Can I kick him? Yes, you can.

Yesterday the SFA unveiled a new initiative in Scottish Football. Now it’s okay to kick your opponent without facing any consequences.

Apparently, three former grade one officials couldn’t agree on the HD footage presented to them of one player clearly kicking another. Because of that the matter will not be taken forward.

It’s a worrying situation. And another unprofessional one by the SFA.

With this being the outcome you have to wonder how good these former grade one officials were when they actually officiated live matches. They certainly can’t use the old honest mistake excuse retrospectively.

Are there perhaps different grades of kicks that are okay I wonder? I guess this is yet another attempt by the SFA to address the balance in the aftermath of a Glasgow derby.

Celtic win so their rivals have suffered enough right? Let sleeping zombies lie and all that.

That’s about the size of it when it comes to Scottish football’s governing body. I’d love to know how the conversation went with that panel.

First Panelist: “So the goalkeeper has won the ball, the opposing defender falls over him and the goalkeeper lashes out.”

Second Panelist: “I don’t know how you’re getting that? The goalkeeper has won the ball, the opposing defender is looking for a penalty and the goalkeeper tries to help the defender stay on his feet using his foot.”

Third Panelist: “Gents, gents, let’s not get our wires crossed here. It’s quite clear that the goalkeeper is verifying his respect for his opponent by high fiving him with his boot.”

So the game’s a bogey. What a farce.

For all his whining about the 50/50 ball (in my opinion) that led to Celtic’s goal, Steven Gerrard confirmed it was a blatant kick by McGregor. Even Stevie Wonder would agree!

I’ve watched the replay a dozen times and before McGregor’s lashes out with that foot when Ajer is on the ground, he’s already reacting to Ajer coming in and behind him from his right hand side intentionally. By the time Ajer stumbles over to McGregor’s left hand side and lands on the ground, the goalkeeper then throws his foot at the Celtic defender.

What part of that prevented three grown men watching a replay of that incident prevent them from coming to a unanimous decision? It’s the same old story with the SFA.

This sets a dangerous precedent for the future. If we can expect zero action instead of zero tolerance, players and manager will start dealing with it in their own way.

The whole point in discipline is about controlling the game by administering punishment. All we are hearing from across the city are why Collum didn’t award a free kick when Tom Rogic and Ryan Jack went for the same ball.

Former referee Dermot Gallagher stated that if that incident was a foul then it was Celtic’s. In his analysis, the former official said that Jack appeared to jump into Rogic first, but that advantage is given to Celtic.

Sportscene on the other hand focussed on Rogic’s leg which they claim to have taken out Jack. This occurred after Jack had jumped into Rogic so their analysis overlooked that completely.

Collum had a clear view of this incident. He also kept his eyes on the McGregor incident but has dealt with neither of them.

Wherever your opinion lies, it is clear that Collum like many other referees in Scotland cannot handle games of this magnitude. We all know that tempers flare, the noise is overwhelming and decisions can be influenced, but overall the man in black had a very, very poor game.

The review panel have assisted him by sitting on the fence. I think that’s what you call looking after your own.

Situation normal then?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Masterful

First we’d heard that they were coming. Then that they’d closed the gap.

Except that on Sunday it looked anything but that. I don’t think I’ve seen a more dominant Celtic performance.

The scoreline didn’t reflect Celtic’s authority in this match. It flattered the visitors to be quite frank.

Willie Collum marshalled the game with alarmingly poor judgement. So much so that he even convinced Steven Gerrard that the visitors were “done” by one such decision.

Refereeing these matches are rarely done with accuracy. Collum was horrendously incompetent.

Scott Brown went into the book in the 10th minute. He slid into a challenge without touching the player or the ball.

There was no danger in the attempt, which looked more of a block than a tackle, yet Collum booked him without hesitation. Moments earlier, Kyle Lafferty should’ve gone in the book, but he walked away unchecked.

It was clear how this game was going to be handled. Badly.

