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.
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.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress . . .
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.
First things first: With the transfer window closing soon — closing by the time I finish this post — it goes without saying that Celtic has had a more transfer activity then they have had in recent windows. And that is a good sign, despite those packing up and leaving take with them not only their talents, but a piece of our hearts.
It has come to this. So long, Ryan Christie. Au revoir, Odsonne Edouard. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you, Leigh Griffiths.
Their replacements have moderately large shoes to fill, and we’ll see how that pans out as the season progresses. From all indications so far, it looks like the Celtic hierarchy is making the right moves in filling the positions, despite the “it’s-not-enough” mantra so prevalent in social media this evening.
It’s not enough, they say. As if, to the PlayStation Pundits and Armchair Gaffers, it ever is.
Nevertheless, to those who have made their mark on the Celtic time line, it is time to bid adieu.
So long, Ryan Christie
The “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” caucus of the Celtic support all last season used Ryan Christie as one of their whipping bhoys last season for what they thought was substandard play. I never bought into that. Sure there were a few too many shots that left the stadium, but the kid brought heart and soul into every game he played in the Hoops, whether it was the game winner in the 2018 Betfred Cup to getting his face smashed and almost losing an eye for the club against Aberdeen.
Not only this, what could have been just a showcase of his talent for Bournemouth, Christie showed a renewed sense of purpose and ratcheted up his game a few notches — was it a preview of things to come for players who want to play for a manager like Ange Postecoglou rather than going through the motions as some did last season? — and he seemed early on to be the Ryan Christie we all knew and loved in his usual nonstop mode.
Three assists in the Dundee game a few weeks ago speaks volumes to his contributions in the Hoops. As does the hat trick against St. Johnstone a couple of years ago in a 7-0 win.
I choose not to remember the errant shots — those happen and should be quickly forgotten — but I do choose to remember these contributions, and others, that Christie made to the Hoops. And while Bournemouth is clearly a step down for Christie, if that’s where he wants to be, then go with all the best of luck, Ryan. You’ll never walk alone.
Au revoir, Odsonne Edouard
Even now, while I write this, I wanna be Edouard. Forget about all the naysayers who need so desperately to get a grip — Odsonne Edouard was an integral and irremovable part of Celtic’s winning a quadruple treble, whether or not you think he was just mailing it in lately (and I don’t).
Personally, this departure hurts the most. Yeah, I know he was going to leave sometime, but does it have to be now, when things are starting to get good? If that’s the case, Edouard leaves for Crystal Palace after having a hand in Celtic’s historic recent success, and even being a bright spot in Celtic’s not-so-successful season last year: Even under the shroud of unwarranted criticism that he wasn’t trying, Edouard led the SPFL in goals last season.
As an aside, once again, to those of you wondering why there is such an outpouring of gratitude toward Edouard when all you myopically see is someone who didn’t try last season, let me make this simple for you: No Edouard, no Quadruple Treble. It really is that simple.
So many Edouard memories stand out: Taking the pass from a Mikael Lustig header to score against Heart of Midlothian to win the Treble Treble (as well as the literal last-second goal against Hearts to cause Craig Levein to rethink his life’s purpose), all Edouard’s goals against Glasgow’s other club, and all those times he threaded his way through multiple players — once six Staggies during a Ross County match — to put the ball away.
The non-football aspects of Edouard’s persona made him likeable as well. A big but friendly guy who was quick with a smile. Interviews in English were always a hurdle for him, as outlined in the oft-quoted, “I don’t book,” in response to a question about reading. And then there was the Man of the Match interview in one game where the multi-lingual Moritz Bauer gave him an assist.
Edouard is clearly way above caliber for a club like Crystal Palace, and no doubt the end of his career will not take place there. My guess that he will end up somewhere on the continent, maybe someday back at Paris Saint-Germain, but wherever he goes, he will always be Forever Celtic. Bonne chance, Eddy, et tu ne marcheras jamais seul.
See you later, Leigh Griffiths
A tragedy wrapped in an odyssey: How many chances were we going to give Leigh Griffiths to get it right and straighten out his life? We’ll never know the final number because we’ve shipped the troubled striker off to Dundee FC on a season-long loan, where maybe — just maybe — manager James McPake can set him right.
It seems that McPake and Griffiths have a long history, and maybe this connection could be the solution to the tsunami of off-field self-inflicted problems that Griffiths has endured over the past several years.
