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 . . .”
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!
As a relatively new Celtic fan — only four seasons still makes me a neophyte in the grand scheme of Hoops history — one of the things that, at least to me, has always ranged from a mild mystery to a downright conundrum is the club’s assigning of player numbers.
This observation first occurred to me while I was still grieving the departure of Mikael Lustig, who had sadly moved on from Celtic to KAA Gent, before ending up now at AIK in Stockholm. His number 23 went immediately to a new acquisition at the time, Boli Bolingoli. I thought it was odd that the number of a beloved Celt would be transferred so quickly, but I guess it is par for the course in the football world.
You move on, and your number is up for grabs, apparently. It’s as simple as that.
Or is it? Is there more to it than meets the eye, a certain metaphysical reason behind a player ending up wearing the number of a legend?
We have a new number 8 who replaces a recently departed number 8 — departed in a football sense, that is. Little has been said about Kyogo Furuhashi inheriting Scott Brown’s number. On the surface there may seem to be few similarities between the two, but if you look back the Hoops legend from Dunfermline and the new kid from Nara may be more alike than meets the eye, primarily and most importantly, both are quick and good with the ball. Also, it can be argued that Brown inherited the number from another Celtic legend, Paul McStay, and Brown admirably filled the legacy of that Hoops great.
We could go on and on about this, because examples here are plentiful: Liel Abada’s number 11 runs through the scenic route of the retraced steps of Scott Sinclair back to Bobby Lennox, while the number 5 has a magical and mystical significance insofar as the last player to wear it, Jozo Simunovic, scored after 67 minutes in a game honouring the greatest number 5 to play in green-and-white, Billy McNeill.
Then there’s the iconic number 7: Last worn with historical significance by the King of Kings, Henrik Larsson, but with a lineage that goes back to the greatest of all Celts, Jimmy Johnstone.
Today, photos of new Celtic acquisition Josip Juranovic have the new player wearing number 88, that of a Celtic historic goal-scoring magician, Gary Hooper. During his time with Celtic, Hooper — who is still playing in Australia — was an exciting player to watch, and it remains to be seen whether the magic of the number rubs off on the Croatian defender joining Celtic from Legia Warsaw.
This magic sometimes transfers — Brown to Furuhashi seems, at least so far, to be proof of that.
But sometimes it doesn’t — Lustig to Bolingoli being Exhibit A here, to say nothing of Albian Ajeti’s number 10, with a pedigree that spans the timeline through Moussa Dembele, Jan Vennegor of Hesselink, John Hartson, Tommy Burns, and Bertie Auld.
You can say it’s only a number, but fate, superstition and the football gods may have other intentions. No one knows for sure.
Nevertheless, on Thursday we have the second leg against Alkmaar Zaanstreek — AZ to the cool kids — away in the Netherlands, bringing with us a 2-o advantage from last week’s Europa League match at Parkhead.
Without anything else to divert my attention — thanks, International Break — I have been mulling the departure of Scott Brown, the only captain I’ve known at Celtic as a fan, while both navigating the five stages of grief and speculating about what this move might mean for Broony, as well as Celtic, in the future.
I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, and I don’t have any tinfoil hats that fit me well, but after processing the whole departure of the heart and soul of Celtic, I get the sense that Brown will be back: This player-coach stint at Aberdeen is just a warm-up and a “learning the ropes” for a future managerial stint at Parkhead.
It’s just a hunch, but there are precedents at play here.
The great Jock Stein ended his playing days at Celtic and later went on to manage Dunfermline Athletic and Hibernian before returning to Celtic and making history. The same for Tommy Burns, who left Celtic for Kilmarnock late in his playing career — serving as a player-coach (sound familiar?) for Killie — before returning to manage the Hoops.
So while I am brokenhearted at the prospect of next season without Brown, as well as sad at the prospect that he will not get a proper send-off thanks to COVID-19, I do think we have not seen the last of this Celtic legend playing a role for the Bhoys.