One of Collum’s most bizarre decisions was tool book Odsonne Edouard. The French striker stumbled under the challenge of an opponent and subsequently clattered into another.

Collum produced a yellow card to which the family and friends I watched the game with were totally perplexed. If anything, it should have been a foul on Edouard outside the box.

The referee was Steven Gerrard’s only hope because his side offered very little. The first half saw his team sit in like many visiting clubs do at Celtic Park.

Gerrard claimed that his team didn’t make a go of it until the second half. Well I think most people would agree that it was his plan to sit in and defend.

That is certainly how it was looking. The excuses from the new manager were beginning to stack up.

His tactical deployment meant wave after wave of attack by Celtic. It didn’t yield any goals in that half as Celtic were denied by the woodwork and the heroics of Allan McGregor.

What was not so heroic by the former goalkeeper of Oldco and now Newco, was his kick out at Kris Ajer. It was off camera at the time, but a replay showed it in on Sky.

The player wasn’t spoken to or booked for the incident. It will be interesting to see if a disciplinary panel take a look at it though I won’t hold my breath.

McGregor was booked later on, but that was a separate incident. Realistically, there should have been more cards dished out and a genuine penalty claim for Celtic.

Once the Ibrox side finally committed to an attacking move, Celtic swept forward and punished them for it. The ball broke outside the Celtic box and Rogic won a 50/50 ball.

He then marched half the length of the park. Having found Edouard approaching the opposition penalty box, the Frenchman then tapped it wide to Forrest running to his right.

The winger squared it for Ntcham who finished superbly. This was a great move and finish.

Gerrard bemoaned the referee’s decision not to award free kick from the moment his side’s move broke down. This was by no means a foul.

It was a 50/50 ball where his own player was weak or trying to win a free kick in a dangerous area. As a result that failed and Celtic capitalised.

Celtic have been called a wounded animal recently. We’ve also seen comments such as the “bubble has burst.”

We’ve had some negative headlines for sure. Some of them have even been true.

My last blog had “window of discontent” in the title. I stick by that not because of our transfers, but because of the spate dramas that engulfed the club during that period.

Thankfully, we seemed to have moved on as shown in the response and quality of performance on Sunday. As I’m sure many of you will agree, there will be one eye on that next transfer window.

More concerning was the crush that happened before the match yesterday. Certain passages had been cut off to Celtic fans yesterday for areas of the ground which would normally be accessible.

This caused a build up of fans trapped with more  being allowed to pile in. This shouldn’t happen in the modern-day.

Celtic and Police Scotland are investigating the matter. It’s clear there have been failings by one or both parties.

Hopefully those who were injured recover fully. These incidents can be traumatising.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Window of discontent, but it’s time to move on

On Friday night Moussa Dembele became a Lyon player. The young French striker worked the angles tp orchestrate a moved back to his homeland.

It wasn’t a seamless departure. Sadly, it was a disruptive one.

Like so many things for Celtic this summer, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. The suddenness of the move made it just that.

The benefit is that now he has gone we can move on. It wasna brief disruption and we don’t look back.

I doubt many would have begrudged Moussa the opportunity to leave. He had served the club well albeit with several injuries.

That is not to say that he may not have stayed longer. Particualry if Celtic had made the Champions League.

For his age and the price paid to acquire his services, Celtic have done pretty well out if it. £20M is not to be sniffed at.

What overshadows everything was the manner of said departure. Social media outbursts are not uncommon in the modern day, but he chose this as his tool of destruction.

Personally, I was disappointed that Moussa chose to go down that road. However, we don’t know what had gone on between the club and the player.

We’ve already had the Dedryck Boyata saga to contend with. As yet we don’t know how that one is going to end though he remains a Celtic player for now.

As Mark O’Rourke wrote over on the Celtic Blog yesterday, Brendan Rodgers has had some unpopular decisions to make. That is the measure of a man in charge and how you will be remembered.

