At home, Scotland started as favourites and there was talk of topping the group. But Ireland had a good record here. They created most of the chances in the first half and went in at the break a goal ahead.
Scotland were outmuscled and outfought in Dublin. And the Irish were at it again. Tony Parrot had the ball in the net, but it was chopped off for offside. He also outjumped Tierney and forced a save from Craig Gordon, but he was penalised for a foul. Tierney was to go off shortly afterwards after going down in the opposition box. The Arsenal full back was replaced by his Celtic replacement, Greg Taylor. But like many of his colleagues he played too many of his passes sideways and backwards making it easy for Ireland to fall back and counter.
Scotland lost a goal in fifteen minutes, also giving the Irish defence something to hang onto. A simple corner (as in Dublin) which wasn’t defended. Lyndon Dykes did his job, winning the cross ball and heading it out. But Jayson Mulumby got in front of McGregor to win the second header. John Egan was the first to react. Spinning to put his shot in past Gordon.
Steve Clarke’s men were outclassed by Ukraine at Hampden in their World Cup Play-off tie. They came back to make them think again and did a job on them, scored three and conceding none. The equalising goal in fifty minutes was made and finished by Jack Hendry. He played a ball wide to Taylor at the edge of the box. He nudged it on to Christie. The Bournemouth player flung it into the box. Hendry got up and headed into the corner of the goals.
Scotland were on top. McGregor got caught short on a number of occasions. He gave the ball away and Matt Doherty curled an effort wide. But Ireland’s best chance of the second-half came minutes later. McGregor lost the ball at the edge of the opposition box after a Scotland corner. Obefemi’s pace took him away from Christie, who tried to wipe him out (a certain red card had he connected) but he played in Tony Parrot. He ran in on goal, but his shot was poor and Gordon got down, parrying it away for a corner.
Anthony Ralston and Ryan Fraser come on for Aaron Hickey, who was injured and Stuart Armstrong. That gave Scotland a lift.
Ireland made a triple substitution. It was end to end. McGregor chested down the ball at the edge of the Ireland box. His shot came off a defender and went for a corner. The ball came in and Browne flung up an arm to get in front of McTominay. Scotland players shouted for hand ball. The referee gave it and checked on VAR. Christie coolly slotted it away in the eighty-second minute.
Kenny McLean and Che Adams replaced Ryan Christie and Lyndon Dykes and it was Scotland that had something to hang onto. The Bournemouth player with an assist and goal wins my man of the match. Small margins. If he’d connected with Obefemi he wouldn’t have been on the park.
Ireland tried to pressure the Scottish back line. But it was Ryan Fraser who had perhaps the best chance after McGinn had sprung the midfield and fed him with a one on one. His shot went past the post. Jack Henry got booked after the final whistle. But he wasn’t bothered. Neither were we. Rode our luck.
John McGinn scored a seventieth minute goal, and substitute Lyndon Dykes added two more headed goals from fellow substitute Ryan Fraser’s corners which were whipped into the box. Scotland were outclassed by Ukraine at Hampden 112 days ago in the World-Cup Playoff. But it was Ukraine outclassed and outmuscled here.
Scotland went with three at the back last time. An extra man in mid-field, where they lost the battle last time. No Oleksandr Zinchenko who was out injured. He bossed the game in the last match, and made it easier for Scotland to gain a foothold. Here it was 4-4-2 for traditionalists.
And it was Scotland that created most of the chances. Nathan Patterson had to go off after twenty minutes injured. He’d set up a chance for Ryan Christie and sent a ball into the box McGinn got his head to. Aaron Hickey came on and settled in to have an equally good game. Mkyhaylo Mudryk was seen as the danger man, but after a bright start, he saw little of the ball and created even less.
Valeriy Bondar was yellow carded ten minutes before half-time for fouling Che Adams. Steve Clarke had the touchline official’s ear. It was arguable whether he was the last man. And equally whether it was a goal-scoring opportunity. Taking out, is perhaps the right way to describe it. The tackle alone merited red.
Adams led the line well. He’d been played in by Tierney in the first-half but his shot was too near the keeper. Like Lyndon Dykes, he had two headed opportunities in less than a minute, in a second-half in which Scotland increasingly dominated. One off the top of the bar. Another saved by the keeper.
Stuart Armstrong also had a hat-trick of opportunities. And we’d have expected him to score one goal, maybe two or three. Despite his profligacy, his energy and speed complimented McGregor’s and kept the ball moving.
When Scotland needs a goal, it’s usually Clydebank man John McGinn who grabs it. He’d no right to get to the ball but he’s small and stocky. He uses his arse to roll defenders and when he did so in the box to open up space, the ball was always going to end up in the net.
