Nov 022016
 

We’re on the One Road

 

Image result for celtic monchengladbach

 

For many of us, following Celtic Football Club through thick and thin represents a lifelong emotional journey. Wonderful highs are tempered by gut wrenching lows, but no matter what happens we always seem willing to come back for more.

Personally speaking, I found last night’s result to be a little frustrating. However, this was not because we were bad – quite the opposite in fact – but because we were good. To travel to Germany to face a Borussia Monchengladbach side who have only been defeated at home twice in 2016 (by Borussia Dortmund and F.C. Barcelona no less) and come away with a draw is, in isolation, a fantastic result. Don’t forget we had lost twenty-six of our twenty-eight away Champions League fixtures prior to last night. Save for one incredible late victory in Moscow in 2012 and a very admirable draw at the Camp Nou during the Martin O’Neill era, it hasn’t been great. There have been some nights which typified our brand of glorious failure, but there have also been several evenings best forgotten altogether. Yet, in a manner somewhat indicative of the emotional trials and tribulations which go hand in hand with wholehearted support of Celtic, we could well have recorded our first competitive win in Germany last night. Inevitably, Callum McGregor’s missed opportunity has sparked a significant amount of discussion but, being pragmatic, the fact that we even had a chance to win the match must be considered to be a sign of progress. We have come so far in such a short space of time, from a rocky visit to Gibraltar and a nervy loss in Beersheba to a well-deserved point in Germany. To be frustrated not to have beaten Borussia Monchengladbach says a lot about how much we have improved.

Since Celtic’s last foray into the UEFA Champions League group stages, we have been defeated by Legia Warsaw, Maribor, Red Bull Salzburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Inter Milan, Malmo, Ajax and Molde. Now, it would be naive to sit here and say you should always beat this team or that side on paper because football is a far more fluid and unpredictable beast than that, but I feel that a number of the examples listed above have represented significant disappointments for the Football Club and its supporters nonetheless. Last night’s result could be construed as disappointing by some with an immediate view to post-Christmas European football, but I’d much rather consider it to be significant in a positive manner.

 

Image result for celtic monchengladbach

 

For me, the most encouraging aspect of our trip to Germany was not the result nor the individual performances of the players but the attitude embodied by the team in the face of adversity. The resilience which they showed in attaining a draw (and almost a victory) after having gone behind to a side who defeated them a fortnight ago in Glasgow was impressive, particularly with the somewhat makeshift nature of the defence in mind. Too many times over the years have we watched Celtic sides falter when placed under duress away in Europe, but not yesterday.

Football can be a game of fine margins times, but this reality is made all the more severe when playing at the highest levels of continental competition. Often it is not a complete lack of ability which can be a team’s downfall, but a momentary lack of concentration or sound decision making. A heavy touch or a wayward pass can be salvaged now and again when facing domestic opponents, but many of Europe’s best sides are so clinical that they make these potential recovery operations all the more arduous in nature. The efficiency with which they can pounce on the slightest opportunity can be frightening at times, but it is to be admired also. Not only will the experience gained by the Celtic players in competing at this level be beneficial in time, so will be any improvements made to both the first eleven and the overall depth of the playing squad as a result of being there in the first place.

I believe that the future for Celtic Football Club under Brendan Rodgers could be bright indeed. From a financial standpoint, we have already achieved a place in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League and in doing so secured in excess of £30 million. Even a result such as yesterday’s draw will add almost half a million pounds to the coffers, which is certainly not to be sniffed at.  Whilst I feel there is little point in discussing hypothetical sums, it is also noteworthy that there are squad members – with Kris Commons being the most high profile example – drawing weekly salaries who are patently not going to be form a critical part of Rodgers’ plans going forward. This is no criticism of Commons or any other player as they are entitled to the sums outlined in their contracts, but one would presume the Club will feel these resources could be better spent elsewhere so will be keen to offload so-called “deadwood” as quickly as possible. There is also the issue of Moussa Dembele, who is proving himself to be an immensely talented young man who could well be destined for a big future. There isn’t much point as to worrying when a large transfer fee will arrive or quite how significant the sum will ultimately be, but it is looking increasingly likely numerous offers for him will be inbound at some point or other. Having said that, I sincerely hope we can all enjoy his talent as a Celtic player for a good while yet.

In closing, I am excited to see what the months and years ahead can bring to Celtic Park. We already have one domestic Cup Final to look forward to this season and another Scottish Cup campaign set to begin in January. In the league, we are striving for a sixth League Championship title in a row, a feat which we have only achieved twice previously as a Football Club, whilst two of the best sides in Europe still lie in wait over the next month or so. The improvement in both results and performances have been marked not only when compared with those of the last few seasons, but also from the start of this campaign itself. We are on the right road, and if we can maintain perspective even as we head over the odd bump or fall into an occasional hole, we should continue to head in the correct direction and enjoy those wonderful highs once again soon enough.

 

Image result for celtic monchengladbach

Sep 012016
 

A Mundane Title For (Hopefully) An Interesting Article

 

Image result for brendan rodgers celtic

 

It is virtually impossible to offer any great statistical comparisons just one or two games into any given season, but with ten competitive games now under Brendan Rodgers’ belt as Celtic manager, some points of merit can be noted. Now, before continuing, I would like to state (as I generally do) that statistics are rarely capable of telling the whole story of anything regarding football. They are entirely open to interpretation and can never replace the time spent watching a team of your choice play match after match, but they do interest a lot of people nonetheless. With that in mind, allow me to proceed.

Beginning with the basics, it is surprising to think we actually had a better record after our first ten games of last season than that which we do currently. I believe this to be a fine example proving my above point; that not all statistics are created equal. Once the first ten matches of Celtic’s 2015-16 season had been played, the Hoops had won eight fixtures whilst drawing two. Contrasting this with 2016-17, we find we’ve won seven ties, drawn one and lost twice. Despite the fact our respective goal difference is identical (+15), it is also eye catching that we had already kept five clean sheets at this point last season, whereas we’ve only managed to keep our opposition at bay twice thus far during this campaign. However, when subjected to slightly closer examination, these observations fall apart because of fixture scheduling.

Indeed, whilst the above records are both factually accurate, we have already secured a place (albeit somewhat nervously) in the Champions League group stages this year, whilst our second leg playoff loss to Malmo in Sweden was our eleventh competitive tie of the last campaign, meaning firstly that it is not considered in the previous statistics and secondly that this season is already proving to be more successful.

With that in mind, I feel it is more apt to consider Rodgers’ first ten matches not against the first ten fixtures of last season, but those of Deila’s equivalent ties from the 2014-15 campaign. Herein, there are significant differences to be found despite there being more structural similarities present than those considered previously. First of all, each manager had just taken charge of a new squad, predominantly filled with players whom they had never worked with before nor signed. Of course, Ronny Deila did not bring in his own backroom staff in the manner which Rodgers did, and one would presume the latter manager had access to a larger budget. Critically though, each man’s debut ten competitive matches included the full run of their Champions League qualifiers and four domestic fixtures. Therefore, they are comparable and a brief table which aims to do this can be found below.

 

stats3

 

Now, even at a glance it is apparent Rodgers has had the edge on Deila thus far, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Celtic were eliminated from the Champions League qualifiers twice in the 2014-15 season, with Legia Warsaw comprehensively defeating us over two legs before the ineligibility of one of their players saw us progress to face Maribor – and the less said about that, the better. For the sake of clarity, I have not considered the “home” match at Murrayfield against the Polish side as a three-nil win above (although technically it was), but rather as the score on the night, a two-nil defeat. This was a personal decision on my part as we’re focusing purely on statistics.

Regardless, the attacking flair shown on the whole by Brendan Rodgers’ side has been very impressive. After his first ten matches in charge, Ronny’s side were averaging one goal scored for every 9.35 attempts at goal. Indeed, during his entire time at Celtic Park this figure never fell below 6.61. Each season ended with readings of 7.15 (2014-15) and 7.45 (2015-16) respectively; both laudable numbers it has to be said. However, presently Rodgers’ Celtic team are scoring one goal for every 6.35 attempts on goal. Now, not only is this the lowest I’ve ever seen this figure whilst keeping track of various statistics surrounding the Football Club, but when one recalls that we did not score a single goal in Gibraltar against Lincoln Red Imps, a team whom we were rightly expected to beat comfortably home and away, this becomes all the more remarkable. Of course, the chances of this number remaining so low as the season progresses are unlikely, but it represents a very fine offensive start to the campaign all the same.

