OK, class: The sensei is in

All right, all right, class, have a seat and settle down. If you have coffee — good, because you’ll need it — drink up as this may take awhile. We have a lot to cover. As I have been assigned this task a week ago in this Twitter thread by none other than Father Antony CP on Twitter (@BrotherAntony), a priest and Celtic fan, far be it from me to go against the wishes of cleric.

My qualifications? Glad you asked. They’re not the most ideal, but I lived in Japan from 1996 to 2000, married a Japanese woman and we had a daughter; the latter who still lives with me and the former who doesn’t. I taught English, as most American gaijin (foreigners) do when they live in Japan, but I also edited an English-language lifestyle magazine and worked as a typist/proofreader at a large American law firm’s Tokyo office.

[Fun fact, and I’ve told this story before: In 1997 I went to a Yokohama Marinos game with my adult English students and saw Shunsuke Nakamura play. Like an idiot, I don’t remember seeing Nakamura, but I do remember being beguiled at the fact that I could get udon noodles at the concession stand. Yep, I’m still kicking myself for that.]

Suffice to say, I am not fluent in Japanese, but I know my way around the language. I’d also welcome some help from those who might be more conversant and knowledgeable in the language than I am, so feel free to jump in and post comments below.

All of that said — and if you’re still awake — let’s get started.

Two – no three – forms of writing

Yeah, I know some folks — especially those who, for the most part, support teams that wear blue — struggle with a mere 26 characters in what we know as our sole source of symbols, namely the alphabet. A to Z, or as you would say, A to Zed. That’s known in Japan as Romaji, but we’re going to leave that out because, hopefully, you don’t need help with that one. In Japanese, there are essentially three forms of writing: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Let’s take them one at a time.

A detailed hiragana chart, above, and a Katakana chart, below , courtesy of https://thejapanesepage.com/, which is a phenomenal resource if you’re interested in learning more.

In a nutshell, Hiragana is used for representing Japanese words phonetically in writing, as opposed to kanji, which we will talk about it a bit. The Japanese language has had a tendency to borrow a lot of words from other languages — “hot dog” for example, which we’ll show below — and to write those words, they use Katakana.

Again, without going very deep into detail — hey, I have a life, too, you know, and I do have to get back to it relatively soon — Katakana is essentially used for words imported from foreign languages. So for example, because the Japanese don’t have a word for that American delicacy known as the hot dog, it is written, in Katakana, ホットドッグ, or transliterating, “hotto doggu.”

And then there’s Kanji.

A sign at the Japan Rail station at Shin-Okubo details Kanji and Hiragana, as well as Western letters for those who can’t read neither Hiragana nor Kanji.

Kanji are logograms representing symbols adopted from Chinese, but while most of them have different pronunciations between the symbols in the two languages, the meaning is the same. For example, the symbol 山 — “yama” or “san,” meaning mountain in Japanese — also represents “Shān” in Chinese, which of course means mountain. Essentially the symbol means the same thing in both languages, but they have different pronunciations.

Confused? In the words of Leslie Nielsen throughout the movie “Airplane” — “But that’s not important right now.”

In the photo above of the Shin-Okubo Japan Rail station, there is the Kanji for “Shin-Okubo” atop the Hiragana (because Shin-Okubo is Japanese) and then Romaji, or the Western alphabet that you can read. That pretty much covers it for everyone in the station.

Yeah, but how do I say it?

The first rule, and a fairly helpful rule, is that there is only one vowel sound in Japanese — no long “O” or short “O” at least as we know it in English (but there is a nuance here that, in the interest of time, I will skip. You’re welcome) — and each essentially corresponds to the same vowel sound as you would pronounce them in Spanish. So if you paid attention in Spanish class in school, you’re more than halfway there. A is “ah,” E is “eh,” I is “ee,” O is “oh,” and U is “oo.” For example, か, or “ka,” is pretty much pronounced that way, and す, or “su,” is pronounced “sue,” like the girl’s name. Or the boy’s name, if you’re in a Johnny Cash song.

But here are a couple of curveballs, to use a baseball metaphor, in Japanese for native English speakers. For example, the “R” sound in Japanese is a very hard “R,” in linguistic terms, and so hard in fact it’s really an “L” sound. And the Japanese essentially pronounce Ra/Ri/Ru/Re/Ro as La/Li/Lu/Le/Lo.

That said, I sheepishly confess that I possess perhaps the most difficult name for the Japanese to pronounce — Larry. While living in Japan, my English students once gave me a birthday card that proclaimed, “Happy Birthday, Rally.” True story.

