Kilmarnock 0—5 Celtic

Celtic go with the same team that started against Ross County. Reo Hatate is still been given time to recover from his injury. And Startfelt wasn’t risked on a plastic pitch.

The Kilmarnock game plan wasn’t to lose a goal. They did after seven minutes. A wonderful pass by Greg Taylor in behind the defence. Maeda squared the ball. Kyogo with his first touch of the game, he scored the first goal of the game in off the post and finished up in the net with the ball. A five-a-side goal, played on a five-a-side pitch.

Turnbull had four shots on goal. Three of which sailed over and one which came off a defender. He was replaced (or rotated) in the second half and Mooy came on to stroll the last twenty minutes. But ironically it was Taylor who had one of the best chances of the first-half, waltzing through the defence but trying to cut the ball back to Kyogo with a shot on goal being the better option.

Jota scored a wonder goal against Aberdeen. He scored another today. 25-yards out, he hit it first time into the top corner. 35 minutes in and the game and the Kilmarnock game plan is ripped up.

 Jenz, I think, it simply better than Starfelt so the team is stronger. He was up against Kyle Lafferty, who plays with his elbows and was finally booked for it in the second-half. Jenz managed to chip in with his second goal in his second game at the end of the half to make it 3—0 and effectively game over. He got away from Lafferty and on the half turn, swivelled and put it into the corner. That goal, and his performances so far, puts him ahead on Starfelt with goals scored for the club, but more importantly in the pecking order.

Starfelt came on, early in the second-half for Jenz, and scored his first league goal for Celtic in the 76th minute to make it four-nil. O’Reily’s corner. Carter-Vicker’s header. Walker palmed the ball out to Starfelt who took two tries before bundling the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box.

A misplace pass by Taylor led to one of Kilmarnock’s only shots on goal in the first-half. Lafferty tried to chip Joe Hart. It will happen at some point this season, but the Northern Irish international hit him with the ball.

  Giakoumakis came on—with Kilmarnock having a ten-minute period when they got up the park—and showed that whatever Jenz can do he can do better (he’s been doing it longer) scoring with an overhead worldy in the 82nd minute.

 Abada, who scored a wonderful goal last week, also came on and had a few shots at goal. Forrest, on the other wing, kept it simple. With Champions League qualifiers no longer with us, we have a full squad ready to go. Postecoglou emphasis is on when a player gets his chance he must seize it—and with two or three games on the horizon that will happen sooner rather than later.

In Ange we trust.

As the song goes, Celtic, Celtic, that’s the team for me. I’ve no great interest in what other teams do or who they play or sign—apart from Rangers.

Even if it’s tiddlywinks, I want Rangers to lose. They’d won the league by 25 points, and stopped us winning the ten. One of the highlights of the season was watching Ryan Kent miss a sitter in the closing minutes and Aaron Ramsey missing that penalty. I joked that my pal’s dad had died, but at least he’d lived long enough to see that. It was a season when Rangers’ fans felt they did well reaching a European final and winning the Scottish Cup.

But when they were giving out awards it was Ange Postecoglou picking them up. Hard to believe, we were chasing Eddie Howe as our new manager and it just seemed a matter of getting the deal over the line. He walked away, citing concerns about having concerns. Ange Postecolgou came in. I’d never heard of him. Most of us agreed he’d need time to rebuild. He didn’t cite concerns about not having his own backroom staff. He was willing to work with the dross that was there. We’d give him time. I was even uttering strange things like he’d have at least a season, or maybe two, in which he wouldn’t be expected to do much, and spluttering into my pint that Rangers were still shite. I was hoping somehow we’d turn it around. In our pre-season games there was little evidence that would be the case. In the qualifiers for Europe, and in Europe, generally, we were out of our depth against mediocre teams (like us).

We lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, Kyogo came on as a sub, played wide, but did nothing of note in the few minutes on the pitch (shades of Henrik Larrson coming on as a winger against Hibs). We were chasing Rangers in the league. It was a race I didn’t expect to win. But the equivalent of muscles-memory of the mind sets in. Odsonne Edouard left for Crystal Palace. I was glad about that. Ryan Christie to Bournemouth. Kristoffer Ayer went to Brentford, where he’d be reduced to talking a good game. He was fine when he didn’t have to defend.

Now here we are again. I’m far more optimistic. We’ve signed seven new players, which include mainstays, Jota and Carter-Vickers. The Portuguese winger dazzled last season and this pre-season. Carter-Vickers in pre-season hasn’t looked great. He got bullied for the second goal against Legia Warsaw, for example, losing a bread-and-butter header I’d expect any centre-half to win and getting turned far too easily. That’s nit-picking. He too has been a success. But you’re only as good as your last game is a truism.

