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 . . .

5 Takeaways from Ross County

First things first: If you haven’t been reading the ratings following each Celtic game by the Celtic Noise poster known as Sandman, you should. This fine fellow usually hits the nail on the proverbial head every game, and his observations — with the wit and wisdom only the Sandman can provide — are always of the highest quality.

[Also, if you’re a Celtic supporter and you’re not on the Celtic Noise forum, you should be. A lot of news and insight can be found there, along with some non-Celtic banter as well. Tell ’em “lcafiero” sent you.]

As for Saturday’s game, Ross County held on for as long as they could in the first half after a stunning attack by Celtic, only to have the floodgates break open at the beginning of the second half, where Celtic cruised to a 6-0 win.

Five takeaways from the game are as follows:

1. Thanks, Manchester City

An observation: There are few clubs south of the border in the Premier League that are, as of today, more soulless than Manchester City. It may not have always been so, but it appears on the surface that they said, “Jeremie who? Yeah, whatever,” before letting young dynamo Jeremie Frimpong leave for the Hoops. And there are probably a few — several? a score, maybe? — Man City fans who are bemoaning the fact that he’s no longer at that club, but their loss is our gain. No doubt Frimpong’s moves on the pitch has sent more than one Ross County player to the trainer’s table to treat a twisted ankle, and his assist on James Forrest’s goal was a gem. The kid looks like he’s got a promising career with the club.

2. Welcome back, Wizard

Tom Rogic gave the Celts a full 90 minutes on Saturday — when was the last time we could say that? While it was pretty much an unremarkable game for Rogic — a few opportunities missed, and a couple of miscues which could be credited to “shaking off the rust” — one facet of his game stood out against Ross County: defence. The Wizard was on the receiving end of several of turnovers by Ross County, which as it turned out constantly kept the Staggies on their heels. Great to see the big Aussie performing on both offence and defence, and clearly it’s been a long time coming. Welcome back, big guy!

Dude, where’s my goal? Mo Elyounoussi, left, scored a second goal at the 72-minute mark on a cross — or a shot — by Boli Bolingoli, right. Scott Brown joins the celebration.

3. Dude, where’s my goal?

It’s great to see Mohammed Elyounoussi starting to get into the swing of things for Celtic. He’s definitely a welcome addition to the club and, sure, I’m even willing to give him a pass for saying that his Norse countryman Kris Ajer may go on to bigger and better things someday — is there any argument there, as much as we’d like The Big Viking to stay at Parkhead? But I have to draw the line when Elyounoussi starts stealing goals: Boli Bolingoli took a shot late in the game, around the 72-minute mark, that could have been his first goal as a Celt; except that shot was deflected into the goal by Mo Elyounoussi. No doubt that was part of the discussion during the celebration of Mo’s second goal . . . .

[I kid: Mo’s second goal was a great deflection, but I’m still waiting for Boli to get his first.]

4. Damn that post!

Chances are this is a direct quote from Callum McGregor after his shot in the first half glanced cleanly off the post, and Odsonne Edouard couldn’t get the rebound to go in. It matters little, because in the fusillade of shots that finally went in at the beginning of the second half, McGregor got his goal back. Which leads us to our fifth takeaway . . .

5. Ross County: New kids on the block

Ross County played better than the score would indicate. That may sound funny coming on the heels of a 6-0 drubbing, but hear me out: As the new kids on the block, so to speak, in the Premiership, Ross County had every expectation to come to Parkhead with stag-in-the-headlights sensibilities. But they hung in with the treble champions for 45 minutes, at least, and Ross County keeper Ross Laidlaw (say that three times quickly) made some pretty remarkable saves in the first half. Laidlaw and a Ross County defender — or defenders — lurking in the goal mouth in the right place at the right time prevented Celtic from being up at least 3-0 at the half; specifically a Christopher Jullien header and a rebound from a shot by Bolingoli, both successfully cleared. I’m all for giving credit where credit is due, and while you have to play a game for the full 90 minutes (86, so says Steven Gerrard, if you play for The Rangers™), Ross County clamped down pretty hard on the Hoops for awhile there, and while lessons were learned, hopefully they will recognize that there are some positives to come out of this thrashing.

But note, Ross County: Nir Bitton can kick anyone’s ass on your team, either individually or collectively. Please keep that in mind.

[Blogger’s note: My apologies for this post being so late. After a power outage last week, my WordPress settings have been hell to fix, and I finally got it up and running yesterday. Also, because we are no longer in fire season here — but not yet out of the woods, so to speak — I am going to forgo the wildfire threat level posts at the end of each blog item, resuming it in the spring.]

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.]

‘So, this all seems horrible…’

Bruce Banner walks into the Celtic-Livingston game on Sunday.