Which, of course, brings us to pronouncing the names of the Japanese quartet now in the Hoops.

Reo Hatate

Let’s do this one first. Everyone gets an “A” for effort in matching up Reo’s name with the Duran Duran song — “His name is Reo and we cheer him from the stands” — but unfortunately, if you were to pronounce his first name correctly, phonetically his name is Leh-oh, but we can still cheer him from the stands. Last name is simple – Ha-ta-teh.

Daizen Maeda

Pretty straightforward here for Daizen Maeda. No chicanery in the vowel sound department, just straightfoward vowel combinations producing “Dye-zen” for his first name and “Mah-eh-dah” for the family name.

An aside: In Japan, family names take precedence over given names, and you may see this player, for example, be referred to as “Maeda Daizen” in Japanese. This is customary in Japan, and often times one might refer to a colleague — if, for example, Daizen Maeda was your office mate instead of a footballer — as “Maeda-san” as opposed to, “Hey, Daizen.” Also, this “san” is an honorific attached to the end of a name, and is not the same as 山, meaning mountain.

Again, cue Leslie Nielsen.

Yosuke Ideguchi

Thank goodness we’re just going to refer to this new bhoy as “Guchi,” pronounced “Gucci” like the Italian fashion designer. There’s a nuance to some “U” and “I” vowel sounds where the sound is virtually swallowed and is almost non-existent. Such is the case with his first name, Yosuke. It’s not “Yoh-soo-keh” but “Yoh-skeh” with the “u” in “su” essentially disappearing.

Another Celt had this situation a couple of decades ago that gave announcers at the time some fits. You may have heard of him. Shunsuke Nakamura, whose first name is pronounced, as you all know by now, as “Shoon-skeh.”

I don’t know why this is. It would take someone with a better understanding of Japanese to explain. Are you out there?

Kyogo Furuhashi

OK, everyone. Welcome to the world of the Japanese syllables that English speakers can’t pronounce to save their lives, and yet another of the aforementioned curveballs in pronunciation. That would be a series including kyo/ryo/hyo/myo, or its variants, which are really pronounced as one syllable as opposed to two.

We have heard it all season: Key-Yo-Go or Kai-Yo-Go (the latter a specialty of John Hartson’s). Fingernails across the chalkboard . . .

It’s hard. But it’s “Kyoh-goh,” only two syllables. And believe me I get it because, having once been married to a woman named Kyoko, it took a little practice to get her name right while we were dating. And to this day I constantly trip over the word “ryokan” — inn — and instead I just call it a “ホテル” or “ho-teh-roo,” or “hotel.”

One more thing

While Google Translate is probably the greatest invention ever for reading worldwide dispatches about football in languages other than your own, it still needs to come up to speed when it comes to translating words and phrases from one language to another. As far as artificial intelligence in this area has advanced, it still hasn’t reached the stage where it can ascertain whether something is idiomatic or sarcastic between languages, or both.

But for the most part, you can get your point across using it, even though you risk sounding like a complete dolt.

For example, run “Mon the Hoops” through Google Translate into Japanese and you get “フープの月” — fupu no tsuki (note: “hu” becomes “fu” in Hiragana/Katakana), so it translates into Japanese as “Hoop Moon.”

Back to the drawing board, Google. Meanwhile, Mon the Hoops, in any and every language.

Class dismissed.

Tidings of comfort and joy

My holiday season could best be summed up by the line in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas: “No one could have had a noisier Christmas Eve.” Hence the late post, scheduled for it’s usual Tuesday slot, for which I offer apologies.

First, I hope everyone had a good and safe holiday season. And to the supporters of the Glasgow club that plays at Ibrox, we should let Chris Sutton drive here, wishing them a happy holiday season.

Despite a draw at St. Mirren which brought out the Naysayer Brigade once again earlier last week, the Bhoys ended with a crisp 3-1 win at McDiaramid Park last weekend on a pitch that might quite possibly had been used the previous day for a tractor pull or some other monster truck event. The Scottish Football Association clearly needs to step up their standards on playing fields, and these guys deserve to play on much better fields offered by St. Johnstone.

But I digress.

In this holiday season, Celtic fans have a lot to be thankful for. This guy, for starters.

Not Eddie Howe. And for this we are truly thankful.

There is no one — no one on God’s now less-than-green earth — that could have pulled off the herculean task that Ange Postecoglou has done.