Joe Hart has been a great signing. He’s made vital saves. He’s our number 1, keeper. But we know he’s going to lose stupid goals, when he’s trying to play sweeper-keeper. It’s just a matter of how many and against whom. Teemu Pukki almost caught him out in the friendly match against Norwich. The ex-Celt is not the quickest, and not the best, as we all know. Hart might beat him in a footrace, but I’d rather not find out during a match. Joe Hart, vice-captain, Certain starter.  

  Benjamin Siegrist, of what I remember him, was decent for Dundee United. He’ll push for the number-one spot. Uncertain starter.   

Greg Taylor started against Norwich. I wasn’t a fan of the former Kilmarnock full back. But over last season I’ve come to appreciate him. He wasn’t Kieran Tierney. Emilio Izaguirre when he first came into the team was also a revelation. Taylor is not at that level. And now he has serious competition. *Certain starter when season begins.

Josip Juranović will not be going over to play on the left as he did at Ibrox because Ange doesn’t trust the likes of Liam Scales, for example, to do a job. The Croatian has established himself as our first-pick right back. Certain starter.

Scottish international, Anthony Ralston—and I never thought I’d say that without laughing—is backup. But he too will be pushing for a starting spot. Uncertain starter.

Argentinian, Alexandro Bernabei, I think looks to have more attacking flair than Greg Taylor. *Certain starter as season progresses.

Celtic supposedly paid around £6 million to Tottenham for Cameron Carter-Vickers. A snip based on last season’s performances (and not this pre-season). Certain starter, under Ange.

I heard Carl Starfelt was injured while on international duty with Sweden. He’d miss the start of the season. I wasn’t bothered. Like Ajer, Starfelt is decent when he doesn’t have to defend. He’s too easily bullied by muscular forwards. Most of the goals we lost last season came from free kicks and corners. The most common argument I’ve heard is we’d the best defensive record in the league. We also won the league. Therefore Starfelt must be better than mediocre. He isn’t. But he’s good enough for now. But Ange trusts him. Certain starter.

Christopher Jullien is still at Celtic. For how much longer? He picked up the captain’s armband in the pre-season friendlies. But he’s an uncertain starter. If any club fancies him, he’s free to go.

Back-up to Carter-Vickers and Starfelt has been, until now, under-twenty-one Scotland captain, Stephen Welsh. He’s no better than Starfelt, and often worse. Uncertain starter.  

 Moritz Jenz from Lorient is we hope better than Starfelt and will leapfrog Stephen Welsh into the team. Loan deals like Jota and Carter-Vickers gives us a chance to try before we buy. Uncertain starter, for now, but his time will come. And if he’s good enough, we’ll keep him. Win-win. Uncertain starter, for now.

Callum McGregor, the Celtic captain, and Scottish Player of the Year plays most games. Simple. Never stops. Certain starter.  

Reo Hatate came into the team and started with a bang. Goals against Rangers are often a great way to introduce yourself to adoring fans. He didn’t disappoint. But the end of the season he was disappointing. He was never rubbish, but didn’t shine. Pre-season he’s looked at back to the level he was when we hammered Rangers 3—0, and that old joke, they were lucky to get the nil. This was the pivotal moment in the season, when we leapfrogged them in the league. We did it in Celtic style. Hatate was the man. Certain starter.

Matt O’Riley played in that number-ten role when Tom Rogic didn’t. Usually, they switched like doppelgangers, with one getting sixty minutes, the other thirty minutes, or thereabout.  A terrific acquisition. He has added goals to his game. Certain starter.

David Turnbull played every game for Celtic under Ange, until he got that injury, just before the League Cup final, which Kyogo won for us. Turnbull has had a good pre-season, scoring two goals. Sharp and strong. Goal scorer. Ready to step in and stake a place. Uncertain starter, for now.

  Daizen Maeda starts most games under Ange. He’s played at centre-forward, most recently when Kyogo was taken off against Legia Warsaw and Giorgos Giakoumakis wasn’t available for selection. But Ange prefers to play him on the wing. Usually it’s the left wing. His pace troubles defences, but his closing down work is also a stand out. He scores goals. Certain starter.

Jota has a problem when Maeda starts on the left, because he’s pushed to the right wing. Maeda is all pace. Jota is an old-fashioned winger. He ties defenders in knots and scores for fun. It was a long and protracted deal with Benfica, with shades of the Eddie Howe haunting us.  Bargain buy at £6 million. Certain starter, on right or left wing.

Kyogo Furuhashi hit the ground running. Apart from his injury, he’s not stopped running since. His speed of thought and movement would give any defence problems. The first and best of the Japanese internationals to arrive. Certain starter.

Giorgos Giakoumakis was the opposite of Kyogo. He hit the ground not running. Then he took the ball off Juranovic (I think it was against Aberdeen) in the last minute and missed a penalty which cost us two points. Without actually being Albian Ajeti (or Pukki), he’d all the makings of a dud. But he scored twenty league goals. When Kyogo was out, we didn’t miss him. The Greek international did the business. Uncertain starter, for now.

Under Neil Lennon’s tutelage James Forrest could do no wrong. He was brought through the ranks. Made his debut in season 2009-10.  He was hitting twenty goals a season and has more Celtic medals than anyone at the club and has now signed a new contract. It’s hard to believe he’s not fifty-five. But for the first time in his Celtic career he’s not an automatic pick. Jota is ahead of him. Arguably, Liel Abada is also ahead of him. Uncertain starter.

Liel Abada scored a stack of goals and assists. Let’s for a minute consider the way he sneaked in behind the Rangers’ backline and scored at Paradise. Even now, it brings a smile. He’s ahead of Forrest, but not Jotta or Maeda. He will get game time, most often as a substitute. Uncertain starter.  

Aaron Mooy plays for Australia. Ange knows him and brought him in. Whether he is to replace Tom Rogic or to sit in as a defensive midfielder for Callum McGregor is unclear. Maybe a bit of both? I’ve not seen him play. Uncertain starter.  

 Yosuke Ideguchi (Guchi) the Japanese internationalist picked up an injury early in his Celtic career. He’s not been able to find a spot in the congested Celtic midfield. A very decent showing in our pre-season friendlies. Uncertain starter.

James McCarthy was said to have struggled in training when he arrived. Might be lies. He has struggled to get into the Celtic team. Not sure he adds much. But that might change, as it did with Giakoumakis. He’s been brought on very late in pre-season games, usually to replace McGregor. Uncertain starter.

Mikey Johnston, remember him? Tricky winger, could go outside, could go inside? Scored goals? Had that wow factor? Looked rotten in pre-season matches. He’s still got an outside chance, but he’s fading fast.

Scott Bain. Backup keeper, for the backup keeper. Ball boy. Uncertain starter.

We’ve got enough to win the league. Games against Rangers will decide the title. They bullied us in two games last year, both of which we lost, one, admittedly, in extra-time. We can’t let that happen again. The real beauty of winning the title is no qualifiers for the Champions League. £40 million in the bank. We’ll play some fantastic teams. We’ll take some terrible doings, but it’s not that I don’t care, the glory is being there and we’ll get better. We won’t win the Champions League and we won’t win the treble. But I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t imagine winning the league this time, last season. Eddie Who?

England 0—0 Scotland.

Scotland fans celebrated this 0—0 draw like Rangers’ fans invading George Square and mistaking it for the centre of Manchester, where they went on the rampage a few years ago. I got into the spirit by being late into the Albion, drowning my sorrows before I was sorry, and having to play catch-up by downing a pint in a oner (well kinda). It’s thirsty work hating the English. Before the game, we thought Steve Clarke had got the team selection wrong. No Rangers players, the Scottish Champions in a Scottish team. O’Donnell, who I admit has a suspiciously Irish Catholic tang to it, was playing (not that one), the diddy that plays for Motherwell, but played for Clarke at Kilmarnock.  My argument was O’Donnell was good at taking shys. It’s not much, but Steve Clarke’s cunning plan was to revert to type and turn Scotland into Kilmarnock. Go long and defend in numbers. It worked great.

Lyndon Dykes won every high ball. In the first few minutes, he and Che Adams was making the English backline nervous by being in their faces. We were on top. Inexplicably, we had the kind of defending that has marked Celtic’s season. At a corner John Stones was left a free header—it bounced off the post.

European Cup winner Mason Mount also slashed across goal after being played in by Raheem Sterling. The ball being given to the European Cup loser by Scott McTominay, who temporarily forgot he was a Scot. He flapped a bit after that mistake, but then upped his game to Kilmarnock levels.

That was about it for England. Harry Kane didn’t feature before getting subbed late on. Phil Foden, touted, and rightly so, as one of the most exciting talents in world football, was outshone by the likes Billy Gilmour (even though he’s an ex-Hun—I’m sure glad he’s at Chelsea and not Rangers).

