The real reason Frimpong left?

To me, Jeremie Frimpong in the Bayer Leverkusen red looks out of place. He’ll always be the kid in the hoops.

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.

Random thoughts, cheap shots, and bon mots: Sunday morning edition

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 . . .

Time to get Damien Duff back to where he belongs — on the sidelines for Celtic.

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 . . .]

Jonathan Afolabi, a Celtic loanee playing for Dundee FC, received racist abuse after a match against Bonnyrigg Rose.

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.

Celtic AGM Special, and more

The original plan was to concurrently post my interview with Auldheid at the advent of the AGM here on the pages of this blog. But then I thought, why reinvent the wheel? So I decided instead to urge you to look at The Celtic Star version linked above, rather than reprinting it verbatim here on these pages.

You’re welcome.

Make sure you have a look at the story linked above. The palace intrigue inside the walls of the Celtic boardroom is definitely worthy of a BBC miniseries, at the very least.

And thank you, Auldheid, for taking the time once again this year to do the interview. I would imagine it is a painstaking task to explain the situation to this fan — 5,000 miles away — on a level that can be understood by a five-year-old or a golden retriever. More importantly, thank you for all you do to keep Celtic on the right track and on the level.

My heart was broken . . .

With a hat-tip to both The Proclaimers and Hibernian, one of the more humorous memes to come out of the more than excellent play of Ismaila Soro yesterday against Lille is that an artist will take four pictures of Soro and match them up with the first couple of lines from “Sunshine on Leith.”

Soro, Soro, Soro, Soro . . .

Laughter aside, there were a plethora of positives to come out of the Lille game, and Soro’s play was one of them. While they’re worth their room on this earth, Ewan Henderson and Conor Hazard both showed what Celtic can harvest in the care and feeding of the Reserves team, and it will not be long before both are up with the First Team.

Unfortunately, Cameron Harper didn’t get a chance to join the party on the pitch yesterday, but his time will come. All these youngsters — as well as players like Stephen Welsh, Armstrong Oko-Flex, Karamoko Dembele, and Jonathan Afolabi — have bright futures as first-teamers.

And then there’s David Turnbull, who had what can only be described as a breakout game for the Hoops against Lille. We saw what he could do with Motherhell, sorry Motherwell, and now it looks like he’s earned a spot as a starter. It prompted one Celtic fan on Twitter to post a lyric change to a Christmas favourite: “This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to David Turnbull.”

George Michael couldn’t have said it better.

Saving Private Frimpong

It’s pretty clear that the hammerthrowers — and there are many — who populate the ranks of the Scottish Premiership’s also-rans seem to have a laser-like focus on harming Jeremie Frimpong. As unfortunate as it might be, that seems to be all we can expect from some of the halfwits who have reached the apex of their football careers as goons for all-but-forgettable clubs.

That said, yesterday’s mugging of Frimpong — who ironically was celebrating his 20th birthday yesterday — seemed to be the final straw.

About 11 minutes into the match against Lille yesterday, Jeremie Frimpong was sent crashing over the touchline and into the ad boards. As usual, there was no call on the play.

Seriously, officials, what the hell? All season (and last season, too) this had me seeing red. What I would like to see from SPFL referees — you know, the guys on the pitch less-than-ironically sponsored by Specsavers — is more red, as in red cards on players willfully out to harm the bhoy, and others on the pitch for that matter.

Is that too much to ask?

One more thing

It bears mentioning that while Soro, Turnbull, Henderson, Hazard, et al., all had a great game yesterday, Diego Laxalt has been pretty consistent in the “good” department in his level of play over the last several games. With a Ryan Christie-like depth of nonstop energy, the Uruguayan has fit in perfectly with the Celts so far.

When he first came to the club, I was a little annoyed by fans who made fun of his hair and glasses. I said that if he works out and becomes a mainstay for the club, I would get cornrows — as much as I could on a balding pate — to go with the glasses I have worn pretty much all my life. Now, Diego’s play has me asking my barber how to go about doing this (Step one: Let what hair I have left grow out . . .).

We’ll see how this pans out. Film at 11.

Oh my days! Five takeaways from Celtic-Hibs

Well, you have to hand it to Celtic FC: Thank you for letting me sleep in on Sunday. The 3 p.m. kickoff — 7 a.m. Pacific Standard Time — allowed me to sleep in a bit. Not that I mind getting up at Oh-My-God a.m. to watch the noon kickoffs, mind you, but it’s nice to get a couple of extra hours, and of course the icing on the cake — or jelly with the ice cream — is a Celtic win over Hibs at Paradise.

Nevertheless, again the Celts took away a win 2-0 over Hibernian, in their purple Sunday away kits, and The Sandman of The Celtic Noise fame has posted his ratings of the match here. Of course, I have my five takeaways from the game as well, as follows . . . .

1. Edouard is most dangerous when passing

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Odsonne Edouard literally strikes fear into the hearts of goalkeepers everywhere by his goal-scoring abilities. When he has the ball, the focus is clearly on him. And despite a couple of miscues Sunday — one of Morelos-like proportions, which sent the ball to the upper deck — Eddy got one, but his best play of the game was heading toward the goal with the ball, panicked defenders rushing to stop him, and he passed it off to Jeremie Frimpong, who sliced it under Marciano for a Celtic goal. Which brings us to our second takeaway . . .

The kid is all right: Jeremie Frimpong scores his first home goal at Paradise against Hibernian on Sunday. Photo credit: The Celtic Noise

2. The kid is all right

A game or two ago, Scott Brown teased Jeremie Frimpong in a post-game interview about the lad’s inability to get the ball in the net. That conversation didn’t happen this time: Jeremie took a pass from Edouard and made a great shot in front of a diving Marciano for a score. And who was happer for “the Dutchman” — as the Celtic TV commentators constantly refer to Frimpong — on Sunday, the fans or the goal scorer? I think possibly both.

One more thing: I got slagged mercilessly as a heretic for comparing Frimpong to Jimmy Johnstone, where the former is twisting defenders and turning ankles all over the pitch thanks to his Jinky-esque ball-handling skills. Others are now saying it as well, so I’ll take that as vindication.

3. Nir Bitton: The unsung hero

With the exception of a cheap foul late in the game that garnered a card, Nir Bitton was rock-solid in defence for the Hoops. Starting Bitton on Sunday was a stroke of genius. We rarely hear about defensive prowress on the pitch, but clean sheet after clean sheet is a testament to Celtic’s defence (and, of course, having the best goalkeeper in Scotland, but I digress). But when Fraser Forster is having a slow day in the goal mouth, you can credit that to Celtic’s backfield, keeping him less than busy. In fact, the only threat was . . . .

4. It was a pass. Honest.

I am going with Christopher Jullien’s story: Late in the game, Jullien had a ball go off his head right at the goal mouth and into the hand of Fraser Forster, who batted it away. With disaster averted and the ball cleared, you could see there was no harm done when Fraser gave Jullien a pat on the back, but it was one of those things where it could have been a disaster. But it wasn’t. So carry on.

5. Griff is getting there

There’s going to be a game sometime this season where Leigh Griffiths is going to go full-on Super Leigh. We have seen it in the last couple of games, getting his timing back and the couple of chances he had on Sunday show he’s sharpening up. It’s just a matter of time until he’s back to his old, goal-scoring self, and you can take that to the bank.

We’ve got Hearts on Wednesday at Tynecastle. Let’s go up three more.

Five takeaways from Celtic-Hibs

Captain, Leader, Legend: Scott Brown scored two goals against Hibernian on Saturday, as the Celts cruised to a 5-2 victory over Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday in the Betfred Cup semifinal. (Photo: The Celtic Star)

To be honest, I really, really like the 12 noon (or thereabouts) kickoff times in Scotland. Yes, I have to drag my sorry butt out of bed at some ungodly pre-sunrise hour, but at least I get to watch the game live and, for the most part, unfettered.

The 5:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. Pacific) kickoff puts me right square in the middle of a workday on a Saturday or a Sunday (yes, I work weekends. Don’t ask). And, generally speaking, while the Bhoys seem to excel when I’m away from the screen — thank God for Celtic TV and their rebroadcasts (best $18 a month I’ve ever spent, and I highly recommend it) — I’d really like to be there watching when the action actually happens.

So I get home from a fun-filled work day — yes, that’s sarcasm — and spend two hours watching the game, start to finish, and head over to The Celtic Noise to talk about it with the merry band of forum denizens who have had a head start. One thing I always look forward to is Sandman’s ratings, which are posted first on the Noise and then posted on The Celtic Star; quality analysis and it can only be found here.

But anyway, my five takeaways from the Celtic-Hibernian game are as follows:

1. Captain. Leader. Legend.

Broony. Damn. Just damn. You worry as the seasons pass that a guy who carries the team might– just might — be feeling the trappings of the twilight of his career, and you think to yourself, but dare not say aloud, that he may retire before the 10 in a row. But then he pulls something like this to make you feel like a complete idiot. Two goals. Two brilliant goals, as a matter of fact. And instead of buying just one Broony DVD, you’re tempted to buy a whole case and give them out as Christmas presents (“Here, Mom, Merry Christmas!”) because . . . damn. Scott Brown has definitely earned his place in Celtic history, and the process for commissioning a sculptor to create his statue outside Parkhead should start soon.