Defensively, a gap is present also, but it is not of such a scale. Presently, Celtic are conceding one goal for every 8.45 attempts an opponent has against them, which is only marginally better than the ratio of 7.91 found after Deila’s first ten matches as Celtic manager. Indeed, the Norwegian’s first season – which saw a significant improvement defensively as time passed – ended with this ratio at a very high 11.45. Regrettably, this fell markedly last season, ending the campaign at 8.26. It would be reasonable to suggest this ultimately led to Ronny Deila’s departure, although other factors such as consistency of selection due to injury, suspensions and transfers also had a part to play.

 

Image result for james forrest celtic

 

Moving on to the trials and tribulations of individual players and returning our comparative focus to this campaign and last season, significant differences can be found across the field. During the 2015-16 campaign, James Forrest (not unjustifiably so in the minds of many) became a much maligned figure, with just two goals and two assists to his name in thirty-three competitive outings. This represented an average of 452 minutes passing between every goal or assist Forrest made. Now though, he looks like a new man, already surpassing last season’s totals racking up three goals and two assists after just ten appearances. The aforementioned average now sits at a goal or assist every 126 minutes, with the disparity therein clear to behold. Whether he can maintain this fine run of form remains to be seen, but it is encouraging nonetheless.

Although the differences may not be quite so obvious, it is notable that two of the most influential figures from our last campaign, Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths, have also started the season positively. The Australian is already well on his way to bettering his totals of ten goals and seven assists from 2015-16, with four goals and two assists this year thus far. His ratio of minutes to goals/assists has also fallen from an admirable one every 126 minutes, to just one every 79 minutes. He had only featured in 233 minutes of play after Celtic’s first ten matches last year, but has already more than doubled this figure to 473 mins. As for Griffiths, he too has improved his time played to goals/assists ratio from once every 85 minutes to once every 70 minutes, but it would be truly remarkable were he to keep this to such a lowly figure in the long run as he was unable to do so last season despite being truly integral to our league victory. Also, whilst only four of his forty goals last season came from outwith the penalty area, he has already found the net from that range on three occasions during the ongoing campaign.

 

Image result for tom rogic celtic

 

Considering the defence momentarily, it is noteworthy that whilst this will come as a surprise to nobody, Kieran Tierney is solidifying his starting slot at left-back and looks set for big things in the future as a result. By this point last year, he had only played 60 minutes of first team football before eventually taking over from Honduran veteran Emilio Izaguirre. Now though, he has already played 780 minutes during this campaign and looks set to surpass his total of a little under 3,000 minutes from last year with relative ease. This, of course, is no mean feat and is a testament both to his ability and endeavour.

One immediate problem which appears to have transferred over from Deila’s tenure to the days of Rodgers is a lack of consistency with regards defensive selection. This is perhaps inevitable for any new manager, particularly when one considers the effects of player transfers and injuries. As I have discussed in much more detail here, the highest regularity with which Ronny Deila selected a starting back four last season was just seven games from a total of fifty-seven fixtures. Thus far, Rodgers has already trialed nine different defensive lines in ten ties himself, although his penchant for playing three at the back now and again has invariably skewed this statistic somewhat when one considers three centre-backs rather than a pair of centre-backs and another pair of full-backs. One would perhaps expect that with the return to fitness of Erik Sviatchenko – and possibly the recent acquisition of Cristian Gamboa – Brendan may finally be able to field a consistent defensive selection. Of course, the arrival of Dorus de Vries must not be forgotten either, although gaolkeepers are not included above.

In closing, I feel it is appropriate to highlight that exciting times lie ahead. Nothing is certain in football, but with a plethora of domestic ties and visits to Catalonia, Germany and England awaiting us, people are likely to be gripped by the relative fortunes of the Celts. We have seen a lot of F.C. Barcelona recently, especially when one remembers that we did not face them in a competitive tie for almost four decades between 1964 and 2004. I do hope it will be of interest to you all to know that in the six meetings between the sides in Glasgow, only once has there been more than one goal separating the sides come full time (a 3-1 defeat in September 2004), and who scored the goal to set that tie apart from the rest you ask? Well, that was the one and only Henrik Larsson.

Oh, to see his like again.

 

Image result for henrik larsson barcelona celtic

Aug 162016
 

Twitter Quiz 7

 

 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the latest installment of our monthly quiz.

Below, any of you who missed the quiz on Twitter will be able to find all of the questions as always.

The answers can be found at the very bottom of this page, so as not to ruin it for anyone who wants to show the quiz to a family member or friend etc.

Also, should anyone who missed the earlier quizzes fancy a go at them, all six of them can be found by clicking here.

In closing, we’d like to wish you all the best and thank you, as ever, for your participation.

 

 

Questions

 

1. Which country does Kolo Toure represent internationally, with 118 caps to his name?

 

2. True or false: Moussa Dembele has previously played in the English Premier League.

 

3. Who is this?

 

quiz7b

 

4. Celtic played Inter Milan in a friendly in Glasgow in 2012 – can you name the three players who featured that day who remain at Celtic Park?

 

5. During Celtic’s competitive European history, against teams from which nation have we enjoyed the highest number of victories?

 

6. Hapoel Be’er Sheva are nicknamed “The Crazy Reds”, but what animal are they also named after colloquially?

 

7. True or false: Celtic conceded more goals en route to the 2003 UEFA Cup Final than they did en route to the 1967 and 1970 European Cup Finals combined.

 

8. Who is this (no blur required)?

 

marcanthony

 

9. Ten years ago, Celtic entered the Champions League group stages for the 4th time (2006-07), but who were our three opponents in the group?

 

10. Who are the only Israeli side Celtic have faced in competitive European football thus far?

 

11. Which ex-Celt won the Asian equivalent of the Champions League with Guangzhou Evergrandeto in 2013, aged thirty-three?

 

12. How was Nicolás Ladislao Fedor Flores better known?

 

13. Who is this?

 

quiz7a

 

14. Which Scottish Club did Dorus de Vries play for during the 2006-07 season?

 

15. During his senior career, Scott Sinclair has played for no less than twelve English Clubs (including loans), how many of them can you name?

 

 

Answers

 

1. Which country does Kolo Toure represent internationally, with 118 caps to his name? – Ivory Coast.

 

 

2. True or false: Moussa Dembele has previously played in the English Premier League? – True, he played twice with Fulham in that league prior to the London club’s relegation.

 

3. Who is this? – Flip Twardzik.

 

filiptwardzik

 

4. Celtic played Inter Milan in a friendly in Glasgow in 2012 – can you name the three players who featured that day who remain at Celtic Park? – Kris Commons, Emilio Izaguirre and Mikael Lustig.

 

5. During Celtic’s competitive European history, against teams from which nation have we enjoyed the highest number of victories? – Portugal (12).

 

6. Hapoel Be’er Sheva are nicknamed “The Crazy Reds”, but what animal are they also named after colloquially? – The Camels.

 

7. True or false: Celtic conceded more goals en route to the 2003 UEFA Cup Final than they did en route to the 1967 and 1970 European Cup Finals combined. – False (sort of). En route to Seville, Celtic conceded a total of nine goals. However, that is only the case if you discount those lost against FC Basel in the UEFA Champions League qualifying ties which we lost and dropped into the UEFA Cup as a result. En route to Lisbon, Celtic conceded four goals whilst en route to Milan in 1970, we conceded five, taking the cumulative total to nine.

 

8. Who is this (no blur required)? – Marc Anthony.

 

marcanthony

 

9. Ten years ago, Celtic entered the Champions League group stages for the 4th time (2006-07), but who were our three opponents in the group? – Manchester United, Benfica and Copenhagen.

 

10. Who are the only Israeli side Celtic have faced in competitive European football thus far? – Hapoel Tel-Aviv (1999-2000 and 2009-10).

 

11. Which ex-Celt won the Asian equivalent of the Champions League with Guangzhou Evergrandeto in 2013, aged thirty-three? – Zheng Zhi.

 

 

12. How was Nicolás Ladislao Fedor Flores better known? – Miku.

 

13. Who is this? – Danny Fox.

 

dannyfox

 

14. Which Scottish Club did Dorus de Vries play for during the 2006-07 season? – Dunfermline Athletic.

 

15. During his senior career, Scott Sinclair has played for no less than twelve English Clubs (including loans), how many of them can you name? – Bristol Rovers, Chelsea, Plymouth Argyle (loan), Queens Park Rangers (loan), Charlton Athletic (loan), Crystal Palace (loan), Birmingham City (loan), Wigan (loan), Swansea City, Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion (loan) and Aston Villa.

 

Scott Sinclair celebrates his winning goal at Tynecastle (with credit to Steve Welsh for the photograph).

