Ten-in-a-row? Nah.

Celtic play a double-header, home and away, against Livingston. Must-win games. Jim Leishman reminded us that the last time Livingston won at Parkhead some of his player were on £175 a week. Celtic’s stand-in captain, Calum McGregor comes out with the usual stuff about, ‘Don’t stop believing’. Does anyone believe this stuff?

The league is gone. Ten-in-a-row gone. Even the dog’s chance we had of winning went when we lost at Ibrox.  The Scottish Cup is our only chance of silverware this season. We’ve gone from a team whose fans used to (ironically) cheer when a Rangers’ player got a touch of a ball, or laugh when their so called thirty-million-pound frontman, Alfredo Morelos, missed another sitter—to the team that has went backwards and blew it.

Rangers have come back from the dead. Media savvy men told them not to focus on preventing ten in a row, which reflected back on Celtic’s accomplishments, but to shift the focus on #going-for-55. That’s why we hear that drumbeat now.

When Neil Lennon had his first spell in charge, Charlie Adams, who was shipped off to Blackpool because Rangers thought he was a dud (and they might have been right) was asked about Celtic’s achievements. His reply was they should have won more trebles stuck with me. It wasn’t often I agreed with Charlie Adams. But after four quadruple trebles, the answer now speaks for itself.

And it’s not often I agree with Ally McCoist.  Super Ally in a spat with a pundit that Nir Bitton shouldn’t have had a red card and that Morelos wouldn’t have scored—give his track record against Celtic in the previous fourteen Old Firm games. But Ally’s one-liner killed the argument; he’s never played against Barkas. The Celtic keeper may not turn out to be a dud, but to me he looks like the scouting system plucked him from the same money-tree as Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo

Celtic are in a classic destructive cycle in which everything the club, directors and players do goes wrong. Rangers are in a virtuous cycle. Both won’t last.

I don’t look with envy at the Ibrox players. We can play the usual game of who would you take from their team? Their goalie, obviously, but after that nobody springs to mind. But our Celtic team has regressed, while their team has gotten better. In the game at Ibrox, we played them off the park in the way they did to us at Hampden when we won the League Cup, the difference that day was we had a goalkeeper that made saves in Fraser Forster.

If the league was called now, as it was called last year, Rangers would be champions. I don’t like it, but I’d accept that. We blew it.

The question now is when Lennon should go? There was a case for sacking him at the beginning of December, but bringing in a new manager would symbolically suggest we were in deep trouble. The Celtic support pay Peter Lawwell well over a million quid a year to act as Dermot Desmond’s  go to ‘Yes man’. Lennon was their man. Lawwell is a politician and politicians don’t like to admit they make mistakes. We don’t get a vote on this. The biscuit tin mentality referred to a time when Celtic directors like the White’s quietly dipped into the profits of the first nine-in-a-row team to pay for their lifestyle. We didn’t get a vote then either. Nine flags that flew over the old main stand weren’t there the following season.  

Dermot Desmond is part of the Irish mafia that cashed in his chips at the right time at Manchester United, took his profit and invested in Celtic. It’s his club. Lawwell is his man. Lennon is their manager. But he won’t be here next season. Many of our player will also be sold or out of contract. I’d sell Edouard now, cash in. Other players that are looking to leave should be shown the door, such as Ajer and Ntcham.

Roughly, seventy-percent of our income is based on supporters turning up on match days. Around ninety-percent of Rangers’ income. As league champions next year their players will demand to be paid more. They’ll be sucked into the same downward spiral as Celtic, paying an increasingly high wage bill, with a largely fixed income stream. We all know about their massive debts and hush-hush loans that need to be paid back. But as of now, they are a going concern, and we should be concerned. Champions’ League cash of around £30 million if they qualify for the groups stages puts them on par with us. That’s the golden ticket that’s eluded us the last few years. Indication of our decline, the Dermott Desmond’s of this world chose to ignore. Football is a hard business, Lennon should go now. It would make the transition to one-in-row easier. The only consolation is when Rangers do win it, they’ll be screaming into a void. With lockdown, like our quadruple winning team, we’ll quickly move on to something else. Let’s hope we do have a plan for next year. Celtic are literally taking money from fans for next to nothing and promises of change. That’s a business model that is sure to fail.

Celtic 3—2 Lille

Celtic start with a 4-4-2 formation. Conor Hazard in goals. Scott Bain and the £5- million-signing Vasilis Barkas on the bench. The young Irish keeper didn’t have any chance with the two goals we lost. The first was a rare mistake from an attempted lob backward by Calum McGregor to a static central defence. And Yazıcı races into the box and squares to an unmarked Ikone to equalise and make it 1-1, after Julien’s header put us ahead three minutes earlier. Lille’s second equalising goal came from another poorly defended free kick. Shane Duffy headed the ball out. Timothy Weah (remember him from our loan deal under Rodgers) scored with a volley from inside the box.

 Elyounoussi should have been marking him, but wasn’t. That’s been the story of Celtic’s slide into ignominy, bottom of the charts in the Europa group and the goal’s lost column, and generally, in Europe. (I’ve zero interest in the Champions League draw).  But the Swiss midfielder had a fine game. Hazard, finally, had a chance to make a save in the 80th minute, Ihaji from around the penalty spot fluffed his chance, and the Celtic keeper was glad to gather a trickler. We needed a bit of luck.

  I don’t think many would argue with the way David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro played in midfield they deserve another chance. Turnbull scored the winner, to make it 3-2, after Ajer galloped down the touch line and whipped in a cross. And the former Motherwell midfielder created the first with a whipped in corner and the second. Turnbull was an easy pick for man of the match.

Soro wasn’t far behind him. He broke up play and kept the ball. He had to go off with cramp in the ninety-second minute. That shows how much running he did. He created the second goal by winning the ball and passing it to Turnbull. The midfielder toe-poked it to Frimpong who was clattered inside the box. Stonewaller.

Calum McGregor took the penalty and made up for his earlier error by scoring.

Ewan Henderson came on early for Jeremie Frimpong who smashed his head against an advertising board. I’m a big fan of Ewan (and his brother Liam, the ex-Celt) but it was difficult to see how he would get into such a talented midfield. He showed brio here and no-little skill. He’s an outstanding talent.

Up front Patryk Kilmala worked hard, which always sounds like a put-down. His only shot on goal after twenty minutes was saved the keeper, but led to the corner from which we scored. Any striker that doesn’t score is never happy, nor should he be.  Ajeti came on for the last ten minutes but managed to embarrass himself (and by association Celtic) by rolling around on the touchline for no reason.  

Duffy came in to partner Julien in a defence that has leaked more goals than any other team in the European competition. The French man has a decent record scoring goals from free kicks. But recently we tend to lose far more goals that we score. We’re keeping Julien, for the present, but the jury is out on Duffy. You can’t really blame him for the second goal here. He won his header. But he also misjudged a header when he was on a booking. He could have been sent off for hand ball. I don’t need to work very hard to make a case for sending him back to Brighton in the January window. We’re out of Europe. The Scottish Premier League gone. Duffy was not the answer, nor the player we thought he would be.

I’m not a fan of Ajer. He’s not a central defender. And if AC Milan had put the cash up I’d have been glad to see him go. But I can remember him having a stormer at right back against Aberdeen. Here he created the third, and winning goal. But that leaves a gap because if we’re playing 4-4-2 and Ajer is at right back then Julien needs a partner. Answers on a postcard. Perhaps Scott Brown should take a step backwards. Neil Lennon might surprise everyone by picking the same team that started tonight on Sunday. We’re playing catch-up, and it doesn’t matter because we’re not going to catch them, but it does hurt. It does hurt. The ten is gone. Let’s think about next season, this season. Get rid of the dross now.

Whatever Happened to Paddy Roberts?

patrick roberts.jpg

A wee cameo, Hampden in the sun, this time last year. Celtic win the treble. Unbeatable. Kieran Tierney comes back from the hospital in crutches to pick up his medal. Paddy Roberts is waiting for him. The Likely Lads. It was a glorious sight to see wee Paddy in full flow and we were sad to see him go. Many of us thought he might even be good enough to play for his parent club Manchester City.

Not that I cared the only team that interests me is Celtic. Rodgers brought in Aberdeen’s best player that day and most other days, Johnny Hayes. Shame about his injury, but he doesn’t look good enough for Celtic.

Paddy does. He doesn’t. Simple. So when we hear the Paddy and Kieran bromance is back on over the summer. And it turns out to be true. Well, overjoyed, whoopee.

I just hope Paddy makes it back from injury. It’ll not be at Celtic. His season-long loan almost done.  He got the last 20 minutes in the 3—0 victory at Parkhead over Ross County. Midweek, when most commentators were salivating over the Manchester City-Liverpool European clash, us Bhoys were watching real fitba. Celtic v Dundee.

Gordon was back in goals for his 200th appearance. Great to see him. Tierney is injured. Calum McGregor playing left back. McGregor quite simply has proved he can play anywhere. Rodgers says he doesn’t give the ball away.

Let’s talk Boyata. He does give the ball away. Remember that game against Bayern, ball straight down the middle. Same again against Dundee. Boyata and ex-Dundee player Jack Hendry get into a kerfuffle. Just before half-time a Boyata tackle hits the inside of the Celtic goalpost, but doesn’t go in. It rolls along the line. Boyata makes more mistakes the Effe Ambrose and it’s nothing to do with skin colour, just ability. Neither is good enough. It needs to be asked, where is Marvin Compper?

We know where Paddy is, on the bench. A lightweight like Charly Musonda. Their place in the Celtic pecking order was shown after sixty turgid minutes against Dundee. Off goes Dembele, off goes Sinclair and off goes Armstrong. Rodgers makes three substitutions, throws the dice, but doesn’t call Paddy’s number.

That’s where Paddy is. The Celtic team regressing from the highs of last year. The league is won. The league cup is won. Only the Scottish Cup remains for back to back trebles. But for the first time in two years I think Rangers have a chance at Hampden on Sunday. Our big player, our best players, just haven’t turned up this season and the ones brought in to replace them are sub-Celtic standard. Paddy, Paddy, prove me wrong.