Even the diddy O’Donnell had us lapping up his performance. He almost scored from a Kieran Tierney cross in the first half. The England keeper Pickford got a block, but the ball went up in the air and it looked as if Che Adams might header it in—but he didn’t.

England dominated the early period of the second-half, and this was the way many of us believed the game would pan out. But Scotland held firm and didn’t look to concede and slowly, like Manchester City in the European final, they began to run out of routes to goal. Dykes shot at goal had us all on our feet (that’s the kind of lie short-sighted people use who can’t see their feet) when he beat the England keeper. But somehow Chelsea defender James got a heel onto the ball and kept it from going over the line. Bastard.

Scotland didn’t exactly pile forward, but we grew more comfortable, and dangerous when getting forward. Adams had a chance to hit the stand or goal, and being an Englishman in a Scottish jersey, he opted for the former. (He did have a good game, although Dykes, with lesser ability was more effective.) No one is the Scottish shirt let us down. Our fans celebrated at the end. And we tried to work out how (a) to get home and what pub was still open (b) how we can just mix out on the qualifying rounds by losing a late goal, or getting a draw when we needed victory. The kind of glorious victory in defeat Scotland as excelled at over the years. It’s been a long time since we went down to Wembley and ripped up the turf and ate it, just to show how tough we were. C’mon Scotland—but don’t expect too much.    

Kilmarnock 1—1 Celtic

Celtic would have been expected to pick up three points here (and everywhere else in Scottish football). On paper they have better players in every position. On the plastic pitch they were paper-tigers. Kilmarnock deserved their draw. No Celtic player got pass marks, apart from the new Celtic goalkeeper, Barakas. The Greek international was beaten by a Chris Burke penalty, but he wasn’t culpable, barely having a shot to save. That falls to Julien. With Celtic a goal up from a long-range Christie free-kick, which the Kilmarnock rookie keeper Rogers should have saved, Celtic weren’t cruising, but they were in control. The best player on the pitch, Kabanaba was giving the Celtic centre-half and his partner, Ayer, a torrid time. He was also giving a Kilmarnock team based on getting everybody behind the ball, and defending deep, an outball. Kabamaba totally dominated Jullien, who had one of those games were he could do nothing right. A nothing ball in behind him. A stramash between Scott Brown and Kabamba who held him and Jullien off. He spun away the Celtic centre-back on the touchline. Jullien pulled him down. Stone-wall penalty. Stupidity of the first order. But Celtic still have some of the first-half and the whole of the second half to make amends.

Let’s cut to the usual shite about how many blocks the Kilmarnock defenders, in particular, made. Power, for example, making two million blocks and taking a booking for the team. Rogers the Kilmarnock keeper was slightly more worked than Barkas, but without having to do much more than punt the ball up the park and pick out poor crosses and scuffed shots.

When you bring on Bolingoli in the dying minutes then you know how terrible your team must have been. Elyounoussi looked dangerous pre-season. Another performance like this we’ll pay Southampton to keep him. Edouard, who often as not been our saviour, did nothing. Christie got a goal, but was posted missing for most of the match. Forrest had the kind of game were you’re asking if he was on the park. McGregor was slightly better than Brown and might even have got pass marks, but he didn’t pass the ball enough to achieve that. Frimpong, who has been so good of late, couldn’t conjure a trick. Taking him off for Elhmad didn’t hurt anybody, didn’t change anything. Ntcham on for Brown didn’t add anything either. Kimala on for Elyounoussi was a change that might have worked on another day. The Polish striker at least looked lively and might have got on the end of a fluffed cross. Ajer had a poor game and if he’s worth thirty million, grab the money. But then again, his defensive partner stole the show, we paid seven million for him, generally, money well spent. On this showing, today (and he’d previous as Livingstone against a physical centre-forward) he was inept, poor, merde or shite, take your pick.

Every point counts and this was two points flung away against a Kilmarnock team whom Lennon knew exactly how they would play. But, to be fair, the Celtic manager couldn’t have known his own players could play collectively and individually as badly. Shades of Ibrox here.  It’ll give him something to think about in the away fixture to St Mirren, who were brushed aside by Rangers. I can tell you exactly how St Mirren will play—the same as Kilmarnock—and if we play the same then ten in a row…I know, I know…I know…

Celtic 5—1 Kilmarnock.

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A surprize selection for Emilo Iziguirre, who whipped in the ball for James Forest to score after four minutes and even that early it looked like a victory. Forest, with another man of the match performance did what he’s been doing recently for Celtic and Scotland, helping out in defence, but more importantly, drifting in from the touchline and scoring as he showed again today, he’s that quick defenders are left standing. His second goal to make it 5-1 was at the end of a long move and stopped the Kilmarnock keeper from being sent off after Ryan Christie had went one on one with him and nipped the ball past, only to be taken down. Forest, from an acute angle did what he does, whipped the ball into the net. Forest also hit the base of the post.