Still, when someone scores 123 goals for the Hoops during the course of his career, as Griffiths has done, as well as being a constant thorn in the side of your most bitter rival, you still have to recognize those as feats worthy of recognition.
So even if Griffiths never wears the Hoops again, if he were to get his career back on track with Dundee, it would be a remarkable feat. Good luck, Super Leigh, and thanks for the memories. We’ll see you later when The Dark Blues come to town.
One more thing
Speaking of ex-Celts, I don’t know if many of you have seen how well Mohamed Elyounoussi has done for Southampton right out of the starting gate this season. On the bench for the first game against Manchester United, he started the next game last week against Newport City, where he scored a hat trick on the way to Southampton’s drubbing of the Steelmen, 8-0.
Makes you wonder whether Moi would have flourished under Ange Postecoglou. I think he would have.
It’s the international break, and we don’t get back to work in the SPFL until a week from Saturday against Ross County. In the meantime, Mon the Scots and Mon the Hoops!
Like virtually each and every football pundit following Celtic or even Scottish football for that matter, I had a lot to say about yesterday’s match at the Bigotdome in Glasgow, where a close match didn’t go Celtic’s way. But after writing the post yesterday, I deleted it because it hadn’t said anything new or compelling.
When one set-piece goal is the difference, you can tell these clubs are fairly evenly matched. And that is clearly and unequivocally a compliment to Celtic’s opponents on Sunday, who without the help of Kevin Clancy and his ilk in the black shirts, Celtic’s opponents would be Livingston in blue kits.
What do you expect when you don’t allow opponents’ fans into your stadium?
Instead, what I’d prefer to talk about are the peripheral happenings at the match — the bigoted behavior of thousands of Rangers fans inside the stadium, and the scores marching in Glasgow outside the stadium, all of which seems to be going unaddressed by the Scottish authorities. But you might expect that when a large group of fans is allowed to march, with police escort, through Glasgow singing anti-Irish songs.
It begs the question: Where are the voices of this club’s supporters speaking out against this behavior? I can answer that: They have been all but silent. If there are any, to begin with. If it wasn’t for Michael Stewart, who is risking his job at the BBC for telling the truth, the Scottish mainstream media would also be silent as well.
And it comes down to this: You can’t say, “I’m not a bigot” if your club freely condones bigotry, and has the full force of the Glasgow Police to back it up. You can’t say, “I’m not a fascist” if your club harbors fascist supporters, like Lazio or Real Betis. You can’t hide behind, “It wasn’t me” or “It isn’t me” because the club you support reflects your values.
Silence is complicity, pure and simple.
For those who say football isn’t, or shouldn’t be, political, you need to return to reality from your unicorns-and-rainbow fantasy world. For better or worse, football is political. And you can’t separate the politics from the club.
Again, football reflects values, and Celtic reflects mine. And I’m proud to say that because of the club’s origins and what it has stood for over the years. I would find it hard to believe that a fan of Glasgow’s other club can say that without being disingenuous or hypocritical. But admittedly, they couldn’t even raise enough money to save the original club when it was liquidated in 2012, so the history of this more recent one is pretty scant.
While some of the bhoys are on International Duty this week, we don’t go back to SPFL action until a week from Saturday at home against Ross County. Hopefully those who are playing for their national teams will come back healthy. Mon the Hoops!
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.
To be fair, it’s pretty safe to say that I know my way around news, having been in the field since the late ’70s and involuntarily leaving the field thanks to a layoff in the mid-2010s. In fact, it’s in my blood, proverbially speaking, since my father was also a newsman by profession. Even moreso, I’m a third generation man-of-letters, since my grandfather was a mailman.
But I digress.
But here we have the front page of The Glasgow Times on Monday, with their front-page teaser headline mentioning yesterday’s Celtic game, highlighted in red by an observant Twitter poster.
This publication may know Glasgow best, as they proclaim in their banner, but they don’t know either a.) football, or b.) how to get a reporter to the game to report on it.
Regardless, let me give you some insight on what’s happening on the front page here, and I understand this as an editor: Whichever editor wrote this was trying to get “Heart” — as in “Heart of Midlothian,” Celtic’s opponent — into the headline. I get that, as I have had much experience in shoehorning readable concepts into three or four words on the page. It’s not an easy task, to be sure.
But you want more accurate? How about, “Hearts avoid pumping” as a front-page teaser headline, maybe?
