My captain, Scott Brown

Answer: None of the above.

One of the many things that’s great about being a Celtic fan is the club’s history. Sure, all clubs have a history, but there are few that are as resonant and vibrant as Celtic’s, which makes it a great club to follow. When questions like the one above are posted on Twitter, for the most part the thread is an interesting collection of responses which can be informative.

My answer for this one is Scott Brown, a captain and a player who will easily join the pantheon of Celtic greats once he retires. Laugh if you want, but I’ve only been following Celtic for the last three years and I don’t have the . . . let’s say, “experience” . . . that some of other fans might have had growing up with the club.

That’s something I’ll try to live down. While I am envious of those who have been lifelong Celtic fans, I don’t have the luxury of time-travel to start earlier. You would think that would not matter — that my desire and passion for the club would be enough of a defining factor in being a supporter — but you would be surprised how those who are new to the club are pigeonholed.

It comes mostly in on-line disagreements, whether in social media or in some fan forums, where a debate will be reduced to, “I’ve been a fan since the dawn of time and you haven’t.”

Human nature? Perhaps. But if you think that you’re a better fan because you’ve been one for longer, that’s not the slam dunk you think it is. To be honest, I don’t care if Brother Walfrid personally handed you lifetime season tickets at the outset of the club and you’ve been to every match since 1888. You’re no better, or no worse, a fan than the person who fell in love with Celtic yesterday. Longevity doesn’t make you a good fan — more informed, perhaps — but your commitment to the club is the important metric here.

“Faithful through and through” aren’t just four words, they are a foundation of a commitment to Celtic, regardless of whether you’re a lifetime fan or a johnny-come-lately.

Bringing Celtic legends to life

If you’re a Celtic fan on Twitter, you may know the artistic work of a Glasgow Celtic fan known as @Highland__Paddy. One of the more remarkable efforts he’s involved with is colourising historic photos of legendary Celtic figures like Brother Walfrid, Johnny Madden, “Sunny” Jim Young, and others.

I had a chance to catch up with the artist to ask a few questions on behalf of ’67 in the Heat of Felton.

Q: Thank you for taking the time for this brief interview. First, just a little bit about you and this project: How long have you been an artist, and what inspired or encouraged you to colourise the photos you’ve posted on Twitter?

A: No problem Larry. I’m just an ordinary Celtic fan , like most I’ve lived the highs and lows that our club has put us through.

An artist is a bit of a stretch. I just enjoy seeing these men, who were just names in books when I was growing up, coming to life a bit more in the images. It kind of joins the dots up to their career, lives, and the impact they had on Celtic.

Brother Walfrid in colour: @Highland__Paddy brought the Celtic founder to the 21st century in this colourised photo.

Q: Without giving away any secrets, what is the process – and how long does it take – to change an historic monochromatic photo into one in living colour?

A: One thing I can tell you is that you only see the successful transformations! A lot of them are hit and miss, sometimes the images are best left in black and white, but enhanced the best that I can.

The simplest way to explain the process is quite boring if I’m honest – filters, apps, Photoshop, and a bit of time and effort.

I always try to pick a subject that people can relate to, be it a player, former manager, or in some cases a historical moment in our Club’s history.

Q: You also posted a film clip from Lisbon in 1967 on Monday – was that already in colour, or is turning film (well, video) clips into colour on your artistic radar as well?

A: That was a clip I stumbled upon, for some reason there weren’t that many views of the original. So it only felt natural to hopefully push it out to a wider audience that hadn’t saw it it. Ultimately it was the greatest day in Celtic’s history and some of the footage hadn’t been seen. Colourising videos might be above my station but I wouldn’t rule it out.

Q: Along with the Celtic greats, you also have posted several photos of tall buildings in New York with events and construction workers on them. Other than the Celtic legends you have colourised, what other photographic subjects interest you and, for those non-Celtic photos of a historical slant, do you plan on colourising them?

A: The fear of heights pictures always triggers an interest in people. It shows how brave these workers were at the time. You can only admire them, but it also sparks the acknowledgment that you couldn’t have done it yourself. That’s why I love those images, an instant admiration.