He leaves his family in Australia, and comes in to a club in turmoil without his own staff and inherits the backroom staff that arguably brought us to this point. He works briefly with a CEO he’s in tune with and suddenly, mysteriously, the CEO resigns under questionable circumstances. Now with a new club captain, he’s fighting off player injuries and nebulous and oft-changing COVID restrictions. And then there’s dealing with a Scottish sports press corps which, collectively, seem to both be sharing a collective IQ point while rewriting the record book in number of moronic questions asked of a Celtic manager.

All of that, and then there’s the officiating. Between the “honest mistakes” and downright chicanery in other games, the fact that SpecSavers sponsors the SPFL referees is an irony lost on no one.

Yet the turnaround many expected to take most of the season, at the earliest — and many were expecting longer — was nearly instantaneous. We are now 2nd in the league, easily within striking distance. Some may argue that 2nd is nothing to be thankful for, and there may be a case to be made for that. However, it could be phenomenally worse.

As it stands right now, Eddie Howe’s Newcastle is in the relegation zone. Are you really going to argue the point that we should trade places with Newcastle?

I didn’t think so.

Then there are these two guys.

Anthony Ralston and Kyogo Furuhashi

Some of the more vocal and somewhat, um, “opinionated” supporters on social media wrote off Anthony Ralston long ago, as they do with anyone who has one or two bad games (Remember Jack Hendry, now excelling in Belgium?). If we can be thankful on this holiday season for anything, it is these wannabe swamis are light-years removed from any decision-making authority in Celtic’s player personnel. The amount of crow eaten by these Playstation Pundits can be measured in tonnage seeing the player that Anthony Ralston has become. But give Ralston credit — he worked hard to make the jersey fit, and his improvements on the pitch have helped in the club’s recent success.

And Kyogo Furuhashi? すばらしい — suburashii, meaning “wonderful” in Japanese. Not only does this kid light it up on the field and is a joy to watch playing the beautiful game, he’s also living rent-free in the tiny heads of his detractors, who claim he cheats because they have no other reasonable way to explain how, even at 5-foot-7, he’s head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league.

And speaking of head and shoulders . . . (you knew that was coming).

Joe Hart’s career has been given new life at Celtic.

Charles Joseph John Hart. Joe Hart, to those of us who know and love him between the sticks for Celtic. The reputation of a big-time player past his prime was clearly unwarranted as he stepped up with both his commanding play and a commanding leadership presence on the pitch.

There are more contributing to the good tidings as well: Cameron Carter-Vickers’ rock-solid defense picks up when others falter, and he should stay with Celtic; there’s talk of that being bandied about during the break. Jota should definitely be signed as soon as possible — he seems to be at home at Celtic and his presence has proven to be a good fit for the club. And what can you say about Tom Rogic? The Wizard of Oz has found the magic so many had thought he had lost.

Leading up to the holidays, the results — though not perfect — were good enough to lead into a happy and satisfying Yuletide. There’s no reason that this won’t continue into the second half of the season.

Happy New Year, Celtic fans. You’ll never walk alone.

By the dawn’s early light

It’s 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, and I’m already awake — fallout from the 8- to 9-hour time difference between here and Europe when dragging myself out of bed to watch Celtic and St. Pauli matches live — and because the Winter Solstice is tomorrow, the sun is just making its way on the horizon behind the hills to the east.

But I confess, after a sleepless night — in a good way — I am still buzzing about yesterday’s win. My daughter, who was born in Kodaira-shi in the Tokyo Metropolitan District to her Japanese mom and me, now has an adopted older brother named Kyogo Furuhashi, who becomes a part of the family by virtue of his Larsson-esque play this season.

This is a Monday I don’t mind facing. In fact, I’m planning to break my mask protocol and wear my Celtic mask for two days in a row when I go into work later. Even in America, the reach of Celtic has a profound effect on its followers, and I know I’m not the only one. Across four time zones, there’s an excellent chance Yanks who bleed green-and-white are still buzzing about the results at Hampden.

Thank God Eddie Howe balked at joining Celtic and is now toiling — to be diplomatic — at Newcastle. Howe would have never — never — accomplished the same 180-degree turn with the Hoops as Ange Postecoglou has in the last several months.

As an aside, I don’t know where Dom McKay might be these days, but he’s owed a huge debt of gratitude for bringing in Postecoglou and the wave of players in during the last transfer window, many of whom made the difference yesterday with long-time Celtic veterans like Tom Rogic, Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor.

Put aside the fact that Postecoglou won, in a matter of months, the same number of trophies that Steven Gerrard took years to finally accomplish at Sevco before taking the first train out of Glasgow for Aston Villa. Ange is no stranger to silverware, and for those of you keeping score at home you can count Hampden as his ninth — three with South Melbourne, three with Brisbane, one with the Socceroos, one with Yokohama Marinos, and now one with Celtic.

But they said Postecoglou was not built for the SPFL. They said he’d be gone by Christmas.

In what has sadly become a hallmark of the Scottish mainstream sports media, they thought wrong.

And this team Postecoglou has put together, what more can you say? It’s a team that is once again geared to win trophies. Against most odds. Against the resistance of a Celtic board that balks at expense.

And what about this kid?

Every Celtic fan on the planet Earth would gladly trade places with Anthony Ralston yesterday at Hampden to greet Kyogo Furuhashi after his second goal to put the Hoops up 2-1.

Kyogo was not 100 percent yesterday, coming off a hamstring injury. But he was ready to play regardless. Postecoglou said on Sunday that no one was keeping him off the pitch, and for this we are truly thankful. The kid delivered.

It wasn’t just Kyogo. It was everyone, a team effort. Even Carl Starfelt — who Michael Stewart couldn’t slam hard enough on the game broadcast, early and often — had an OK game with a couple of miscues that resulted, arguably at most, with Hibernian’s only goal. But the point here is that everyone stepped up, because that’s the Celtic way.

My Celtic Star colleague Niall J points this out in more depth in his article here. It’s worth a read, outlining the contributions the team has made. But it bears repeating. Rogic? Awesome. Bitton, coming in for the dinged-up David Turnbull? Phenomenal. McGregor, the captain? No doubt the man we want in charge. Cameron Carter-Vickers? His solid defense clearly earns him the nickname “The Rock,” in deference to actor Dwayne Johnson.

[Cameron “The Rock” Carter-Vickers. Hmmm. That has a nice ring to it.]

The only thing missing, sadly, on Sunday was the absence of Jota, who is out with an injury. If anyone has contributed to the success of the club this season, it is clearly Jota. And for him to be absent in the victory on Sunday was definitely heartbreaking.

But of all the deliriously joyous events and happenings at Hampden, this one was probably the best.

Somewhere in the ethereal realm of the afterlife, Bertie Auld was looking down and watching yesterday’s game at Hampden. But his cutout was present yesterday, wearing the Hoops scarf.

Some cardboard cutouts are destined for the trash bin. And some are present at the final at Hampden. If you listened closely enough after the game, you could hear Bertie Auld say, “That’s entertainment.”

Coffee’s ready, finally. We’re away to St. Mirren on Wednesday — here we go again, we’re on the road again. Mon the Hoops!

3-0 at Tannadice is nice, but . . .

First things first: Celtic played a phenomenal game at Tannadice on Sunday against fourth-place Dundee United, winning 3-0 easily with phenomenal play from Tom Rogic, ballet-like moves by David Turnbull and new kid Liam Scales slotting one in to seal the deal.

What could have been potentially a nailbiter with key players missing — the absence of Anthony Ralston, Jota, and Stephen Welsh casting a shadow over the game — ended up being a classic show of Angeball.

The Bhoys in Green made fairly easy work of a club that — unlike, say, Livingston and their 10-0-0 formation — actually went out of their way to challenge Celtic on the pitch with a pressing style of play. While it’s hard after a 3-0 defeat to heap glowing praise on Dundee United goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist, he did play well to keep the score from being significantly higher; to say nothing of feeling completely awful for ex-Celt Charlie Mulgrew, now sadly toiling in obscurity for the Tangerines, who got beat so handily by Rogic on the first goal of the game.

Who taught this bhoy how to dance? David Turnbull pirouettes around Benjamin Siegrist to score at the 40-minute mark to make the score 2-0 Celtic. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

But . . .

You would think that the officiating would be its cutting edge sharpest in a match where all eyes were on the Men in Black, especially after the razor-thin margin of an offside goal for Celtic on Thursday had caused such a huge scandal in Scottish football.

Sadly, any semblance of objectivity or sharpness on the part of the officiating crew at Tannadice, or anywhere else throughout the league for that matter, was virtually non-existent.

On Sunday, three offside calls that weren’t really offside — I guess that will show us. Countless fouls matching the non-calls on fouls.

And then there’s the aptly named Callum Butcher. Butcher: Is there an any more appropriate name for a hammerthrowing nobody who immediately should have been red-carded for his spikes-up marking of David Turnbull?

No doubt the Scottish Football Association’s Crawford Allen will have a busy week going round all the media outlets telling us why Butcher didn’t get a red card and why his linesmen had countless incorrect decisions against Celtic on Sunday, just like he did this past week after Kyogo Furuhashi’s goal against Heart of Maddenlothian . . . sorry, Heart of Midlothian.