Bruce Banner pretty much nailed it above when describing the game between Celtic and Livingston on Sunday. There were not a lot of positives for the Bhoys in Green to take away from the game. In fact, there were absolutely none, as far as I can tell.

Actually, you can let Sandman give you the rundown on The Celtic Star.

And sadly, in a game like this, you get your standard issue tsunami of opinions from keyboard managers and armchair coaches, who are ready to dump players and gaffers at a whim as if they were behind the screen of their PlayStations or XBox consoles.

Not engaging with them is the best course.

If you think this first loss of the season is Neil Lennon’s fault and he should be fired, or if you think we should be selling/trading/dropping anyone from the team — like Scott Brown, Callum McGregor or Ryan Christie — you need to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

Sadly, in the cesspool of Twitter, and in other forums, all of the aforementioned has been suggested, as if the season would somehow be over after a loss in October. It truly saddens me that Celtic has so called “fans” in its fanbase who are truly this moronic, and the voices of reason by the true Celtic faithful are shouted down by the panicked few.

Livingston will dine on this for months, and it will possibly be all they will talk about all season. It’s pretty much all they have, as they continue to strive to remain in the middle of the Premiership table and not fall into relegation.

Good for them, and I hope they enjoyed the game on Sunday.

But Celtic is better than this.

We have the trophies and the trebles to prove it.

We don’t play for only 86 minutes, and the table isn’t final in October.

And, of course, at the end of the season we will prevail.

Muhammad Ali was right: “Ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”

[79 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Moderate.]

5 Takeaways from the Cluj game

The Green Brigade’s display at Celtic Park was nothing short of awesome: The Muhammad Ali quote, “Ain’t northing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”

Well, we’ve put the Transylvanians in their place, finally — a wooden stake through the heart of Cluj in a 2-0 victory at Celtic Park on Thursday. For a recap of the game from the one and only Sandman of Celtic Noise fame, go here.

So, let’s look at five items from the game on Thursday.

1. Best. Transfer. Window. Ever.

Remember several weeks ago when some people were standing at the top of tall buildings, looking down and contemplating a swan dive over the fact that Celtic hadn’t signed anyone? Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth by some of the so-called Celtic faithful who repeatedly dumped on the club because we hadn’t yet signed Messi? Well, you can see the results of Celtic’s very, very, very successful transfer window in this game: Hatem Elhamed is a beast in the Celtic backfield, Boli Bolingoli has gotten his centering passes down (or up, in the case of the one to Odsonne Edouard on Eddy’s header for 1-0 bhoys), and Christopher Jullien will get those headers to go in sooner or later, hopefully sooner moreso than later.

Mohammed Elyounoussi scored in the second half to put the game away for Celtic on Thursday.

But Mohammed Elyounoussi . . . wow. Mo played a hell of a game against Cluj and finally got the ball in the back of the net. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t textbook — in fact it glanced off a Cluj player. But that’s irrelevant, as it’s point scored and game on. Just as Jullien, Elhamed and Bolingoli have all started to click, the Cluj game was Elyounoussi’s coming-out party and hopefully he’ll be contributing to Celtic’s ongoing success.

2. Scott Brown, the enforcer

First things first: From kickoff, Scott Brown was taking no shit, period, full-stop. It was pretty clear that if there was a Cluj face to be in, Broony was in it. Hell, if there was a referee’s face to be in, Broony was in it, too! And more power to him; clearly, opponents are going to try to exploit the players who are — how can we put this tactfully? — a little long in the tooth, and SFA refs being what they are, I adds, with my voice trailing off and my shoulders in shrug mode . . . . Brown showed why he is truly the Captain/Leader/Legend we know him to be.

Something I always think about when Scott Brown comes up in conversation, or while watching him play, is that he was born and raised in Dunfermline. My grandfather, too, was born and raised in Dunfermline, and while my grandfather’s midfielding skills probably left a lot to be desired, a happy demeanor atop a tough personality, that he and Broony share, is not lost on me.

3. Ryan Christie, the machine

To be honest, I hated to see Neil Lennon take Ryan Christie out of Thursday’s game. For all he did, I really wanted to see Christie score. But I certainly understand. Christie has been a force of nature — in a good way — ever since the start of the season, and Thursday was no exception. Check that, Thursday WAS an exception, since Number 17 just did not stop. For me, so far, he’s the player of the year for Celtic if he keeps up this pace. He is definitely going to be a headache for opposing defenses as the season continues, and that can only be good news for us.

4. Hail Hail to the Green Brigade

Muhammad Ali is a hero for the ages; a man who stood on principle despite losing everything when he defied the U.S. government when drafted to fight the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, and gained it all back through his talent in the ring. So when the Green Brigade quoted Ali in their display on Thursday, it almost brought me to tears. Great job and hail hail, Green Brigade — one of the best displays ever.

