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!

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!

Requiesce in pace, Bertie

I read the news today, oh boy . . . and after reading the headlines before grabbing a quick cup of coffee and toast on my way out the door to go to work, I rued the gloom that eventually ended up following me for the entire day: Celtic legend Bertie Auld had passed away.

Bertie Auld takes it to Inter Milan in the European Cup championship in 1967.

There are only a handful of players in the wider Celtic’s history that define a certain aspect of the club’s persona.

Vision was always defined by Brother Walfrid, who had the idea to feed the poor through the game of football, and then later by Willie Maley, who brought the foundation of quality players to the Hoops.

Leadership was always defined by Jock Stein on the sideline — espousing pure, beautiful, inventive football — and Billy McNeill implementing it on the pitch.

Skill had a wide variety of representatives in Celtic’s history, but none was superior in all of Celtic history than Jimmy Johnstone.

Personality and heart had but one shining representative: Bertie Auld. He understood and reflected what it means to be Celtic. He was faithfully Celtic, through and through.

Had Bertie done nothing else in his entire Celtic career, he achieved legendary status in Lisbon even before the game began: As the legend goes, in the tunnel awaiting to go out onto the pitch, standing next to European powerhouse Inter Milan, Bertie started singing “The Celtic Song,” in which the rest of his teammates joined in to the bemused Italians. John Fallon gives a great description of the scene in Clover Flims’ “The Fans Who Make Football” in their Celtic episode starting at around 20:50 – however, the whole episode is worth a watch, if you haven’t already seen it.

But he did so much more. For the fans who were not born yet, or not old enough to experience the glory and significance of the 1967 European Cup, Bertie Auld was the conduit – the connection to the heyday when Celtic was the first non-continental team to bring the trophy up to the British Isles. His accessibility – Bertie was always available for banter with fans, and was never at a loss to regale the public, whether it was a small group or a broadcast studio audience, with tales of Celtic greatness — was a touchstone of what it means to be Celtic.

The testament of how loved Bertie was by Celtic fans is the number of pictures posted on social media by people who had their pictures taken with him. Those are only the ones that are being shared, and there are probably more that aren’t, but it speaks to the fact that Bertie was always accessible and available to the people, and always made time for the fans. Always.

One of the most moving tributes-in-288-characters was posted on Twitter by Celtic Park tourgide Davie McLaughlin, with a picture of Bertie and Davie’s son.

His love for Celtic was boundless, and it showed. Day in and day out. He understood that football is nothing without the fans, and as a result, he seemed to give back to the fans a hundredfold, because at the end of the day we are all Celtic.

Bertie understood that. He was one of us, and that’s why we all loved him.

That’s what I thought this morning, driving down Highway 9 from Felton to Santa Cruz on my way to work, negotiating every serpentine curve through the redwoods, all the while singing “The Celtic Song.”

But I’m hearing the song in Bertie’s voice, not mine.

Requiesce in pace, Bertie. You’ll never walk alone.

We are family

João Pedro Neves Filipe — better known in these circles as Jota, our midfielder — mentioned what could have been a throwaway line in a postgame interview on BT Sport after Celtic’s 3-2 victory against Ferencvaros in Budapest. However, it bears resurrecting because it says a lot about Celtic’s resurgence.

“We are just starting to get to know each other,” Jota said of playing with his new teammates, “and month after month I think we are getting stronger and start to be like a real family, so . . . yeah, I think things are doing well . . .”

We are family: Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota during Celtic’s 3-2 win over Ferencvaros on Thursday.

That’s an important observation from a player for whom Celtic should be writing a check to Benfica to acquire him, and personally deliver it to the Portuguese club immediately. Celtic needs to seal this deal as soon as possible, as in right this very moment, as I write this and as you read this.

This kid “gets” Celtic.

When Jota hits on the family aspect of Celtic, he is not far off. Families are not perfect, obviously, and from time to time there is friction. And not all decisions made on a group level are met with the same degree of fanfare and joy, but the fact remains that whatever ups and downs there might be, we are in this together.

Faithful through and through.

We had a positive week this week with the signing of Anthony Ralston and then a Europa League victory in Budapest, wrapping up the week today when the club announced the signing of Greg Taylor to a new contract.

The Moan Brigade was out in full force on social media on that last one, which is unfortunate but sadly all-but-expected. Taylor is what we call here in the States a “lunchpail player” — a non-flashy, just-get-the-job-done, bringing his lunch from home type of player. No accolades, no fanfare. He clocks in, does his job dutifully, and clocks out until the next day.

A lot like Jonny Hayes. Remember him?

And here’s what the PlayStation pundits and armchair gaffers get wrong about giving Taylor grief: We let Hayes slip away a while back, and now he’s teamed up with Scott Brown at Aberdeen. Keeping Taylor in the fold, whether or not he’s a starter going forward from here on in, was a good move in keeping an experienced player who has the option of fighting for a starting spot.