Wait. Who am I trying to fool?

So, while I’m pleased with the results against Dundee United on Sunday, pleased with how Ange Postecoglou and the coaching staff arranged the limited personnel, and reassured by the uptempo style of play which makes us the team to beat in the Scottish Premiership, I don’t want to get complacent with our treatment by the officials, which is nothing short of abhorrent and, as the rest of the world outside Scotland sees it, hypocritical.

As such, it’s easy to take our foot off the gas — rhetorically speaking — when it comes to the malfeasance on the part of the officiating crew. This is where I think we should keep on it. Keep pointing out the errors, keep pointing out the injustices. Some might say, “Well, it has always been this way,” and that may be. But it doesn’t mean we have to accept it.

Call it out. Early and often. Every time it happens.

One more thing

Two, actually.

First: Ghirls will be ghirls.

The Ghirls in Green won their first piece of silverware in a decade — the Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup on Sunday, dragging out a 1-0 victory over perennial women’s power Glasgow City. Fran Alonso has really gotten the women’s team to fire on all cylinders this season, and it’s good to see that he’s getting results. Congrats, ghirls!

Second thing: Why isn’t Tom Rogic ever in any of the Celtic Christmas videos?

Anyway, we have the fascists from Real Betis visiting Celtic Park in a Europa League match on Thursday. It might be a good time to give some of the bhoys a rest and let the kids take the stage, so to speak.

Anyway, Mon the Hoops!

Takeaways from the weekend

Forgive me for going off-script and weighing in on Celtic while we’re still outside the parameters of the regular SPFL season — a self-imposed rule I have set on myself and this blog. However, this weekend warrants a few comments and points which could be marginalized, or even forgotten, by the time we pick up the regular season again on Sunday.

Like . . .

The pregame tifo to honor Bertie Auld was fantastic, but it still paled in comparison to the display at the 67th minute of the match. The Green Brigade pulled out all the stops on this one.

Damn, can we tifo!

Recently I was explaining tifo to a friend who follows sports marginally, and if anything only sports in the U.S. He couldn’t understand why fans would make so much of an effort, and I just threw up my hands and changed the subject.

Anyway, despite the fact I am not a big fan of pyro, the pregame and 67th minute tributes to Bertie Auld on Saturday were both phenomenal. The Green Brigade gets high marks for bringing high quality to the stands, each and every time, regardless of whether it gets the club in trouble or not. It was phenomenal, and regretfully I could not find a still from the 2nd half demonstration by the Green Brigade.

You’ll have to settle for videos gleaned from social media, like this one here.

Of course, Sunday’s Wile E. Coyote tifo — whatever the Ibrox crew was doing on at Hampden the day after, which seemed to be purchased at ACME– paled in comparison. As it always does, and as they always do.

A yellow for Furuhashi

An incident in the St. Johnston game which caused some ripples was when that paragon of class officiating Nick Walsh — yeah, that’s the epitome of sarcasm right there, as Walsh should be nowhere near a grade-school match, let alone a Cup semifinal — gave Kyogo Furuhashi a yellow card. But the fact of the matters is that it was completely warranted.

Kyogo Furuhashi against the backdrop of the Green Brigade’s demonstration at the 67th minute of Saturday’s game.

Furuhashi was floored by some mouthbreathing, hammerthrowing nobody on St. Johnstone — playing their Livingstonian 10-0-0 formation all game — and Kyogo got up and was clearly justified in pushing him. A small tete-a-tete which amounted to nothing, except to Walsh, who made it a serious offense thanks to the fact that it was a Celt involved.

Daijobu desu, Furuhashi-san — That’s OK, Kyogo. It’s good to see that Kyogo has probably had his fill of the rogue’s gallery of talentless thugs that populate the SPFL and is now standing up for himself.

Welcome back, Jamesy

Oh, man. Have I been waiting for this, and it’s a plot line straight out of Hollywood. Who better to honor a legend like Bertie Auld than a potential legend-in-waiting like James Forrest?

James Forrest gets chased by Celtic captain Callum McGregor after Forrest scored on Saturday against St. Johnstone.

Forrest scored in the 74th minute from a cross that pinballed off St. Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark and others, and slotted home the 1-0 winner on Saturday. If there was ever a fitting “welcome back” after recovery from a long injury, it was this for Jamesy.

Love seeing that kind of play from a homegrown hero like Forrest.