And who takes the armband from next season? One popular debate is that it is up for grabs between Callum McGregor and Kris Ajer. Both would excel at the role of captain, but I would give the nod to CalMac — not to take anything away from Ajer, but McGregor has done it numerous times in Brown’s absence and he has a long history as a catalyst to the club’s recent successes; a history I hope continues until he hangs up his boots years from now.
In the meantime, there are bhoys playing for their national teams today — Ajer and Norway are hosting Turkey, and Jonathan Afolabi, Luca Connell and the Irish are hosting Luxembourg. Mon the Hoops on International Duty!
Well, that’s better: There are few things better than a 4-0 drubbing of Kilmarnock to lift the spirits and put a spring in your step on the way to Saturday’s match at Celtic Park against Motherhell . . . sorry, Motherwell.
Of particular note in Tuesday’s game — outshining Scott Brown’s remarkable header, as well as both Odsonne Edouard and Albian Ajeti finally finding their groove — was the play of transfer acquisition Jonjoe Kenny and Celtic Reserves promotee Stephen Welsh. Kenny, an unknown factor going into the game, showed great potential for the full 90, while Welsh continues to improve as he gains playing time with the first team.
Welsh even acquired a unique nickname, courtesy of The Celtic Star’s Sandman, who rates players on a game-by-game basis, and whose ratings should be part of your post-game experience whether on The Celtic Noise forum or from The Star.
Rather than bemoan the fact that the Celts should have been playing like this months ago, as some are, I will take this victory and move on to Saturday. Hopefully they can do the same to Motherwell at Celtic Park.
But wait, there’s more . . .
While Kenny was the only move to Celtic FC over the transfer window, with a couple of key players leaving and woefully mentioned in previous posts, the Celtic FC Women’s team was active in the transfer window, losing three players but gaining four others.
Of special note to us in California is the Ghirls in Green’s acquisition of former Stanford University forward Mariah Lee. Lee, formerly of the Seattle-based OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League (and a club, formerly called Seattle Reign, which is now under the umbrella of Olympique Lyonnaise . . . pun completely intended), made her own mark for the Stanford Cardinal, and was a teammate during her college days of current U.S. Women’s Team phenom Catarina Macario.
Fun fact: Lee is a concert violinist.
Green joins Jacynta Galabadaarchchi, Izzy Atkinson, and Anna Filbey on the Celtic Women’s team. Australian Galabadaarchchi joins Celtic from Napoli, Ireland’s Atkinson joins Celtic from Shelbourne in Dublin, and Wales’ Filbey comes to Celtic via Tottenham Hotspur.
One of the many things that’s great about being a Celtic fan is the club’s history. Sure, all clubs have a history, but there are few that are as resonant and vibrant as Celtic’s, which makes it a great club to follow. When questions like the one above are posted on Twitter, for the most part the thread is an interesting collection of responses which can be informative.
My answer for this one is Scott Brown, a captain and a player who will easily join the pantheon of Celtic greats once he retires. Laugh if you want, but I’ve only been following Celtic for the last three years and I don’t have the . . . let’s say, “experience” . . . that some of other fans might have had growing up with the club.
That’s something I’ll try to live down. While I am envious of those who have been lifelong Celtic fans, I don’t have the luxury of time-travel to start earlier. You would think that would not matter — that my desire and passion for the club would be enough of a defining factor in being a supporter — but you would be surprised how those who are new to the club are pigeonholed.
It comes mostly in on-line disagreements, whether in social media or in some fan forums, where a debate will be reduced to, “I’ve been a fan since the dawn of time and you haven’t.”
Human nature? Perhaps. But if you think that you’re a better fan because you’ve been one for longer, that’s not the slam dunk you think it is. To be honest, I don’t care if Brother Walfrid personally handed you lifetime season tickets at the outset of the club and you’ve been to every match since 1888. You’re no better, or no worse, a fan than the person who fell in love with Celtic yesterday. Longevity doesn’t make you a good fan — more informed, perhaps — but your commitment to the club is the important metric here.
“Faithful through and through” aren’t just four words, they are a foundation of a commitment to Celtic, regardless of whether you’re a lifetime fan or a johnny-come-lately.
