The unbearable lightness of the UCL

Needless to say that I realize there are far more important things going on in the world right now. But when Jota isn’t happy, I’m not happy.

In the press after the FC Shakhtar Donetsk match in Poland yesterday in which Celtic drew 1-1, Jota said something to the effect that Celtic players always aim for a win.

He’s right. He gets it.

No need to hang your head, Jota. The foundation for Europe success is set.

Also, as an aside, I think a large part of Shakhtar’s success came as a result of neutralizing Jota for much of the game, but that’s for the experts to debate.

Yet despite a temporary setback where a flurry of shots missed their mark in a game where Celtic clearly outplayed Shakhtar only to come away with a draw, we clearly are putting down a marker in Group F in the UEFA Champions League.

Group F, incidentally, is the home of 15 European Cup/Champions League winners: Of course, 14 of those are Real Madrid and one of those is us.

Ange Postecoglou nailed it, too, when he said that Celtic is on the way to achieving European success. He told the Sun that Celtic was “excellent” on Wednesday, and they were. “Obviously the result was not reflective of that but I thought in the whole game the players gave everything and that’s all I can ask for,” he said.

I would completely agree. Needless to say, the Moan the Hoops Brigade was out in force on Wednesday, failing as always to bring a rational and realistic discourse to social media. Of course, whether having a rational discourse on social media is even possible might be another debate for another time. But I digress.

What the naysayers fail to realize is that Wednesday’s match — like last week’s match against last year’s Champions League, um, champions Real Madrid — is not the same as Celtic taking on Kilmarnock on a given Saturday at Rugby Park. It’s not even in the same universe. Celtic is playing the best of Europe, which also means they’re playing the best in the world.

And they’re holding their own, playing a high quality football — pure, beautiful, inventive football — that belongs with the best Europe has to offer.

So as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I’m not a fan of Celtic having to play in Europe. Sure, the checks are great and, as consistent top-of-the-table finishers in Scotland, we have an obligation to represent in international competition. But at least now Celtic stands on a level of being competitive, and that makes watching it, while worrying about how injuries may affect the SPFL season, a little more bearable.

You read it here first: At the level Celtic has taken on the Champions League opponents, there is no reason they can’t advance. Those goal opportunities that Celtic missed on Wednesday? They will come back and we won’t miss next time.

One more thing

Two, actually: With all the hubbub around the passing of the Queen of England and the lack of football around the UK as a result (but cricket, rugby and horse racing goes on — go figure), I had to put aside a post I started about the ball handling and passing genius of Reo Hatate, and I still plan on finishing it and posting it. The kid’s outstanding, and like his fellow countrymen Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda, each brings a special quality to the club: Daizen with his speed and endurance, and Kyogo with his remarkable insight to be at the right place at the right time around an opponent’s goal.

Needless to say, Celtic fell out of the lucky tree and hit every branch on the way down in getting Ange, who brought this trio to the club.

Also, as many of you already know, Tom Rogic signed with West Bromich Albion. Sure, the jersey looks as out-of-place on him as the Aberdeen red did on Scott Brown, but it’s safe to say that WBA just made the steal of the century in picking up the Wizard of Oz. Good luck, Tom!

Meanwhile, we have St. Mirren away on Sunday at the crack of 4:30 a.m., California time. Mon the Hoops!

Levels of history

Arguably, Saturday’s game against Ibrox Cover Band FC laid down a marker as one of those historic games that we, as Celtic fans, will be tweaking Hun noses with for years to follow. And those who insist on calling the Glasgow Derby the “Old Firm” clearly saw this: If this was indeed the Old Firm, it was played on Saturday by the ghosts and zombies of a Rangers club that perished under the sheer tonnage of liquidation in 2012.

In other words, the Old Firm died when Rangers did. So stop already.

But I digress.

In the continued afterglow 72 hours later from Saturday’s 4-0 walkover, there is a lot to unpack.

Jota saluting the crowd after his scintillating goal to put the Hoops up 2-0.

Leil Abada’s goals were classic Celtic build-up and shoot. Matt O’Riley’s phenomenal pass to Jota who put it over the goalkeeper’s head, and subsequent salute to the fans, was a masterstroke — one of many we can expect from this team this season.