One more thing

My friend Matt Corr’s latest book — “Harry Hood: Twice as Good” — has officially been released into the wild, and it’s an ideal holiday gift for that Celtic fan on your list. You can pick up the book at the Celtic Star Bookstore, and you can marvel at how great Harry looked in the San Antonio Thunder jersey late in his career . . . not to mention all the tales of glory from his Celtic days as well.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. We travel to Bayer Lederhosen — sorry, Leverkusen — this week before taking up the regular season tasks against Aberdeen on Sunday. Mon the Hoops!

We are family

João Pedro Neves Filipe — better known in these circles as Jota, our midfielder — mentioned what could have been a throwaway line in a postgame interview on BT Sport after Celtic’s 3-2 victory against Ferencvaros in Budapest. However, it bears resurrecting because it says a lot about Celtic’s resurgence.

“We are just starting to get to know each other,” Jota said of playing with his new teammates, “and month after month I think we are getting stronger and start to be like a real family, so . . . yeah, I think things are doing well . . .”

We are family: Kyogo Furuhashi and Jota during Celtic’s 3-2 win over Ferencvaros on Thursday.

That’s an important observation from a player for whom Celtic should be writing a check to Benfica to acquire him, and personally deliver it to the Portuguese club immediately. Celtic needs to seal this deal as soon as possible, as in right this very moment, as I write this and as you read this.

This kid “gets” Celtic.

When Jota hits on the family aspect of Celtic, he is not far off. Families are not perfect, obviously, and from time to time there is friction. And not all decisions made on a group level are met with the same degree of fanfare and joy, but the fact remains that whatever ups and downs there might be, we are in this together.

Faithful through and through.

We had a positive week this week with the signing of Anthony Ralston and then a Europa League victory in Budapest, wrapping up the week today when the club announced the signing of Greg Taylor to a new contract.

The Moan Brigade was out in full force on social media on that last one, which is unfortunate but sadly all-but-expected. Taylor is what we call here in the States a “lunchpail player” — a non-flashy, just-get-the-job-done, bringing his lunch from home type of player. No accolades, no fanfare. He clocks in, does his job dutifully, and clocks out until the next day.

A lot like Jonny Hayes. Remember him?

And here’s what the PlayStation pundits and armchair gaffers get wrong about giving Taylor grief: We let Hayes slip away a while back, and now he’s teamed up with Scott Brown at Aberdeen. Keeping Taylor in the fold, whether or not he’s a starter going forward from here on in, was a good move in keeping an experienced player who has the option of fighting for a starting spot.

Let’s be honest: The club signing Jota would have been a much bigger deal. That’s a given. And again, signing Jota should be done as soon as possible; there’s no way to stress this enough. But the fact that we’re shoring up the club with veterans like Taylor shouldn’t be discounted either.

Because perfect or not — and we all know there have been moves Celtic either balked on or shouldn’t have made, or moves we made and we’ve regretted — we’re still family.

Sunday we’re at Dundee against the Dark Blues at the bewitching hour of 4 a.m. kickoff on the U.S. Pacific Coast. Mon the Hoops!

A tale of two players

The Celtic Star posted an article on Tuesday regarding some undue criticism that Celtic forward Kyogo Furuhashi received from a typical source — Clyde 1 pundit-for-some-unexplained-reason and significantly-below-average former footballer Alex Rae.

This is Kyogo Furuhashi, scoring for Celtic. Comparing his numbers to Alex Rae’s, Rae is not fit to lace this young man’s boots, let alone offer his skewed criticism.

It piqued my curiosity to compare the two, putting side-by-side Celtic’s talented striker recently acquired from Vissel Kobe with the oft-whining “football mastermind” so often sought out, for some unexplained reason, for his “analytic wisdom.”

After a quick visit to the modern technological miracle known as tranfermrkt.com, the results are interesting.

Rae, a midfielder of clearly anonymous and forgettable talent, scored a grand total of 30 goals in a career spanning 18,218 minutes. This translates into roughly one goal every 607 minutes, or one every seven games. The breakdown, for those of you keeping score at home, is 19 for Wolverhampton, eight for Sunderland, three for Dundee FC, and a grand total of zero for old Rangers FC, a club which was liquidated in 2012.

Furuhashi, a striker of considerably more talent in a toenail clipping than Rae has in his entire DNA, has scored 76 goals in 15,906 minutes, in a career that is ongoing. Calculator, please . . . that’s a career total, so far, of roughly one goal every 209 minutes; 10 of those — one-third of Rae’s total career output — in games this season alone for the Hoops.

So, Furuhashi scores at a rate of approximately three times that of Rae. Is he three times the player that Rae was? No, because three times zero is still zero. But still, Furuhashi contributes much more to the game, on the whole, than Rae ever did as a player. The only contribution Rae clearly makes to football these days is putting the “anal” in analysis.

And yeah, I get it. Rae’s not a striker and would have scored less. But contributing so much less, statistically speaking? That’s a serious gap. You can go ahead and dig deeper into the numbers for Rae and the numbers for Furuhashi for a more detailed analysis, if you’re so inclined. But rest assured they don’t get any better for the pundit.

Yet the fact remains: When your career highlight is kicking the head of a downed opponent, as Rae did in 2004 in his European debut against CSKA Moscow, and when your stats suggest you might be better suited to another line of work — in Rae’s case, a gargoyle on a tall Glasgow building — you may want sit this one out and talk about something else.

In any case, Europa League action (ugh) continues on Thursday as the Bhoys in Green travel to that hotbed of racism, namely Hungary, to play Ferencvárosi TC away. Mon the Hoops!

You gotta have Hart

One topic of debate or discourse among Celtic fans as of late has to be this: Of all the great pickups over the summer, which of the last transfer window’s acquisitions has been the best for the Hoops?

It’s a tough question to answer, thanks to the tsunami of talent that came our way.

Of all the acquisitions during the summer transfer window, Joe Hart may be the best of the class. Photo credit: The Celtic Star

Of course, Joe Hart stands head and shoulders above the rest. Pun completely intended.

Any skepticism about whether the 34-year-old goalkeeper may be on the decline was vanquished quickly with a string of phenomenal performances once the season started. Nine clean sheets for the Hoops after being picked up for free over the summer from Tottenham Hotspur, Hart signed a three-year contract with Celtic and rose to the number one goalkeeper.

Not to take away anything from Scott Bain, Vasilis Barkas, or Conor Hazard — all of whom are adequate between the sticks — but Hart, above the rest, has been a godsend.

As mentioned in a previous post, Hart joins a class of transfers over the summer which has supercharged the side, and he has risen to the occasion.

Not only this, Hart “gets it” — he understands what it means to put on the goalkeeper’s jersey for Celtic; the only player on the pitch with the Celtic crest on his jersey not wearing the Hoops. Not only did he praise the fans visiting Easter Road yesterday for their support in Celtic’s 3-1 win over Hibernian, he also gave credit where credit was due to the fans who came to the Tuesday afternoon UEFA Europa League match at mid-month against Ferencvaros, thanking the 50,000-plus who attended the 2-0 victory.

Hart’s dedication to the fans and humility in postgame interviews proves that he’s custom-made for Celtic, despite a pedigree which has taken him to the best of the EPL and European teams (to say nothing, of course, for playing for his country).

And he said it best in a recent article in The Celtic Star: “I play for the club, I play for the badge and I play for the manager. I feel good in the shirt at the moment and I want to continue.”

We want you to continue, too, Joe.

One more thing

As mentioned in previous posts, I lived in Japan in the late 1990s and, as an aside, I have a history of seeing Shunsuke Nakamura play at Yokohama. Of course, I was teaching English in suburban Tokyo at the time and my adult students took me to a Marinos game, however in typical Yankee fashion I was more interested in the fact that I could get ramen in the stands than in anything that was happening on the pitch.

Yeah, I’m still kicking myself for that.

Anyway, the long reach of Celtic has established a beachhead in Japan once again, thanks to Kyogo Furuhashi. In Tokyo Station — one of the largest anywhere — Kyodo Sports News put up posters of the day’s sports news, with this one announcing Furuhashi scoring his 10th goal for Celtic against Hibernian (if my rusty Japanese is correct).

I picked this up on Twitter and credit goes to @sean_1am, a Glaswegian now in Japan. Thanks, Sean!

So we have Livingston visiting Celtic Park — Livi gets to play on a decent pitch for a change — at 3 p.m. on Saturday (7 a.m. in the wild and wooly West here).

Mon the Hoops.

Sometimes it makes you think…

California and the West Coast of North America has just weathered a monsoon-like storm over the last two days, keeping most of us indoors and, speaking personally, keeping me staring out the window at the rain pelting the tree-crested ridge that separates me from the Pacific Ocean a few miles away.

Yet I didn’t come here to wax poetic. The point is that with nothing to watch thanks to intermittent power outages until the skies cleared this morning, and with the Bohemians battling Waterford — literally battling, as in they may exchange gunfire before 90 minutes are up — in the background because, well, that happens to be on at the moment, I started to think about a conversation I had recently with one of my football-following colleagues at work over the weekend.

The basic premise of the conversation went something like this: It’s really odd — but remarkably fortunate, too — how well Celtic ended up right now in the face of earlier uncertainty, with some of the personnel that graces this season’s Celtic squad, both on the field and on the sidelines.

This is not Eddie Howe. And thank God for that. Ange Postecoglou has gotten the Hoops on the right track since taking the reins at Celtic.

Remember back when we were all wringing our hands about whether Eddie Howe was going to grace us with his presence on the Celtic sidelines, and the disappointment by most in the heel-dragging days that preceded Howe’s ultimate rejection? Well, that was a phenomenal blessing in disguise, because had Howe accepted the post, we would not have had Ange Postecoglou come to lead the club.

And the odyssey of Dom McKay? In his 40-day cameo appearance as club CEO — and prior to his departure for reasons we may never know — McKay ushered in not only the Postecoglou era, but the club had a phenomenal transfer window which essentially reinvigorated the lethargic and demoralized club.

The calculus is very simple: No McKay and Postecoglou, no Kyogo Furuhashi. No Joe Hart. No Liel Abada. No George Michael . . . I mean, no Jota. No Josip Juranovic. The list goes on and, sure, not every transfer is an instant success, but we are seeing improvement in the likes of new players like Carl Starfelt and Giorgios Giakoumakis.

Without Postecoglou’s guidance, there’s an excellent chance we don’t have a resurgent Anthony Ralston and Tom Rogic. Because of Postecoglou, we have call-ups like Adam Montgomery flourishing under a new system; an attacking style of football that was profoundly lacking — and profoundly responsible for a lackluster performance — last season.

Out of what could have been a disaster — a mad scramble for a manager and a patchwork transfer window that could have been a disaster — at the advent of this season, the end result with McKay and Postecoglou calling the shots may have been just the thing Celtic needed to get things back to normal.

Speculation is a funny thing, and while I would prefer not to think of where we might be under Eddie Howe’s leadership had he taken the Celtic post, I would be willing to bet we would not be as far along in Celtic’s recovery as we are right now under Postecoglou.

Well, the Bohs dropped one to Waterford 2-1 and we have Hibernian on Wednesday at Easter Road. Mon the Hoops!

Break’s over: Back to work

Temporary opponents, permanent teammates: Japan’s Kyogo Furuhashi and Australia’s Tom Rogic meet up after their international match, which Japan won.

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows how I feel about the International Break. For the uninitiated, though, let me just repeat that I hate it — while I understand it’s a player’s duty to participate on behalf of their country, the idea that they might come back to their club injured keeps me awake literally for the entire time, especially where the Bhoys are concerned.

Having said this, it’s a sincere source of joy — and restful sleep on the nights before Saturday’s match against Motherhell, sorry Motherwell, — that it appears the Hoops playing abroad, and even those playing for Scotland, will return relatively unscathed to resume the SPFL season for the Green and White.

This is obviously good news.

Travel fatigue aside — and the match sharpness that it removes from those returning from far away lands — the fact that Celtic returns to the pitch as strong as when the team left it is a good sign going forward. And in the advent of returning players like Christopher Jullien and James Forrest, all signs point to a stronger lineup going forward both in the SPFL and Europa realms.

It bodes well for Celtic to kickstart a run from the middle of the table to the top, where we belong.

One more thing

I don’t know how the rumor got started, let alone how it got legs — or how it got wings, for that matter (though I can imagine . . .) — but the latest that’s floating around is energy-drink giant Red Bull aims to either sponsor, or outright buy, Celtic FC.

If Red Bull is choosing to sponsor Celtic, swapping out the problematic Dafabet gambling sponsorship for nothing more innocuous than a corporate presence on the jersey, maybe a stadium name-change, and any other corporate trappings that sponsorship might provide, then I’m pretty much OK with it.

But if Red Bull is talking ownership, then I personally have a problem with that. A corporate takeover — however above-board and noble — flies in the face of the club’s founding, no matter how successful Red Bull’s entries in international football have become.

As an aside, it makes all those jokes about New York Celtic — the New York Red Bulls purloining the likes of Patryk Klimala, Andrew Gutman, and Cameron Harper — a little less funny at this point.

But it’s conjecture at this point — clickbait, to be sure — but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

Saturday at Fir Park, 7 a.m. Pacific time (thank you for the 3 p.m. kickoff, guys!). And if you’re a Celtic fan going to the game, Motherwell FC is holding a food bank collection, so if you can bring something to add, that would be great. Bring a can of beans, or something, for me.

Mon the Hoops!