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.

Celtic 0—2 Ross County.

Celtic were playing at Livingston last year, we were losing (it ended up 1—1) and somebody whispered in Lennon’s ear, Rangers were also losing, but at home to Hamilton. He smiled, a lip reader would suggest he said, ‘you’re fucking joking’. You can imagine how the Ranger’s manager must be feeling now.

Two things make me happy, or at least less grumpy (fuck Christmas): Celtic winning and Rangers losing.

Beaten on Thursday by a Sparta Prague team struggling in the Czechoslovakian league, yet who scored eight goals to our two, over two Europa league ties, and are no better than Kilmarnock. Kilmarnock who beat Ross County with ten men last week. A Ross County team that hasn’t won since 19th September, seven games without a win. And over seven games Celtic scored 26 and lost 1 goal, before today. This is a Ross County team that if James Forest played them himself, the Celtic winger would still manage to score a hat-trick without playing particularly well, and then add another. When Neil Lennon (surely now the ex-Celtic manager) was asked if he was able to field his strongest team this season, he was able to say ‘No’. No Forest for him, meant it wasn’t his strongest team. He’s tried a back three and back four, he’s shuffled players about, as he did again today. Same old, same old. We can’t defend and we concede with seemingly every cross ball.

A turgid first half. Celtic have a change of goal keeper, Vasilis Barkas comes in. Change of shape, with two up front, Edouard and Ajeti. We see most of the ball, but don’t look like scoring. Ten Ross County men behind the ball. Ayer loses the ball on the touchline (and most of his headers) and Ross Paton gets to the touch line. It fizzles out. A shout for a penalty for hand ball in the Ross County box, it wasn’t. A free kick from Edouard and an easy save from the County keeper.

The first goal encapsulates Celtic’s season. Josh Reid on the right wing hooks a ball forward, past Elhamad, takes out three other Celtic defenders. Reid picks up his own wayward pass, drives into the box. His cross across goal is met at the front post by the County target man, Ross Stewart. He wouldn’t have scored, but no matter, Julien clips him. Penalty. He scores from the spot. Rogic plays in Ajeti, who hits the inside of the post. Everything that can go wrong, does, again.

Second half. I can use words like ‘ditto’. Neil Lennon. ‘ditto.’

We bring on McGregor, for Bitton, who had a shocker. I don’t know if we were resting McGregor for the next big one, which is now. Ajeti, has another game where he falls over and moans about decisions, goes off for Elyounoussi, who at least plays well, in one-in-three games. This is his chance. He has a header and misses. Edouard swivels and hooks past the post.

Duffy comes on for Elhamad, and wipes out man of the match, Ross Stewart on the half-way line. Jaccovitti scores with a header from another cross ball from five yards. He’s unmarked, as you’d expect from a Celtic team with four players in the team that are over six-foot five. The League cup is gone. The one that doesn’t matter than much.

But let’s be honest, Rangers will win it now. Rangers will win the league. Transition season in which we’ll probably beat Hearts in the final and win last year’s Scottish Cup, this year. And our best chance of a trophy is this year’s Scottish Cup.  Even Ronny Delia wouldn’t have survived that one. Keep the faith, reads to me, like keep being stupid. I’m daft enough, but I’m not blind. I’ll wait and see who the next Celtic manager is. Usually, new mangers get a bounce, two or three games when pundits start talking about how much fitter the team is and how they’ve gelled. Same old pish. This season is gone.

Tear along this line. Played ten, won two. Lost to Ross County.

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 Thank fuck it’s lockdown so I don’t have to listen to their shite.

Ten-in-a-row—No, No, were you at the game caller?

Ten-in-a-row—No, No, were you at the game caller?

Nah—and neither were the Celtic team. It was that bad we’ve even got Barry Ferguson sympathising with Neil Lennon. 

