My last visit to Love Street, I had a couple of pints in the Horseshoe Bar in Paisley, and we also scored five. One of our all-time greats, Daniel Fergus McGrain was playing as was Paul McStay and Brian McClair. The real news came from the tranny and I think it was Albert Craig. We invaded the pitch in a daze of wonderland and I ruffled Mo Johnston’s blonde bob. I should have pulled it out by the roots, but that’s a different story. No shock of that magnitude today.
We know how Steve Robinson’s team play. Back to front. They were the last Scottish team to catch us that way. For just under forty minutes his game plan was working.
St Mirren don’t score many goals playing pretty football. A ball into the box, Alex Grieve flicked the ball up and it hit Greg Taylor’s hand. The commenters joked about an early penalty as play went on. When the referee went to have a look, it was just a matter of whether Mark O’Hara would score from the penalty spot. Being a goal down in the first five minutes is better than being a goal down in the last five minutes.
Robinson’s team didn’t play any differently, but they were a goal up, and they had a great margin for error in picking up points. Hatate had a good effort from the edge of the box. Jota had a shot that the keeper comfortably saved. But with nine men behind the ball on a tight pitch we weren’t getting in behind St Mirren.
Our midfield dominated, as they did last Sunday at Hampden, but Maeda and Jota looked off it. Kyogo only had three touches. But the Japanese forward changed the momentum of the game just before half-time. Charles Dunne’s heavy touch back to his keeper had Kyogo nipping in behind him. He hauled him back. The referee gave a penalty and issued a red card. After a VAR check a free kick was given at the edge of the box, which was wasted.
Maeda was replaced by Liel Abada as attack played against defence. The young Israeli had a good case for man of the match.
But it was misfiring Jota who got the equaliser. He’d enough savvy to convert, a Mooy cross, dink it through goalkeeper Trevor Carson’s legs, while falling to the ground and into the net.
We’d thirty-five minutes to get a winner. Ten minutes later Johnson converted a back-post cross from Mooy, bundling the defender and ball into the net in the way Roy Aitken used to.
Abada put us on easy street, stepping inside and putting one into the corner of the net. And with twenty minutes to play it was just a matter of how many.
Matt O’Riley stepped up to make it four. His first of the season. He’s moved down the pecking order with Mooy playing so well.
Fellow substitute Oh stepped up to hit a fifth from the penalty spot, near the end after being hauled back by Alex Gogic.
After a difficult first half, the game turned into a rout. A Hearts double-header this week. Home in the league. Away in the Scottish Cup. Maeda and, ironically, Jota, despite his goal, and a much improved second-half, move down the playing-pecking order. Abada moves up. We hold plenty in reserve as shown today.
Kilmarnock was Scottish League Champions in 1965. Celtic won the Scottish Cup that year. In 1966 Celtic won the first of their nine-in-a-row league titles. Rangers won the Scottish Cup. 1967, and Celtic won everything, including the European Cup, with a team of players that lived within a twelve miles radius of Parkhead. Bobby Lennox was the furthest away from Paradise, one of three players, with ‘Caesar’, Billy McNeil, and to have played in all nine Championships between 1965-1974.
Jimmy Johnstone has been often polled as Celtic’s best- ever player, but Stein was ruthless, when his legs were gone, wee Jinky was gone. Celtic also won the Glasgow Cup in 1967. With Rangers in it, the year they got to the Cup Winners Cup final, Celtic had to win it and they did. Nothing has come close to that year, with the added bonus of beating Real Madrid in the Bernebeu, playing in Di Stefano testimonial, but the talk was all of the mighty Jimmy Johnstone.
Stein had a Quality Street reserve team coming through to maintain standards. Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay, Danny McGrain, Lou Macari. Despite being favourites, Celtic lost the European Cup Final to Feyenoord, after extra-time and having scored first. Ironically at the home of Inter Milan who were first to score and were beaten 2—1.Celtic were also outplayed. Time for a changing of the old guard.
Neil Lennon came in as Celtic manager after Tony Mowbrays’s Celtic team were thrashed by St Mirren and Celtic lost narrowly to Rangers in the league that year. Lennon led us to our first of the current nine-in-a-row titles, but at Rugby Park he looked to be on the way out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtmkHcNlRQQ.
Lennon led us to three league titles in a row and that magnificent win over Barcelona, arguably, the best team ever to arrive at Parkhead.
Ronny Deila was appointed manager of Celtic in June 2014. He was a bright new manager, a gamble on the Celtic board’s part, who went on to lead Celtic to two consecutive league titles, but never had control of the dressing room. Remember Kris Commons, Scotland’s Player of the Year and a twenty-plus goal a season man, reduced to the bench and flinging his shirt ad Deila after being substituted against Molde in the Europa league, despite having scored. Jimmy Johnstone once did something similar with Jock Stein, he shouted through the door in the manager’s room something—thought to be derogatory—ran away and hid in a dark room for a week, before the other players told him it was safe to come out. Deila was on the way out when Rangers beat us in the Scottish Cup, despite their team being in the First Division. Media talk was of the Rangers being back. (Hibs beat them in the Scottish Cup final).
In May 2016, Brendan Rodgers was announced as Deila’s replacement and around 12 000 fans turned up at Parkhead to welcome the new manager. He delivered two-and-a-half treble trebles of Scottish League, League and Scottish Cups before turning Judas and leaving for Leicester City. It was no secret he was leaving, but to leave half way through a season lacked Celtic class.
Neil Lennon came in as Celtic caretaker manager and he finished the job of another treble. In his first season in charge he had another treble in his grasp, having won the League Cup, a victory over Rangers. Still in the semi-finals of the Scottish, favourites to win it and 13 points clear of Rangers before being declared Champions once again because of the Covid-19 virus pandemic.
Celitc’s best eleven in the years of Lennon, Delia, Rodgers and Lennon again.
Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster. His European displays under Lennon in his first outing and then as a loan player also in Europe and in the League Cup final against Rangers, where he was head and shoulders above everybody else on the pitch makes this an easy one to pick.
Right back. Mikael Lustig held the spot for most of the nine-in-a-row years. He scored against Rangers a few times and was largely dependable. But his time was up. I wasn’t sad to see him go.
Virgil Van Dijk, European Cup winner with Liverpool. Touted as world player of the year. He oozed class because he was class. Simple.
More difficult to pick who to play beside him. Nobody really stands out. I’ll go with Christopher Jullien, he scored the winner in the League Cup final against Rangers and I think he can go on to great things. Put it this way, I was thinking of Charlie Mulgrew as an alternative.
Left back, easy, easy, Kieran Tierney. Celtic class. His only opposition would come from the man he largely replaced. Emilio Izaguirre under Lennon in his first shift as manager was outstanding.
Scott Brown is the Brownie. He’s had his critics, including me, but against Rangers and everyone else in general, he’s that clichéd 110% man. Leads on the field and off it. He’s been in every Celtic team that won nine-in-a-row and captain for most.
Callum McGregor has played almost every outfield position in the team, because he’s so gifted. Best midfielder in Scotland by some distance. Long may it last he signs another five-year deal. Gives you goals too. Outstanding.
James Forrest, I’m being a bit hypocritical here. Like Scott Brown he has nine league medals to his name. Neil Lennon used to tell us what a great player he was. We’d watch the match and say, what the fuck? But Forrest scored in big games; he’s got pace and is always a threat. He does the doggies, getting back and helping to defend too. Underrated.
Two strikers up front. Number one striker, Moussa Dembele. Pace, strength, goals. He’s the beast that bullied Rangers. Top class.
Odsonne Edourad can do everything Dembele can do and more, but hasn’t got his strength. It remains to be seen which of the French strikers will go further. We have little chance of keeping Edouard, he’s only 21. But he’s been a joy to watch. Player of the Year in waiting.
Rodger’s played Olivier Ntcham behind the strikers in some matches. The French trio, as you’d expect, were outstanding. But here I’d go for Ryan Christie or Tom Rodgic. Ironically, neither of these two is guaranteed a start in the current team.
Picking between Lennon and Stein is quite a simple choice Jock Stein is the best football manager Scottish football has seen. That includes Alex Ferguson, his understudy in the Scotland job.
Celtic’s nine-in-a-row team under Stein weren’t great for goalkeepers. Ronnie Simpson, John Fallon (never saw him play). Evan William and the rest were distinctly average.
The best of both nine-in-a-row teams.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Right back is an easy pick: Daniel Fergus McGrain. The best full back in the world was sometimes moved to left back to play for Scotland and give Rangers player Sandy Jardine a game. Danny McGrain could play left back almost as well as he could play right back.
Virgil van Dijk and Billy McNeil, what a central defensive pairing that would have been. In reserve, I’d have Pat Stanton, who was a truly elegant sweeper.
Left back pits Kieran Tierney against Tommy Gemmell who scored in a European Cup final to win the trophy. Need to go for Gemmell. Like Tierney he could defend and get forward and had a bullet-type shot.
Lennon, Auld, Murdoch and Johnstone would fill the midfield slots.
Kenny Dalglish, the best of the Quality Street Kids (apart from McGrain) would also be in the team.
Striker, I’d go with Moussa Dembele and not Stevie Chalmers or Dixie Deans. If I could play Henrik Larsson the pick would be easy. Henrik is King of the non-nine-in-a-row teams. Long may it last. Waiting for ten or more. Hail, Hail.