Lille 2—2 Celtic.

Celtic get a Europa League away point. We’d have probably taken it before the game, but it’s disappointing. I’m just glad we weren’t beaten. A second-half siege had Celtic players camped in their own box. Lille had sixty-eight percentage possessions at one point. The kind of stats Barcelona used to chart in their pomp. But the Lille goals were, oh-so, preventable. Celtic are a big team, with big players, yet they keep losing goals from cross balls. A cross ball from a corner is blocked. We lost the first header and it falls to Celik, unmarked at the back post.

For their second a long ball into the box is cut back, mishit by Iknoe, although it might have hit Shane Duffy on the way into the net

There’s little point in going on about Shane Duffy. He did give away a penalty when he made a rash tackle outside the box. That’s the kind of luck he’s been having. It was given inside the box. I wonder when, or if, we’ll start resting him. Unlikely. And with Ayer out, we’ll just need to get on with it.

Wonder of wonders, a Celtic goalkeeper makes a save. Well done Scott Bain.

Elyounoussi, who sometimes does that disappearing trick, hit two cracking goals here to put us on easy street. On this form he looks a steal at £16 million. After half time, he disappeared, only to turn up with a potential third goal from a breakaway. Unlucky.

Ntcham, with a point to prove on French soil, also started well. But had a bit of a huff when taken off in the second half. That was an easy call. He kept getting caught on the ball. Giving it away. It was an easy choice for Lennon.

The diamond in these rough times is Diego Laxalt. He didn’t lose a tackle. Outstanding, again. He’s not had a bad game for Celtic. Even when the players downed tools against Rangers, Laxalt gave his all. He’s perhaps the only Celtic player in modern times to have played for Celtic four times and still not had a win in a Celtic shirt.

Hopefully, Sunday, when we beat Aberdeen. I’m pretty sure we will. But it’s the league that matters most. And it’s the hope that kills you. Here’s hoping. Hail Hail.    

Lisa Jewell (2009) The truth about Melody Browne

I sometimes wonder if books are like bananas, after a certain time they go off and are sold at bargain-basement prices. This book was a clearance – 50p. That’s around the price you pay for books in charity shops. I got it for nothing. And no, I didn’t steal it. I just read it before the person was putting it into the charity shop dumped it.

I read a good idea today about books you dislike, rather than giving it the one-star treatment and writing a terrible review, just drop it off at a charity shop.

Not that I think Lisa Jewell’s book is terrible. ‘Life affirming and uplifting…perfect’ and five stars from the magazine heat is on the cover.  Lisa Jewell has one of those names I imagine to be a pseudonym, something upbeat that dazzles. Her stories have sold in hundreds of thousands.

The truth about melody browne is perfect in its own way. No real sex. No real violence. Melody’s mother suffered from post-natal depression and after the baby died she split up from husband. This has a strong semblance of what happens in the real world, but isn’t really a story.

The king dies is a story, waffling creative writing students are told, but there’s a punchline. The queen dies of grief is also a story, but the plot thickens the broth. What happens next springs from emotional engagement?

Melody Browne had a council house in Covent Garden (I know, miraculous enough in itself to inspire a how-dunnit) and she has a seventeen-year-old son, Edward James Browne. He’s just turning eighteen, keys to the house and all that jazz. Melody had her son when she was fifteen. But she’s doing alright, working as a dinner lady in the school he attends. There’s no right-wing hate mob hunting her down and calling her a scrounger, telling her to get a job—even though she’s got a job. Sorry, I tend to go on these rants.

OK. That’s the equilibrium. It’s tipped when two things happen. A stranger approaches her when she’s on a bus and tells her she’s got perfect upper arms. He really fancies her and gets her number. That’s pretty weird, but we’ll flip that one. In Jewell’s world he’s a perfect gentleman, with some baggage, enough to make him believable because he’s aware of his own inner irony. She agrees to go on a date with Mr just-about perfect to a Derren Brown show. Although the fabulist isn’t called that, probably for legal reason, but something else. Melody Browne is hypnotised and shares a stage with Derren Brown (no relation), but when she comes to, she has strange memories of her childhood. She can no longer remember what happened to her before her ninth birthday and what she can remember doesn’t make sense. The kind of difficulties that would have an American President wondering if he’ll be re-elected. But it’s not real life. Just fabulist.

This is the jumping off point for a before and after. Melody Browne’s existence now becomes a whodunnit. What happened to the little girl before she became pregnant? Even before that and why can’t she remember?

Chapters are arranged in a now and then format. Easy to read and follow format. Chapter 3, for example, takes the reader back to 1976.

