A few of my favourite things

Fun fact: “The Sound of Music” was the first movie I went to see with my family when I was a kid. A minor qualification, though: Really, the first movie I ever saw was the night before in a Friday night outing with my Dad and my friends from the neighbourhood to the drive-in, where we saw a forgettable stock-car racing movie called “Red Line 7000” with James Caan.

Anyway, “The Sound of Music” ended up producing a boatload of cultural references over time and, in the Internet age, a raft of memes that range from sublime to hilarious.

“Red Line 7000,” not so much.

As such, of all the songs in “The Sound of Music,” the song “My Favourite Things” has probably been parodied most throughout the 55-year history of the film.

Permit me to add another. Sing along if you know the tune.

My favourite things

Ntcham and Jozo and Rogic and Boli,
Griff blasts a shot that slips right past their goalie,
Jeremie Frimpong flies quick up the wing,
These are a few of my favourite things.

Killie in Glasgow, French Eddy puts two in,
Oh, and hey look, Tom, “Whit’s the goalie daein’?”
Taylor to CalMac, the Green Brigade sings,
These are a few of my favourite things.

Broony at Rugby Park, Moi Elyounoussi,
Bitton upfield with a shot like an Uzi,
Forrest and Christie, two midfielding kings,
These are a few of my favourite things.

Loss to Cluj, and draw at Livi,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember The Wall is in goal,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

‘The Celtic story tells itself’ — Interview with writer Matt Corr

Celtic historian. European away trip veteran and travelogue writer. Celtic Park tour guide and match programme contributor. Marathon man. Author.

A man of multiple talents and one of Celtic’s “go-to guys” for institutional knowledge, Matt Corr wears many hats for the Hoops. The Celtic faithful have regaled in Matt’s reports from away games in Europe over the last couple of seasons – as well as his Celtic Star articles about past games and other historical characters and events. Not to mention that he ran the New York City and Tokyo Marathons last season on behalf of the Celtic Foundation, with another notable fundraiser scheduled for later this year. Watch this space.

I caught up with Matt between the globetrotting, the Celtic Park tours, his book-writing, and his marathon training for this interview, appearing both here in this blog and in The Celtic Star.

Q: First, Matt, thank you for taking time to talk with us. For a man who seems to have lived a life in green-and-white, can you take us back to the beginning – how did you become a Celtic supporter and, over the years, how did you come to be a Celtic historian?

A: Hi, Larry. Thanks for inviting me along. I guess like many supporters, Celtic was “given” to me by my dad. He was a lifelong supporter, heavily involved in the Celtic Supporters’ Association — running buses to the games, establishing and running the social club in our area — from being a young man until long after he retired. He was the full package. Once I was old enough to go along with him and my elder brother, the autumn of 1965, that was me hooked. With a brief break in the mid-’70s, when I played on a Saturday afternoon for St Roch’s Boy’s Guild in the Garngad — Jimmy McGrory’s old team — Celtic has been my thing. Dad and I attended games all over the UK and Europe together, even into the new millennium, by which time my own kids were coming along. That “rite of passage” is one of many things which makes Celtic just that little bit more special. The “fairytale club,” as Billy McNeill once said. You don’t really “choose” to support them. It’s in your DNA, if that makes any sense. When I mention that on a stadium tour there is a room full of “nodding heads,” so I don’t think it’s just me!

In terms of the history aspect, that’s perhaps a bit more difficult to be specific about. It just sort of happened, I guess. Dad had started buying the match programmes from the early ‘60s and the Celtic Views from its launch in 1965, so that became a ritual and we built up quite a collection over the years. That would pretty much be my core reading material sorted as a youngster and we continued doing that up until I was working, and even beyond that. As a kid, I would absorb anything I could get my hands on regarding not just Celtic but football in general, old books of my brother’s, newspapers, library books etc. I became a bit of a sponge. A football geek perhaps. By my early 20s, I was competing in the annual Radio Clyde “Kick-off” quiz programmes, both individually and as part of the Celtic team, and on one occasion, we represented the club in the national Rothman’s quiz finals, winning the Scottish heat but losing to Leeds United at Elland Road in the semi-final. Good times those.

Q: As one of the most prolific writers on all things Celtic – on club history and the travelogues on the European away games – I would assume that, like me, Celtic fans who cannot make those games revel in the reports from places like Cluj or Rome. To your credit, the reports seem to be, in equal parts, half travelogue and half game reports. Can you take us through how you came up with the idea of hitting the road with the Hoops and some of the ups and downs of following the Bhoys abroad?