Fraser and Dykes came on. Adams and Tierney off. Steve Clarke could do no wrong. He not only invigorated the Scotland attack. He added goals. Fraser even found time to cut in and have a pop at goal himself just before the end. It was one of those nights. Scotland even goes top of the group. I know what you’re thinking. It’ll never last. We’re Scotland after all. But they’ll be days like this.
I know there are Rangers’ fans like Brian Thompson out there that borrow a ladder and rollers for painting from a die-hard Celtic fan, but throw them into his tenement forecourt in the rain when their team gets beaten. And I did fling a piece of blue chalk from the pool table through to the lounge bar and hit Thompson on his grinning face after an Old Firm game. As the Celtic anthem It’s a Grand Old Team to Play For, ‘If you know your history…’
I used to be able to name the Rangers’ team. Now I’d be hard stretched. 14th June 2012, Rangers’ shares sold for three pence in the pound, and they were overvalued. Liquidators set up their stall outside Ibrox. There only concern enriching themselves, and people like them, and gorging on the mugs ready to buy a ticket for the now defunct Rangers Football Club.
We need Rangers for the good of the Scottish game we were told. I wasn’t buying that one either. Success built on a brand of sectarianism and hatred of all things Catholic. And I’m not even a good Catholic, but they branded me as one of them. The Orange Order ordering jobs for its members in shipyards, and parading through the streets, pissing up closes and breaking stain-glass windows. Protestant manses spewing anti-Irish hatred. Leaders of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh promulgating eugenic messages of Irish men having monkey-like brains, not being able to work complex machinery, and Irish women having low morals. Their children cretins and a prohibitive cost to the state—that cannot be met and should not be paid. The Masonic Order linking the civil service to the judiciary—Queen’s Counsel, Donald Findlay— to the boys on the beat, telling they who to beat and why. Singing The Sash, ‘Up to their knees in Fenian blood/ Surrender or you’ll die…
Our media falling over themselves with the Rangers’ rebranding during the Souness/Smith era. Chairman David Murray: ‘for every pound Celtic spent, I’ll put up a tenner’.
David Murry, like any good businessman, paid little or no tax to the British government, but he supported them with flag waving and big talk. A pyramid scheme with other people’s money from which he got out early enough not to be caught and found liable. Bringing in the England captain and a slew of internationalists, including Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup. Signing Mo Johnston in July 1989 was a message from the boardroom. Fuck you.
During the Rangers’ wilderness years, when Celtic won so many treble-trebles, it even shut Charlie Adams up and wiped the smirk from the face of Kris Boyd. It was like a fan asking George Best, ‘where did it all go wrong,’ while he was lying in bed with a million quid in notes, another Miss World, and yet another magnum of champagne.
There is a story going about, by the likes of Brian Thompson, we wish Brendan Rodgers well and hope Eddie Howe hits the ground running at Newcastle. Fuck you.
Steven Gerrard wins one trophy in nine and he’s touted as the messiah, and next Aston Villa manager (as a stepping-stone to the Liverpool job).
He won the one that mattered and stopped Celtic winning ten-in-a-row.
It was a hard one, I’ll admit it. Pubs were closed. Covid meant many Rangers supporters broke the law in the same way they trashed the streets of Manchester with impunity during their run to the Uefa Cup Final. At least that brought a smile to my face.
Few Celtic fans had heard of Ange Postecoglou. My fear was the appointment of John Kennedy. He was there and he was cheap. He was the managerial equivalent of Graeme Stuart Murty as Rangers’ manager. If you can’t remember him, that’s a bonus. A bit like remembering John Kennedy was meant to bring stability to a Celtic defence that shipped goal after goal from free-kicks and corners.
The countdown went something like this. All John Kennedy had to do as interim manager, with the league already gone, was win the Scottish Cup. Then it was just beat Rangers.
The problem with John Kennedy, the Celtic equivalent of Murty, wasn’t his coaching pedigree. A new manager needs to have a ready-made list of players he knows are good enough and ready to go. Kennedy was same-old, same-old.
Chief executive Dominic McKay resigned, which was hardly good news, but didn’t cost us anything. And for supporters on the ground doesn’t really mean anything. We know the only voice that matters is supposedly the ninth richest man in Ireland. And Dermot Desmond doesn’t come to Paradise very often. Shares from his Manchester United windfall from Glazer left enough to buy Celtic and have cash left over, but not to splash. Only little people do that.