 

 

Aug 082016
 

Why the Old Days are Gone; and Why that isn’t a Bad Thing

 

 

In the mid-sixties, the release of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” allowed the ears of moviegoers around the world to be graced by the sounds of “The Ecstasy of Gold” for the first time. This piece, originally composed by Ennio Morricone, is one of those tunes which a lot of people know without ever being able to remember its name. Everyone from Metallica to Sporting Clube de Portugal have made great use of it when in need of some typically dramatic entrance music. Hell, it was even featured in the live show of “Still Game”. However, even with all of that being said, I feel the original use is perhaps the most apt for the purposes of this article, as the song plays in the background in one scene of the aforementioned movie whilst one of the main characters, Tuco, desperately searches a cemetery for a grave containing a treasure chest filled to the brim with gold coins. The importance of this will become clear in time.

As I sit here and write, it is Monday 8th August. The weekend just gone has seen the start of the 2015-16 Scottish league season. Thousands flocked to stadia across the country, excited to see what the new campaign would bring. In the Premiership, Dundee recorded an impressive victory in Dingwall; Partick Thistle got the better of Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Firhill; Motherwell defeated Kilmarnock; Hamilton left Ibrox with a point; the tussle between St. Johnstone and Aberdeen ended goalless; and Celtic edged past Hearts at Tynecastle. In the Championship, Hibernian dug out an important away win against Falkirk; Dundee United were held at home by Queen of the South; St Mirren and Morton drew one-all; Raith Rovers bettered Ayr United and Dunfermline Athletic and Dumbarton treated supporters to a seven goal contest. In League One, there were comfortable wins for Alloa and Livingston, whilst the start of League Two’s action saw debutants Edinburgh City lose by three goals to two against Forfar, despite Craig Beattie (yes, him) leveling the game at one point.

 

Craig Beattie (right) and Andy Webster

 

Clearly then, regardless of one’s personal Club affiliations, I feel it is safe to say that a lot went on in Scottish Football during the weekend. Indeed, in the top two divisions alone, there were thirty goals and forty-eight yellow cards (as well as one red) handed out during eleven matches. Of course, if you’re not an avid fan of the Scottish Championship and didn’t manage along to a match this weekend, you would likely have missed most of that since Sunday night’s Sportscene now seems to have forgotten all about that division (let alone those below it). Before proceeding, I should say that I whilst I wished to be able to consider the lower two leagues and the respective number of cards therein, BBC Sport doesn’t appear to bother with individual online match reports for those fixtures. Perhaps they just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but it is Monday evening. Contrasting and comparing that with their coverage of English football, match reports can presently be found for this weekend’s games down to the fifth tier of their domestic leagues. You can read all about North Ferriby United versus Braintree, but don’t bother if you have an interest in Albion Rovers or Airdrieonians.

Returning from that slight tangent, allow us to consider Sportscene once more. Prior to Rangers’ liquidation, television had little interest in the highlights of Scottish Football matches outwith the top division. Like it or not, it was the birth of a new Ibrox club which forced broadcasters’ hands and they began to shine a light, albeit briefly, on these leagues – until the aforementioned side attained promotion that is, then they were quickly discarded. This process seemed fairly straightforward until the Ibrox side enjoyed its first taste of life in the Scottish Championship. At the start of the 2014-15 season, with both Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian having been relegated from the top flight (one thanks in large part to administration and the other to a poor season culminating in a play-off defeat), it suddenly became cool to take an interest in all things Championship. After all, the media lined up in droves to tell us all about how it was set to be “the most competitive league in the country”.

The problem with that narrative, however, was that it was quickly proven to be wrong as Hearts won the league by a larger margin (twenty-one points from Hibernian in second) than Celtic did (seventeen points from runners-up Aberdeen). Indeed, the Ibrox side finished third and fell in the play-offs thus ensuring another season in the Championship to come. Hearts emphatically signaled their return to the Scottish Premiership and, for the record, with just three points separating the top three teams, it was actually the Scottish League One which was the most closely contested Scottish division during 2014-15.

 

 

The following year, great attention was paid yet again to the events of the Scottish Championship, as the Ibrox side pulled away from an inconsistent Hibernian side and gained top flight status in the process, winning the league by eleven points. Again though, this was not the most closely fought league title in Scotland, with that honour going to the Scottish League two on this occasion (just three points separated Elgin City and East Fife come the end of the campaign). Meanwhile, a poor season from Dundee United saw them confined to relegation whilst Dunfermline Athletic powered their way to the Scottish League One crown, with each therefore set for life in the Scottish Championship this season. Alongside them Falkirk, Scottish Cup winners Hibernian, Raith Rovers, Queen of the South and St Mirren (amongst others) are set to compete in a division which may well prove to be more “competitive” than it has been of late. Surely then, it would seem logical that whilst the original motivation to pay more attention within the media to the lower leagues may no longer be a factor, now would be a fantastic opportunity to continue such a level of coverage? After all, it is certain that one current top flight side will face a Championship opponent in a play-off at the end of this season, so the majority of the Scottish footballing public would be happy to have the chance to familiarise themselves in that regard. Also, it cannot be ignored that three of last season’s domestic cup finalists played their league football in the Championship. It’s clearly a relevant division, and remains so as much today as it did two years ago.

Now, and I say this with the greatest sincerity, if you genuinely believe Sportscene or the wider media shouldn’t bother with the lower leagues because “It’s all about the Rangers” (or something similarly daft), then you’re part of the problem. It is your unending craving for this country’s national game to be dominated by one footballing superpower (providing it’s your Club of choice of course, otherwise “the lack of competition” would be “bad for the game”) by any means necessary which has helped to lead us to where we are today.

The national game in this country is far from perfect. Overseen by a governing body whom nobody seems to admire, respect or trust regardless of which Club they may support; overarched by a media often so blind in their desire for the “Old Firm” to be resurrected from the dead that they cannot see outwith their tunnel vision; and overshadowed by a prolonged period of systematic cheating and corruption on an industrial scale which nobody in authority likes to talk about or even acknowledge, it would be easy to think that all is lost, but personally I do not believe this to be the case.

 

 

Financially, it is abundantly clear that the Scottish game cannot compete with many of its European counterparts, but that should not mean that we cannot make the best out of that which we do have. Lowering ticket prices, encouraging people to leave their living rooms and watch live Scottish Football, would be a start. Equally, it would be nice to see the positives of the game being talked up, rather than every potential fault being continually criticised. In England, home of the “best league in the world” as they so often attempt to tell us, the media often takes a diametrically opposite view to many outlets north of the border. Virtually everything is a positive, be it borderline insane transfer fees or anything else. Indeed, what would be described up here as a “drab, goalless affair” would be reported as a “intriguing tactical duel” down south. Of course, I do not wish to see a swing to such a radical extent, but what is praiseworthy in the Scottish game must be talked up at any opportunity. Critically, that is not and will never be the “Old Firm”. Glasgow is not the be all and end all of Scottish Football, now more so than ever.

If that was truly the case in the past, then why did we not completely disregard the whole season (because you would have already decided who the top two would be) and take a leaf out of the books of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, with Celtic and Rangers playing a seven game series to decide who is the champion for the year? Ironically, I imagine there are some individuals within the media who would have fawned over such a ludicrous idea, but the point remains. Although some teams will naturally be fancied to do better than others at the start of any given season, it is the uncertainty of the game which makes it so enthralling. Anyone can beat any opponent on their day, and that is something which should be celebrated. In this sense, the disrespect shown to every Football Club to have secured some form of silverware over the last few years during the decline and supposed absence of “Rangers” is truly galling. For the record, the destinations of these honours, wide and varied in their nature, are listed below.

Aberdeen – one Scottish League Cup (first trophy since 1995-96); Celtic – five Scottish League titles, one Scottish Cup and one Scottish League Cup; Heart of Midlothian – one Scottish Cup (first trophy since 2005-06) and one Scottish Championship title; Hibernian – one Scottish Cup (first trophy since 2006-07 and first Scottish Cup since 1901-02); Inverness Caledonian Thistle – one Scottish Cup (their first Scottish Cup); Kilmarnock – one Scottish League Cup (first trophy since 1996-97); Ross County – one Scottish League Cup (their first Scottish League Cup); St. Johnstone – one Scottish Cup (their first Scottish Cup); St. Mirren – one Scottish League Cup (first trophy since 1986-87).

 

 

 

Each of these honours has been well earned and to disregard them because of a supposed lack of competition or any other reason is farcical. After all, few seem to recall any complaints from the Scottish sports media about a lack of competition during the early to mid-nineties. When one considers the fact that several Football Clubs who had never won one of these trophies previously or had not done so for a long time prior to their recent success, this completely contradicts the mantra which says there has been a lack of competition. Yes, Celtic have won five consecutive league titles, but the nature of knockout football has proven the Hoops to be far from invincible. Equally, although the League title was retained via a healthy margin when last season came to a close, one only needs to look at the explosion of joy upon Tom Rogic’s long range shot finding the net away to Kilmarnock in the last minute to see that the Celtic support were worried at that stage. With hindsight, that was probably the day when the league race really began to get away from Aberdeen, but they remain a stronger force now than they were five years ago.

In closing ladies and gentlemen, allow me to return our focus to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. Despite his desperate efforts, Tuco never does manage to find any gold in the cemetery because unbeknownst to him, he has been lied to. He eventually gets his share however, but only when his companion allows him to do so. Had that not been the case, his efforts to unearth something long since buried, however well or poorly intentioned his reasoning, would have been in vain. Unless sections of the Scottish sports media wish to take up necromancy, there is nothing in the proverbial Scottish footballing graveyard which can benefit our game now. Do not listen to those within the media who thirst unceasingly for a return to the supposed “good old days” of the “Old Firm” – do not believe the fallacy of old – but instead allow us to strive for a better, fairer future for Scottish Football.

Oh, and if you want to remind yourself what “The Ecstasy of Gold” sounds like, you can do so by clicking here.

 

 

 

Jul 132016
 

Lincoln Red Imps 1 Celtic 0

 

 

Prior to beginning this article in earnest, I believe there are two things worthy of immediate acknowledgement. Firstly, last night’s defeat to the champions of Gibraltar was embarrassing. With the greatest respect to Lincoln Red Imps, when one considers the gulf in resources available to the two Football Clubs, that is an undeniable fact. Indeed, it is one which cannot be erased from the history books and Celtic supporters across the world will have been a subject of fun for many of their work colleagues today. Secondly, it is important to remember that all is not lost. Awful though this opening loss may have been, we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to overturn the single goal deficit in Glasgow and progress to the next Champions League qualifying round. In this sense, whilst this first leg result was exceptionally poor, it is not yet truly calamitous.

In January 1897, Celtic were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by lowly Arthurlie, signalling one of the greatest upsets in the short history of the Football Club. Again, in February 2000, the Hoops endured another loss to forget in the same competition, falling to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, much to the amusement of headline writers and large swathes of the public alike.  A few years later, I opened a newspaper in Times Square whilst on holiday in New York to discover the Celts had lost by five goals to nil against Artmedia Bratislava in the first leg of a Champions League qualifier. Naive though it may sound, I did wonder momentarily whether or not there had been a printing error, before my fears were inevitably proven true.

Of course, Celtic have suffered other upsets across the years – and, to their credit, they have inflicted many themselves – but I chose to mention this trio as three of the worst. Each of those matches haunted many supporters of their respective generations, and whilst we may be fairly accustomed to more valiant defeats, the very word “Artmedia” will always send a shiver down my spine. Upset though we all may be (and rightly so), I do not believe we can consider last night’s defeat to Lincoln Red Imps as the worst result in the history of Celtic Football Club. Critically, as I have mentioned above, we can recover from our present situation. However, this was not the case when the players trudged off the pitch having lost to Arthurlie or Inverness Caledonian Thistle, and it must be said that although Gordon Strachan’s side gave it a praiseworthy attempt, the likelihood of coming back from such a heavy first leg loss against Artmedia Bratislava was always going to be slim at best. Mind you, if the worse were to happen next week, then this would most definitely jump to the top of the list.

 

 

Having said all of that, I feel it is of the utmost importance that we react in a positive manner to this most recent upset and learn lessons from Gibraltar. As supporters, our first instinct must be to back the team in large numbers next Wednesday night. I have no doubt in my mind that tens of thousands of people will do so and that with such a support behind them, playing in familiar surroundings, Celtic will stand a good chance of progressing from the tie.

Moving our focus from the supporters to those individuals at the Club with a direct influence on football matters, allow me to briefly discuss the manager, his playing squad and the executive hierarchy. Despite the nature of the result which prompted the penning of this piece, Brendan Rodgers remains a great appointment at Celtic Park. Having never led this team into a competitive match before last night’s debacle, it would be wrong to lay a great deal of blame at his feet, although people will always be entitled to ask questions regarding team selection, tactics and so on. Regardless, one would presume that for a manager of his stature, Celtic’s dismal showing will have been a big eye opener. Although he may be somewhat coy about his true feelings in public,  it would be staggering to think that he believes the squad of players currently at his disposal are up to the task at hand. Certainly, there is talent and potential present, but there is also mediocrity in abundance. Rodgers will know that significant changes are needed.

 

 

Considering the playing squad itself – with the notable exception of recent acquisition Moussa Dembele – serious questions must be asked of many of them. Whilst Ronny Deila rightly shouldered much of the blame for the failures which occurred during his tenure, it is now very apparent (if it was not already) that he was not the sole source of poor results. Yes, some of these players were signed by the Norwegian, but several were not and regardless, this should not excuse them from individual criticism if and when it is justified. Put simply, some of the players are not of the standard required for Celtic Football Club to progress.

As I said yesterday evening on Twitter, few people are surprised now whenever Efe Ambrose makes a mistake. Frustratingly, he is capable of playing well for periods, but the fear is now ever-present as we collectively wonder when the next error will arrive. I genuinely like Efe – he seems like a lovely guy – but I know of many people whom I like wholeheartedly but would not select as a starting centre-back for Celtic. Regrettably, I believe Ambrose’s time at Celtic Park is up. Whether or not he stays in Glasgow to see out the remaining year on his contract – as is his right – remains to be seen, but it would take a mammoth effort or perhaps a miracle from Brendan to curtail his liabilities and salvage a reliable defender in the form of the Nigerian. I am very aware that injuries are currently hampering Rodgers’ ability to select his best two centre-backs, but be this though it may, the purchase of at least one new player to bolster this position must be a priority. For the record, I dissected our defensive difficulties of last season around a fortnight ago and you can read that article by clicking here.

 

 

Although Efe may be known for inconsistency, there are certain players at the Football Club who, for one reason or another, should maintain much higher standards. Perhaps the most high profile example is that of the Club captain, Scott Brown, who is set to enjoy a testimonial match at some point in 2017. In my opinion, although I know there are some who would disagree with this, Brown’s poor showing last night was not good enough nor was it a rare event. Indeed, since his return from injury midway through last season – which was rushed in an attempt to steady a listing ship, to be fair to him – he has largely looked a shadow of his former self. Whilst it would be a bold decision for Brendan Rodgers to hand the captaincy to another member of the squad as some have suggested, he must realise that simply because Brown is the current captain should not mean he is exempt from replacement in the starting line-up.

Whilst Brown was most certainly not the only individual to play poorly last night – any football supporter, particularly at their team’s hour of greatest need – naturally looks to the established, experienced players within the squad to lead by example. Younger players tend to be given more slack in this regard, especially after big games, but of course this is not exclusively so. Nonetheless, both Scott Brown and his partner Nir Bitton were abject in their efforts yesterday in the centre of midfield. Instead of dominating the match and driving the team forward against opposition, they instead spent a great deal of time doing exactly that for which they were roundly criticised at points last season – passing sideways or backwards, taking too many touches and failing to maintain a high tempo.

 

 

In the cold light of day, one would expect those within the hierarchy at Celtic Park to be considering their recruitment options with an increased sense of urgency now. On paper, our current squad should be capable of overcoming Lincoln Red Imps next week, but even if they do so, more difficult opponents will lie in wait. The same can also be said of the upcoming domestic calendar, but we are blessed with slightly more preparatory time in that sense. It would be almost inconceivable to think that Brendan Rodgers would have accepted the role of Celtic manager without a substantial transfer/wage budget being made available to him, so it is now time to start accelerating any negotiations currently in progress.

We must seek to trim the squad and build around its true core; Leigh Griffiths, Erik Sviatchenko, Kieran Tierney and the like. More heart is vital as well as more talent, with numerous leaders required on the field if success is to be achieved. Brendan Rodgers must be calculated with acquisitions and ruthless with departures; Peter Lawwell and the Club hierarchy must be willing to back his endeavours financially; and the players – whoever they may be – must be willing to give their all for the cause. Many people will be laughing at Celtic’s expense today, but let us use this opportunity to learn from our mistakes, strive to improve and enjoy the last laugh this season ourselves.

 

Jun 292016
 

Thoughts on the Past, Present and Future of our Defence

 

 

During his two years at Celtic Football Club, Ronny Deila led his side to two Scottish Premiership titles, a Scottish League Cup and the knockout rounds of the UEFA Europa League on one occasion. I would like to think that the majority of you reading this would join me in thanking him for his efforts and wishing him all the very best for the future. Regardless, Ronny Deila did not only leave his individual successes and failures in Glasgow, but also a squad of players. Brendan Rodgers was rightly given a fantastic welcome to Celtic Park when he was unveiled as the new manager of Celtic Football Club and has now taken the squad to Slovenia for a fortnight long training camp. With Champions League qualifiers and friendly clashes against Leicester City, Barcelona and Inter Milan to follow, the fixtures set to be contested on this tour will allow us an initial glimpse into the Celtic of 2016-17.

However, whilst none of us know what will happen in the future to Rodgers’ Celtic, it is an easier task to evaluate the results of his predecessor.

Firstly, allow us to look at the statistics involving the first team as a whole. Celtic won the Scottish Premiership in Deila’s first season with a final points total of 92, achieved thanks to 29 victories and 5 draws from 38 league matches. Having scored 84 goals and conceded just 17, the Celts ended the campaign with a goal difference of +67. Our closest rivals in the race for the title were Aberdeen, who eventually ended the season with a total of 75 points to their name.

Now, a brief comparison with the following league season – 2015-16 – initially tells a similar story. Celtic again won the Scottish Premiership with Aberdeen finishing in second place, with the final points gap between the two teams being 15, a margin the Dons had only managed to narrow by 2 points. Celtic improved their scoring tally by 9, but conceded 31 goals – almost doubling the respective figure from the previous campaign. These changes naturally offset each other to some extent in terms of goal difference, which finished at +62.

Nonetheless, therein lies one of Brendan Rodgers’ first big challenges – sorting out the defence.

 

 

Celtic conceded 54 goals in all competitions last season, 10 more than they had done during the 2014-15 season. However, our opponents managed this despite having 52 less attempts and 29 less shots on target than they had done previously. It is also noteworthy that Celtic played four less competitive matches during 2015-16 than they had done throughout 2014-15. Therefore, the average number of attempts which an opponent would require in order to score one goal fell markedly from 11.32 attempts (2014-15) to 8.26 (2015-16). Such a dramatic reduction does not make for good reading, but there are certainly some factors which one would presume to have contributed to this decrease.

Examples of this are player selection and availability. Thirteen different players played in defence for Celtic during the 2015-16 campaign, with Ronny Deila generally opting to play a flat back four consisting of two centre-backs and two full-backs. Of this number, two (Eoghan O’Connell and Anthony Ralston) played less than one hundred minutes of competitive senior football. During the previous campaign, eleven men played in Celtic’s defence at one point or another, with four (Darnell Fisher, Eoghan O’Connell, Kieran Tierney and Filip Twardzik) receiving limited playing time.

There is then a relative disparity in the number of defensive players being picked with some regularity for the first team squad between the two seasons, but this alone cannot shoulder the blame for the drop in defensive form. I believe consistency of selection, transfers and the quality of the respective players must also be considered.

During the 2014-15 season, thirteen different back four combinations started competitive matches for Celtic. As you can see below, over 60% of these involved the same centre-back pairing and left back, with Mikael Lustig, Adam Matthews and Efe Ambrose contesting the right-back role. Consistent back four selections do not guarantee defensive success, but they do tend to help, as each component player gradually becomes accustomed to playing with his colleagues.

 

1415piechart

 

Contrast and compare these figures with those of the 2015-16 campaign however and, once again, we can see a significant difference. Incredibly, Celtic started with twenty-six different back four combinations in just fifty-seven competitive ties last year, an average of almost one new selection every two games. No back four started more than seven matches, and only two selections even reached that lowly figure. Of course, injuries and suspensions were to blame for some of this upheaval, but poor individual performances from some did not help matters either.

 

1516piechart

 

 

Left-Back

Considering the prospect of next season’s back four we can, of course, only speculate as to the decisions Brendan Rodgers will make. With that in mind, however, allow me to think aloud for a few moments regarding personnel.

I doubt I am alone in expecting Kieran Tierney to hold on to his starting place at left-back. Having made his senior debut towards the end of the 2014-15 season, Kieran made an incredible impact for someone of his age during the 2015-16 campaign, proving himself more than capable at both domestic and European level. Inevitably, this has won him endless plaudits from the Celtic support and the wider football public. It will be intriguing to see how he performs in the coming years, but he has been exemplary thus far and undoubtedly deserves his new contract. With Emilio Izaguirre’s time at Celtic supposedly finished (although he currently remains with the squad in Slovenia), Rodgers may well look to bring in a replacement for him at left-back, although whoever this is will likely be the understudy to the aforementioned Tierney. Having said that, it’s not impossible that Rodgers may not prioritise such a replacement, knowing Charlie Mulgrew could cover the position if required (presuming he signs a new deal, which he may not).

 

 

Centre-Back

Beginning with our most recent defensive acquisition, Erik Sviatchenko has quickly endeared himself to the Celtic support with his attitude and ability already clear for everyone to see. Having only missed one match since he made his debut in the Hoops, he has helped to solidify an inconsistent defence to some extent, whilst outlining the offensive threat he poses from corners. The sight of Erik choosing to spend some of his time off during the summer training alone has only added to his individual popularity, with some already going so far as to suggest him as a potential Club captain of the future.

Jozo Simunovic has only managed to play seventeen times for the Hoops thus far, with injuries hampering the Croatian. Having made his debut in the 2-2 draw away against Ajax, he missed the next seven matches, before returning to the team and featuring in sixteen of the next seventeen fixtures. However, less than a fortnight before the debut of Erik Sviatchenko, a serious injury ended Simunovic’s season, preventing the pair from having the opportunity to form a defensive partnership.

Another option at the heart of the defence is Dedryck Boyata, who racked up more than 3,500 minutes of competitive football in his first season at Celtic Park. Remarkably, only Leigh Griffiths, Tom Rogic, Kris Commons and Nir Bitton scored more goals than the Belgian (with six to his name in all, putting him level with Callum McGregor, Gary Mackay-Steven and Patrick Roberts). Dedryck’s future is still the subject of much debate, with many Celtic supporters yet to be convinced by his occasionally erratic performances.

Whilst we’re on the subject of inconsistency, we must consider Rodgers’ next option, Efe Ambrose. As everyone reading this will know, the Nigerian is prone to the odd error. For the sake of clarity, allow me to say this – I love Efe. Neither his work-rate nor his commitment cannot be faulted and, to his credit, he has made his fair share of crucial clearances when our backs have been to the wall. Naturally, due to the catastrophic nature of some of his errors, these more positive performances tend to drift to the backs of many minds, but I feel that I should not reasonably criticise him without mentioning them also. Indeed, I find it close to impossible to stay mad at him for long even when it is warranted. However, the role of a football fan and a football manager are very different. A fan is allowed to be emotionally driven and occasionally fickle, but a manager must be more pragmatic. For that reason, I would be surprised to see Brendan Rodgers rely too heavily on the Nigerian in future, keeping him as a squad player or seeking to sell him on, but I suppose you never know.

Finally, with Charlie Mulgrew still to decide his future at the Club with a new contract offer – on reduced terms – allegedly having been offered to him, we have no more central defensive options presently without acquiring new blood or delving into the youth ranks. Nonetheless, something tells me we won’t be going out of our way to bring Tyler Blackett to Celtic Park on a permanent basis any time soon.

 

 

Right-Back

For years, Mikael Lustig and Adam Matthews battled for the hotly contested right-back slot in the starting eleven. With the Welshman having left Glasgow behind him in the summer of 2015, Swiss full-back Saidy Janko was purchased from Manchester United, much to the consternation of some United supporters. Janko was thought of highly upon his arrival, but a plague of injury problems meant he played less than 700 minutes of football in just ten appearances in his first ten months at the Club. He finally returned to action in May after an absence which ruled him out of thirty-five consecutive matches. I would suggest that we have not seen the best of Saidy Janko thus far, but whether or not he will be given an opportunity by Rodgers remains to be seen.

Celtic’s recent right-back of choice has undoubtedly been the aforementioned Mikael Lustig. With the Swede set to turn thirty in December, his career still has someway to run presuming he can maintain a relative standard of fitness. Although he has a reputation as being injury prone, Lustig played almost 4,000 minutes of competitive football in a Celtic jersey last season, with only Leigh Griffiths narrowly pipping him to the title of the most featured outfield player. Lustig took part in as many matches in the 2015-16 season (46) as he had done in the previous two seasons combined, whilst also bettering his previous best for a total number of appearances in a solitary season at Celtic Park (39, 2012-13). Indeed, he equaled his best career total ever also (previously 46 appearances for Rosenberg in their 2010 campaign). On the flip side, there was some fairly strong criticism of his performances during the last season – with myself one of the critics in the early part of 2016 – but his the quality of his individual showings notably increased as the season drew to a close.

Notably, Anthony Ralston was handed his senior debut by Ronny Deila in his second to last match at the helm of Celtic Football Club, so he will represent another option open to the new manager, whilst Darnell Fisher has returned from a loan spell at St. Johnstone.

