I know there’s probably a joke in there somewhere about Red Bulls drinking up Celtic talent, as opposed to the other way around. But I can’t seem to formulate it, and to be honest, it’s probably best left unsaid anyway.
However, the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer in the U.S. — after adding former Celtic Colt Cameron Harper — have bolstered their lineup with a second former Celtic prodigy in Andrew Gutman.
Gutman was added to the NYRB roster on loan from Atlanta United. After a loan spell from Celtic to FC Cincinnati through the 2020 season, Gutman was selected first in the MLS Reentry Draft by Atlanta United.
“We’re pleased to have Andrew join us,” Red Bulls New York’s Kevin Thelwell said in a club statement. “He has proven that he can play in MLS and has qualities that we think will fit well in our style of play. He is a solid defender, can contribute from wide areas going forward, and has the physical attributes to meet the demands of our system.”
The 24-year-old left back made 20 starts in 29 appearances with FC Cincinnati over a season and a half. He was an academy product of Chicago Fire FC before eventually signing with Celtic. He never made a first team appearance with the Hoops.
Prior to turning professional, Gutman was a four-year standout at Indiana University, with 20 goals and 17 assists in 90 appearances for the Hoosiers. He helped IU to consecutive College Cup appearances in 2017 and 2018 and earned the 2018 MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the best college soccer player in the country.
New York Red Bulls manager Gerhard Struber had high praise for Gutman.
“Andrew brings good experience in MLS,” Struber said. “He is strong on the ball and has good awareness and intelligence going forward, which will help us build our attack and bring good decision making in the final third.”
Gutman brings the total of former Celtic players in the MLS up to three, joining Harper and Inter Miami CF’s Lewis Morgan, who was the club’s MVP last season. Mon the Hoops!
As the Scottish Women’s Premier League gets set to resume next month, new Celtic signing Mariah Lee is equally as ready to pull on the Hoops and hit the pitch when Celtic takes on Glasgow City on April 4.
You can thank fellow American Sarah Teegarden for persuading Lee to join Celtic as one of four winter signings by coach Fran Alonso. After playing three years at Stanford University in California, Lee and Teegarden had both played for Wake Forest University in North Carolina — though not at the same time — and thanks to a phone conversation with Teegarden, Lee was ready to sign.
Lee explained in an article appearing on the Celtic FC website: “I heard about Celtic and knew about the name and recognition especially on the men’s side and then I was looking at the roster and saw Sarah Teegarden’s name, and we both played at Wake Forest. She’s a couple of years older than me, but I got her number and was talking to her on the phone about her experience and she spoke really highly of the club and the competition and I felt like it would be a good fit after hearing what she said.
“She came back to college for a game I was playing in, and we actually had a lot of mutual friends so we met. We never played together, but it’s a small soccer world so I knew of her.”
Lee played for the OL Reign, formerly the Seattle Reign, in the National Women’s Soccer League in the U.S. The Reign, now are under the auspices of Olympique Lyonnais, has featured such U.S. National Women’s Team stars as Megan Rapinoe and former USNWT midfielder Allie Long.
So now that there is no mathematical path to the top of the table for Celtic — thanks to Sunday’s rendition at Tannadice of “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight” — it appears that the season’s best for the Bhoys in Green would be second place in the Premiership table.
In the first COVID season, in a season without our 12th man in the stands for the most part, in a season fraught with injury and with a management style that, to put it diplomatically, was lacking, this is what brought us where we are today. And despite the chance for John Kennedy to stamp his authority on the team, he produced business-as-usual, like late, and arguably odd, substitutions (it’s way past time David Turnbull gets to stay in for a full game).
And today, we end up here: second in the table. And while Glasgow’s other club finally wins its first league title since its founding in 2012, their fans seem to have forgotten — if they even heeded them in the first place — each and every COVID protocol and have taken to the streets to celebrate both yesterday’s win against St. Mirren and today’s clincher in Dundee, undeterred by the authorities in Scotland who seem to prefer police escorts to reminding those outside they’re under lockdown.
