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.

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.

When Jinky played for San Jose

Jimmy Johnstone’s post-Celtic career included a short cup of coffee with the San Jose Earthquakes of the North American Soccer League.

There would be only a handful of reasons for me to blog outside my usual Tuesday/Thursday/gameday schedule, but this is definitely one of them: Happy Birthday to the Celtic legend of legends, Jimmy Johnstone.

But before you continue here, I would strongly urge you to read this celebration of Jinky’s life on The Celtic Star by Matt Corr before I tell you a tale of our favorite Lisbon Lion and a tiger — I will gladly wait.

Thanks for coming back.

Jinky knew the way to San Jose, but his introduction to the North American Soccer League (NASL) came with a little controversy. According to an Associated Press wire report in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on June 18, 1975: “Jimmy Johnstone, Scotland’s ‘Flying Flea’ of soccer, signed a one-year contract with the San Jose Earthquakes . . . despite protests from two other teams.” So Johnstone was in demand at the time, being wooed by three NASL teams — the Rochester Lancers in New York and the San Antonio Thunder in Texas (incidentally, San Antonio would also have the services of Harry Hood, and we’ll touch on that in an upcoming post in the near future) — but he chose to sign with San Jose.

Much of the San Jose season that year, where they finished fifth in the Pacific Division, was inauspicious, and unfortunately Jinky did not play a factor — as much as anyone can play a factor in a fifth-place finish.

But Jinky did have his admirers. During the San Jose-New York Cosmos game that year, according to Celtic Wiki, lining up for New York was none other than Pele. The Brazilian star reportedly ran the length of the field to shake hands with Jinky and give him a pat on the back. According to the post, this delighted Jimmy and he turned in his best show for the Earthquakes.

And there was that one game — his first as a Quake in 1975 — where the Lisbon Lion met a tiger on the sideline.

The weekend following Johnstone’s signing with San Jose, Jinky played against the Portland Timbers. According to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel previewing the game, “Bombay, a tiger from Marine World Africa USA, will serve as the security guard for the Portland bench.” (Not only that, the Associated Press had a picture of Jinky with the tiger, however it was unreproduceable from the microfilm).

The “security,” as it turned out, stemmed from a confrontation during the previous Quakes-Timbers game, and if Portland was bringing their tiger, it was only fair that San Jose had its “lion.”

Johnstone’s foray into the NASL, a forerunner to the current Major League Soccer in the U.S., was a common theme in 1970s American soccer. The fledgling league tried to get a foothold in the American sports fans’ consciousness by bringing top, albeit past-their-prime, players to American teams. Jinky was part of the wave that saw stars like Giorgio Chinaglia, Franz Beckenbauer and Pele dominate for Cosmos, while other stars like Harry Hood played for San Antonio and Gordon Banks kept goal quite adequately for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the club I followed growing up in South Florida.

And Jinky clocked in briefly for San Jose.

Decades later, it seems that those trailblazers have left a solid legacy on the American version of the game on these shores. So for that, thank you for your contribution, and happy heavenly birthday, Jinky!

[64 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Low.]