A: That all started in Athens. I had only been writing for The Celtic Star for a few months. Just small pieces initially, a title win article here, an anniversary there. That kind of thing. The tie with AEK was the first time I had traveled abroad myself, following my retirement. Kids and pals were working but I wanted to go. Rather than the usual day or overnight trip, I decided to turn it into a short holiday break, allowing me to see the city a bit differently, and take in the other stadia if possible. Suit myself. I was a bit nervous about doing that but decided to give it a go. The diary idea just sort of came into my head. I thought it would be a good record, if nothing else, and it might be a bit of fun to do. People might find it interesting. Idea was to present a different perspective on the match — or maybe that should be event — insofar as what the supporters were doing or feeling. How we mixed. What the place and the locals were like. Bring those aspects to life if you will. The actual game itself is covered by the regular and club media, so I don’t tend to focus so much on that, other than the key highlights. It’s more about our story, who we are and how we manage the challenges and enjoy the places and the people we meet abroad, the laughs, the songs and the tears, all in the course of following the team we love.

In terms of those highs and lows, for me the result is king, so a defeat is always horrible. It doesn’t get any better as you get older. Particularly, when you lose it at the death, as seemed to happen to us constantly at one time. We were seconds away from a memorable point in the Camp Nou in 2012, for example, albeit we beat them a fortnight later. The clock opposite us stayed on “90” forever. That was a sore one. And the delays can be a killer, particularly coming home following a defeat on a long day trip. That’s the ‘never again’ moment. But the highs make it worth it. Particularly if you can share those with your kids. Experiences you can’t buy or describe. Triumphs like Amsterdam and, more recently, Rome. There is no feeling quite like celebrating an away victory in Europe with your kids. Magical.

Q: Let’s put you on the spot here: In following the Bhoys on the road, is there any place that you particularly liked? Particularly disliked?

A: Not too many places I particularly disliked spring to mind. If pushed, I’d probably go for Kiev, although that’s partly down to timing. We went there with Celtic in November 1986, around six months after Chernobyl. It was still part of the Soviet Union at that time, pre-Glasnost. That was a surreal trip, from rolling up to Desmond White’s old office in Bath Street to pay for a visa, getting on a flight with the players, to the Aeroflot stewardess wearing her “Woodhill against the Brits” lapel badge. Celtic fans will always find a humourous angle, even in the most trying of circumstances. We’re chanting “Here we glow” as we left the plane. And “Ooh, ah, up the Czar!” The people were nice enough but the place itself had nothing. You couldn’t buy a gift to take home. The hotel was giving change out in chewing gum and ran out of beer within about an hour. We ended up gatecrashing a wedding, just to get a drink. The poor bride was dancing with guys wearing Celtic scarves, whilst her new husband was wondering what he had done wrong in a previous life. There were guys following you in the street trying to buy your jeans, the ones you were wearing at that time. We were followed constantly for three days. Bonkers.

Other negative experiences were more to do with the people than the place. My first continental trip was to the old Stadio Comunale in Turin, back in 1981. We were basically under siege from arrival in the early hours of the Tuesday until our departure from the railway station late on the Thursday night. Fans were getting stabbed, assaulted, robbed. That was a scary introduction, albeit the atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. Our pub was attacked in Blackburn, although that remains one of the best nights ever. And I’ve seen both sides of Amsterdam. Our first trip there was a blast, with over 8,000 of us celebrating a famous win but the trouble in the main square the last time ruined that visit for me.

On the plus side, we’ve been to some wonderful places. In terms of scenic beauty, Salzburg was stunning. I suspect Seville was too, we just couldn’t see any of it under a blanket of Celtic supporters. And St Petersburg, although it was minus 12 there. Barcelona has everything and Lyon and Paris are wonderful cities. I love Italy with a passion but whilst we’ve had some great trips there, we’ve tended to play in the industrial cities, like Turin and Milan, until this season, when the background to the Lazio clash and the threat of hassle pushed me towards doing the day trip with my daughter. We’d been to Rome together previously and for me it’s up there with Florence, Venice and Siena as amongst the most beautiful places on the planet to take in.