Celtic has had a magnificent run over the past nine years, one that will not be repeated ever. Glasgow’s other club, only nine years in existence, can only dream about the accomplishments Celtic has had in the last couple of decades, or even the last nine years for that matter. As for the future, changes are on the horizon to be sure for Celtic, but the results next year surely will be the same as they have been in years past: success on the pitch going forward starting next season.
So they’ve won a trophy. Good for them, and congratulations. But bear in mind that it’s only one since 2012 to Celtic’s 18. Let me repeat that: Celtic has won 18 trophies, which includes four trebles in a row between 2016-17 and 2019-20, since their club’s inception.
Which of course means, this: No, I still don’t see them coming, and I probably won’t until they win a few more.
One more thing
It came as a DM on Twitter the other day, but it bears mentioning. It seems that I’m not the only Celtic fan blogging from California, since SentinelCelts also originates from the Golden State. Sonora, way east of here in an beautiful part of the state near Yosemite National Park, to be exact. Give the blog a read, and tell ’em Larry sent you . . . .
The Celtic segment of the documentary series “The Fans Who Make Football, ” broadcast on Al Jazeera, pulls you in immediately, right from the start: “Celtic’s home ground is in Glasgow, Scotland. It was founded by Irish immigrants. So our story begins in . . . Albania.”
After that lead-in, how could you not want to watch?
Clover Films has done a remarkable job in this documentary series, with each episode appearing a few times a week on Al Jazeera (it is probably available on cable, but I don’t have it, so I watch on aljazeera.com), before becoming available on the documentary section of the Al Jazeera site.
The Celtic story begins in Albania thanks to the current Albanian president, Ilir Meta, being a Celtic fan and how he became one. It then pivots to the worldwide range of support Celtic has garnered over time. Without giving away spoilers, it deals with sectarianism and the symbiosis of football and politics that makes Celtic, well, Celtic.
Two items of special note are Lisbon Lion John Fallon, who recounts probably my all-time favorite Celtic story: Bertie Auld breaking into “The Celtic Song” — with the rest of the team joining in — in the tunnel before the 1967 European Cup match while their Inter Milan counterparts looked on curiously. And the segments in the film about Jay Beatty, whose childhood and adolescence seem intertwined with Celtic, are also very detailed and moving.
Clover Films has done a few documentaries in this series that are worth watching, as in “put down what you’re doing right now and watch this.”
The segment on FC St. Pauli is another gem, outlining the club’s history from one of the Nazi’s darlings in the ’30s to the paragon of antifascism it is today. Like Celtic, it paints a picture of a club with a worldwide reach due to their principles.
In addition, there are several Celtic “Easter eggs” in the FC St. Pauli documentary: Early on, there is a crowd shot where the fans are singing something to the tune of ” ’67 in the Heat of Lisbon,” the head of security in one shot is wearing a St. Pauli CSC cap, there is a group of Scots at the FC St. Pauli game talking about the club’s politics and how it aligns with theirs (and one of them is wearing a Celtic/FCSP scarf), and in the shot of the New York bar of St. Pauli supporters watching the Hamburg Derby where the group is singing “I Just Can’t Get Enough.”
There is one segment about Liverpool FC which shows how the club — and the city — overcame adversity over the years to rise to excellence, going in great detail about both the Thatcher administration’s hostility toward the city as well as the Hillsborough incident which took the lives of 96 fans.
Of special note is the documentary on Indonesia’s PSS Sleman. As Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, it is remarkable that women are in the forefront of the Sleman ultras, not to mention some of the demands they have made to the club to make it more fan-friendly to the point of holding boycotts.
Again, put down what you’re doing right now and watch each of these. You can thank me later.
And thank you, Clover Films, for a remarkable series.
One more thing
There’s been a tsunami of commentary about Neil Lennon’s departure, and rather than contribute a thimble of water in this giant wave, I would only like to add that the most tragic thing about the whole oredeal — yes, even more tragic than losing the 10 — is that Lennon’s career with Celtic might be defined by the dumpster fire this season has become, rather than being defined by his playing career and his successes in getting Celtic a hefty amount of silverware as a manager. I’d like to be wrong about this, and I would thank Lenny for his overall remarkable service to the club.
