Hiatus: Close the window

Now that the Bhoys are Back in (Lennox)Town, apparently it appears that Celtic captain Scott Brown needs a barber . . . .

Now that the Bhoys are Back in (Lennox)Town, attention has now been directed at the now-open summer transfer window, where speculation abounds regarding who Celtic should acquire to assure the 10.

Allow me a radical approach to this window in these special times: Close the window and don’t seek anyone new.

Sure, make the deal with Southampton and sign Fraser Forster; that’s a must. Sign Mohammed Elyounoussi, too, while you’re at it. But Celtic has the nucleus of a great team already in place, and some of the recent additions have yet to see adequate playing time on the pitch to show why they were signed in previous transfer windows.

Don’t forget, too, that we have a reserve team full of talent, some of whom have shown they are first-team ready, like Karamoko Dembele and Jonathan Afolabi.

The hiatus forced upon us thanks to Covid-19 has given those on the club with injuries a chance to heal, so we’re starting the next season with a clean slate where everyone is healthy. So the outlook for the club as we go for 10-in-a-row is remarkably good.

Up front, we’re set with Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths — the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of the Celtic front line — and behind them we still have yet to see an unleashed Patryk Klimala or Vakoun Bayo, indicating that maybe — and this is a very big maybe — only if the right striker comes along at the right price, the club might take a punt. But even if that does not happen, Celtic is in good shape up front.

One can make the compelling argument that the current midfield is one of the best in Celtic history. Callum McGregor, Scott Brown, Ryan Christie, James Forrest, Olivier Ntcham — any club anywhere would want some or all of these players patrolling the center of the pitch. But we also have yet to see Maryan Shved playing to his potential, and we’ve yet to see Ismael Soro at all so far. Don’t forget Tom Rogic was starting to get into a good rhythm until the season was unceremoniously curtailed. And, of course, there’s Mikey Johnston. Yet despite the unfortunate departure of Jonny Hayes, the club is still set in this department.

Jeremie Frimpong has been a more-than-welcome addition to Celtic this past season.

Meanwhile at the back, many make the argument that we could use a defender or two. Or more, with the main — and in my opinion, misguided — complaint that the tandem of Greg Taylor and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo are not adequate at right back. We’ll get back to that in a minute, but first let’s look who’s still here: Hatem Elhamed, who was awesome early in the season last year, along with Chris and Kris — Jullien and Ajer, respectively. Jeremie Frimpong’s impersonation of Jimmy Johnstone has been stellar this season, until his mugging at Rugby Park by serial hammerthrower Alan Powers. Having Moritz Bauer on the bench does not hurt, either, and Nir Bitton, listed as a midfielder, has been known to play a pretty good defence himself.

Most football clubs would be wise to stand down in the transfer market while the revenue streams in the near future remain, to put it diplomatically, profoundly unsure. Until things return to “normal” — if they ever do — this is the new reality. Prudence dictates that Celtic should be no exception, and to its credit, the Celtic board has put the club in a very sound financial position heading into uncertain times.

On hiatus: I just can’t get enough

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

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

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

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

Celtic’s Mr. Indispensable

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of the POTY vote . . .

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

How did I vote? Glad you asked.

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

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

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

Dear Simon Donnelly . . .

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Closing the window

One of the advantages — probably the only advantage — of living 5,000 miles west of Glasgow is that the transfer window closes here before the sun goes down. Having the advantage of still being awake and usually on my third cup of coffee for the day, we will see if Celtic makes any further moves as the clock strikes 12 in Glasgow while striking the bewitching hour of 4 p.m. in California, but by all indications it looks like we’re staying put.

And after seeing the deadline pass, with or without any further additions and without any likely departures, I can go have dinner.

Yes, apparently we stay put, much to the dismay of some greeting fans who insist on Celtic spending money like a drunken sailor on shore leave on players just for the sake of signing someone — anyone — to fill in for adequate players who are coming off injuries and soon to return to the pitch.

I’m with Neil Lennon: “We have a good squad, decent depth, and once we get a few injuries back we will be fine.”

Contrary to what the armchair gaffers and PlayStation pundits might think, Lennon is right. Rather than acting like we’re on the brink of relegation, they might want to look at the bigger picture.

While there was also hair-on-fire panic during the last transfer window, in the end it was one of Celtic’s best in recent history. One can hardly make an argument against the fact that Fraser Forster, Hatem Elhamed, Mohammed Elyounoussi and Jeremie Frimpong have made a significant impact on the club. Even Moritz Bauer and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo — both unfairly criticized by some lately in the questionable objectivity of the Scottish football press, let alone the cesspool known as social media — are decent players who have shown they can contribute.

Boom, baby: Leigh Griffiths puts Celtic 3-0 up in the 26th minute on Wednesday, being part of a tag-team duo with Odsonne Edouard in front for the Hoops.

Leaving out the two new additions (we’ll get to them in a minute), Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffith are turning into a tag-team scoring machine. Greg Taylor rightfully may have bought himself a start in future games with his play against the Aints — sorry, the Saints — on Wednesday. Olivier Ntcham, who many think is packing his bags, is showing no signs of leaving while playing remarkably in the midfield. Scott Brown has been shutting down critics who say he has lost a step by having a banner year that defies his age. Until injured, Ryan Christie was unstoppable. I could go on until you are lulled into a coma of boredom, but the fact remains that the team is solid despite injuries.

But speaking of injuries: Christie? Back. Elhamed? Back soon. Elyounoussi? Back soon, hopefully. Jeremie Frimpong? Also back soon hopefully. All of them are joining Jozo Simunovic and Tom Rogic, now back from long-term injuries and getting back into form for the rest of the season.

So, who climbed in the window during this transfer cycle? Let’s take a look at the pair who joined the club this month.

Patryk Klimala

Patryk Klimala joins Celtic.

I have a friend here in the San Lorenzo Valley who is a huge Bayern Munich fan, and he’s pretty much plugged in to European football in general and Polish strikers in particular. He speaks highly of Patryk Klimala, dubbing him “Klimalendowski,” after Bayern’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski.

All joking aside, Polish Paddy’s 10 minutes against St. Johnstone did little to show his abilities — and that was outlined in Sandman’s ratings of the St. Johnstone game — but in those 10 minutes, he showed some speed and crossing skills in a cross that, had it not been slightly deflected by a panicked Saints defender, could have been his first assist. In addition, Klimala rejected a ball from the near post in the Saints’ final corner in injury time, saving the clean sheet for the Hoops.

In his introduction at his signing, Klimala said that signing for Celtic is a big step up in his career, and he insisted he is ready to prove his worth. If this brief introduction is an indication of what Klimala can do, then his wide range of talents are a welcome addition to the club.

Incidentally, he takes the number 11, which was worn quite succesfully by the recently departed — OK, a little dramatic, recently departed to Preston North End, that is — Scott Sinclair.

Ismaila Soro

Ismaila Soro shows his current colours — green and white — after signing for Celtic.

First things first: Apologies to The Proclaimers (and sing along if you know it) . . .

“My heart was broken, my heart was broken,
Soro, Soro, Soro, Soro . . .

While it may be too early to purloin the Hibs’ song for our own purposes, Ismaila Soro arrives to bolster Celtic’s midfield. The Ivorian signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with the Hoops after a multi-year stint with Israeli club Bnei Yehuda.

The gaffer has high praise for Soro. In a recent interview, Lennon said, “He’ll bring a bit of quality and support in the midfield area. He’s had a good career so far and has played in some tough leagues. He’s come from a team who, while they’re not the top team in Israel, he’s stood out by a distance with his performances there.”

We’re looking forward to it.

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!

Oh my days! Five takeaways from Celtic-Hibs

Well, you have to hand it to Celtic FC: Thank you for letting me sleep in on Sunday. The 3 p.m. kickoff — 7 a.m. Pacific Standard Time — allowed me to sleep in a bit. Not that I mind getting up at Oh-My-God a.m. to watch the noon kickoffs, mind you, but it’s nice to get a couple of extra hours, and of course the icing on the cake — or jelly with the ice cream — is a Celtic win over Hibs at Paradise.

Nevertheless, again the Celts took away a win 2-0 over Hibernian, in their purple Sunday away kits, and The Sandman of The Celtic Noise fame has posted his ratings of the match here. Of course, I have my five takeaways from the game as well, as follows . . . .

1. Edouard is most dangerous when passing

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Odsonne Edouard literally strikes fear into the hearts of goalkeepers everywhere by his goal-scoring abilities. When he has the ball, the focus is clearly on him. And despite a couple of miscues Sunday — one of Morelos-like proportions, which sent the ball to the upper deck — Eddy got one, but his best play of the game was heading toward the goal with the ball, panicked defenders rushing to stop him, and he passed it off to Jeremie Frimpong, who sliced it under Marciano for a Celtic goal. Which brings us to our second takeaway . . .

The kid is all right: Jeremie Frimpong scores his first home goal at Paradise against Hibernian on Sunday. Photo credit: The Celtic Noise

2. The kid is all right

A game or two ago, Scott Brown teased Jeremie Frimpong in a post-game interview about the lad’s inability to get the ball in the net. That conversation didn’t happen this time: Jeremie took a pass from Edouard and made a great shot in front of a diving Marciano for a score. And who was happer for “the Dutchman” — as the Celtic TV commentators constantly refer to Frimpong — on Sunday, the fans or the goal scorer? I think possibly both.

One more thing: I got slagged mercilessly as a heretic for comparing Frimpong to Jimmy Johnstone, where the former is twisting defenders and turning ankles all over the pitch thanks to his Jinky-esque ball-handling skills. Others are now saying it as well, so I’ll take that as vindication.

3. Nir Bitton: The unsung hero

With the exception of a cheap foul late in the game that garnered a card, Nir Bitton was rock-solid in defence for the Hoops. Starting Bitton on Sunday was a stroke of genius. We rarely hear about defensive prowress on the pitch, but clean sheet after clean sheet is a testament to Celtic’s defence (and, of course, having the best goalkeeper in Scotland, but I digress). But when Fraser Forster is having a slow day in the goal mouth, you can credit that to Celtic’s backfield, keeping him less than busy. In fact, the only threat was . . . .

4. It was a pass. Honest.

I am going with Christopher Jullien’s story: Late in the game, Jullien had a ball go off his head right at the goal mouth and into the hand of Fraser Forster, who batted it away. With disaster averted and the ball cleared, you could see there was no harm done when Fraser gave Jullien a pat on the back, but it was one of those things where it could have been a disaster. But it wasn’t. So carry on.

5. Griff is getting there

There’s going to be a game sometime this season where Leigh Griffiths is going to go full-on Super Leigh. We have seen it in the last couple of games, getting his timing back and the couple of chances he had on Sunday show he’s sharpening up. It’s just a matter of time until he’s back to his old, goal-scoring self, and you can take that to the bank.

We’ve got Hearts on Wednesday at Tynecastle. Let’s go up three more.

Oh, Hampden in the Rain…

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Sign Fraser Forster right now

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

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

2. Jullien utilise son pied, pas sa tête

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

3. Morelos so wants to be Edouard

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

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

4. Some quick math

A quick one for our friends who are mathematically inclined:

10 Celts > 11 Rangers

Class dismissed.

5. Meanwhile, in the Lustig household …

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

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

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

Five takeaways from Celtic-Livi

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

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

1. Jeremie Frimpong: 21st Century Jinky

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

2. Scott Brown scorching the scoresheet

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

3. Welcome back, Griff

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

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

4. Flash: King of the impossible

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

5. Greg Taylor is a welcome addition

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

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

A Takeaway from Aberdeen-Celtic

No truer words were spoken: The hosts at Aberdeen got a high-pressure pumping by the Celts on Sunday, as the Bhoys in Green cruised to a 4-0 victory at Pittodrie.

First things first: My apologies for this late post. Thanks to the power company Pacific Gas & Electric, which had turned off the power in my area “for my safety” on Saturday night (turning it back on again last night), I had to scramble to find a place with power and Internet connectivity on Sunday to watch the Aberdeen-Celtic game.

At 5 a.m.

A shout out to the Satellite Felton workspace, located at the traffic light (Felton only has one, two if you count the one on Graham Hill Road and Mount Hermon — and the former road is named after the actual hill here, not the British Formula 1 driver of the same name), which had both power and connectivity.

Thanks to the modern miracle that is Celtic TV — I am completely serious — I re-watched the game finally this afternoon; the game that I came in late on early Sunday morning. It was as awesome as it was on Sunday morning, but a second look at the game led me to notice something really awe inspiring.

It wasn’t Jeremie Frimpong’s goal, though it was great to see the lad score his first for the Celts, and to see how well the talented young lad is fitting in with the club. He’s definitely a keeper.

It wasn’t the fact that Celtic dominated the game from start to finish. That’s always a welcome sight, no matter who the opponent is. And, of course, thrashing some opponents is better than thrashing others.

But I wanted to go back to the first half, at around the 17-minute mark, where Celtic ended up passing the ball 46 times, by my count, before ending up with a corner. This was not the “death of a thousand passes” that was so loved by the former manager, now at Leicester City. Under the former manager, where 46 passes might — might — have gotten the ball to midfield.

This was pure ball-handling artistry — a game of keep-away that was frustrating Aberdeen — which I hope Celtic will continue during the course of the season. Add to this the 14-pass sequence before James Forrest’s goal — started after a sixth pass was intercepted by an Aberdeen player and his first pass was picked off by Frimpong to start the sequence — and you have a ball-control nirvana that any team would die for.

Also, it was great to see Kris Ajer and Christoper Jullien playing up. Ajer and Scott Brown literally had acres of space to run during the course of the game, and both took advantage of it, while Aberdeen hunkered down in defense in their own side of the pitch.

It’s play like this that make me proud to be a Celtic fan, even if I have to get up before sunrise and, in Sunday’s case, scramble for a place to watch.

Mon the hoops!

Obligatory match report: If you’re not on Celtic Noise talking about all things Celtic, you should be there. Right now. One bonus is the match rundowns from the celebrated Sandman, which are first posted on Celtic Noise, you can find on The Celtic Star here.

Now it’s on to St. Mirren tomorrow at Parkhead. Keep it up, bhoys!