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.
I was so looking forward to returning from the off-season hiatus at the start of the Scottish Premiership season yesterday and reporting whatever observations and insights I might have about the game at Swinecastle — sorry, Tynecastle — against the Diet Huns of Heart of Midlothian.
But I can’t. Instead, I have to play Captain Obvious and point out to everyone an emperor-has-no-clothes moment in Scottish football.
Specifically, the Premiership of the Scottish Professional Football League is a joke — and not even a good one, at that — primarily because of its lack of objectivity in its officiating now running on its second season of “honest mistakes” (and arguably it goes back further). And while you may want to note that the issue may be all well and good in Scotland around this, where the woefully spoon-fed Scottish dictation corps — sorry, I mean the Scottish mainstream media — would just as soon sweep it under the rug and point out there’s a new Page 3 girl.
But the rest of the world is laughing at you and pointing, Scotland, and that’s before many are turning away and tuning out from your brand of football to watch leagues that are more fair.
I know, I know. Jock Stein said that, “If you’re good enough, the referee doesn’t matter.” But yesterday, even Big Jock had to have been looking down from above on the games yesterday and saying, “Holy shit, are you kidding me?”
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Oh, just ignore that JamTart in the circle, who clearly has Celtic winger Leil Abada onside. Apparently he’s invisible. Leil scored on this play . . . not, as it was called for offside. And let’s go to the argument-du-jour about this: Nimrods far and wide are saying, “Well, his arm is offside.” Seriously? An appendage that has nothing to do with the game? Here, have a cookie and go outside and play. In traffic.
Not offside: Rangers
Truth in advertising: I had learned to count around 1960, so it goes without saying that I have a pretty solid grasp of numbers and their concept insofar as counting things. And here, it appears to me — and probably anyone else looking at the photo — that three Rangers players are in the next post code before the free kick is taken. Offside? Don’t make me laugh — it’s Rangers.
Of course, the example of “honest mistakes” goes far beyond these two yesterday, and the scores that transpired last season, or the hundreds in seasons prior to that. But the fact that nothing has been done about it makes this a national disgrace.
What is to be done?
Well, there are options here. What might be done is that Dominic McKay and Ange Postecoglou could go down to the SPFL offices, kick down Neil Doncaster’s office door, and beat the shit out of him every time there’s an “honest mistake.” But I’m not asking for the world here, despite the barbarian appeal of marching through Glasgow with Doncaster’s head at the end of a stick.
[OK, calm down. I’m joking. No football executives were harmed during the writing of the previous paragraph.]
But what McKay and Postecoglou — and our do-nothing board and club office leadership, if it’s really not too much to ask of them — could do is to go to the mat, so to speak, in a very vocal and concerted way for fairness each and every time this kind of thing happens. We surely can’t be alone in this situation — when Rangers get the benefit of each and every call in their games, the other 11 clubs have to wonder why they aren’t being treated fairly. If they don’t, their fans certainly do.
McKay, Postecoglou, and Celtic need to take this case to the Scottish Football Association if, and more importantly when, necessary.
McKay, Postecoglou, and Celtic need to take this case to UEFA if, and more importantly when, necessary.
Our fans have taken up the mantle, at least, with a social media effort to point out each and every “mistake” the officials make, and hammer them on it. This is a good first step that needs to be followed with the backing of the higher-ups in the club.
The only benefit to living 5,000 miles away from Celtic — the only benefit, actually — is that distance offers a perspective that one who lives in Scotland may not have because you’re too close to it. Fans in the U.S. are already tuning out Scottish football for more prestigious leagues, which is a tragedy that doesn’t have to happen and can be fixed.
One more thing
Overall, the Bhoys looked fairly good on Saturday, even though they were playing against Hearts and the officials. Both Carl Starfelt and Kyogo Furuhashi looked OK — not great, but not bad — in their first introduction to the Scottish game, despite Starfelt’s gaffe that almost resulted in an own goal. Reminds me of another Swede who struggled in his first game as a Celt . . . Henrik something, I think his name was. It’ll come to me. Clearly all the pieces aren’t in place yet (and not to beat a dead horse, although yes, we know why), but most of them are, and chances are the Hoops will hit their stride sooner moreso than later.