And personally I’d like to see Steve Clarke get the job once the season ends. Kilmarnock and the Scottish National Team have punched above their weight under his leadership, and it’s something we might need to get the club righted.
As is my custom, I like to watch games twice — win, lose, or draw — before writing about them. I do this to get a better understanding of the immediate game in front of me, as well as to pick out tactics and strategies on both sides to see what worked and what didn’t.
Wednesday’s Celtic game against St. Mirren was a joy to watch twice. In fact, I may watch it a third time.
Not for the three goals in five minutes, punctuated in this SPFL highlight reel of the game at around 4:08 with someone yelling, “f*cking sh*t” when David Turnbull scores to make the score 0-4 to the visitors. Not for Odsonne Edouard’s penalty kick that started the tsunami of scoring in the 2nd half.
It was an absolute joy to watch because of Tom Rogic, “the Wizard of Oz,” who I honestly thought was going to get a full 90+ minutes, but he was pulled at 85 minutes for Leigh Griffiths.
An absolute joy “because of the wonderful things he does,” as the song in the movie goes.
Rogic’s goal at the 16-minute mark, his first since March of last year, was a stunner, to be sure; coming across the front of the goal and shooting with a couple of St. Mirren players in tow. I watched it a couple of times in the replay because it came so fast. Pure Rogic.
His ball-handling through traffic during the course of the game was also pure Rogic, skipping in and out of challenges from one or more defenders. And his pass to Ryan Christie on the third goal of the game was textbook.
Rogic has always been one of my favourite Celts, but his recovery time from injury has been lengthy, to say nothing of the fact that breaking into a Celtic midfield already stocked with enormous talent is nearly impossible. My hope is that he is part of the club’s rebuilding plan for next year — I think he’s got a couple of years left in the tank, assuming he’s not being run into the ground by the Socceroos (which I think is responsible for his long-term injuries).
While that remains to be seen, if today’s 85 minutes is any indication, Rogic is back.
A recent article in The Athletic (subscription needed) outlines in great detail the reasons that Jeremie Frimpong has jumped ship from the cozy confines of playing for the Hoops at Celtic Park in Glasgow to donning the black-and-red and playing in the antiseptic Bay Arena in Westphalia.
The article is full of high-road plaudits and reasons for his departure. There’s no doubt that Frimpong wants to play in a more prestigious league — he certainly has the talent to do so — and at his age, 20 at his last birthday, his entire football career is in front of him. Neil Lennon described him in a press conference as “ambitious.”
Said Frimpong in the article, “It was the right time to leave Celtic because it was about a big club like Leverkusen coming, rather than about Celtic. And obviously the Bundesliga was really attractive. So when they came, I was like, ‘I could play in the Bundesliga!’, and that was it really.”
Frimpong highlights that he wanted to play in the Bundesliga, which he calls correctly “one of the top three leagues in the world,” and who can blame him?
But I think there’s an unspoken reason for Frimpong leaving Celtic and saying goodbye to playing in the SPFL, and my guess is that most of it has to do with the latter.
Let’s set the stage: In a league like the SPFL which has questionable officiating — where the referees’ SpecSavers sponsorship has gone way beyond irony when multiple clear red-card fouls go uncalled — and in a league like the SPFL where hammerthrowing is the rule moreso than the exception, why would a player with a potential for greatness want to play in a leauge like the SPFL where a career-ending injury might be just one late tackle away?
My guess is that what is not being said as Frimpong takes the high road in interviews is that he had enough of the likes of Kilmarnock’s Alan Power or Hibernian’s Alex Gogic — two examples of several players in the league who serve no real purpose on the pitch other than to create mayhem and injure opponents. And frankly, Frimpong was right to go. I would have helped him pack his bags, too, because I would rather see him play for years, or decades, elsewhere rather than see his career cut short by a mouth-breathing neanderthal nobody in a Killie jersey.
