Focus, focus, focus

Taking a look at all that’s going on in Scottish football over the last couple of weeks, it appears that distractions are rearing their ugly heads and overwhelming the general public in general, and football fans in particular, in tsunami-sized waves of falsehoods.

To recap:

Celtic fans tried to kill Alfredo Morelos. No wait, that paper-thin perpetrator under Fredo’s Lamborghini is actually a private investigator hired by Morelos’ pregnant wife to place a tracker on his car to keep tabs on him.

So, let’s deflect.

Sky Sports — let’s turn on the Sarcasmatron and see what it calls them . . . it says “a paragon of sport journalism” — produces an interview with a player who can’t understand English, yet he claims there’s racist abuse directed toward him at Celtic Park. But wait: Those subtitles aren’t exactly a match to what he’s saying. In fact, they’re arguably not even close.

The total weight of this disingenuous behaviour could stun a team of oxen.

Thank God for Michael Stewart, who has both the gravitas and the courage to tell the truth, taking to heart the Latin phrase, Fiat justitia ruat caelum — let justice prevail though the heavens fall. To his immense credit, Stewart is doing what journalists should be doing everywhere, but sadly aren’t; especially in Scotland, apparently.

As a former journalist, I can go on for days here regarding how important Stewart’s statements are and the heroic nature of the stand he is taking, just by merely highlighting the truth. But I will spare you.

You’re welcome.

The Dynamic Duo: Leigh Griffiths hugs Odsonne Edouard after Edouard’s opening goal at the 9-minute mark at Fir Park. Celtic went on to beat Motherwell 4-0.

But speaking of the Motherwell game . . .

All distractions aside, what I did want to write about today was yesterday’s game at Fir Park, where Celtic got off to its usual meticulous start in the first half, going into the locker room with a meager 1-0 lead, and came out of the gate in the second half like gangbusters, ending the game with a 4-0 score, and a wider goal differential in its seven-point lead in the table.

Rather than do the usual “five takeaways,” I am going to make this brief, sort of.

During the transfer window, we had a flurry of greeters bemoaning the fact that we need [fill-in-the-position-of-your-choice-here] or we are doomed to extinction. This while ignoring that there really was only one blemish on the season so far, on Dec. 29. One misstep that has seen us atop the league virtually all season and accomplishing one of three steps toward the Quadruple Treble so far.

So I am going to assume they will go contentedly silent now. Maybe.

It’s not only the obvious things that set us apart atop the rest of the league, like the tandem of Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths — twin strikers from separate mothers — working like a well-oiled machine at the front, or how the crowd in the 3-5-2 midfield is seemingly flawless in their ball-handling, moving the ball efficiently up the field. It’s not only Fraser Forster rejecting everything that comes remotely near him in goal.

It’s also in the little things, too: Patryk Klimala and Stephen Welsh both showing promise; the former showing speed and skill in two brief stints at the end of the last two games, and the latter having a good game in his debut. Tom Rogic and Jozo Simunovic getting back up to speed; especially the latter, who has put together back-to-back adequate games as a starter. And then, to add to the returning wounded, Ryan Christie showing some flash in the Motherwell game, starting the Christie to James Forrest to Callum McGregor goal in the second half.

But wait, there’s more. Mohammed Elyounoussi is training and will be back soon, followed by Hatem Elhamed and Jeremie Frimpong. Once we’re back to full strength, we should be unstoppable.

Most importantly, what someone needs to do, or should have done, immediately after the final whistle at Fir Park was to wake up Peter Lawwell and have him sign Forster immediately after the game. For life. Right now. As great as our backups are — and both Scott Bain and Craig Gordon are top-notch, even though we haven’t seen them all season — neither one of them is making these same saves. The Wall is in his own class, in his own league, in his own universe.

Forster needs to be Celtic for life.

The same applies to Edouard as well. Though he’s under contract until the end of the 2021/22 season, he needs to be kept around at all costs. Chris Sutton is absolutely right when he says Edouard is “the closest thing to (Henrik) Larsson I’ve seen in a Celtic jersey.” If anyone on the planet can speak with authority on this topic, it is Sutton.

One more thing

Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien might be getting slagged a bit on their defensive lapses in the Motherwell game, and there is no argument there — Ajer’s missed tackle could have sullied the clean sheet that Celtic came away with had Motherwell scored. But they didn’t. And to their credit, Kris and Chris are always in communication, and you can see them discussing play during the celebration of Edouard’s first goal.

Additionally, Motherhell — sorry, Motherwell — clearly have worked hard on consistently being a team of hammer-throwing Steelmen; no secret there. They also happen to be third in the Scottish Premiership table, which makes them first-of-the-also-rans behind Celtic and Glasgow’s other club. They’re third in the table for a reason, and on Wednesday, taking advantage of Celtic’s defensive lapses is probably the main reason why they lead the rest of the pack.

Now, for the rest of the season, let’s focus.

Focus on our positives far, far outweighing our negatives, because they do. Neil Lennon has been nothing short of masterful in handling suitable lineups in the face of multiple injuries. Focus on the two prizes needed to complete the next treble; one cup down, one cup and the league championship to go. Focus on the fact that, despite all these infantile shenanigans going on in Scottish football drawing away everyone’s attention (and we’re not even going close to the disciplinary garbage the SFA is pulling), Celtic is playing its best football in quite some time and, barring any disasters, we should prevail.

Focus, focus, focus.

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

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

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

Oh, the irony . . .

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

Here we go again

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

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

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

The California Kid strikes again

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

Buy this guy a beer

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

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

Five Takeways from Celtic-Lazio

Hatem Abd Elhamed celebrates Ryan Christie’s equalizer during Celtic’s game against Lazio last night.

So, the Italian team went up 1-o in the first half, and then Celtic came back and scored two to win. Sound familiar? No, it wasn’t Tommy Gemmel and Stevie Chalmers this time — actually it was Ryan Christie and Christopher Jullien, the latter who finally got a header in after multiple tries over the last few games — and it wasn’t in the heat of Lisbon but in the cool of a Glasgow evening where Celtic pinned a 2-1 victory on Lazio.

I am going to let the pundits drive, and of course our celebrated Sandman at the Celtic Noise weighs in here. But personally, I have my own five takeaways, four football-related and one that transcends football.

1. That’s using your head, Christopher!

Finally. Over the last few games, Christopher Jullien has been trying to ram the ball home with headers, only to be stymied at every try. Even against Ross County, which played remarkably in defence in goal (where that defender came from is anyone’s guess, but he gets high marks nonetheless for saving the keeper’s bacon on a few occasions), Big Chris’ shots were denied. Not last night against Lazio. We can look forward to more of that, and the sooner the better. Nice work, Monsieur Jullien!

One of the few moments in the game where James Forrest was free, at least for a few seconds. Jamesy spent most of the game double- and triple-teamed, which put a damper on what usually is a normally stellar performance.

2. Give Jamesy a break

To be fair, it would be an understatement to say James Forrest did not have a banner game last night. To be even more fair, Jamesy was constantly double- and triple-teamed during the course of the evening, which naturally would lead to a substandard game for anyone. But that mere fact seems to be lost on the army of armchair gaffers on social media who appear to want Forrest shot at sunup for a subpar performance. Get a grip, the sooner the better.

3. Another brick in The Wall

This is going to be a simple observation. Sign Fraser Forster. Now. Give the guy what he wants. Anything. King’s ransom. Whatever. I’ll even buy a second Celtic TV subscription if it will help. While he didn’t get a clean sheet yesterday, his save at the end is destined to join the register of plays that Celtic fans will talk about decades from now.

4. The supporting cast deserves a hat tip

Most of the time, there is glowing praise for those who make the headlines and the highlight reels. Rarely do we get to praise those who set them up for success, the ones who made the passes and the ones who defended well enough to set up the transition. My supporting cast member of the game last night was Hatem Elhamed, who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and whose lightning speed seemed to put him forward much faster than the Lazio defence expected. Also, most of the time they are never mentioned, but the home fans last night deserve special mention for their ramped-up support for the 90+ minutes. Great job, all!

5. Fuck fascism, fascist fans, and fascist clubs

Two simple words: Fuck fascism.

Pure and simple, if you’re club has a history of fascist behavior as Lazio does, if your club’s supporters have a history of murdering supporters of other clubs as Lazio has, if recently your club has been in hot water over racist behavior in the stands at your home games as Lazio has recently dealt with to some degree (not a great degree, but some degree), and you still claim to be a supporter of this club — “but not its fans” — you should be ashamed of yourself.

You own this.

Let me repeat that: You own it. When Lazio supporters come to Glasgow and march in the streets making Nazi salutes, let alone being called out by the BBC in continuing this behavior in the stadium, they are speaking for you. No “ifs,” no qualifiers.

Lazio is not alone here in harboring fascists, and sadly the football world is full of clubs of this ilk. One doesn’t even have to leave Glasgow to find a fascist club within the city limits, namely the one which plays its home games at Ibrox.

They all need to be opposed at every turn. Period.

Fascism lost. That is fascism’s history, and under the vigilance of good people who fight against it, losing is fascism’s future. It will continue to lose when good people stand up to evil. It may not be always so clear and not always so timely, but good will always prevail over evil.

On to Aberdeen on Sunday . . .