When Melody Browne was three years old, she Melody Ribbensdale and she lived in a big red house right in the middle of London. At least, that’s how her three-year-old consciousness saw it. She lived, in fact, in one corner of a red mansion squatted unprepossessingly on a busy juncture in Lambeth, south London.

Jump forward, Melody Brown is 33, she still in London. Maths was never my suit, but 1976 and 30 = 1996. It’s 1996. Melody Brown needs to figure out the truth about her past. Then her future will open like a flower. I’m not good at naming flowers or maths. Fling in the type of flower that opens.

That’s it. You get it. The narrator will follow her on her journey. The king is dead. Long live the queen. I got it. Read on.

Play For Today: Just a Boys’Game, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, written by Peter McDougall, Director John McKenzie.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p032kjg0/play-for-today-series-10-1-just-a-boys-game

‘You’re getttin’ it McQuillan’.

I’m old enough to remember this when it was first broadcast 8th  November 1979. Peter McDougall’s portrayal of working class life hit a nerve. It helped that large chunks of it were filmed in Clydebank and Drumchapel (I’ve since been told it was Greenock and Port Glasgow). Marathon shipyards featured. Or it might have been John Browns. We’re on the nostalgia trail.

By day Jake McQuillan (Frankie Miller) works in a crane. We see him up there with the seagulls. Toasting his piece of Sunblest on the electric fire.  This was a time when Clydebank had shipyards. Titan Crane, was still working and not a museum piece, it and other cranes dominated the skyline. At St Andrew’s school art teachers regularly asked us to draw a crane. We could see it over the roofs of the tenements..

By night Jake McQuillan is a hard man. We first see him in a pub, with his best mate Dancer Dunnichy (Ken Hutchison). I’m sure some of you would be able to identify the pub. Remember when we had pubs? The boys are drinking exotic mixtures, halves, double measures that cost £1.90 for four drinks and you still get ten pence change. We’re in you go out with a fiver and get pissed territory.  

Thursday night. Time for a fight. McQuillan can’t be a hard man, unless he’s tested. But he’s getting too old for the game (it’s a Boys’Game) and had put down his blade. When some daft bird nudged into Dancer’s back and they get into an argument. You know what’s going to happen. The shutters are going to come down and blades are going to appear. This is a portrayal of working class life with the chibs down.

McQuillan can put down his blade, but he’s a scalp worth taking. Other boys want a part of him.

Dancer, his sidekick, takes him away from work. ‘I declare Friday, a public holiday’ and into the embrace of booze and the institution of Clatty Bella. Entrance price, one bottle of your finest Eldorado or VAT 69.  The Buckfast of their day. Nobody accused monks of making Eldorado or VAT 69 and profiting from alkie’s alcoholic tendencies, especially since that’s got too many syllables. Clatty Bella has no electricity and no bath towel, and the throw over the couch would walk Dancer down to the harbour and fling him in. But she’s one of the good ones. She’s one of us. The kind that Tories loved so they could vote down free school meals.

The backstory of McQuillen not having a mum and dad and staying with his grannie (Jean Taylor Smith) and his granda (Hector Nicol) is a chance to see how working class folk once lived.

Ironically, Tanza (Gregor Fisher) who went on to become Gregor Fisher, Scottish institution, in his autobiography, told the reader how his da (or was it his granda?) used to batter down on the ceiling to tell his ma (or grandma) to get the breakfast on. His Ma did what she was told, without any lip. This is man’s world.

Here we see Grandma running after Grandpa, dressing him, and putting him to bed. Brushing his false teeth and sticking them in his gumsy mouth. Deprivation comes in many forms.

McQuillan is aping the life of Grandpa, who also ran with the gangs and was the hardest of hard men, who killed McQuillan’s da. This is also part of the boys’ game.

Saturday shift. The loveable Dancer and the likeable Tanza are wanting a bit of drunken fun. But they’re drawn into a  game not of their making. If you run with the wolves argument. McQuillan springs into life when they’re attacked. Dancer, an innocent, victim.

For McQuillan that’s just the way it is. Tanza, another innocent, bangs the roof of the Panda car and blames the police. ‘Where were you?’

Frankie Miller gets to sing the eulogy and sets himself up for another little number in Peter McDougall’s Just Another Saturday. It’s the same story, but set to the tune of The Orange Walk. Billy Connolly was in it. It might have been called The Elephant’s Graveyard.  Can’t remember. Remember, when he used to be funny? Aye, nostalgia gets you there and that little kick.  

Aberdeen 3—3 Celtic.

I know we’ll get that old line, for the neutral this was a cracking game. A great advertisement for Scottish football. I’d have taken a bog-standard Celtic victory. I know 27 league games to go. We’ll get the standard fare of no need to panic. I’m not panicking. Listen, I was at Love Street that day when Celtic needed to score four or five and we needed Albert Kidd to dig us out of a hole of Heart’s own making. Even early in the ten-in-a-row season, we’re looking at dog’s chances.

