A tale of two goalkeepers

Now that the summer is here, and rumors — sorry, rumours — abound with who’s going where and why, a couple of goalkeepers have popped up on Celtic’s radar, according to the press, pundits and various rumour mills.

With the departure of Vasilis Barkas to FC Utrecht on a season-long loan (and we all know what that means . . .), the best way to describe it is that there’s a vacancy on the Celtic bench for a backup goalkeeper to Joe Hart, who is a god among men between the sticks.

Putting aside the fact that the forgotten Scott Bain is a more-than-adequate backup to the Sacred Hart, the two top goalkeeper candidates possibly destined for Hoopdom next season, if you believe the reports and the pundits, are FC St. Pauli’s Nikola Vasilj and Dundee United’s Benjamin Siegrist.

For completely selfish reasons as a FC St. Pauli fan, my hope is that Nikola Vasilj will stay at FC St. Pauli next season.

As many of you already know, I am not only a Celtic fan but I am also a FC St. Pauli fan. Whenever “Hell’s Bells” comes on the radio while in the car, I blast it regardless of where I am or who is with me (often making my daughter say, “Daaaaaaaaaaaaad.”) But I digress. The point is that I spent last season watching both Celtic and St. Pauli games, pretty much in equal amounts. And Vasilj, in large part, is one of the reasons the Boys in Brown from Hamburg nearly got promoted to the Bundesliga.

But — and this is a big “but,” and I cannot lie — frankly, I’d much rather see Vasilj stay at St. Pauli for the simple reason that he’d be starting there, he’d be excelling between the sticks if last season is any indication, and he and others on the squad would hopefully prove that St. Pauli’s flirtation with promotion last season wasn’t just a hoax.

Which leaves us with Siegrist.

I’ll bet anything Benjamin Siegrist would love to play and not have to face a variety of Hoops-wearing players bearing down on him with the ball. But that’s just me.

To relate how Siegrist would be an asset to Celtic would require me to tell you a tale from these shores, from another sport no less. In the ’90s, the San Francisco Giants just missed the playoffs after winning 102 games — Atlanta had won 103 that year — and during the 162-game season, a pitcher named Mark Portugal of the Houston Astros had the Giants’ number, beating them six times over the course of the season. The Giants, in the offseason, acquired Portugal from the Astros and ended up winning the division the following season.

Siegrist — like Zander Clark of St. Johnstone (the final game of the season notwithstanding) — always seems to give Celtic fits when he’s playing in goal for Dundee United. He’s solid between the posts and while some have mentioned a questionable degree of talent with the ball at his feet, any shortcomings can be easily fixed by Stevie Woods, the universe’s greatest goalkeeping coach.

So if you’re following along, Siegrist joining Celtic would erase any annoying top-rate performances against us next season because, well, he’s on our team now.

But . . . Siegrist is an A-level player both in the SPFL and internationally, and whether he’d want to just sit on the Celtic bench and watch Hart is something that may not be to his liking.

Nevertheless, all of this is conjecture at this point — talk that can only fuel pub discussions and set off Twitter wars. But it remains to be seen what the Hoops do in the off-season to bolster their already talented squad.

Mon the Hoops!

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

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

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

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

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

But . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Wait. Who am I trying to fool?

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

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

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

One more thing

Two, actually.

First: Ghirls will be ghirls.

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

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

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

Anyway, Mon the Hoops!