The league won. Tidying up time and with two games to give some lads a runabout. James Forrest, for example, and Liel Abada. Kyogo on the bench, gets a few minutes of injury time. Giakoumakis comes in. The Greek strike got his goal at the end of the Hearts game to keep his strike rate up—to a very impressive level—and scored again to officially win the title. Great leap from Giakoumakis top power home the header, but the donkeywork was done by Tony Ralston hanging the ball in the air from out in the touchline.
Tony Ralston is a bit like Anton Rogan used to be. He gives his all, but I’m thinking we need better. He was wasteful with the ball in the first half in which Dundee United had one shot on goal. Archie Meekison with fast feet finding space just outside the box and getting a shot away. But Ralston set up a goal and with a tackle saved an almost second Dundee United winner.
We had three-quarters of possession, but didn’t look that deadly. Hatate, for example, skying two half-decent chances. It was looking like one of those pre-season knockabouts in the first-half.
David Turnbull drops out of the team and Hatate comes back in. The ever impressive O’Riley keeps his place and Rogic out of the team. We know they’ll all come on for a runabout. After sixty minutes, and the opening goal, Ange brings new legs on. It’s worked fine in the past. Jota come on for James Forrest.
The game opened up after Celtic scored and we looked for a second goal to clinch it. But we almost conceded immediately. Rory MacLeod hit the post. Nicky Clark bundles the ball into the net only for the linesman to flag offside. A close call.
Forrest was tidy, but never a threat. Jota with his first touch, a nutmeg and waltz into the box, with a snapshot forced Benji Siegrist into a save at his near post. Potential candidate for goal of the season if it had went in.
Abada got injured and was taken off to be replaced by Daizen Maeda. Another injection of pace. But it’s substitute Charlie Mulgrew that helps set up the United equaliser. His first touch was a free kick, which he hit into Joe Hart’s arms. But later he simply lays the ball off, a simple pass. Dylan Levitt (on loan from Manchester United) takes the shot on from over 25-yards. He beats Joe Hart with a bit of a wonder goal and with ten minutes to go it’s a nervous finish.
A Tony Watt header has Joe Hart flapping. Jota makes space inside the United box but hits the side-netting. Maeda creates space for himself inside the box, but his finish is well over the bar. Celtic get a corner in the last minute of extra time. But we play the ball back the way, go back the way, in a season where we have been going forward.
Building the team, player by player. A Double in his first season, a minor miracle I prayed for, but just couldn’t see happening. Ange could:
‘It’s been a hell of a season. Our starting point was a fair way back and the way this group of players and staff has risen to the challenge – I couldn’t be more proud.
It’s fairly overwhelming. It’s taken every ounce of me to get us where we are and when you get to the finish line, you just want to collapse.
We’ve been focused all season, not getting distracted by anything. The players were really good at dealing with what was in front of them – and that’s not easy to do.’
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.
Most Celtic supporters I’ve talked to would be happy with another domestic treble, perhaps with a European Cup thrown in for good measure. In Lennie we trust (well kinda).
Lennon got us over the line last year, winning the Scottish Cup and the treble. There was a minimum and maximum as there is this year. I’d guess the minimum is a domestic double, Scottish League and one other trophy. In terms of Europe, qualification for the group stage of the Europa League.
The Europa League is a bit boring. We really want Champions League nights. Money and prestige are stitched together here. If Lenny gets Celtic through four qualifiers and into the Champions League group stages then he’s half way to being able to say job done. Then we can start kidding ourselves that other teams hate coming to Parkhead. The truth is the bigger teams love playing in a packed-out stadium where they always win. Yes, I do remember Tony Watt’s goal against Barcelona, loved every second of it, but freak results do happen. That’s why domestically Celtic are unlikely to win the treble again this year. They are the best team in Scotland, but an off day and we’re out of the cup.
Qualifying for Europe also means the squad is stretched and we’ve more games to play. After Rodger’s first season we began to regularly look vulnerable and drop points to teams like Kilmarnock and Hearts.
Strangely, despite Celtic’s treble-treble Rangers’ fans believe again. Their optimism is based on Celtic not spending and taking two steps backwards in the last two seasons and Rangers finally going four or five games unbeaten. Rangers can win the league this year, but only if Celtic go into meltdown.
Celtic’s biggest buy of the season and long overdue is a centre-half in Christopher Julien. I’ve not seen him, but sometimes you just get that feeling…Kris Ayer will probably play alongside him in the centre of defence. Both are six-foot five, both are good with the ball at their feet. Both are called Chris. If they play to their potential Celtic will continue to monitor all players called Chris/Kris and try and integrate them into the Celtic family for Christmas.
I guess Jozo Simunovic will be the odd man out. He’d a great end of season, scoring that goal in the 67th minute and honouring Billy McNeil while wearing number 5. He looked like a half-decent defender at Parkhead, which must give Jack Hendry hope.
Lustig also had a fine end to the season and his Celtic career, but any winger with pace gave him a chasing, so it was thanks and no thanks. Anthony Ralston, for the moment, holds the jersey. Ironically, it was the young right back for Hearts in the last game of the season and in the Scottish Cup Final, a former Celtic graduate, who showed Ralston how it should be done. I guess Celtic need to strengthen here. The Heart’s boy would be worth a punt, but we’ll go for the tried and tested, although I’m not sure who.
Arsenal and Napoli are interested in Kieran Tierney. He’s injured. He’s been injured quite a lot recently. The selling price is allegedly £25 million. I’d like to see Tierney stay. He’s a Celtic man and the best left back since Anton Rogan of Lisburn Distillery, but that might have been taking things a bit too far. Kieran Tierney is one of us, a fan, blessed with ability. Stay.