For the benefit of those of you — and I’m guessing it’s a pretty high number — who are hung over right now after celebrating in the afterglow of Celtic’s Quadruple Treble victory at Hampden yesterday, I’m going to write very softly as not to disturb you. You’re welcome.
But as we head to Wednesday’s game, there are a few more observations that should be made regarding Sunday’s victory. Like . . .
How historic was it?
Matt Corr, my colleague at The Celtic Star and a Celtic historian without peer, outlined the gravity of yesterday’s accomplishment with a Twitter post (which I misread, and was quickly “corrected” — mea culpa!), stating that the last time a club had won three Scottish Cups in a row was . . . 1876, when Queens Park did it for the third time that year.
Celtic broke that record yesterday, nearly a century and a half later.
This, of course, adds to the gravity of the herculean accomplishment of four trebles in a row, and adds even more to the awe-inspiring feat that Celtic achieved yesterday.
Not only did Matt give it the notice it deserved, but you can bet that William Hill also got into the act on Twitter, posting a tweet that showed the domestic trophies won this century by clubs . . . and by Scott Brown at Celtic.
To be fair, Scott Brown is missing one from his time at Hibernian, but that’s a minor detail.
Gathering up the tears
Schadenfreude is probably not a good thing to have on an occasion like this, but when it comes to both Heart of Midlothian, as well as Glasgow’s other club, it’s hard — no, it’s impossible — to resist.
First, like Glasgow’s other club, Heart of Midlothian FC has always been a classless organization which deserves every tumble of its recent downfall. Its captain, Steven Naismith, is a hammerthrowing thug who will only be known within the confines of Scotland and will be forgotten once he retires, unless of course he end up on SkySports post-career as one of Martin O’Neill’s aptly described “basement dwellers.”
That said, it was nothing short of hilarious to see the greeting from both about what a meanie Scott Brown was during the game, ignoring the fact that Naismith stomped on him early in the match, or that Naismith was carded during a corner-kick tussle with Brown; both actions career hallmarks of that legend in his own mind.
Then there’s Neil McCann’s moaning about Odsonne Edouard’s penalty kick that he looped over a diving Craig Gordon being disrespectful. Seriously? If you want to talk about disrespect, Neil, how about starting with players — like, oh I don’t know, you? — taking EBT money at the expense of Scottish taxpayers. How’s that for disrespectful?
And for the love of God, can someone help this poor Rangers fan who seems to have lost the plot?
The stupid, it burns.
Onward and upward
Once the celebrating stops and the hangovers subside, Celtic are still faced with a phenomenal task of reeling in first place in the Premiership. Without the benefit of a winter break — which traditionally filled the tanks for the second half — it appears that the club will have to bear down and move forward without it. Naturally we are up to the task and, with the right mix of acquisitions in the transfer window and the calling up of qualified players from the reserves, we should be able to achieve this goal.
On to Wednesday’s match against Ross County. Mon the Hoops, and in case I forget, have a Merry Krismas and a Hoopy New Year!
I woke up early on Sunday morning because a couple of hours before the historic Celtic match at Hampden, FC St. Pauli played Fortuna Dusseldorf — we won’t go there at this time, except to say it was not pretty — and my mood going into the game with Hearts was not exactly chipper.
Then the starting lineups came out on social media. I expected Scott Brown to start in place of Ismaila Soro, but I kept tripping over the goal choice. Conor Hazard. You want the kid to be between the sticks in what is possibly the most historic game of the 21st century?
Clearly we do. And this is why they pay Neil Lennon, and not me (who would have gone with Scott Bain), the big bucks. Hazard did remarkably well in goal for the Celts, as he has since he has been brought up to the first team.
There is a lot to be said for the accomplishment of a quadruple treble, and that will be written by writers and pundits with a lot more experience than me. But something about today’s game spoke volumes to what could be a changing of the guard at Paradise; the historic Celtic game where not only do we acknowledge the tremendous gravity of winning four trebles in a row, but also it was a game where we look back and say that youth was served.
