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.
Night and day. Day and night. The difference between last season’s dumpster fire of a season and getting out of the starting blocks nearly in full sprint this season is nothing short of astounding. Clearly we have Dom McKay and Ange Postecoglou to thank for that, for starters.
And let’s talk about the new gaffer for a bit, the no-nonsense leader of the club who is in control of the training, of the sideline, and of the press conference. Postecoglou is a breath of fresh air, telling it like it is and not afraid to call out nonsense from the stenographer corps masquerading as Scottish sports “journalists.”
But McKay and Postecoglou aren’t playing on the pitch for 90+ minutes. Add to their presence at the helm the recent player acquisitions to the club — Kyogo Furuhashi and Carl Starfelt, to name two — plus the resurgence of dormant players like Anthony Ralston, James Forrest, and Tom Rogic (not to mention Ryan Christie, who was absent in Sunday’s game) give the Celts the right formula to return to being at the top of Scottish football.
Where they belong.
Anyone less than Craig Gordon between the sticks for the JamTarts on Sunday and Hearts would have been in a far deeper deficit than only three goals, so a hat tip to the ex-Celt for a good game, albeit in a losing cause.
As for Celtic, it was nothing short of a phenomenal game on Sunday. Not perfect, of course, but pretty damn near. Over 80 percent possession in the first half during a 2-0 halftime lead courtesy of goals by Odsonne Edouard and Stephen Welsh — and on Welsh’s goal, does anyone else think that was a designed play moreso than mere happenstance? I keep watching it and thinking that maybe it was.
And Furuhashi — Kyogo-san — taking down mouthbreather Andy Halliday early in the game was a welcome treat. Kyogo’s play overall was outstanding, as expected, and his goal was a gem, to be sure. But seeing him getting into the thick of things on both ends of the ball is a joy to behold. He’s not a one-trick pony, and the fact he’s willing to switch on the defensive jets when Celtic doesn’t have the ball is a joy to watch.
John Beaton, try as he might, couldn’t give the game to Hearts. Also the SkySports late narrative that this was a close game was phenomenally laughable.
Celtic is playing beautiful football, but it isn’t perfect. Yet. My colleague Niall J on The Celtic Star said it best in his commentary on the Sunday’s game:
“It may take a little more work in the transfer market in the next two weeks to ensure the defence is effective as Celtic’s battering attack but for now the attacking intent remains a joy to behold.”
For those of you who are slighting Starfelt for being a “bombscare,” I would suggest you buy a dictionary and actually look up the word. The big Swede is getting used to the Scottish game and he may be one or two more games away from being up to speed. Despite a couple of miscues, overall his game has been pretty good to date and the potential for improvement is clearly there.
And imagine a backfield of Starfelt, Ralston, Greg Taylor, and Christopher Jullien once the Frenchman gets back onto the pitch.
If the club can make that one last acquisition on defense and play inspired football like they’ve been playing, it may be time for another treble.
One more thing
Perhaps the only good thing that the North American Soccer League brought to U.S. soccer was the wave of European greats who played for one last paycheck in the land of milk and honey. That said, I got to see Gerd Muller play for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the coda of his career in the late ’70s/early ’80s. So it comes with a bit of sadness to hear that Muller passed away today at 75.
Like having Gordon Banks in goal, having Muller on the Strikers was a treat since he was one of Europe’s best — albeit both of them playing in the autumn of their careers in a league where many of the American fans didn’t fully understand the game — and I remember how unstoppable he seemed to be whenever he had the ball. As a side note, my first soccer jersey was not a Strikers jersey, but a German national team jersey that I wore to Strikers games in Gerd’s honor.
Requiescat in pace, Gerd, and may you find the pitches on the other side green and the goals as wide open as they seemed to be for you here.
We all know what speculation brings, regardless of what an army of “inside sources” may claim. But until Fraser Forster and some Southampton bigwig sit down for a press conference announcing The Wall is returning to the Saints — something that hasn’t happened at least while this was written on Thursday afternoon — it’s fair to assume a deal is still possible and Forster may very well return to Celtic.
Yet even in the tragic event that Forster doesn’t return, we still have a capable goalkeeper to start for the Hoops; a goalkeeper who had a hand — injured or otherwise — in the club’s success prior to the arrival of La Gran Muralla.
Cast your minds back, Celtic fans. His name is Scott Bain, and until Forster came along, Bain was adequately handling the goalkeeping duties for the Hoops.
Of course, there’s no denying that Forster was an integral part in our most recent championship, and there’s no Hoops supporter in their right mind who would not want Forster to return to his station between the sticks for Celtic.
But that’s not the point here. This is: Lacking the services of Fraser Forster this season, the Celts go into 10-in-a-row already equipped with a game-tested and game-proven goalkeeping talent in Bain. If anything, any newly acquired goalkeeper — whether it’s Joe Hart, who is no longer head-and-shoulders above other goalkeepers, or Camp Nou hero David Marshall — should be sought for backup purposes.