In terms of sheer enjoyment, my favourite trips with Celtic would probably involve Germany. I’m not really sure why, they just seem to to work brilliantly. The fans love their football, the beer is to die for and the atmosphere in the grounds is superb. Stuttgart was very special on the Road to Seville, as my dad and elder son were there — so three Matt Corrs — as was my older sister. Dad was terminally ill and we knew it would be his last trip. And there was a huge Celtic support in the ground as we qualified on the night, although, me being me, I still complain to this day that we blew a great chance to get a win in Germany. And I loved Munich a few years back, the party in Marienplatz. That’s another stunning city.

People are a huge part of that enjoyment. The Stade Rennais fans were superb last autumn. That was a real carnival atmosphere in a very historic “Celtic” city, full of colour, friendship and fun. And staying on that theme, perhaps the friendliest supporters, and people generally, I’ve come across in recent years were the Bosnians of Sarajevo. That was also the saddest, moving yet most inspiring trip I’ve ever done with Celtic, or at all actually, and by some distance.

But if I could only visit one place again, it would be Lisbon. Standing on the marble lip of the Estadio Nacional, being photographed with one of my sons with the European Cup, on the very spot where Cesar lifted the cup in 1967, and where my dad, uncle and thousands of Celtic fans who had endured the countless trophyless years were witnessing history, well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Q: One article that has always stuck with me – and I linked to it in my blog at the time you wrote it – was the testimonial last year on Jimmy Johnstone’s birthday highlighting his life; in my opinion, it was one of the best pieces I have read. The history of the club is there, obviously, but from a writing standpoint, how do you pick the most unique or interesting highlights of Celtic history or Celtic lore to write about?

A: I’m not sure how best to answer that, Larry, to be honest. It’s not always planned in advance by any means. A lot of it is just instinct. And timing. For example, my first Celtic Star article was published back in April 2018. I had retired recently and was enjoying reading the various pieces in there when I saw the invitation for other writers to get involved by submitting their own. That’s what I wanted to do. Let’s give it a go. We had a chance to clinch the title at Easter Road that weekend, so I decided to write about the first time I had witnessed that there, April 1977. It was just a short “coming of age” story with a bit of self-deprecating humour. The Star editor, David Faulds, sent a “keep them coming” message back and that was that. It’s his fault! By the way, we lost that weekend to Hibs, so I haven’t submitted anything which might tempt fate similarly since then, in case I jinxed us! My next pieces followed up on that double-winning season. They were more detailed and were quite well-received. That gave me the confidence to keep going and try different things. Like the verse dedicated to the Lisbon Lions, “the men who put the star above our crest,” published the next month for the anniversary. Then a photograph I saw on Twitter gave me the inspiration for the John Thomson piece, “a familiar face was missing.” It was an incredible image, which I had never seen before. So I checked out the background. We all know about the tragedy and the immediate aftermath. But not so much about what happened next.

In terms of the Jinky story, I would say that came from my work on the tours. Jimmy is a big part of my tour. He is a unique character, genius of a player but with the same strengths and flaws which many of us in the west of Scotland identify with. We love a laugh and a drink, usually together. So did he, and he did it whilst playing in the best Scottish football team of all time. And under Jock Stein, a noted teetotaller and strict disciplinarian. It’s a movie script waiting to happen. Some of the best Jinky stories involved flying and sailing, Red Star Belgrade and Largs, so I had my strapline. And his 75th birthday was approaching. So all the stars aligned, if you like. I loved doing that piece. He brought — and still brings — a smile to so many Celtic faces, albeit there was a real sadness in the way his life ended.

The Celtic story tells itself. It’s a treasure trove for writers. I look for something a wee bit different, which perhaps hasn’t been covered before in that way, or for some time. The two recent photographs of the autographs from the ‘30s are a classic case in point. Introduced to me out of the blue. I thought I would produce a couple of articles, which would be interesting content for the Star and would make a couple of my pals happy. Something for them to keep. A win/win. And then when I started digging, the stuff I found was incredible. I had stopped doing these kind of detailed pieces of work to focus on the book, however, like Al Pacino in Godfather 3, “just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.”

By the way, I am currently working on part 7 of that two-part article!

Q: Further on the writing end of things, I understand that you have a trio of books in the works on the Treble Treble coming out soon, one for each season in the trilogy. Is this something you can expand on a little and, if so, what can we expect?