It speaks to an issue that I hope will be explored further in the upcoming weeks as we head into the 2nd half of the season: Bringing up some of the other Celtic Reserves to play on the first team. We all saw today that the dues Hazard paid toiling in the Reserves is now paying dividends for the first team.
Hazard is not alone in that department, and the list of worthy Reserves is long: Armstrong Oko-Flex, Cameron Harper, Karamoko Dembele, Jonathan Afolabi, Scott Robertson, Kerr McInroy, and on and on. Along with Hazard, one other Colt who has made a mark on the first team this season in Stephen Welsh, and each of these aforementioned players listed arguably are in the starting blocks of a successful career for the Hoops.
They’ve all shown what they can do in the Reserves and in loan spells with other clubs. It’s time to put them to work for the Hoops.
Hazard has punched his ticket on the Celtic history express, and hopefully he will translate this huge accomplishment into a successful Celtic career in goal. Seeing his performance in the last several games, no doubt he will. But the quality of his play Hazard has shown he has set the table for others in the Reserves to follow suit.
If you’re like me, you’re still basking in the glow of this monumental feat: the quadruple treble. So while I process this, I may have more to say about this amazing feat itself in an upcoming post.
Unlike me, though, you’re probably not still apologizing to your neighbors for waking them up so early on a Sunday morning — remember, I’m 8 hours behind Glasgow here — with a rousing chorus of “I Just Can’t Get Enough” after Kris Ajer’s final penalty, but that’s another story for another time.
Let’s pick up this momentum Wednesday as we get back to the league games. Mon the Hoops!
When a week goes by with no Celtic games, and having to see what’s available elsewhere — the default mode is to find which clubs with former Celts are playing and watch accordingly (for example, Scott Sinclair was pretty good in the Preston North End win, though he flubbed a chance to score) — it gives one pause to collect one’s thoughts for Celtic’s upcoming game on Sunday, historic as it is, as well as to look back and ponder some might-have-beens.
Like . . .
Does Scott Brown start on Sunday?
This is the big question of the week, being batted back and forth over the journalistic net like a tennis ball at a Wimbledon final. Does Scott Brown start on Sunday, or does Neil Lennon go with what’s been working over the last couple of weeks with David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro?
This is a tough one. If it has caused me a sleepless night or two, imagine the tossing and turning Lenny must be doing over it.
In the final analysis, my guess — and my hope — is that Broony starts on Sunday. History dictates it. In large part, Scott Brown got us to where we are now. A gut feeling that Broony will shine comes into play here over the logic that his performances lately have been, to put it mildly, lackluster.
My guess, too, is that as a starter he’s on a very short leash as well, and if he looks anywhere near lackluster, he may be getting the hook early.
What’s not being talked about is this: You know who I would like to see start on Sunday against the relegated Heart of Midlothian? Mikey Johnston. He subbed against Kilmarnock in the last game, coming off a long-healing injury, and looked to be his old self, bobbing and weaving through traffic goalward.
Jozo opens up
On the day that Jozo Simunovic scored at 67 minutes in the game honoring Celtic legend Billy McNeill — number 5 scoring in honor of number 5 — I put a photo of the big Croatian pointing skyward after scoring as my wallpaper. And there it stays to this day — a reminder of probably the first historic Celtic moment this realtively new Celtic fan had seen for himself (in the company, of course, of the San Francisco CSC in Millbrae, California).
I’ve always liked Jozo a lot, and he played with enthusiasm and love for Celtic. He was one of those players that, when healthy, often anonymously steered the course of the game to our advantage. And then he punctuated his Celtic career with gems like the header above, scoring an occasional important goal like the one that put us ahead against Kilmarnock (again) late in the season to increase our lead in the standings.
And, of course, nothing beats Jozo’s launch of Kenny Miller in 2017 during a 5-1 drubbing of “The Rangers” at Ibrox.
The Celtic Star recently ran an article about Jozo recently where the former Celt opens up on his departure, it is definitely worth a read. Arguably, not offering Jozo an extension — along with letting Jonny Hayes and Mikael Lustig move on — arguably has put the club in the precarious position it finds itself today. But that’s another topic for another discussion at another time.
Look through any window
With the new year around the corner, it will be time for — fanfare, maestro — the January Transfer Window, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth that will undoubtedly follow.
A primary target on Celtic’s radar has been Philadelphia Union’s Mark McKenzie, who sees his road to the EPL running through Glasgow.
“I’ve done my fair share of research (on Celtic and the Scottish Premiership) and I’ve always loved football so I’ve known about Celtic for a while,” McKenzie recently told SkySports. “You hear about Celtic and the path of Virgil Van Dijk — going from there to the Prem.”
Not the kind of loyalty you would expect to the club, but understandable in this day and age of mercenaries. If the price of a top-notch defender is that he plays outstanding football for Celtic while punching his ticket to a larger club, then maybe that’s the best we can expect.
However, in this transfer window, it would not bother me if we stood pat with this team — maybe adding McKenzie or another defender — and bring up some of the Reserves to play for the Hoops.
Cameron Harper in particular deserves the opportunity to show what he can do on the first team, since his ability to challenge and go thorugh defenders at the Reserves level shows he could do it at the top level. The same goes for Armstrong Oko-Flex and Karamoko Dembele — both reported to be on the radar of a few teams down south — who both deserve to show what they can do for the first team. Get Jonathan Afolabi back from his loan spell from Dundee.
The fact of the matter is we have all the pieces we need going forward. It’s just putting them in the right order so the club fires on all cylinders as we motor to the 10 in the 2nd half of the season.
One more thing
Those who know me well already know this, but for the rest of you following me on social media, there are a couple of clubs which have earned my following due to their actions in their communities. As mentioned in a previous post, Nairn County FC took a windfall they had when COVID-19 stopped their season and put it back into their community, as thanks for the community’s ongoing support for the club.
More locally, just up the road in the San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland Roots SC deserve a shout-out in the same regard, and I am a supporter of a club that “harness(es) the magic of Oakland and the power of sport as a force for social good.” No one is more excited than me that Oakland Roots have partnered with FC St. Pauli in promotional efforts, and hopefully in the near future a friendly between the clubs in Oakland will be on the horizon.
My affinity for community-based, community-owned clubs does not stop there. As some readers know from a past post offering a few tips to former Celt Lewis Morgan in his move to Inter Miami, I spent my formative years — from 3 to 29 to be exact — living in Miami.
That said, a shout out goes to a new community-owned, community-based club in the area — Biscayne Bay SC — which will play its inaugural season in my old stomping grounds, so to speak. Not only this, they’ve adopted the quintessential Miami mascot — the Manatee! Score that as an own-goal for David Beckham in NOT adopting that mascot for Inter Miami, but Beckham’s loss is BBSC’s gain. Mon the Manatee!
Celts to bring home more silverware tomorrow — you read it here first.
I will be the first to admit that Celtic fans who have supported the team for decades surely don’t need a lecture from a relatively new fan 5,000 miles away. However, I do think I can offer some perspective on some of the games this season — like today’s — from America’s baseball world. The San Francisco Giants in the early aughts, when they were winning championships by any means necessary (and usually “winning ugly”), had a term they always used to describe their style of play: “Torture.”
Sound familiar, Celtic fans?
Torture. That would aptly describe the first 89 excruciating minutes of Sunday’s game at McDiarmid Park against St. Johnstone, where the Saints took a poke or two in that time — glancing one off the bar, even — while mostly playing back. Thank whichever diety you believe in that Leigh Griffiths got the header at 90 minutes, and then Patryk Klimala sealed the deal at 93 minutes for a 2-0 win and wrap up the Late Late Show.
Let’s talk about Klimala for a minute. For those who think that offseason training does not pay off, ask yourself if Klimala makes that comeback — Terminator style — quickly upright from a tackle to make that second goal if he hadn’t strengthened up. Chances are he doesn’t, and with the way the referee was being selective with fouls — multiple ignored muggings of Jeremie Frimpong, to no one’s surprise, for example — chances are Klimala doesn’t get the call as well.
Then there’s Griffiths: The bhoy is back. Full stop. But that goal doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The lead up of Kris Ajer to Hatem Elhamed, and then Elhamed’s perfect cross, is a play to watch over and over again.
And how’s this for strategy: Put the soul of your club on the bench and then bring him in to direct traffic toward the end of the game. It’s pretty clear that Scott Brown has an influence on the team that transcends his immediate play.
In geological terms the first 89 minutes of the game had the magma of the Celtic Boo Birds pressurizing the surface, awaiting to erupt in the lava of negativity all over social media. Thanks to Messrs. Griffiths and Klimala, eruption was averted, for the most part.
In addition, let’s be clear about something which some folks may be missing: The other 11 teams in the Premiership are all professional outfits, with players who step up their game a notch or two when playing Celtic. It definitely makes the difference between having a highlight reel and a highlight slide when a club plays Celtic well or, God forbid, beats Celtic. Opposing players get that and up their game accordingly.
Yet some in the support expect this season to be a walk in the park where we dust off other clubs as if they are made up of starving orphans or cloistered nuns.
News flash: They’re not.
So winning 2-0 against St. Johnstone may not be historic, or even noteworthy. But it is another win, and another 3 points. And if we have to grind it out to get to the 10, then that’s the “torture” we have to endure to get there. Naturally, I’d prefer it to be easy, but we would be well prepared to take it that way going forward.
Celtic’s performance on Sunday against Hibernian in the club’s 3-0 win was outstanding across the board; so much so that the silence from the doomsday brigade populating Celtic Twitter has been deafening. Let’s take a quick look at the match, and single out those who deserve special mention in a game which displayed why Celtic is the club in command this year.
Scott Brown? The armchair Steins on Twitter said he needed a rest, but he came out roaring on Sunday to have a great game, and in some folks’ opinions, he should have had Man of the Match honours. Greg Taylor? Improving on the wing with every game, and more importantly on Sunday, showed his defensive prowess by shutting down Martin Boyle, Hibs’ go-to guy, for the entire game.
I suspect there’s a bingo game going on with all the talentless hammerthrowers in the SPFL to see which one of the bastards can be the first to cripple Sunday’s Man-of-the-Match Jeremie Frimpong. Hibernian’s candidates gave it their best shot on Sunday, but still the Oh-My-Days Kid came up sprinting and doing what he does best: Speeding past hapless defenders.
David Turnbull looked sharp and his play on the pitch overall was remarkable. As an aside, my only concern on Sunday — a minuscule one at best, and one that’s easily rectified — is that nearly every corner he took was a line-drive with little altitude for the skyscrapers like Shane Duffy, Kris Ajer, and even Odsonne Edouard, in the box.
But truly, the man who deserves the highest praise on Sunday, and high praise every day that he’s a Celt, is Nir Bitton.
For seven years, Bitton has simply played the game — and played the game well — for Celtic. No fanfare. No drama. No should-I-stay-or-should-I-go chapters. Just a player who is proud to wear the hoops and plays where he’s asked. And though not perfect, he plays wherever asked to as near a perfection as a player can.
Listed as a midfielder, Bitton is blessed with the ability to play in the back like a world-class violinist plays a Stradivarius, as was evident in the Hibernian game. Though some criticize his pace as “slow” — I prefer to use the term “methodical” — yesterday his ball distribution from the back, mostly to Frimpong, and advancing up the field with the ball like, well, a midfielder, were sights to behold.
It’s players like Bitton who make the game enjoyable. To say he’s a throwback to another era where players played for the jersey is maybe a little over-the-top, but Bitton — who has found his niche and who seems to appreciate his place in Celtic’s history — “gets it.”
In short, he understands what it means to be Celtic.
And Jock Stein would probably agree: His jersey fits.
In the meantime, let’s hope Albian Ajeti heals quickly. Mon the Hoops!