Rangers, from what I’ve seen, aren’t going to roll over this year. We need to be better and we need to be better fast.

Be careful what you wish for. Scott Bain in goal was a good start, but like Barkas, he didn’t make a significant save. Two of them were penalties, just before half time, and the extra-time of full-time. You don’t expect keepers to make saves then, but you kinda hope. The other goal, the second for Aberdeen was another Shane Duffy moment. You know the script and we’re getting the jokes, Shane Duffy is an Effie Ambrose waiting to happen. But we’re not laughing. Bring back Effie.

McGregor was in for Scott Brown. And McGregor gave us hope, when we were one down, with one of those dancing feet goals that dragged us back into the game. Good to see Rogic involved. Good to see the Australian back in the team.

Elyounoussi, after his cameo, against Milan, started here. He’d a poor game. But let’s look at the positives, he did get on the end of a cross and got us a penalty. A winning penalty- I’d hoped.

Come back Johnny Hayes (I’d have kept him and played him). He’d Frimpong in his pocket until the ninetieth-third minute when the Celtic youngster finally ran past him.

In a four-four-two and with Frimpong playing full back, we hoped he’d be able to run into space. But although he got lots of the ball, again and again he came inside. Leaving us no width.

Just when we seem to have the left-back position sorted with Laxalt, the right-back position is our weakest point in attack and defence.

McGregor might have dug us out of a half-time hole, but it was the return of the Griff that fired us ahead –and had us thinking we’d win.

Ajeti is a goal scorer, but he needs to hold the ball. He didn’t. He mumped and moaned, looking for fouls.

Griffiths, came on, as he did in the game against St Johnstone, before the international break, and turned the game. He made space for himself in the box. And his strike into the top corner was a thing of beauty.

Game over—I wish. You’ve got to allow for Duffy, wandering out to the left, like a cow returning to pasture. Still in control of the ball. Then that flick. We all make mistakes. But what was it we kept saying about Effie, in the big games, then the Irish Ambrose came to the fore. Ryan Hedges, who was Aberdeen’s best player, scored from a rebound. An almost save, we seem to plagued with almost saves.

Aberdeen’s first penalty—which was a penalty—was a clumsy tackle, that wasn’t even a tackle by Ntcham on Ferguson. Ironically, Ntcham was having one of his better games before that incident.

There was talk, after the international break of the games against Rangers, AC Milan, Aberdeen, Lille, Aberdeen and Motherwell defining our season.

We all know what happened against Rangers. AC Milan was a defeat, but it wasn’t total capitulation. Aberdeen today.

We’re 3—2 up, going into added on time. We’ve dropped back, but we’re patting ourselves on the back, thinking we’ve been lucky here. All teams need a bit of luck.

The game against Lille doesn’t matter than much. I think we’ll beat Aberdeen, comfortably, at Hampden. I’m not sure about Motherwell away. I’m pretty sure Rangers will keep on winning and winning.

I hate saying it, but we look far more less likely to win than them. Here’s hoping, we take any dog chances we get between now and the end of the season. Shane Duffy has been a nightmare. The Greek keeper, an empty jersey, but here’s hoping he turns it around. Frimpong is only eighteen and showing signs of insecurity, taking the easy pass, going backwards in so many ways.

The return of the Griff has been great (anonymous against Milan, but I don’t mind that). Rogic has class. We need more of class. We have the best players in the league—by far—but we make so many amateur mistakes.

In the games that define our season, we’ve lost two and drawn one. Commentators were already adopting that gloomy voice and telling us the last time Celtic lost three games in a row was under Neil Lennon. Ten-in-a-row? I’ll use another cliché. A big ask.     

Kathleen Jamie (2019) Surfacing.

‘Please, are you worker, or student?’ the girl asked in polite English with Chinese accent.

Kathleen Jamie, in an earlier incarnation, was asked that question. She was in eastern Amdo province, designated by China, ‘Autonomous Region of Tibet’, which means it was regarded as China. I’d heard of Amdo because of Peter Matthiessen’s classic, The Snow Leopard. I guess that makes me a student of literature. In the 1980s, when Tibetan villagers came shopping on yaks, or horseback, played Space Invaders, and perhaps visited the ancient Buddhist Labrang Monastery, Jamie was excavating herself. She knew she wanted to be a writer, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.

The work of a writer is to write. Jamie has managed to do that and make a living from writing, which is not the same thing. She begins her journey, outward and inward, in ‘The Rainbow Cave’ in the West Highlands, a bone cave where hundreds of reindeer antlers were excavated in the 1920s. No one is really sure how they got there.

