Strange days. A Scottish Cup Final tomorrow, and if Inverness Caley win (sixth in the First Division) it will be a bigger upset than Berwick Rangers beating Glasgow Rangers. Jock Wallace was in goals that day. But it wasn’t for Glasgow Rangers, but the mighty Berwick. What I’m trying to say it Celtic, despite a couple of games, our second-string players—with the possible exception of Oh—proved not up to the job. But we will win at a canter tomorrow. (Inverness Caley 35/1 to win at Hampden.)
Yet, the rumours that started last week have put a pall over Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic team, winning the treble, and five trophies out of six since his arrival. Generally, we’re not talking about how he overhauled the squad, helped shape an attacking team, and when it mattered beat Rangers in the process. He overhauled a 25 point deficit, in what seems those historical times, when Neil Lennon was Celtic manager, and Stevie G, was a Rangers’ icon. It was the only time I was thankful for Covid-18. All Rangers supporters, like the fat Humpty Dumpty in the English Parliament, Boris Johnson, became common criminals breaking the law when they celebrated in George Square.
A tifo of Jock Stein was a thing of beauty that covered Paradise last week as Celtic returned to form and thrashed Aberdeen, who didn’t get a shot on goal. Jock Stein gave us the Lisbon Lions, a team that lived within 12 miles of Glasgow. They humbled Europe’s elite. In a testimonial against Real Madrid, they couldn’t get the ball off Jimmy Johnstone. We beat England’s best, Leeds United in a European Cup tie with one of the biggest crowds recorded at the match (my da was there). It was obviously, an underestimate, because as we know, kids were handed over turnstiles. When I was growing up in the seventies, we had the Quality Street reserve team that included Dalglish, McGrain, and former manager, Davy Hay and helped give Celtic nine consecutive league titles. We will not see the likes of Jock, or nine flag flapping on a tin roof, again.
Postecoglou isn’t in that bracket. I know it feels as if I’m writing in his wake and passing. The irony is another treble winner at Celtic, Brendan Rodgers is rumoured to be returning. Rodgers as we know brought Moussa Dembele and gave us a decent enough team. Three treble trebles, the fourth completed by Lennon. But when Rodgers walked mid-season, citing several reasons that sounded as fabricated as Boris Johnston’s Brexit promise to give the NHS £160 million extra ever week, nobody was buying it. Judas.
Martin O’Neil won the treble in his first season. Henrik Larsson was still here. We’d Lubo. We’d a decent team. But the Northern Irishman made us better. He took us all the way to Seville in the sun. We all want to forget Helicopter Sunday. But he did a more than decent job.
Postecoglou is in O’Neil’s bracket. But O’Neil was a pragmatist. Let’s not forget the colossus, Bobo Balde (poached from Kilmarnock). Bobo, as we know, couldn’t hit the ball with anything below the waist. His size 16 boots were for flippering the ball forward or out of the park. But any forward’s chance of winning the balls in the air were easily swept aside. Scotland’s (English) forward Lyndon Dykes, for example, would have won nothing against Bobo. But Gordon Strachan didn’t fancy him.
And Postecoglou, is an idealist. He wouldn’t have someone that couldn’t carry of pass the ball from defence in his team. Yuki Kobayashi, for example, can carry and pass the ball, but can’t defend and is too easily bullied. This doesn’t matter because he’s backup. Postecoglou’s Plan B was more of Plan A. It worked well, but not in Europe.
We cling to the hope, with Champions’ League cash, we can invest in our squad and do better. But, like many, I think Postecoglou is gone.
My fear is Plan B will be John Kennedy. A continuation of the same, but different. What Postecoglou brought to the club was a list of Asian player that he knew would make Celtic better. He brought many of them to the club. I don’t think there’ll be a sudden exit, but perhaps a drift. But Kennedy has nothing he can offer in terms of Asian, North American or Australian markets. He’s no list of players. He’s a Neil Lennon in waiting.
If or when Postecoglou announces he’s leaving for Spurs, I wouldn’t brand him a Judas as I did Brendan Rodgers. I can’t really stretch to wishing him well. I’d be largely indifferent. The only team I support is Celtic. The only team that concerns me is Celtic. The only team I hate with a passion is Rangers. Managers come and go. It’s in my blood. Celtic today, tomorrow—always—oh, yeh, we’ve a cup final to look forward to.