To state the obvious, last night was awful on a variety of levels; levels of awful which have been dealt with an analyzed ad nauseum already — correctly or not — in the press and the blogosphere, to say nothing of the tsunami of toxic sludge washing over social media.
But let’s kickoff this post — no pun intended — with the real tragedy of last night’s 3-1 loss to Copenhagen.
It must be truly heartbreaking to the throngs of football geniuses who missed their life’s calling by not currently being in a position of football management at Celtic — or anywhere else, for that matter — outside of the confines of their computer keyboards and their Internet connections. It’s always tragic to miss your calling in life.
As a result, the pain is now shared as we have the collective wailing and gnashing of teeth from self-proclaimed experts that comes with a Celtic misstep. Yeah, we left the Champions League under inauspicious circumstances and now we’re out of the Europa League for pretty much the same reasons.
It sucks. No argument there.
And make no mistake about it: It is painfully ironic that a team as good as Celtic will not be in either tournament thanks to glaring missteps in both, while other substandard teams are about to walk into the woodchipper of far superior continental teams as they advance in both European tournaments.
But that’s how it goes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. And we didn’t.
Meanwhile, some fans need a quick reassessment of the current situation. Here you go: Celtic currently sits atop the table by 12 points, with a 20-goal advantage in goal differential to the second place team. One trophy won.
Clearly, Thursday night’s result was a disappointment. However, it bears recalling what “faithful through and through” really means. If you can’t back the club when it stumbles, don’t show your face for the club when it shines.
We have the rest of the season, the quadruple-treble, and history awating us in the coming months. We need to pick ourelves up, dust off, and move forward, starting with the St. Johnstone game on Sunday.
One of the advantages — probably the only advantage — of living 5,000 miles west of Glasgow is that the transfer window closes here before the sun goes down. Having the advantage of still being awake and usually on my third cup of coffee for the day, we will see if Celtic makes any further moves as the clock strikes 12 in Glasgow while striking the bewitching hour of 4 p.m. in California, but by all indications it looks like we’re staying put.
And after seeing the deadline pass, with or without any further additions and without any likely departures, I can go have dinner.
Yes, apparently we stay put, much to the dismay of some greeting fans who insist on Celtic spending money like a drunken sailor on shore leave on players just for the sake of signing someone — anyone — to fill in for adequate players who are coming off injuries and soon to return to the pitch.
I’m with Neil Lennon: “We have a good squad, decent depth, and once we get a few injuries back we will be fine.”
Contrary to what the armchair gaffers and PlayStation pundits might think, Lennon is right. Rather than acting like we’re on the brink of relegation, they might want to look at the bigger picture.
While there was also hair-on-fire panic during the last transfer window, in the end it was one of Celtic’s best in recent history. One can hardly make an argument against the fact that Fraser Forster, Hatem Elhamed, Mohammed Elyounoussi and Jeremie Frimpong have made a significant impact on the club. Even Moritz Bauer and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo — both unfairly criticized by some lately in the questionable objectivity of the Scottish football press, let alone the cesspool known as social media — are decent players who have shown they can contribute.
Leaving out the two new additions (we’ll get to them in a minute), Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffith are turning into a tag-team scoring machine. Greg Taylor rightfully may have bought himself a start in future games with his play against the Aints — sorry, the Saints — on Wednesday. Olivier Ntcham, who many think is packing his bags, is showing no signs of leaving while playing remarkably in the midfield. Scott Brown has been shutting down critics who say he has lost a step by having a banner year that defies his age. Until injured, Ryan Christie was unstoppable. I could go on until you are lulled into a coma of boredom, but the fact remains that the team is solid despite injuries.
But speaking of injuries: Christie? Back. Elhamed? Back soon. Elyounoussi? Back soon, hopefully. Jeremie Frimpong? Also back soon hopefully. All of them are joining Jozo Simunovic and Tom Rogic, now back from long-term injuries and getting back into form for the rest of the season.
So, who climbed in the window during this transfer cycle? Let’s take a look at the pair who joined the club this month.
I have a friend here in the San Lorenzo Valley who is a huge Bayern Munich fan, and he’s pretty much plugged in to European football in general and Polish strikers in particular. He speaks highly of Patryk Klimala, dubbing him “Klimalendowski,” after Bayern’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski.
All joking aside, Polish Paddy’s 10 minutes against St. Johnstone did little to show his abilities — and that was outlined in Sandman’s ratings of the St. Johnstone game — but in those 10 minutes, he showed some speed and crossing skills in a cross that, had it not been slightly deflected by a panicked Saints defender, could have been his first assist. In addition, Klimala rejected a ball from the near post in the Saints’ final corner in injury time, saving the clean sheet for the Hoops.
In his introduction at his signing, Klimala said that signing for Celtic is a big step up in his career, and he insisted he is ready to prove his worth. If this brief introduction is an indication of what Klimala can do, then his wide range of talents are a welcome addition to the club.
Incidentally, he takes the number 11, which was worn quite succesfully by the recently departed — OK, a little dramatic, recently departed to Preston North End, that is — Scott Sinclair.
First things first: Apologies to The Proclaimers (and sing along if you know it) . . .
“My heart was broken, my heart was broken, Soro, Soro, Soro, Soro . . .“
While it may be too early to purloin the Hibs’ song for our own purposes, Ismaila Soro arrives to bolster Celtic’s midfield. The Ivorian signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with the Hoops after a multi-year stint with Israeli club Bnei Yehuda.
The gaffer has high praise for Soro. In a recent interview, Lennon said, “He’ll bring a bit of quality and support in the midfield area. He’s had a good career so far and has played in some tough leagues. He’s come from a team who, while they’re not the top team in Israel, he’s stood out by a distance with his performances there.”
Talk about announcing your presence with authority . . .
Celtic took to the pitch on Saturday to start the season and showed no mercy to St. Johnstone, taking a 7-0 victory from the Saints and establishing the tone for the season. The Celtic scoring tells only part of the story:
By now, no doubt, you’ve all read the reports about the game. I won’t repeat that here. But I did want to put out a few observations about the game.
Crisp passing contributed greatly to the Celts phenomenal 75 percent possession rate during the course of the game. Ball-handling during the last several games has been nearly flawless, and Saturday you had essentially a clinic on possession.
It looks like the new guys — Boli Bolingoli and Hatem Abd Elhamed, specifically — are getting in sync with the rest of the club, though Elhamed’s injury may be cause for concern. Johnston especially is playing his way into a starting position, and should be utilized in tandem with Edouard and Griffiths as a new trio of scoring threats.
Griffiths is back. Nitcham is back, and looks like he has something to prove, if he only wants to make Celtic a stop on his way to another club (and who are we to stop him if he wants to play out-of-this-world football?).
But the man of the match, and the player announcing his presence with authority so far over the last few weeks, is Christie. After a season-ending injury against Aberdeen toward the end of last season, Christie’s play so far this season, in the UEFA qualifiers and now in the first game of the regular season, has been flawless. If anyone were to tell you last year that Christie would come out of the starting blocks with feet blazing, you might have doubled over in laughter.
No one is laughing now. But you can definitely see the smiles returning to the faces of the Celtic faithful.
Finally, as we head into the new season, with 37 games to go in the Premier League schedule, clearly Neil Lennon has brought back the thunder. As we head to 9 in a row, it looks like we’re in for a great ride.
[73 degrees. Wildfire threat level today in rural Santa Cruz County: High]