I’ve just finished reading a book by John Joe McGinley called “The Irish Wise Guys” about Irish/American gangsters and their part in crime. There are a few interesting characters in there that I’m looking to work on.

Q: How long have you been a Celtic fan and how do you think the Bhoys will fare for the rest of the season?

A: I’ve been a Celtic fan all my life, same as everyone is I suppose. I was fortunate enough to watch Celtic under Jock Stein right up to present day. It’s a way of life. I’m sure people reading this will feel the same.

My head tells me the season is gone, after the Sparta Prague game at home. I could see the writing on the wall, but my heart tells me not to give up knowing the history of our club.

Q: One more thing: Is your artistic work available for purchase, and if so how would someone go about buying them?

A: I’ve never thought of making money from what I do. To me it’s a hobby and a distraction from all that’s going on in the world at the moment. If people get the same joy from these pictures as I do, that’s good enough for me.

News flash: We’re still in it

I hate to disagree with Chris Sutton or John Hartson or just about anyone else who thinks we’re done for this year, but I don’t think Celtic are out of the hunt for 10 in a row just yet.

Sure, the odds are becoming longer with every performance like today’s — we’ll get back to that in a minute — but as long as there is a mathematical chance for Celtic to catch and pass Glasgow’s other club, then we are technically still in it.

Of course, we can’t beat ourselves like we did today. Let’s be clear: Glasgow’s other club, only 9 years old next month and constantly teetering on the edge of financial ruin, did not win today’s game so much as Celtic lost it. Bad enough that the score ended up the way it did, but how it happened is the real tragedy, namely an own-goal.

Regardless, a gaffe or two aside, Celtic played a great game today, keeping their opponent on the back foot for most of the game. It bodes well for the rest of the season since the club is firing on all cylinders and all we need is to get some of those shots to hit the back of the net.

To be sure, we are going to need help — a lot of it — from the rest of the teams in the Premiership going forward. Also, there will be a lot of scoreboard watching involved from here on in, which leaves us in the unenviable position of putting undeserved faith in league backmarkers such as Motherwell and Ross County to help bail us out.

But as baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The lead is there for the first-place team to squander as we head to the second half of the season.

Keep the faith.

Bhoys will always be bhoys

For as long as I live, there are three things I will never understand: First, there’s how gravity works, and then there’s the ending of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The third is how some people who claim to be Celtic fans still — still — to this day dish out vitriolic rubbish about Kieran Tierney leaving Celtic to play at Arsenal.

It wouldn’t be an issue, but over the weekend, someone on Twitter posted a picture of Tierney’s shin guards that the player posted on Instagram — one a Celtic guard with his Celtic number and the other an Arsenal guard with his current number. This renewed the debate of is he/isn’t he a Celt even though he plays elsewhere.

Let’s end this debate once and for all: Kieran Tierney was, is now, and always will be a Celt.

To even question this is ridiculous. Tierney literally spent two-thirds of his life in the Hoops, signing when he was seven and coming up through the youth program. To see the player he has become is a testament to the Celtic system, as well as a testament to the courage and will of a young player who took all the hammerthrowing SPFL opponents had to offer and played for Celtic while nursing serious, potentially career-ending, injury.

I look in on Arsenal from time to time to see how Tierney is doing. To be honest, Arsenal has always been interesting to me as a casual observer. In addition, I will always think it’s one of life’s great anomalies that both Jeremy Corbyn and Piers Morgan both support the Gunners. There are other things, too, I think are quirky about the North London club, like the “marble” away jersey — who’s idea was that? — or the fact that there’s a news blog related to all things Arsenal called . . . wait for it . . . Arseblog (which, of course has a linked podcast called, ahem, Arsecast).

In fact, this passing interest in Arsenal recently went as far as a visit to the Arsenal store on-line to price a Tierney jersey. To be honest, it was a little above my budget. OK, it was waaaaaaaaaaaay over my budget, and with what I would have spent there, I could have gotten two Hoops jerseys, at least pre-postage overseas.

But I digress.