The emergence of Christie has also been a revelation. He scored again today, after scoring in midweek and in the League Cup Final and the game before that and the game before that. Christie is in the kind of goal a game form that made Sinclair such a valuable player in his first season. And Sinclair here had a good performance, turning and going at players, linking up well with Izzy, and winger was unlucky, a number of times not to score, in particular with a first-half run that was scintillating, but his finishing not as good. Late on he hit the bar.

Rogic also was unlucky not to score. Twice the Kilmarnock keeper made great saves. In between that Jozo Simunovic was unlucky with a couple of close efforts and he was hauled down for what should have been a penalty.

Filip Benkovic, the other Baltic defender, strolled it here. He’s pushed himself to the first pick choice at Celtic. It’s a pity he’s not our player and we can’t afford him. The best centre half in Scottish football and comparisons have been made with Virgil van Dijk. His long-range passing in the first half was a joy. And much the same as van Dijk made anyone playing in the centre of defence’s job easier. But it was Benkovic’s rash tackle that led to the Kilmarnock penalty that wasn’t a penalty, as the offence was outside the box.

Lustig replaced Christian Gamboa in the starting eleven and scored a goal with his studs. And Odsonne Edouard scored a brilliant goal, with neat footwork inside the box and a brilliant finish.

Griffiths came on late for Edouard and it’s still not clear who will be Celtic’s number nine. What is clear is the mid-week experiment at Firhill and the late Motherwell goal was an experiment that didn’t work.

Gamboa just isn’t good enough. Scott Brown, once the heartbeat of Celtic, but no longer, the ball goes in a quicker rhythm with Calumn McGregor and the latter can also get forward and score goals. All the midfielders are now goal scorers.  The odd man out is Oliver Ntcham, who at one stage looked first pick of the midfield, but Rodgers did him no favours playing in Sinclair’s position on the wing, and in midfield, against Motherwell. Ntcham was dreadful and hooked at half time. And he looks to have regressed back to the position he was when he first came to Celtic, some of his passing also a bit off today, when he came on. Minus Kieren (and Boyatta for Jozo) this is the Celtic first team that will win another treble. Let’s hope it’s enough to get us that result on Thursday that will take us into the knockout stages of the Europa League. Here’s hoping.

 

Tommy Burns, BBC Alba 9pm, BBCiPlayer.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0000fk0/tommy-burns?suggid=m0000fk0

In the week of another lacklustre Celtic performance in Europe, and, ironically, when Celtic visit Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park on Sunday,  this is a wonderful tribute to the evergreen Tommy Burns who died ten years ago, at the age of 51, of skin cancer, who managed both teams. Why a boy from the Carlton was on Gaelic telly I don’t know, and don’t care, I loved it. Tommy loved his family, who appear here talking about how great their dad was –and I’m not arguing- he loved his fitba and Celtic and he loved his Roman Catholic faith. His life revolved around his beliefs. A true Celtic diehard, but not a bigot.

Former Ranger’s managers Walter Smith and Ally McCoist helped carry his coffin. All the football greats were in attendance of this humble man. Billy Stark his former teammate and assistant manager at Kilmarnock broke down in tears as he talked about Tommy, and how grateful he was to have played for and followed in the footsteps of the great Jock Stein and managed Celtic.

Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain and Davy Hay the Quality Street team of the Stein nine-in-a-row era all loved Tommy. Gordon Strachan stayed an extra year in the gold-fish bowl of Celtic because he knew Burns was dying. Paddy Bonner shared a room with the young Burns and a love of Celtic. George McCluskey talked about signing a contract with Kilmarnock because of Burns, a friend he trusted – to slag him off – but not rip him off.

But to imagine this is a programme about football would be a mistake. This is a programme about family and uncommon humanity. Burns wasn’t the cream of the Quality Street team, but in a new era where we have Kieran Tierney, a boy who is Celtic daft, playing for the Hoops, he would do well to follow in the footsteps of the late-great Tommy Burns, who oozed joy in living and may he rest in peace in Paradise. All Celtic players should be made to watch this programme. Then, maybe, some shysters, like Dembele, would understand, there’s no king of Glasgow, we are a republican team, but the passing on of a true Carlton heritage of Brother Wilfred and helping each other be the best we can be. Hail, Hail, Tommy Burns.