But the best goal — at least for me — was David Turnbull’s at 78 minutes. It was a classic deke by Turnbull: Take two steps toward a defender on the outside, and when the goalkeeper lobs it to the man in the middle, cut back and intercept, shoot, and score.

It was indeed a “Whit’s the goalie daen, Tom?” moment.

But one of the many stark contrasts between us and them is that not only did the Bhoys play on a level far beyond Surrender FC, they played smarter. Much smarter. And in a field of football geniuses, Reo Hatate is the Einstein of the club, controlling the midfield and sending passes with the accuracy of the theory of relativity all over the pitch.

But if you really want to talk about historic, there’s the tifo . . .

A lot of history here, and rubbing the noses of the Huns in it was delicious.

Imagine being, oh I don’t know, an American living in California up at 4 a.m., and seeing this. Dreaming? And what does this mean? Later you find out: It’s 13-year-old Paddy Coyle, Molotov cocktail in hand, during the Battle of the Bogside in Derry in 1969. The quote is from Bernadette Devlin MP, an Irish independence icon from that era: “Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win!”

Then you say aloud, “Holy fuck, that’s brilliant!” You say that loud enough to wake up your daughter, asleep in her room, who resorts to her typical game-day “Daaaaaad,” when you get too loud during the game in the pre-dawn hours. Not only is it a hard slap in the face followed by a kick to the soft ones to a club obsessed with British army iconography vis-a-vis Northern Irleand and being up to their knees in Fenian blood, but the subtext that Celtic is always on the side of the oppressed cannot be ignored.

It’s a classic Green Brigade tifo for the ages, surpassing the greats like “They hung out the flag of war.” I’m so glad they’re on our side. Kudos to them for the consistently awesome tifo.

And for those who don’t think there’s a place for politics in football, perhaps you can take your shallow fandom elsewhere. Maybe to a soulless club like, oh I don’t know, Manchester City. They might be more your speed, where all that matters is an open checkbook and unlimited spending.

One more thing

The rest of the world is watching, and we’re laughing. Scottish football pundits either have no concept of reality or they just suck. Maybe both. Anyway, when brainless mouthpieces like Kris Boyd put players like Alfredo Morelos ahead of Jota, you have to wonder if they are just stupid or having a stroke. And Barry Ferguson. Barry, seriously: You got it hilariously wrong when you said that Gio van Bratwurst had Ange Postecoglou sussed, when the Celts throttled the Huns. But instead of saying four simple words — “Yeah, I was wrong” — you double down by saying something even more moronic: I was right, but the players didn’t hold up their end of the deal.

Really? In other words, I have gaining the US presidency sussed, but my campaign didn’t hold up its end of the deal. M’kay . . .

So yeah, add a group of football pundits seemingly sharing a single IQ point to a sports media that are more stenographers than journalists, and no one really takes you seriously. That’s a huge problem in my book; one I hope gets fixed in a hurry.

But back to history: We have Real Madrid tomorrow in the Champions League opener at Celtic Park. Franco’s fascists are favored, and they are the current champions, but we are not a pushover and, as Chris Sutton said, we can cause them problems. A win tomorrow — and I am lighting a candle and saying a rosary — would be even more historic than Saturday’s drubbing of Filth FC, and that’s saying something.

Mon the Hoops!

Closing the window again

If you will permit me a chance to don my Captain Obvious outfit, that was a fine piece of business this summer. And Oliver Abildgaard, if you would be so kind as to close the transfer window behind you now that you’re here, I’d be grateful.

Celtic clearly outdid themselves this time around, and for this we are truly thankful. Getting deals done early, getting players locked in and under contract instead of under loan — one might think they were dreaming.

Jota, at right, whether on the wing or not, is without a doubt the best Celtic signing in the last several years. The key is to keep him around for awhile, and I hope the Celtic board does just that.

But no. It’s a new morning at Parkhead, and apparently the board is serious about giving Ange Postecoglou the tools to win. A lot. And so we end up with Cameron Carter-Vickers signed, Jota signed, Benjamin Siegrist (a first class first-stringer who I never thought would play behind Joe Hart) signed, Daizen Maeda (previously on loan) signed, and the list goes on: Aaron Mooy, Sead Haksabanovic, Alexandro Bernabei, and Moritz Jenz on loan from FC Lorient, not to mention Abildgaard on loan from Rubin Kazan.

Not only this, we say goodbye to some players who may not have made it in the new system and have been, well, a burden on the payroll: Christopher Jullien, whose knee injury eclipsed flashes of brilliance on the pitch (Betfred Cup winner against the Huns, anyone?) — he’s now with Montpellier. Albian Ajeti may get more playing time at Sturm Graz in the Austrian Bundesliga. Vasilis Barkas seems to be settling in with FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie.

And there are some departures to other clubs which you kind of hate to see: I would have liked someday to have seen Karamoko Dembele playing up front with Kyogo Furuhashi, but Dembele is off to Stade Brestois 29 in Ligue 1; a good move for him, but unfortunate for what could have been. Bohemians FC in Dublin got a steal when they picked up Jonathan Afolabi on loan — he had a lot of potential and will help the Bohs immensely. Barnsley, too, got a deal and a half with Luca Connell. And then you hate to see a young talent like Liam Scales in the red of Aberdeen, looking as out of place as Scott Brown and Jonny Hayes wearing the Dons’ kit. Speaking of Liams, Liam Shaw joins Morecambe down south after a season on loan to Motherhell, sorry Motherwell, and I know he’ll contribute there.

A hill I’m willing to fight and die on: Mikey Johnston is definitely Celtic caliber who needs to get playing time he wouldn’t normally get in the current club lineup. So a loan spell to Vitoria de Guimaraes in the Portuguese league would be good for him, especially under the terms agreed to by both clubs.

But most interestingly, Mikey Johnston has a season-long loan spell with Vitoria Guimaraes in the Portuguese league, after signing a one-year extension with Celtic. So with no sell-on clause, the good news is that after Johnston gets some time to return to his former level of play, he’ll be back in the Hoops next season.

On trophy day at the end of last season, Ange promised us we’d come back bigger and better, and it appears he’s keeping his word. And the We-Never-Stop gospel has taken root with the Hoops, to the point where essentially a second team throttled the hammerthrowing Ross County on Wednesday 4-1 to advance in the Scottish League Cup.

So close the window and get ready for a wild ride.

One more thing

The Moan the Hoops Brigade on social media are at it again: This time, the whipping boy is Alexandro Bernabei, who had what nearly every Celtic fan who watched Wednesday would describe as a good game — not great, but not bad either — against Ross County. Bernabei moves well with the ball and with a couple of defensive miscues that led to absolutely nothing for the Stags, and he got a full 90+ minutes under his proverbial belt.

But that’s not good enough for some. Seriously, people, get a fucking grip.

If Twitter had existed in 1997 when Henrik Larsson started for the Hoops, the Moan the Hoops Brigade would have ridden him out on a rail after a debut which featured an errant pass leading to a Hibernian goal, and later an own-goal in a European match. Thank God social media didn’t explode on the scene until about a decade later, and thank God, too, that none of these people are within a light-year of making decisions for the club, either then or now.

Also, a hat tip for Sead Haksabanovic, who came on at the 76-minute mark in the Ross County match and showed a lot of potential. Once he gets used to playing with his new teammates, the sky is the limit.

Meanwhile, Celtic hosts Scum of the Earth FC, a 10-year-old club whose sole purpose is to provide the world a cautionary tale about how not to run a football club, to say nothing of being a club with followers who are the dregs of society. It’s the Glasgow Derby at the god-awful crack of 4:30 a.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, and quite frankly destroying them would be worth waking up to.

F*ck the Huns and Mon the Hoops!

LFC: We got 9. Celtic: Hold my beer

It has become commonplace on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 4 a.m. for noon kickoffs in Scotland: Set the alarm for 3:45, shut it off quickly before apologizing to my daughter awakened in the other room of our small apartment, curse the fact I can’t sleep in to 7 for a 3 p.m. kickoff, shower, suit up in the appropriate home/road/third jersey and scarf, and then put on the Celtic match with a very low volume.

If every Celtic game was like Sunday’s outing at Tannadice, getting up at 4 would never be difficult.

There are no superlatives that would do justice to the Bhoys’ 9-0 victory yesterday. Also, not to blame the victim here, but after Joe Hart went down with a boot to the head, got stapled up, and continued to play flawlessly, Dundee United had a whipping coming to them. Don’t injure our keeper, and we’ll let you live . . .

Joe Hart gets his head stapled after a collision with Steven Fletcher’s foot early in Celtic’s game against Dundee United.

Nevertheless, this was a result that was coming when, finally, Celtic fires on all cylinders. Not only were the Bhoys firing on all cylinders on Sunday, they shifted into overdrive as well. Unfortunately, Dundee United had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of Celtic’s pure, beautiful, inventive football in a high-scoring match that the Hoops have been capable of ever since Ange Postecoglou took the helm.

One stat stands out: Thirty shots, 13 on target, makes you wonder how many of those other 17 might have gone in had they been closer.

These two guys, Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada, scored six goals between them on Sunday against Dundee United.

Not enough can be said about Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada: Kyogo at 15′ and 40′ and 45’+2, Abada at 50′ and 59′ and 77′. Already the comparisons between Kyogo and Henrik Larsson are being made on social media — prematurely, in my book. However, the Japanese bhoy has certainly made strides in that direction to validate a comparison to the King of Kings, and no one would be happier than me to see that come to fruition.

Jota, too, was his usual flawless self. On his goal right before the end of the half, a very humorous episode took place where a Dundee United defender, on the pitch between Jota and the goal albeit several yards to Jota’s right, put his hand up for offside on Jota . . . when he was in front of Jota on the pitch. The comic relief of that alone made this the goal of the game, in my book.

And it doesn’t stop there.

With the depth on this squad, Ange is orchestrating the games like a conductor leading a symphony. Thinking you may be getting a respite with a second-teamer coming in off the bench? Not a chance. There’s a good chance the replacement is better than the player coming off. It’s a great position for Celtic to be in.

It will be interesting to see if we can keep the level up in our next match, a League Cup tie at Ross County on Wednesday, to say nothing of Saturday’s match against the Huns.

One more thing

There’s this meme floating around social media recently that provided a chuckle. It said, and I’m paraphrasing here, Group F in the UEFA Champions League is the scariest because it has 15 European Cups between Real Madrid and Celtic. Of course, it doesn’t mention that 14 of those belong to Real Madrid, and who am I to mention that part?

Anyway, onward and forward. Mon the Hoops!

Drawing conclusions

Personally, I hate to admit this, but the truth is the truth: Because I’ve only been following Celtic — and football, for that matter — for five seasons, I am hardly an expert on the beautiful game and its multiplicity of nuances. I freely admit that, and what follows here, and in all my blogs, are commentary.

But in my defense, I watch a lot of it, and not only Celtic. The learning curve is not as steep as one might think.

So when it comes to the UEFA Champions League draw on Thursday, my rudimentary knowledge of who’s good and who’s a poseur (hint: Glasgow’s other team that’s not Partick Thistle) leads me to believe that we got a good group this time around.

Not great, but surely it could have been worse.

First things first: I hate Real Madrid with the heat of a nova mostly for their history — and any Spanish team with “real” (“royal”) in their title smacks of fascism — but they’re a phenomenal club. The fact that there are 15 European Cups in our group — 14 of them for Real Madrid and one for Celtic — speaks pretty clearly to the consistent quality that the Spanish clubs puts on the pitch.

But they aren’t perfect. As historically good a coach as Carlo Ancelotti is, Real Madrid can be beat. And I think Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic squad are the only club in this group that can give them a run.

Call it a hunch. A gut feeling. Celtic’s speed matches up with anyone, even the world’s best. And while I don’t want to take anything away from any of the other clubs in the group, Real Madrid is the odds-on favorite here and Celtic have the best chance of knocking them off their proverbial pedestal.

Ange Postecoglou addressed the challenge of this season’s UEFA Champions League draw in his press conference yesterday.

Ange put it aptly at yesterday’s press conference: “You want our football club to be among the big ones in Europe so there was a real sense of anticipation around the draw. After it, irrespective of the teams you get, you’ve got a challenge before you and from our perspective we’re really excited for what’s ahead.”

And the rest?

Red Bull Leipzig — the “other” Red Bull team in Europe to its Group E counterpart Red Bull Salzburg (and, of course, their American MLS cousin, New York Red Bulls, home of ex-Celts Patryk Klimala, Lewis Morgan, and Cameron Harper) — shouldn’t be ignored, despite their slow start in the Bundesliga this season at no wins, two draws and a loss. But there’s nothing that stands out on that club that, at least on paper, can give Celtic problems.

Same with FC Shakhtar Donetsk: Currently sitting seventh in the league and being dinged in a friendly with AS Roma by a score of 5-0, the Ukranian club has concerns that far outweigh their Champions League standing. But they could be a wild card in this group and deserve to be watched closely.

It should be a very interesting group stage, to say the least. And there’s really no reason that Celtic can’t squeak by and take it, or at least finish a strong second.

One more thing

Champions League Group A: No one is a bigger fan of Liverpool in this grouping than I am. My sincerest wish is that they mop the floor with everyone in the group, especially the Huns. You’ll Never Walk Alone, Reds.

Meanwhile the Hoops are at Tannadice against Dundee United on Sunday, kicking off at the God-awful hour of 4 a.m. Pacific time. Mon the Hoops!

Dundee United match: What a crock

At the outset, Monday night football at Tannadice against Dundee United had all the trappings of one of those legendary games that would have been talked about for generations. Except it didn’t turn out that way, as Celtic strolled to a 3-0 win despite the efforts of referee John Beaton to keep the score down.

Before we get into some of the more finite details of the match, you’ve got to hand it to Beaton. Just when you think that not even he can match his stratospheric level of incompetence, he goes onward and upward, amazing us all with a level of ever increasing world-class ineptitude, which is the gold standard of Scottish football officiating. Beaton missed at least two penalties and chalked a perfectly good goal off all by himself.

If anyone wears the SpecSavers patch on his referee’s uniform with unbridled pride, it’s Beaton.

But I digress.

That said, it shouldn’t take anything away from the match itself — except for maybe a goal or two for the Hoops — as Celtic was firing on all cylinders against a Dundee United team that came to play, as opposed to parking the bus. And a few things bear special mention, like . . .

Energizer Bunny? Pfft. Daizen Maeda runs circles around that advertising myth long after its batteries run out . . .

Perpetual motion, thy name is Daizen Maeda

Whatever Daizen Maeda is having for breakfast, let me have some of it, too. The guy does not stop, end to end. Whether threatening to score — and having one taken from him like he did at Tannadice on Monday — or defending deep in our end of the pitch, Maeda is all over the place and adds a dimension to his game, and to Celtic, that has not been seen in quite some time. Keep it up, Maeda-san.

Mo’ Karamoko

Yeah, two goals by Georgios Giakoumakis is phenomenal, but to see Karamoko Dembele slice and dice the Dundee United defense was a joy to behold. Can we get more of that please, Ange Postecoglou? Even being cheated out of a penalty late in the game — thanks again, Beaton — did not really mar the performance from the 19-year-old, who deserves a contract extension, and soon. A footnote here, too, is that Mikey Johnston also had a good match, and the Moan the Hoops Brigade on Celtic Twitter, which is normally lightning quick to slag Johnston on an off day, has been eerily silent about his good game.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

For all that was present in Monday’s 3-0 victory, one of the more telling facets of the game was what was missing. No Jota, on the wing or anywhere else for that matter. No Liel Abada. No Kyogo Furuhashi, who is nearly recovered from a long injury. No David Turnbull. With any combination of those guys in the game — or all of them, for that matter — the score would have been higher, Beaton notwithstanding. When these guys come back, Celtic will be even more unstoppable.

Regardless, it was a good win for the Bhoys in Green, despite the fact the game could have been more enjoyable if it wasn’t the constant “honest mistakes” from the SPFL officials that, time after time, make a match like this a chore to watch. Someday before I die — hopefully several decades from now — I hope to see a football match in Scotland where the officials actually call a game fairly and flawlessly. Suffice to say, I’m not holding my breath.

Nevertheless, next up for the Hoops is a match at home against Ross County on Saturday. Mon the Hoops!

Moan the Hoops redux

Forgive me for repeating this theme from a past blog post from a while ago, but once again it has come up in the most annoying manner. A perfect example of this was during the first half of Wednesday’s game at Celtic Park against St. Mirren, when you had the usual Greek chorus of whiners and moaners acting as if they were climbing to the highest building in Glasgow, ready to throw themselves off.

Let me be clear: Not everyone who follows Celtic falls into the category of the Moan the Hoops Brigade.

Thank God.

But you know who you are, and Witchy speaks for me here:

Yeah, sit doon . . .

Before I start, let me interject a personal social-media aside: If you were to do a pie chart of the people I have blocked on Twitter, you’d have more than half a pie’s worth of Celtic “fans” who constantly bitch and moan, regardless of the outcome, and/or who say stupid things about either players or the club. I’m not your babysitter, and I’m not the nimrod whisperer.

To me, blocking people who claim to support the same club is sad. A club like Celtic should always be held to a higher standard, and I don’t think it’s too much to expect Celtic fans posting on social media to not act like privileged, spoiled children who expect flawless performances and 5-0 victories every time the Bhoys take the pitch.

And I get it. That’s way too much to ask of people on social media, I know, despite the fact that such infantile behavior should be reserved for supporters of lesser clubs. Like, oh I don’t know, Sevco comes immediately to mind.

But still, it begs the following question to these Celtic “fans.”

“Faithful through and through” are not just four words. They are a way of life. So if you insist on moaning and greeting halfway through a game in which Celtic ultimately prevails, what the actual fuck is wrong with you?

Earlier in the season, people were slagging Greg Taylor. Well, Taylor’s doing pretty well as of late — not that he wasn’t before. Was he stellar? No. Is he now? Not really. But has he gotten — and does he now get — the job done? Absolutely.

Then the boo-birds focused on Carl Starfelt. Admittedly, Starfelt took a little more time than usual to get his footing in the hammerthrowing realm of the SPFL, but he has since grown into the role he’s been given in the Celtic defense. But now every time Starfelt makes a mistake, there’s a phenomenal hue and cry about him being a “bombscare.”

These folks have short memories. We won a treble with Jeremy Toljan starting for a good part of that season in defense.

Jeremy Toljan. So when you’re complaining about Celtic’s defense, which statistically one of the best in the SPFL this season, you might want to keep that in mind.

Then after even more blocks on Twitter, it seems that the Moan the Hoops Brigade has now started to focus on Daizen Maeda. To be honest, I haven’t seen this, but I have seen replies to posts I can’t see (since the original poster is blocked) defending Maeda from what can best be described as faulty analysis.

Daijobu desu, Daizen-san: You didn’t have a good day on Wednesday, but you’ll bounce back. No matter what the Moan the Hoops Brigade says . . .

Common sense dictates that you can’t score if you don’t get the ball, and with the exception of one pass against St. Mirren on Wednesday, Maeda’s not really getting good opportunities to score like he did earlier in the season. Chances are this situation will correct itself with time, but you’d never know it listening to some offering their misguided opinions.

Celtic already faces standard issue and unjust hurdles in its everyday existence. There’s an unobjective sports media in Scotland — mere stenographers masquerading as journalists — that consistently paints the club in a false light, regardless of the club’s performance. There’s a corps of SPFL referees, unironically sponsored by SpecSavers, who consistently make “honest mistakes” that hamstring the club’s performance; the same referees who give their cross-town rival every advantage imaginable.

As if that isn’t enough, do you really want to add to the mix the nonsense from the Moan the Hoops Brigade?

Despite having to play an entire league of clubs who would just as soon “park the bus” and play, like Livingston, some variation of a 10-0-0 formation where opposing players essentially put out lawn chairs in their half of the pitch, Celtic still leads the league by three points.

Apparently, that’s not good enough for some.

It’s a classic dichotomy: I’m more than proud to be a Celtic fan, but at the same time I’m also more than ashamed by some of the shitbaggery proffered by some who claim to love the club.

One more thing

How good ideas go south, and quickly: Apparently, it seems that the Australians are setting up for a train wreck by having Celtic and Sevco play this November in a tournament in Sydney, in what’s being billed as the Sydney Super Cup.

We know how Sevco fans travel and acts at road games. History is pretty clear there, and in fact they’re called Huns for exactly their past behavior. So why they’re being included in this tournament when they could have easily included another club — and choices could have been Ange Postecoglou’s former club, Yokohama F Marinos in Japan, or maybe even the best of Australia’s lower division — is a complete mystery.

Let’s hope the Sydney riot squad is on top of their game when the scum of the earth visit later this year.

Mon (not Moan) the Hoops.

Waltzing our Matildas Down Under

So, apparently the big news of the day is that Celtic gaffer Ange Postecoglou gets to go home for the first time in three years when Celtic take a tour of Australia later this year during the World Cup break.

Pack your bags, Ange Postecoglou . . . you’re going to visit Australia for the first time in three years.

This is a good idea. It would be nice to have Celtic, not only a club with an international stature but also an international brand, play Australian teams in what would best be described as friendlies that, under the best circumstances, would keep Celtic players fresh and promote goodwill in the Land Down Under™.

Want to screw up this perfect plan?

Simple. Ask Celtic’s ugly neighbors from Ibrox along for the ride.

Nothing yet has been etched in stone, but rumors immediately floating around the announcement have Sevco joining us on this jaunt halfway around the world.

My colleague Niall J from The Celtic Star outlines the situation here with a healthy dose of clarity. I would urge you to read his take on the situation.

He nails it when he says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that the last thing we need is to have marauding Huns defiling Sydney in the same way they’ve descrated St. George’s Square in Glasgow after winning the COVID Cup. Or when they rioted in Manchester during a UEFA Cup final in 2008. Or when . . . well, I could continue, as there is a significant list here, but I think you get the point.

The Celtic Board would be well advised to think this one through. Clearly, masses of Australian football fans will come to see Celtic play clubs native to their land.

In fact, a matchup between Celtic and clubs Postecoglou managed in Australia, like Brisbane Roar or Melbourne Victory, would have the potential for becoming iconic.

And the special nature of this tour would be hampered significantly by dragging another Scottish club — an embarrassing and undeserving one at that — along for the ride.

Think this one through and read the room, Celtic Board.

Mon the Hoops.

Dear SPFL: My work is done here

That’s all for me.

I’m out.

Organizing guru and bestselling author Marie Kondo says — and I’m paraphrasing here — that if something doesn’t bring you joy, you should toss it.

With that in mind, I am tossing Scottish football.

Scottish football is unwatchable. It is nowhere near worth the effort of putting in two hours of my life on a weekend or weekday to watch when, more times than not, even in a Celtic victory — like the one against Alloa on Saturday, which is the final straw after many other instances — it does not provide satisfaction.

Life is too short to watch unfair, corrupt, bad football. And Scottish football, whether it’s the SPFL or the underleagues, has created an environment where hammerthrowers thrive in high numbers, where officials at all levels are either too corrupt or too stupid (and possibly both) to provide a even a halfway decent product on the pitch, and where sports hacks of the mainstream sports media — no one outside Scotland would ever consider them real journalists — would rather pad their wallets than provide the public with the truth.

To say nothing of the leadership in the upper leagues, who are blind to a situation in which their league spirals into backwater oblivion in the eyes of the world outside of their borders.

In a worldwide market where football fans have a wide choice of quality football from around the world to choose from, Scotland does itself no favors by acting like everything is fine and actively ignoring these glaring problems.

Problems which the Bundesliga doesn’t have.

Problems which LaLiga doesn’t have.

Problems which the Eredivisie, the Allsvenskan, or Ligue 1 don’t have.

Problems which even the MLS doesn’t have.

I love Celtic and I think that Ange Postecoglou is on the right track. There’s a good chance another treble is in the works this season, miraculously, and it’s my sincerest hope that this transpires. It would be poetic justice in the face of the constant abuse in the form of attacks on our players on the pitch while referees look the other way, and the bleatings of so-called “journalists” covering matches, who are spoon-fed nonsense that they transcribe as if they were stenographers.

I’ll keep watching Celtic, and rooting for them. I will still suit up every game as I always do when I watch. But where once I looked forward to game day, now it has become a chore; what was once a welcome event has become a two-hour visit to the garden of Gethsemane.

I’m through with having to watch Celtic playing both the 11 men parked on their end of the pitch and the four so-called objective officials who, maybe not so ironically, have SpecSavers on their sleeve.

I’m through having to temper any joy in victory with dealing with a casualty count, while literal assailants go unpunished and, in some circles, praised.

I’m through with watching one SPFL club get preferential treatment in every game, while every other club in the Premiership — including Celtic — sits idly by and says nothing.

This behavior may play to rave reviews there at home. But bear in mind that the rest of the world is laughing at you.

And that’s the worst, and saddest, part about it: Hands are thrown up and it’s just accepted as “our fate” or “our lot in life” that it has to be this way, because it has always been this way.

I’ve turned comments off. This is pretty much non-negotiable. If the Scottish game perchance ends up improving, becoming more fair and objective in its officiating, and providing the quality that is truly there — groaning under the sheer tonnage of graft, hypocrisy and greed that would stun a team of oxen — I would fight to be the first to sing its praises.

But I think I have a better chance of seeing Nessie pop up out of Loch Ness. From my couch.

So long, SPFL. Good luck. And, as always, Mon the Hoops.

Tidings of comfort and joy

My holiday season could best be summed up by the line in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas: “No one could have had a noisier Christmas Eve.” Hence the late post, scheduled for it’s usual Tuesday slot, for which I offer apologies.

First, I hope everyone had a good and safe holiday season. And to the supporters of the Glasgow club that plays at Ibrox, we should let Chris Sutton drive here, wishing them a happy holiday season.

Despite a draw at St. Mirren which brought out the Naysayer Brigade once again earlier last week, the Bhoys ended with a crisp 3-1 win at McDiaramid Park last weekend on a pitch that might quite possibly had been used the previous day for a tractor pull or some other monster truck event. The Scottish Football Association clearly needs to step up their standards on playing fields, and these guys deserve to play on much better fields offered by St. Johnstone.

But I digress.

In this holiday season, Celtic fans have a lot to be thankful for. This guy, for starters.

Not Eddie Howe. And for this we are truly thankful.

There is no one — no one on God’s now less-than-green earth — that could have pulled off the herculean task that Ange Postecoglou has done.

He leaves his family in Australia, and comes in to a club in turmoil without his own staff and inherits the backroom staff that arguably brought us to this point. He works briefly with a CEO he’s in tune with and suddenly, mysteriously, the CEO resigns under questionable circumstances. Now with a new club captain, he’s fighting off player injuries and nebulous and oft-changing COVID restrictions. And then there’s dealing with a Scottish sports press corps which, collectively, seem to both be sharing a collective IQ point while rewriting the record book in number of moronic questions asked of a Celtic manager.

All of that, and then there’s the officiating. Between the “honest mistakes” and downright chicanery in other games, the fact that SpecSavers sponsors the SPFL referees is an irony lost on no one.

Yet the turnaround many expected to take most of the season, at the earliest — and many were expecting longer — was nearly instantaneous. We are now 2nd in the league, easily within striking distance. Some may argue that 2nd is nothing to be thankful for, and there may be a case to be made for that. However, it could be phenomenally worse.

As it stands right now, Eddie Howe’s Newcastle is in the relegation zone. Are you really going to argue the point that we should trade places with Newcastle?

I didn’t think so.

Then there are these two guys.

Anthony Ralston and Kyogo Furuhashi

Some of the more vocal and somewhat, um, “opinionated” supporters on social media wrote off Anthony Ralston long ago, as they do with anyone who has one or two bad games (Remember Jack Hendry, now excelling in Belgium?). If we can be thankful on this holiday season for anything, it is these wannabe swamis are light-years removed from any decision-making authority in Celtic’s player personnel. The amount of crow eaten by these Playstation Pundits can be measured in tonnage seeing the player that Anthony Ralston has become. But give Ralston credit — he worked hard to make the jersey fit, and his improvements on the pitch have helped in the club’s recent success.

And Kyogo Furuhashi? すばらしい — suburashii, meaning “wonderful” in Japanese. Not only does this kid light it up on the field and is a joy to watch playing the beautiful game, he’s also living rent-free in the tiny heads of his detractors, who claim he cheats because they have no other reasonable way to explain how, even at 5-foot-7, he’s head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league.

And speaking of head and shoulders . . . (you knew that was coming).

Joe Hart’s career has been given new life at Celtic.

Charles Joseph John Hart. Joe Hart, to those of us who know and love him between the sticks for Celtic. The reputation of a big-time player past his prime was clearly unwarranted as he stepped up with both his commanding play and a commanding leadership presence on the pitch.

There are more contributing to the good tidings as well: Cameron Carter-Vickers’ rock-solid defense picks up when others falter, and he should stay with Celtic; there’s talk of that being bandied about during the break. Jota should definitely be signed as soon as possible — he seems to be at home at Celtic and his presence has proven to be a good fit for the club. And what can you say about Tom Rogic? The Wizard of Oz has found the magic so many had thought he had lost.

Leading up to the holidays, the results — though not perfect — were good enough to lead into a happy and satisfying Yuletide. There’s no reason that this won’t continue into the second half of the season.

Happy New Year, Celtic fans. You’ll never walk alone.