So I’m up early on a Sunday morning to watch another Scottish Premiership game — Aberdeen, of course, because Celtic’s now-precarious road to 10-in-a-row now runs through the help of our friends (and enemies) — and with a week of interesting Celtic news behind us, it’s about time to process some of that.
Like . . .
Get back to where you once belonged
Now that the Damien Duff era is over in Dublin, after stepping down as an assistant coach for the Republic of Ireland team last week, there can only be one destination for him now.
A return to his place on the bench at Celtic.
This really is a no-brainer. Move Gavin Strachan to another position in the club and let Duff take his place back on the sidelines. Clearly his coaching abilities are part and parcel of Celtic’s success in recent seasons, and it could be one of the necessary steps to rescue what up until now has been a supbar season.
[And apologies to anyone who gets a Beatles earworm for that headline . . .]
Give racism the red card
It’s sad that I even have to waste pixels writing that headline, but apparently some haven’t read the memo. Celtic loanee Jonathan Afolabi was the target of racial abuse in the aftermath of Dundee FC’s 3-2 victory over Bonnyrigg Rose in their Scottish Cup Second Round match, where Afolabi scored a late equalizer for The Dee before they went on to victory in overtime.
My Celtic Star colleage Lubo98 outlines the story clearly in this post on the Star. In addition, Dundee FC produced a strong statement opposing the treatment of Afolabi, and points to another incident after Dundee played Hearts after a previous match.
This shouldn’t have to be mentioned, yet it bears repeating: There’s no place for racism in football. Full stop.
Signs of the times
One of the more interesting aspects of the social media cesspool known as Twitter is that it can be used for good; and if not for good, at least for educational purposes. Witness one Celtic fan on Twitter who goes by the handle LouMun 67, who is deaf and has taken the time to post short videos on Twitter of different sign-language signs for words and phrases that would be helpful to Celtic fans.
For example, COYBIG. Or Celtic. Or even Glasgow’s other club (which I would have thought was this, at least in American Sign Language, but OK).
Give a follow to this young Celtic fan, and thank you, LouMun 67, for posting the signs. We need to know more. Keep up the great work!
Dear Celtic TV . . .
Long-time readers of this blog — hi, Mom! — know that I often sing the praises of Celtic TV, many times in tw0-part harmony with overdubs. For all its quirks (Exhibit A: Tom Boyd — and I mean that as a compliment), Celtic TV provides a great service to Celtic fans worldwide. Because I really enjoy the game coverage and the commentary, I don’t mind ponying up around $30 a month to support their broadcasts and, in turn, Celtic itself.
But for some of us in the States, their payment system — WorldPay — is problematic, in the least, and impossible at best. It’s compounded by the fact that any autopay is, from time to time, “stopped at the border” in my case. Checking with my bank, it’s not them, and the process to “fix” this is to start a new Celtic TV account. You might say, “Well, Lar, why don’t you just bite the bullet and pay the annual fee?” A good question, and the answer is simple: It’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out of my limited budget for a one-shot payment in that amount.
So three Celtic TV accounts later, it appears that I have reached the end of the line, because all attempts at WorldPay have failed. The alternative is a subscription to ESPN+, which provides a plethora of matches (as well as other sports) for around $6 a month. Despite the price — and I know ESPN can do this cheaply because of their broad subscription base coupled by whatever deal they make with broadcasters (SkySports: You get what you pay for . . . sheesh!) — I would still prefer going with Celtic TV, if for no other reason than to support the club.
So, Celtic TV, I would gladly come back if PayPal were an option, or any other system that would make monthly payments easier. If it’s an issue of PayPal’s cost, I’d gladly pay an increase in the monthly fee factored in to compensate for your trouble in using this U.S.-friendly service.
Your call, folks. Oh, and you need to put Kelly Clark back on the commentary team . . . .
One more thing
Two actually: A special mention should go out to The Celtic Star article by the editor’s cousin regarding two heroic figures — both of them heroic to me as well — Brother Walfrid and Paul Robeson. Many Celtic fans know by heart the story of the former, but the article outlines some interesting facts about the latter. It’s worth a read.