5. We should all be this kid

This kid — according to YouTube, his name is Joshua Adams — posted highlights from an earlier game, Partick Thistle I think — but he also posted highlights from the Cluj game. And starting with his a capella version of “Celtic Symphony,” he broadcasts nearly 10 minutes of highlights from Thursday’s game. The great thing about the video is we can hear him cheer and sing along during the game. We should all have the same enthusiasm for Celtic as Joshua. Give him a follow on YouTube, too.

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

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.]

Hibs-Celtic: Three takeaways

Sunshine on Leith: The Celtic end of Easter Road during the Hibernian-Celtic game on Saturday.

Normally, I would have five takeaways from Saturday’s game at Easter Road. However, since it was a draw, we’re going to knock out a couple and just end up with three today, on a lackluster performance — with a little help from abysmal officiating (which we will most definitely get to later) –against the other team in green and white, Hibernian.

[An excellent post-game review is always given by the Sandman at the Celtic Noise forum, which of course is the always cleaned up and appears on The Celtic Star here.]

1. So, about the offside rule . . .

OK, so there IS an offside rule, right? And as long as I have been following football — and this goes back to the ’70s to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League, and then off-and-on during various World Cups until I started following Celtic last year — the offside rule has been a mystery to me. To be honest, the rule seems almost arbitrary, like, oh I don’t know, how it was applied (or actually NOT applied) on the Hibs’ Christian Doidge, who bounced the ball off Kris Ajer and into the net for the home team’s only goal. From my vantage point, thanks to Celtic TV (best $18 a month I have ever spent), the Hibs forward was offside, yet there was no call. Which, of course, was only one small part of a wide range of poor officiating at this game — we’re still waiting for two penalties (at least) — and Kevin Clancy and both linesmen really need to turn in his referee card.

2. Pity goals aren’t 20 feet high

Celtic took several shots which were . . . let’s just say . . . just a bit high. No, let’s correct that. They were astronomical. If this were American football and the ball goes over the crossbar between the posts, that would be 3 points each and Celtic would have won handily. However, it’s not, so we still have a draw. However, a silver lining in this cloud — where you can find some of the Celtic shots, even now — is that the ball movement in the Hibs game was still on the mark. We just couldn’t convert those passes into goals.

3. You’ve been tossed, but you really haven’t . . .

Hibs gaffer Paul Nothingbottom — sorry, Paul Heckingbottom — got tossed from the game, but went up to the stands and stayed in touch with the sideline from the improved vantage point of the stadium. In most American sports, once you’re tossed, you’re stuck in the locker room or out at the local pub and nowhere near the stadium, unless you’re crafty like former New York Mets baseball manager Bobby Valentine, who returned to the dugout wearing a disguise after being ejected. The idea, at least on these shores, is that removing the manager is a sort of punishment, however if the manager is still able to control things, it sort of defeats the purpose.

One more thing: A hat tip to Celtic TV’s Paul Cuddihy, who squeezed in a variety of puns about the Proclaimers at the outset of the Celtic TV broadcast — good humour to wake up to when watching the Celtic game.

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

Oops: Apologies all around

Now I know how Wile E. Coyote feels, especially when one of his Acme products blows up in his face.

Earlier today on this blog, I had posted a reworking on Harry Belafonte’s “The Banana Boat Song,” changing the words to praise the play of Celtic forward Vakoun Issouf Bayo.

However, it was brought to my attention that “banana boat” could have a racial and/or a bigoted subtext in Scotland, the least of which is a saying akin to, “I didn’t just come up the Clyde on a banana boat.”

In addition, as far as bananas are concerned, I was also informed of a significantly shameful incident at Celtic Park during the ’80s where a Rangers player had bananas thrown at him by the home support.

So bananas are kind of out.

My apologies to all for this miscue on my part. Clearly this is a cultural nuance of which I was clearly unaware. Until today, I had no idea that there was racial overtones anywhere on the planet to a Jamaican calypso folk song which, in its most basic element, celebrates workers waiting to go home after a night on the docks. As if this needs saying, it was clearly not my intention to malign anyone or any group of people.

I blame Justin Trudeau, actually.

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

5 takeaways from Wednesday

Spending a hot Wednesday morning trying to stay cool here in Central California was made even more difficult — in the best possibly way, mind you — when Celtic turned up the heat on Wednesday evening in Glasgow, when the Bhoys in Green cruised to a 5-0 win over Partick Thistle at Paradise.

Bayo scored, Tom Rogic scored, Olivier Ntcham scored twice and Scott Sinclair came off the bench to score. In his first league game, Jeremie Frimpong gets the Man of the Match. You can read a recap of the game here (and for the legendary Sandman’s report, the PG version, click here), and you can continue to the next paragraph and beyond for five takeaways from Wednesday’s game, like . . .

1. The Wizard goes the distance

Tom Rogic came into the game on Sunday against Kilmarnock, seeing his first action after a long absence due to injury, and was not a factor. Some (not me) said that he looked lethargic, but all I remember from Sunday was gritting my teeth after he was taken down by a hard tackle late in the game.

Well, the Wizard came back for a full 90-minute shift against Partick Thistle and scored at the 46-minute mark. That’s fantastic news for Celtic supporters everywhere, giving Neal Lennon more options at midfield. Hopefully we see more of Rogic during the course of the season.

2. MOTM is not Olivier Ntcham?

Don’t get me wrong: I love this kid. Jeremie Frimpong had a storybook start to his professional career on Wednesday, starting his first game for Celtic and playing remarkably well. But with Olivier Ntcham scoring twice — the second goal a real scorcher, too — doesn’t he at least deserve honorable mention?

OK, I get it. Olivier Ntcham’s snub for MOTM on Wednesday could very well be his punishment for acting like a jerk earlier this season, when he was looking to play elsewhere. Fine. Lesson learned. Now that this is out of our system, we can only hope that he plays every game from here on in like he did on Wednesdsay, and racks up Man of the Match honors going forward.

3. More Hayes, more Sinclair, more subs

If having an overabundance of choices can create headaches for a gaffer, then someone please hand Neil Lennon this bottle of migraine tablets. With all the talent that Celtic has, it has got to be a chore to pick the right lineups and have them firing on all cylinders in every game, let alone knowing when to pull a player and replace him with another (and Lenny addresses this a bit in his post-game interview).

So thank God we’ve got such remarkable talent on the bench. Although Jonny Hayes started on Wednesday — and a successful argument can be made for starting him more often — he is usually a boost off the bench, as he showed against the Rangers at Ibrox a few weeks ago. Scott Sinclair, who lately has been keeping the pine warm (sorry, a baseball expression), showed his talent of games past after coming into the game on Wednesday, and there’s no reason why he can’t be a weapon off the bench, unless of course he finds his form from seasons past and breaks into the starting 11.

4. How about Bayo and Edouard up front?

Now that we’ve gotten a good look at Bayo on Wednesday, could I be the only one who finds the potential of both Bayo and Odsonne Edouard playing up front, at the same time, a source of sheer ecstacy? I mean, seriously — who in the Scottish Premiership could stop this dynamic duo? Oh, and one more thing . . .

5. It’s not ‘Patrick’ Thistle, you idiot!

Just hand me that pointy hat that says “DUNCE” on it and I’ll go ahead and make my way to that seat in the corner of the classroom. For the last few days, in social media and in correspondence, I have to confess that I have been writing “Patrick Thistle” instead of the club’s actual name, which is Partick Thistle. My apologies to the club, and I’ll do my best Emily Litella impersonation: “Never mind.”

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

Celtic’s California Kid

California bhoy Cameron Harper takes the ball downfield during a recent match in Scotland.

Reading today’s report on Celtic’s 4-2 victory over Morton in the Reserve Cup at Lennoxtown, you see the usual suspects getting accolades: New signing Jonathan Afolabi hits the mark at the 19th minute, Armstrong Oko-Flex successfully coverts a penalty kick at 37 minutes, and Karamoko Dembele comes on in the second half to add to the score late in the game.

What’s buried a few paragraphs down in the report is a goal at the 51-minute mark by winger Cameron Harper, the Sacramento-born, Southern California-raised 17-year-old who wears the Hoops for the Reserves.

According to the Celtic FC report, Harper took a pass from Liam Burt, took a touch, and then drove a shot that went in off the post (you can see the goal on the YouTube highlights starting around 1:48).

Or as it was relayed by the Celtic FC Academy Twitter:

51’ – HARPER!

💥

“Harper is traditional winger who is right-footed but comfortable with his left and doesn’t have a preference for a side of the field,” writes Brian Sciaretta in an article earlier this month in American Soccer Now. “He likes to play out wide, get into 1-on-1 situations against defenders, make runs, cut inside for shots, or stay out wide to hit crosses. Like many in his age-group, he is confident like those in recent cycles.”

Harper played for the celebrated Pateadores Soccer Club in Costa Mesa, California. His play at Pateadores drew the attention of the U-16 team, according to the ASN article.

“It was with the U-16 team at the 2016 IMG Cup where he drew the attention of a Celtic scout who arranged for a trial later in 2017,” the ASN article continues. “Celtic were impressed by Harper on trial and he eventually joined the club.”

While Harper has a bright future ahead as he laces them up for Celtic and the U.S. U-21 team, it makes this Californian proud to see a kid from the Golden State making headway at the club. Harper definitely needs to stay on everyone’s radar going forward.

[82 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Moderate.]