Let’s be honest: The club signing Jota would have been a much bigger deal. That’s a given. And again, signing Jota should be done as soon as possible; there’s no way to stress this enough. But the fact that we’re shoring up the club with veterans like Taylor shouldn’t be discounted either.

Because perfect or not — and we all know there have been moves Celtic either balked on or shouldn’t have made, or moves we made and we’ve regretted — we’re still family.

Sunday we’re at Dundee against the Dark Blues at the bewitching hour of 4 a.m. kickoff on the U.S. Pacific Coast. Mon the Hoops!

You gotta have Hart

One topic of debate or discourse among Celtic fans as of late has to be this: Of all the great pickups over the summer, which of the last transfer window’s acquisitions has been the best for the Hoops?

It’s a tough question to answer, thanks to the tsunami of talent that came our way.

Of all the acquisitions during the summer transfer window, Joe Hart may be the best of the class. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

Of course, Joe Hart stands head and shoulders above the rest. Pun completely intended.

Any skepticism about whether the 34-year-old goalkeeper may be on the decline was vanquished quickly with a string of phenomenal performances once the season started. Nine clean sheets for the Hoops after being picked up for free over the summer from Tottenham Hotspur, Hart signed a three-year contract with Celtic and rose to the number one goalkeeper.

Not to take away anything from Scott Bain, Vasilis Barkas, or Conor Hazard — all of whom are adequate between the sticks — but Hart, above the rest, has been a godsend.

As mentioned in a previous post, Hart joins a class of transfers over the summer which has supercharged the side, and he has risen to the occasion.

Not only this, Hart “gets it” — he understands what it means to put on the goalkeeper’s jersey for Celtic; the only player on the pitch with the Celtic crest on his jersey not wearing the Hoops. Not only did he praise the fans visiting Easter Road yesterday for their support in Celtic’s 3-1 win over Hibernian, he also gave credit where credit was due to the fans who came to the Tuesday afternoon UEFA Europa League match at mid-month against Ferencvaros, thanking the 50,000-plus who attended the 2-0 victory.

Hart’s dedication to the fans and humility in postgame interviews proves that he’s custom-made for Celtic, despite a pedigree which has taken him to the best of the EPL and European teams (to say nothing, of course, for playing for his country).

And he said it best in a recent article in The Celtic Star: “I play for the club, I play for the badge and I play for the manager. I feel good in the shirt at the moment and I want to continue.”

We want you to continue, too, Joe.

One more thing

As mentioned in previous posts, I lived in Japan in the late 1990s and, as an aside, I have a history of seeing Shunsuke Nakamura play at Yokohama. Of course, I was teaching English in suburban Tokyo at the time and my adult students took me to a Marinos game, however in typical Yankee fashion I was more interested in the fact that I could get ramen in the stands than in anything that was happening on the pitch.

Yeah, I’m still kicking myself for that.

Anyway, the long reach of Celtic has established a beachhead in Japan once again, thanks to Kyogo Furuhashi. In Tokyo Station — one of the largest anywhere — Kyodo Sports News put up posters of the day’s sports news, with this one announcing Furuhashi scoring his 10th goal for Celtic against Hibernian (if my rusty Japanese is correct).

I picked this up on Twitter and credit goes to @sean_1am, a Glaswegian now in Japan. Thanks, Sean!

So we have Livingston visiting Celtic Park — Livi gets to play on a decent pitch for a change — at 3 p.m. on Saturday (7 a.m. in the wild and wooly West here).

Mon the Hoops.

Dear Neil Doncaster . . .

[Blogger’s note: I wrote this letter yesterday, put it down before going to sleep, and picked it up again this morning. After making a few changes, I printed it out and put it in the mail only a few minutes ago — great timing since my letter carrier arrived at the same time I was heading to the post office — and depending on how our damaged United States Postal Service (led by a Trump appointee) handles the letter, it may make it to Scotland sometime within the two or three weeks. However, here is the letter, verbatim.]

4 October 2021

Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive Officer
The Scottish Professional Football League
Hampden Park
Glasgow G42 9DE
Scotland

Dear Mr. Doncaster:

As a matter of introduction, my name is Larry Cafiero, and I am a football fan in the United States who has followed the Scottish Professional Football League since 2017 in my capacity as a supporter of one of its member clubs, Celtic FC. Insofar as my experience as a fan may be limited compared to others who may have followed the football in your league for much longer, allow me nonetheless to point out a situation that needs your immediate attention.

Mr. Doncaster, you have a problem. While it’s true that we all have problems, yours affects tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions, of football fans worldwide. It’s a phenomenally huge problem that, if not addressed immediately, is certain to hemorrhage football fans outside Scotland – and possibly within Scotland as well – from following your league.

No doubt you already know this: You cannot allow the inept level of officiating to continue in the SPFL. For the sake of argument, I will merely refer to the level of skewed officiating as inept; however many, both in Scotland and elsewhere, have made a very strong and compelling case for the officiating at Scotland’s highest level to be not so much inept as much as it is corrupt.

Of course, ineptitude can include corruption, but you cannot be corrupt and inept at the same time, at least not successfully. But I digress.

It was the great Jock Stein who said, “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.” However, contextually speaking – and this is how I, and others, interpret this quote – Stein was referring to officiating that is fair and objective in its execution. It’s beyond crystal clear that you don’t have that in the SPFL this season, and for all intents and purposes, you didn’t have it last season either.

The latest in the sky-high pile of “honest mistakes” was the red card on Hibernian’s Ryan Porteous on Sunday. Putting aside the fact that the challenge successfully separated the ball from the player in question, it bears noting that Ryan Porteous has only received two red cards in his SPFL career, both received from the same official, Nick Walsh, and both received in games where Hibernian played Rangers (source: Transfermrkt.com).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Can you, in all honesty, tell me with a straight face that this is a coincidence, one of hundreds this season and last? Would you really try to convince me, and thousands of other football fans, that this, and so many other calls made and not made, are really just “honest mistakes”?

To list all the “honest mistakes” in Rangers’ favour this season and last would make this letter the size of the Oxford English Dictionary, so I’ll spare you. You’re welcome. But in the meantime, this situation has reached a tipping point where your league has lost most, possibly all, its officiating credibility. Needless to say, this does not reflect well on the SPFL, and its effect on casting Scottish football in a negative light spills over Scotland’s borders.

In other words, it’s not a local problem for the SPFL. It’s global.

Here’s my perspective, from 5,000 miles away: I have a larger than normal group of football-loving friends here in the United States with whom I converse, many on a daily basis, and the general consensus here on Scottish football is this: It’s corrupt, and in its corruption the SPFL is relegated to a backwater status in the eyes of many of my American contemporaries watching and following football abroad.

Even recently, an acquaintance said to me in conversation about Scottish football: “It’s a joke. I’d rather watch the Allsvenskan.” And while admittedly this comes from a guy who my friends and I describe as a “Bundesliga snob” and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with Swedish football, I had nothing concrete to point to in order to counter his argument, because he is right: The SPFL, as it stands right now, cannot be taken seriously when only one club – a nine-year-old club at that – solely benefits from what appears on the surface to be a skewed officiating policy that consistently, and without fail, rules in their favour.

The choice is yours: As the league’s chief executive, you can fix this and make Scottish football respectable again. Or you can do nothing and contribute to its continued atrophy. It’s a simple choice, and I know you’re smart enough to make the right choice.

To be realistic, if I were a gambling man I would wager that this letter doesn’t make it past your secretary. Or your secretary’s secretary, for that matter. Regardless, while I don’t have the answers, I do have what I think may be the start of one.

Let me suggest this: You may want to try employing FIFA/UEFA officials from outside Scotland to officiate SPFL games. See if that works in the way of restoring objectivity and, in the process, credibility.

It goes without saying, but it bears repeating, that this credibility would foster respect, returning Scottish football to the status it once held — and a status it deserves — as one of Europe’s best; a justified respect for the Scottish game in both Scotland and beyond.

Football fans of every SPFL club deserve the best football officiating the league can provide. Of course, that can be said for any league in any country. That’s not happening right now at Scotland’s top level.

But it can be.

It’s your move, sir.

Sincerely,

Larry Cafiero
[street address]
[city, state, post code]
[country]
[blog post address]

Putting Harry Hood on the shelf

Those who know me, to any degree, know that I hate to repeat myself. Let me emphasize this loudly for those in the back who may have missed it: I hate to be redundant.

So there.

In bookstores soon, but don’t let that stop you from pre-ordering an autographed copy here. . .

But even after writing about Harry Hood’s American tour of duty with the San Antonio Thunder in an earlier blog post, this post bears repeating because Matt Corr — Celtic historian and author, master of Celtic European travelogues, and Celtic Star colleague extraordinaire, among other accomplishments — has written a definitive and official biography of the man they said was “twice as good,” and hence part of the title.

Corr’s previous efforts with Celtic Star Books have been outstanding. “Invincible” outlines in great detail the first of the Quadruple Treble seasons where Celtic went unbeaten (and, in a truth-in-advertising moment, I’ve also written about it here). And I have to admit to being remiss in not mentioning earlier how great his other book with Celtic Star Books is — that being “Walfrid and the Bould Boys” that he wrote with David Potter and Liam Kelly — in which the trio plumbs the depths of Celtic’s infancy to outline the foundation of the club we support today.

With the holidays right around the corner, I have to confess that getting an Ange Postecoglou black sweater/jumper is on the top of my list for Santa, but second definitely would be Corr’s book.

But for those of you who may want to forego the Ange sweater/jumper — because, unlike me, you may not share the Aussie gaffer’s physique — you can pre-order the book from The Celtic Star Bookstore already at this link. Bear in mind that pre-orders come with an autographed copy of the book once it’s delivered to you.

As an aside, in this upcoming holiday season, what could possibly be better than Elf on a Shelf?

Wait for it . . . Hood on the Wood.

Ba-da-bum.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress . . .

Mon the Hoops!

Happy half-century, Henrik

In his Celtic debut, he made an errant pass leading to the Celts’ defeat to Hibs. Then an own goal in a European match. Had Twitter existed at the time, they would have crucified him, but instead Henrik Larsson became the King of Kings.

Outside of his family and the most dyed-in-the-wool Hibernian supporters, Chic Charnley scoring on an errant pass from Henrik Larsson during Larsson’s debut with the Hoops, leading to a 2-1 Hibs win, is not remembered or talked about by many.

Also, few people remember Celtic’s 6-3 win in Europe against FC Tyrol Innsbruck where, in his first Euro match in the Hoops, Larsson “scored” an own-goal for the now-defunct Austrian club.

Yet if Twitter had existed in the late ’90s when Larsson got his start with Celtic, can you imagine the hue and cry from the Celtic Twitter’s Whine Brigade, armed with torches and pitchforks at 280 characters per post?

Despite an inauspicious start, the history books — and the record books — tell a tale of near perfection for Larsson during his playing career at Celtic. Not only was he one of Celtic’s best players, historically speaking, he is also one of Sweden’s best ever.

For the Hoops, though, Larsson averaged 34 goals and 16 assists in each of his seven seasons, even missing the majority of the 1999-2000 season with a broken leg. He drove Celtic to four SPFL league titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups. Every Celtic fan can tell you that sealed the deal on one league championship with an opening goal against St. Johnstone in the final game of the 1997-98 season to keep Rangers from 10 titles in a row. He was the SPFL’s top scorer for five of his seven seasons.

So it’s no surprise today that on Larsson’s 50th birthday, there is a tsunami of well-deserved outpouring of love and respect on social media and elsewhere for the Celtic legend who is now an assistant coach for FC Barcelona. Celtic TV has a series of videos, available to subscribers only (thanks a lot!), of Larsson’s greatest hits during his time at the Hoops. The rest of us will have to go to YouTube or pick up videos posted on social media.

The fact remains: If anyone pesonifies Celtic excellence in the last quarter-century, it’s Henrik Larsson.

So, happy half-century and happy birthday, Henrik! May you have many more as your Celtic legacy lives on forever.

Mon the Hoops!

The four-leaf clover & the Jolly Roger

This is probably the strangest thing for a blogger to say — “Hey, put down everything you’re doing right now and read this,” and then point to someone else’s work. But be forewarned: I’m doing that right now.

Hey, put down everything you’re doing right now and read this: Patrick Rodgers wrote this excellent piece on “The Shamrock: A Celtic Retrospective” regarding the relationship between fans of both clubs. Rodgers nailed it perfectly, and it’s worth your time.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

OK, glad you’re back.

Several weeks ago, someone laughably tried to discredit an argument on social media — where else? — with, “Well, you support more than one club!” After laughing myself into a change of underwear, my repsonse was, “It’s football, not marriage,” before blocking this woeful guy, who seemed to be overly protective of his sole IQ point.

Despite the fact that “following” and “supporting” clubs is different, he is right about me following more than one club, and I gladly admit to following several. There are more than a few reasons for this: I like checking in and seeing how the Yanks (and even Canadians, like Alphonso Davies at Bayern) are doing in Europe — except for Christian Pulisic, because I hate Chelsea and the rest of the Blues Brothers (Hamburger SV and Glasgow’s other Premiership club) — and I like checking in on former Celts and FC St Pauli players have transferred to and the clubs for which they now play. I even have a soft spot for clubs that care about their community, as I’ve outlined in this past blog item about Nairn County FC.

As far as supporting clubs, I have two — well, more if you count any club that is overtly antifascist and align with my politics. And, of course, there’s the club I “co-own” with hundreds of other members, Clapton CFC; after swearing to the Tons that, as a leftist Yank, I have references who will attest to the fact that I am the “anti-Glazer.”

But back to the point, those two clubs I unequivocally support are, far and away, Celtic FC and FC St. Pauli. They are closest to my heart.

Rodgers’ post on The Shamrock outlines why the terms “Glasgow’s Green and White” and “Hamburg ist Braun Weiß” are synonymous.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know why I have both a four-leaf clover and a Jolly Roger next to my name. Now the rest of you know, too.

Mon the Hoops. Forza St. Pauli