Will he stay or will he go?

Strange days. A Scottish Cup Final tomorrow, and if Inverness Caley win (sixth in the First Division) it will be a bigger upset than Berwick Rangers beating Glasgow Rangers. Jock Wallace was in goals that day. But it wasn’t for Glasgow Rangers, but the mighty Berwick. What I’m trying to say it Celtic, despite a couple of games, our second-string players—with the possible exception of Oh—proved not up to the job. But we will win at a canter tomorrow.  (Inverness Caley 35/1 to win at Hampden.)

Yet, the rumours that started last week have put a pall over Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic team, winning the treble, and five trophies out of six since his arrival. Generally, we’re not talking about how he overhauled the squad, helped shape an attacking team, and when it mattered beat Rangers in the process. He overhauled a 25 point deficit, in what seems those historical times, when Neil Lennon was Celtic manager, and Stevie G, was a Rangers’ icon. It was the only time I was thankful for Covid-18. All Rangers supporters, like the fat Humpty Dumpty in the English Parliament, Boris Johnson, became common criminals breaking the law when they celebrated in George Square.

A tifo of Jock Stein was a thing of beauty that covered Paradise last week as Celtic returned to form and thrashed Aberdeen, who didn’t get a shot on goal. Jock Stein gave us the Lisbon Lions, a team that lived within 12 miles of Glasgow. They humbled Europe’s elite. In a testimonial against Real Madrid, they couldn’t get the ball off Jimmy Johnstone. We beat England’s best, Leeds United in a European Cup tie with one of the biggest crowds recorded at the match (my da was there). It was obviously, an underestimate, because as we know, kids were handed over turnstiles. When I was growing up in the seventies, we had the Quality Street reserve team that included Dalglish, McGrain, and former manager, Davy Hay and helped give Celtic nine consecutive league titles. We will not see the likes of Jock, or nine flag flapping on a tin roof, again.

Postecoglou isn’t in that bracket. I know it feels as if I’m writing in his wake and passing. The irony is another treble winner at Celtic, Brendan Rodgers is rumoured to be returning. Rodgers as we know brought Moussa Dembele and gave us a decent enough team. Three treble trebles, the fourth completed by Lennon. But when Rodgers walked mid-season, citing several reasons that sounded as fabricated as Boris Johnston’s Brexit promise to give the NHS £160 million extra ever week, nobody was buying it. Judas.

Martin O’Neil won the treble in his first season. Henrik Larsson was still here. We’d Lubo. We’d a decent team. But the Northern Irishman made us better. He took us all the way to Seville in the sun. We all want to forget Helicopter Sunday. But he did a more than decent job.

Postecoglou is in O’Neil’s bracket. But O’Neil was a pragmatist. Let’s not forget the colossus, Bobo Balde (poached from Kilmarnock). Bobo, as we know, couldn’t hit the ball with anything below the waist. His size 16 boots were for flippering the ball forward or out of the park. But any forward’s chance of winning the balls in the air were easily swept aside. Scotland’s (English) forward Lyndon Dykes, for example, would have won nothing against Bobo. But Gordon Strachan didn’t fancy him.

And Postecoglou, is an idealist. He wouldn’t have someone that couldn’t carry of pass the ball from defence in his team. Yuki Kobayashi, for example, can carry and pass the ball, but can’t defend and is too easily bullied. This doesn’t matter because he’s backup. Postecoglou’s Plan B was more of Plan A. It worked well, but not in Europe.

We cling to the hope, with Champions’ League cash, we can invest in our squad and do better. But, like many, I think Postecoglou is gone.

My fear is Plan B will be John Kennedy. A continuation of the same, but different. What Postecoglou brought to the club was a list of Asian player that he knew would make Celtic better. He brought many of them to the club. I don’t think there’ll be a sudden exit, but perhaps a drift. But Kennedy has nothing he can offer in terms of Asian, North American or Australian markets. He’s no list of players. He’s a Neil Lennon in waiting.