For the same reason, Kieran Tierney — a kid who spent 2/3rds of his life in the Celtic organization — was absolutely and completely justified in taking the money Arsenal offered him to play at Emirates. It physically hurts to say that, but that is the truth. Tierney will always be a Celt, but why should he sacrifice his football career on the altar of poor officiating and unpenalized rough play that is part and parcel of the Scottish Premiership? Tierney himself had career-threatening injuries playing for Celtic — he didn’t get them slipping and falling in his apartment — and he overcame them to both excel at Celtic toward the end of his career in Glasgow and to shine in North London, where he is showing the EPL the quality of the Celtic system.
And when Celtic has a poor transfer window because players are hesitant to come ply their trade in the SPFL? Are you really surprised quality players pass on us in an effort to avoid what has degenerated into a style of play in this league more resembling ice hockey than football?
Until the SFA gets a grip on more consistent officiating — consistent insofar as actually making calls instead of blowing them off, mostly for the benefit of one club (and it isn’t Celtic) — and until the quality of play in the SPFL starts more resembling other respectable leagues around the world, quality players in the Hoops will always have an eye on playing elsewhere.
As much as it pains me to say it (and as much as I regret calling it a few posts ago), Cameron Harper made the right call for his future by heading stateside to play for Gerhard Struber at the MLS powerhouse New York Red Bulls.
Cue up the Sinatra: He wants to be a part of it — New York, New York.
If he can make it there, he’ll make it anywhere . . . .
There are few things I would have liked more than to see Harper, a California bhoy of Scottish heritage thanks to his Glaswegian parents, excel and thrive — as he would have, to be sure — in the Green and White. As an aside, his departure speaks volumes to a system at Celtic that needs addressing, where talent in the Reserves is ready but not utilized; seemingly the only option for talented players like Harper, and other Reserves like Armstrong Oko-Flex and Karamoko Dembele, is to play elsewhere.
But that is another discussion for another time. Today, on this side of the Atlantic, we have a homecoming, and this is Harper’s moment. The future looks bright for the 19-year-old who can set the MLS Eastern Conference alight at NYRB, while being stateside to participate in the U-20s for the U.S. National Team, and beyond.
And who’s to say that another tour of duty in Europe — hopefully at Celtic — is not in the cards for Harper in the future? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, Cameron, bear in mind that unfortunately there are no In-n-Out Burgers in New York — the one that’s furthest east in the U.S. is in Frisco, Texas, which is local when the Red Bulls play FC Dallas — but there are a bunch out here in the West when the Red Bulls come out to play San Jose. And the #1 with cheese, animal-style, is my treat.
Monday morning, you sure look fine . . . mostly. After walking off the hangover (football, not alcohol) of Saturday’s defeat — how’s that for mixing metaphors? — I wake up Monday morning to find that one of my favorite Celts, Olivier Ntcham, is heading home to France, on a loan-to-buy deal to Marseilles.
My guess is that the “to-buy” aspect of this deal will enter into the equation soon enough.
Naturally, this could be for the best for both Ntcham and Celtic. On a club that is laughably overstocked with massive talent at his position — with David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro signaling the future for the Celtic at midfield — Ntcham had found playing time difficult to come by. At Marseilles, he may get the playing time he deserves and lacked, through really no fault of his own, at Celtic.
Armchair gaffers and PlayStation pundits liked to double-team Ntcham, calling him disinterested or lazy. I never saw that in him. True, anyone could be frustrated at the lack of playing time given. But when he was on the pitch, he gave his all. Those more astute observers will recognize that Ntcham had an innate ability to win the ball back, and when you watch highlights of Odsonne Edouard from seasons past, Ntcham is usually involved in the goals somehow.
Which raises an underlying, and significantly grave, concern: If Ntcham is off, back to France, will Edouard be far behind once the summer rolls around?
Despite all that, even if you discount the fact that he is inextricably linked to Celtic history with his goal against Lazio, he scored some significant goals for the Bhoys in Green.