Archaeology is about sifting mud and sifting theories. Jamie joins a number of digs. Dig is perhaps misleading. In the Alaskan village of Quinhagak, for example, the land thaws and freezes and thaws and freezes and everything much stays the same. Until the thaw comes earlier and the freezing later and with less snow and ice. And the past where the villagers’ ancestors lived and died, creeps up to the surface.

‘In Links of Noltland’ archaeological dig—which means sandy dunes of the land of the cattle—Jamie rents a room and joins the other fieldworkers in Orkney. The wind has obliterated much of an ancient dune system and the vegetation vanished. Another aspect of global warming, which has uncovered an extensive Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement (without much evidence of bronze). Historic Scotland provided funding for further excavation, but Historic Scotland was made history—defunct. The Phd educated students hear the clock ticking. The wind will bury their finds. The funding formula has been exposed.  

‘It appears that the first farmers had built a hefty enclosing wall and, within it, several discrete houses with various yards and passageways and “activity areas”. Or maybe not.’

It’s the maybe not, that gets you. I guess when we’re young and excavating a piece of ground, as I did, behind the huts, with Jim Henry helping me, it wouldn’t have surprised us had we found King Arthur’s crown. Well, it might have surprised us a bit, but then we’d probably have fought over who found it first and who owned it. Instead we found bits of molten glass from an ancient volcano. ‘Or maybe not’.

 Digging up fragments of bones and pottery is no fun. It’s work. Boring, back-breaking work and hard on the knees. If our ancestors weren’t dead by their early twenties, then they were ancient crones with arthritis and sore teeth. Or as a disillusioned George Orwell put it, after fighting in the Spanish Civil War, if they hadn’t died in battle, they’d have died of ‘some smelly disease’.

‘Or maybe not.’

Student or workers? Phd fieldworkers on digs being paid, indirectly, by the state?

They need to have some understanding what they’re looking for. And although it can seem like assembly-line work, it is and isn’t.

What were they like, these peoples being uncovered? They didn’t know they were living in Neolithic times. Just the same as we don’t really appreciate we’re living at a time of global warming and mass-species extinction. The Anthropocene Age.  They just got on with it, was a common refrain. We just got on with it too.

I’d have liked to know more about Jamie’s granny, the wife of a miner, who lost her way with depression and was taken away with a blanket over her head. Given shock therapy, which helped. ‘Or maybe not.’

Good writers create connections, resonance between past and present. Jamie does that. We might just get on with it, like our ancestors. But knowing their story helps us to know our story better. Worker or student?  Surfacing brings much of what it is to be human—to the surface.

Celtic 1—3 AC Milan.

AC Milan came into this game as favourites on the back of a twenty-game, unbeaten, run. Make that twenty-one. After Celtic’s capitulation to Rangers on Saturday, Lennon started with a front-two pairing of Ajeti and Griffiths. But the Celtic manager stuck with a 3-5-2 set-up. The big talking point was no Ryan Christie.

In the first ten minutes, Celtic were the brighter of the two teams. Loan signing, Diego Laxalt looks promising. He gets stuck in. Gets forward. And throws balls into the box. They don’t need to be perfect, but at least he goes in the right direction, towards the opposition goal.

But a  goal after 14 minutes, undone Celtic’s defence. The ball was swung in from the wide area and fell between Duffy and Welsh. Krunic had a free header and tucked it away. Zlatan didn’t score a goal, but he simply strolled this game. The first-half fell into a familiar pattern of Celtic players falling back to their own box.

A second goal from Brahim Díaz, just before half-time, had commentator Chris Sutton suggesting that the best thing the Celtic manager could do was pray.

Neil Lennon took off Griffiths and Welsh. He brought on Elyounoussi and Christie. Celtic began to come more and more into the game. It was great to see the return of Rogic, who came on for Scott Brown.

Elyounoussi scored with a header from a corner in the seventy-sixth minute. Milan’s keeper, Donnarumma, was booked for time-wasting. But substitute Jens Hauge put the game beyond Celtic, by sneaking into a pocket of space behind Duffy and slotting home. Game over.

Positives for Celtic- Laxalt, he tries to get us on the front foot. Elyounoussi looked great, but he does that. Appears and disappears. Ajeti, will put the ball in the netti, if you give him chances. Great to see Tom Rogic back. I’m a fan (but see the remark about Elyounoussi). We looked a lot more cutting edge with Rogic on the park.

‎We want to win every game, but Pittodrie is a must win. Ironically, Europe, in a straw- poll of my mates, doesn’t matter that much. I wasn’t happy with the score. But the second-half performance…well, you know what I mean.  

