Just when you think that the worst part of the International Break is speculating how long Kyogo Furuhashi might be out with an injury, now we have to deal with this: Dom McKay, after 72 days of steering hopeful and optimistic change in what was previously a dire situation at Celtic, is leaving the club for “personal reasons.”
Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, with our complete and unequivocal wish that McKay successfully navigates whatever personal business he needs to tend to in order to make right whatever it is in his personal life.
But there’s no denying this: McKay left a lucrative and successful tenure at the Scottish Rugby Union to take the reins at Celtic. This, of course, made him an outsider in a club where, quite unfortunately, an “old boys’ club” tends to be part and parcel of the Celtic board. McKay envisioned modernization, moving the club forward with unprecedented moves — hiring Ange Postecoglou and overseeing one of the most active transfer windows — and now he’s walking away before seeing these changes come to fruition.
That’s suspicious, even to the least skeptical of us. Evidence is a funny thing, and since we have so little of it, there’s nothing left but speculation. But at the outset, everything points to this: A culture in the Celtic boardroom that is as toxic as many have pointed out in the past. A culture that, when faced with change, became unmanageable for the CEO, forcing him to step down.
If this is, in fact, true regarding the culture of the Celtic board, it needs changing. Right now.
There could be other reasons, and until we know for sure, the suspicion will always be that McKay was forced out, either overtly by the board or covertly by the board’s resistance to McKay’s changes to enact his vision of a successful Celtic.
The lack of transparancy that sadly has been a hallmark of the Celtic hierarchy will always lend itself to such speculation. McKay was clearly on the right road to recovery from last season’s woeful debacle, and with the installation of Celtic’s director of legal and football affairs — and, as some have mentioned, Peter Lawwell clone — Michael Nicholson stepping in as interim CEO, what once seemed like a bright future in building a strong Celtic side has dimmed somewhat to the potentially lackluster business-as-usual that brought us last season’s mediocre results.
Time will tell. In the meantime, godspeed Mr. McKay, and let’s hope the back office hasn’t blown this one.
My only regret about today’s phenomenal game against St. Mirren is that it was merely a 6-0 victory for Celtic, and not a 24-0 win — the crew at The Celtic Noise will get that reference. I’ll go into why later, but first let’s look at some of the superlatives from today’s game.
First, let me just leave the stat sheet here for your consideration as I walk away for a moment.
I’m back. Did you miss me?
While I don my Captain Obvious costume, let me state that Celtic was relentless on both sides of the ball today, and it would be safe to say that the Bhoys in Green are back. This is nothing new, of course, and it parrots every other Celtic pundit on the planet, where credit is rightfully given to new manager Ange Postecoglou.
An aside: When you think about it, with the success that Postecoglou has had invigorating the current Celtic roster — giving new life to Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic and others, combined with a mix of phenomenal new talent like Leil Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi — you have to wonder what he could have done with some of the players who left. Postecoglou could have made Patryk Klimala into the second coming of Robert Lewandowski.
But I digress.
In today’s match, Abada was phenomenal and he’s only 19. Abada can be a star for the future, and he’s a treat to watch. David Turnbull? A mere hat trick does not justify the sheer tonnage of praise he deserves for his play today. Christie was all over the pitch playing like a man possessed, as was Greg Taylor. Odsonne Edouard? His body language spoke volumes about how he wants to play for the Hoops, despite what the former manager told the BBC earlier in the day.
Then there’s a defense that shut down the Saints fairly remarkably for 90-plus minutes. Could Carl Starfelt finally be settling in while the rest of the backfield takes control? Possibly. Starfelt, Stephen Welsh and Anthony Ralston all pitched in to give Joe Hart a fairly easy day between the sticks.
The down side is that despite Furuhashi playing his usual high-octane game, he is starting to get his “introduction” to the goonish reality that makes Scottish football a worldwide disgrace. Fouled repeatedly, once off the ball midway in the first half he was flattened by a forgettable nobody in a St. Mirren kit. No foul in that particular instance, of course, and no goal for the lad today overall, but that’s OK — daijobu desu, Kyogo-san — because just having the threat of his scoring leaves others open to do the deed in his place.