Exhibit A: Glasgow Derby, September 2018. 1-0 Celtic victory. To say nothing of who got the assist on Jonny Hayes’ goal against Glasgow’s other club in a Glasgow Derby the following year. Yep, watch the entire play leading up to the goal: It’s Ntcham’s pass that Hayes takes to score. Then there was that rocket against Partick Thistle in the Scottish League Cup quarterfinals in September 2019 — one of two Ntcham goals that game, the first which came from about a mile away. There are many more examples of his contributions to the club, but that would be labouring the point.
In total, Ntcham scored 23 goals in 137 games for Celtic. Not legendary stats, to be sure, but most of his contributions were away from the ball moreso than on it. Again, despite being awash in wealth in the midfield position, Celtic is at a loss for his departure.
So, merci beaucoup, Olivier Ntcham for your play and the memories at Celtic. Good luck in Marseilles.
[NOTE: This post was published by The Celtic Star on Friday, and can be found here. Niall J, my colleague at The Celtic Star, has already written an outstanding remembrance of Michael Duffy on The Celtic Star. While many others have given their remembrances on the pages of The Celtic Noise forum and elsewhere, few of us know the intricacies of Michael’s life outside his love of Celtic. Gleaning information from his obituary, I wanted to highlight the man behind the Father Jack avatar, ironically, on The Celtic Noise.]
Michael Duffy entered the world just in time for Celtic to beat Hibernian in the Coronation Cup at Hampden Park, his birth preceding that auspicious event in Celtic lore by just four days, on 20 May 1953. He was born in the Possil district of Glasgow, and he and his family lived there, until he and his family moved to Haghill.
From Haghill, Michael’s childhood included living in an area where he could look down on Celtic Park, which fostered his lifelong love for the Bhoys in Green. His childhood coincided with the great Celtic sides built by Jock Stein, and a few days after his 13th birthday, Celtic brought home the European Cup.
Like other working-class boys in the area, Michael attended Whitehill Secondary School in Dennistoun and, as was common at the time, took an apprenticeship at 15. His painting and decorating career is highlighted literally by his painting of the Forth Bridge. To supplement his income, Michael worked at Virgin Records and nurtured his love of music, which led him to teach himself how to play the guitar, which would come in handy later when he lived in London and Ireland.
Michael’s school career took a detour, as he left school for an apprenticeship because his family needed a breadwinner – as was common at that time – but he returned to college later to complete his Highers, and he was successful in them all.
Michael’s life took him to London and Ireland, where he plied his painting-and-decorating trade while playing gigs at local pubs. At one point, he was given permission by a music school to use the facilities to teach guitar, and the Head Master of this school in Ireland was so impressed that he gave Michael an opportunity to teach there. Michael declined, since he was self-taught and hadn’t learned to read music.
A hallmark of Michael’s life is that he always used his keen intellect in the service of fair play, and he was always a fighter against bigotry and hatred. While he was kind and helpful, almost to a fault, most who knew him personally attest that he also was swift to let those who had overstepped their bounds know it.
This was evident later in Michael’s life as, in failing health, he was housebound but found a home as one of the more active members of The Celtic Noise forum. Always helpful and encouraging to new members while policing, with others, the forum for trolls, Michael had a reputation of being the “night manager” for the forum, since he was on at all hours. His reputation blossomed to being considered by most of the regulars there as “the father of The Celtic Noise.”
Michael’s family – from his immediate family and relatives, to his worldwide family of fellow Celtic fans – feel the pain of his passing and the emptiness therein. However, we who knew him at whatever level are proud to have known him, and we are comforted in knowing that Michael spent his life as a caring and decent person who helped others whenever he could. To paraphrase a popular Celtic song:
“Farwell my darlin’ Michael, for the best of friends must part / No more we’ll stand beside you on the slopes of Celtic Park.”
To our Celtic comrade Michael Duffy (1953-2021): Presente!
Originally, I had planned another topic today, but then I got the news with my coffee this morning that Jeremie Frimpong is now off to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, a league where he doesn’t have to deal with hammerthrowing nobodies like Hibernian’s Alex Gogic and Kilmarnock’s Alan Power.