It’s why this latest “crisis” is a manufactured one. It’s a mystery why Bain isn’t in the forefront of any discussion around acquiring a goalkeeper in the event that Forster doesn’t return, other than perhaps to create drama where actually there is none.
The Hoops already have a Number 1 in Bain; in fact, essentially Celtic had two Number 1s in Bain and Craig Gordon, but the latter has set his sights on starting for Championship League contender Heart of Midlothian and has acted on it accordingly.
Despite the current distraction, this team is easily ready to take the 10. With a healthy squad ready for an encore performance from last season’s championship, and with a crop of young players waiting in the wings augmented by a few previous transfer window acquisitions who have yet to show their talents, Celtic is unquestionably poised for 10-in-a-row.
Fraser Forster should be a part of that, and essentially his presence would guarantee it. But should he choose not be a part of it, the sticks are in capable hands with Scott Bain.
One more thing
I don’t know about the wider Celtic supporter base worldwide, but personally I’m getting a little tired of Hoops fans slagging former defender Kieran Tierney. Waking up to a Celtic fan’s tweet this morning where, paraphrasing here, he (or she) doesn’t care whether Arsenal fans like KT or not, he (or she) doesn’t pay attention to him anymore.
And that’s fine.
However, bear in mind that every time the former Celt takes the field at Highbury, he brings about 14 years of the Celtic system on to it as well. That alone reflects remarkably well on our club’s training system when KT is doing well for Arsenal; to say nothing of the fact that despite however well he is doing for Arsenal, the Gunners were still fleeced in spending as much as they did on him.
Perhaps someone someday can explain to me why we speak fondly of some former Celts — like Moussa Dembele, for example — and a lifelong bhoy with years of history with the club gets unceremoniously dragged.
Until next time, graffiti on the walls says we’re magic . . . .
First things first: Now that the bhoys are back in town — Lennoxtown, that is — I can stop prefacing my posts as on “hiatus” because now we’re back on the air, so to speak. And with the bhoys back, so is this blog, on its regular schedule.
Take that either as good news or as a warning. Your call.
Nevertheless, after endlessly watching Celtic games this season in the wake of “restrictions” forced on us by Covid-19 — thanks, Celtic TV — or poring over news about the Hoops during this time, it’s good to be back to work behind the keyboard and provide some hopefully welcome commentary.
That said, weclome to the third installment of “Random thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots,” the “Treble edition.”
Goodbye, Craig Gordon
While many Celtic fans pray in our personal Gethsemane for a deal to come through to keep Fraser Forster, news has broken that Craig Gordon has left for — let’s be honest — less-than-greener pastures. While I was hoping that Gordon would come stateside and play in the MLS, Gordon has chosen to sign with Heart of Midlothian.
Regardless of whether you thought he/his agent handled the departure adversely by negotiating through the press, Gordon deserves nothing but accolades and admiration for his time at the Hoops. His level of play was always top-notch and his contributions off the field with the Celtic FC Foundation make him not only a good player, but a great individual.
Good luck, Craig, and thanks for the memories.
The new look bhoys
Scott Brown with hair? OK, as long as it’s not another red mohawk. The captain and a couple of the other returning Hoops players have been sporting new looks for the new season.
Take Moritz Bauer, who has shed the golden locks for the bald look, according to some reports which have speculated that Peter Lawwell can pass off the defender, on loan from Stoke City, as a new signing. Also, Patryk Klimala has seemed to have put in a lot of quarantine time working in the weight room and has bulked up considerably.
How those new looks for those particular players affect play on the pitch, if at all, remains to be seen. But especially in Klimala’s case, gaining muscle mass can’t hurt when playing in the rough and tumble up front.
Local bhoy makes good
Social media was all over former Hoops defender Kieran Tierney for showing up to the Arsenal match against Sheffield United on Sunday with his things packed in — gasp! — a Tesco bag.
But while they were poking fun at Tierney on Twitter and elsewhere, this is what he was doing on the pitch for the Gunners in earning Man of the Match: 58 touches, 39 successful passes (24 in the opposite half), 5 crosses, 1 key pass, 10 passes into a final third, 2 interceptions, 5 possession gained.
In addition, much of the talk on social media and on Arseblog — the Gunners’ online publication with possibly the most hilarious name ever — speak highly of Tierney, with some of those posting seeing him as the next Arsenal captain. High praise for the kid who literally grew up in the Celtic system.
But then again, that praise can go too far, especially from one Twitter poster who goes by @LinkUpArsenal: “Arsenal have an excellent relationship with Celtic following the Kieran Tierney deal. Hoping we can use this to somewhat gain leverage in a a deal for Odsonne Edouard.”
No chance, mate. No f-ing chance.
That’s all for today. Until next time, walk on with hope in your heart . . . .
Taking a look at all that’s going on in Scottish football over the last couple of weeks, it appears that distractions are rearing their ugly heads and overwhelming the general public in general, and football fans in particular, in tsunami-sized waves of falsehoods.
Celtic fans tried to kill Alfredo Morelos. No wait, that paper-thin perpetrator under Fredo’s Lamborghini is actually a private investigator hired by Morelos’ pregnant wife to place a tracker on his car to keep tabs on him.
So, let’s deflect.
Sky Sports — let’s turn on the Sarcasmatron™ and see what it calls them . . . it says “a paragon of sport journalism” — produces an interview with a player who can’t understand English, yet he claims there’s racist abuse directed toward him at Celtic Park. But wait: Those subtitles aren’t exactly a match to what he’s saying. In fact, they’re arguably not even close.
The total weight of this disingenuous behaviour could stun a team of oxen.
Thank God for Michael Stewart, who has both the gravitas and the courage to tell the truth, taking to heart the Latin phrase, Fiat justitia ruat caelum — let justice prevail though the heavens fall. To his immense credit, Stewart is doing what journalists should be doing everywhere, but sadly aren’t; especially in Scotland, apparently.
As a former journalist, I can go on for days here regarding how important Stewart’s statements are and the heroic nature of the stand he is taking, just by merely highlighting the truth. But I will spare you.
But speaking of the Motherwell game . . .
All distractions aside, what I did want to write about today was yesterday’s game at Fir Park, where Celtic got off to its usual meticulous start in the first half, going into the locker room with a meager 1-0 lead, and came out of the gate in the second half like gangbusters, ending the game with a 4-0 score, and a wider goal differential in its seven-point lead in the table.
Rather than do the usual “five takeaways,” I am going to make this brief, sort of.
During the transfer window, we had a flurry of greeters bemoaning the fact that we need [fill-in-the-position-of-your-choice-here] or we are doomed to extinction. This while ignoring that there really was only one blemish on the season so far, on Dec. 29. One misstep that has seen us atop the league virtually all season and accomplishing one of three steps toward the Quadruple Treble so far.
So I am going to assume they will go contentedly silent now. Maybe.
It’s not only the obvious things that set us apart atop the rest of the league, like the tandem of Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths — twin strikers from separate mothers — working like a well-oiled machine at the front, or how the crowd in the 3-5-2 midfield is seemingly flawless in their ball-handling, moving the ball efficiently up the field. It’s not only Fraser Forster rejecting everything that comes remotely near him in goal.
It’s also in the little things, too: Patryk Klimala and Stephen Welsh both showing promise; the former showing speed and skill in two brief stints at the end of the last two games, and the latter having a good game in his debut. Tom Rogic and Jozo Simunovic getting back up to speed; especially the latter, who has put together back-to-back adequate games as a starter. And then, to add to the returning wounded, Ryan Christie showing some flash in the Motherwell game, starting the Christie to James Forrest to Callum McGregor goal in the second half.
But wait, there’s more. Mohammed Elyounoussi is training and will be back soon, followed by Hatem Elhamed and Jeremie Frimpong. Once we’re back to full strength, we should be unstoppable.
Most importantly, what someone needs to do, or should have done, immediately after the final whistle at Fir Park was to wake up Peter Lawwell and have him sign Forster immediately after the game. For life. Right now. As great as our backups are — and both Scott Bain and Craig Gordon are top-notch, even though we haven’t seen them all season — neither one of them is making these same saves. The Wall is in his own class, in his own league, in his own universe.
Forster needs to be Celtic for life.
The same applies to Edouard as well. Though he’s under contract until the end of the 2021/22 season, he needs to be kept around at all costs. Chris Sutton is absolutely right when he says Edouard is “the closest thing to (Henrik) Larsson I’ve seen in a Celtic jersey.” If anyone on the planet can speak with authority on this topic, it is Sutton.
One more thing
Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien might be getting slagged a bit on their defensive lapses in the Motherwell game, and there is no argument there — Ajer’s missed tackle could have sullied the clean sheet that Celtic came away with had Motherwell scored. But they didn’t. And to their credit, Kris and Chris are always in communication, and you can see them discussing play during the celebration of Edouard’s first goal.
Additionally, Motherhell — sorry, Motherwell — clearly have worked hard on consistently being a team of hammer-throwing Steelmen; no secret there. They also happen to be third in the Scottish Premiership table, which makes them first-of-the-also-rans behind Celtic and Glasgow’s other club. They’re third in the table for a reason, and on Wednesday, taking advantage of Celtic’s defensive lapses is probably the main reason why they lead the rest of the pack.
Now, for the rest of the season, let’s focus.
Focus on our positives far, far outweighing our negatives, because they do. Neil Lennon has been nothing short of masterful in handling suitable lineups in the face of multiple injuries. Focus on the two prizes needed to complete the next treble; one cup down, one cup and the league championship to go. Focus on the fact that, despite all these infantile shenanigans going on in Scottish football drawing away everyone’s attention (and we’re not even going close to the disciplinary garbage the SFA is pulling), Celtic is playing its best football in quite some time and, barring any disasters, we should prevail.