U21 for France has shown. Hands down, Player of the Year for the Hoops. Also completely worthy of your vote: McGregor, Ryan Christie, Fraser Forster, Leigh Griffiths.

Goal of the Year: There are a lot of options here, and with a team as great as Celtic, there are a lot of fantastic goals to choose from. But you have to go with Olivier Ntcham’s goal at Nazio — sorry, Lazio — to win the game in Rome. For historical value, this goal is light-years ahead of the rest. But if you must vote for another, Griffith’s goal against St. Mirren, Edouard’s goal against Rangers, or Ntcham’s goal against Partick Thistle from about 10 miles out — OK, it was “only” about 35 yards — are also worthy. Actually ALL of the nominated goals are worthy, so it’s your choice.

Young Player of the Year: Oh my days! There’s no other choice here but to vote for Jeremie Frimpong. Funny thing: Tom Boyd was talking in a post-game show in October — it was either after the St. Mirren or the Aberdeen game — where he made comparisons between Frimpong and Jimmy Johnstone, and I thought, “Hmm, where have I heard that before?” I honestly hope the lad recovers from the mugging against Kilmarnock and enjoys a successful career, mostly with Celtic.

Dear Simon Donnelly . . .

Twice during the season at the outset of Celtic TV broadcasts of games with noon start times, Simon Donnelly (I think, though it could have been Paul Cuddihy, too) gave a shout-out to the Los Angeles CSC for waking up at Oh-My-God-Thirty in the morning to watch Celtic.

While that’s fine and it’s great that we West Coasters get recognized for making the herculean effort of dragging out butts out of bed at around 3:30 a.m. to watch a noon kickoff in Scotland at 4 a.m. Pacific Time — and to be honest, it’s the least we can do to watch a club like no other — fair play dictates that the bhoys and ghirls at the San Francisco CSC (of which I am one) deserve a shout-out as well, all of us watching on the big screen TV at an Irish pub called Fiddler’s Green in suburban Millbrae, California.

So how about it, Celtic TV in the booth? When this all gets sorted out and we’re back on track, the folks gathering for every Celtic game at Fiddler’s Green could use a hat tip.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to watch the Celtic-Livi game from November 23rd.

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.

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!

Celtic’s California Kid

California bhoy Cameron Harper takes the ball downfield during a recent match in Scotland.

Reading today’s report on Celtic’s 4-2 victory over Morton in the Reserve Cup at Lennoxtown, you see the usual suspects getting accolades: New signing Jonathan Afolabi hits the mark at the 19th minute, Armstrong Oko-Flex successfully coverts a penalty kick at 37 minutes, and Karamoko Dembele comes on in the second half to add to the score late in the game.

What’s buried a few paragraphs down in the report is a goal at the 51-minute mark by winger Cameron Harper, the Sacramento-born, Southern California-raised 17-year-old who wears the Hoops for the Reserves.

According to the Celtic FC report, Harper took a pass from Liam Burt, took a touch, and then drove a shot that went in off the post (you can see the goal on the YouTube highlights starting around 1:48).

Or as it was relayed by the Celtic FC Academy Twitter:

51’ – HARPER!

💥

“Harper is traditional winger who is right-footed but comfortable with his left and doesn’t have a preference for a side of the field,” writes Brian Sciaretta in an article earlier this month in American Soccer Now. “He likes to play out wide, get into 1-on-1 situations against defenders, make runs, cut inside for shots, or stay out wide to hit crosses. Like many in his age-group, he is confident like those in recent cycles.”

Harper played for the celebrated Pateadores Soccer Club in Costa Mesa, California. His play at Pateadores drew the attention of the U-16 team, according to the ASN article.

“It was with the U-16 team at the 2016 IMG Cup where he drew the attention of a Celtic scout who arranged for a trial later in 2017,” the ASN article continues. “Celtic were impressed by Harper on trial and he eventually joined the club.”

While Harper has a bright future ahead as he laces them up for Celtic and the U.S. U-21 team, it makes this Californian proud to see a kid from the Golden State making headway at the club. Harper definitely needs to stay on everyone’s radar going forward.

[82 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Moderate.]