Why Ange Postecoglou matters

If you are a Celtic fan — and if you’re not, why are you here in the first place? — the afterglow of the Insert-Sponsor-Here Scottish League Cup final victory on Sunday was still fresh on Monday when this video appeared on social media.

Give it a watch. I’ll wait.

The video takes shots of the postgame celebration at Hampden and puts the images atop audio of Ange Postecoglou in a speech he made to the Socceroos — the Australian national team — when he was coaching them. After doing a little digging, I found the clip on YouTube of the original video, which is here.

Go ahead and give it a watch. Again, I’ll wait.

Tom Rogic and Josip Juranovic congratulate Celtic gaffer Ange Postecoglou at the end of the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden on Sunday, providing a simple reminder that we’ve been one club since, well, you can figure it out.

There is literally a world of difference between the Scottish coal pits south of Glasgow — where the likes of Jock Stein, Matt Busby and Bill Shankly removed themselves to lead football clubs — and the sunny shores of Melbourne where Postecoglou, an immigrant lad whose family had fled Greece in the wake of a political coup, grew up and learned to be a footballer and then a coach.

But despite the difference in distance and time, it’s not a stretch to say Postecoglou is cut from the same coaching and leadership cloth as our own Jock Stein. Compare the football played this season to last season — this season is definitely a lot closer to “pure, beautiful, inventive football” the way Stein had his team play it when he was in charge.

Just to be clear, I am not equating Postecoglou with Stein. Postecoglou has a long way to go to reach the rare air of Stein’s lofty status as a football manager. However, with a foundation marked by his successes in the past coupled with the recent turnaround of this current team, he is well on the way.

But more to the point: Postecoglou is clearly Celtic grade. Pure and simple.

It has gone beyond the trivial “foreign coach brings new ways to a new land” subtext, because despite the club’s recent successes, Celtic has returned to winning silverware again. That speaks volumes to Postecoglou’s skills as a manager.

So to say we’re fortunate to have him is a profound understatement. And whether it’s bringing his brand of football to the Hoops or putting the self-important and self-aggrandizing Scottish sports press in its place, Postecoglou has made his mark on the Scottish game in the time he has been at Celtic’s helm.

We can only hope he continues on the same successful course with the club, and if the past several months are any indication, he will clearly earn a place in Celtic history.

By the dawn’s early light

It’s 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, and I’m already awake — fallout from the 8- to 9-hour time difference between here and Europe when dragging myself out of bed to watch Celtic and St. Pauli matches live — and because the Winter Solstice is tomorrow, the sun is just making its way on the horizon behind the hills to the east.

But I confess, after a sleepless night — in a good way — I am still buzzing about yesterday’s win. My daughter, who was born in Kodaira-shi in the Tokyo Metropolitan District to her Japanese mom and me, now has an adopted older brother named Kyogo Furuhashi, who becomes a part of the family by virtue of his Larsson-esque play this season.

This is a Monday I don’t mind facing. In fact, I’m planning to break my mask protocol and wear my Celtic mask for two days in a row when I go into work later. Even in America, the reach of Celtic has a profound effect on its followers, and I know I’m not the only one. Across four time zones, there’s an excellent chance Yanks who bleed green-and-white are still buzzing about the results at Hampden.

Thank God Eddie Howe balked at joining Celtic and is now toiling — to be diplomatic — at Newcastle. Howe would have never — never — accomplished the same 180-degree turn with the Hoops as Ange Postecoglou has in the last several months.

As an aside, I don’t know where Dom McKay might be these days, but he’s owed a huge debt of gratitude for bringing in Postecoglou and the wave of players in during the last transfer window, many of whom made the difference yesterday with long-time Celtic veterans like Tom Rogic, Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor.

Put aside the fact that Postecoglou won, in a matter of months, the same number of trophies that Steven Gerrard took years to finally accomplish at Sevco before taking the first train out of Glasgow for Aston Villa. Ange is no stranger to silverware, and for those of you keeping score at home you can count Hampden as his ninth — three with South Melbourne, three with Brisbane, one with the Socceroos, one with Yokohama Marinos, and now one with Celtic.

But they said Postecoglou was not built for the SPFL. They said he’d be gone by Christmas.

In what has sadly become a hallmark of the Scottish mainstream sports media, they thought wrong.

And this team Postecoglou has put together, what more can you say? It’s a team that is once again geared to win trophies. Against most odds. Against the resistance of a Celtic board that balks at expense.

And what about this kid?

Every Celtic fan on the planet Earth would gladly trade places with Anthony Ralston yesterday at Hampden to greet Kyogo Furuhashi after his second goal to put the Hoops up 2-1.

Kyogo was not 100 percent yesterday, coming off a hamstring injury. But he was ready to play regardless. Postecoglou said on Sunday that no one was keeping him off the pitch, and for this we are truly thankful. The kid delivered.

It wasn’t just Kyogo. It was everyone, a team effort. Even Carl Starfelt — who Michael Stewart couldn’t slam hard enough on the game broadcast, early and often — had an OK game with a couple of miscues that resulted, arguably at most, with Hibernian’s only goal. But the point here is that everyone stepped up, because that’s the Celtic way.

My Celtic Star colleague Niall J points this out in more depth in his article here. It’s worth a read, outlining the contributions the team has made. But it bears repeating. Rogic? Awesome. Bitton, coming in for the dinged-up David Turnbull? Phenomenal. McGregor, the captain? No doubt the man we want in charge. Cameron Carter-Vickers? His solid defense clearly earns him the nickname “The Rock,” in deference to actor Dwayne Johnson.

[Cameron “The Rock” Carter-Vickers. Hmmm. That has a nice ring to it.]

The only thing missing, sadly, on Sunday was the absence of Jota, who is out with an injury. If anyone has contributed to the success of the club this season, it is clearly Jota. And for him to be absent in the victory on Sunday was definitely heartbreaking.

But of all the deliriously joyous events and happenings at Hampden, this one was probably the best.

Somewhere in the ethereal realm of the afterlife, Bertie Auld was looking down and watching yesterday’s game at Hampden. But his cutout was present yesterday, wearing the Hoops scarf.

Some cardboard cutouts are destined for the trash bin. And some are present at the final at Hampden. If you listened closely enough after the game, you could hear Bertie Auld say, “That’s entertainment.”

Coffee’s ready, finally. We’re away to St. Mirren on Wednesday — here we go again, we’re on the road again. Mon the Hoops!

Stop the presses!

Those who know me are aware of the fact that I spent most of my adult life in the news industry, until I was unceremoniously waived from my wire desk duties by the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 2014 in their final layoff. In nearly four decades of news work, overall I am proud of the fact — and consider myself profoundly lucky — that my career went virtually error-free.

Mistakes? Yeah, they happen. I’ve seen it first-hand, and have been part of news teams to rectify them. I’ve even caught my own, thankfully before they were put into permanence via print. But this one by the Daily Mail is pretty much a “rookie mistake.” You don’t report the results of an event until the final whistle blows because, well . . .

Oops. Well, Luke, better call rewrite, and fast . . . .

To be fair, let me pull back the curtain on how many sports writers cover games; and bear in mind that in these days of electronic media, it differs slightly from the good old ink-and-paper days. Generally speaking, in nearly every instance, reporters are writing the story as the match unfolds in order to have something ready when the final whistle goes. They’ll add post-game quotes from coaches and players and submit it to their editors. And voila, you get to read it shortly thereafter.

But in this “gamer” — the game story, as it’s called — apparently they jumped the gun, perhaps in an effort to get out of the office and into the pub. Or home, maybe. Only the people involved at the Daily Mail know for sure how this happened, but I would offer — not as an excuse, but as an explanation — that chances are there are a shortage of editors and writers at that news outlet, just as there are all over the industry worldwide as greedy publishers try to cut corners at the expense of the quality of their product, which by now is suspect.

But I digress.

In the closing seconds of injury time, Anthony Ralston put away a header to win the game against Ross County, 2-1.

Anthony Ralston’s goal in the upper reaches — literally and figuratively — so far away at Ross County was phenomenal. Much has been made of it elsewhere by those closer to the action than me. It is one of those endings that rival other late-game heroics that are part and parcel to Celtic’s recent history. It’ll be talked about for quite some time, to be sure.

If nothing else, the Daily Mail gets a yellow for this foul, and chances are they won’t do it again. Or will they?

One more thing

It would be easy to be complacent after an exceptional win like Wednesday’s at Ross County, and while you can easily bask in the afterglow of Ralston’s goal for quite some time, the fact remains that the officiating in the match didn’t even rise to the profoundly low and remarkably substandard level so common to the SPFL.

Carl Starfelt should have never been sent off, especially after having his nose broken, or so it seemed, several minutes prior. A clear handball — actually a both-handsball — foul on a Ross County player in their box in injury time completely missed by a ref who was as near to it as I am from my living room to my kitchen (and in this small apartment, that’s not very far). Virtually every no-call — and there were many — against various Ross County players who seemed to be playing rugby moreso than football was not only grating, but affected the outcome of the game.

This has to stop. International bodies like UEFA or FIFA have to step in here and send Scotland some real officials instead of the poseurs now wearing SpecSavers on the sleeves of their black shirts.

On Sunday at Hampden, we have the League Cup final starting at 3 p.m., which thankfully is 7 a.m. Pacific. Mon the Hoops!

3-0 at Tannadice is nice, but . . .

First things first: Celtic played a phenomenal game at Tannadice on Sunday against fourth-place Dundee United, winning 3-0 easily with phenomenal play from Tom Rogic, ballet-like moves by David Turnbull and new kid Liam Scales slotting one in to seal the deal.

What could have been potentially a nailbiter with key players missing — the absence of Anthony Ralston, Jota, and Stephen Welsh casting a shadow over the game — ended up being a classic show of Angeball.

The Bhoys in Green made fairly easy work of a club that — unlike, say, Livingston and their 10-0-0 formation — actually went out of their way to challenge Celtic on the pitch with a pressing style of play. While it’s hard after a 3-0 defeat to heap glowing praise on Dundee United goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist, he did play well to keep the score from being significantly higher; to say nothing of feeling completely awful for ex-Celt Charlie Mulgrew, now sadly toiling in obscurity for the Tangerines, who got beat so handily by Rogic on the first goal of the game.

Who taught this bhoy how to dance? David Turnbull pirouettes around Benjamin Siegrist to score at the 40-minute mark to make the score 2-0 Celtic. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

But . . .

You would think that the officiating would be its cutting edge sharpest in a match where all eyes were on the Men in Black, especially after the razor-thin margin of an offside goal for Celtic on Thursday had caused such a huge scandal in Scottish football.

Sadly, any semblance of objectivity or sharpness on the part of the officiating crew at Tannadice, or anywhere else throughout the league for that matter, was virtually non-existent.

On Sunday, three offside calls that weren’t really offside — I guess that will show us. Countless fouls matching the non-calls on fouls.

And then there’s the aptly named Callum Butcher. Butcher: Is there an any more appropriate name for a hammerthrowing nobody who immediately should have been red-carded for his spikes-up marking of David Turnbull?

No doubt the Scottish Football Association’s Crawford Allen will have a busy week going round all the media outlets telling us why Butcher didn’t get a red card and why his linesmen had countless incorrect decisions against Celtic on Sunday, just like he did this past week after Kyogo Furuhashi’s goal against Heart of Maddenlothian . . . sorry, Heart of Midlothian.

Wait. Who am I trying to fool?

So, while I’m pleased with the results against Dundee United on Sunday, pleased with how Ange Postecoglou and the coaching staff arranged the limited personnel, and reassured by the uptempo style of play which makes us the team to beat in the Scottish Premiership, I don’t want to get complacent with our treatment by the officials, which is nothing short of abhorrent and, as the rest of the world outside Scotland sees it, hypocritical.

As such, it’s easy to take our foot off the gas — rhetorically speaking — when it comes to the malfeasance on the part of the officiating crew. This is where I think we should keep on it. Keep pointing out the errors, keep pointing out the injustices. Some might say, “Well, it has always been this way,” and that may be. But it doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

Call it out. Early and often. Every time it happens.

One more thing

Two, actually.

First: Ghirls will be ghirls.

The Ghirls in Green won their first piece of silverware in a decade — the Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup on Sunday, dragging out a 1-0 victory over perennial women’s power Glasgow City. Fran Alonso has really gotten the women’s team to fire on all cylinders this season, and it’s good to see that he’s getting results. Congrats, ghirls!

Second thing: Why isn’t Tom Rogic ever in any of the Celtic Christmas videos?

Anyway, we have the fascists from Real Betis visiting Celtic Park in a Europa League match on Thursday. It might be a good time to give some of the bhoys a rest and let the kids take the stage, so to speak.

Anyway, Mon the Hoops!

One thing the Bhoys should stop

First things first: Grinding it out like Celtic did yesterday against Aberdeen, despite the best attempts by referee Kevin Clancy to win Aberdeen’s Man of the Match, has been outlined by other bloggers and pundits since the end of the game Sunday, mostly admirably and accurately.

Also, having the game come down to an attempted clearance in the Aberdeen box by ex-Celt Jonny Hayes which glanced off Callum McGregor and into the goal leaves much in the way of material for poets to regale in singing the song of this game in the future.

So while I won’t go into why I thought yesterday’s game was a good one, albeit a little worrisome from time to time, there’s something else I’d prefer to address.

A specter is haunting European football that needs to be addressed before someone gets injured, probably for good.

Jota did it after he scored on Sunday. McGregor did it on Sunday, too. Christopher Jullien has been known to do it, though I bet he won’t be once he returns to the pitch for the Hoops. And it’s not just Celts — many players worldwide do it after scoring a goal.

It is this: Players should stop sliding on their knees in their goal celebrations. Someone somewhere is going to catch a knee, like Jota did when it flipped him on his back on Sunday, and it’s going to put the player out. This, of course, will also be felt by the club, in a possible decline in performance due to the missing player, as well as felt by the fans, who — if they’re Celtic fans — will, among other things, turn on each other on social media like rabid hyenas, if last season is any indication.

Stick out your tongue and run around with your arms out. That worked for Henrik Larsson.

There are much better and safer — especially safer — ways to showboat after scoring.

Like sitting alone in a meditative pose, for starters.

Go ahead, and call me a “nervous Nellie” or a “boring killjoy.” That’s fine. I’d rather take that criticism than have a star player — especially on Celtic — blow out a knee and end up having to refer to him in all future conversations with a new first name: “Remember . . . ?”

One more thing

The Celtic Star, on which from time to time you will see this blog reprinted (thanks, David!), has started to expand its scope of Celtic coverage, and has established a YouTube channel. You can give it a visit — not to mention subscribe — here.

Meanwhile, Thursday we have the Jam Tarts at Celtic Park. Mon the Hoops!

Takeaways from the weekend

Forgive me for going off-script and weighing in on Celtic while we’re still outside the parameters of the regular SPFL season — a self-imposed rule I have set on myself and this blog. However, this weekend warrants a few comments and points which could be marginalized, or even forgotten, by the time we pick up the regular season again on Sunday.

Like . . .

The pregame tifo to honor Bertie Auld was fantastic, but it still paled in comparison to the display at the 67th minute of the match. The Green Brigade pulled out all the stops on this one.

Damn, can we tifo!

Recently I was explaining tifo to a friend who follows sports marginally, and if anything only sports in the U.S. He couldn’t understand why fans would make so much of an effort, and I just threw up my hands and changed the subject.

Anyway, despite the fact I am not a big fan of pyro, the pregame and 67th minute tributes to Bertie Auld on Saturday were both phenomenal. The Green Brigade gets high marks for bringing high quality to the stands, each and every time, regardless of whether it gets the club in trouble or not. It was phenomenal, and regretfully I could not find a still from the 2nd half demonstration by the Green Brigade.

You’ll have to settle for videos gleaned from social media, like this one here.

Of course, Sunday’s Wile E. Coyote tifo — whatever the Ibrox crew was doing on at Hampden the day after, which seemed to be purchased at ACME– paled in comparison. As it always does, and as they always do.

A yellow for Furuhashi

An incident in the St. Johnston game which caused some ripples was when that paragon of class officiating Nick Walsh — yeah, that’s the epitome of sarcasm right there, as Walsh should be nowhere near a grade-school match, let alone a Cup semifinal — gave Kyogo Furuhashi a yellow card. But the fact of the matters is that it was completely warranted.

Kyogo Furuhashi against the backdrop of the Green Brigade’s demonstration at the 67th minute of Saturday’s game.

Furuhashi was floored by some mouthbreathing, hammerthrowing nobody on St. Johnstone — playing their Livingstonian 10-0-0 formation all game — and Kyogo got up and was clearly justified in pushing him. A small tete-a-tete which amounted to nothing, except to Walsh, who made it a serious offense thanks to the fact that it was a Celt involved.

Daijobu desu, Furuhashi-san — That’s OK, Kyogo. It’s good to see that Kyogo has probably had his fill of the rogue’s gallery of talentless thugs that populate the SPFL and is now standing up for himself.

Welcome back, Jamesy

Oh, man. Have I been waiting for this, and it’s a plot line straight out of Hollywood. Who better to honor a legend like Bertie Auld than a potential legend-in-waiting like James Forrest?

James Forrest gets chased by Celtic captain Callum McGregor after Forrest scored on Saturday against St. Johnstone.

Forrest scored in the 74th minute from a cross that pinballed off St. Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark and others, and slotted home the 1-0 winner on Saturday. If there was ever a fitting “welcome back” after recovery from a long injury, it was this for Jamesy.

Love seeing that kind of play from a homegrown hero like Forrest.

One more thing

My friend Matt Corr’s latest book — “Harry Hood: Twice as Good” — has officially been released into the wild, and it’s an ideal holiday gift for that Celtic fan on your list. You can pick up the book at the Celtic Star Bookstore, and you can marvel at how great Harry looked in the San Antonio Thunder jersey late in his career . . . not to mention all the tales of glory from his Celtic days as well.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. We travel to Bayer Lederhosen — sorry, Leverkusen — this week before taking up the regular season tasks against Aberdeen on Sunday. Mon the Hoops!

Requiesce in pace, Bertie

I read the news today, oh boy . . . and after reading the headlines before grabbing a quick cup of coffee and toast on my way out the door to go to work, I rued the gloom that eventually ended up following me for the entire day: Celtic legend Bertie Auld had passed away.

Bertie Auld takes it to Inter Milan in the European Cup championship in 1967.

There are only a handful of players in the wider Celtic’s history that define a certain aspect of the club’s persona.

Vision was always defined by Brother Walfrid, who had the idea to feed the poor through the game of football, and then later by Willie Maley, who brought the foundation of quality players to the Hoops.

Leadership was always defined by Jock Stein on the sideline — espousing pure, beautiful, inventive football — and Billy McNeill implementing it on the pitch.

Skill had a wide variety of representatives in Celtic’s history, but none was superior in all of Celtic history than Jimmy Johnstone.

Personality and heart had but one shining representative: Bertie Auld. He understood and reflected what it means to be Celtic. He was faithfully Celtic, through and through.

Had Bertie done nothing else in his entire Celtic career, he achieved legendary status in Lisbon even before the game began: As the legend goes, in the tunnel awaiting to go out onto the pitch, standing next to European powerhouse Inter Milan, Bertie started singing “The Celtic Song,” in which the rest of his teammates joined in to the bemused Italians. John Fallon gives a great description of the scene in Clover Flims’ “The Fans Who Make Football” in their Celtic episode starting at around 20:50 – however, the whole episode is worth a watch, if you haven’t already seen it.

But he did so much more. For the fans who were not born yet, or not old enough to experience the glory and significance of the 1967 European Cup, Bertie Auld was the conduit – the connection to the heyday when Celtic was the first non-continental team to bring the trophy up to the British Isles. His accessibility – Bertie was always available for banter with fans, and was never at a loss to regale the public, whether it was a small group or a broadcast studio audience, with tales of Celtic greatness — was a touchstone of what it means to be Celtic.

The testament of how loved Bertie was by Celtic fans is the number of pictures posted on social media by people who had their pictures taken with him. Those are only the ones that are being shared, and there are probably more that aren’t, but it speaks to the fact that Bertie was always accessible and available to the people, and always made time for the fans. Always.

One of the most moving tributes-in-288-characters was posted on Twitter by Celtic Park tourgide Davie McLaughlin, with a picture of Bertie and Davie’s son.

His love for Celtic was boundless, and it showed. Day in and day out. He understood that football is nothing without the fans, and as a result, he seemed to give back to the fans a hundredfold, because at the end of the day we are all Celtic.

Bertie understood that. He was one of us, and that’s why we all loved him.

That’s what I thought this morning, driving down Highway 9 from Felton to Santa Cruz on my way to work, negotiating every serpentine curve through the redwoods, all the while singing “The Celtic Song.”

But I’m hearing the song in Bertie’s voice, not mine.

Requiesce in pace, Bertie. You’ll never walk alone.

We are family

João Pedro Neves Filipe — better known in these circles as Jota, our midfielder — mentioned what could have been a throwaway line in a postgame interview on BT Sport after Celtic’s 3-2 victory against Ferencvaros in Budapest. However, it bears resurrecting because it says a lot about Celtic’s resurgence.

“We are just starting to get to know each other,” Jota said of playing with his new teammates, “and month after month I think we are getting stronger and start to be like a real family, so . . . yeah, I think things are doing well . . .”

We are family: Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota during Celtic’s 3-2 win over Ferencvaros on Thursday.

That’s an important observation from a player for whom Celtic should be writing a check to Benfica to acquire him, and personally deliver it to the Portuguese club immediately. Celtic needs to seal this deal as soon as possible, as in right this very moment, as I write this and as you read this.

This kid “gets” Celtic.

When Jota hits on the family aspect of Celtic, he is not far off. Families are not perfect, obviously, and from time to time there is friction. And not all decisions made on a group level are met with the same degree of fanfare and joy, but the fact remains that whatever ups and downs there might be, we are in this together.

Faithful through and through.

We had a positive week this week with the signing of Anthony Ralston and then a Europa League victory in Budapest, wrapping up the week today when the club announced the signing of Greg Taylor to a new contract.

The Moan Brigade was out in full force on social media on that last one, which is unfortunate but sadly all-but-expected. Taylor is what we call here in the States a “lunchpail player” — a non-flashy, just-get-the-job-done, bringing his lunch from home type of player. No accolades, no fanfare. He clocks in, does his job dutifully, and clocks out until the next day.

A lot like Jonny Hayes. Remember him?

And here’s what the PlayStation pundits and armchair gaffers get wrong about giving Taylor grief: We let Hayes slip away a while back, and now he’s teamed up with Scott Brown at Aberdeen. Keeping Taylor in the fold, whether or not he’s a starter going forward from here on in, was a good move in keeping an experienced player who has the option of fighting for a starting spot.

Let’s be honest: The club signing Jota would have been a much bigger deal. That’s a given. And again, signing Jota should be done as soon as possible; there’s no way to stress this enough. But the fact that we’re shoring up the club with veterans like Taylor shouldn’t be discounted either.

Because perfect or not — and we all know there have been moves Celtic either balked on or shouldn’t have made, or moves we made and we’ve regretted — we’re still family.

Sunday we’re at Dundee against the Dark Blues at the bewitching hour of 4 a.m. kickoff on the U.S. Pacific Coast. Mon the Hoops!

A tale of two players

The Celtic Star posted an article on Tuesday regarding some undue criticism that Celtic forward Kyogo Furuhashi received from a typical source — Clyde 1 pundit-for-some-unexplained-reason and significantly-below-average former footballer Alex Rae.

This is Kyogo Furuhashi, scoring for Celtic. Comparing his numbers to Alex Rae’s, Rae is not fit to lace this young man’s boots, let alone offer his skewed criticism.

It piqued my curiosity to compare the two, putting side-by-side Celtic’s talented striker recently acquired from Vissel Kobe with the oft-whining “football mastermind” so often sought out, for some unexplained reason, for his “analytic wisdom.”

After a quick visit to the modern technological miracle known as tranfermrkt.com, the results are interesting.

Rae, a midfielder of clearly anonymous and forgettable talent, scored a grand total of 30 goals in a career spanning 18,218 minutes. This translates into roughly one goal every 607 minutes, or one every seven games. The breakdown, for those of you keeping score at home, is 19 for Wolverhampton, eight for Sunderland, three for Dundee FC, and a grand total of zero for old Rangers FC, a club which was liquidated in 2012.

Furuhashi, a striker of considerably more talent in a toenail clipping than Rae has in his entire DNA, has scored 76 goals in 15,906 minutes, in a career that is ongoing. Calculator, please . . . that’s a career total, so far, of roughly one goal every 209 minutes; 10 of those — one-third of Rae’s total career output — in games this season alone for the Hoops.

So, Furuhashi scores at a rate of approximately three times that of Rae. Is he three times the player that Rae was? No, because three times zero is still zero. But still, Furuhashi contributes much more to the game, on the whole, than Rae ever did as a player. The only contribution Rae clearly makes to football these days is putting the “anal” in analysis.

And yeah, I get it. Rae’s not a striker and would have scored less. But contributing so much less, statistically speaking? That’s a serious gap. You can go ahead and dig deeper into the numbers for Rae and the numbers for Furuhashi for a more detailed analysis, if you’re so inclined. But rest assured they don’t get any better for the pundit.

Yet the fact remains: When your career highlight is kicking the head of a downed opponent, as Rae did in 2004 in his European debut against CSKA Moscow, and when your stats suggest you might be better suited to another line of work — in Rae’s case, a gargoyle on a tall Glasgow building — you may want sit this one out and talk about something else.

In any case, Europa League action (ugh) continues on Thursday as the Bhoys in Green travel to that hotbed of racism, namely Hungary, to play Ferencvárosi TC away. Mon the Hoops!

You gotta have Hart

One topic of debate or discourse among Celtic fans as of late has to be this: Of all the great pickups over the summer, which of the last transfer window’s acquisitions has been the best for the Hoops?

It’s a tough question to answer, thanks to the tsunami of talent that came our way.

Of all the acquisitions during the summer transfer window, Joe Hart may be the best of the class. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

Of course, Joe Hart stands head and shoulders above the rest. Pun completely intended.

Any skepticism about whether the 34-year-old goalkeeper may be on the decline was vanquished quickly with a string of phenomenal performances once the season started. Nine clean sheets for the Hoops after being picked up for free over the summer from Tottenham Hotspur, Hart signed a three-year contract with Celtic and rose to the number one goalkeeper.

Not to take away anything from Scott Bain, Vasilis Barkas, or Conor Hazard — all of whom are adequate between the sticks — but Hart, above the rest, has been a godsend.

As mentioned in a previous post, Hart joins a class of transfers over the summer which has supercharged the side, and he has risen to the occasion.

Not only this, Hart “gets it” — he understands what it means to put on the goalkeeper’s jersey for Celtic; the only player on the pitch with the Celtic crest on his jersey not wearing the Hoops. Not only did he praise the fans visiting Easter Road yesterday for their support in Celtic’s 3-1 win over Hibernian, he also gave credit where credit was due to the fans who came to the Tuesday afternoon UEFA Europa League match at mid-month against Ferencvaros, thanking the 50,000-plus who attended the 2-0 victory.

Hart’s dedication to the fans and humility in postgame interviews proves that he’s custom-made for Celtic, despite a pedigree which has taken him to the best of the EPL and European teams (to say nothing, of course, for playing for his country).

And he said it best in a recent article in The Celtic Star: “I play for the club, I play for the badge and I play for the manager. I feel good in the shirt at the moment and I want to continue.”

We want you to continue, too, Joe.

One more thing

As mentioned in previous posts, I lived in Japan in the late 1990s and, as an aside, I have a history of seeing Shunsuke Nakamura play at Yokohama. Of course, I was teaching English in suburban Tokyo at the time and my adult students took me to a Marinos game, however in typical Yankee fashion I was more interested in the fact that I could get ramen in the stands than in anything that was happening on the pitch.

Yeah, I’m still kicking myself for that.

Anyway, the long reach of Celtic has established a beachhead in Japan once again, thanks to Kyogo Furuhashi. In Tokyo Station — one of the largest anywhere — Kyodo Sports News put up posters of the day’s sports news, with this one announcing Furuhashi scoring his 10th goal for Celtic against Hibernian (if my rusty Japanese is correct).

I picked this up on Twitter and credit goes to @sean_1am, a Glaswegian now in Japan. Thanks, Sean!

So we have Livingston visiting Celtic Park — Livi gets to play on a decent pitch for a change — at 3 p.m. on Saturday (7 a.m. in the wild and wooly West here).

Mon the Hoops.