Notes on ‘Spring’ by Ali Smith

Ali Smith is the same age as me and was born in Inverness, Scotland (for those of you that don’t know Inverness is in Scotland—yeh, that happens). She’s an international star whose writing is lauded. The Guardian, for example, called Autumn, ‘The novel of the year’. I stuck with Spring and read it from start to finish. I found bits of it a chore and probably wouldn’t have read beyond the first ten pages, but for her world renown.

I’ve made some notes, you might, or might not, want to have a quick read through. These would, usually, be the basis of a larger review. The major characters in these odysseys are seeking integrity, and mostly they manage it. I agree with the didactic elements listed below.

A simple journey from London to Inverness.

An obituary appears in the Guardian, …Patricia Heal nee Hardiman 20th September 1932-11 August 2018

The stories Mansfield wrote in Switzerland were her best (sanatorium).

Script about Mansfield and Rilke, literary giants. It’s mindblowing. 37

Virtue signalling problems, Richard tells his imaginary daughter. 27

Don’t talk about climate change or the rise of the right, or the migrant crisis or Brexit or Windrush or Grenfell or the Irish border…

Don’t be calling it migrant crisis…I’ve told you a million times. It’s people. It’s an individual crossing the world against the odds.  Multiplied by 60 million, all individuals, all crossing the world, against odds that worsen by the day. 68

Dying is a salutary thing, Dick, Paddy says. It’s a gift, I look at Trump now, I see them all, the new world tyrants, all the leaders of the packs, the racists, the white supremacists, the new crusaders rabble-rousers holding forth, the thugs all across the world, and what I think is, all that too solid flesh. It’ll melt away like snow in May.

[cf Catherine of Sienna]

[cfDuncan Cambell (bent cop)

Sentenced by Mr Justice Melford Stevenson:

‘you’ve poisoned the well of justice for the crooks, cranks and do-gooders’ [who want to attack the police’]

…the fact that those two writers just living in the same place at the same time in their lives, whether they met or not.

This is the kind of coincidence that sends electricity through our lives. 99

People like feeling.

Some things that Britanny Hall learned in her first two months as a DCO at a UK IRC.

There are 30 000 detained in this country at any one time. 165

Detention is the key to maintaining an effective immigration system. 167  

[ciphers not characters]

If the force of just five more nuclear bombs going off anywhere in the world happens…eternal nuclear autumn will set in and there’ll be no more seasons. 186 Florence Smith and the machine.

You can only legally detain someone in this country for seventy-two hours before you have to charge them with a crime. 204-5

Aldo Lyons (Auld Alliance) 271

235 recent escapes…detention estates.

I had no rights. I still have no rights. I carried fear on my shoulders all the way across the world to this country you call yours. I still carry fear on my shoulders. Fear is one of my belongings…

And the first thing you did when I arrived was hand me a letter saying, Welcome to a county in which you are not welcome. You are now a designated unwelcome person with whom we will do as we please 272

320 face-recognition technology.

Ten-in-a-row—No, No, were you at the game caller?

Ten-in-a-row—No, No, were you at the game caller?

Nah—and neither were the Celtic team. It was that bad we’ve even got Barry Ferguson sympathising with Neil Lennon. 

Martin Powell, the only MP I trusted, used to go for long walks when Celtic were playing Rangers. That was during the Martin O’Neil era.  I thought that was crazy. But he might well have had a point. I’m old enough now to take up golf.

During Scoreboard, Hugh Keevins  asked a Celtic die-hard, are you seriously saying that the league is finished with 28 games to go? 

Let’s go for a long walk.

Football management is like a game of poker.

Lennon went incandescent because his team was leaked before the game. Kenny Miller is being fingered as villain-in-chief.  He shouldn’t have been. Lennon should know who was going to play for Rangers, in what positions, and what they could do and couldn’t do. And what opportunities it offers Celtic. You’re only as strong as your weakest hand.

No surprises for Celtic. No surprises for Rangers.

Celtic played exactly how Steven Gerrard expected. They were predictable and pedestrian.

Rangers didn’t play well. They didn’t need to. Morelos was petulant, off the pace, and should have been booked earlier than he was for flicking his hand in Scott Brown’s face. Barker ran about, like the majority of the Celtic team, with little direction or purpose. Stevie G said in the post-match interview they needed to stay humble. They’ve a lot to be humble about.

Stevie G knows what cards to play and when to play them. In a game of poker, he’s called Lennon’s bluff and won twice at Parkhead. At Hampden, Stevie G can count himself unlucky.  No posturing at the final whistle for the Ibrox manager and players. They know they’ve got the beating of Celtic now.