When he doesn’t do it himself, that is, which he has and which he will. Remember where you heard it first.
All of which leads me to why the score should have been run up more against the Buddies — someone’s buddies, but not necessarily mine.
There’s Alan Power, the poster boy for the oft-waived SPFL player who has no discernible football skill other than to injure opposing players, and who will retire to bleak anonymity someday. Someday soon, and the sooner the better. Ever wonder how much better off the SPFL — hell, how much better off humanity — would be without Power in it?
I do. All the time.
No one was more surprised than me, gasping with mouth agape 5,000 miles away around sunrise, that Willie Collum actually found his red card and actually used it against Power for an assault on Turnbull that was a textbook red card.
Actually calling a legitimate foul on a Celtic opponent. Willie Collum. You don’t see that every day. . . .
So I don’t know what was said in the locker room at halftime, but if I were Postecoglou — and I have the sweaters and shirts, to be sure, but not the hair and beard (let alone the football knowledge, of course) — I would give the bhoys a green light to light up the scoreboard when the opposition pulls hammerthrowing nonsense like St. Mirren did on Saturday. Ring them up, and while 6-0 is a sure ringing, I would have preferred more — like a double-digit, talk-about-it-generations-from-now, song-inducing score.
OK, call me selfish.
But the fact remains that if we keep playing like this, whether it’s in Holland on Thursday against AZ Alkmaar to wrap up the Europa League stage or at the Bigotdome against the Tribute Act next Sunday, the goals and the points will come.
Night and day. Day and night. The difference between last season’s dumpster fire of a season and getting out of the starting blocks nearly in full sprint this season is nothing short of astounding. Clearly we have Dom McKay and Ange Postecoglou to thank for that, for starters.
And let’s talk about the new gaffer for a bit, the no-nonsense leader of the club who is in control of the training, of the sideline, and of the press conference. Postecoglou is a breath of fresh air, telling it like it is and not afraid to call out nonsense from the stenographer corps masquerading as Scottish sports “journalists.”
But McKay and Postecoglou aren’t playing on the pitch for 90+ minutes. Add to their presence at the helm the recent player acquisitions to the club — Kyogo Furuhashi and Carl Starfelt, to name two — plus the resurgence of dormant players like Anthony Ralston, James Forrest, and Tom Rogic (not to mention Ryan Christie, who was absent in Sunday’s game) give the Celts the right formula to return to being at the top of Scottish football.
Where they belong.
Anyone less than Craig Gordon between the sticks for the JamTarts on Sunday and Hearts would have been in a far deeper deficit than only three goals, so a hat tip to the ex-Celt for a good game, albeit in a losing cause.
As for Celtic, it was nothing short of a phenomenal game on Sunday. Not perfect, of course, but pretty damn near. Over 80 percent possession in the first half during a 2-0 halftime lead courtesy of goals by Odsonne Edouard and Stephen Welsh — and on Welsh’s goal, does anyone else think that was a designed play moreso than mere happenstance? I keep watching it and thinking that maybe it was.
And Furuhashi — Kyogo-san — taking down mouthbreather Andy Halliday early in the game was a welcome treat. Kyogo’s play overall was outstanding, as expected, and his goal was a gem, to be sure. But seeing him getting into the thick of things on both ends of the ball is a joy to behold. He’s not a one-trick pony, and the fact he’s willing to switch on the defensive jets when Celtic doesn’t have the ball is a joy to watch.
John Beaton, try as he might, couldn’t give the game to Hearts. Also the SkySports late narrative that this was a close game was phenomenally laughable.
Celtic is playing beautiful football, but it isn’t perfect. Yet. My colleague Niall J on The Celtic Star said it best in his commentary on the Sunday’s game:
“It may take a little more work in the transfer market in the next two weeks to ensure the defence is effective as Celtic’s battering attack but for now the attacking intent remains a joy to behold.”
For those of you who are slighting Starfelt for being a “bombscare,” I would suggest you buy a dictionary and actually look up the word. The big Swede is getting used to the Scottish game and he may be one or two more games away from being up to speed. Despite a couple of miscues, overall his game has been pretty good to date and the potential for improvement is clearly there.
And imagine a backfield of Starfelt, Ralston, Greg Taylor, and Christopher Jullien once the Frenchman gets back onto the pitch.
If the club can make that one last acquisition on defense and play inspired football like they’ve been playing, it may be time for another treble.
One more thing
Perhaps the only good thing that the North American Soccer League brought to U.S. soccer was the wave of European greats who played for one last paycheck in the land of milk and honey. That said, I got to see Gerd Muller play for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the coda of his career in the late ’70s/early ’80s. So it comes with a bit of sadness to hear that Muller passed away today at 75.
Like having Gordon Banks in goal, having Muller on the Strikers was a treat since he was one of Europe’s best — albeit both of them playing in the autumn of their careers in a league where many of the American fans didn’t fully understand the game — and I remember how unstoppable he seemed to be whenever he had the ball. As a side note, my first soccer jersey was not a Strikers jersey, but a German national team jersey that I wore to Strikers games in Gerd’s honor.
Requiescat in pace, Gerd, and may you find the pitches on the other side green and the goals as wide open as they seemed to be for you here.
[My deepest appreciation, and sincerest apologies, to my San Francisco neighbor Boz Scaggs, who wrote and recorded the classic “Lido Shuffle.” But I couldn’t help reworking these lyrics for our new bhoy from Japan, Kyogo Furuhashi. So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Kyogo Shuffle,” sung to the tune of “Lido Shuffle.”]
Kyogo got the call from Ange He left Ko-bay Signed up with Glasgow Celts And now he’s here to stay
On the practice field He refused to yield but made a stop Just long enough to make impressions at the top
Next stop, Paradise Kyogo took the passes nice, let ’em roll He said one more shot ought to get in One last shot ‘fore the half ends One for the road
Kyogo, whoa oh oh oh He’s on the money He’s for the show Kyogo’s scoring on the go
Kyogo, whoa oh oh oh He said one more pass from Abada One more shot ’cause I had ta One more for the road
Kyogo will be runnin’ Having great big fun Until he got the note Sayin’ run it up or pass And that was all Ange wrote
He’ll be makin’ like a bee line Headin’ for the goal line Goin’ for broke Sayin’ one more goal ought to do it Dundee? Ain’t nothin’ to it One more for the road
Kyogo… whoa oh oh oh He’s on the money He’s for the show Kyogo’s scoring on the go
Kyogo… whoa oh oh oh oh oh One more center from Ryan One last shot, then I’m buyin’ One more for the road
Kyogo… whoa oh oh oh He’s on the money He’s for the show Kyogo’s a scorin’ on the go
Personally, I have a hard and fast rule when it comes to supporting Celtic, and from the looks of social media and some of the Celtic forums, I may be the only Celtic fan on the entire planet that follows it: Don’t slag Celtic players while they wear the Hoops.
Full stop. They may have a bad game, or they may be in a slump over the course of several games, but they’re still our bhoys. Until they’re not.
Are they above criticism? Of course not. But there’s a wide chasm between constructive criticism and downright blasting of players, and I completely have no patience for the latter.
Once upon a time — well, back in November 2019, actually — I was chosen as the Celtic Star’s Fan of the Week, so far my highest honour as a Celtic fan. In that interview, I was asked, “Biggest transfer letdown in your time supporting Celtic?” To be honest, I wrestled with that question. On one hand, I could have said, “None,” but that would be disingenuous because there were players who didn’t exactly pan out; players who made me grit my teeth and roll my eyes. But I always sought the positives and hoped the coaching staff would fix the negatives.
So I answered Oliver Burke, a player who I wanted to succeed at Celtic — he had the speed but lacked the final touch — but, alas, he didn’t.
What does that have to do with Anthony Ralston? Bear with me for a minute.
Like Burke during his time at Celtic before returning to West Brom, Ralston had become the whipping boy of what can arguably be considered a majority of Celtic fans, with the mistaken perception having a lack of talent at right back; a position of unreasonable fixation among many Celtic fans in our quest to build a winning team.
Then the last two games showed us the potential Ralston has to become a Celtic player and possibly a Celtic starter, scoring in both the Jablonec match in Prague and in Dundee FC game yesterday.
A miracle? Perhaps, but if anyone has turned the water into wine in Glasgow recently, it has been Ange Postecoglou and the coaching staff getting the most from the talent that Ralston — and others — already possess, with a potential for improving Ralston’s — and others’ — skills going forward.
So this doesn’t only apply to Ralston. While much has been said of new forward Kyogo Furuhashi and the link-up “bromance” between the Japanese striker and fellow new forward Liel Abada, Ryan Christie also had a phenomenal game yesterday as well, and the team as a whole looked like it was firing on all cylinders for 90+ minutes. Tom Rogic — even if we only get 60 minutes a pop out of him — looked like a new player out there.
It’s a new morning in Lennoxtown, and if the Celts continue to play with the same passion and poise they have shown in the last two games under Postecoglou, the Celts will win the league, if not more.
And the way Ralston is playing right now, he deserves a shot at being a part of that team.
A final note on this topic: Many on social media and in forums have been decent enough to say, in so many words, “I was wrong,” about slagging Ralston. To those of you who did that, I fully respect and honour your decency to come forward to admit this, and it deserves mentioning here.
One more thing
Perhaps the best thing about the hiring of Postecoglou from the J-League and having imported players from outside Europe is that it ushers in a new zeitgeist for Celtic that is long overdue. That is, there is talent all over the world, not just Europe, and as it has been mentioned in this blog ad nauseum, Celtic would be wise to have a much broader reach of talent of looking to other continents for talent rather than focusing myopically on Europe.
They have done it before: Tom Rogic, Shunsuke Nakamura, Emilio Izaguirre, Cha Du-ri, the list of Celtic players from outside Europe is long and those who donned the Hoops having come from outside Europe have made considerable contributions.
“If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.” — Jock Stein
Today was one of those days that Jock Stein was talking about in his famous quote above. However, truth be told, referee Euan Anderson should never be let onto a pitch ever again, whether it’s to call a professional game, a pub match, or an under-8 kids game. In fact, Anderson should never be able to watch a match ever again, even from the comfort of his own couch.
But never mind the fact that Anderson was just inept rather than corrupt. The fans are back — as many as COVID-ly possible — and the Bhoys ran roughshod over Dundee FC today 6-0 in a show of what Celtic can do under the new and improved no-nonsense leadership of Ange Postecoglou and with Celts, new and old, stepping up to the plate, to borrow a baseball metaphor.
So looking around the realm of social media and various Celtic forums, one has to ask: Where are the whiners? Someone in the Celtic faithful somewhere has to be moaning about today’s game for some reason. My guess is someone somewhere will say, “lapses in defense,” in the face of a clean sheet. That’s where my money is. Anyway, if you find anyone, could you let me know?
Here’s why they’re so silent today.
New Kids on the Block
Liel Abada spent all day today slicing and dicing the Dundee FC defense. Kyogo Furuhashi spent all day scoring on the Dark Blues, and probably would have scored more than three had a couple of shots been closer. Anthony Ralston — you know, the guy who many Playstation Pundits and Armchair Gaffers couldn’t stop hammering 24/7 for “not being Celtic quality”? Oh, the deafening silence from that crowd now! Stephen Welsh, patrolling the backfield with Carl Starfelt, gave new goalkeeper Joe Hart little to do, and giving him arguably enough time to wash his hair during the course of the match.
Taking a page from Pete Townshend and the Who, “The Kids are All Right.” And with Abada and Furuhashi up front — two up front, what a concept! — the goals should be pouring in to opponents’ goals.
Old Guys Rule
In my neck of the woods on the Central California coast, the saying “Old guys rule” refers to the surfers in the area over a certain age. But it can apply to Celtic and their more experienced players as well. Tom Rogic — can the Wizard of Oz finally be back? Could be. Ryan Christie had a phenomenal game, and hopefully we can get more like this from him going forward. Add to the mix that it is only a matter of time until James Forrest gets back up to speed and sharpness, and with the young guns, the old guys can help Celtic flourish under the watchful leadership of Callum McGregor, who was artful in leading the Bhoys in the home opener.
With this combination of new talent and established players, Postecoglou may have found the right mix going forward. All of which would indicate that Celtic are on their way to a successful season.
Guess who just got back today? Them wild-eyed bhoys that had been away, Haven’t changed, haven’t much to say, But man, I still think them cats are great.
One more thing
When you look at and listen to old clips of Shunsuke Nakamura’s early games in the Hoops, you can hear the commentators trip over the pronunciation of his name. They often called him “Shoon-sue-kay” when in Japanese it’s pronounced “Shoon-skay.” Quickly over time that was cleared up during Nakamura’s stay at Celtic.
Today, same story, different set of proverbial nails scratching the chalkboard: The Celtic TV today was the broadcast crew calling Furuhashi either “Key-yo-go” or “Kah-yo-go” when it’s “Kyo-go” — two syllables, not three. Again, I expect this to clear up quickly by, oh, the next match, but I have to admit that to this guy who spent four years in Japan, it was infuriatingly grating.
I was so looking forward to returning from the off-season hiatus at the start of the Scottish Premiership season yesterday and reporting whatever observations and insights I might have about the game at Swinecastle — sorry, Tynecastle — against the Diet Huns of Heart of Midlothian.
But I can’t. Instead, I have to play Captain Obvious and point out to everyone an emperor-has-no-clothes moment in Scottish football.
Specifically, the Premiership of the Scottish Professional Football League is a joke — and not even a good one, at that — primarily because of its lack of objectivity in its officiating now running on its second season of “honest mistakes” (and arguably it goes back further). And while you may want to note that the issue may be all well and good in Scotland around this, where the woefully spoon-fed Scottish dictation corps — sorry, I mean the Scottish mainstream media — would just as soon sweep it under the rug and point out there’s a new Page 3 girl.
But the rest of the world is laughing at you and pointing, Scotland, and that’s before many are turning away and tuning out from your brand of football to watch leagues that are more fair.
I know, I know. Jock Stein said that, “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.” But yesterday, even Big Jock had to have been looking down from above on the games yesterday and saying, “Holy shit, are you kidding me?”
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Oh, just ignore that JamTart in the circle, who clearly has Celtic winger Leil Abada onside. Apparently he’s invisible. Leil scored on this play . . . not, as it was called for offside. And let’s go to the argument-du-jour about this: Nimrods far and wide are saying, “Well, his arm is offside.” Seriously? An appendage that has nothing to do with the game? Here, have a cookie and go outside and play. In traffic.
Not offside: Rangers
Truth in advertising: I had learned to count around 1960, so it goes without saying that I have a pretty solid grasp of numbers and their concept insofar as counting things. And here, it appears to me — and probably anyone else looking at the photo — that three Rangers players are in the next post code before the free kick is taken. Offside? Don’t make me laugh — it’s Rangers.
Of course, the example of “honest mistakes” goes far beyond these two yesterday, and the scores that transpired last season, or the hundreds in seasons prior to that. But the fact that nothing has been done about it makes this a national disgrace.
What is to be done?
Well, there are options here. What might be done is that Dominic McKay and Ange Postecoglou could go down to the SPFL offices, kick down Neil Doncaster’s office door, and beat the shit out of him every time there’s an “honest mistake.” But I’m not asking for the world here, despite the barbarian appeal of marching through Glasgow with Doncaster’s head at the end of a stick.
[OK, calm down. I’m joking. No football executives were harmed during the writing of the previous paragraph.]
But what McKay and Postecoglou — and our do-nothing board and club office leadership, if it’s really not too much to ask of them — could do is to go to the mat, so to speak, in a very vocal and concerted way for fairness each and every time this kind of thing happens. We surely can’t be alone in this situation — when Rangers get the benefit of each and every call in their games, the other 11 clubs have to wonder why they aren’t being treated fairly. If they don’t, their fans certainly do.
McKay, Postecoglou, and Celtic need to take this case to the Scottish Football Association if, and more importantly when, necessary.
McKay, Postecoglou, and Celtic need to take this case to UEFA if, and more importantly when, necessary.
Our fans have taken up the mantle, at least, with a social media effort to point out each and every “mistake” the officials make, and hammer them on it. This is a good first step that needs to be followed with the backing of the higher-ups in the club.
The only benefit to living 5,000 miles away from Celtic — the only benefit, actually — is that distance offers a perspective that one who lives in Scotland may not have because you’re too close to it. Fans in the U.S. are already tuning out Scottish football for more prestigious leagues, which is a tragedy that doesn’t have to happen and can be fixed.
One more thing
Overall, the Bhoys looked fairly good on Saturday, even though they were playing against Hearts and the officials. Both Carl Starfelt and Kyogo Furuhashi looked OK — not great, but not bad — in their first introduction to the Scottish game, despite Starfelt’s gaffe that almost resulted in an own goal. Reminds me of another Swede who struggled in his first game as a Celt . . . Henrik something, I think his name was. It’ll come to me. Clearly all the pieces aren’t in place yet (and not to beat a dead horse, although yes, we know why), but most of them are, and chances are the Hoops will hit their stride sooner moreso than later.
There’s a fairly annoying — and borderline propagandistic — narrative taking place around Celtic recently as we await the start of the new season, cloaked in the panic of some people’s perception of disarray in the club.
And while this narrative seems to be based in a loathing of the Celtic board, as far as I can tell — a loathing, of course, which is both completely well-deserved and completely warranted for a group of people who should be doing something else for a living, and the sooner the better — the fact of the matter is that Celtic is not as “unready” as the hair-on-fire brigade would like you to believe.
For those of you who have jumped on this bandwagon and are mercilessly annoying everyone within an earshot, an eyeshot, or a Tweetshot with this prognostication, let’s just make a list here to counter your argument.
A new manager and CEO. All the personnel healthy for the start of the season, including sorely missed players whose absence affected the outcomes of several important games, specifically Christopher Jullien, James Forrest and Mikey Johnston. A myriad of Celtic players out on loan returning to the club, like Jonathan Afolabi and Luca Connell — and even Maryan Shved, if he returns — coupled with the wealth of talent Celtic has on its Reserves squad.
Then there’s the probability now that Odsonne Edouard will be staying. Complain about his “lack of interest” all you want, but in my opinion he can be as disinterested as he damn well pleases as long as he keeps scoring 20+ goals per season.
So there is no shortage of talent available to the club.
Of course, we could use a couple of quality players in key positions if they’re available, and even this morning there have been reports that Celtic made a bid on Sporting Lisbon’s right back Valentin Rosier. It’s hard to tell whether Rosier will be the next Kieran Tierney or Boli Bolingoli, but that would remain to be seen; as it would be for any player Celtic signs. And Rosier is not the only one that Celtic has been eyeing as they go fishing again for talent, with rumors flying about talent following Ange Postecoglou from Japan.
Postecoglou has a blank canvas upon which to paint a coaching masterpiece at Celtic. Rather than that be a cause for concern, I find it to be a good sign, one that provides optimism. His past experience halfway around the world would indicate that he has all the qualities necessary in a manager to succeed at Celtic.
Couple that, once again, with a squad that is healthy and ready — which they will be despite a late start — and the club will be back on track.
Count on it.
Unless, of course, you’d prefer to panic. In that case, be my guest.
One more thing
It’s a pity Patryk Klimala didn’t get more playing time at Celtic. Here’s why: Having started a couple of games for MLS’s New York Red Bulls so far, Broadway Paddy has already become an integral part of the Red Bulls’ offense, and his assist over the weekend on a goal by Fabio — the footballer from Brazil, not the male model — was a gem. Every great play he makes in New York (OK, in reality, in New Jersey) is a great play he could have made at Celtic Park had he played more. Just sayin’ . . .
So, finally, after a-hundred-and-whatever days, Celtic has a new manager, Ange Postecoglou. Celtic had this piece on their website this morning, and the video interview accompanying it is also worth a watch.
Also, now that much of the Celtic faithful have gotten a chance to know him a little better, apparently he’s being cut some slack for not having the European pedigree that so many have been seeking.
Which brings up an interesting point: In a worldwide sport like football, there are hundreds of well-qualified managers out there. Only the most myopic of football fans only gauge success within the borders of Europe. With a wide world of talent — both on the pitch and on the sidelines — it would clearly be in the best interest of clubs, and their fans, to recognize that the metric of “success in Europe” equals some sort of superiority over the rest of the world is a false one.
As a Celtic supporter from outside Scotland — outside Europe, for that matter — I especially want Postecoglou to succeed. Not only because I want the best for Celtic when getting this ship righted as we sail forward in 2021/22, but to show that coaching styles that are not native to Europe can succeed in the beautiful game.
In his interview in the link above, Postecoglou tends to hit all the bases and sounds entirely competent on all levels of the game. With a wealth of talent at his disposal — adding returning loanees to the mix of young talent in the reserves and the current first team — the Australian has nearly all the tools he needs. A couple of additions and Celtic should be set to take back their rightful place atop the standings.
A trivia tidbit: Dr. Jozef Venglos, who like Postecoglou also coached Celtic and the Australian national team, signed Lubo Moravcik. If that’s not a good sign, despite arguably being consequential, I don’t know what is.
To be honest, I’ve purposely been avoiding the “someday-we-will-all-laugh-about-this” saga of bringing in new manager Ange Postecoglou because, well, I am protecting what little sanity I may have left. But also being honest here, I have to admit it’s unfortunate that we’re releasing Kris Ajer into the wild, where he can flourish in a league beyond Scotland.
You can’t fault him for wanting to go. Accoring to various news reports, he committed to stay on for the 10 — despite a former agent who said otherwise — and played his heart out for the Hoops in a disastrous season. He even spent most (if not all) of his Celtic career playing out of his natural position, a midfielder playing center-back for Celtic. Not only this, he played out of position without complaint, and sharpened his defensive skills in the process.
So while I wish he’d stay — just as I wish those who are also slated to leave this summer would stay — I completely understand why he would go. The thing is, I hope he ends up with a club that can utilize his wide range of talents best.
It’s not like he hasn’t drawn attention already. All season we’ve read reports about AC Milan being interested in Ajer, and lately he’s been tied to Norwich City and Newcastle in the EPL, and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
Kris, if you’re reading this, go ahead and join Jeremie Frimpong at Bayer Leverkusen. Rather than join a couple of EPL backmarkers, Bayer Leverkusen has a fair amount of potential for success.
As with other Celts who have punched their tickets in Glasgow and have moved on, I wish Kris Ajer all the best and will be looking in on him from time to time. Naturally, I will miss the big Norwegian’s gazelle-like stride when taking the ball up the field further than a defender should, resulting in the occasional goal, but I know it’s for the best. Lykke til, Kris!
One more thing
Speaking of former Celts, it’s worth mentioning that Manny Perez, a Celtic who never made it to the big club, is now playing for the expansion team Austin FC in America’s Major League Soccer. Perez also took the time to help Garner (North Carolina) High School’s soccer team with new kits for next season. Perez is not a star with Austin, but he doesn’t forget his roots and the purchase of the kits for the high school’s varsity and junior varsity teams is a grand gesture. Way to go, Manny!
Also, before we part, if you’re a Celtic fan and you’re not following @lfmunro on Twitter, you should. This profoundly deaf Celtic fan has a series of videos instructing people on sign language — some football-related and some not — and they’re well worth a watch to learn. Fantastic work, Lou, and keep it up!
Now to add “Postecoglou” to my spell-check list so it doesn’t keep popping up as an error . . .