Many of us assumed Boyata would never wear the Hoops again after all that was said and done. Brendan had other ideas though and all of the facts it would seem, because he gifted the player a second chance.

That brought a chorus of booing and a banner from the Green Brigade. With the transfer window shut we appear to have moved on from that story for now.

The case with Moussa was something else entirely. The Frenchman went a little further to get his move.

Comments on social media appeared to be directed toward Brendan, but this was all part of the plan to get his move. It was clear from the manager’s sentiments that he would not be granted a move without a suitable replacement.

And therein lay the problem. With the timing of the move coming so late, Celtic were in a hopeless position to organise another player.

When that became Celtic’s defence, that was when the petulance seemed to surface. Social media can be both your friend and your enemy and Moussa decided to go rogue.

He had the full Celtic support behind him up until that point. Even when we thought he might move, all was rosy in the garden.

Am I upset at his departure? No, I’m not.

He’s been a great player, but not irreplaceable. All those missed games through injury have meant we couldn’t always count on him.

His first season was undoubtedly his best. We gave him European football and a stage to display his talent.

Ever since then he’s been subject to constant speculation about a move away. The timing of his transfer has left Celtic with two strikers going into Europe and the domestic season until the winter break.

It’s not good news, but probably not as bad as holding onto a player who had thrown his toys out of the pram. That would have been disruptive to the challenges ahead.

So we move on with the current squad and welcome in our new players. Youssuf Mulumbu and Filip Benkovic joined the club on deadline day.

Mulumbu will provide experience and support to the midfield. Benkovic will assist with defensive duties whilst he settles into UK life.

Although the transfer window is shut, it doesn’t mean Celtic can stop acquiring players. Untied players can still move, but if the club were going to do anything it’s worth noting that the deadline for registering players in Europe is Monday 3rd September.

Do Celtic need anyone else? Well another striker would ease everyone’s worries for sure.

I can’t imagine there are many decent strikers out in the wilderness right now though. Certainly not of the quality we’re looking for.

Right now the focus turns to Sunday’s encounter at Celtic Park. Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard go up against each other for the first time.

The Ibrox club will fancy their chances in this match. Celtic need to stamp their authority in this one though.

Many think we’re a wounded animal right now. The truth is we haven’t even got started.

With the transfer window shut and the Europa League secured it’s time to focus on domestic duties. Anyone for a treble?

Hail! Hail

Stevie Mac

Europa here we come…ready or not

Celtic shrugged off all the negativity last night and did their talking on the park. There were some fine moments for the fans to enjoy including new century Bhoy, Leigh Griffiths.

Last weeks 1-1 draw in Lithuania wasn’t ideal. However, Celtic showed character, domination and perseverance for 90+ minutes to get the result they needed.

Goal number one came courtesy of a Leigh Griffiths free-kick in the 27th minute. Callum McGregor won a foul outside the box and Leigh converted to score his 100th goal for the club and join an exclusive list of former Celts.

McGregor went from goal maker to goal taker for the second. Seven minutes after the restart the Celtic midfielder received the ball from Scott Sinclair to slot home a low finish from inside the box.

Celtic’s third and final goal came from the unlikeliest of players in Kris Ajer. The big man was in the box to the left of the goal and out-jumped his man to head home a bit of a fluke.

Nonetheless, it was his goal. Celtic could have had many more, but it was job done without the aid of either of Celtic’s French strikers.

There were some notable performances though. Sinclair looked hungry, Brown was at his best, Johnston had a good second half, Ntcham was dominant and McGregor was lively.

Celtic’s defence had very little to do. Boyata was almost playing a sweeper role with the rest of the defence playing higher up the park.

That allowed Lustig and Tierney to support the attacking play. It was good for McGregor to get another European goal, Leigh to get his 100th Celtic goal and Ajer to get off the mark.

Even Celtic’s subs were in good form. Ryan Christie was very effective, as was Emilio Izaguirre.