A: Absolutely. Each book will be a step-by-step walk through that season, looking at and listening to the key people involved, the context, and drawing on my own personal memories, experiences and observations from childhood all the way through to the present. Facts on their own can be a bit cold, so there is humour and sadness thrown in there throughgout, as with most of the Celtic-related stories I do. I genuinely believe that it will only be later, perhaps much later, that these incredible achievements – Invincible, Back-to-back Trebles then the holy grail of the Treble Treble – will be truly appreciated. That was the case in Lisbon and probably for the 7-1 game, the Exhibition Cup, Coronation Cup etc. I know I look back on the Martin O’Neill era and think I didn’t realise just how good that side was at the time, daft as that may sound. The current era will be the same and I’m trying to capture that now, so that we have that definitive record as a legacy, for us to enjoy and for the next generation to understand.

Q: I understand that the first book – “Invincible” – is nearly complete, covering the 2016/17 season and the first treble of the Treble Treble. The Celtic Star has excerpted a chapter already online. The attention to detail in this chapter is astounding, so my hat is off to you there. So my question mainly deals with your writing process for these projects: Is it photographic memory, taking a huge amount of copious notes? How do you gather the information for your writing?

A: I’ve actually completed that first book now, which feels brilliant. It’s been a year in the making and has pretty much taken over my life. I’m not a huge note-taker, although sometimes needs must. My normal approach is to develop the outline structure I want then build the storyline up around that, with deadlines I want or need to meet. It’s my work now, it’s not a hobby. Old Project Managers don’t die, they just write Celtic books! Once I’ve decided on the subject and range of a particular chapter, then I’ll braindump directly on to the page from memory. Then I’ll research the people and the specific games involved in much more detail, watch the video again, read the match report. Then I get to work. Once I’ve written the chapter, I’ll go back over it again to amend, add or delete as appropriate. And only once I’m happy with it, will I submit it to my editor for review. It will then go through a further proof-reading process, before coming back to me for final comment. The editorial and design guys will then bring the manuscript to life, so it’s very much a team effort.

Billy McNeill: ‘Everything a Celt should be. Dignified, ambassadorial and classy. A true leader and serial winner.”

Q: I am going to name names here and ask you to briefly touch on their significance in the history of Celtic. We talked about Jinky Johnstone earlier, so let’s start with Billy McNeill.

A: Billy? Mr. Celtic to me growing up. Everything a Celt should be. Dignified, ambassadorial and classy. A true leader and serial winner. And his ability as a player sometimes gets lost within all the “captain stuff,” if that makes sense. Not too many centre-halves have scored in three separate national cup finals, far less in the world club final. I loved it that he witnessed his statue going up but it was distressing to watch him fight through that dreadful illness. Wonderful man, much missed.

Q: Jock Stein.

A: The greatest. Big Jock manager of Celtic. In my opinion, Jock turned Celtic from a Scottish football club with a proud history into a global institution, the best team in Europe if not the world at one point and a major European force for the best part of a decade. Despite his domestic dominance, I always feel that one European Cup is scant reward for what he achieved at Celtic Park. Other regrets for me? Milan 1970 and his final season and subsequent departure from the club. He should probably have moved on after winning the double in 1977, or moved upstairs to a proper role to allow Billy to pick up the team.

Q: James McGrory.

A: Ah. James Edward McGrory. The finest goalscorer in top-flight football in these islands bar none. Records broken everywhere. I had the pleasure of meeting him as a kid, in the old Celtic Supporters Association hall in Kinloch St, where he was signing autographs of his book, still one of my most treasured possessions. I’d love to see a statue at Celtic Park for Jimmy, that pose where he is horizontal in the act of scoring against Aberdeen. The Human Torpedo. We went to the same school and played for the same Boy’s Guild team, St Roch’s in the Garngad, albeit Jimmy scored edged me in the goal-scoring stakes…by about 546.

Henrik Larsson, an all-time favorite among many Celtic fans, including Matt Corr.

Q: Henrik Larsson.

A: From one goal-scoring legend to another, Larry. You’re on fire here. I’m often asked who my favourite Celt of all time is and the answer is Henrik. A fabulous player, a team player, he could do anything against anyone. And he was a role model off the park. No nonsense. Henrik was surrounded by great players in the Martin O’Neill era but he was undoubtedly the key man in the best Celtic side I witnessed as an adult. If ever a man deserved a European winners medal it was Henrik in Seville in 2003. He was sublime that night. Dragging us back into the game twice. Wonderful player. World-class.

Q: Kenny Dalglish.

A: I remember Kenny playing at right-half against Raith Rovers at Celtic Park in the late ’60s. His surname was misspelt to include an “e” for some reason. Always sticks in my mind. Then I saw him break through as a striker by scoring seven goals in two games in 1971. He just never looked back after that. I was broken-hearted when Kenny left in 1977 and, if I’m being honest, I really grudged him his success at Liverpool, as I wanted him to be scoring European Cup-winning goals at Wembley in the Hoops. Looking back, I think we both knew that wasn’t going to happen. He was probably just too late in breaking through at Parkhead, as by then the Lions had peaked and the great new hopes like Kenny, Danny McGrain, Lou Macari, David Hay and George Connelly didn’t stay together long enough after the penalty defeat by Inter in the 1972 semi-final. That was probably our best chance of recovering from the horror of Milan 1970 to secure a second “Big Cup,” albeit Ajax were a tremendous team at that time. I know we reached the semi-final again two years later and were treated abysmally in those two Atletico Madrid ties, however, I felt the 1972 team was perhaps Jock’s last great side. Kenny and Dixie Deans were a fantastic strike force around 1972/73, only bettered for me by Larsson and Sutton. In later years, I thought he showed tremendous courage and dignity in the aftermath of Hillsborough.

Q: Paul McStay.

A: What a player the Maestro was. Saw his debut against Queen of the South and wasn’t immediately aware of what all the hype had been about but within a week he blew that away, with a wonderful goal at Pittodrie, at that time one of the toughest venues in Europe to go to. Pivotal in Billy’s two great sides of the early ’80s then our centenary, it was a crying shame that he was left to carry that team with John Collins for the first half of the ’90s. He deserved to be playing alongside the best. Gave Celtic his best years before that ankle injury finished his career, just before we took off again. It would have been wonderful to have seen Paul and Henrik play in the same side. Tremendous player. True Celt.

Q: Steve Chalmers.

A: Stevie, God rest him. Another local guy who used to act as Santa at our Celtic supporters’ Christmas parties back in St Aloysius’ in Springburn. So I always had a soft spot for him. Born in the Garngad but lived in Springburn, just up the hill from where we did, so he was a local celebrity. I love it that Stevie scored the winning goal at Lisbon. I’m pretty sure his sons were at primary school with me at that time. Meant we could all dream. Another Celt with a wonderful scoring record and a lovely man.

Q: Willie Maley.

A: With over 50 years service, it’s puzzling why there is no permanent memorial to Willie Maley at Celtic Park. Hopefully, that’s something which will be addressed in time. I’m actually reading his book at the moment and it is wonderful stuff. Like listening to the man himself speak. One of THE key men who shaped the history and direction of the club, like Brother Walfrid, James Kelly, Jimmy McGrory, Jock Stein and Fergus McCann. Celtic was his life and his passion. An inspirational figure for me. And I love the song written in his name. sums up everything about Celtic for me, that does. A fitting tribute.

Q: Bobby Murdoch.

A: When you are described as the best player — the world-class player — in the Lisbon Lions, by people who know their football, then you must have been pretty special. Although I watched Bobby play for six or seven years, I was probably too young to appreciate just how good he was. I think I started to realise that when I saw and heard the impact he made on joining Middlesbrough in the mid-’70s, where folk like Jack Charlton, Terry Cooper and Graeme Souness were singing his praises. Jock pushed him back from his attacking role on the right to midfield, on his arrival in 1965, where Bobby formed the engine room at Parkhead with the shy, retiring Bertie Auld. The beating heart of the team. Tough and extremely talented, a powerful combination in every sense. Struggled with health issues and passed away a very young man, in his early 50s, the first of the Lions to do so. God bless you, Bobby.

Q: Bertie Auld.

A: Where do you start? Still entertaining us in his 80s. My son treated me to hospitality at Celtic Park a couple of years ago. We’re having a couple of pints and taking it all in when Bertie walks into the lounge, walking through the throng, having a chat. Celtic royalty. We’re debating who is going to approach him like a couple of big kids when he strides over to us. “Can I have a photo, boys?” Unreal. They broke the mould with Bertie. Story goes that Jock arranged for him to be transferred back to the club from Birmingham once he knew he was taking over at Parkhead. Could be something in that. He scored five goals at Broomfield in Jock’s first match then a double in the cup final the next month as we fought back twice to win the trophy, a first in over seven years and the catalyst for everything that was to follow. Bertie’s 1965 double tends to get disregarded, with the focus being on Cesar’s winner. And I love the singsong in the tunnel in Lisbon. Classic Bertie. I tell the story on the tours with the rider that I believe the European Cup was won in that moment. The Italians probably thought they were playing a pub team. Then they got the beating of their lives. The statistics are staggering. Finished Inter as a force in world football, and defensive football in general for a while. And a “gallus” wee guy from Panmure St in Maryhill was key to that, in my opinion.

Q: Charlie Tully.

A: Charles Patrick Tully. Piling on the agony, putting on the style. I would have loved to have seen him play. My dad was at Brockville the day he scored directly from a corner-kick before being told to take it again. Which he promptly did, and he scored again. Unreal. There’s the fairytale kicking in again. Who else could have done that? I saw a clip recently of him doing the same thing for Ireland against England, so it definitely wasn’t a fluke. The Tully stories are legendary. “Who’s that guy next to Charlie on the balcony at the Vatican?” You get the idea? He was born to play for Celtic.

Q: And last, a free-kick curveball, Shunsuke Nakamura.

A: The Japanese Bhoy. Genius of a footballer. I fell in love with him, so to speak, on his debut. I’ve never seen anyone with such technique and grace. An incredible talent, who I wish we had retained much longer. His free-kick against Manchester United at Parkhead is the best Celtic goal I have ever seen. Sheer perfection, and it had to be. One chance. One spot to hit. Pressure on, big-time. And he delivered. I will never tire of watching that, or the many other fabulous goals he scored. My kids still wind me up as I used to celebrate some of his touches or passes like goals. He should have been a world star in my opinion. Could have played at any level yet his best days were in Scotland. Strange.

Q: Who have I missed who deserves to be in the pantheon of Celtic greats?

A: Danny McGrain is the one who springs immediately to mind. The best full-back in the world for me at his peak and another who gave everything for Celtic. He was indestructible. I was at Brockville the day he fractured his skull, then there was the diagnosis of diabetes on return from the Germany World Cup of 1974, then a dreadful ankle injury which forced him out of the game for 18 months or so, the key factor for me for that horrific last season under Jock. He then returned to inspire the “Ten men won the league” title win and was the creative force behind the best Celtic team goal I ever saw, the one at Love St in 1986, when Danny would be 36-years-young. A wonderful player and a humble man, as I have witnessed first hand since I started working at the club.

And at the other end of the history spectrum, James Kelly. For me, Kelly was Celtic’s first superstar. I’m not sure folk really appreciate how vital his signing was to the club back in 1888. That was a huge statement of intent from the new club, as he was far and away the best player of his day, part of that wonderful Renton side who were the best in the world at that time. The signature of Kelly attracted others to join and, within one season, “The Irishmen” were in the Scottish Cup Final, challenging the established order, Queen’s Park, Third Lanark, Dumbarton. And within a few years, Celtic were the dominant force in Scottish football. Kelly and Maley were the key men in triggering that success.

James would be the first of the on-field heroes but others would pick up that mantle over the years. I loved David Potter’s recent series in The Celtic Star, covering his “players of the decade.” They’re all in there, Sandy McMahon, Patsy Gallacher, Bobby Evans amongst others. I don’t believe there is a club in the world with such a litany of fabulous players over such a sustained period of time. The stories are all passed down until we feel that we witnessed them personally. They are part of us. We mourn John Thomson and we sing about James McGrory. You either get that or you don’t. It defies explanation.

Scott Brown, a shoo-in for Celtic legend status once he retires from football

Q: Looking at the current club over the last several years, or at least in the Treble Treble years, do you see anyone on the current team – Scott Brown, Callum McGregor, James Forrest – joining the ranks of the future Celtic legends?

A: Definitely, yes. Obvious one is Broony, given the medal collection he is pulling together and the sheer volume of games he’s amassed over the years. I didn’t foresee that back in 2007, to be honest. And both Calmac and James are heading that way too, albeit it’s becoming much rarer for players at that level to remain in Scotland throughout their careers. Here’s hoping. Kieran Tierney was another who I felt would pick up that status. I really thought he would succeed Broony as Celtic captain. KT’s celebration at the end of the 2017 cup final is one of the most powerful and emotional Celtic images I have ever witnessed. Spine-tingling stuff, as he grabs the badge and trophy, still bleeding and dazed, gesturing to the crowd. I was really disappointed when he headed south last summer, although I bear him no ill-feeling. I like to think that we might see him again at Parkhead at some point in the future.

Q: Putting you on the spot one last time: Favourite Celtic player of all time, and favourite Celtic game of all time. Go!

A: I probably covered the player earlier. There are three who I feel are just that bit more magical than the rest, Jinky, Kenny and Henrik, with Larsson just getting the nod as No.1 for me. All three were world-class whilst they played for us, despite the suggestion that Dalglish “became a player” when he moved south. Complete nonsense. He walked into that Liverpool team to replace their beloved Keegan. Kevin was some player but no one talks about him down there in the same breath as Kenny now. Just below those three, I would have Paul McStay and Danny McGrain, with Nakamura and Lubo missing out only due to the short time they stayed with us. John Collins was another fabulous talent. So many.

I’m going to be cheeky in terms of the game. Can I pick two? One from childhood and one as an adult? OK, so the first one would be the 1972 Scottish Cup Final against Hibernian. Celtic won 6-1 and my hero of the time, Dixie Deans, scored the first hat-trick since Jimmy Quinn some 68 years earlier. It was also the highest score in that final since Renton did it the year we were formed, in 1888, when both James Kelly and Neil McCallum, Celtic’s first goal-scorer, played for them. That would all click into place later. For me, it was the first time I had seen Celtic win a cup final, at the third attempt. One more defeat and I suspect I was being lined up for adoption. Dixie had missed the penalty against Inter which knocked us out a couple of weeks before that, so there was a bit of redemption for him too. Special day.

And the other? The victory over Barcelona on our 125th birthday. A magical night. Barca were the best side on the planet at that time and we had taken them to 94 minutes or thereabouts a fortnight earlier, before that Jordi Alba sickener. My son and I were there that night and we thought the opportunity to take something from then had gone. And in the second leg we were without some key players from memory. Broony and Hooper spring to mind. Miku was playing. But then the fairytale kicks in. I’ll never forget the moment when Tony Watt was bearing down on us and the bedlam when he scored. Then Messi pulls a late goal back and we’re out on our feet. There’s no way we’ll survive. But we do. It was a huge deal. I take a call from my Man United-supporting brother-in-laws, who I think were in Braga. They just heard and want to congratulate me. Rod’s crying in the stand. He wasn’t the only one.

Riding the storm out: Coping with the virus-caused Hoops-free spring

So some of you may have noticed — at least my mother did (thanks, Mom) — that I hadn’t posted all last week. As you might imagine, that pesky COVID-19 has put a huge crimp on my life (as it has everyone’s) on several levels: My freelance work has all but evaporated for the moment, leaving me scrambling for a bit to rearrange my life and my work. But now all seems to be fine, relatively speaking, as the governor of California is making me stay indoors for the time being.

I do freely and readily admit, though, perhaps the biggest adjustment is not having football. Probably yours too, no doubt. And plans to visit Glasgow mid-year have been put on hold, so Celtic Park (and Calton Books, incidentally) will have to wait before I grace both with my presence.

So since I am stuck at home, I would like to remind everyone that it is only quarantine if it’s from the quarantine region of France; otherwise, it’s just sparkling isolation. With this in mind, here’s how to pass the time.

Subscribe to Celtic TV and watch past games

Though I am not on the payroll of the broadcaster, I am one of the biggest fans of Celtic TV. Tom Boyd, Paul Cuddihy, and Kelly Clark — I miss you guys! Celtic fans outside the UK have it great, with live broadcasts of the Hoops, not to mention being able to re-watch games once they’re through.

I understand that UK subscribers must wait 24 hours to watch the live games. But now that there are no live games to wait a day to watch, the Celtic TV library is filled with this season’s games — as well as some past classics, reserve squad games, and other Celtic-related programming — and you’re able to watch the games by just calling them up on the screen. Easy peasy.

For the US$28 a month I pay, Celtic TV is now a godsend since I can watch games any time. I don’t know if the cost is the same in the UK, but even if it is, it’s a steal.

I have started watching this season again, starting with the Hearts game. To keep things authentic, I still wake up at 4 a.m. to watch the noon kickoffs, just as I would if the Bhoys were still playing. And they keep winning– Olivier Ntcham always manages to score late at the end of the Lazio game in Rome to save the day. It’s amazing.

“Rome, conquered!”

Join us at Celtic Noise for some banter

Ever since I’ve been a fan of the Hoops, I’ve been a regular at The Celtic Noise, an online forum of Celtic fans hosted by the folks that bring you The Celtic Star (full disclosure: My blog posts often appear on The Celtic Star, as I am a regular contributor to the online publication).

The Noise is a collection of passionate and opinionated Celtic fans who are not shy about showing their allegiance to the green-and-white, and the freewheeling nature of talking about a wide range of topics — not always Celtic-related — makes it a very interesting place to spend time if you’re cooped up in place to ride out the virus.

Again, as passionate and opinionated fans can be, bear in mind that a few of the participants can be . . . let’s just say “overbearing,” but don’t let that deter you from participating. It’s a great community and a great avenue to talk about Celtic. And many threads are entertaining, whether they started out to be or not.

So sign up and get into the game . . . I mean, discussion.

Read, watch videos, and stay safe

Order a copy of just about anything from the Celtic FC Store (books or DVDs) or the Celtic Star Bookstore and read or watch. If you don’t want to venture out to the bookstore or the library, the selection of Celtic books and media in both places are top-drawer. Probably the best Christmas gift I received back in December was the Broony DVD — a definite must-watch for any Celtic fan, and I still pop it in the DVD player from time to time.

Of course, if you’re broke (and I know the feeling, believe me), YouTube has a plethora of complete games and highlights to watch as well.

Most importantly — because both the US and UK governments are racing each other to see which can be more incompetent in dealing with this pandemic — it is incumbent on every one of us to look out for ourselves and our neighbours. Take all suggested precautions, don’t hoard the toilet paper (or other necessities, for that matter), and we’ll all get through this until football starts again.

A tale of two Norwegians

Amid the hubbub of the weekend’s postponments of matches and the wonderful news about the signing of adidas as July’s new kitmaker (and beyond) for Celtic, there also was a couple of disturbing stories about Celtic’s pair of Norwegian players.

Kris Ajer: Not going anywhere, at least not soon.

The first deals with Kris Ajer talking about leaving — or Kris Ajer’s agent talking about him leaving. This mid-week special had Ajer’s agent, Tore Pedersen, saying that he’s testing the waters despite the fact Ajer has two more years on his contract.

Neil Lennon shot this rumor down as quickly as Pedersen had shot himself in the foot. And if I were Big Kris, I think I’d find my agent and give him a good ass-kicking.

But would that be the end of it? Heavens, no.

In the interim between Pedersen being a greedy agent who seems to tend to the needs of his bank account before the needs of his clients and the Lennon quote, a tsunami of fans had already given Ajer his walking papers.

I’ll be brief: If you think Ajer should be let go, you need to think again.

While, yes, Ajer occasionally exhibits lapses on the field, overall he is a solid defender in the Celtic backfield who, more often than not, gets the job done. Chances are the reason Ajer was given a long-term contract was because he is a vital part of the plan for a successful Celtic future. If you want to call it an experiment, fine: This experiment is still ongoing and has yet to conclude.

Meanwhile, Celtic’s other Norwegian, Mohammed Elyounoussi, apparently enjoys living in Glasgow and said so in a quote on social media, praising the people and the city while saying he’s glad to be playing for Celtic.

Thanks, Moi. I persosnally appreciate the sentiment and I’m glad you’re playing for Celtic. And while you say that everyone talks positively to you, at least to your face, it’s clear that the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” contingent of the Celtic support hide behind the shield of anonymity on social media to speak otherwise. Rather than labour the point, I’ll let you see for yourselves if you care to look at the thread.

I would be willing to bet the prevailing opinion of the wider Celtic fandom shares my sentiment toward Elyounoussi. What some of the negatively responding fans seem to forget is that Elyounoussi has, in fact, repaid us so far by being a huge factor early in the season in gaining the insurmountable lead we took into the “Coronavirus break” this week.

Coming back from injury around Christmas may be slow, but we know he’ll be back to his early-season form soon. And with the break in the mix, he will be ready to go when the next whistle sounds.

Both of Celtic’s Norwegians have played an intregal part of the club’s success this season. To suggest otherwise is pure nonsense.

The waiting is the hardest part

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

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

I blame Scott Brown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Twitter post . . .

And one last Tweet from yours truly . . .

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

Best fans in the world

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll get back to CSCs in a minute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every one of them: And those fans are everywhere.

Faithful through and through.

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

Living(ston) on the edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, I’ll stop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bits and bobs

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

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

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

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

Cameron Harper: Burger aficionado

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ghirls are all right

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

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

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

Come on, you ghirls in green!

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

The power of the scarf

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

It’s a symbol.

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

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

Honor the scarf.

The comic gift that keeps on giving

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

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

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

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

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

The amusement never ends with that bunch.

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

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

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!