The fact of the matter remains that when you leave Celtic, Celtic rarely ever leaves you. It’s sort of like Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. And it shows with some of the former players.

Lyon’s Moussa Dembele — incidentally, I don’t seem to remember him getting anywhere near the flak that Tierney got for leaving Celtic — is another player I like to look in on; on social media he is always looking in on the Hoops and praising the Bhoys in Green.

Scott Sinclair at Preston North End? Got him covered, and it looks like he’s settling in with the Lillywhites.

Sing along if you know the tune: “Oh . . . his . . . name is Mikael Lustig, he wears a policeman’s hat . . .”

Mikael Lustig — one of my all time favorite Celts who we could really use wearing the Green and White right now — last year had me following KAA Gent until he moved home to Sweden to play for AIK. Anyone who follows me on social media knows how much I miss Constable Lustig, the mad Viking.

The list goes on. Regular readers of this blog know I have been following the MLS exploits of former Celtic winger Lewis Morgan, who was Inter Miami CF’s MVP in their inaugural season. Marian Shved, out on loan to Mechelen, still gets a look-in from time to time, and it was great to see him a few days ago get the winner late in the game. Jozo Simunovic — pointing every skyward after scoring at 67 minutes in the Billy McNeill game — still remains on my phone wallpaper while we wait to see where he ends up.

So the moral of the story is simple: Bhoys will always be bhoys.

Firing on all cylinders

Despite the fact that there are still PlayStation pundits and armchair gaffers in social media who insist on having some problem or another with Celtic’s performance in the club’s 2-0 win over Ross County on Wednesday, the reality is that the Hoops played a remarkably solid game for 90+ minutes to earn a convincing win.

To be certain, it wasn’t a perfect game. Arguably the score should have been higher, had Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie been more on target with their shots. But I’m willing to give Eddy a break — Edouard was not the same after getting clocked by the referee with a well-placed elbow in the first half; a clear indication that quite possibly Operation Stop-The-10 is alive and well at the lodge.

Regardless, the fact remains that Celtic controlled all aspects of Wednesday’s game, and we came away with the win and the three points.

They dynamic duo in Wednesday’s match: David Turnbull and Leigh Griffiths celebrate Turnbull’s goal in the first half. Griffiths scored a header in the second half to make the score 2-0.

David Turnbull, who scored one of the goals, and Ismaila Soro both continue to impress. Soro in particular is showing what a great acquisition he is, with his pinpoint ball distribution and defensive prowess. Playing two forwards up front — finally — proved its worth today with Leigh Griffiths picking up the slack for an uncharacteristically lackluster (and probably groggy) Edouard.

Sunday hero Kris Ajer was taking liberties with the wide berth Ross County was giving him, which is always good to see. Am I the only one who think he looks like a gazelle, striding forward with the ball deep into the opponent’s half when he finds an opening — and even when he doesn’t have one — and creating more havoc than a defender should?

Jeremie Frimpong was outstanding, and while he showed he can leave defenders in the dust, he needs to do it more often instead of being gunshy with his moves. He showed a textbook Oh-My-Days move in whipping around a Ross County defender to deliver a ball to Turnbull’s feet for the first score of the game.

Most heartening in the entire game on Wednesday was when Mikey Johnston came in and showed why he has been missed for quite some time. Though he did not score, he did shake some of the cobwebs off and we saw some of the bobbing and weaving in traffic that we know him for. When he gets back up to speed and James Forrest finally gets back . . . .

We’ve reached a point in the season where we have to be “on” — where there are no more missteps, no more fumbles, no more gaffes — if we are to win the coveted 10-in-a-row . With performances like Wednesday’s, we are in good shape going forward.

Now go and enjoy your holidays. Merry Krismas!

History and schadenfreude

For the benefit of those of you — and I’m guessing it’s a pretty high number — who are hung over right now after celebrating in the afterglow of Celtic’s Quadruple Treble victory at Hampden yesterday, I’m going to write very softly as not to disturb you. You’re welcome.

But as we head to Wednesday’s game, there are a few more observations that should be made regarding Sunday’s victory. Like . . .

