Celtic 5—0 Effie Ambrose and Morton.

I was the Effie Ambrose of Welfare League Football and could be relied on to give a goal away at a vital point in the match. Dribbling from the back. A misplaced header. Sure as dog shit on a public park, Ambrose did the same consistently for Celtic. Big European matches under the lights. Juventus, for example. It was always Effe wasn’t it?

This was a chance for Postecoglou to give David Turnbull a game from the start. We lost Juranovich. The money wasn’t spectacular, but we’re a selling club. Giakoumakis is next to go. But we’ve brought in replacements. Oh Hyeon-gyu is meant to have signed. Don’t know anything about him. But he’ll be second-fiddle to Kyogo, who is king.

Back to Effe. He was involved in the first two goals and another penalty shout. VAR took the usual five minutes to look at it and conclude it was a penalty. If it was against Rangers I’d have been jumping up and down. But I felt sorry for Effe. Morton like St Mirren had started well. Teams playing against the champions know that free kicks and corner are route one to goal. Strapp’s throw ins were causing some problems in the box. And Quitongo was getting the better of Bernabei. But it was Strapp who missed Morton’s best chance at the back post, from a cross from Quitongo, with an Effe like touch. The Argentinian full back has been targeted by the opposition in recent weeks. He’s terrific on the ball, but not a great defender. But then again I used to think Taylor was a diddy.

Then Effe’s penalty gave the game to Celtic. It wasn’t his fault. It often wasn’t his fault. He can’t help being Effe. Abada struck a shot which was blocked and came up and hit his arm. Clancy listened and looked and then gave it (wrongly). Mooy, scored from the penalty spot. And got his double late in the match, from a pass from Haksabanovic. Mooy is real cog in this champion team, also hitting the post with a shot. He’s always there to take the ball and was heading early throw ins away. No one doubts substitute Matt O’Riley’s ability. He’s great, but no goals isn’t. But he’s also ahead of Turnbull in the pecking order. McGregor, looks assured, pretty easy in a game such as today’s, when hit the bar with an early effort and drilled a shot past the post, but he does it against better opposition and consistently. Tomoki Iwata came on for him for the second half and looked assured. He’s here to make his mark.

Kyogo made it four nil before that with Gillespie making a hash of Abada’s cross and the Japanese forward finishing.

Funnily enough, Kyogo has been doing the same at the front post. Heading away free kicks, corners and throw ins. Effe gifted him the second. A heavy Ambrose touch inside his own box. Kyogo is too quick for him. He puts it away. Game well and truly over.  

David Turnbull got the third with a shot from outside the box. The former Motherwell man is a class player. He gives you goals. But Hattate is arguably the best midfielder in Scotland. McGregor is top class. Mooy is getting better and better.

Half-time 4—0. Full-time 5—0. Easy enough. As Brendan Rodgers used to say, we’ve loads of wingers. But this time we’ve loads of terrific wingers, all of them in their own ways, game changers. Abada has the most goals. Jota the most trickery.  I thought Maeda was the dud, but he’s proved me wrong. After the World Cup, he’s flying. He hit the bar today, and was unlucky with a turn and shot. We bought him and the other players from the Asian market for relative pennies.

We’ve also got stacks of class midfielders. The inclusion of young Scottish player of the year, Turnbull here wasn’t a shock, but it was a surprise. Iwata will push for a place.

Defensively is perhaps were we are weakest. I know we can use stats to say we aren’t. Starfelt is a diddy. He’s good enough for back-up and not an Ambrose, but we want better. Carter-Vickers is a certain starter. His partner might be Kobayashi. He did get bullied by Curtis Main, but there’s nothing new there. Kobayashi is quite simply a better passer than Starfelt and possibly Carter-Vickers. His passes on the left hand side zip to wingers and middle of the park. Our play speeds up with him in the team. That gives him a good chance of starting.

Beranabei, for now, stands in for Taylor. Johnston is the replacement for Juranovich. The Canadian is taller and more physical. He doesn’t seem to have the Croatian’s burst of pace. But we’ll wait and see if he’s better. He holds the jersey. All change at Celtic. Transfer policy remains the same, bring in the best and let them play. We look great when we’re winning. I forget what losing feels like. Long may it last. Thank God we no longer rely on the Effe’s on this world.  I know how that feels.

Manager of the Month, Ange Postecoglou.

Ange Postecoglou wins Manager of the Month award again. If he picks up the same award at the end of April then it’s kerching and £40 million Champions League money guaranteed. The question arises, would you take a draw at Ibrox? Obviously, after say 89 minutes and two goals down and I’d say, aye Ange, go for it, take the draw. But life and fitba doesn’t work out like that.

Last time we were in Govan, Edouard started up front. As we know, he’d scored some great goals against Rangers, but missed some complete sitters. He’s another of those matches. Great to see him, Christie and Ajer leave Paradise. We’d developed a habit of outplaying Rangers and losing—usually to a headed goal from a free kick or corner. Lots have changed, we’ve 5000 defensive coaches, but that remains our major vulnerability, home or away.

Our defence picks itself. Hart, Taylor, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt and Juranovic.  

