Nurturing talent

Now that the English ego’s are out of the World Cup picture, we can recline and enjoy the rest of the tournament. Okay, there’ll still be the odd reference to whatever excuse they’re using for exiting early, but at least we won’t have to check in on how squad preparations are going for their next disappointment or 1966 for that matter.

In Scotland we know how unbearably poor we are and when there might be something worth making a noise about. What we don’t require is to travel half way across the world to debate it over and over in a studio with a team of pundits who can’t even agree on the reasons.

On that subject, I would I just like to congratulate Andros Townsend on a fantastic World Cup performance. Easily one of the best pundits during this tournament.

Its not all doom and gloom though. England are in really company down at the departure lounge along with Spain, Italy etc.

I’m excited for the knockout phase and seeing some tastier matches. This is when you find out which teams wear women’s underwear.

What excites me even more though is getting back to all things Celtic. Sure, the World Cup is great and there’s plenty left to go, but with the Champions League draw on Monday past, I’m already champing at the bit.

I’m keen to see what Ronny and Johnny can bring to this group of players. The nurturing of young talent is something I have longed to see for years and I think its about time Celtic showed they are serious about this.

Fine, if then talent isn’t good enough, then fair enough. Much of the time though I feel the club have just moved youth players on to collect a small fee without giving them a real chance.

We like to rave about some guys before we’ve ever actually seen them. Where are they all know?

The transfer market isn’t a good place for Celtic unless they are able to unearth a gem. Your scouting will get you so far but you have to be dedicated and trusting of your youth as well.

If you don’t bring them through and give them a chance then what is the incentive? This does not set a positive example for young talent.

Not many make the grade at Celtic but how much of it is down to the player and how much the club? Other Scottish clubs fair better when producing talent not because they get the better talent, but because they give them a chance.

If the national side want to benefit as well then it has to begin at club level. Scottish football needs an enema!

Buying players is not going to get any easier for Celtic. Not in the economy the club is playing in.

If Ronny is here to take the necessary steps then I look forward to some long awaited changes. And let’s face it, if all else fails John Collins can just take his shirt off in the changing room and shown them what to aim for!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

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Now that the English ego’s are out of the World Cup picture, we can recline and enjoy the rest of the tournament. Okay, there’ll still be the odd reference to whatever excuse they’re using for exiting early, but at least we won’t have to check in on how squad preparations are going for their next disappointment or 1966 for that matter.

In Scotland we know how unbearably poor we are and when there might be something worth making a noise about. What we don’t require is to travel half way across the world to debate it over and over in a studio with a team of pundits who can’t even agree on the reasons.

On that subject, I would I just like to congratulate Andros Townsend on a fantastic World Cup performance. Easily one of the best pundits during this tournament.

Its not all doom and gloom though. England are in really company down at the departure lounge along with Spain, Italy etc.

I’m excited for the knockout phase and seeing some tastier matches. This is when you find out which teams wear women’s underwear.

What excites me even more though is getting back to all things Celtic. Sure, the World Cup is great and there’s plenty left to go, but with the Champions League draw on Monday past, I’m already champing at the bit.

I’m keen to see what Ronny and Johnny can bring to this group of players. The nurturing of young talent is something I have longed to see for years and I think its about time Celtic showed they are serious about this.

Fine, if then talent isn’t good enough, then fair enough. Much of the time though I feel the club have just moved youth players on to collect a small fee without giving them a real chance.

We like to rave about some guys before we’ve never seen them. Where are they all know?

The transfer market isn’t a good place for Celtic unless they are able to unearth a gem. Your scouting will get you so far but you have to be dedicated and trusting of your youth as well.

If you don’t bring them through and give them a chance then what is the incentive? This does not set a positive example for young talent.

Not many make the grade at Celtic but how much of it is down to the player and how much the club? Other Scottish clubs fair better when producing talent not because they get the better talent, but because they give them a chance.

If the national side want to benefit as well then it has to begin at club level. Scottish football needs an enema!

Buying players is not going to get any easier for Celtic. Not in the economy the club is playing in.

If Ronny is here to take the necessary steps then I look forward to some long awaited changes. And let’s face it, if all else fails John Collins can just take his shirt off in the changing room and shown them what to aim for!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

The Celtic Roadshow

Celtic will face KR Reykjavik in the Second Qualifying round of the Champions League. After today’s draw in Nyon, Ronny Deila discovered who he will be up against in first competitive game in charge of Celtic.

In between now and then, he and assistant John Collins will be preparing the squad for that first of six possible matches that they would need to overcome in order to emulate those achievements of Celtic’s past two seasons in Europe. The Champions League group phase is undoubtedly the aim for the club but it will be a stern test for the management team at their first attempt.

The Icelandic champions aren’t the worst selection but also not to be taken lightly. KR Reykjavik have been involved in the qualifying rounds for European competition consecutively the for the past five seasons.

However, they have never made it past the Second qualifying round of the Champions League or Third qualifying round of the Europa League. Their conqueror’s in those last five attempts coming in the form of FC Basel, FC Karpaty Lviv, FC Dinamo Tbilisi, HJK Helsinki (who Celtic later beat) and last season Standard Liege.

These losses should not be overlooked or underestimated. Even though Celtic are deemed a bigger club by history, experience and size its all about doing your home work and getting it right on the day.

Last season was by no means a convincing path to the group phase for Neil Lennon. There is nothing to suggest this will be any easier particularly that Deila will be using the same group of players as Neil Lennon did, minus Joe Ledley, Georgios Samaras and Kelvin Wilson.

On the subject players, one man Celtic will face is former youth hopeful, Kjartan Finnbogason. He was recruited by Celtic as a highly rated 18 year old but in his time at the club he never featured in a first team game.

He endured injury and loan spells during a three year spell before seeking opportunities away from Celtic. Having scored 31 goals in 67 matches for KR Reykjavik, he’ll be looking to prove a point against Celtic.

Preparations will be begin on the training ground for Celtic and decisions will be made on who take up key roles in defence, midfield and attack. There will be friendlies against Russian team FK Krasnodar, Rapid Vienna and LSK Linz of Austria and Dukla Prague of the Czech Republic to help make those decisions as well as a friendly against Dynamo Dresden in between first and second leg of the Second Qualifying round.

Although Celtic will play these friendlies on away or neutral territory, they will not play their first competitive match at Celtic Park, despite the home tie being first. With Paradise being used for the Commonwealth Games, Murrayfield will be home for Celtic’s first Champions League qualifying match.

Should Celtic advance from that round, it is likely that the home leg of the Third Qualifying round will also be played at Murrayfield. The closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games is on Saturday 3rd August and it will take a while to prepare it for football once again.

So Celtic will remain nomadic until mid-August. With European football on the menu, it may even work in the Ronny and Johnny’s favour.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

The end of the World (Cup) is nigh

On Thursday night I listened in to Radio 5 Live Sport after the England match had finished. To be honest, it wasn’t to gloat, but I was prompted to listen after reading some online content.

As one would expect, there was the usual toxic mix of substandard performances, lack of passion and poor squad selection. All of these issues come to a head when you’re team suffers a defeat.

Had England, no Roy Hodgson, picked guys like John Terry or Ashley Cole as suggested by many callers, would it really have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not, the thing to remember is that England would still have had the same manager deploying the same tactics.

So instead of complaining about lesser experienced international players, England fans would be calling for guys like Terry and Cole to retire. You’re damned if you do, your damned if you don’t.

For once in my lifetime, England went into a tournament without the hype which we’ve become accustomed to, which in return sees many Scot’s supporting every team England encounter. Because things were played down this time around, I actually found watching England that little bit more palatable and was less concerned (if at all) about the result.

Some might say, “Stevie, you’ve become an English sympathiser in your years down south” but there’s no chance you’ll never find me chanting for England. I’m just less bothered because they haven’t been bigging themselves up as is usually the case.

As one caller mentioned on the radio, Gianluca Vialli was spot on in his assessment of England. What Vialli mentioned in a BBC interview, shown last week, is something all of us know, but most England fans have yet to realise.

“As an outsider, I look and I read and I know English fans and the media, for about four years, have been a bit depressed about the national team and have very little expectations.

“But then the World Cup arrives and all of a sudden you start talking about semi-finals, the final and how this is the strongest team you’ve had in the World Cup for years. It’s quite funny.”

He may only be referring to this World Cup, but this happens at every tournament. I’ve seen better England squads than this one but even then, I’m never wholly convinced that they are potential winners but they’ll tell you otherwise.

As a Scotsman and as one of those Celtic fans who support Scotland but not Ireland, I get international disappointment on a regular basis. When Scotland play I want the best but unfortunately the national side has been on the slide for as long as I can remember.

There have been brief moments of joy but even that was quite a while ago. There is some rejuvenation going on currently but we’ll have to wait until the next Euro campaign to see how that’s going.

England should count themselves lucky that they even make tournaments. Scotland haven’t made a major tournament since France 1998 and even when we have made one, we never qualify from the group phase.

The difference is we know our limitations. What we’ve never been able to put our finger on is what the problem is and how we can resolve it.

One of Scotland’s greatest failings is the domestic game. Sure we’ve still got players dotted around the UK but the standard is pretty low.

England are blessed with better fortune in that there are better facilities and a larger population. In general though, there is more money ploughed in.

Scottish clubs are devoid of serious investors. With the exception of Celtic, nobody is willing to put money to Scottish clubs most likely because its a poor product.

Dermot Desmond is Celtic’s majority shareholder, a very wealthy one, but throwing money at Celtic can only go so far. He is a businessman and despite any genuine interest he has in Celtic as a fan, he must still balance the books and turn a profit.

In England, there is more money than sense. You have all these money men chucking money at overpriced players from other countries, paying English players the same and expecting the same output.

The truth is some of these guys look better because they have the benefit of playing with European and World class players from other countries week in, week out in the Premier League. They play in a league inflated by huge amounts of cash, globalised by a television network who virtually own it and yet supporters lack the perspective to see beyond their “best league in the world”.

England have some talented individuals but I have seen better England teams. If they want to see an improvement, they will need to take a reality check first.

It should be noted that when their World Cup group was drawn, it was widely acknowledged that England would struggle to qualify from it. Tell me something, what has changed since then?

And let’s be honest, is it really that bad? The current World and European Champions are already out so they’re in good company.

Lick your wounds England and come watch the rest of the World Cup from the sofa. Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland and Wales are waiting.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Celtic’s first Bosman comes home.

Earlier this week, Celtic appointed former midfielder John Collins as assistant to new manager, Ronny Delia. Collins returns to Celtic Park 18 years after he left the club for AS Monaco.

He was the first Celtic player to leave under the Bosman ruling. During his time at the club, he was a key part of a Celtic midfield which included club legend, Paul McStay.

Collins’s had an influential role for Celtic and was a key ingredient to the attack. In addition to his good all round game, he had a tremendous ability to strike free kicks with his left foot.

In his six years at the club he was a stand out performer despite not being the best years for Celtic it has to be said. Yet he stayed and he performed so it was no surprise that when he left in 1996 with only one trophy to his name that Celtic fans accepted he wanted to move on, despite feeling the loss of a quality player.

There was no doubting the calibre of Collins and he could have played in most teams in Europe. That (and possibly the fact he was free) was enough to attract the attention of Monaco in the first place.

His playing career would eventually go from the shores of southern France to the banks of the Mersey with Everton and then alongside the Thames with Fulham. Beyond the domestic scene, Collins was an important player for the Scotland international team as well.

Although an ageing international squad, it was players like Collins who could breathe life into a starting eleven. Scoring in the opening game of the World Cup at France 1998 against Brazil from the penalty spot was one of his most significant goals in his international career.

That was is 11th goal for Scotland and in total he scored 12 goals in 58 appearances. He would eventually retire from international football after being pipped to a place at Euro 2000, losing out on aggregate to England in a two match play off.

However, it was those six years of dedication to Celtic that stand out for me. Like Paul McStay, Collins was an important part of Celtic during an unbearable trophy-less period.

It was players like Collins who kept the hearts and minds of the Celtic fans going at a time when all was not well at the club. Winning the Scottish Cup in 1995 would be the only honour he would pick up at Celtic having made 223 competitive appearances and scoring scoring 48 goals.

After departing in the summer of 1996, he would go on to win the league with Monaco in his first season in France. Ten years later, having moved into coaching, he picked up his third honour winning the League Cup as manager of former club, Hibernian.

It was a short spell there with the relationship lasting only fourteen months. He endured a player dispute, received an apology from the players in return and delivered Hibs first top flight trophy since 1991.

A year after resigning from Hibs over separate dispute with the board, he spent less than a season with Belgian club Charleroi. He also had s short spell as Director of football at Livingston.

For some, these brief interactions with clubs might ring alarm bells but many like myself have only never heard positive things about Collins’s knowledge of football. Like the appointment of Ronny Deila, the vibe regarding Collins’s return to Celtic is generally positive with the fans.