Johnny Hayes has been filling in at left back. I like Hayes, he’s street-smart, but never Celtic class (see Anton Rogan) and neither is he good enough to play as an out and out winger.
With Tierney out in the short, and perhaps longer term, Celtic have brought in a replacement. Under Rodgers it tended to be of the loan-deal variety. We paid more than £3 million for Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo. He talks a good game. Telling us he has pace and…we’ll wait and see, but if Tierney stays, he’s our improved model of Emilio Izaguirre (good luck to the Honduran, but never a good idea to bring an old player back, hopefully the same thing doesn’t apply to an old manager).
In midfield we were always stacked with riches. Let’s start with the one that wants away. Olivier Ntcham had a few good games. He had a few bad games. You’ve got to laugh when he comes out with the excuse Scottish football is holding him back excuse. It never held back Henrik Larsson or Harald Brattbakk or Virgil van Dijk. Two of these went on to lift the European Cup. Nitcham looks more of a Harald with every word that comes out of his mouth. He’s decided to go. Celtic want to sell. We’re waiting, but we’ll drop the price until someone takes him.
Ironically, I’m a big fan of Scottish, under-twenty-one international, Ewan Henderson who has fallen down the pecking order. Henderson, like his brother Liam, is Celtic class. I did predict years ago that Celtic would build their team around Liam. I’m not going to predict they’re going to build their team around Ewan (although I am tempted).
Remember Eboue Kouassi? He’s still there. He might do a Ryan Christie, you never know. Nah, he willnae. But wishful thinking is allowed.
Lewis Morgan is of that ilk. He went to Sunderland on loan and came back. We’ll probably send him out again somewhere. Special pre-seaon offer, three-for-one deal with Kouassi and Jack Henry. Not bad players. Just not good enough for Celtic.
Scott Sinclair is on the final year of his contract. Anybody comes in, he can go. He’ll spend a lot of time on the bench if he doesn’t. He’ll be the type of player we bring on in the 85th minute hoping he can reproduce some of his penalty-box poacher- magic of his first two seasons.
Daniel Arzani lasted five minutes at Celtic, before getting injured. He’s got a chance, but only if young Karamoko Dembele is thought too young for the first team.
Maryan Shved is a winger that excited Celtic fans, without playing a game for us. It was all highlights from abroad. Need to wait and see. Here’s hoping.
I’ve not mentioned James Forrest, the Celtic winger, who Lennon played through the middle in friendlies. Lennon brought Forrest into the team when he was here the last time. He used to talk him up and we’d be watching the same game and thinking…Whit? Lennon had a good season. Rodgers loved him. Lennon does too. He’ll play all the big games and most of the little ones. It’s going to be a big season for James Forrest.
Mikey Johnstone looks to be a Forrest stand in. Johnstone has plenty of trickery. He scores goals. He’s a Celt, here’s hoping he follows the Forrest pathway.
Scott Brown does what Scott Brown does. Lennon trusts him as did Rodgers before him. He’ll play the majority of our games.
Nobody played more games for club and country than Callum McGregor. If Forrest was Lennon’s love child, McGregor was Rodger’s. He played in almost every position for Rodgers apart from striker and goalie. I’m sure Rodgers would have handed him the gloves. There’s talk of a £20 million bid from the Leicester manager. That’s a wait and see.
Tom Rogic is another wait and see project. He didn’t look out of place when we played Manchester City in the Champions League under Rodgers. As good as anyone. But prone to injuries. Scores goals in big games, but in the Scottish Cup final (I can’t even remember if he played) and games against Rangers, in fact, most of last season, a wash out. If clubs are offering £9 million or £10 million, I’d be very tempted to take it and bring back Paddy McCourt.
Ryan Christie wrote the script of the forgotten man biding his time. After losing out on John McGinn we were dreadful against a long-ball Hearts team at Tynecastle. Christie came on and scored and turned the game around. He was a goal-a-game man afterwards. Automatic first pick. His energy was of the Stuart Armstrong variety, but he had a better touch, better end product, a better player. But then that dreadful injury. He’s back but what Ryan Christie will emerge?
Luca Connell was coveted by other teams. Here’s hoping Lennie knew of him from his Bolton days. He’s young, which is always good. Is he ready for the first team?
Odsonne Edouard is our main striker. He missed a penalty in our last friendly in Switzerland against Gallen. Nobody cares about that, as long as he scores goals. He can be deceptively brilliant or just deceptive. He’s scored in big games, at crucial times in a match. He won us the league and Scottish Cup, but he doesn’t score enough. Maybe this season?
Leigh Griffiths is back. That’s fucking magic. Remember Griffiths once scored 40 plus goals in one season. He is a striker. No messing. There is a fair chance Lennon will play two strikers in games. Griffiths will get his chance. It’s really up to him. Here’s hoping.
I’d high hopes for the Ivorian international Vakoun Issouf Bayo. His strength is in the air. Lennon knows more than most, when pressed, as we were at Ibrox, a big target man gives you the route out of your half and adds goals. Recently, he’s been injured. That’s been a pattern. We don’t need any more projects. We don’t need another Kouassi. We need Bayo to force his way into the team in the same way Christie did, by scoring goals.
Are we stronger than last year? Yeh, we’ve been crying out for a decent centre-half for the last four years. One man doesn’t make a team, but it’s a start. We need a right-back, pronto. Perhaps Bayo won’t be good enough, then we need another striker. We might need a back-up centre-half for the back-up centre-half. If we sell Rogic or McGregor, we need another midfielder. The joker we have in the pack is Dembele. He looks a player. This might be his season. We’re in Sarajevo, let’s hope we can win and make the second leg a formality.