By the dawn’s early light

It’s 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, and I’m already awake — fallout from the 8- to 9-hour time difference between here and Europe when dragging myself out of bed to watch Celtic and St. Pauli matches live — and because the Winter Solstice is tomorrow, the sun is just making its way on the horizon behind the hills to the east.

But I confess, after a sleepless night — in a good way — I am still buzzing about yesterday’s win. My daughter, who was born in Kodaira-shi in the Tokyo Metropolitan District to her Japanese mom and me, now has an adopted older brother named Kyogo Furuhashi, who becomes a part of the family by virtue of his Larsson-esque play this season.

This is a Monday I don’t mind facing. In fact, I’m planning to break my mask protocol and wear my Celtic mask for two days in a row when I go into work later. Even in America, the reach of Celtic has a profound effect on its followers, and I know I’m not the only one. Across four time zones, there’s an excellent chance Yanks who bleed green-and-white are still buzzing about the results at Hampden.

Thank God Eddie Howe balked at joining Celtic and is now toiling — to be diplomatic — at Newcastle. Howe would have never — never — accomplished the same 180-degree turn with the Hoops as Ange Postecoglou has in the last several months.

As an aside, I don’t know where Dom McKay might be these days, but he’s owed a huge debt of gratitude for bringing in Postecoglou and the wave of players in during the last transfer window, many of whom made the difference yesterday with long-time Celtic veterans like Tom Rogic, Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor.

Put aside the fact that Postecoglou won, in a matter of months, the same number of trophies that Steven Gerrard took years to finally accomplish at Sevco before taking the first train out of Glasgow for Aston Villa. Ange is no stranger to silverware, and for those of you keeping score at home you can count Hampden as his ninth — three with South Melbourne, three with Brisbane, one with the Socceroos, one with Yokohama Marinos, and now one with Celtic.

But they said Postecoglou was not built for the SPFL. They said he’d be gone by Christmas.

In what has sadly become a hallmark of the Scottish mainstream sports media, they thought wrong.

And this team Postecoglou has put together, what more can you say? It’s a team that is once again geared to win trophies. Against most odds. Against the resistance of a Celtic board that balks at expense.

And what about this kid?

Every Celtic fan on the planet Earth would gladly trade places with Anthony Ralston yesterday at Hampden to greet Kyogo Furuhashi after his second goal to put the Hoops up 2-1.

Kyogo was not 100 percent yesterday, coming off a hamstring injury. But he was ready to play regardless. Postecoglou said on Sunday that no one was keeping him off the pitch, and for this we are truly thankful. The kid delivered.

It wasn’t just Kyogo. It was everyone, a team effort. Even Carl Starfelt — who Michael Stewart couldn’t slam hard enough on the game broadcast, early and often — had an OK game with a couple of miscues that resulted, arguably at most, with Hibernian’s only goal. But the point here is that everyone stepped up, because that’s the Celtic way.

My Celtic Star colleague Niall J points this out in more depth in his article here. It’s worth a read, outlining the contributions the team has made. But it bears repeating. Rogic? Awesome. Bitton, coming in for the dinged-up David Turnbull? Phenomenal. McGregor, the captain? No doubt the man we want in charge. Cameron Carter-Vickers? His solid defense clearly earns him the nickname “The Rock,” in deference to actor Dwayne Johnson.

[Cameron “The Rock” Carter-Vickers. Hmmm. That has a nice ring to it.]

The only thing missing, sadly, on Sunday was the absence of Jota, who is out with an injury. If anyone has contributed to the success of the club this season, it is clearly Jota. And for him to be absent in the victory on Sunday was definitely heartbreaking.

But of all the deliriously joyous events and happenings at Hampden, this one was probably the best.

Somewhere in the ethereal realm of the afterlife, Bertie Auld was looking down and watching yesterday’s game at Hampden. But his cutout was present yesterday, wearing the Hoops scarf.

Some cardboard cutouts are destined for the trash bin. And some are present at the final at Hampden. If you listened closely enough after the game, you could hear Bertie Auld say, “That’s entertainment.”

Coffee’s ready, finally. We’re away to St. Mirren on Wednesday — here we go again, we’re on the road again. Mon the Hoops!

Stop the presses!

Those who know me are aware of the fact that I spent most of my adult life in the news industry, until I was unceremoniously waived from my wire desk duties by the Santa Cruz Sentinel in 2014 in their final layoff. In nearly four decades of news work, overall I am proud of the fact — and consider myself profoundly lucky — that my career went virtually error-free.

Mistakes? Yeah, they happen. I’ve seen it first-hand, and have been part of news teams to rectify them. I’ve even caught my own, thankfully before they were put into permanence via print. But this one by the Daily Mail is pretty much a “rookie mistake.” You don’t report the results of an event until the final whistle blows because, well . . .

Oops. Well, Luke, better call rewrite, and fast . . . .

To be fair, let me pull back the curtain on how many sports writers cover games; and bear in mind that in these days of electronic media, it differs slightly from the good old ink-and-paper days. Generally speaking, in nearly every instance, reporters are writing the story as the match unfolds in order to have something ready when the final whistle goes. They’ll add post-game quotes from coaches and players and submit it to their editors. And voila, you get to read it shortly thereafter.