How historic was it?

Matt Corr, my colleague at The Celtic Star and a Celtic historian without peer, outlined the gravity of yesterday’s accomplishment with a Twitter post (which I misread, and was quickly “corrected” — mea culpa!), stating that the last time a club had won three Scottish Cups in a row was . . . 1876, when Queens Park did it for the third time that year.

Celtic broke that record yesterday, nearly a century and a half later.

This, of course, adds to the gravity of the herculean accomplishment of four trebles in a row, and adds even more to the awe-inspiring feat that Celtic achieved yesterday.

Not only did Matt give it the notice it deserved, but you can bet that William Hill also got into the act on Twitter, posting a tweet that showed the domestic trophies won this century by clubs . . . and by Scott Brown at Celtic.

To be fair, Scott Brown is missing one from his time at Hibernian, but that’s a minor detail.

Gathering up the tears

Schadenfreude is probably not a good thing to have on an occasion like this, but when it comes to both Heart of Midlothian, as well as Glasgow’s other club, it’s hard — no, it’s impossible — to resist.

First, like Glasgow’s other club, Heart of Midlothian FC has always been a classless organization which deserves every tumble of its recent downfall. Its captain, Steven Naismith, is a hammerthrowing thug who will only be known within the confines of Scotland and will be forgotten once he retires, unless of course he end up on SkySports post-career as one of Martin O’Neill’s aptly described “basement dwellers.”

That said, it was nothing short of hilarious to see the greeting from both about what a meanie Scott Brown was during the game, ignoring the fact that Naismith stomped on him early in the match, or that Naismith was carded during a corner-kick tussle with Brown; both actions career hallmarks of that legend in his own mind.

Then there’s Neil McCann’s moaning about Odsonne Edouard’s penalty kick that he looped over a diving Craig Gordon being disrespectful. Seriously? If you want to talk about disrespect, Neil, how about starting with players — like, oh I don’t know, you? — taking EBT money at the expense of Scottish taxpayers. How’s that for disrespectful?

And for the love of God, can someone help this poor Rangers fan who seems to have lost the plot?

The stupid, it burns.

Onward and upward

Once the celebrating stops and the hangovers subside, Celtic are still faced with a phenomenal task of reeling in first place in the Premiership. Without the benefit of a winter break — which traditionally filled the tanks for the second half — it appears that the club will have to bear down and move forward without it. Naturally we are up to the task and, with the right mix of acquisitions in the transfer window and the calling up of qualified players from the reserves, we should be able to achieve this goal.

On to Wednesday’s match against Ross County. Mon the Hoops, and in case I forget, have a Merry Krismas and a Hoopy New Year!

The Kids Are All Right

I woke up early on Sunday morning because a couple of hours before the historic Celtic match at Hampden, FC St. Pauli played Fortuna Dusseldorf — we won’t go there at this time, except to say it was not pretty — and my mood going into the game with Hearts was not exactly chipper.

Then the starting lineups came out on social media. I expected Scott Brown to start in place of Ismaila Soro, but I kept tripping over the goal choice. Conor Hazard. You want the kid to be between the sticks in what is possibly the most historic game of the 21st century?

Clearly we do. And this is why they pay Neil Lennon, and not me (who would have gone with Scott Bain), the big bucks. Hazard did remarkably well in goal for the Celts, as he has since he has been brought up to the first team.

History: Celtic win the quadruple treble at Hampden on Sunday.

There is a lot to be said for the accomplishment of a quadruple treble, and that will be written by writers and pundits with a lot more experience than me. But something about today’s game spoke volumes to what could be a changing of the guard at Paradise; the historic Celtic game where not only do we acknowledge the tremendous gravity of winning four trebles in a row, but also it was a game where we look back and say that youth was served.

It speaks to an issue that I hope will be explored further in the upcoming weeks as we head into the 2nd half of the season: Bringing up some of the other Celtic Reserves to play on the first team. We all saw today that the dues Hazard paid toiling in the Reserves is now paying dividends for the first team.

Hazard is not alone in that department, and the list of worthy Reserves is long: Armstrong Oko-Flex, Cameron Harper, Karamoko Dembele, Jonathan Afolabi, Scott Robertson, Kerr McInroy, and on and on. Along with Hazard, one other Colt who has made a mark on the first team this season in Stephen Welsh, and each of these aforementioned players listed arguably are in the starting blocks of a successful career for the Hoops.

They’ve all shown what they can do in the Reserves and in loan spells with other clubs. It’s time to put them to work for the Hoops.

Hazard has punched his ticket on the Celtic history express, and hopefully he will translate this huge accomplishment into a successful Celtic career in goal. Seeing his performance in the last several games, no doubt he will. But the quality of his play Hazard has shown he has set the table for others in the Reserves to follow suit.

If you’re like me, you’re still basking in the glow of this monumental feat: the quadruple treble. So while I process this, I may have more to say about this amazing feat itself in an upcoming post.

Unlike me, though, you’re probably not still apologizing to your neighbors for waking them up so early on a Sunday morning — remember, I’m 8 hours behind Glasgow here — with a rousing chorus of “I Just Can’t Get Enough” after Kris Ajer’s final penalty, but that’s another story for another time.

Let’s pick up this momentum Wednesday as we get back to the league games. Mon the Hoops!

Goodbye and good luck, Hatem

Under unfortunate circumstances for Celtic, Hatem Elhamed may return to play in Israel to be closer to his family.

There’s an elephant in the room that no one is talking about: a work-visa system in Scotland which, for all intents and purposes, seems on the surface as selective and arbitrary. It’s a system that keeps players like Americans Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez from opportunities to play for the Celts, and it kept Hatem Elhamed’s wife from working in Scotland while he plays for the Hoops.

As a result, Elhamed has stayed in Scotland to play football while Mrs. Elhamed has returned to Israel with their son, leaving the Celtic defender to live alone in Glasgow. It has been reported that Elhamed leaves his house only to train with the team and to play games for the Celts.

Elhamed has had to make a really difficult choice – to stay in solitude in Scotland or to return to his family in Israel. It appears that, understandably, he will be pursuing the latter course.

I stay “understandably” because I know this drill firsthand. In the mid-’90s I started a relationship with a Japanese woman in the U.S., followed her back to Japan, married her there, and we had a daughter all in the space of the four years we lived there. Even with a family, culturally it was a major adjustment to live in a foreign land, so I would imagine it would be significantly worse without the benefit of family support.

So I get it, Hatem. And those who ludicrously and ridiculously comment that, “Well, he has his tons of cash to keep him company,” well, they reveal with that simply moronic statement that they have no clue. On anything.

Elhamed brought a lot of good things to the Celtic table. He was fast, he was an outstanding defender, his play on the wing — especially lately, off an injury — was top-notch. It’s unfortunate that Celtic loses a quality player primarily due to government bureaucracy rather than to injury or to being enticed away from afar with riches.

Fortunately for Elhamed, he has options: The Daily Record reports that Israeli clubs are lining up to sign him. Hapoel Be’er Shiva, his former club prior to joining Celtic, seems to be first in line — with open arms, apparently — and Be’er Shiva gaffer Yossi Abukasis said, “Hatem is an excellent player that every team would want to sign. If we can bring him here to the club it will be a huge blessing for us.”

No doubt the other clubs seeking Elhamed’s services — Maccabi Haifa, Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv — might agree.

[As an aside: Hatem, please don’t sign with Beitar Jerusalem. Just don’t. You know why.]

So while he will no doubt be successful wherever he ends up in Israel, I will miss him wearing the Hoops. Goodbye and good luck, Hatem!

Mon the Hoops!

Torture and The Late Late Show

I will be the first to admit that Celtic fans who have supported the team for decades surely don’t need a lecture from a relatively new fan 5,000 miles away. However, I do think I can offer some perspective on some of the games this season — like today’s — from America’s baseball world. The San Francisco Giants in the early aughts, when they were winning championships by any means necessary (and usually “winning ugly”), had a term they always used to describe their style of play: “Torture.”

Sound familiar, Celtic fans?

Torture. That would aptly describe the first 89 excruciating minutes of Sunday’s game at McDiarmid Park against St. Johnstone, where the Saints took a poke or two in that time — glancing one off the bar, even — while mostly playing back. Thank whichever diety you believe in that Leigh Griffiths got the header at 90 minutes, and then Patryk Klimala sealed the deal at 93 minutes for a 2-0 win and wrap up the Late Late Show.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Late Late Show, with your hosts Patryk Klimala, left, and Leigh Griffiths.

Let’s talk about Klimala for a minute. For those who think that offseason training does not pay off, ask yourself if Klimala makes that comeback — Terminator style — quickly upright from a tackle to make that second goal if he hadn’t strengthened up. Chances are he doesn’t, and with the way the referee was being selective with fouls — multiple ignored muggings of Jeremie Frimpong, to no one’s surprise, for example — chances are Klimala doesn’t get the call as well.

Then there’s Griffiths: The bhoy is back. Full stop. But that goal doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The lead up of Kris Ajer to Hatem Elhamed, and then Elhamed’s perfect cross, is a play to watch over and over again.

And how’s this for strategy: Put the soul of your club on the bench and then bring him in to direct traffic toward the end of the game. It’s pretty clear that Scott Brown has an influence on the team that transcends his immediate play.

In geological terms the first 89 minutes of the game had the magma of the Celtic Boo Birds pressurizing the surface, awaiting to erupt in the lava of negativity all over social media. Thanks to Messrs. Griffiths and Klimala, eruption was averted, for the most part.

In addition, let’s be clear about something which some folks may be missing: The other 11 teams in the Premiership are all professional outfits, with players who step up their game a notch or two when playing Celtic. It definitely makes the difference between having a highlight reel and a highlight slide when a club plays Celtic well or, God forbid, beats Celtic. Opposing players get that and up their game accordingly.

Yet some in the support expect this season to be a walk in the park where we dust off other clubs as if they are made up of starving orphans or cloistered nuns.

News flash: They’re not.

So winning 2-0 against St. Johnstone may not be historic, or even noteworthy. But it is another win, and another 3 points. And if we have to grind it out to get to the 10, then that’s the “torture” we have to endure to get there. Naturally, I’d prefer it to be easy, but we would be well prepared to take it that way going forward.

Mon the Hoops.

There once was a man named Ajeti

There’s nothing like an exciting new player to get the poetic juices flowing in Celtic fans. And in the spirit of a thread on The Celtic Noise forum around Celtic striker Albian Ajeti, the Swiss forward could be gearing up for his own song in the near future.

But before we get to that point, break out the dictionary, because “Ajeti” is sort of hard to rhyme.

Fortunately, that has never stopped us before here at ’67 in the Heat of Felton. Challenge accepted.

‘There once was a man named Ajeti . . . .’

So as the sun rises on the Central California coast, yours truly has written a few limericks — yeah, I know . . . “the poor man’s poetry” — during his coffee and Raisin Bran to start the day.

To wit:

There once was a man named Ajeti
Who kicked the ball into the netty
When Saturdays loomed
Opponents were doomed,
Their fans became moany and fretty.

Or . . .

That trick from the Swiss guy Ajeti
turned centre-backs into spaghetti.
And when the ball crossed,
with their goalie tossed,
It quickly went into the netty.

If we reverse the order so “Ajeti” isn’t the rhyming word . . .

Ajeti, a bearded Swiss fellow,
made goalkeepers turn into Jell-o.
A cross that was long
from wee lad Frimpong
Would always make Celtic fans bellow.

Or, to address more immediate concerns . . .

Ajeti – and let me be blunt –
Needs Edouard to help him up front,
or Griff would be nice,
or Klimala twice,
Oh, Lenny — please do take a punt.

Give it a shot. Feel free to put your best efforts in the comments below, or swing by The Celtic Noise forum to the thread about Ajeti and unleash your inner poet.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the Poetry Police are pulling me over and asking for my poetic license and registration . . . .

Mon the Hoops!