Hayes came on as well, but he seems to lacking match sharpness by the looks of things. Still early in the season though.

And so to today’s draw. The Europa League draw took place in Monaco where Celtic learned of their three group opponents.

Celtic were dropped into Group B which already had RB Salzburg from Pot 1. From Pot 3 came RB Leipzig and finally our old Scandinavian foes Rosenborg from Pot 4.

It isn’t a bad group to be honest and our chances of qualifying are good so long as things settle down back at the ranch. We’ve had far too much disruption over the summer.

Today the transfer window closes and the club have to unsettled players in the ranks. Neither of which Brendan Rodgers appears happy to lose without ample replacements.

He has drafted in former Kilmarnock and West Brom midfielder, Youssuff Mulumbu on a free transfer and supposedly taking young defender Filip Benkovic on loan from Leicester City before the end of today. On their way out is Calvin Miller on loan to Dundee, but we are no closer to discovering whether a petulant Dembele, misled Boyata or anyone else will be on their way out.

Once this window is shut we can concentrate on Sunday’s show down with our fellow Europa League associates from Ibrox. This should be a very good game.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

Get it done…

Whatever bollocks has been going on recently, Celtic need to go for the jugular tonight. If Leigh Griffiths is speeding out of his speeding trial and Odsonne Edouard is fighting fit then throw them both into the starting lineup this evening.

Get this tie killed off and then get them both off the park and rested for Sunday. We don’t want this game to go on any longer than required.

If we’re going to be without a number of players as of tomorrow, don’t even bother playing them tonight. As much as I would like to say goodbye to Moussa Dembele, his head won’t be in the right place.

His soon to be ex-team mates will be in the zone and fully focussed on the job at hand. We need 100% from everyone with no distractions.

Suduva have every right to feel they have a chance coming in with a draw. Celtic have every right to feel they have the advantage which of course they do playing at home and with an away goal.

This game sets Celtic up for the next few months if they get the right result. I’d like to think of tonight’s match and tomorrow’s transfer deadline as a watershed moment for Celtic’s recent misfortunes.

There has been enough distraction. There has been enough negativity.

Let’s get the job done tonight and see what tomorrow brings.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Are Celtic about to cash in on their biggest asset?

The last 24 hours have sparked the first ever genuine news about Moussa Dembele leaving Celtic. The French striker has been subject of continuous rumours since the day he scored his first Celtic goal, a match winner against Astana in the Champions League qualifiers two years ago.

He’s had injuries, he’s scored goals and he is an awesome player. The truth is he was always going to leave and now that the Celtic failed to secure a Champions League group stage slot for the first time since he arrived, discussions are going on about a potential move.

What wasn’t clarified was whether Celtic were still in with a chance of retaining the player’s services on an improved deal. All the stories so far have been about interest from France and Germany.

Brendan Rodgers confirmed there was interest, but no formal bids. He also confirmed that work was still being done to replenish and improve the squad.

If Dembele does go, it will be a huge blow. Injuries aside, he is a brilliant player and one we need for Europe.

With the club shelling out a record fee for Odsonne Edouard though, it was something that was more than likely to happen within the next twelve months. It would seem that exiting the Champions League has perhaps brought that situation about sooner.

I hold no grudges if Moussa moves on. He’s remained loyal to the team and provided some exciting moments.

With two years left on his contract and a good record at Celtic behind him we are sure to get a decent price for him. The question now is what the club do with that money.

We would be down to two recognised strikers. At the very least we need three though with injuries and the occasional two-up-top scenario we may need four in total.

That doesn’t solve our other personnel issues. The situation around Dedryck Boyata has yet to be made clear.

Staying or going? Who the hell knows!

The Belgian was subjected to booing from sections of the Celtic support on Sunday. The Green Brigade in particular making their feelings known with an audio-visual display.

What cannot be denied is that you could not fail to see this coming. After the events of the last few weeks and the club’s failure to put a lid on it properly, the boos from the stands were on the cards.

The impression that Boyata would never wear the Hoops again was very strong. So to throw him back into the team, albeit among a defensive injury crisis, was going to draw anger from the supporters.

I don’t blame people for that. I’m not saying I would have booed the guy myself, but I totally get why people did.

Celtic should have seen this coming and dealt with it accordingly, but they didn’t. Brendan even stated that he understood the negative sentiment bu the fans.

Which of course he had to because he’s played a vocal part in the ongoing club drama with his comments over the John McGinn saga. That’s just another part of a summer of discontent.

Now with Dembele looking to be on his way out, things don’t look great. This is all self-inflicted.

We’re one day away from learning our European fate and two days from the closure of the transfer window. We have yet to show any real intent on either front.

Let’s hope it all doesn’t end in a pile of misery. That would be the perfect invitation to those around us.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Take my breath away…

When I saw the team sheet for Sunday’s encounter with Hamilton I was a stunned, but not totally surprised. With Celtic’s central defensive injury crisis deepening, Brendan Rodgers recalled Dedryck Boyata.

The World Cup player hadn’t kicked a ball since he returned from Russia. Firstly he was given time off to recuperate, then he was subject to speculation that a move away was on the cards and was “injured.”

We know that his agent was pulling the strings, such is their job. Brendan also recognised that the player had made a bad call himself and was willing to forgive and move on.

However, the Belgian remained on the sidelines. Tactical rather than physical one would assume.

There’s no doubt that the drama involving Boyata over the last month or so had been an ongoing distraction. The picture that was being painted was that he was on his way out.

Some of this was coming direct from the club, some of it by the media who love this kind of storyline. The problem was that Celtic were never setting the record straight.

Every time Boyata or his agent would say something, the club would say something different. Celtic have tried to do their business behind closed doors in recent years, but this is something they should have got in front of immediately.

Instead the whole fiasco got out of control, muddied by the media and bled onto the field of play and into the Celtic community. Fans were left to make up their own minds.

All this did was allow the matter to spin out of control. Now we have a confused, disgruntled and divided support.

Having been left out of so many match day squads, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Boyata. Or so we thought.

With Kris Ajer the only central defender fit and available for duty against Hamilton, there was every possibility that Boyata would be drafted in. Had he been left out, that surely would have confirmed his departure.

When it was confirmed Boyata would play, this as always going to stoke a reaction. Even when I had considered the possibility of Boyata returning to the first team prior to this match, I fully expected sections of the support to boo him.

That is exactly what happened….and more. A banner was unfurled at Celtic Park on Sunday, outlining exactly what the Green Brigade thought of the player’s inclusion in the starting line-up.

Now this has divided the support by quite some way. What cannot be ignored though is that we saw this coming and the fans are entitled to their opinion.

If Brendan Rodgers had any intention of playing Boyata ever again, every effort should have been made by the club to ensure the fans backed the manager and the player. The exact opposite happened though.

I’ve been disappointed by Celtic so far this summer. Not just on the park, but off the park.

These European qualifiers are gruelling enough without having to watch a club drama unfold at the same time. None of what I have seen has put me at ease.

I had already knew I wouldn’t see Sunday’s game against Hamilton though after watching the 1-1 draw with Suduva I was probably going to avoid watching it anyway. Boyata’s inclusion had nothing to do with that decision of course.

As soon as I heard that Boyata had scored the only goal of the game, all I could think of were the ensuing headlines. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Brendan is publicly behind the player and the same is being said by the players. The question as ever is will Boyata be staying beyond this transfer window?

Before this stage in the drama, I was 100% convinced Boyata would be out the door. Now I am not so sure.

Celtic don’t have enough fit central defenders and there hasn’t been any activity in the transfer market to suggest a new one will be acquired before the deadline next Friday. I would now be very surprised if Boyata didn’t play on Thursday night against Suduva.

After that match we will know one thing. Will he have played his last game or are there more to come?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac