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!

Ennui in the transfer window

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.

Ryan Christie's instagram after Aberdeen game
‘Yeah, but you should see the other guy . . .’ Ryan Christie on Instagram after his injury 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).

Odsonne Edouard was often criticized for having a lack of enthusiasm. Not sure what those who said that were referring to, if this photo is of any indication.

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.

Someone need an assist? Moritz Bauer, right, helps Odsonne Edouard with translation after Edouard won Man of the Match.

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.

Leigh Griffiths tying the scarf on an Ibrox goalpost is one of the most iconic Celtic photos ever.

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!

We interrupt this program …

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!

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

My only regret about today’s phenomenal game against St. Mirren is that it was merely a 6-0 victory for Celtic, and not a 24-0 win — the crew at The Celtic Noise will get that reference. I’ll go into why later, but first let’s look at some of the superlatives from today’s game.

First, let me just leave the stat sheet here for your consideration as I walk away for a moment.

I’m back. Did you miss me?

While I don my Captain Obvious costume, let me state that Celtic was relentless on both sides of the ball today, and it would be safe to say that the Bhoys in Green are back. This is nothing new, of course, and it parrots every other Celtic pundit on the planet, where credit is rightfully given to new manager Ange Postecoglou.

An aside: When you think about it, with the success that Postecoglou has had invigorating the current Celtic roster — giving new life to Ryan Christie and Tom Rogic and others, combined with a mix of phenomenal new talent like Leil Abada and Kyogo Furuhashi — you have to wonder what he could have done with some of the players who left. Postecoglou could have made Patryk Klimala into the second coming of Robert Lewandowski.

But I digress.

In today’s match, Abada was phenomenal and he’s only 19. Abada can be a star for the future, and he’s a treat to watch. David Turnbull? A mere hat trick does not justify the sheer tonnage of praise he deserves for his play today. Christie was all over the pitch playing like a man possessed, as was Greg Taylor. Odsonne Edouard? His body language spoke volumes about how he wants to play for the Hoops, despite what the former manager told the BBC earlier in the day.

Then there’s a defense that shut down the Saints fairly remarkably for 90-plus minutes. Could Carl Starfelt finally be settling in while the rest of the backfield takes control? Possibly. Starfelt, Stephen Welsh and Anthony Ralston all pitched in to give Joe Hart a fairly easy day between the sticks.

The down side is that despite Furuhashi playing his usual high-octane game, he is starting to get his “introduction” to the goonish reality that makes Scottish football a worldwide disgrace. Fouled repeatedly, once off the ball midway in the first half he was flattened by a forgettable nobody in a St. Mirren kit. No foul in that particular instance, of course, and no goal for the lad today overall, but that’s OK — daijobu desu, Kyogo-san — because just having the threat of his scoring leaves others open to do the deed in his place.

When he doesn’t do it himself, that is, which he has and which he will. Remember where you heard it first.

All of which leads me to why the score should have been run up more against the Buddies — someone’s buddies, but not necessarily mine.

There’s Alan Power, the poster boy for the oft-waived SPFL player who has no discernible football skill other than to injure opposing players, and who will retire to bleak anonymity someday. Someday soon, and the sooner the better. Ever wonder how much better off the SPFL — hell, how much better off humanity — would be without Power in it?

I do. All the time.

No one was more surprised than me, gasping with mouth agape 5,000 miles away around sunrise, that Willie Collum actually found his red card and actually used it against Power for an assault on Turnbull that was a textbook red card.

Actually calling a legitimate foul on a Celtic opponent. Willie Collum. You don’t see that every day. . . .

So I don’t know what was said in the locker room at halftime, but if I were Postecoglou — and I have the sweaters and shirts, to be sure, but not the hair and beard (let alone the football knowledge, of course) — I would give the bhoys a green light to light up the scoreboard when the opposition pulls hammerthrowing nonsense like St. Mirren did on Saturday. Ring them up, and while 6-0 is a sure ringing, I would have preferred more — like a double-digit, talk-about-it-generations-from-now, song-inducing score.

OK, call me selfish.

But the fact remains that if we keep playing like this, whether it’s in Holland on Thursday against AZ Alkmaar to wrap up the Europa League stage or at the Bigotdome against the Tribute Act next Sunday, the goals and the points will come.

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

Glasgow Times’ own-goal

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.

Well, yes and no . . .

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.

So, walk it off, Times, and do better next time.

Mon the Hoops!