Martin Powell, the only MP I trusted, used to go for long walks when Celtic were playing Rangers. That was during the Martin O’Neil era.  I thought that was crazy. But he might well have had a point. I’m old enough now to take up golf.

During Scoreboard, Hugh Keevins  asked a Celtic die-hard, are you seriously saying that the league is finished with 28 games to go? 

Let’s go for a long walk.

Football management is like a game of poker.

Lennon went incandescent because his team was leaked before the game. Kenny Miller is being fingered as villain-in-chief.  He shouldn’t have been. Lennon should know who was going to play for Rangers, in what positions, and what they could do and couldn’t do. And what opportunities it offers Celtic. You’re only as strong as your weakest hand.

No surprises for Celtic. No surprises for Rangers.

Celtic played exactly how Steven Gerrard expected. They were predictable and pedestrian.

Rangers didn’t play well. They didn’t need to. Morelos was petulant, off the pace, and should have been booked earlier than he was for flicking his hand in Scott Brown’s face. Barker ran about, like the majority of the Celtic team, with little direction or purpose. Stevie G said in the post-match interview they needed to stay humble. They’ve a lot to be humble about.

Stevie G knows what cards to play and when to play them. In a game of poker, he’s called Lennon’s bluff and won twice at Parkhead. At Hampden, Stevie G can count himself unlucky.  No posturing at the final whistle for the Ibrox manager and players. They know they’ve got the beating of Celtic now.

Goalkeeper makes saves.

We used to have this conversation that no Rangers’ player would get in the Celtic team during the Martin O’Neil era, and more recently. Obviously, we didn’t include Rab Douglas and whether he cost us the final in Seville is a moot point. Goram, the flying pig, Kloss, McGregor and an older and wiser McGregor again are so much better.

If there is still reserve-team football during lockdown, it’s difficult to imagine the current Celtic keeper getting a game in Rangers’ reserves.

Celtic let Craig Gordon leave. The management team kept Scott Bain as back-up. There was talk of signing Scotland, and ex-Celtic keeper, David Marshall. We went for a Greek internationalist, Vasilis Barkas, and paying premium rates for a keeper than doesn’t  make saves.

The problem left back spot

Money wasted on buying a dud who flies to Spain and doesn’t tell Lennon.

Taylor is not a dud, neither is he Tierney. Neither is he Andy Lynch, Tosh McKinlay or Anton Rogan. He’s a mixture of the good, the bad and the Anton, I’ll kick everything for the cause, because, but Taylor doesn’t cut it.

We brought in Laxalt on loan because Lennon knows that.

Johnny Hayes, like Craig Gordon, has left the building? Why?

Celtic’s loan-signing policy.

Rangers had no loan signings in the team that outplayed us.

Loan signings are a try before you buy. In, for example, Charly Musonda and another few nameless faces. It’s been great business because you can just return them to their parent club. 

Craig Bellamy, Paddy Roberts, and Fraser Forster were guys here in the short-term that made a positive difference. Players we would have kept in a heartbeat.

In the Fergus McCann football business, you don’t have an extra Celtic jersey. Loan signings are giving other teams money. Or in Fergus’s case, other financial institutions.  Rangers had no loan signings playing in the Old Firm derby. Glen Kamara only cost £50,000 from Dundee and helped run the show. Remember Didier Agathe £100 000 from Hibs? Bargain basement. Rangers had Steven Davis playing. He was a loan signing that was made a permanent deal and cost zero.  Fergus would have liked that. Nobody was slating him because of his age, in the way Scott Brown is hounded. Steven Davis was another that didn’t have a particularly good game, but he was in the winning team.

