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.

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.

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!

Thank you, Socceroos

The Bhoys in Green playing for their respective countries during the International Break.

International break is a challenging period of time in which I have to find a diversion or two (or three) to make up for the lack of Celtic games for the span of nearly two weeks. A daunting task, to be sure, but because I haven’t really paid attention to baseball all summer — shocking, I know — and because now that the Oakland Athletics are out of the playoff running, there’s really nothing to watch.

Maybe I’ll sign up for Netflix.

In the past, the International Break has involved watching a lot of YouTube videos of Celtic, like the ’67 European Cup Finals or Henrik Larsson’s Greatest Celtic Hits or All the Celtic Goals by Shunsuke Nakamura (and I never, never get tired of watching his first goal against Rangers where he made Allan McGregor look like an idiot). Now that I have Celtic TV, maybe I can dig around there for some uncovered gems.

Also, I can watch the Bhoys in Green playing for Scotland as well, which I will certainly do, though I understand that I should brace myself. Nevertheless, I trust Steve Clarke to do the best job at the helm, and I know Celts Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Ryan Christie, and Greg Taylor will be up to the task.

But more importantly — perhaps most importantly — I want to thank the Socceroos in Australia for only taking Daniel Arzani to play for the Aussies, and leaving Tom Rogic to continue his recovery so he can regain his prior form and be the force in the midfield that he has been in the past.

Tom Rogic, the Wizard of Oz.

I know that it could be a disappointment for Rogic not to make the national team, and I empathize with the Wizard of Oz. However, as history shows, Rogic always returns from international duty dinged up, to put it mildly, and hopefully his break from the rigors of international play will bode well for upcoming games for Celtic.

Meanwhile, Odsonne Edouard dons the jersey of “Les Bleus” and plays for France, and the Norwegians get the services of Mohammed Elyounoussi and Kris Ajer. Nir Bitton and Hatem Abd Elhamed suit up for the Israeli team, while Ireland’s U21s get the services of Lee O’Connor and Jonathan Afolabi. Northern Ireland’s U21s features Conor Hazard and Liam Hughes.

[62 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: High. Rolling blackouts imminent.]