And while an £11.5 million payday is nothing to sniff at — much of that maybe ending up with Man City — Frimpong’s departure is yet another sad note to a woeful season for the Bhoys. However, while I will miss Frimpong’s positive attitude and speed down the line, it permits me to wrap this into the intended topic of today, which is how youth is not being served at Celtic.
Every transfer window, the clubs and fans alike go window shopping for high-pricetag players when, for all intents and purposes, most — if not all — of the solutions to our needs are ready and able to go from the Reserves. The Colts are stacked with talent that can serve the first team well — Conor Hazard is already Exhibit A here, and Stephen Welsh has already made his mark on the first team and should play more going forward — and why we don’t utilize them is a mystery.
It’s more than a mystery, though. It’s a tragedy.
And herein lies what I was going to write about before the 20-year-old Frimpong’s departure proved the point I had planned to make. Yesterday, the ’67 Hail Hail podcast nailed it on their broadcast dealing with why Celtic youth may be on the road and not returning home.
So let’s take a look at some of those Reserves that should be up on the first team and who sadly may not be because they’ll be off playing somewhere else.
Should he stay? Yes. Will he? Probably not.
One of the more frustrating aspects of this is that Karamoko Dembele can make an impact for Celtic given the chance. The thing is, he hasn’t been given that chance. Those handful of times he has played for the Hoops, he has shone. Now it looks like after his contract is up around summertime, reports have him off to France, either to Lille or Nantes. Now that Frimpong is gone, Dembele would be a great addition to replace the departing Dutchman’s speed on the wing, but it looks like we may not get a chance to see that.
Should he stay? Yes. Will he? Hopefully, but maybe not.
As a Californian, this one is personal for me. Cameron Harper’s artesian depth of talent, forged in the Southern California football hotbed of Costa Mesa’s Pateadores Soccer Club and refined and sharpened in the Celtic Reserves, is custom-made for Celtic success. While some thought he had a lackluster game against Hibernian a few weeks ago — I didn’t, since he was playing out of position — Harper has all the tools to be a success on the pitch for whichever club he plays for. That, of course, should be Celtic. But interestingly, rumors say the New York Red Bulls of the MLS also think so, and these same rumors have him returning stateside. This would be a two-edged sword for me: The upside is that I would get to see him play in person when the Red Bulls come West, but the downside is that he’d lose the chance to excel as a Celt, showing Glasgow and the world that Americans can play with the best.
Should he stay? Yes. Will he? Hopefully.
Like Harper, Armstrong Okoflex has an abundance of talent that has not gone unnoticed elsewhere. Why he wasn’t put on a loan like Jonathan Afolabi — who we’ll get to in a minute — is a head-scratcher, because with regular playing time, Okoflex can be a high-quality player for Celtic. But we may never know because he has already caught the eye, according to reports, of two Serie A clubs in Italy, Torino and Bologna. Understandably, if Okoflex can get regular playing time elsewhere, he’d be foolish not to take it. But it would be detrimental to Celtic to invest all the coaching and training for Okoflex, and the players mentioned above, and not get a quality player in the Hoops for it.
Should he stay? Yes. Will he? Probably.
I always thought that Jonathan Afolabi was a good signing for Celtic, and I thought it was a good idea to get him playing time on loan elsewhere to hone his skills. He has done exactly that on loans first to Dunfermline Athetic early in 2020 and to Dundee FC more recently. Hopefully when he returns to the mother club he will be the quality player we all thought he’d be. For the moment, there is no one actively on the radar pursuing his services, so that’s a good sign he’ll probably stay in the Hoops once he returns.
The moral of the story . . .
It’s pretty clear that Celtic have an overabundance of talent in the Reserves. Why they aren’t being utilized better is a concern, but it’s something that can be corrected going forward. If this season is officially a dumpster-fire throwaway — and I don’t think it is, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it is — then perhaps it’s time to give the Colts a run on the first team to get them the playing time they need to flourish.