Then, of course, it’s Hibs tomorrow, and a must win for us, as they all are from here on in. While I will make one last vainglorious attempt to get back on Celtic TV — and by the way, going up to Millbrae to watch the game with the San Francisco CSC cannot return to its regularly scheduled meeting soon enough — I have to say clearly and emphatically, Mon the Hoops.
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 . . . .
In the musical “Damn Yankees,” the manager of the Washington Senators breaks into one of the theatrical performance’s songs about having “heart.” It’s guts, the will to face adversity, the ability to believe that you can overcome sometimes overwhelming odds.
One can only hope that Heart of Midlothian FC were paying attention. Because after the thrashing they received at Celtic Park yesterday . . .
When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win That’s when the grin should start
After its usual methodical — some might say “slow” — start with Olivier Ntcham scoring off a rebound at the 30-minute mark to go into the locker room at halftime with a 1-0 lead, Celtic shifted into another gear and, in quick succession scored at 46 minutes (Christopher Jullien) and 52 minutes (Callum McGregor), waiting a bit to score again at 67 minutes (Ryan Christie) and then at 80 minutes (Jozo Simunovic).
And while it could be a little disconcerting to some to think that Edinburgh could end up a city with only one club in the Scottish Premiership, Celtic on the other hand is a club that is reaching new highs.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that the league, for the second year in a row, may have been won again at Rugby Park — this time by Kilmarnock’s Eamonn Brophy slotting a right-footer against The Rangers™ making it 2-1 Killie with two minutes remaining — the Celtic team that put on a show Wednesday night in Glasgow fired on all cylinders.
Greg Taylor is fitting in nicely and delivering crosses with apolmb. Christie walked on to the pitch in the second half and, a few minutes later, ended up on the score sheet. Even Simunovic, who many of the so-called Celtic faithful have written off (shame on them!), marshalled the ball around the Celtic half of the pitch on defence for most of the game and, on the last Celtic corner of the game, headed in a delivery into the net with a quick nod to wrap up Celtic’s scoring.
My Man/Woman of the Match? Whomever put on the “Theme from Hawaii 5-0” on the stadium PA after Simunovic, who wears number 5, scored to make the tally — wait for it — 5-0.
OK, seriously: This time, I’d give it to Ntcham, whose ball handling and passing in traffic has been outstanding as of late. Putting back the rebound early in the game didn’t hurt, either, but the Frenchman is showing his worth to the Celtic. Though Taylor is getting better and better now that he’s got a few games under his belt, he easily could have been considered the Man of the Match as well.
It’s a good problem to have — indecision regarding who to give Man of the Match to when there are so many good players performing at peak levels.
But officially, the Man of the Match on Wednesday was McGregor. And rightfully so.
A quick post while we await the start of the match against Hearts at Paradise: I know everyone probably has their own game-day rituals, some perhaps more elaborate than others, and I wanted to share mine before actually starting them for today’s game.
Personally, I have two, depending on whether I am working during the game or not. While I do my best to clear my schedule for the night games in Scotland — weekend games are no problem, as they start in what you would call the “wee hours” prior to sunrise — there are times when I have to work at either my part-time job as a bookkeeper at a local supermarket or as a freelance documentation specialist for computer hardware and software, which puts me at the beck-and-call of tech heads and engineers at several Silicon Valley firms.
First, fortunately I have this innate ability to wake up at 3:45 a.m. every morning, weekends especially, at which time on game days I will wash up, get dressed, don my Celtic jersey, put on my Celtic scarf, sing sotto voce either the Celtic Song (home game) or Celtic Symphony (away — “we’re on the road again”), and make my way to the computer, boot it up, plug in the headphones and log in to Celtic TV.
Shameless and unsolicited promotion: I love Celtic TV, and I would suggest anyone who absolutely, positively needs to watch Celtic games — and watch the games more than once, as I often do — to get a subscription. It’s reasonably priced at around US$25 a month (you can buy the entire season for around US$200, I think). The analysis is good, the play-by-play is adequate (the puns mostly hit, and the occasional Monty Python references are always welcome), and Celtic TV gets high marks for breaking the gender barrier by having Celtic FC Women’s captain Kelly Clark doing pre-game/halftime/post-game commentary. To her credit, Clark is more than just a token addition: She displays a deep understanding of the game that rivals, if not surpasses, her male broadcasting counterparts.