If or when Postecoglou announces he’s leaving for Spurs, I wouldn’t brand him a Judas as I did Brendan Rodgers. I can’t really stretch to wishing him well. I’d be largely indifferent. The only team I support is Celtic. The only team that concerns me is Celtic. The only team I hate with a passion is Rangers. Managers come and go. It’s in my blood. Celtic today, tomorrow—always—oh, yeh, we’ve a cup final to look forward to.   

Dona Marie Thompson 1959-2021.

dona marie thompson

Dona was much the same age as my older sister and was born in 1959, on the cusp of The Swinging Sixties. Nineteen men died in a whisky explosion at a warehouse on Anderston Quay the following year, one of Scotland’s worst fires. Real Madrid were Kings of Europe after the Spanish champions went a goal down, but beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden in front of 127 000 mostly Scottish fans. Hearts were Scottish champions. A packet of fags cost around three shillings and sixpence. A pint of beer a shilling and fivepence. To post a letter cost threepence. And if you wanted buy a car it would cost you around £700. Dona wasn’t big on cars. She never learned how to drive and left that kinda stuff to her older brother Leo. Fags and beer, well that was a different story, and more to her liking.  

I only saw Dona in denims and t-shirt and a jacket, she didn’t dress up. A smidgen of lipstick for special occasions. Often she’d have a fag in her hand, her ginger frizz a fox’s tail that gathered around her face. She looked the world square in the eye and spoke bluntly, but not unkindly.

Beauty she left that to her daughters Michelle and Cheryl to fuss about. Men were like tortoises, a bit slow, easy to pick up, but harder to get rid of. She’d a soft spot for the underdog. The kind of drunk guy that couldn’t find his pockets. Candidates for the last train home. That would argue with the train guard that they’d moved Dalmuir to the wrong place, and he could call the police if he liked, he wasn’t for moving. Donna was father and mother to her children.

Michelle was born during the mass furore of Thatcherism and the introduction of the Poll Tax. Only one of them was wanted. Fags were hammered by tax and cost almost £2 for twenty and a pint was almost a pound. Phone calls cost ten pence.

‘I’m gonnae kill that Cheryl,’ Dona’d say.

She used to bring Cheryl into the Drop Inn in her stroller to play a game of pool and have a pint. Her youngest girl with her shiny long hair, big smile and knee-length skirts soon had the run of the place. Dazzled by the lights of the fruit machines, crisps in hand. Wheeling and dealing, coming back, knowing her mum was there for her—always there for her—filled with grace, but crushable. She knew how to press the buttons in the machine and what the jackpot was. When all the coins tumbled out, the world was hers to divide.

 Dona made a bit of money cleaning the stairs in the tenements around Castle Street where I lived and the other tenements in Dalmuir. The cash-in-hand job my own mum had done, and generations of mothers before that. Dona liked to keep busy and worked hard.

The high flat beside the station. An island in which her daughters Michelle and Cheryl also had houses. An enclave of Dona-ness. Mother and granny. Her girls got her and she got her girls and grandchildren. That was enough.

Dona’s friends and muckers were special to her. She wouldn’t let you down, but if you let yourself down, well, there was that shrug. But injustice left her fizzing. Especially, against women. Everybody in Dalmuir has at least one fight with Rab Adair. I’d punched him with a pint glass in my hand and cut the meat of my hand. He picked up a ball from the pool table. Donna just knocked him out in The Horse and Barge, which made me laugh.

When Dona’s brother Leo died in Thailand there was nothing much she could do, but bring him home to be buried. Just the same as she’s been buried with honour and dignity.  

Dona wouldn’t thank you for sympathy or allow you to look down on her. Last time I saw her, I did just that at the Co-op, beside her flat. She was in a wheelchair. But, hey, it was the same old Dona, bright as a brass button with warmth in her voice. She was always glad to see you. I’m sorry to see her go. RIP.  


Nine-in-a-row champions, twice over. Glasgow Celtic.

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.