 

 

Conclusion

With injuries presently ruling out Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata and Mikael Lustig, Brendan Rodgers will not have his full pick of Celtic’s current defensive options until the new season is underway. Like any new manager at a Football Club, he will likely chop and change his initial team selections, giving various individuals the opportunity to impress. It is probable that he will also turn to the transfer market in an effort to bolster his current squad, with a new centre-back and at least one new full-back high on many supporters’ shopping lists. However, if this article does one thing, I would hope it has stressed the importance of comparatively consistent defensive selection. Injuries and suspensions will always threaten to upset this balance, but I would hope that during his first few months in the job, Brendan will be able to identify the quartet whom he believes to be his strongest back four and stick with it more often than not.

Presumably, it will begin “Kieran Tierney; Erik Sviatchenko…” but only time will tell who shall fill the other two positions.

 

Jun 182016
 

Preserving the Past for the Future

 

billboland

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been in a somewhat reflective mood of late and, now that the domestic football season is at an end, I’ve decided to pursue an idea which has been whirling about in my head for a significant period of time. Well, the extent of this pursuit thus far has only involved the penning of this article, the purchase of a website domain name and the setting up of a Twitter account, but no matter. Regardless, I’d ask you all to take a few minutes of your time – head off and make a cup of tea or coffee if you think it’ll help the process – and read about the following idea whilst pondering these three questions.

1. Is the Celtic Memory Archive an idea worth pursuing?

2. Is the idea logistically possible?

3. Is there anything you believe you could do to help?

 

cfc8

 

The Motivation

Whilst writing two books on the history of Celtic Football Club, I’ve been very fortunate to meet some incredible people, two of whom are no longer with us. William (Bill) Boland (pictured above) was the oldest surviving ex-Celtic player until his death in September 2013, aged 93. Bill scored two goals in his four appearances in the Hoops, eventually ending a spell which lasted a little over a year at the Football Club in 1945. I first met Bill whilst he was 92 years of age, and had the great pleasure of discussing his life with him in detail during the course of numerous lengthy visits to his home in Muirkirk. His lifelong love of Celtic Football Club – an emotion only strengthened by the pride he took in his short playing spell there – was infectious. Regrettably, he died just a matter of weeks before “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” went to print, although he did have the opportunity to read his chapter in full. Bill attended both the 1937 Scottish Cup Final (which remains the record-holding domestic European match in terms of attendance – 147,365) and the 1953 Coronation Cup Final – two of Celtic’s finest days – among many others. A brief excerpt of Bill discussing his first goal for Celtic in the aforementioned book can be found below:

“The enthusiasm and vigour with which Bill described both of his senior goals to me was indicative of a man who had the chance to play, and score, for the Football Club he had always loved, and continues to love with all of his heart. He explained to me that these brief moments were virtually imprinted on his mind, and that he felt he could play, rewind or fast-forward each of them in his head at a moment’s notice.”

“On the third of March 1945, Bill took to the field at his beloved Celtic Park for the first time in a senior match. Bill proceeded to describe the goal which he scored that day: “We’d won a throw just inside their half a few moments earlier. I felt the Falkirk player close behind me just as the shy was taken, and I thought he was standing closer than he should have been, considering the shy was quite far down the wing. Anyway, when the ball came to me I turned and knocked it past him and, because he was so close, I was able to drop my shoulder and get away from him. So, as I ran towards the box, the defence backed off, giving me the chance to take a shot, which I did from the corner of the box. As luck would have it, in it went!” The match would, after a topsy-turvy style encounter, eventually finish with Celtic winning by three goals to two.”

Billy Davidson, of Coatbridge, was a lifelong Celtic supporter who played in the band which accompanied a triumphant side around Celtic Park as they returned to Glasgow following their European Cup success in 1967 – he passed away earlier this year. During my time with him, both before and after the publication of his life story in “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”, we discussed everything from his trips across Scotland and Europe following the Hoops, his brief meeting with the now sadly departed Muhammad Ali and his appearances on mid-afternoon television programme “Countdown”.

It was an honour to have befriended both of these men, and each of their deaths made me realise I had been given the opportunity to pen stories which would be largely lost to the world nowadays otherwise. Indeed, I expect the vast majority of you reading this will have had parents, grandparents, other family members or friends who have died, only for some of their stories or the details therein to have subsequently been lost to the sands of time. Therefore, I believe we should all now make an active effort to stop as many stories of the past being lost in future.

 

celtic fans

 

The Aims

– To add to the written, audio and visual history of Celtic Football Club and its supporters.

– To create an electronic archive wherein this data could be both accessed and stored for the foreseeable future.

– To encourage supporters of all ages, but particularly elderly individuals, to tell their stories in a safe, comfortable and enjoyable manner.

– To rekindle memories long since forgotten in the minds of many via the use of audio and visual stimulants.

– To bring people closer together and promote the already positive reputation of the Celtic support.

 

 

The Idea

Now, we come to the tricky bit. A proposal such as this has almost endless potential off-shoots and possibilities, so with that in mind I’m going to try to ignore them and focus on the basics for the purposes of this article. After all, if this idea proceeds to any significant degree, it will likely evolve and alter naturally. Therefore, I feel I should just attempt to lay the groundwork here.

Celtic Football Club has a long and rich history unlike any other and already has a wealth of fantastic groups, resources and individuals who actively do their utmost to promote the Club’s story. Fine examples would be collectives such as “The Celtic Grave Society” and “The Celtic Wiki”, which rightly inspire the supporters of other Football Clubs and lead their way in their respective fields, much to the credit of everyone involved therein. Of course, these are just two of many examples which do the Club proud.

Allow me to state categorically now that I do not want the Celtic Memory Archive – should it come to fruition – to be seen as a competitor to the plethora of wonderful already established groups and resources. Indeed, I’d much rather it was a companion to them, simply becoming a small cog in a big machine.

And so we come to the idea itself. I wish to create an electronic archive within which every Celtic supporter will have the opportunity to have his or her story – whether it be an individual memory, a couple of tales which stick in their mind, or lengthy pieces detailing their life following the Football Club – recorded for future generations to enjoy whilst adding to an important historical record.

The process of interviewing a supporter for a chapter in a book; researching their respective time period to ensure accuracy; writing, editing and ultimately publishing the work takes a great deal of time for any author. Equally, and perhaps more importantly for the topic of this article, it presents a daunting challenge for the potential protagonist. I have spoken to numerous Celtic supporters over the years and asked them if they would be interested in telling their stories for a place in a book, only for them to decline, suggesting they either would not have enough of a story to tell or that they don’t consider themselves to be particularly interesting. This was an entirely natural reaction on their part, and one which I would not dream of criticising them for, but I want to put in place a system within which these barriers are significantly reduced, if not broken down altogether.

So, if there’s that older gentleman who is always telling stories on your supporter’s bus; if your auntie started going to away games decades ago; if you had a day or night to remember in the Carlton, Castlemilk or Chicago following a Celtic match; or if you just want your favourite photo from Seville to form a little bit more of the history of Celtic Football Club, I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to get involved.

 

cfc10

 

The Method

– To ask Celtic supporters, particularly those in their later years, to write about their memories and experiences.

– To encourage their family members and friends familiar with technology to assist them with the e-mail or uploading of material etc, as and when is required.

– To conduct audio interviews with supporters, either with a representative of the Celtic Memory Archive or a family member or friend.

– To obtain scans of old photographs, so that the original copy may stay undamaged with its owner but the image is saved electronically for posterity.

– To make resources such as custom made picture books (featuring everything from photographs of old players and stadia to period railway timetables and advertisements) available to families with elderly relatives, in the hope the images and words contained therein may help bring back some memories and, most importantly, provide some enjoyment for the individuals in question.

– To periodically add to an archive which, hopefully, would be able to stand the test of time.

 

Brake Clubs - Pic

 

How You Could Help

As with any voluntary project, should this proposal progress to such a stage whereby it becomes active, it would be natural to look for help from any suitable individuals who were willing to provide it in one way or another. The extent to which this would be required remains to be seen of course, but those skilled in the fields of graphics, website design, audio recording/editing and printing among others would likely be of great assistance. Critically though, numerous volunteers who simply hold an interest in the history of Celtic Football Club and enjoy discussing the topic with different types of people would be required also. For example, if a letter arrives enclosing a fantastic story from an elderly supporter who lives in Aberdeen, it would be more practical for someone relatively local to interview them in person (should that decision be made) than someone living in Glasgow. Of course, one-off visits are one thing, but if similar situations also come to the fore in Nottingham, Thurso and Cardiff, the practicalities of the matter become more clear to see. Technologies such as Skype would be handy also, particularly for international discussions.

 

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Potential Obstacles

It would be tremendously naive of me to suggest an idea such as this without highlight some of the potential obstacles which may lay in our way. Indeed, there are likely far more which have not yet presented themselves or sprung to mind.

One present issue is that if I were to ask elderly supporters to write to the Celtic Memory Archive recalling their respective tales following the Football Club, it is likely the majority of them would prefer to do so via a handwritten letter. Yes, some of them may use e-mail and others may have family members capable of scanning a letter before sending it electronically, but the problem of providing the others with a valid postal address remains. I’m sure you would all appreciate my reluctance to publish my home address on the internet, and the costs associated with the use of something such as a P.O. box seem to fall in the region of £30 a month (£360 annually). Therefore, I would likely have to explore my options in an attempt to find a more reasonable solution. Also, it is noteworthy that it is difficult to predict the response an appeal for such letters would achieve. I have no idea whether we would see three letters arriving per week or thirty, and this represents a significant unknown.

Another issue, inevitably, regards finance. Personally speaking, I would like to keep the costs associated with the Celtic Memory Archive as low as is feasibly possible. Gracefully, I have always been able to afford to pay the running costs of my present website individually, allowing me also to keep “Maley’s Bhoys” wholly free of advertisements in the process. However, an undertaking on the scale of the Celtic Memory Archive – if it were to go ahead – would undoubtedly require some funding in order to get it off the ground, with website costs and picture books fees likely among others. Daft as it may sound, even the cost of something as simple as stamps could become significant if letter correspondence really took off. Even the prospect of replying to five letters per week over the course of a year – simply to acknowledge their receipt and thank the individual involved for their efforts taking the time to tell their story – would cost over £140. Of course, if several people were involved in the process of replying to letters, this individual figure would fall, but it is worth keeping in mind regardless how seemingly small costs can mount up.

Again, these are issues for detailed discussion at a later date, but it would be wholly inappropriate not to acknowledge their existence from day one.

 

 

Conclusion

In the future, when historians yet to be born look at the 2015/16 season, they’ll be able not only to find highlights of every Celtic match from the campaign, but presumably they’ll have the ability to search through old Twitter and Facebook profiles (not to mention dedicated websites) in order to gain some insight into what the Celtic supporters of the day thought and felt. Videos taken on mobile phones of trips to Hampden or abroad will be dotted around the depths of the internet, and endless pictures and selfies will provide an accessible backdrop to many matches. However, this was not the case in the past, and many of the memories of matches are locked into the heads of individuals; many of the old photographs sitting in rarely opened drawers; many of the old flags and scarves hidden away in long forgotten boxes in lofts and cupboards.

I often say that is exceptionally difficult for any historian to truly compare Henrik Larsson and Jimmy McGrory, two of the finest strikers not only to pull on the Hoops, but of all time. After all, whilst each and every one of the Swede’s Celtic goals can be found contained in one YouTube video, only a tiny minority of McGrory’s gargantuan total were caught on film.

So, without an extensive film record, can we say both were exceptional in their own right? Yes.

Can we say McGrory’s goal total and goals to games ratio was better than Larsson’s? Yes.

Can we say Larsson received far more international recognition than McGrory? Yes.

Can we read historical accounts of McGrory’s style of play and try to compare it with Larsson’s? Yes.

However, can we compare the two having seen each of them take to the field with our own eyes? No, but Bill Boland could, because he was lucky enough to watch the two of them in person in their respective eras.

Now, consider that prospect for a moment – having the ability to compare the likes of Jimmy McGrory and Henrik Larsson (as well as all of the talents to have shone in the intervening period) because you’d watched each of them play live. For the record, Bill considered Larsson to have been the more rounded footballer, but thought McGrory had the edge on the Swede in the air, which is quite a statement. Regardless, had Bill never had the opportunity to divulge his thoughts on this subject matter to anyone, they would now have been lost.

In closing, I am very aware of the fact that it is an impossible feat to preserve every one of the memories possessed by every Celtic supporter. Indeed, many of them are largely shared memories; whether it be celebrating a late win over Boavista in 2003 or seeing Tony Watt sprint beyond the Barcelona defence before coolly slotting the ball into the far corner of the Catalan net in 2012, so will be preserved to some extent nonetheless, even if people’s individual experiences of each goal may differ somewhat. However, I would suggest that we should endeavour as a support to preserve as many of the stories of old elderly supporters as possible not because it is easy, but because it is worthwhile.

I cannot do this alone, so consider this an open invite to all of the websites, social media accounts and supporters’ groups out there. The same can be said for the wider fanbase and to Celtic directly. Let’s do something nobody else has done before and leave a lasting historical record of many of the fine people who have faithfully followed our great Football Club throughout their lives. Thank you.

 

Please direct all enquiries and communications regarding this topic to @CelticMemoryArc on Twitter or to celticmemoryarchive@hotmail.com

 

fans

Jun 092016
 

Twitter Quiz 6 (European Championship Special)

 

 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the latest installment of our monthly quiz, this time featuring a European Championship theme.

Below, any of you who missed the quiz on Twitter will be able to find all of the questions as always.

The answers can be found at the very bottom of this page, so as not to ruin it for anyone who wants to show the quiz to a family member or friend etc.

Also, should anyone who missed the earlier quizzes fancy a go at them, all five of them can be found by clicking here.

In closing, we’d like to wish Brendan Rodgers all the very best as the new manager of Celtic Football Club and thank you all, as ever, for your participation.

 

 

Questions

 

1. Who was the last Celtic player to score a goal at the European Championship finals?

 

2. In which year did Scotland make their debut at the European Championship finals?

 

3. What is the name of the official mascot of Euro 2016?

 

supervictor1

 

4. True or false: No player under the age of 18 has ever made an appearance at the European Championship finals.

 

5. Which country has lost more matches at European Championship finals than any other?

 

6. Who was the last Celtic player to be sent off at a European Championship finals?

 

7. Scotland’s only win at Euro 1996 came against Switzerland, but which two future Celts would line up for the Swiss that night?

 

8. Only one of the ten stadia to be used at Euro 2016 is home to a Ligue 2 side, but who are they?

 

9. Which ex-Celt has scored more goals in European Championship qualifying than any other player?

 

10. Which country has made the most visits to the European Championship finals without ever winning the tournament?

 

11. Who was the first Celtic player to score for Scotland in European Championship qualifying?

 

12. Paul McStay became the first Celt to score for Scotland at a European Championship finals in 1992 against the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), but which future Celtic goalkeeper did he beat?

 

13. Who is this ex-Celt taking part in a group stage match at Euro 2012?

 

brozekblur1

 

14. True or false – Henrik Larsson was once the joint top goalscorer at a European Championship finals.

 

15. Which country hold the record of having conceded the lowest cumulative number of goals at the European Championship finals?

 

 

 

 

Answers

 

1. Who was the last Celtic player to score a goal at the European Championship finals? – Georgios Samaras, as Greece fell in the quarter final stage of the 2012 tournament against Germany via a 4-2 loss.

 

 

2. In which year did Scotland make their debut at the European Championship finals? – 1992 in Sweden.

 

3. What is the name of the official mascot of Euro 2016? – Super Victor.

 

supervictor

 

4. True or false: No player under the age of 18 has ever made an appearance at the European Championship finals. – True – somewhat surprisingly – the youngest player to feature in the tournament thus far was Jetro Willems, who played for the Netherlands as they took on Denmark in 2012, aged 18 years and 71 days old. This record may well fall this summer.

 

5. Which country has lost more matches at European Championship finals than any other? – Denmark (14).

 

6. Who was the last Celtic player to be sent off at a European Championship finals? – Stiliyan Petrov, as Bulgaria faced Italy at Euro 2004.

 

 

7. Scotland’s only win at Euro 1996 came against Switzerland, but which two future Celts would line up for the Swiss that night? – Ramon Vega and Stephane Henchoz (Please note the photograph below is from 1998).

 

 

8. Only one of the ten stadia to be used at Euro 2016 is home to a Ligue 2 side, but who are they? – RC Lens (Stade Bollaert-Delelis).

 

9. Which ex-Celt has scored more goals in European Championship qualifying than any other player? – Robbie Keane (23).

 

10. Which country has made the most visits to the European Championship finals without ever winning the tournament? – England (9).

 

 

11. Who was the first Celtic player to score for Scotland in European Championship qualifying? – Bobby Murdoch, as Scotland beat Northern Ireland by two goals to one at Hampden Park (November 16th, 1966). Bobby Lennox went on to score the second of the home side’s goals.

 

12. Paul McStay became the first Celt to score for Scotland at a European Championship finals in 1992 against the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), but which future Celtic goalkeeper did he beat? – Dmitri Kharine.

 

 

13. Who is this ex-Celt taking part in a group stage match at Euro 2012? – Pawel Brozek, who came on as a subsitute against both Russia and the Czech Republic.

 

brozek1

 

14. True or false – Henrik Larsson was once the joint top goalscorer at a European Championship finals. – False, but Henrik Larsen was, as Denmark unexpectedly won the tournament in 1992. Larsen scored three times that summer, finishing his career with five international goals to his name. Henrik Larsson, on the other hand, was named in the “Team of the Tournament” alongside the likes of Zinedine Zidane in 2004.

 

15. Which country hold the record of having conceded the lowest cumulative number of goals at the European Championship finals? – Norway (1), having only ever made it to Euro 2000.

 

May 172016
 

Twitter Quiz 5 (End of Season Special)

 

 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the latest installment of our monthly quiz, this time featuring our end of season roundup.

Below, any of you who missed the quiz on Twitter will be able to find all of the questions as always.

The answers can be found at the very bottom of this page, so as not to ruin it for anyone who wants to show the quiz to a family member or friend etc.

Also, should anyone who missed the earlier quizzes fancy a go at them, they can be found by clicking the following links: Quiz 1Quiz 2Quiz 3 and Quiz 4.

Briefly, I must apologise for the fact there was no quiz for the month of April. This was down to illness on my part, but normal service has now been resumed as you can see.

That aside, all that is left to do now is wish departing manager Ronny Deila all the best for the future and thank you all, as ever, for your participation.

 

 

Questions

 

1. Who were the only side to defeat Celtic in a pre-season friendly prior to the 2015/16 league campaign?

 

2. Who scored their first Celtic goal away at Tannadice in January?

 

3. True or false: A central defensive partnership of Efe Ambrose and Tyler Blackett kept a clean sheet on at least one occasion this season.

 

4. Who was our top scorer in the Europa League this season, netting as many goals individually as all of his teammates combined?

 

5. Four Celts were given red cards this season on at least one occasion, can you name them?

 

6. Who scored the only goal over two legs against Qarabag FK?

 

7. Which Celtic player from the 2015/16 squad has the highest number of international caps for his respective country?

 

8. True or false: Celtic have failed to win more than five consecutive matches (in all competitions) since Jan/Feb 2015.

 

9. Other than Leigh Griffiths, only two Celtic players scored more than five league goals this season. Who are they?

 

10. Can you name any of the three players who made the bench at some point this season but didn’t make a competitive appearance for Celtic?

 

11. Against which side did Scott Allan first start a match for Celtic?

 

12. Only two opposition sides managed to score three goals against Celtic in a match this season. Can you name them?

 

13. True or false: The last season in which Celtic scored more than 93 league goals (their total in this campaign) was 2003/04.

 

14. Five Celtic players have featured for more than 3,500 minutes this season in all competitions – can you name them?

 

15. Lastly, a question which encourages estimates. How many players have made at least one competitive appearance for Celtic during 2015/16?

 

 

 

 

Answers

 

1. Who were the only side to defeat Celtic in a pre-season friendly prior to the 2015/16 league campaign? – Dukla Prague, in a 5-3 victory in Paisley (4th July 2015).

 

 

2. Who scored their first Celtic goal away at Tannadice in January? – Jozo Simunovic.

 

 

3. True or false: A central defensive partnership of Efe Ambrose and Tyler Blackett kept a clean sheet on at least one occasion this season. – True, albeit rather remarkably, as the pair helped to shut-out Raith Rovers on their visit to Celtic Park in September (Celtic 2 Raith Rovers 0).

 

4. Who was our top scorer in the Europa League this season, netting as many goals individually as all of his teammates combined? – Kris Commons, with a grand total of four. Leigh Griffiths, Nir Bitton, Callum McGregor and Mikael Lustig each scored once.

 

5. Four Celts were given red cards this season on at least one occasion, can you name them? – Both Efe Ambrose and Nir Bitton were dismissed twice, whilst Dedryck Boyata and Emilio Izaguirre walked down the tunnel once.

 

 

6. Who scored the only goal over two legs against Qarabag FK? – Dedryck Boyata, with a header late on in the home leg.

 

 

7. Which Celtic player from the 2015/16 squad has the highest number of international caps for his respective country? – Emilio Izaguirre, with 84 appearances for his native Honduras.

 

 

8. True or false: Celtic have failed to win more than five consecutive matches (in all competitions) since Jan/Feb 2015. - True, although we have won five matches in a row more than once since then, without ever making it six.

 

9. Other than Leigh Griffiths, only two Celtic players scored more than five league goals this season. Who are they? – Tom Rogic (8) and Patrick Roberts (6).

 

 

10. Can you name any of the three players who made the bench at some point this season but didn’t make a competitive appearance for Celtic? – Leo Fasan, Darnell Fisher and Fiacre Kelleher.

 

11. Against which side did Scott Allan first start a match for Celtic? – Fenerbahce (A), having made five substitute appearances prior to that night in Turkey.

 

 

12. Only two opposition sides managed to score three goals against Celtic in a match this season. Can you name them? – Molde 3-1 Celtic (A), Ross County 3-1 Celtic (N).

 

13. True or false: The last season in which Celtic scored more than 93 league goals (their total in this campaign) was 2003/04. – False. Celtic scored 102 goals in their 2013/14 league campaign, and 93 previously in 2005-06. Henrik Larsson’s last season did outshine each of these though, with the Celts hitting the net 105 times that year.

 

14. Five Celtic players have featured for more than 3,500 minutes this season in all competitions – can you name them? – Craig Gordon (4710 mins); Leigh Griffiths (3982 mins); Mikael Lustig (3915 mins); Nir Bitton (3850 mins); and Dedryck Boyata (3561 mins).

 

15. Lastly, a question which encourages estimates. How many players have made at least one competitive appearance for Celtic during 2015/16? – 37 in total, a full list of which is provided below for you. I suppose the wider point of this question was simply to highlight this fact, rather than in any serious expectation of correct answers. If you were within four either way, consider it a fine shout on your part.

 

Goalkeepers (2): Craig Gordon, Logan Bailly.

Defenders (13): Emilio Izaguirre, Charlie Mulgrew, Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata, Virgil van Dijk, Efe Ambrose, Mikael Lustig, Kieran Tierney, Saidy Janko, Tyler Blackett, Erik Sviatchenko, Eoghan O’Connell, Anthony Ralston.

Midfielders (14): Scott Brown, Nir Bitton, Stefan Johansen, Gary Mackay-Steven, Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest, Kris Commons, Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor, Liam Henderson, Scott Allan, Joe Thomson, Ryan Christie, Patrick Roberts.

Forwards (8): Leigh Griffiths, Nadir Ciftci, Stefan Scepovic, Colin Kazim-Richards, Carlton Cole, Anthony Stokes, Aidan Nesbitt, Jack Aitchison.

 

Apr 122016
 

“This Club Was My Home”

 

 

A little over one month ago, Georgios Samaras – “The Greek Gazelle” – signed for Rayo OKC (Oklahoma City) – a new club set to begin its life in the North American Soccer League (NASL), not to be confused with the more widely known Major League Soccer (MLS) which occupies the top rung of the American soccer ladder. At just thirty-one years of age, the decline of his career following his departure from Celtic Park has been relatively swift. An unsuccessful period at West Bromwich Albion saw him make just a handful of appearances, whilst the Greek did not take to life in the Middle East during a subsequent loan spell at Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilel. Having become a free agent once more thereafter, he was linked with Sporting (Portugal) before agreeing terms with Sampdoria (Italy), but doubts about his fitness saw the deal fall through. This was the case too when the New York Cosmos showed some interest, but with Samaras now on a return to full fitness and having found a new home for himself in Oklahoma, we can only wish him all the best for the future. Regardless, I felt this would be an appropriate time to remember five of the greatest moments of his Celtic career.

 

“From Russia With Love I” – Dinamo Moscow 0 Celtic 2 – 5th August, 2008

 

 

 

“He Dined in Hell” – Rangers 0 Celtic 2 – January 2nd, 2011

 

 

 

“From Russia with Love II” – Spartak Moscow 2 Celtic 3 – 2nd October, 2012

 

(Please note: You may have to watch a brief advert prior to viewing these highlights as they come from dailymotion).

 

“The Greek Gazelle Leaps” – Celtic 4 Aberdeen 3 – 15th March, 2013

 

 

 

“A Final Hat-Trick Hurrah” – Kilmarnock 2 Celtic 5 – 28th September, 2014

 

 

As Georgios Samaras’ Celtic career came to an end, one last goal from the penalty spot took his final statistics to 74 goals in 248 appearances between 2008 and 2014. He won four Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish Cups and a single Scottish League Cup, whilst to date he has scored 9 international goals whilst representing his country on 81 occasions. “The Greek Gazelle” will always be remembered as an enigma of sorts, capable of astounding and frustrating in almost equal measure depending on how he played on any given day, but whenever he was at his best, he was a joy to behold. Undeniably, he had a few moments which many of us would rather forget, but these should not detract from those moments worthy of celebration. One thing is certain, nobody who saw him in a Celtic shirt will forget him, nor his magnificent hair, any time soon.

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