Brown: Doing his talking on the park

On Sunday Celtic extended their lead in the Scottish Premiership to ten points. A 0-0 draw at Fir Park was the best they could muster after failing to convert any of their chances.

The key talking point was the red car shown to Cedric Kipre. The second time he has been sent off against Celtic this season by referee Craig Thomson.

Now we can talk about the laws of the game, but I like many others thought it was a bad decision which also ruined a potentially good game. Thomson saw what he saw, but this could have been settled amicably and maintained the integrity of the match.

Both players were committed and there was an exchange. I didn’t think it warranted any sort of card though if he wanted to, have a word and book the next one step out of line.

Broony shoved Kipre off and Kipre returned the gesture by moving his leg into him backwards. Thomson produced the red card with decent sight of the incident.

Did Broony try to con the ref? Only he knows the answer to that.

I can see why Thomson has given it, but he didn’t have to. I’ve seen moments like this through the years.

David Beckham on Diego Simeone and Scott Brown himself on Neymar. Neither of which I felt were red cards, but the laws of the game say otherwise.

So was this red card down to Scott Brown? No it wasn’t.

Andy Walker was adamant that it was. Well, firstly his opinion doesn’t count.

He’s a bitter wee man who says the first thing that comes into his head. Never a good word to say about Celtic.

Walker instantly blamed Scott Brown. Nobody else.

Did Kipre use his leg like Brown did on Neymar or Beckham did on Simeone? Yes he did.

So who is to blame? Kipre or perhaps even Thomson?

Not if you’re Sky Sport’s very own Andy Walker. His judgement call was as reactionary as the incident itself.

His focus was on a “pathetic” Broony. As though the Celtic captain had instigated the entire incident himself.

Brown is a professional player who would walk into any team. He’s currently playing some the best football of his career.

There’s a whiff of envy from some of his critics. Craig Levein had a bit of a thing for Broony recently and made himself look completely unprofessional in the process.

How does Broony deal with this? He does his talking on the park.

He is our captain, our leader and he is probably our best player right now. I’ve got nothing but admiration for the guy.

If I thought he was dirty or a cheat I’d be one of the first to say so, but he isn’t. Instead he has a target painted on his back by opposition managers who will have some players under orders to go into battle with him.

That’s where they go wrong. You’ve seen what has happened in games against Aberdeen and Motherwell as recent examples when players have gone into challenges with Brown and seen red.

Brown doesn’t send these guys off. The referee does that.

It sounds to me like Scott Brown is getting to the opposition and winning before a ball is even kicked. Their reactions on the field of play support that.

What about the referee though? Sending off the same man against the same team twice in four months?

It should be mentioned that I felt Scott Sinclair made the most of what happened in the League Cup Final. Regardless of the contact, it was poor play by the Celtic winger with the slightest (if any) contact.

Perhaps Thomson isn’t that sharp on these incidents though? Or perhaps tge 21-year-old Kipre needs to reign it in a bit?

Whichever way you look at it, Scott Brown wasn’t the offender on Sunday. This air of negativity against him needs to stop.

Not sure if it’s part of the operation to stop Celtic or just a vendetta about one player. All Broony needs to do is just keep doing his talking on the park.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac


Time to close the door

It’s been a funny old week on planet Celtic. Sandwiched inbetween two weekends of Ibrox trauma.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not enjoying the hurt that the blue half of the city are enduring right now. More pleasurable because every time someone opens their mouth they make it worse for themselves and more entertaining for people like me.

Up until last Sunday’s delightful win at Ibrox we’d been getting spit roasted by the SMSM and the Ibrox loyal about a title race. In less than seven days they’re flutes are playing a different tune.

Graeme Murty, mastermind of six straight wins over weaker opposition has felt the reality of defeat against Celtic and Kilmarnock at Ibrox. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy, but his fan base voted with their feet yesterday after walking out with 20 minutes left.

In a week that saw Barry Ferguson come out with the most imbalanced piece of sporting drivel, we’ve now seen the true nature of this ‘title race’. Aberdeen are closing in on second spot and Celtic can increase their lead today if they beat Motherwell.

Kieran Tierney is out for this one and the pointless international friendlies thankfully. Tactical plot by Brendan methinks…or is it is luck, Barry?

I digress…Celtic go into this game with players coming back into contention. A win today would shut the door to anyone supposedly mounting a challenge.

Motherwell have a very slim chance of a top six finish. In order to do that they’d need to win all their remaining games before the split and hope Hearts falter.

Not an impossibility but they’d also need to start by beating Celtic today. That’s no easy task so I expect both teams to be well up for this today.

Defensively Celtic need to be more resolute. Last week was an abysmal performance at the back, gifting two goals in the process.

Such errors need to be stamped out by Brendan Rodgers. I don’t expect too many changes at the back but there’s a chance Marvin Compper or Calvin Miller could come in for this one.

In the midfield Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong are back in contention. So too is Patrick Roberts but he also has to challenge James Forrest for a spot.

Charly Musonda will also be looking for more game time. And with Moussa Dembele rediscovering his form and Odsonne Edouard proving his worth, Celtic are looking stronger.

It’s not a position we’ve really been in the entire season. The timing is good.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Title Race?

Well that’s how the SMSM have been selling it. And they’re loving it over at Mordor as well.

Today is of course the third meeting between Celtic and our ‘rivals’ across the city this season. The build up has all been about a “title race” and a rich vein of form by the Ibrox club.

The SMSM have crammed the headlines with material in favour of Glasgow’s newest club. It’s an addiction for these storytellers to spin shit on a daily basis to the gullabillies.

If this was in the pre-2012 collapse days, the cliche would always be that form goes out the window. In football that can be true just as much as it can be false.

There’s no doubt that Graeme Murty has had a good run of late. As the boys on the Twenty Minute Tims pointed out in their podcast this week though, it’s all been against weaker teams.

Murty has won his last six games on the trot. Only one of those victories was over a top six club – Hearts.

Two were against lower division clubs in the Scottish Cup. The remaining three were against bottom six clubs in the Scottish Premiership.

Because of their winning run compared to Celtic’s mixed form of late, the Ibrox hordes and the SMSM are already convinced that it will be a home win. I’m not going suggest that Celtic will walk this one or that the home side won’t be up for it because they will be.

So too will Celtic though. This season’s form has not been consistent but does that mean the Hoops are on the slide?

No. In fact I think the exact opposite.

Celtic are slowly getting back to full strength. A position they have not been in all season.

They have also been preoccupied with European fixtures up until recently. With that now gone they can focus purely on the domestic front as every other Scottish club has this season.

So is this a title race or is it pie in the sky? Well if you look at the gap you would probably think yes because Murty’s mob are sniffing around.

The gap is six points and Celtic have a game at hand. Aberdeen are five points behind in third spot also with a game at hand.

So with their last four matches against top six opposition before the split, the Ibrox club have their work cut out for them. The Scottish Premiership landscape could look very different come the split when Murty’s mob will also play five games against top six opposition.

Time will tell if they can handle that. Come 1.45pm today we’ll see who comes out on top – if at all.

The SMSM are clearly expecting an upset. The bookies aren’t.

I don’t make predictions for these games. I am looking forward to it though.

Turn up, do your job and get out again Bhoys. Glasgow will be a war zone so stay safe out there folks.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Where are we going?

I’ve come across a lot of negative material throughout this season. Some from the media, some from the fans and probably even some from myself at times!

Much of this has stemmed from a season where team performances have been far from convincing or entertaining. The European exit at the hands of Zenit St Petersburg last month was probably just the opportunity fans needed to vent their frustrations further.

In truth many supporters have been disgruntled as far back as the summer when, in all honesty we hadn’t seen much of the Invincibles in their second season. So we never really knew how this season was going to pan out way back then.

There was most likely a bit of concern and disappointment at Celtic’s summer signings with some basing their uneasiness on quantity over quality. Celtic retained most of their key players whilst saying farewell to many others as Brendan got the squad size down to a manageable number.

Then injuries began to rack up and has continued throughout the current season. Even now, Celtic are still without key individuals though hopefully not for too much longer.

On top of that many of last seasons stars have been posted missing. Unable to recapture their form from a treble winning first year under Brendan Rodgers.

And yet here we are, with one trophy already retained, a cup semi-final place secured next month and ten games of the league campaign left to go, with a game at hand over our closest challenger who are six points behind. So why are we so unhappy?

Well it’s all down to a lack of spark in the team. Few have been able to provide special moments this season.

We’ve had a handful of interesting games. Excitement has been sadly lacking though.

Our best players have been a very tired looking Kieran Tierney, a resilient leader in Scott Brown and James Forrest in surprisingly fine form. I’d also give a special mention to Kristoffer Ajer and Odsonne Edouard, neither of which were expected to contribute so well, but they have.

One player who has been worth every penny is Olivier Ntcham. He got some stick from certain quarters, but he’s certainly proved them wrong now.

The guy is a superb talent and has demonstrated his ability and influence in key games. When he hasn’t, he’s generally got it in the neck.

This has puzzled me greatly. The guy is 22 years old and doing a job few of his age group can only dream of.

Because of this he won’t be with us for long. He’ll be snapped up by one of the big league clubs eventually.

With injuries and mixed form included, I’d say this Celtic squad has been functioning at a vastly reduced capacity for the entirety of the current season. And yet they’re still ahead of everyone thus far.

Were still not happy with that though. Some fans have even questioned Brendan Rodgers’ credentials.

Why, given our domestic superiority, that we aren’t out of sight. I think factors like injuries are obvious whilst others such as form, cannot be accounted for.

Now let’s be brutally honest, we’re miles off the pace in Europe. It doesn’t matter who you put in charge.

Financially we cannot compete. That gap will continue to grow as it has until UEFA see it as a problem which of course they won’t.

In the last two decades Celtic got themselves back on the European map. They’ve also lost ground on that landscape several times in the same period.

Some of that failure is self-inflicted. Some of it isn’t.

We’re a giant in Scotland and well-known in Europe, but we fall short in the big competition. We aren’t alone in this situation.

Around Europe there are other big clubs in countries that have weak league, but come up short in the big game. Celtic have a controlling share of the domestic game, but it doesn’t serve us particularly well.

The club do enough to keep themselves above the competition. At times even more so.

To sustain that isn’t economically viable or rewarding. Celtic are hindered by the environment they operate in – Scotland.

When Rangers went down the tubes, Celtic cut their cloth accordingly. The business model in place allows Celtic to function with a degree of flexibility.

The problem is when they push out in front alone. More importantly in Europe.

It isn’t Celtic’s fault that the other Scottish clubs aren’t pulling their weight. That’s up to their owners and our governing bodies.

The Scottish game is flawed from top to bottom. With no competition it will continue to go sideways or decline and that is the environment that Celtic are working in.

This is what we must remember when looking at Celtic. As fans we want better, but our hands are tied top a certain degree.

That’s the deal Brendan Rodgers signed and he’s doing the best possible to make things happen. We can criticise players, coaches and the money men, but we’re in a dire economy.

If other clubs were as savvy as Celtic we might just have a more interesting time of it. My faith in Scotland’s other clubs is non-existent though.

Is there potential to be better than this? Of course there is.

We have clubs, players, coaches, stadiums and fans. We need to play to our strengths though.

The game needs to be remodeled entirely. I’ve said this many times before and we missed a good opportunity to do so several years back.

All that happened was a bit of re-branding. It may have been passed off as direct action, but in reality it was a to token gesture at best.

I’m still uncertain as to who actually believes it sorted our game out. Right now the SFA are without a Chief Executive and its a position I believe should stay that way.

Until a business plan is put in place to take Scottish football forward – from grass-roots level and league formation right through to marketing, sponsorship and TV revenue – we need to stop this cycle. We’ve been on a downward spiral since the 80’s.

The global game has evolved. Scotland has not.

Celtic are a role model in Scottish football and have earned plaudits in the business community for strength and growth. More clubs need to do the same though not by cheating or risking collapse – we all know what can happen there right?

The clubs need to be united in a forward moving venture. The governing bodies are institutionalised and outdated representatives who serve only themselves.

Until we get reform things will continue in the same cycle. Until then Celtic will have to keep pushing the boundaries in this small pond.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Stuff of Champions

So Aberdeen. Still lacking that je ne sais quoi I see.

Celtic on the other hand were the opposite. They played like champions.

After Thursday’s disappointment we needed to see a response from Celtic. Brendan Rodgers made two changes from Thursday’s lineup.

Out went Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi. In came Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic.

Both replacements carved and created in what was a team effort. There were still mistakes and missed opportunities on the whole, but Celtic worked hard.

Each team created chances and slugged it out in a rare open match in Scottish football, but it was Celtic who drew first blood. A perfect cross from James Forrest was too inviting for anyone to miss and Moussa Dembele headed it home willingly.

The game continued to see both teams test one another. Matters looked to have taken a turn for the worst when Mikael Lustig received a second yellow on 76 minutes.

At that point anything could have happened. And it did.

Celtic took the incentive and made a forward move with just ten men on the park. Dembele pressed upfield with Aberdeen suddenly looking on the backfoot after their attack broke down.

Instead of taking on a few players himself, Dembele slipped it into the path of the onrushing Kieran Tierney. The left back didn’t waste the opportunity as he unleashed an unstoppable shot between the near post and Freddie Woodman.

Celtic had all but sealed the tie with seven minutes of regulation time left on the clock. It looked unlikely that Aberdeen would be able to stop Celtic from inflicting ten straight defeats now.

What they did do is raise the bar on dishing it out. Scott Brown, trying to bring the ball out of his own defensive area, was double teamed by Aberdeen players.

He survived the simultaneous block and challenge only to be halved in two by one of them a split second later. To add insult to injury, the boy who cried wolf, Shay Logan, followed up by deliberately battering the ball off the prone Celtic captain.

That wasn’t the best bit. It was the reaction of the Celtic captain.

With no hesitation he got up, dusted himeself down and postured his survival to the bating hordes of Pittodrie. It was a moment that has since done the rounds on social media so if you haven’t seen it, get on it, it’s priceless.

This was a resolute performance and superb victory. I do question Aberdeen’s credentials though.

In the absence of Rangers (1872 or 2012), they’ve failed to overthrow Celtic. Now it looks like they’ve been overthrown by Glasgow’s newest club as well.

It shouldn’t be ignored that Celtic played a fine 96 minutes. Even with ten men and getting goal number two with one player fewer than Aberdeen at the time.

Lustig will be torn apart mentally at what could have potentially been a game changing moment when he saw red. To their testament, Celtic plugged away like Champions do.

The woodwork was cracked twice and Dorus de Vries only had two saves to make. It was a good performance and battle but in the end Aberdeen showed their true colours when Sam Cosgrove saw red less than ten minutes after he’d entered the field of play on a forgetable debut.

Broony endured the hatchet job with ease. The Dons couldn’t overthrow Ronny’s Rockets so what chance did they have with Brendan’s Bhoys?

Finally, it is worth noting Bobby Madden’s refusal to stop the game when Jozo Simunovic and Kristoffer Ajer clashed heads. The young Celt remained down after the clash, but Madden allowed play to go in Aberdeen’s favour until the move broke down.

I don’t know what the rule book says, but play should have been stopped. Ajer played the rest of the match with a bandage and deserves credit for doing so.

As I said before kick off, everyone is out to stop Celtic. Whatever challenges are in front of us, we’re on our own.

Well done Bhoys. Great result.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Domesticity is our bread and butter…

Let me get to the point. Celtic didn’t turn up last Thursday.

I’m not going to bother breakng it down. European football has gone now.

Everyone is culpable. Players and coaches.

There is more work to be done. Especially for next season’s campaign.

For now it’s all about the current domestic season. Today it’s about beating Aberdeen.

Our closest challengers these past five years have been leapfrogged by Glasgow’s newest club. Today’s match could hold the key to the final order of the league standings.

Will Aberdeen succumb to Celtic once again and finally lose their second spot for good? Or will they rally against a Celtic side yet to recapture last season’s form?

We could have a more interesting finish to the season than we thought. With Europe now off the fixture list, Celtic must forge ahead in the league.

A trip to Pittodrie will either make or break Celtic today. No other team in Scotland has had to contend with European and domestic football as consistently as the Scottish Champions have in recent years.

With the focus purely on the domestic scene for the first time this season it is time for Brendan and the Bhoys to dust themselves down. To shrug off the shackles of European disappointment.

Europe will require further surgery for Celtic. Winning the Scottish Premiership and possibly even another Scottish Cup are the remaning goals.

They’ll have to dig deeper. Endure everything that is thrown at them from players and officials.

Everyone wants to beat Celtic. So far two have managed that in Scotland this season.

More want to join that fraternity. What are you going to do about it Bhoys?

You already have the fans. You have to do the business on the park.

Starting today, Celtic should be focussing on maintaining a healthy gap in the league. Until they’re back to full strength, they’ll need it.

Stay the course until season’s end. You have to be in it to win it.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Zenit are odds on: what do we have to lose?

The weekend’s draw with St Johnstone was an obvious disappointment among the Celtic support. Especially after the elation of their 1-0 victory over Zenit St Peterburg a week ago.

I was at the European encounter and enjoyed the performance and the atmosphere immensely. It felt a lot like the FC Astana game I attended some seven months previous, minus the goal-fest of course.

During Sunday’s league tie I was flying back home so never saw the game. It wasn’t the follow-up performance at home many were hoping for.

Was this necessarily a bad thing though? I don’t think so.

Before you shoot me down, humour me a little. By no means do I think it was good thing, but I think psychologically it puts the Bhoys in the right frame of mind for tonight’s game in Russia.

We never lost to the Perthshire side on Sunday so it’s not all doom and gloom. Perhaps it keeps Celtic hungry for the Europa League away leg tonight.

If Brendan Rodgers and his players can edge past Roberto Mancini’s, it would be a modern milestone for everyone at Celtic. There is no reason to believe progression is out with our grasp.

I’m not totally convinced Zenit got it 100% wrong in Glasgow. So I expect to see a response from our Russian hosts.

There was a fine line over the outcome of the match. Did Celtic get it right or did Zenit get it wrong though?

It may not be quite as black or white as that. There were a lot of factors involved.

Many of these were in Celtic’s favour. I still feel that’s the case going into this match.

Celtic were dominant in the first leg. Zenit were dormant.

Tonight it’s all about character. We’ve seen that away from home with Celtic before in Europe.

Forget results against the top teams. That’s another level altogether.

We can score in Russia. I also expect Zenit to score as well, but it’s a different match.

Right now we concentrate on what’s in front of us. If we’re successful we move forward and if not we learn and move on.

Tonight could be a another step on the ladder. Or it could just be another lesson.

The Krestovsky Stadium will be jumping. Just as Celtic Park was.

Zenit are odds on. What have we got to lose?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac