Ange and the press

One of the most remarkable facets of Celtic’s season so far has not been any particular performance on the pitch, but rather Ange Postecoglou’s performance off it, specifically dealing with the Scottish sports media.

Ange Postecoglou’s performance behind the microphone is one of several breaths of fresh air for Celtic FC this season.

Apparently, the Australian gaffer has taken to heart the words of warning from The Celtic Star’s editor when the gaffer met with non-mainstream media — that’s us, the bloggers and podcasters and the like — early in the season, when Postecoglou was told at the outset he’d have rough sailing with the Scottish mainstream media’s sports writers.

Coupled with the fact that, collectively, the sports writers and pundits in the Scottish press have the unique distinction of being a bigger joke than the SPFL officiating — clearly no small feat there — and Postecoglou’s performances behind the microphone have been, to this day, flawless.

On a personal note, the news media is something I know a little about. Until 2014 when I was part of the last layoff at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I had been in news field — in various capacities and on two continents — since the day Jimmy Carter was inaugurated president. That would be 20 January 1977, for those of you keeping score at home.

That said, I think I speak with a degree of authority on the topic when I say, by any journalistic standard, the bias in both the reporting and punditry in Scotland when it comes to professional football is an embarrassment only eclipsed by the state of disrepair in the game itself. On all levels — from the daily newspapers to the BBC, initials which can now easily stand for “Billy Boys Channel” — the nature of distrust that, ironically, has replaced the hallmark of journalistic integrity serves as a cautionary tale not only in football, but the news industry’s role in society as a whole.

The fact that Ange Postecoglou is not having any of it is absolutely refreshing. Compare any Postcoglou press conference with that of his predecessor, whose fumbling through the questions was literally painful, and you can see that the Celtic manager is all business, all the while not suffering the media’s fools — of which, unfortunately, there are many. Ange’s straightforward manner and tell-it-like-it-is addressing of questions that are completely nonsensical is a breath of fresh air in the staleness that has become commonplace in SPFL coverage.

Celtic did themselves a favor — and can continue to do so — by allowing more access to non-mainstream media outlets in order to provide a more balanced and nuanced coverage of the club; coverage that is, and has been, clearly lacking in the mainstream media.

But meanwhile, there is this: Angeball is great, but Angepress is better.

Anyway, tomorrow we have Ferencvarosi TC at Celtic Park at the odd Tuesday kickoff time of 3 p.m. (7 a.m. here on the U.S. West Coast), so I hope we can grab a win in this Europa match.

One more thing

Speaking of the Europa League, one of Celtic’s opponents in the current group — Bayer Leverkusen — had its lunch eaten by Bayern Munich yesterday in their Bundesliga match, when Bayern scored five in the first half. I watched another match yesterday while that one was going on — Hammarby and AIK in the Allsvenskan, the Stockholm Derby featuring ex-Celt Mikael Lustig, which Hammarby won 1-0 — but thanks to the modern miracle of ESPN+, I was able to watch a replay of the first half of the Bayer-Bayern game.

Putting aside for a moment that Bayern is near perfection when it comes to 90 minutes of football or that even I could manage Bayern to the Bundesliga championship with their depth of talent, Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky — a proverbial thorn in Celtic’s side as of late — really couldn’t be faulted for the first three goals which seemed to come from woeful defensive miscues, while the other two could be placed squarely on his shoulders. There was even one Celtic-like Bayern shot that glanced off the post, so it could have been 6-0 easily at the first half.

The point here is that while Leverkusen could be Celtic’s strongest opponent in our Europa League group, Hradecky’s bad day at the office should not be misconstrued as anything but that, and Die Werkself are still an overwhelming adversary in advancing to the next stage.

Mon the Hoops!

The real reason Frimpong left?

To me, Jeremie Frimpong in the Bayer Leverkusen red looks out of place. He’ll always be the kid in the hoops.

A recent article in The Athletic (subscription needed) outlines in great detail the reasons that Jeremie Frimpong has jumped ship from the cozy confines of playing for the Hoops at Celtic Park in Glasgow to donning the black-and-red and playing in the antiseptic Bay Arena in Westphalia.

The article is full of high-road plaudits and reasons for his departure. There’s no doubt that Frimpong wants to play in a more prestigious league — he certainly has the talent to do so — and at his age, 20 at his last birthday, his entire football career is in front of him. Neil Lennon described him in a press conference as “ambitious.”

Said Frimpong in the article, “It was the right time to leave Celtic because it was about a big club like Leverkusen coming, rather than about Celtic. And obviously the Bundesliga was really attractive. So when they came, I was like, ‘I could play in the Bundesliga!’, and that was it really.”

Frimpong highlights that he wanted to play in the Bundesliga, which he calls correctly “one of the top three leagues in the world,” and who can blame him?

But I think there’s an unspoken reason for Frimpong leaving Celtic and saying goodbye to playing in the SPFL, and my guess is that most of it has to do with the latter.

Let’s set the stage: In a league like the SPFL which has questionable officiating — where the referees’ SpecSavers sponsorship has gone way beyond irony when multiple clear red-card fouls go uncalled — and in a league like the SPFL where hammerthrowing is the rule moreso than the exception, why would a player with a potential for greatness want to play in a leauge like the SPFL where a career-ending injury might be just one late tackle away?

My guess is that what is not being said as Frimpong takes the high road in interviews is that he had enough of the likes of Kilmarnock’s Alan Power or Hibernian’s Alex Gogic — two examples of several players in the league who serve no real purpose on the pitch other than to create mayhem and injure opponents. And frankly, Frimpong was right to go. I would have helped him pack his bags, too, because I would rather see him play for years, or decades, elsewhere rather than see his career cut short by a mouth-breathing neanderthal nobody in a Killie jersey.

For the same reason, Kieran Tierney — a kid who spent 2/3rds of his life in the Celtic organization — was absolutely and completely justified in taking the money Arsenal offered him to play at Emirates. It physically hurts to say that, but that is the truth. Tierney will always be a Celt, but why should he sacrifice his football career on the altar of poor officiating and unpenalized rough play that is part and parcel of the Scottish Premiership? Tierney himself had career-threatening injuries playing for Celtic — he didn’t get them slipping and falling in his apartment — and he overcame them to both excel at Celtic toward the end of his career in Glasgow and to shine in North London, where he is showing the EPL the quality of the Celtic system.

And when Celtic has a poor transfer window because players are hesitant to come ply their trade in the SPFL? Are you really surprised quality players pass on us in an effort to avoid what has degenerated into a style of play in this league more resembling ice hockey than football?

Until the SFA gets a grip on more consistent officiating — consistent insofar as actually making calls instead of blowing them off, mostly for the benefit of one club (and it isn’t Celtic) — and until the quality of play in the SPFL starts more resembling other respectable leagues around the world, quality players in the Hoops will always have an eye on playing elsewhere.