But in this “gamer” — the game story, as it’s called — apparently they jumped the gun, perhaps in an effort to get out of the office and into the pub. Or home, maybe. Only the people involved at the Daily Mail know for sure how this happened, but I would offer — not as an excuse, but as an explanation — that chances are there are a shortage of editors and writers at that news outlet, just as there are all over the industry worldwide as greedy publishers try to cut corners at the expense of the quality of their product, which by now is suspect.

But I digress.

In the closing seconds of injury time, Anthony Ralston put away a header to win the game against Ross County, 2-1.

Anthony Ralston’s goal in the upper reaches — literally and figuratively — so far away at Ross County was phenomenal. Much has been made of it elsewhere by those closer to the action than me. It is one of those endings that rival other late-game heroics that are part and parcel to Celtic’s recent history. It’ll be talked about for quite some time, to be sure.

If nothing else, the Daily Mail gets a yellow for this foul, and chances are they won’t do it again. Or will they?

One more thing

It would be easy to be complacent after an exceptional win like Wednesday’s at Ross County, and while you can easily bask in the afterglow of Ralston’s goal for quite some time, the fact remains that the officiating in the match didn’t even rise to the profoundly low and remarkably substandard level so common to the SPFL.

Carl Starfelt should have never been sent off, especially after having his nose broken, or so it seemed, several minutes prior. A clear handball — actually a both-handsball — foul on a Ross County player in their box in injury time completely missed by a ref who was as near to it as I am from my living room to my kitchen (and in this small apartment, that’s not very far). Virtually every no-call — and there were many — against various Ross County players who seemed to be playing rugby moreso than football was not only grating, but affected the outcome of the game.

This has to stop. International bodies like UEFA or FIFA have to step in here and send Scotland some real officials instead of the poseurs now wearing SpecSavers on the sleeves of their black shirts.

On Sunday at Hampden, we have the League Cup final starting at 3 p.m., which thankfully is 7 a.m. Pacific. Mon the Hoops!

Sometimes it makes you think…

California and the West Coast of North America has just weathered a monsoon-like storm over the last two days, keeping most of us indoors and, speaking personally, keeping me staring out the window at the rain pelting the tree-crested ridge that separates me from the Pacific Ocean a few miles away.

Yet I didn’t come here to wax poetic. The point is that with nothing to watch thanks to intermittent power outages until the skies cleared this morning, and with the Bohemians battling Waterford — literally battling, as in they may exchange gunfire before 90 minutes are up — in the background because, well, that happens to be on at the moment, I started to think about a conversation I had recently with one of my football-following colleagues at work over the weekend.

The basic premise of the conversation went something like this: It’s really odd — but remarkably fortunate, too — how well Celtic ended up right now in the face of earlier uncertainty, with some of the personnel that graces this season’s Celtic squad, both on the field and on the sidelines.

This is not Eddie Howe. And thank God for that. Ange Postecoglou has gotten the Hoops on the right track since taking the reins at Celtic.

Remember back when we were all wringing our hands about whether Eddie Howe was going to grace us with his presence on the Celtic sidelines, and the disappointment by most in the heel-dragging days that preceded Howe’s ultimate rejection? Well, that was a phenomenal blessing in disguise, because had Howe accepted the post, we would not have had Ange Postecoglou come to lead the club.

And the odyssey of Dom McKay? In his 40-day cameo appearance as club CEO — and prior to his departure for reasons we may never know — McKay ushered in not only the Postecoglou era, but the club had a phenomenal transfer window which essentially reinvigorated the lethargic and demoralized club.

The calculus is very simple: No McKay and Postecoglou, no Kyogo Furuhashi. No Joe Hart. No Liel Abada. No George Michael . . . I mean, no Jota. No Josip Juranovic. The list goes on and, sure, not every transfer is an instant success, but we are seeing improvement in the likes of new players like Carl Starfelt and Giorgios Giakoumakis.

Without Postecoglou’s guidance, there’s an excellent chance we don’t have a resurgent Anthony Ralston and Tom Rogic. Because of Postecoglou, we have call-ups like Adam Montgomery flourishing under a new system; an attacking style of football that was profoundly lacking — and profoundly responsible for a lackluster performance — last season.

Out of what could have been a disaster — a mad scramble for a manager and a patchwork transfer window that could have been a disaster — at the advent of this season, the end result with McKay and Postecoglou calling the shots may have been just the thing Celtic needed to get things back to normal.

Speculation is a funny thing, and while I would prefer not to think of where we might be under Eddie Howe’s leadership had he taken the Celtic post, I would be willing to bet we would not be as far along in Celtic’s recovery as we are right now under Postecoglou.

Well, the Bohs dropped one to Waterford 2-1 and we have Hibernian on Wednesday at Easter Road. Mon the Hoops!

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

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.

Here we go again, we’re on the road again . . .

Night and day

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.”

Making black sweaters on big guys cool again, among other things: Celtic gaffer Ange Postecoglou walks off the field after Celtic’s Europa League victory against FK Jablonec last week at Celtic Park. Postecoglou is overseeing a resurgence at Celtic this season. Photo Credit: Jeff Holmes/The Celtic Star

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

Gerd Muller takes the ball down the pitch for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium. Muller donned the Red and Gold for three seasons in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

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.

It’s official: The Premiership is a joke

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?

Offside: Celtic


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.

Mon the Hoops!