There’s a degree of accuracy — a significant degree, in this case — that is lacking in the printed headline which makes it woefully inaccurate. And regardless of whether the article is of the quality that would win it the U.K. equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in the U.S., the front-page teaser in the red box above does it a great disservice.
Anyone watching the game knows that Celtic was in control the entire time. John Beaton couldn’t give Hearts enough of an advantage with ludicrous calls and non-calls — especially non-calls. If it wasn’t for ex-Celt Craig Gordon’s exemplary play between the sticks for Hearts, it would have been a massacre. Hearts only scored on a gifted penalty and a meaningless goal with a minute left in injury time, making the 3-2 final score an anomaly.
Don’t believe me? Numbers don’t lie.
I like to think that, from a journalistic perspective, the story inside reflects these numbers more accurately than the front-page teaser. But from my exposure to the Scottish media covering Celtic, I can’t say I’m terribly confident that it does.
There’s a fairly annoying — and borderline propagandistic — narrative taking place around Celtic recently as we await the start of the new season, cloaked in the panic of some people’s perception of disarray in the club.
And while this narrative seems to be based in a loathing of the Celtic board, as far as I can tell — a loathing, of course, which is both completely well-deserved and completely warranted for a group of people who should be doing something else for a living, and the sooner the better — the fact of the matter is that Celtic is not as “unready” as the hair-on-fire brigade would like you to believe.
For those of you who have jumped on this bandwagon and are mercilessly annoying everyone within an earshot, an eyeshot, or a Tweetshot with this prognostication, let’s just make a list here to counter your argument.
A new manager and CEO. All the personnel healthy for the start of the season, including sorely missed players whose absence affected the outcomes of several important games, specifically Christopher Jullien, James Forrest and Mikey Johnston. A myriad of Celtic players out on loan returning to the club, like Jonathan Afolabi and Luca Connell — and even Maryan Shved, if he returns — coupled with the wealth of talent Celtic has on its Reserves squad.
Then there’s the probability now that Odsonne Edouard will be staying. Complain about his “lack of interest” all you want, but in my opinion he can be as disinterested as he damn well pleases as long as he keeps scoring 20+ goals per season.
So there is no shortage of talent available to the club.
Of course, we could use a couple of quality players in key positions if they’re available, and even this morning there have been reports that Celtic made a bid on Sporting Lisbon’s right back Valentin Rosier. It’s hard to tell whether Rosier will be the next Kieran Tierney or Boli Bolingoli, but that would remain to be seen; as it would be for any player Celtic signs. And Rosier is not the only one that Celtic has been eyeing as they go fishing again for talent, with rumors flying about talent following Ange Postecoglou from Japan.
Postecoglou has a blank canvas upon which to paint a coaching masterpiece at Celtic. Rather than that be a cause for concern, I find it to be a good sign, one that provides optimism. His past experience halfway around the world would indicate that he has all the qualities necessary in a manager to succeed at Celtic.
Couple that, once again, with a squad that is healthy and ready — which they will be despite a late start — and the club will be back on track.
Count on it.
Unless, of course, you’d prefer to panic. In that case, be my guest.
One more thing
It’s a pity Patryk Klimala didn’t get more playing time at Celtic. Here’s why: Having started a couple of games for MLS’s New York Red Bulls so far, Broadway Paddy has already become an integral part of the Red Bulls’ offense, and his assist over the weekend on a goal by Fabio — the footballer from Brazil, not the male model — was a gem. Every great play he makes in New York (OK, in reality, in New Jersey) is a great play he could have made at Celtic Park had he played more. Just sayin’ . . .
If he had done nothing else in his Celtic career, this would have cemented him into Celtic lore forever: Bertie Auld started singing “The Celtic Song” in the tunnel in Lisbon as the teams waited to go out onto the pitch for the European Cup in 1967, accompanied quickly thereafter by the rest of the club.
But he did more — so much more — that he became a Celtic legend.
The club reported today a confirmation that Bertie is suffering from dementia, and is being cared for at home.
“Everyone at Celtic would like to add their best wishes to Bertie and his family. Bertie is a true Celtic icon, one of our greatest sons and someone the Club and our supporters love and respect dearly,” the post from Celtic stated.
Bertie “gets it,” and has personified Celtic throughout his career, both on the pitch and off of it. Especially off of it, where he was always the perfect representative of the club with fans and the media. Always available and glad to talk to Celtic fans, he never put a foot wrong.
“Faithful through and through” describes Bertie perfectly.
I have said often on social media that Bertie Auld is a national treasure. I firmly believe that.
His jersey fit, both on and off the field.
Bertie understands and lives his life with the tenet of what football players should be, both on and off the pitch: always positive about the game, always accessible to the fans, always showing the good side of the club for which he played.
As with thousands of Celtic fans around the world, Bertie and his family are also in my thoughts in this challenging time.
So, finally, after a-hundred-and-whatever days, Celtic has a new manager, Ange Postecoglou. Celtic had this piece on their website this morning, and the video interview accompanying it is also worth a watch.
Also, now that much of the Celtic faithful have gotten a chance to know him a little better, apparently he’s being cut some slack for not having the European pedigree that so many have been seeking.
Which brings up an interesting point: In a worldwide sport like football, there are hundreds of well-qualified managers out there. Only the most myopic of football fans only gauge success within the borders of Europe. With a wide world of talent — both on the pitch and on the sidelines — it would clearly be in the best interest of clubs, and their fans, to recognize that the metric of “success in Europe” equals some sort of superiority over the rest of the world is a false one.
As a Celtic supporter from outside Scotland — outside Europe, for that matter — I especially want Postecoglou to succeed. Not only because I want the best for Celtic when getting this ship righted as we sail forward in 2021/22, but to show that coaching styles that are not native to Europe can succeed in the beautiful game.
In his interview in the link above, Postecoglou tends to hit all the bases and sounds entirely competent on all levels of the game. With a wealth of talent at his disposal — adding returning loanees to the mix of young talent in the reserves and the current first team — the Australian has nearly all the tools he needs. A couple of additions and Celtic should be set to take back their rightful place atop the standings.
A trivia tidbit: Dr. Jozef Venglos, who like Postecoglou also coached Celtic and the Australian national team, signed Lubo Moravcik. If that’s not a good sign, despite arguably being consequential, I don’t know what is.
To be honest, I’ve purposely been avoiding the “someday-we-will-all-laugh-about-this” saga of bringing in new manager Ange Postecoglou because, well, I am protecting what little sanity I may have left. But also being honest here, I have to admit it’s unfortunate that we’re releasing Kris Ajer into the wild, where he can flourish in a league beyond Scotland.
You can’t fault him for wanting to go. Accoring to various news reports, he committed to stay on for the 10 — despite a former agent who said otherwise — and played his heart out for the Hoops in a disastrous season. He even spent most (if not all) of his Celtic career playing out of his natural position, a midfielder playing center-back for Celtic. Not only this, he played out of position without complaint, and sharpened his defensive skills in the process.
So while I wish he’d stay — just as I wish those who are also slated to leave this summer would stay — I completely understand why he would go. The thing is, I hope he ends up with a club that can utilize his wide range of talents best.
It’s not like he hasn’t drawn attention already. All season we’ve read reports about AC Milan being interested in Ajer, and lately he’s been tied to Norwich City and Newcastle in the EPL, and Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.
Kris, if you’re reading this, go ahead and join Jeremie Frimpong at Bayer Leverkusen. Rather than join a couple of EPL backmarkers, Bayer Leverkusen has a fair amount of potential for success.
As with other Celts who have punched their tickets in Glasgow and have moved on, I wish Kris Ajer all the best and will be looking in on him from time to time. Naturally, I will miss the big Norwegian’s gazelle-like stride when taking the ball up the field further than a defender should, resulting in the occasional goal, but I know it’s for the best. Lykke til, Kris!
One more thing
Speaking of former Celts, it’s worth mentioning that Manny Perez, a Celtic who never made it to the big club, is now playing for the expansion team Austin FC in America’s Major League Soccer. Perez also took the time to help Garner (North Carolina) High School’s soccer team with new kits for next season. Perez is not a star with Austin, but he doesn’t forget his roots and the purchase of the kits for the high school’s varsity and junior varsity teams is a grand gesture. Way to go, Manny!
Also, before we part, if you’re a Celtic fan and you’re not following @lfmunro on Twitter, you should. This profoundly deaf Celtic fan has a series of videos instructing people on sign language — some football-related and some not — and they’re well worth a watch to learn. Fantastic work, Lou, and keep it up!
Now to add “Postecoglou” to my spell-check list so it doesn’t keep popping up as an error . . .