When working with the media, he has always expressed himself well as a football pundit. Alongside Gordon Strachan, he is one of the few Scot’s who actually comes across well and demonstrates a deeper understanding of the the game.

Of course, its making sure things happen on the field of play that counts when you are on the management team. In John Collins, I feel Ronny Delia has a good sidekick to enter the Scottish football arena with.

As we all know, the Celtic job comes with a certain degree of baggage. Collins know the club, the league, country and of course, the media (Gerry McNee take note).

Many fans are intrigued and indeed excited to see how this all plays out. Despite the World Cup keeping most of us preoccupied, its hard to ignore what’s going on at Celtic right now.

With just under four weeks until Celtic’s initial Second qualifying round of the Champions League, Deila and Collins have their work cut out for them already. Its a gruelling task they have ahead of them but one which this group of players have already been through together and a challenge that the management team are certain to embrace.

What remains to be seen is how Delia and Collins approach it. And will there be any moves and changes in the playing staff before then?

Well, one thing at a time I suppose. Until Monday’s draw then…

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Left field is the way forward

After identifying a list of candidate’s Celtic have finally appointed their new manager. The choice came from left field and is a reminder to everyone out there that the media (and the bookies for that matter) know nothing.

Some sports journalists will tell you that Ronny Deila has left Celtic fans underwhelmed. This phrase has been populating virtually every column I’ve read in the mainstream media these past 24hrs.

There had also been the ‘breaking news’ that Celtic can no longer attract top of the line managers. That they must sell their best players to the highest bidder.

Well Scottish football’s decline is not news I’m afraid. Nor are the confines in which Celtic must operate.

Ronny Deila may not have come from the English Premier League or even the Championship. He has earned this job though by demonstrating his attributes and delivering success for Strømsgodset.

I would argue with the opinions of the bitterest of media clowns like Roddy Forsyth and Andy Walker. They simply cannot help themselves by belittling the appointment of someone their vast sporting knowledge failed to identify.

The fact that the new manager has proven himself as a coach and manager for six years appears to be lost on them. Deila’s philosophy on the game of football also being irrelevant in their writings.

Scotland should be rolling out the red carpet for international workers. Especially in an country that wants to be independent.

I’m embarassed that the Scottish media cannot at the very least, hide their bitterness for a wee while. The guy has just arrived and already he’s a poor choice.

Show me a better manager in Scotland right now – no? Then I’ll continue.

It seems more important to the media who Celtic didn’t install as manager than who they did. When they do provide some ‘insight’ on Deila, its to run down his chances.

And lets not leave out the fact that there is no Rangers to play against eh lad’s? Play another record FFS.

The fact that Ronny Deila has a good track record in Norway doesn’t seem to stand for anything. Not being ‘known’ is the only item on the media’s agenda and are willing to include in their articles.

The list of candidates mooted I would argue were not confirmed by Celtic. The only one Peter Lawwell confirmed was in fact Roy Keane.

He may have pulled of the running but he was not offered the job as some like to think. It should also be noted that the grand majority of Celtic fans were not in favour of him as Neil Lennon’s successor, myself included.

From the list of other possible candidates I would say that none have shown themselves to be more successful than Deila even if I would have approved. In fact I would say that other than being ex-Celtic players or having managed in England they are at the on a par with the Norwegian.

To tell you the truth I was pleasantly surprised that the Celtic board were so bold. As I mentioned in my last blog, I wondered if Celtic would go left field and they did.

This guy may be unknown to Scottish media but not to Celtic. The only underwhelming feature of Celtic appointing Ronny Deila is the mainstream media who write about it.

If I were disappointed with this guy, I’d be talking about it right now but I’m not. Cast your mind back five years on MonTheHoops and you’ll read me write about a poor appointment.

I didnt hide my distaste at Tony Mowbray’s appointment. Celtic thought they’d done the right thing, but I didn’t and guess what it turned out to be a catastrophe.

By the time it was too late to recover, Celtic sacked Mowbray and installed Lennon. A rookie, but certainly the only man for the job at that time.

It turned out well and the club are in a position of strength even if Scottish football is not. Now, it is up to Ronny Deila to take the team forward and utilise his managerial skills that got him noticed by the cub in the first place.

I’m genuinely excited about his outlook for the team, particularly the youths who need to know there is a chance for them. In football nothing is certain but this is a story I look forward to seeing unfold.

Welcome Ronny.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie