I still wanna be Edouard

Odsonne Edouard, the top goal scorer in Scotland for the past two years, may be on his way to Leicester City and a reunion with Brendan Rodgers for the Foxes.

While the exit door at Parkhead seems to be jamming a bit lately, the latest departure rumour has Odsonne Edouard, according to pundits’ recent reports, joining Leicester City (much to the dismay of fuming Arsenal fans) for an encore performance with Brendan Rodgers.

And with this news, of course, follows the tsunami of petulant, spoiled naysayers among the Celtic support disparaging Edouard’s phenomenal contribution to the Quadruple-Treble, whether on the wider social media front or even here in this thread in the Celtic Noise forum, with a raft of nonsense discounting his endeavours in the Hoops by focusing solely on this past season.

You know, the 2020/21 season. The season where Edouard was asked to play up front alone most of the time, despite being more successful — as nearly all strikers are — with a second striker to play off of. But let’s not quibble about that, oh spoiled petulant ones, when you can dump on a phenomenal player who can arguably be credited for most of the club’s high points over the last four seasons, right?

The “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” crowd, in their typical myopic and moronic manner, just want him gone. “He lost interest.” “Couldn’t be bothered.”

Bullshit.

You know what? I wanna be Edouard. I still wanna be Edouard. And when he goes to play at Leicester City or wherever he ends up, I will continue to watch him, just as I do former Celts I miss playing in the Hoops, including Kieran Tierney at Arsenal, Moussa Dembele at Athletico Madrid, Scott Sinclair at Preston North End, Mikael Lustig at AIK, and closer to home, the Celts in America: Patryk Klimala, Cameron Harper, and Andrew Gutman at New York Red Bulls, and Lewis Morgan at Inter Miami.

With the exception of Mo Johnston and perhaps Boli Bolingoli — the player who sadly lit the match that ignited last season’s dumpster fire — if you wear the Hoops and play Celtic football, you’ll always be a Celt wherever you go.

Normally, I’d have “One More Thing” to add here, but today I’m going to have to pass. It’s a beautiful day here on the Central California coast and, with nothing burning (so far) and nothing football-wise to watch, I plan to take full advantage of it.

Mon the Hoops!

Looking back … or maybe not

Now that the horrendous dumpster fire of a season is behind us — and the further behind us in the proverbial rearview mirror, the better — and while we ponder who will be taking the reins for next season, it might be a good idea to take a look at some of the facets of the disaster that are not often talked about but should never be repeated.

A few quick observations about what wasn’t talked about nearly enough would have to include the following.

There’s nothing wrong with finishing second, it’s staying second that’s wrong . . .

Second is, well, second

After a perfect storm of mismanagement on the pitch and in the boardroom assisted by some remarkably questionable outside circumstances and decisions by both league and government officials, you would think that Celtic had finished sixth in the Premiership this past season.

Yet despite the symphony of disaster the club navigated in 2020/21, Celtic finished a comfortable second in the table. You want to say, “Yeah, well, second is the first loser”? Go ahead, but it would be my duty to inform you that this is a remarkably shallow and moronic take. In this case, second is ahead of 10 other teams in the league. True, it’s not what we want — not what we demand — as Celtic fans, but that’s the reality. I understand we’ve had worse finishes than this in the past.

Departures and injuries

Not enough was made of injuries to some key players, specifically James Forrest, Mikey Johnston, and Christopher Jullien. The absence of those three alone had a profound effect on the performance of the club, to the point that whatever lack of magic or improvisation from the technical area — and it can be successfully argued that there was a complete lack of that this season — showed in the lackluster and uneven play on the pitch by the Hoops.

Another aspect that was mostly discounted during the season was the lack of fans in the seats. Celtic’s 12th man was clearly missing, and it is something that contributed to the uninspired season. In this first season of COVID football, it wasn’t only Celtic which felt the effect: Liverpool, whose fans carry their club in the same manner Celtic’s fans do with the Hoops, stumbled this season as well.

Can’t exactly tell what Jeremie Frimpong was thinking after being assaulted by Kilmarnock’s Alan Power, but I bet one thought that crossed his mind was, ‘I bet that’s a red in the Bundesliga.’

It wasn’t just injuries that sent players off the pitch. Hatem Elhamed had family issues borne of selectively restrictive immigration policies — the same restrictive immigration policies that kept Americans Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez stateside and, as a result, now playing for other clubs in the MLS — and Elhamed chose to return to Israel rather than stay in Scotland. I suspect Jeremie Frimpong had enough of being slammed by hammerthrowing nobodies like Kilmarnock’s Alan Power and Hibernian’s Alex Gogic and jumped with both feet at the chance to play in the Bundesliga, a slightly more prestigious league than the officiating-challenged SPFL.

[An aside: The SFA has a monumental problem on its hands in its officiating corps, which this past season set the gold standard for awful, overall, and could easily be seen as biased toward one club. Not only does the quality of Scottish football suffer immensely because of it, it makes the Premiership a laughingstock in the eyes of the rest of the world.]

Who’s on the horizon?

Although his legacy is will be firmly cemened as the gaffer who blew the 10, Neil Lennon still holds an overall positive place in Celtic lore. And while much is made of the lengthy Eddie Howe courtship — if he even accepts the proposal from the club — it is more important to take a look at the shape the club is in.

Here’s a minority viewpoint: The club is in good shape going in to the next season, and here’s why: With the fresh slate of an injury-free squad coupled with a significant bumper crop of young talent, most of whom are coming off successful loan spells to return to the club, next season looks promising even without having to acquire outside talent. In a post-COVID football world, clubs that are most prudent with their spending will be the strongest, and Celtic has only a couple of gaps to fill.

A partial list of returnees: Vakoun Bayo, Jack Hendry, Maryan Shved (if he chooses to return), Luca Connell, Jonathan Afolabi — all players who have made an impression with their loan clubs.

So despite a season that is best left in the bin of bad dreams, the ship will be righted by next season and Celtic will return to its winning ways.

Count on it.

One more thing

With the relegation of Hamilton Academical and Kilmarnock, it looks like two plastic pitches have been removed from the purview of the Premiership, leaving only Livingston’s pitch as the only artificial surface to be played on. Two out of three ain’t bad. So can we bring back Jozo Simunovic?

Also, speaking of Kilmarnock, it’s amazing how Killie took a monumental nosedive in the wake of Steve Clarke’s departure from the club. All of which is to say that if he wasn’t coaching the national team — getting the most out of the players and having the Scotland squad punch well above their weight — he’d be a good choice to put Celtic back on track.

Mon the Hoops!

Exercise your right to vote

As this season’s dumpster fire draws to a close while we wait to see who’s actually going to manage Celtic next season — not to mention that it’s once again Glasgow Derby weekend — it might be a good idea for a small diversion in the form of season superlatives.

Hence, it’s about time for Celtic’s Player of the Year, Goal of the Season, and Young Player of the Year. It’s pretty simple, and the process starts by going here and voting.

How did I vote? Glad you asked.

Player of the year

This one is easy.

Zander Clark.

Just kidding.

Actually, it was a bit difficult. In a lackluster year, you might think it would be difficult to pick a standout. But that’s not the case, since each of the nominees had their bright spots during the course of the season. Not only this, for me it came down to two Norwegians.

Sorry, Mohamed Elyounoussi, but I had to go with Kris Ajer this year. Ajer has been a rock in the Celtic backfield this season, and admittedly he’s been very versatile in filling the spaces when advancing the ball forward into the opponents half. In fact, why Ajer doesn’t do this more often is a mystery, but his solid play this year earns him the nod from this voter.

Kris Ajer, my choice for Player of the Year.

Goal of the Season

This is a tough one. So many good choices here: Odsonne Edouard dribbling through the entire population of Reykjavik — OK, five or six KR Reykjavik players — or James Forrest’s goal against Motherwell to break his dry spell, or even Ismaila Soro’s launch from a few miles out against Dundee United. Unfortunately, my favorite goal of the year doesn’t count because, technically, it belongs to last season: Edouard’s penalty looping over Craig Gordon and Hearts in the previous year’s delayed Scottish Cup final.

But perhaps the best of this bunch is Mohamed Elyounoussi against Lille. Of all the good candidates in this bunch, any time you get the goalkeeper to do his best impersonation of a statue while the ball hits the back of the net is a feat in and of itself. Nice one, Moi!

Young Player of the Year

I hate to say it, but it can be successfully argued that we can see how our young players are developing by watching the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer stateside this season. There’s Cameron Harper, Andrew Gutman, Patryk Klimala . . .

Bitter? Me?

OK, now that this is off my proverbial chest, my vote went to Stephen Welsh, a Celtic Reserves player who made his mark on the club without having to actually leave the club, playing solid defense since his call-up to the first team. Welsh has a bright future with the Hoops, and I hope he can prove that the Celtic Reserves can produce players that stay with the club.

Again, here’s the link to cast your ballot. How did you vote? Post in the comments below.

Mon the Hoops!

Welcome to New York, Patryk

Well, at least it’s now official: Polish Paddy becomes Broadway Paddy as the New York Red Bulls of the U.S. Major League Soccer signs Patryk Klimala to a multi-year deal, the third Celtic player to join the Big Apple club this season.

Patryk Klimala, who never really got to show his talent at Celtic, scored three goals and one assist for the Hoops during his tenure with the Bhoys.

“We’re delighted to complete this deal and welcome Patryk to our club,” said Red Bulls’ head of sport Kevin Thelwell in a press release. “Patryk is a talented young forward who has proven that he can score goals and create in a variety of ways. We believe he has the ability to impact games in MLS now, and the potential to continue to grow and succeed in years to come. We look forward to welcoming him to New York and getting him acclimated to our club.”

Klimala, who had limited playing time at Celtic, scored three goals and had one assist for the Hoops, and he joins former Celtic players Andrew Gutman and Cameron Harper in New York.

New York Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber welcomed Klimala to the club with high praise.

“I’m very happy with Patryk’s decision to join us,” Struber said. “At both the club and youth international level he has shown that he has high potential. He demonstrates a strong work ethic against the ball, which is very important to our style of play, and has very good instincts around the goal. His movement and ability in the final third give the team another weapon.”

Klimala signed a four-year MLS contract with a club option, the New York Red Bulls announced Thursday, filling a Young Designated Player and international spot on club’s roster.

A club statement from Celtic stated, “Everyone at Celtic thanks Patryk for his contribution to the club and wishes him every success in the future.”

The Hoops are reported to be recouping the 3.5 million pounds they paid for the Poland U21 international, who came to Celtic in January 2020 from the Polish club Jagiellonia.

On a personal note . . .

Like Cameron Harper, Patryk Klimala should have been part of Celtic’s plans going forward. He was one of the several members of the first team ready to come off the bench and make his mark, only to be pigeonholed and given only limited playing time. He showed a commitment to the club by working hard in the COVID “offseason” with his noticeable efforts in strengthening and conditioning, and he always showed huge potential in those chances he had to play. My hope is that he thrives with his former Celtic teammates in New York, and there’s every indication that he will.

Mon the Hoops!

International Break-ing Point

To be honest, the International Break drives me crazy. With no Celtic (or no anybody, really) to watch as the nations line up to qualify for the World Cup, the best I can do — after watching endless past games and the Broony DVD multiple times — is watch the bhoys play for their respective countries. If there is any consolation, it’s seeing things you don’t normally see when the Hoops play in the SPFL.

Like . . .

Norway. Why did it have to be Norway?

It seems that whenever I line up ESPN+ to watch whomever is playing at any particular time over the last week, Norway seems to be at the top of the list for broadcast. It could be worse, obviously, but it’s good to keep an eye on Kris Ajer and Mohammed Elyounoussi (not to mention watching the antics of Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland). Overall both of the bhoys have been playing well for Norway despite the team’s lackluster results, especially Elyounoussi — I don’t have the stats in front of me, but he seems to have stepped up his game in the take-away department. Ajer, of course, has been the Viking enforcer in the back who does not fear taking the ball up the pitch when the space is available to him. We’ll have to see how it pans out for the Norwegians.

Oh no, Nir! Not again!

One reason — perhaps the main reason — I loathe the International Break is that Celtic players tend to get banged up in the process. Call it the “Tom Rogic Effect.” Once again, an injury rears its ugly head as Nir Bitton tore a groin muscle in the final training session for Israel before they started their games, and now he returns his injured self to the training table in Glasgow. To be fair, Bitton was not 100 percent when he was picked to play for Israel in the first place.

[As an aside, anyone watching the Israel-Scotland match notice how in-the-groove ex-Celt Hatem Elhamed was in defense? Pity he couldn’t stay.]

Kieran Tierney, assist king

Meanwhile, back at home — yours, not mine (over here in the States, we’re still fuming over the fact that the U.S. Men’s Team didn’t qualify for the Olympics, while waiting for some heads to roll) — the Scots under Steve Clarke seem to be holding their own in a group where they precariously hold on to second in Group F. The Scots pretty much had their way with the Faeroe Islands 11 yesterday, 4-0, thanks in large part to three assists by ex-Celt Kieran Tierney; all of which were beauties, and one of them which came from a cracking pass from Callum McGregor — pity there’s no stat for “assists-on-assists.”

It begs the question: Is there anything Tierney, the kid with the Tesco bag, can’t do?

Shocker: Edouard gets the penalty

Take notes, SFA: When you have referees who are not — how can I put this tactfully? — playing the 12th (or 13th or 14th) man on behalf of Glasgow’s other club, you get what can best be described as fair officiating. Proof of that, of course, is the call in France U21 game against Russia where Odsonne Edouard, who was clipped with the same intensity as he was in the Glasgow Derby, getting not a yellow card for simulation but a real, honest-to-God penalty kick, which he slotted away in his usual Edouard way.

Amazing, isn’t it? I’ve always said that there was much more to the SpecSavers’ sponsorship of the SPFL officials than meets the eye.

(Pun completely intended.)

One more thing . . .

Two actually: First, I caught the end of the Germany-North Macedonia game, with the Germans scrambling to draw unsuccessfully at the end of the match, which went the North Macedonian’s way 2-1. First loss at home for Germany in, like, forever, and a boost to the tiny landlocked nation just north of Greece.

Second, it looks like the MLS in the U.S. is starting to expand its scope of players loaned from European to American clubs. That is, when they are not signing them outright, as in the case of ex-Celts Cameron Harper and Andrew Gutman. News from Hamburg has FC St. Pauli midfielder Leon Flach joining Philadelphia Union, a rival to Harper’s and Gutman’s New York Red Bulls. Interesting note that Flach goes to Philly to join Stuart Findlay, who came up through the Celtic youth system and played with Kilmarnock before heading stateside.

Not the strangest MLS loan transaction, though. The winner of that one, so far, would be Sporting Kansas City’s acquiring Mexican player Dani Rojas on loan from AFC Richmond for, wait for it, a metric ton of barbeque sauce. Don’t believe me? Here’s the press release from SKC.

Wait a minute. Anyone have a calendar? Ah, that would explain it . . .

Anyway, can the break be over now? Mon the Hoops!

Red Bulls drinking up Celtic talent

I know there’s probably a joke in there somewhere about Red Bulls drinking up Celtic talent, as opposed to the other way around. But I can’t seem to formulate it, and to be honest, it’s probably best left unsaid anyway.

Andrew Gutman, shown here in training while playing for FC Cincinnati, is the 2nd former Celtic player to join New York Red Bulls for the upcoming MLS season.

However, the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer in the U.S. — after adding former Celtic Colt Cameron Harper — have bolstered their lineup with a second former Celtic prodigy in Andrew Gutman.

Gutman was added to the NYRB roster on loan from Atlanta United. After a loan spell from Celtic to FC Cincinnati through the 2020 season, Gutman was selected first in the MLS Reentry Draft by Atlanta United.

“We’re pleased to have Andrew join us,” Red Bulls New York’s Kevin Thelwell said in a club statement. “He has proven that he can play in MLS and has qualities that we think will fit well in our style of play. He is a solid defender, can contribute from wide areas going forward, and has the physical attributes to meet the demands of our system.”

The 24-year-old left back made 20 starts in 29 appearances with FC Cincinnati over a season and a half. He was an academy product of Chicago Fire FC before eventually signing with Celtic. He never made a first team appearance with the Hoops. 

Prior to turning professional, Gutman was a four-year standout at Indiana University, with 20 goals and 17 assists in 90 appearances for the Hoosiers. He helped IU to consecutive College Cup appearances in 2017 and 2018 and earned the 2018 MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the best college soccer player in the country.

New York Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber had high praise for Gutman.

“Andrew brings good experience in MLS,” Struber said. “He is strong on the ball and has good awareness and intelligence going forward, which will help us build our attack and bring good decision making in the final third.”

Gutman brings the total of former Celtic players in the MLS up to three, joining Harper and Inter Miami CF’s Lewis Morgan, who was the club’s MVP last season. Mon the Hoops!