Ange Postecoglou brought in Kyogo. He knows the Japanese league. The Yokohama F.Marinos striker Daizen Maeda is linked with a move to Parkhead. We got lucky with Jota. And I’ll even fling in Liel Abada. I’m not keen on Carl Starfelt. Aaron Hickey, like John McGinn, were the obvious ones that got away. But we’re linked with another wonder boy at left back from the J-League. But it might not be enough.
Rangers posted a loss of £23.5m last week. Wonderful news. We all suspect that those figures are a bit like a blonde and drunk young girl asking Leigh Griffiths if he’s just here to help her up the road. More to come.
Swiss Ramble’s audit notes (taken from The Daily Record, often a suspect source). Celtic ‘are in good shape financially, despite the pandemic, thanks to their sustainable model’.
Money talks are wee Fergus McCann knew better than most. The man with the bunnet posted a bond and said he’d take out £50 million from the club. He did as he said.
That’s the equivalent on the Champions League money at the end of this season. Rangers win the league and all those debtors will quietly fade away. Loss and they’re in deep financial shit.
At the start of the season we all soberly agreed Ange Postecoglou would need time to re-build a team. It made sense. But really, we’re frothing at the mouth. Give them fuck all. I’d guess it’s fifty-fifty. It could go either way this season. And it will go to the wire. We’ll bring in new players. Rangers won’t. That’s why the five points lost to Livingston hurt so much. We just need to keep winning. Europe after Christmas is a bonus for us, but a necessity for Rangers.
Do I want them to qualify and improve the Scottish coefficient in Uefa competitions? If you need to ask that you’ve not understood what I’ve been saying. Barry Fergusson is Brian Thompson in another life, but sometimes he’s right. I just hope he’s flinging the paint bucket out of his tenement window to make my Christmas complete.
First pre-season game and we play Sheffield Wednesday on a Wednesday. And Stephen Welsh plays in Wales, although he’s not Welsh. It’s a ninety minute game, but split into three thirty minutes segments. Over the fence of Dragon Park guys in white playing glorified rounders are oblivious that the next European Champions are playing on their turf, after they achieve one-in-a-row. Yeh, one of those games when it wouldn’t have surprised you if Johnny Depp was playing on the wing with his hat on.
Ange Postecolgou’s first call is to make Albian Ajeti captain. I’m not sure the thinking over that one. I didn’t recognise many of the players that started the first of three periods. Barkas was in goals. That’s the Celtic goalie that didn’t make a save in his first season. But it’s a new start. And Barkas was the Celtic player who got the most touches in the opening ten minutes as the ball was played backwards and backwards and backwards. He didn’t make a save here either, but we were 1—0 down as Sheffield United dominated. Barkas was not at fault. And for a change we didn’t lose a goal from a corner of free kick, as we did for most games last season. But we were still the easy touch of last season. Bannan, Palmer and a through ball to ex-Rangers’ player Josh Windass gave Wednesday the lead. And that’s the way it stayed, until the beginning of the second half.
Finally, I get to say Ajeti put the ball in the nettie. We’ve been that focussed on what’s happening with Leigh Griffiths that Ajeti has been largely overlooked. Ajeti, when he’s not falling over looking for fouls, is also a predator with a good strike rate in the Swiss league. Last season he was dreadful. This season he’s got a new start. And he’s only 24. He’s a wait- and-see player. Like Griffiths he’s a point to prove.
Red-haired winger, Owen Moffat was one of our better players in the first half. And he capped off a stand-out performance with a brilliantly taken goal. Ex-Sheffield player Liam Shaw also looked impressive, both physically and the way he used the ball in midfield as Celtic began to dominate. Soro, in the holding role, looks as if he’s going to be a regular starter.
Scott Bain came on for Barkas after 45 minutes, but wholesale changes to both teams were made. Odsonne Edouard came on and scored the third goal, near the end of the ninety minutes.
Difficult one, he’s still a Celtic player, but the quicker he goes the better, with Ajer and Christie and whoever else wants to leave. We need a whole new defence, starting with the goalie. Left back, right back and centre half. The former Heart’s player Aaron Hickey is one of a number of players touted. He played against Celtic in the Scottish Cup final and was a standout. We could have got him for a million, now its £4.5 million. Stupidity costs money, and cost us the league with a raft of sub-standard players being brought to the club. Anything that could have went wrong last season did go wrong. It’s actually quite nice to hear Rangers are so far ahead Celtic could be out of the running for the league in the first month. That’s a repeat of what was said about Rangers last year—forget it, one-in-a-row, Hallo, Hallo.
Things could be worse. Need to watch England playing with the sound down. My partner told our neighbour that I said I might hate England more than Rangers. Not even near. But c’mon the Italy. The Pope’s eleven.