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

Interview: The Celtic Star/Celtic Noise’s Sandman

Let’s take a page from Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” . . .

Submitted for your approval: During each Celtic game, Celtic fans on The Celtic Noise forum banter on about the game – good, bad or indifferent – and once the 90 minutes are up, the forum goes silent as they wait.

Like actors and directors of Broadway plays impatiently waiting for reviews on the evening of the premiere, the Celtic fans remain on tenterhooks while the ratings of the forum’s literary lion – the Sandman – are put together and posted shortly after each game.

While on the break with no games to rate, and with another transfer window wide open, Sandman – the one person who has made us all look at Olivier Ntcham and see Samuel L. Jackson – agreed to a Q-and-A session with this blogger.

So get ready to enter The Sandman Zone.

Larry Cafiero: I know you value your anonymity, obviously, and very little is known about you, other than in some of your ratings you have touched upon some legendary debauchery, for which I salute you. However, is there any biographical information you’d like to share with the Celtic Noise and Celtic Star readers?

Sandman: Hmm … Fan, family man, philanderer, libertarian, prestigious wideboy, fortune-hunting misfortunate fool, boss, owner, player, player, dole-bhoy, jungle-bhoy, wealthy, skint, creative nihilist, alter-egoed egotist, ambitious hermit, gregarious party animal … There’s been a number of parts played, reinventions, and landmarks laid … Above all, I reckon I seek peace and abundance, still out of reach as I crash along a rocky road, potholed with haphazard fatalistic events dictated by chaos. At every turn, spike, low or loss, there’s been Celtic, and often baseball – me and Sam Malone and the Sox….

Still, my wife once looked like Yenneffer the sorceress – those were the days, give me back a a decade and a half or so … And my kids are smart and healthy, and I still got my wits, ocassionally; gold is not all that glitters.

LC: I am also going to assume you have been a Celtic fan all your life, and we will be talking about that next. But I wanted to ask you something I had heard in conversation with some of the regulars on The Celtic Noise early on when I first came on last winter: That you are a professional journalist who writes under the Sandman nom-de-plume to write what you want, as opposed to writing what you have to. Any truth to this rumour?

S: Nope. None. I’m better than those “professional journalists” in the SMSM. Lazy hacks. I occurred because of their limp prose and tired rhetoric. And I been beyond them, did the time, out in the back o’ beyond brothers – once in the days before the interweb there was a screenwriting UCLA corresponcence course, scripts and a couple of novels that sooo nearly made it, pipped at the post, long story, found my way back in time to stay sane. -ish…

LC: Let’s talk about Celtic. Though you’ve been on the Noise since February 2018, I am going to assume that you’ve been a lifelong Celtic fan. Do you have a favourite Celtic moment in the club’s history?

S: May 9, 1998. The Hun ten, stopped dead by an unlikely rabble of journeymen in Hoops led by an affable mop-heided Dutchman, gilded by the greatest of all dreadlocked predators.

Three things about that day – one, a guy with an open bottle of champagne on the walk to the ground, chastised by some as possibly jinxing it, let me have a swig and it was like imbibing some infectious joy; either that or he had herpes, but in the moment, who cared?

Two, the sun broke through the light cloud covering as I passed the roundabout at the retail park, just about to angle down what was an unkempt bit of ground at the time towards the Stein end. I remember the feeling of warmth, calm, reassurance it was all going to work out okay; we had to win, had to. We were going to. An epiphanic moment.

Third, the Larsson. When he took the ball inside in that 3rd minute i was on my feet and the flashing thought was for him just to hit it, what the fuck else had we to lose? So I bellowed it, like thousands of others, no doubt, and he did, and it zipped into the net and the stadium exploded. and the fucking universe was on its way to being righted for the first time in a decade.

Nothing has, or will, beat that perfect day. My ex-girlfriend who was with me at the game, on the pitch after it all, too – she knew the significance of that Larsson moment; when our time together was drawing to a close and temperatures were high with ire, she would be reminded of the event, that mhan, his deeds of wonder – “No woman will ever make me feel like he can… So on yer way.”

LC: What are some of the high- and low-points of your life as a Celtic supporter?

S: High, as above, along with other notable victories, the Celts For Change revolution and the coming of the messianic McCann in 1994 – such relief and victorious exhaltation at the club pulled back from the brink of extinction. That was a period when things went beyond mere sport – it was a triumph over the dark arts of Scottish societal institutions, whose members, in their forelock-tugging pomp infest the machinery of civil justice, and had us under the heel of their royal blue jackboots for some time; so long, in fact, they may have just gotten too cocksure and loosened the pressure enough for us to raise one last stand. Those were the dark times, the ultimate lows, but they underestimated the rebels with a cause and the schadenfreude has been joyous ever since.

Physical low – herded in a treacle crush out of Falkirk’s Brockville primordal swamp early nineties after we lost and the local drooling, pig-humping Huns-without-the-haycart turnip fee were chucking bricks at us. Bricks from their own crumbling neolithic hut of a ground. Lucky nobody died that day.

You, Larry, will have realised with your interest in Celtic, that Scottish society is not all Hollywood good cheer, whisky and nobility. Never exemplified better than through the medium of soccer; then again, perhaps the Hollywood allegory is true – it’s been like Star Wars, the rebels v the evil empire.

LC: As for the ratings after each game, how did the idea for a game-by-game report come about?

S: The banality of those hired hacks. Cut and paste monotony. Surely liven it up for yourself at least … The often plain incredulity at fellow fans opinions; players berated, blame attributed, the story of their game not a truth as I saw it … so write up my own take and post it on a blog. But not in tired convention; develop something to read with a cup of coffee, something I might enjoy glancing through myself; but of course that meant gloves off, language expressive.

Rules- never mock the afflicted or anbody with a condition outwith their control, but as for belief-systems, ideologies, pretentions, delicate sensibilities (hello CQN!) – fuck off. Funny is funny, language an effective tool of the imagination, apologies not a consideration. I basically write them to amuse myself; if others like it, great, if not, scroll on.

LC: You clearly have a knack for unique names for our players and gaffer – how did you come up with those?

S: Fun. Often poor interpretation of their correct names – sorry, Pingpong – sometimes organically evolving from some other bit of insanity: “French Eddy” is mine. Mine ; it always draws a smile when I hear some fan use the nickname on camera – I concocted that when half-cut and I couldn’t remember the correct spelling because he was still relatively on the fringes so I had it down as “French Eddy” and attributed it to Griff calling him that because he was “French and sounds like Eddy,” as Griff couldn’t pronounce it. Sorry to Griff, too, though I might have been closer to the truth than I imagined …

Does the Muthufucka needs an explanation? I was in the pub surrounded by bewildered cohorts the day that one popped into my head – couldn’t believe I was the only one who saw Samuel L. Jackson in a Celtic shirt. Thankfully, once I’d segued that one into the Sandman ratings I found out I was not alone …

As for “Lennony” – well, “Lenny” is too pally for criticism, and “Lennon” – bizarrely – became a sneering term of contempt used by the rather dry type of supporter who deemed from rumours of his return that he was not “their” sort of Celtic manager; cursed before he set foot in Paradise again. Green Huns, you know, they exist in the penumbra of gloryhunting’s blaze …

Sad to see Sonic The Hedgehog go, however. Still, there will be new entrants to mangle.

LC: If you could, please, take us through the process of watching the game, making the ratings, and presenting them in such a prompt manner after the game.

S: Start neutral, dismiss selection bias until I see what the chosen bhoys have to offer, have expectations but account for variables – luck, treatment, involvement, teamwork, mental toughness – the basics of assessing any pro player’s game.

Throw in whatever insane humourous or otherwise lucid connections, often lurid, conjoured along the way, noting it all down in lulls on my phone or keeping it in my heid – easier if it raises a smile. Can be laying it out at half-time, summarising mentally before the final whistle, tapping it into my phone or PC soon as I can while the event is still fresh – find it more honest to get it all down with emotion involved; plenty of time for discourse in days after a big event, I like to have the sense of immediacy in the ratings, even if I call them wrong or harsh: example – gave Jamesy a 0 v the huns; unusual but far as I saw he was treading water and neglecting his responsibilities in a huge game; Honest reaction, though – important or there’s no point.

Problems occur if there’s beer involved and a pub pass on offer after-match. Shit got serious once I agreed to put them on The Celtic Star after every game; you get people asking for them, the pressure mounts …

LC: We have another transfer window coming up. We had a good transfer window last time, but how do you feel this one will go? Do you think, as some suggest, it might be better to sign players we already have on loan, like Elshagyonlassie – sorry, Elyounoussi – or Forster, or should we look for new talent?

S: The Wall, yes, he’s been a revelation. If we can muster the millions Southampton may suddenly realise they want, and satisfy his wage demands. New talent is a summer project thing. By all means snap up what’s available but we need to nail a couple of Ready Player Ones – proven talent that can fit in and drive us to the NINE.

LC: So the outlook for the rest of the season: Are we on course for 9 in a row, and/or a quadruple treble?

S: When we go again, we go to the finish and the Hun will not slacken off; one thing Slippy G has changed is their mental toughness; we need to be right at it and give them a real shafting to get some self-doubt into their thick Zombie skulls. Our players have shown they thrive on pressure like this. They have been 90% at it since July but have sold themselves short at vital times – something they have gotten away with in previous seasons. Now they’ll know that is no longer a hedge; bets are on and nobody’s cashing out.

If they are deserving champions, nine in a row winners, quadrophenia treble legends, then they’ll do it. If not, they’ll have blown a once-in-a-lifetime chance for immortality among thousands, millions maybe, worldwide, for generations to come. If that is not a motivating factor in a young man’s life, then they’re in the wrong business.

I expect them to do it. The NINE at least. I’ll be disappointed and surprised if they fail, because they have shown they possess the talent and class to overcome the Hun stoicism and the inevitable witchcraft that attends implementation of the game in Scotland ; whether they can combine and apply it every game for the next twenty or so will be the defining conundrum of their careers and our Celtic-supporting existences.

LC: Anything else you’d like to add for the readers on both The Celtic Noise and The Celtic Star?

S: Yeah, the site and forums are good, pretty vibrant; keep using and recommending them. Also, drink more Stella, eat more greens, and may the force be with you. Always.

Sandman, back on it. Soon.

12 Days of Christmas, Celtic style

[Or, what happens when you have too much eggnog on a slow and wintry Christmas Eve . . . ]

On the first day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
the European Cup trophy.

On the second day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the third day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me . . .

On the third day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me . . .

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Larsson, the king!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Six Jozo spaceshots
Larsson, the king!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Seven goals at Hampden
Six Jozo spaceshots
Larsson, the king!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me . . .

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Scott Brown a-broonin’
Seven goals at Hampden
Six Jozo spaceshots
Larsson, the king!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Nine Jinky netters
Scott Brown a-broonin’
Seven goals at Hampden
Six Jozo spaceshots
Larsson, the King!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me . . .

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Moussa’s big hat trick
Nine Jinky netters
Scott Brown a-broonin’
Seven goals at Hampden
Six Jozo spaceshots
Larsson, the King!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Eleven Lisbon Lions
Moussa’s big hat trick
Nine Jinky netters
Scott Brown a-broonin’
Seven goals at Hampden
Six Jozo spaceshots
Larsson, the King!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Celtic gave to me
Twelve ballboys cheering
Eleven Lisbon Lions
Moussa’s big hat-trick
Nine Jinky netters
Scott Brown a-broonin’
Seven goals at Hampden
Six Jozo spaceshots
Larsson, the king!
Four Eddy goals
Three Naka free kicks
Hooper and Hartson
and the European Cup trophy.

. . . and the European Cup trophy.

Oh, Hampden in the Rain…

Celtic goalkeeper and demigod Fraser Forster and gaffer Neil Lennon hoist the Betfred Scottish League Cup as champions of the Scottish League after Celtic defeated The Rangers 1-0 at Hampden.

There I was, laying in bed on Sunday morning looking up at the red 3:45 on the alarm clock. The internal alarm clock always says, “Get up, it’s game day” at this time, despite the fact that 5,000 miles away, the game is starting in another four hours.

I turn, lie awake and then try closing my eyes, begging my system for a few extra hours of sleep. No such luck, it’s game day.

So, I’m up. Today’s game is like no other this season — the Scottish League Cup, which now as a first name, Betfred, thanks to sponsorship– being played between the club like no other versus the club that really shouldn’t even exist.

Shower, suit up, coffee, and let’s put on the F.C. St Pauli game before sunrise to pass the time (sadly, they lost, and generally they’re having a pretty mediocre season so far). Breakfast? No. Too nervous to eat. Coffee, black, will have to do for now.

By my count, the game was 96 minutes and 47 seconds of abject terror and unmitigated aggravation until the final whistle. You’ve all read the game reports by now, no doubt, and naturally here’s The Sandman’s ratings for the game which, as always, are worth a read. But as usual, I have five takeaways from the Betfred Scottish League Cup final, which Celtic won 1-0 over The Rangers as follows:

1. Sign Fraser Forster right now

Oh. My. God. If anyone deserves a statue right now, it’s Fraser Forster. It could be simple: Not a statue of the man, arms aloft, awaiting a corner, but just a brick wall in front of a goal mouth. Simple and quick. His play today was the stuff of which legends are made. That said, like signing Neil Lennon the day after the Treble Treble, Peter Lawwell needs to open the tin and get Fraser Forster signed as a Celt right now. I don’t care if it is past 11 p.m. in Scotland as I write this, wake them both up, offer The Wall a king’s ransom, and keep him in the Hoops. The icing on the cake in Sunday’s game, or the jelly with the ice cream, was Forster’s fantastic save on El Muffalo’s non-penalty penalty. Poetic justice and karma came together and were wrapped with a nice bow.

If Lawwell balks, let’s start a GoFundMe to raise money to sign Forster. I will even put my car up for sale and donate the money. I would gladly use public transit exclusively if it meant keeping the kind of goalkeeping that Forster provides game in and game out for Celtic.

2. Jullien utilise son pied, pas sa tête

Irony. It’s when Christopher Jullien spends much of his time using his height advantage to try to score headers game after game after game this season, only to hit the back of the net Sunday with a flick of his right foot for the only goal in the game. And it was a beauty. What adds to it is the wailing and gnashing of teeth by The Rangers complaining that he was offside through their tears. He wasn’t. You see, cheating only works one way, The Rangers way, and this, my friends, is a perfect example of karma.

3. Morelos so wants to be Edouard

First thing first: A shout-out to Jeremie Frimpong, who was one of the bright spots for Celtic for the better part of 60 minutes or so, until the referee had nothing better to do than red-card him. In fact, there’s one video of Jeremie mixing it up with Alfredo Morelos, and the lad is not backing down. Pure Celtic, that Jeremie.

But wait, look at that video again. What’s that on Morelos’ hand? Does he have his hand taped up like . . . hmm, which other striker in Scotland has a hand injury and has his hand taped up? Poor Alfredo, so far from God and so close to Celtic, against whom he has yet to score, even when the referees try to help.

4. Some quick math

A quick one for our friends who are mathematically inclined:

10 Celts > 11 Rangers

Class dismissed.

5. Meanwhile, in the Lustig household …

Before the game, there was a nice post from Josefin Lustig on Twitter about how she and her husband, KAA Gent defender and former Celtic policeman Mikael Lustig, were going to enjoy a day off together and watch the game. Of course, when El Muffalo missed his penalty shot, this was the scene in the Lustig household, which goes to show that Mikael’s heart is still green and white. I still miss the Mad Viking playing for the Hoops, and I don’t care who knows it.

Last, but not least, this is the top candidate for my Christmas card this year (yes, I know “Seasons” needs an apostrophe, but I can fix that later). Thanks, BT Sports!

We had a bad game today, but we still prevailed. That’s why we’re champions. On to Cluj later this week. Hail Hail, all.

Moment to moment

Brown 90+2 — This speaks volumes.

Breathe.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Whew.

After today’s game with Hamilton Accies, I am going to forgo the usual “five takeaways,” because there is really only one. And while I will always suggest taking a look at The Sandman’s ratings on The Celtic Star, there is really only one thing (well, two actually) to say about today’s game.

Scott Brown: Captain. Leader. Legend. Demigod.

That really says it all.

Well, that and for a minute and 37 seconds, The Rangers™ had thought they had continued to keep pace with Celtic when Hamilton equalized right around the 90-minute mark. That was erased after Brown, off his left foot, scored the go-ahead goal.

The bus ride back from Aberdeen to Glasgow for The Rangers™ fans was probably a very somber one.

I wish to God I had sounded more coherent when the ball hit the net, because all I could do when I jumped out of my chair was just scream, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Broo0000000000000000000000000ny!” All the while running around the living room, stopping only to do The Broony™ after standing on the coffee table.

But it does makes one think about how special this club is, and how perhaps forces beyond this realm are guiding the club in the right direction. Today’s “intervention” — for lack of a better term — rivals last seasons’s Billy McNeill game against Kilmarnock, where Jozo Simunovic — number 5 — scored in the 67th minute of the game.

Some are calling this a “Scott Brown won the league at Celtic Park” moment, as this article in The Celtic Star outlines, and they are not far off. Realistically, there is a lot more football to be played between now and the end of the season, but if this game is any indication, we are in good hands.

On to Sunday and the Betfred Cup.

Five Takeaways from Ross County

We went to the Highlands, and after what seems to be a typically meticulous (not “slow,” I’d never say “slow”) start, the Bhoys in Green came away with a 4-1 victory over Ross County on Sunday. Naturally, The Sandman also had his say on the game, which is worth a read, but I also have five takeaways, which are as follows . . . .

1. Be like Mike-y

Over a quarter-century ago, the sports drink Gatorade had an ad campaign featuring its centerpiece athlete, Michael Jordan, and the tagline “Be Like Mike” was all over the fields and courts where sports were being played. And while I, nor anyone else, would suggest that “I Wanna Be Edouard” should be substituted here, “Be Like Mikey” Johnston would actually be a welcome alternative. Johnston came into the game, deked a couple of Ross County defenders and — bang! — into the net at 72 minutes. Which leads us to Celtic’s current “conundrum” . . .

2. So many scorers, so little time

Goal posts notwithstanding — and if only they gave maybe a half-point for glancing the ball off the post; I mean, really, it’s not easy to do — Celtic had close to 20 shots on goal against Ross County. I bring this up because despite Ryan Christie’s clockwork scoring, the club has a huge number of options on getting the ball into the net. Even Leigh Griffiths, who came close to scoring on Sunday, is getting a lot closer to finding striker nirvana. No Edouard? No problem. Speaking of scorers . . .

3. The Viking can pass

Kris Ajer getting the ball to the right person on Sunday is something that cannot be understated. The big Norwegian was right on the mark with passes which turned into goals. Not only this, but it looks like in the last few games that Ajer has been — I don’t know how to put this, exactly — a little adventurous in wandering out of the backfield with the ball and advancing way past the half-way line. Not that I’m complaining, mind you . . .

4. The right call, for a change

Not to give referee Nick Walsh much in the credit department, as his carding Mikey Johnston for celebrating when the fans are literally on top of the pitch was pure nonsense; to say nothing of all the non-calls on fouls against Celtic during the course of the game. But I will give him props for his call on revoking Ross County’s second goal. Now, I don’t fully understand the offside rule yet — and I still think it’s arbitrary, judging by what I often see as “offsides” and what isn’t — but as it was explained to me, the guy in the dunce cap, Ross County’s Brian Graham was offside because while he made no attempt to play the ball, he obstructed Christopher Jullien, meaning that Graham was an active player and, thus, offside. I hope that doesn’t end up on the final exam, but at the very least, Nick got that one right.

5. What video game did we see him in?

Putting aside for a moment the unique gaffer arrangement — “manager by committee” would be the best way to describe it between Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson at Ross County — but during the game on Sunday when they panned the camera to the Ross County sideline to show Ferguson, I only had one thought: Didn’t I see him in Grand Theft Auto V? OK, so I’m probably the last person to comment on someone else’s appearance, but if game developers haven’t used the slick-haired Steven Ferguson look so often for bad guys in video games, this takeaway would be something else altogether.

On to the Accies on Wednesday.

15 minutes of fame

Quick, get the net: Me on the balcony wearing what I normally wear during every Celtic game. Photo by my daughter.

Quick note before diving into the five takeaways from the Ross County game: Thanks to the folks at The Celtic Star, yours truly was the “Fan of the Week,” and as such was subject to a brief interview here.

Yes, that’s me. That’s what I look like in my Celtic gear. I’ll just wait for the laughter to die down.

Now on to the Ross County game.

Five takeaways from Celtic-Livi

Let’s all do the Broony: Scott Brown got one to go in yesterday against Livingston, when he wasn’t slapping around Lyndon Dykes for most of the game, in Celtic’s 4-0 victory. Photo: The Celtic Star

Revenge is a dish best served cold, as the saying goes. And enough time has passed between the last game with Livingston and Saturday’s match that the 4-0 thumping of Livi was an entirely welcome treat. For an in-depth analysis on the game, you’ll want to read what The Sandman has to say about it here, but my five takeaways from the match are as follows.

1. Jeremie Frimpong: 21st Century Jinky

There. I said it. I know it might be heresy, but I don’t care: If you watch old clips of Jimmy Johnstone and then watch Jeremie Frimpong play this season, you can see the resemblance. It’s uncanny. Just as Jinky tied up defenders in knots with his ball-handling skills, leaving them in the proverbial dust, so does young Jeremie. No amount of jersey grabbing or hard tackles, as Frimpong experienced yesterday, can stop the kid. In a transfer window that has garnered so much talent, his signing is probably the best of the lot. That’s saying much in the face of acquisitions like Fraser Forster, Hatem Elhamed and Mohammed Elyounoussi. Now, as Scott Brown attests to here in jest, if only the kid works on his shooting skills . . . .

2. Scott Brown scorching the scoresheet

Captain. Leader. Legend. DVD star. Goal-scoring machine. Yep, that just about sums it up in describing Scott Brown, as “the captain” — as he’s called to an annoying degree on the Celtic TV play-by-play broadcasts — has a new-found, and completely welcome, propensity for hitting the back of the net. On a personal note, watching the game in my office on Saturday morning, when Brown scored, I did the Broony and knocked three binders off a shelf in the process. All of which is to say, I can easily get used to Broony scoring, as well as picking up binders from my office floor every time he does.

3. Welcome back, Griff

Truth be told, every time Leigh Griffiths gets onto the pitch, I hold my breath. There’s a lot of pressure there to perform at the level in which he is capable, and my main concern is that it doesn’t do him in. Though I’m not his Dad or anything, there are few things in life that I want more than to have Griff play up to his potential of games past. Though he did not end up on the scoresheet yesterday, his run against Livi showed a lot of promise, and the timing on some great passes to him yesterday will come in the next game or two. Welcome back, hunskelper!

James ‘Flash’ Forrest on his way to one of two goals in yesterday’s game against Livingston. Photo: The Celtic Noise

4. Flash: King of the impossible

Yes, I’m going to buy the book. Yes, I will go see the movie, when they make it. James Forrest is quietly awesome in his own right, being at the right place at the right time and making things happen on the pitch for so many years for Celtic. Yesterday was no exception, with two goals to his credit. He needs a song, and the same folks who came up with an adaptation to the Stone Roses “I Wanna Be Adored” for Edouard should put on their thinking caps and adapt a song for Jamesy, to this maybe . . . ?

5. Greg Taylor is a welcome addition

Greg Taylor hit the post on what possibly could have been a deflection on his first shot on goal for Celtic, which is a pity because it would have been great for him to have scored his first Celtic goal yesterday. Watching Taylor yesterday, I have a confession to make: I had serious reservations about signing him because, to be honest, a.) I didn’t like him very much at Kilmarnock, and b.) I thought taking on Taylor was a “panic signing” as the club hemorrhaged defenders. But if you would kindly pass me that plate of crow, I will gladly eat it while completely admitting I was wrong about him. And then I’ll apologize to Taylor.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch the Celtic Christmas video again — I just can’t get enough. On to the Stade Rennes game on Thursday which, as an aside, is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

‘Created by Immigrants’ meets ‘Refugees Welcome’

Celtic FC was started in 1887 when Brother Walfrid, a Marist brother, used football as a fundraising tool to help the Irish immigrants in Glasgow. Today, football is still used by some as a tool for good in Glasgow by United Glasgow FC.

While we wait for football to start again for Celtic — and the clock is ticking toward 3 p.m. Saturday in Glasgow when the Bhoys take on Livingston, and hopefully get some revenge — it might be a good idea to take a look during the break at some of the positive aspects football brings to the wider world.

The Celtic Star published an article last week about United Glasgow FC, a club founded in 2011 on the same principles as Celtic 132 years ago. While the landscape around immigration has changed between the formation of Celtic and the founding of UGFC, Celtic supporters and the Green Brigade have not forgotten the club’s roots during a recent appeal a few weeks ago which secured £15,466, according to The Celtic Star article, for two refugee-related charities: The Baobab Experience in Rome and Scottish Action for Refugees.

Creating opportunities, tackling exclusion

United Glasgow FC takes pride in creating opportunities while tackling exclusion, according to its website. In eight years, the club has grown to three competitive teams, and four community drop-in sessions each week, that help support more than 200 players, regardless of religions, ethnicities, socio-economic positions, sexual orientations, and immigration statuses. The video below explains the purposes and direction of the club.

A United Glasgow: A video about UGFC.

“The message being portrayed has clearly resonated as they are growing in popularity,” according to The Celtic Star article. “They have a website and nearly 9000 people follow them on Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram they even have their own T-Shirts and other merchandise to help raise funds. Fundraising functions have already attracted hundreds of supporters.

“As such United Glasgow very much rely on volunteers and players from Glasgow and across the rest of the country and of course money is always a problem.”

As it is everywhere, of course, though if you are inclined to donate to this all-volunteer organization, you can do so here.

On a somewhat related note, FC St. Pauli has produced a video about their efforts in Italy around the same issue. Entitled “Kick the Borders,” it outlines efforts to assist immigrants in Sicily. Primarily in German and Italian, you really don’t need to be fluent in either language to see the impact that football has made on the lives of people coming to a new land.

Now, Bhoys in Green, let’s grab a victory on Saturday at Paradise (and, of course, the Boys in Brown on Friday have FC Erzgebirge away, and FC St. Pauli can use a win as well).

What do we do now?

So, now that the Bhoys in Green made easy work of Motherwell, what do we do for the next two weeks?

The final scene in the Robert Redford movie “The Candidate” has the newly elected Senator Bill McKay asking the campaign manager, “What do we do now?” This question, of course, runs through the film like a thread, with the McKay character — new to politics — asking the campaign manager what to do throughout the film.

Celtic easily handled Motherwell on Sunday; some might have thought of a 2-0 victory as a letdown after conquering Rome in the victory against Lazio on Thursday, but the bhoys played great and got the three points. Unfortunately, the next game for the Hoops isn’t until Nov. 23 against Livingston at Parkhead.

“What do we do now?”

Now that there’s no Celtic football for a fortnight, this question always rears its ugly head during the international break. Each time, I take a deep breath, line up what games are played internationally and hope I can somehow pick them up on the wild and wooly world of the Internet.

I can’t wait for that big showdown between the Republic of Ireland and New Zealand on Thursday. No, I’m not being sarcastic.

But Thursday aside, here’s a list of things to do — or at least a list of what I usually do — to get your fill of Celtic football during the two-week break.

1. Thank God for YouTube

Got a favorite game? Favorite player? Thanks to the modern technological miracle known as YouTube, you can watch games past, or collections of highlights of players past and present. Want to see Henrik Larsson’s greatest hits? All of Shunsuke Nakamura’s goals for Celtic? At about 5:40 is Shunsuke’s first goal against the Rangers, and given the chance I would loop this video, spending all day watching Nakamura make Allan McGregor look like a fool. Want to see the Holy Goalie? A collection of Artur Boruc’s best saves — if you turn down the techno music (unless that’s your thing) and can overlook some of the special effects — is a joy to watch.

Go crazy in the search on YouTube. There are several games that are worth watching, as well as a variety of documentaries that are worth a watch (especially the documentary about Tommy Burns, which is very moving and worth the watch even if it’s for his rendition of “Mack the Knife”).

Even the Lisbon Lions victory in Portugal which brought the European Cup to Scotland in 1967 is on YouTube. Start to finish. And, having seen it, oh, about 300 times so far — it never gets old — it’s always worth a watch during the break.

Captain. Leader. Legend. DVD star. That’s Scott Brown.

2. Get the Broony DVD

Captain. Leader. Legend. And now, he’s a DVD star. With much fanfare, Celtic has released a video celebrating the current Celtic captain entitled — wait for it — “Broony”. Narrated by actor Martin Compston and featuring tributes and anecdotes from current and former players and managers — and Celtic fan extrordinaire Sir Rod Stewart — it also has exclusive behind-the-scenes footage. The DVD takes us through the early years right up to the moment when Scott Brown became the first Scottish player in domestic football history to lead his team to The Treble Treble!

3. Hang out at The Celtic Noise

One of my favorite online hangouts is the forum known as The Celtic Noise. It’s a place where you can go and banter about the Bhoys in Green, and discuss just about everything else under the sun (oh yes, the forum dwellers at The Noise — of which I am proud to admit I am one — have opinions on everything). During international breaks, the conversation may get a little slow, but it is a chance to catch up on the myriad of topics. It’s work a look, and definitely worth joining and making your voice heard on all things Celtic. And everything else, for that matter.

4. Go outside

OK, so that’s easier said than done where I am, on the Central California coast, rather where you might be, for example, in Scotland. Temperatures here are not yet into the freezing zone — that’ll come around Christmas — and the weather is still pretty bright and sunny. However, if you get the chance to get outdoors, do so. I’ll be walking around the redwoods if someone needs me.

Remember, Celtic is back on the 23rd at home against Livingston. Revenge is in the air. My calendar is marked — is yours?

Talk to you later in the week, folks!