Meanwhile, back at the original topic . . .
Second, if I have an attend-or-die meeting in the Silicon Valley or have to go in to count money at the supermarket, I don my white Oxford shirt and wear a green sweater — Larry’s green and white — and take my scarf and my tablet with me; ever the professional. I have had a few engineers watching the games with me while I write or edit their manuals, and I am hoping this low-key evangelism will convert some in the tech arena to the Celtic faithful.
On the rare occurrence I am able to make it up to the San Francisco CSC at Fiddler’s Green in Millbrae (just south of the city), it’s the jersey, scarf, and excellent company with the lads up there in suburban San Francisco. One personal highlight: I watched the Billy McNeill game up there last season, which was completely magical in both the result and the camaraderie at the pub. Excellent group, those SF CSCers!
Enough about me. What are your game-day rituals? Feel free to post them in the comments.
Oh, and today’s game? Clean sheet, Griff (2) and Eddy score, 3-0 Hoops.
Because I still have my head buried in a tsunami of documents related to my previous post — and thank you to Auldheid for the great interview — I thought I’d take a break from my “homework” to make a few observations about the last two wins by the Hoops, and other items of perceived interest, in the world of football; like the following, for example.
Oh, the irony . . .
Putting aside the numerous missed calls on hand-ball fouls by Celtic opponents this season, is it any wonder some marketing genius who holds the SpecSavers advertising account sold that company’s executives on the nearly infinite value of sponsorship of SPFL referees? Each referee has what is essentially a “scarlet letter” of less-than-ideal vision on their sleeves, and in so many cases it is justified. One of a plethora of examples is the 78th minute of the Celtic-Ross County game where Scott Brown was clearly fouled, followed by James Forrest fouled less than 10 seconds afterward. Of course that joins a long list of referee malpractice this season that, fortunately, has only been a minor irritant to Celtic fans everywhere, rather than history-altering decisions. But we’re only halfway through the 2019/20 season. . . .
Here we go again
Once again, we are in the midst of another transfer window. And once again, the armchair gaffers and PlayStation pundits are bent out of shape because we haven’t signed half of FC Barcelona — the good half, hopefully — and in not doing so, we just threw away 9 in a row. Just today, on the digital cesspool known as Twitter and other online social media, Neil Lennon is being unnecessarily raked over the coals for suggesting the Celtic may be done for this window. The fact of the matter is, frankly, that if we are done for January, it’s still not a bad window, and with the success of the previous window carrying over, we are in great shape for the rest of the season, especially those who are injured — Hatem El Hamed, Mohammed Elyounoussi, Jeremie Frimpong for starters — get back onto the pitch. Also, not given enough credit has been Moritz Bauer’s efforts in filling in for the injured Frimpong against Ross County; Bauer himself is another new addition from the previous window.
Even if Ismaila Soro is the last piece of the puzzle in January, we are looking great for the rest of the season. Some people really need to get a grip.
The California Kid strikes again
The Celtic Reserves team hit the road to visit Huddersfield Town on Tuesday, and came away with a 3-1 victory in the friendly. Karamoko Dembele, Kieran McGrath and Cameron Harper scored in the game. We all know that Karamoko has already made the grade, but those watching the reserves have strong praise for Harper as well. We in the Golden State have high hopes for the Southern Californian to go on and wear the hoops for the first team in the near future.
Buy this guy a beer
Funny how The Rangers™ wanker — sorry, winger — and all-around world-class douchenozzle Ryan Kent can’t bring himself to gun down Hearts fans like he did at Parkhead last month. But this JamTarts fan has the right idea. If anyone in Edinburgh who knows this guy can buy him a beer for me, I’d be grateful. Oh, and the Hearts 2-1 victory over The Rangers™? Fantastic.
Now if you’ll excuse me, FC St. Pauli is playing today and it’s gametime. See you tomorrow at the St. Johnstone game. Mon the hoops!