2. Mohammed Elyounoussi should stay

Mo Elyounoussi is a goal-scoring machine. Full stop. It must be a blessing to know where to be, showing up at the right place at the right time, as Elyounoussi seems to do. Both of his goals were impeccable, whether it was a header on a cross from James Forrest or a pass from Odsonne Edouard in front of the net (more on this in a bit). I would like to think that the board will pony up the money to keep Big Mo wearing the hoops, but that remains to be seen. One can always hope, no?

3. When Boli is out, an attack vector is lost

First things first: This is not a knock on Jonny Hayes. Hayes is a solid player and can start pretty much on any other team in the league. His speed and ball handling are impeccable, and we’re lucky to have him wearing the Green and White. However, when Boli Bolingoli was taken out at halftime — I understand it’s a hamstring — the Celts lost one of its two threats down both the left and right side that kept Hibs unbalanced for pretty much the first half. Here’s hoping it’s not a serious injury.

4. Unselfish Edouard shares the wealth

No doubt goalkeepers everywhere have nightmares about Odsonne Edouard. Those nightmares — at least the ones that don’t involve the goalkeeper standing in the goal mouth in his underwear — probably consist of Edouard coming down the pitch with the ball and eluding all the goalkeeper’s defenders and delivering a Celtic goal. But add one more layer to this nightmare: French Eddy passing the ball to another Celt for the assist instead. It happened twice against Hibernian: One went to Callum McGregor and the other was on Elyounousi’s second goal. Eddy ended up with a grand total of zero goals and two assists; not that he was complaining. When Edouard approaches the goal, defences start to collapse around him, freeing up one or two teammates who are ready to score. So now, not only do goalkeepers have to worry about Edouard scoring, they have to worry about him passing it away to open teammates.

5. Hibernian is not really that bad

At the moment, Hibernian is staring relegation in the face in the standings. But truth be told, the 5-2 score betrays the fact that they played Celtic fairly strong in the Betfred Cup semifinal. Sure, Celtic should have won 8-2 if not for some unlucky bounces — damn goalposts! — and Melker Halberg was clearly offside in their first goal. But never mind. I am sure that the coaching staff have some positive takeaways from the semifinal game. Also, completely unrelated, “Sunshine on Leith” is a great song — probably second to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as far as football songs go.

Meanwhile, Celtic takes on Nazio — sorry, Lazio — in Rome this week, and it would be great to steal a win away from the fascists.

Hibs-Celtic: Three takeaways

Sunshine on Leith: The Celtic end of Easter Road during the Hibernian-Celtic game on Saturday.

Normally, I would have five takeaways from Saturday’s game at Easter Road. However, since it was a draw, we’re going to knock out a couple and just end up with three today, on a lackluster performance — with a little help from abysmal officiating (which we will most definitely get to later) –against the other team in green and white, Hibernian.

[An excellent post-game review is always given by the Sandman at the Celtic Noise forum, which of course is the always cleaned up and appears on The Celtic Star here.]

1. So, about the offside rule . . .

OK, so there IS an offside rule, right? And as long as I have been following football — and this goes back to the ’70s to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League, and then off-and-on during various World Cups until I started following Celtic last year — the offside rule has been a mystery to me. To be honest, the rule seems almost arbitrary, like, oh I don’t know, how it was applied (or actually NOT applied) on the Hibs’ Christian Doidge, who bounced the ball off Kris Ajer and into the net for the home team’s only goal. From my vantage point, thanks to Celtic TV (best $18 a month I have ever spent), the Hibs forward was offside, yet there was no call. Which, of course, was only one small part of a wide range of poor officiating at this game — we’re still waiting for two penalties (at least) — and Kevin Clancy and both linesmen really need to turn in his referee card.

2. Pity goals aren’t 20 feet high

Celtic took several shots which were . . . let’s just say . . . just a bit high. No, let’s correct that. They were astronomical. If this were American football and the ball goes over the crossbar between the posts, that would be 3 points each and Celtic would have won handily. However, it’s not, so we still have a draw. However, a silver lining in this cloud — where you can find some of the Celtic shots, even now — is that the ball movement in the Hibs game was still on the mark. We just couldn’t convert those passes into goals.

3. You’ve been tossed, but you really haven’t . . .

Hibs gaffer Paul Nothingbottom — sorry, Paul Heckingbottom — got tossed from the game, but went up to the stands and stayed in touch with the sideline from the improved vantage point of the stadium. In most American sports, once you’re tossed, you’re stuck in the locker room or out at the local pub and nowhere near the stadium, unless you’re crafty like former New York Mets baseball manager Bobby Valentine, who returned to the dugout wearing a disguise after being ejected. The idea, at least on these shores, is that removing the manager is a sort of punishment, however if the manager is still able to control things, it sort of defeats the purpose.

One more thing: A hat tip to Celtic TV’s Paul Cuddihy, who squeezed in a variety of puns about the Proclaimers at the outset of the Celtic TV broadcast — good humour to wake up to when watching the Celtic game.

[59 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: Low.]