We’ve come a long way from Jock Stein and the 1967 European Cup winning team. Eleven players that lived within a twelve-mile radius of Glasgow (Bobby Lennox, furthest away in Saltcoats). But Jock Stein wasn’t a cuddly bear that was lucky. He was ruthless. Jimmy Johnstone when his legs were gone was sold. Stein was hesitant to let Johnstone play in a pre-season friendly, and have a final hurrah, before he was sold to Dundee. That too was a must-win Celtic game. As Scotland manager, he told Ipswich player, John Wark, if you can’t go box to box and score goals, you’re no use to me. It’s not difficult to imagine what Stein would have said of a Celtic team that never managed to have a significant shot on goal in an Old Firm derby.

Shane Duffy v Connor Goldson.

We all know how this went Goldson scored two goals, early in the first and second half—game over.

Neither Duffy or Goldson are great passer of the ball with their feet. Duffy had more touches of the ball than anyone else on the field.  Their strength is in the air. Duffy was a marquee signing for Celtic. Loan fees and paying his wages was a gamble Celtic were willing to take.

Goldson was the cheaper option. Straight fee. Pennies by Celtic standard. His wages would be laughable. Fergus McCann would be asking hard questions about value for money. Why didn’t we buy the cheap option, sooner?

Why with Celtic’s superior resources, reserve team football and money in the bank do we need loan signings?

Goldson was lauded (not by me, obviously) but it could and should have been different. Elyounoussi easily rolled Goldstone and should have made it 1—1 after twenty minutes.

Elyounoussi is, of course, another loan signing. Is he any better than what we’ve got? Is he better than Rogic? David Turnbull, top midfield scorer for Motherwell, came off the bench, so I was told? Paddy McCourt? Obviously not as good as Paddy. But hey, you’ve got to laugh.

Celtic’s signing policy is related to their resale value (that’s not news)

Virgil van Dijk. That’s all I need to say. He was promised the dream and then he was sold for what we thought was buttons. That will never happen again has coloured our thinking. Players that don’t want to be at Paradise should be sold— not immediately, that’s bad for business, and we are a business, but sooner rather than later.

The French trois. Edouard didn’t play. That wasn’t much of a shock, but a setback. It was mitigated by his form—any scouts turning up looking for a £35 million striker would have been baffled. Sell.

Ntcham wants away and has been engineering a move for the last two seasons. Take the hit. Again, missing in action—let him go.

Christopher Jullien rag dolled by Lyndon Dykes and, more recently, the Kilmarnock centre forward. We bought him for £7 million, hoping for a standout and sell-on profit. His is a longer term deal. And I think there is a player in there. Whether it is as a Celtic player, I don’t know.

Ryan Christie would have started. I think he’s the best midfielder in Scotland (well, apart from McGregor) but he wants away and has been, like the rest of the Celtic team, ineffectual against Rangers in other Old Firm meetings. Keep.  

Nir Bitton wants away. See you later, pal.

Tom Rogic. I’m a big fan. I was scared when Brendan Rodgers left he’d come back and take Rogic. Now I’m texting Judas Rodgers,  Rogic’s number. The love affair with Celtic is over. Lennon doesn’t fancy him. Ironically, Rodgers might be at the club longer than Lennon. New managers have a different vision.

The game is nothing without fans.

Chris Sutton, former player and pundit, suggests that having no fans favours a Rangers team that are serial bottlers. Stats from the locked-down Bundesliga showed that playing at home wasn’t as much an advantage. Away teams won more. Bayern Munich kept winning. Class tells.

Rangers are not the Barcelona of old, but they’ll win pretty much every week. Celtic seems largely incapable of that. The Old Firm team that won the first game went on to win the title in four out of five seasons. That’s not us. We didn’t even look as if we could manage a draw. Only one team looks like bottlers. Here I hope I’m wrong.

Is it time for Lennon to go?

I’ll put it another way. Stevie G has his number. A novice manager has got the beating of him. As Lennon said, coming second in Glasgow is coming last. Jock Stein or his apprentice, Alex Ferguson, would have had the hairdryer full on at half-time. At full time, well, we know the story. We’re hit with the same managerial clichés.

Will Celtic win ten-in-a-row?

No.