Goalkeeper makes saves.

We used to have this conversation that no Rangers’ player would get in the Celtic team during the Martin O’Neil era, and more recently. Obviously, we didn’t include Rab Douglas and whether he cost us the final in Seville is a moot point. Goram, the flying pig, Kloss, McGregor and an older and wiser McGregor again are so much better.

If there is still reserve-team football during lockdown, it’s difficult to imagine the current Celtic keeper getting a game in Rangers’ reserves.

Celtic let Craig Gordon leave. The management team kept Scott Bain as back-up. There was talk of signing Scotland, and ex-Celtic keeper, David Marshall. We went for a Greek internationalist, Vasilis Barkas, and paying premium rates for a keeper than doesn’t  make saves.

The problem left back spot

Money wasted on buying a dud who flies to Spain and doesn’t tell Lennon.

Taylor is not a dud, neither is he Tierney. Neither is he Andy Lynch, Tosh McKinlay or Anton Rogan. He’s a mixture of the good, the bad and the Anton, I’ll kick everything for the cause, because, but Taylor doesn’t cut it.

We brought in Laxalt on loan because Lennon knows that.

Johnny Hayes, like Craig Gordon, has left the building? Why?

Celtic’s loan-signing policy.

Rangers had no loan signings in the team that outplayed us.

Loan signings are a try before you buy. In, for example, Charly Musonda and another few nameless faces. It’s been great business because you can just return them to their parent club. 

Craig Bellamy, Paddy Roberts, and Fraser Forster were guys here in the short-term that made a positive difference. Players we would have kept in a heartbeat.

In the Fergus McCann football business, you don’t have an extra Celtic jersey. Loan signings are giving other teams money. Or in Fergus’s case, other financial institutions.  Rangers had no loan signings playing in the Old Firm derby. Glen Kamara only cost £50,000 from Dundee and helped run the show. Remember Didier Agathe £100 000 from Hibs? Bargain basement. Rangers had Steven Davis playing. He was a loan signing that was made a permanent deal and cost zero.  Fergus would have liked that. Nobody was slating him because of his age, in the way Scott Brown is hounded. Steven Davis was another that didn’t have a particularly good game, but he was in the winning team.

We’ve come a long way from Jock Stein and the 1967 European Cup winning team. Eleven players that lived within a twelve-mile radius of Glasgow (Bobby Lennox, furthest away in Saltcoats). But Jock Stein wasn’t a cuddly bear that was lucky. He was ruthless. Jimmy Johnstone when his legs were gone was sold. Stein was hesitant to let Johnstone play in a pre-season friendly, and have a final hurrah, before he was sold to Dundee. That too was a must-win Celtic game. As Scotland manager, he told Ipswich player, John Wark, if you can’t go box to box and score goals, you’re no use to me. It’s not difficult to imagine what Stein would have said of a Celtic team that never managed to have a significant shot on goal in an Old Firm derby.

Shane Duffy v Connor Goldson.

We all know how this went Goldson scored two goals, early in the first and second half—game over.

Neither Duffy or Goldson are great passer of the ball with their feet. Duffy had more touches of the ball than anyone else on the field.  Their strength is in the air. Duffy was a marquee signing for Celtic. Loan fees and paying his wages was a gamble Celtic were willing to take.

Goldson was the cheaper option. Straight fee. Pennies by Celtic standard. His wages would be laughable. Fergus McCann would be asking hard questions about value for money. Why didn’t we buy the cheap option, sooner?

Why with Celtic’s superior resources, reserve team football and money in the bank do we need loan signings?

Goldson was lauded (not by me, obviously) but it could and should have been different. Elyounoussi easily rolled Goldstone and should have made it 1—1 after twenty minutes.

Elyounoussi is, of course, another loan signing. Is he any better than what we’ve got? Is he better than Rogic? David Turnbull, top midfield scorer for Motherwell, came off the bench, so I was told? Paddy McCourt? Obviously not as good as Paddy. But hey, you’ve got to laugh.

Celtic’s signing policy is related to their resale value (that’s not news)

Virgil van Dijk. That’s all I need to say. He was promised the dream and then he was sold for what we thought was buttons. That will never happen again has coloured our thinking. Players that don’t want to be at Paradise should be sold— not immediately, that’s bad for business, and we are a business, but sooner rather than later.

The French trois. Edouard didn’t play. That wasn’t much of a shock, but a setback. It was mitigated by his form—any scouts turning up looking for a £35 million striker would have been baffled. Sell.

Ntcham wants away and has been engineering a move for the last two seasons. Take the hit. Again, missing in action—let him go.

Christopher Jullien rag dolled by Lyndon Dykes and, more recently, the Kilmarnock centre forward. We bought him for £7 million, hoping for a standout and sell-on profit. His is a longer term deal. And I think there is a player in there. Whether it is as a Celtic player, I don’t know.

Ryan Christie would have started. I think he’s the best midfielder in Scotland (well, apart from McGregor) but he wants away and has been, like the rest of the Celtic team, ineffectual against Rangers in other Old Firm meetings. Keep.  

Nir Bitton wants away. See you later, pal.

Tom Rogic. I’m a big fan. I was scared when Brendan Rodgers left he’d come back and take Rogic. Now I’m texting Judas Rodgers,  Rogic’s number. The love affair with Celtic is over. Lennon doesn’t fancy him. Ironically, Rodgers might be at the club longer than Lennon. New managers have a different vision.

The game is nothing without fans.

Chris Sutton, former player and pundit, suggests that having no fans favours a Rangers team that are serial bottlers. Stats from the locked-down Bundesliga showed that playing at home wasn’t as much an advantage. Away teams won more. Bayern Munich kept winning. Class tells.

Rangers are not the Barcelona of old, but they’ll win pretty much every week. Celtic seems largely incapable of that. The Old Firm team that won the first game went on to win the title in four out of five seasons. That’s not us. We didn’t even look as if we could manage a draw. Only one team looks like bottlers. Here I hope I’m wrong.

Is it time for Lennon to go?

I’ll put it another way. Stevie G has his number. A novice manager has got the beating of him. As Lennon said, coming second in Glasgow is coming last. Jock Stein or his apprentice, Alex Ferguson, would have had the hairdryer full on at half-time. At full time, well, we know the story. We’re hit with the same managerial clichés.

Will Celtic win ten-in-a-row?

No.

Celtic 0—2 Rangers

Connor Goldson scored a double, early in the first and second half in a game which Celtic never had a shot on target. The Parkhead team were pedestrian and predictable in a comfortable Old Firm victory for the Ibrox club. After Goldson’s eight minute goal, Elyounoussi missed the kind of sitter, which you’d expect your granny to score.

And at 2-0 down, substitute Griffiths had a one on one with McGregor, knocked the ball by the Ranger’s keeper, and should have scored. Or as commentator Andy Walker suggested went down for a penalty. He did neither and the chance fizzled out. Two noteworthy moments that could have changed the momentum of the game, but probably wouldn’t have.

Because, let’s face it, and I hate saying it, Rangers were better, bossed the match, and deserved to win.

Abject failure, all over the park for Celtic. Man for man and, in terms of a team, Rangers were better. Ten-in-a-row? I don’t think so.

Sure we came back from a winter break and shutdown, rejuvenated last year. This Celtic team looks jaded. Shite.

No Celtic player gets pass marks. Our goalkeeper is the kind of dud easily overlooked. Why send a plane to pick him up, if he doesn’t make saves? Is he any better than the keeper we let go, Craig Gordon? Obviously not. Is he any good. Probably not. Is he any better than the two Ibrox goalies? Definitetly not. I’m really not sure what to do now. We’ll get the usual messages, we’ll come back stronger.

On this showing AC Milan will beat us. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Aberdeen win next week at Pittodrie, or at least take a point. League over. We’re chasing a Rangers team that doesn’t look as if they’ll implode. I hope I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t put even bad money on Celtic. None.

 Anybody that watched this game knows how dreadful Celtic were. Big build up. Big let down. I’m even sober, which makes it worse. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Best just to not read the papers or social media.  Social isolation has its strong points.  Gutted.  

Possible picks, Celtic v Rangers

Celtic’s first eleven against Rangers—who’s in and who’s out?

Goalkeeper is an easy pick. Celtic hired a private jet to bring Vasilos Barkas back from a recent international. He was on the bench for Greece. He’s not really done anything that Scott Bain, or Conor Hazard, or you’d expect any other bog standard goalie to do. He’s certainly not won us matches the way—may he rot in reserve-team-football hell, the Southampton keeper we got on loan last season did. Hope we don’t need him, but time for Barkas to step up and be counted.

Another loan player, Shane Duffy, is going to be in the middle of a back three, back four, or indeed a back five. He’s limited when it comes to passing, but in the air he’s colossus. Just what we needed. Capable of getting us a goal.

Kristopher Ajer will play on Duffy’s left-hand flank. Ajer is a far better ball player than Duffy, but for his size, extremely limited in the air. Pre-Covid, if AC Milan were offering £15 million, I’d have taken it. Overrated.

Here’s where it gets interesting. We paid £7 million for Christopher Jullien. He can be elegant and good in the air, but can be bullied, as he was at Livingston and Kilmarnock. His injury coincided with the arrival of Duffy. Duffy is a number one pick. I expected Jullien to slot into the position on the right flank.

But Nir Bitton held that positon and with a few good performances looked like establishing a run in the team. He too got injured. OK, as Celtic supporters, it’s annoying when the injured Bitton pops up starring for Israel against Scotland. He’s not great in the air, but as a former midfielder, unflappable on the ball. No matter, he’s out.

Hatem Abed Elhamed also starred for an Israel team that outplayed Scotland. He also played well when he replaced Bitton in the Celtic team. He’s also out. Also injured.

Unless Neil Lennon plays a wild card, Julien will start. The problem here is with Julien’s tendency to grab at players and with him likely to be up against Ryan Kent, let’s hope the Celtic defender doesn’t give anything stupid away.

No matter what team Lennon puts out, with James Forrest injured, Jeremie Frimgpong will hug the wide-right touchline and sprint back to mark Ryan Kent. Well, he can. He’s did it before with some aplomb. One of the few Celtic player to get pass marks in the Old Firm fixtures in the pre-split Christmas of 2019. He plays with a smile on his face. He makes things happen. But unlike James Forrest he doesn’t score much. There’s still time. Potential match winner.

Greg Taylor is the kind of player Scotland use when they’re playing meaningless fixtures. His best game was Celtic away, in Riga. Most of his other games are bang-average. Not a bad player. Not a great player in the mould of a Tosh McKinley.  I’d have settled for Johnny Hayes.

Lennon’s got a decision to make here. Diego Laxalt, the Uruguayan international on loan from AC Milan, could be thrown in for Greg Taylor. I can’t see it. And I’ve not seen Laxalt, although I can remember him, because of his Henrik-like hair, playing alongside Suarez. Give me a bit of that. Fling him into the mix. Here’s hoping.

It gets a bit boring here. We know Scott Brown and Callum McGregor will start in the central midfield slots.

There is now an outside chance of Ryan Christie starting, but we’ll not dwell on that and say he’s out.

Oliver Ntcham will start in Christie’s place. Terrific and cultured player. Doesn’t want to be at Celtic and has a tendency to disappear during games, but not a bad stand in.

Odsonne Edouard is in quarantine, but unlike Christie, could start. Usually, I’d say, will start. Barry Ferguson, the Ranger’s pundit, rated Edouard in the £35 million bracket. But not on this season’s performances. Lacklustre. Doesn’t look interested. He’s off are a few of the remarks I’ve heard (usually, because it’s me saying it). It’s not really a wild card to play Edouard, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion he’ll be on the bench.

Now it gets difficult to pick one from three to who will play centre-forward. I know it won’t happen, but with no Edouard I’d just go with Leigh Griffiths. We’ll get the usual pish about him not having game time.

That didn’t stop Albian Ajeti putting the ball in the netti and scoring goal a game before he got injured. He’s back too, with the usual stricture, not- match-fit.

Edouard can play with any of these two strikers. Or, if he’s out, Griffiths and Ajeti, pairing.

If we’re going to stuff the midfield and Edourad is out then Partyk Kilma could find himself as lone striker. He’s fed on scraps and came through to score goals. His goal against St Johnstone summed him up. Halved in two, he jumped up, and thumped the ball past the keeper. Kilma is no dud. Ironically, the guys that are half-fit are first picks. Scoring goals can change his prospects. Score against Rangers and it could change his career.

In the absence of Christie the guys that can play in behind the striker (whoever that is) is red hot. Ntcham could be pushed up. And I think that will happen.

Mohammed Elyounoussi playing ahead of Taylor and in behind the striker. He’s on form and scores goals. But I’m not convinced. He disappears.

If we’d got Tom Rogic on loan from Southampton and played him in the same position (as he did under Brendan Rodgers) then I’m sure the Australian internationalist would also have scored goals. He might even start. But don’t put any money on it. It’s the bench and a long wait for Rodgic.

The wildcard here is David Turnbull. The former Motherwell player has looked tidy with the ball, and untidy, giving it away. He takes great free kicks. Has boundless energy and an eye for a goal. He might well replace Christie in the team, in the short and longer term. I’d favour him over Elyounoussi.

Celtic as we all know have won eight games in a row. Don’t be fooled. Unconvincing and wide open at the back. I don’t rate Rangers, but they have shown they could exploit the open space. I expect us to start with one striker and a packed midfield.

Lennon usually plays one wildcard. In this game it will be Diego Laxalt in for Taylor. Celtic will win, if they score first. If not, it’ll be a draw.  

Barkas

Duffy

Ajer

Julien

Brown

McGregor

Ntcham

Frimpong

Laxalt

Elyounoussi

Ajeti