We’re reminded nine out of ten Glasgow derbies are decided by who scores first. Defend corners and defend free kicks and I think we’ll win. But I’m not sure we’ll be able to do that.

We’ll start on the front foot, Ange’s Plan A is also Plan B. Rangers, despite their European success, don’t defend well. A major boost is that Kyogo is fit. He’ll be on the bench, I’m guessing. Georgios Giakoumakis should start after hitting two hat-tricks in two league games. He’s a poacher in the box.

But it wouldn’t surprise me too much if Ange favours Daizen Maeda. I’m still not convinced with him, but he does the doggies, closing down the opposition and getting in behind, in a Kyogo-lite way. And the Japanese forward scores regularly.

Postecoglou tends to play him, but not always through the middle. He’s featured mostly on the left wing. Jota switching to the right. Abada would therefore drop to the bench. He’s not started the last two games. So my best guess is that’s where he’ll start, but come on for the last thirty minutes.

The midfield carousel is harder to pick. McGregor, our captain, playing in front of the defence. Rogic has been pronounced fit. My guess is he’ll start. Certainly, win, lose or draw, if he doesn’t start, he’ll replace O’Riley.

Reo Hatate had the kind of introduction to the Glasgow derby that harked back to the little known Slovenian, Ľubomír “Lubo” Moravčík. The Japanese midfielder’s form has shaded but he’s a definite maybe (as in the Oasis hit). He works best with Maeda. My guess is Taylor, Hatate, Maeda down the left.

Juranovic, Rogic and the Portuguese wonder boy, Jota on the right. We might see the return of David Turnbull at some point, probably late in the game.

Georgios Giakoumakis to start and score first. Win, win, win.   

Celtic 4—0 Raith Rovers

The Jota effect carried on from the midweek victory at Pittodrie. Two minutes were added on the end of the first-half here at Parkhead. The referee shouldn’t have bothered. Liam Scales added to his earlier strike in the season against Dundee United, with a well struck shot from the edge of the box in off the post in the twenty-third minute. Tom Rogic picked him out and the Irishmen bent it in off the post. Celtic’s usual first half blitz started as we’d expect, but fizzled out, not at half time, but half time of half time.

Mikey Johnston, in two minutes, got in behind the defence and looked to whip in a cross or shot, and did neither. Later he had a shot on goal. He’s third or fourth choice now with the arrival of sixteen-year-old Doak, and in the second-half pulled up with yet another injury.

Scales is behind Taylor, but there’s not a lot in it. Taylor has more pace, and perhaps a better positional sense, but he doesn’t score goals.

Christopher Jullien, out injured since December 2020,  looked on as Welsh came into the team for the whipping boy, Starfelt (who is a diddy). The Frenchmen doesn’t seem to be in Postecoglou’s immediate plans, but did come on for Carter-Vickers with twenty minutes remaining, and the game already out of sight for the Fife team. And he’s already been told, like Johnson, when he gets his chance he’ll need to take it as Tony Ralston has done. But we expect to see Josip back from Thursday night’s tie.

Raith’s best chance in the first half came from penalty shout. Twenty-eight minutes in and Bitton lost the ball at the edge of the box. It was whipped into the box and headed down by a Raith attacker. Cameron Carter-Vickers moved his arm towards the ball. Stone-wall penalty if VAR had been available.

Celtic had a penalty of their own in eighty-eight minutes. Captain Bitton opting to hit it, and making a hash of it as referee Steven McLean did. The referee had minutes before booked Raith substitute Mackie for wiping out Celtic substitute and goal scorer Maeda. Jota’s shot had been blocked by Mackie, but the referee didn’t book him, in a case of mistaken identity, which would have been a sending off. But Bitton’s penalty was saved by the keeper. But the Israeli was first to the ball and hit it into the ground, but it bounced up over the flailing arms of Jamie McDonald.  

  Girogis Glakoumakis showed good strength in the middle of the park, and got Celtic’s second goal with his last kick of the ball, before he was taken off for Maeda. He’d hit the bar from a Mickey Johnston ball in the first half, but when Jota whipped a ball across the box, after an equally wonderful pass from Hatte. The Greek striker was all alone and it was he couldn’t miss- and tapped it in.

The, as yet, unconvincing Japanese striker work rate is almost Kyogo-lite and—let us face it—he’s scored more goals than the Greek striker in head to head.

Daizen Maede scored our third goal from a double header of a double header, which paradoxically was his first touch of the ball. Flicking on a Stephen Welsh’s header. The Raith keeper parrying his initial shot, only for it to hit him in the head and go over for yet another goal.

With Johnson off injured early in the second half, Jota came on. The effect was instantaneous. Postecoglou made a triple change minutes later, with the ineffectual James Forrest coming off. But none of the five Celtic substitutes’ combined efforts were near as effective as the Portuguese wingers. If, for example, Johnson was on loan, we’d be putting him back in the box, with a ‘no thanks’ note at any price. Battles are being fought all over the squad for a first team jersey. I just hope Jota stays fit until the end of the season. He’s a must have in our first team shirt.