One game

Defeat can bring out the worst in people, particularly in football. In the aftermath of a humbling European result for Celtic the post mortem has been in full swing.

Having not watched the match live, I was not in the company of my usual crew. I watched the match very late last night having avoided the score all evening to “enjoy” in my own time.

I thought Celtic started well enough even if the team selection was different to what I would have expected. Certainly it was as best a start as I could have expected going into a match of this kind in late July.

Last night the debate was under way with analysis of players, tactics, coaching and of course Celtic not spending cash on the agenda. This is what I’ve come to expect when the proverbial hits the fan, though Celtic didn’t exactly help themselves.

A bright start coupled with a sublime opener by Callum McGregor was short lived following Miroslav Radovic’s equaliser. That was a real slap in the face but that agony was further compounded by another goal by Radovic.

To say both of these goals were defensive brain farts is an understatement. The space gifted to opposition in and around the box was almost gift wrapped.

If Virgil van Dyke and Efe Ambrose built up an understanding last season then that is where it remained last night. Whether it was a communication or purely a positioning issue I am uncertain, but basically the defence didn’t do their job.

Any communication they did possess ceased when Ambrose was sent off. A mistimed tackle was Efe’s last participation in the match due to being the last man.

At 2-1 down and showing signs of fragility, half time couldn’t come quick enough. The chance to regroup was much needed but to be honest any opportunity Deila and his players had to resolve their mistakes ended when Celtic went down to ten men.

The second half was hard to watch. The failure to snub out Legia Warsaw left Celtic riding their luck for 45 minutes.

Charlie Mulgrew, captain in the absence of Scott Brown, stepped into the central defence. His contribution to defensive calamity was as much a surprise as it was a disaster.

In midfield, Celtic lacked the steel and courage to dominate. Moving the ball about at high tempo merely impacted the rate of complete passes.

I also questioned the decision to play Adam Matthews in place of Emilio Izaguirre. I know he has played at left back before but was it necessary?

Many brought up the inclusion of the loaned, Jo Inge Berger. Given that he hasn’t trained to the same degree, it is a valid question.

I’m not judging the player, just the fact that Leigh Griffith’s might have been the better choice. Given that Teemu Pukki knows the players better, hooking him instead of the new boy was another error.

Beram Kayal didn’t bring much to the game as his replacement. By the time he came on, the game was already an uphill struggle and moving players around as we did failed to help matters.

There were too many risks and changes made for this game. It was always going to be a step up from KR Reykjavik.

Under the circumstances the final result of 4-1 could have been much more and some have said that the scoreline flattered Celtic. Then again, perhaps Legia Warsaw aren’t as good as a “could have been 8-1” suggests and that Celtic capitulated?

Come what may its early days for Ronny Deila and his coaching team. They’ve had the instant pressure and expectation of qualifying for European competition.

The departure of Neil Lennon severed the understanding between coaching staff and team, though he himself suggested that the relationship was waning in his final six months. The one thing that has remained in place is the same squad, minus of course the services of Georgios Samaras.

Last season saw this group of players plateau on the European stage. Deila’s outlook of high tempo football may be a long term vision but to expect this group of players to make that happen could be a big ask.

As yet, we have yet to discover whether any of the transfer speculation regarding some of our players yield any truth. If departures are imminent then Deila would need to be able to spend.

Youth will hopefully be given its chance, as McGregor and Henderson have. Should Deila’s vision be realised, the team will need enhancing but possibly not before departure of one or two.

With all of this in mind, the tie is still open. A three goal deficit is far from encouraging but Deila should at least be afforded the courtesy to put it right with eleven players rather than ten he had for the second half.

We can analyse the damage as I have myself and we know the mistakes that were made but I think many have been too on quick to condemn Deila. Strachan and Lennon didn’t exactly have the best start to their Celtic management careers in Europe, but they did alright in the end.

Murrayfield may not be Celtic Park but it is still home territory for us and the chance remains to turn things around. A tougher opponent would surely await in that next round so its worth remembering when you look at last seasons Champions League performances with this squad, the Europa League could be better value for a team in transition.

We all want the Champions League, but it might be too soon for Deila. A week from now we’ll know where we stand on that matter.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

The World Cup is over, now its time for Celtic

With the World Cup now behind us, it is time to refocus on club football once more. Most teams are still in or just beginning pre-season training right now but tomorrow night that all ends for Celtic when they take on KR Reykjavik in Iceland.

Celtic have played four friendlies in Austria over the last week winning two and drawing two. You can’t read too much into the results but it has been a fast track learning curve for Ronny Deila to assess his squad of players.

When playing these ridiculously early qualifiers for the Champions League there is little time to prepare. For Deila, he’s had the additional challenge of getting to know his players quickly before putting them to work in European competition.

The Champions League is a vital part of Celtic’s season these days. It isn’t just the money of course, its the competition, the glamour and the chance to shine on a bigger stage.

For fans its an essential component to an entertaining season. In all fairness to the rest of the SPFL, without European football, it would be pretty dull as a Celtic supporter these days.

With no real threat to Celtic’s Championship crown, its not a case of ‘if’ but at ‘what stage’ they will win the league. Because of that, I think Celtic might be finally taking the correct approach to procuring talent.

Ronny Deila seems intent on nurturing youth and giving them a chance. I would like to think that Celtic will support Ronny in doing this and that together they will see this through.

The transfer market’s current state is not one that Celtic can compete in. Transfer fees are overinflated so that leaves Celtic in a position where their scouts must talent spot the unknowns that could potentially turn out to be gems.

That isn’t an easy task and still involves taking risks, though not necessarily expensive ones. Having said that, Celtic have and will continue to profit from these kind of moves which puts them in the position as a selling club.

This is the position Celtic find themselves in as a large club in a weak league but it is the state of Scottish game that is the issue here. The only way out of this hole is found in youth.

That is where hopefully Ronny will come in. Its not just about him though, its about all of Scottish football following the same blueprint from youth to senior level in club and international football.

Scotland for example have put out some decent youth sides over the last few decades. Sometimes I’ve found that half of a Scotland youth team is filled with Celtic youth players flourishing at that level.

They all play together and they develop an understanding but as these guys careers progress, they find themselves out of the picture at club level. Subsequently their international careers falter and this once lauded young group of players find themselves playing further down the leagues or out of football completely.

Now I’m not suggesting that every youth player has a bright career ahead of them or will make the grade. I just don’t think the transition from youth to senior level is supported enough.

This is an inherent problem in Scottish football that needs some serious attention. For a nation that used to produced some fine talent, we are sadly well behind the times.

When you look at the infrastructure that Germany have in place it is enviable. Its not all about money, more about support from the bottom to top ensuring that these players achieve their potential.

If Gordon Strachan stays in the Scotland set up for a good few years there is a chance that some success in development can be achieved. Strachan may not have got the vote from all Celtic fans but his insight into coaching, fitness and tactics is exactly the type of influence needed in the SFA.

Clubs will always want to delve into the transfer market but Scotland needs to show faith in youth otherwise what is the point? With Celtic being Scotland’s number one club for the foreseeable future they have a responsibility to set the example.

There is no instant fix or quick solution so it will take time. Now is the right time to begin and I hope to see great things under Ronny Deila.

Tomorrow night is about Celtic flying the flag for Scottish football. Let’s hope we will see that flag being held a little big higher for those young boys knocking on the door.

All we are saying, is give youth a chance.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Georgios, Humam and assembly of a new era.

Celtic kick off the second of their preseason friendlies in Austria this evening against old foes Rapid Vienna. I’ll avoid the usual historical reference to this fixture and instead focus on the present.

More of Celtic’s current squad will see some match time against the Austrian side, but one player mentioned by Ronny Deila recently  is no longer at the club. The manager was quoted by various media outlets stating:

“Samaras had a great career at Celtic but we’ll see. We’ll look at the whole picture. I have not decided yet and there are many players on our list. I’ll never close the door on anything. I haven’t spoken to Samaras because he has been in Brazil.”

Its fair to say that most if not all Celtic fans accepted Sammy moving on. If however Ronny feels the Greek striker has something to offer then I am not opposed to it.

Neil Lennon was the man keeping him at the club but even under his management he saw limited appearances. Deila may see the same type of role for Samaras if he did indeed want to bring him back to the club but only as long as he wanted to bring him back for the right reasons.

Another player linked with the club and mentioned in the media these last 24 hours is young Iraqi international, Humam Tariq. I think most of us will acknowledge that we’ve never heard of this kid but his name has sparked some attention unlike other young talent.

If his ability can match the few plaudits I’ve read about he could be an interesting acquisition. Young talent appears to be something Ronny is keen on so I’m hopeful this could be a positive move.

Back to today thought and with any luck another victory. Keep it coming Bhoy’s.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Ronny kicks off with a victory

Celtic’s preseason training under Ronny Deila and John Collins has been up and running for just over a week now. Yesterday at their training camp in Austria, the new management team notched up their first victory.

Celtic beat Russian side FK Krasnodar 3-1 in a preseason friendly in the Hofmaninger-Stadion. Ronny Deila utilised two different teams to play each half, both groups of eleven showing hunger and determination.

Anthony Stokes opened his preseason account in less than two minutes with a nice touch but the Russians equalised in the 19th minute. On 42 minutes Stefan Johansen put Celtic ahead again from a tight angle and after a full cha he at half time it was young Callum McGregor who sealed the victory,having spent last season on loan to Notts County.

Given the timescale the new coaching staff have to prepare before that first Champions League qualifier, it is unsurprising that they used 90 minutes to run the rule over 22 players. That trend may continue for the next game against Rapid Vienna as well.

By the time the LSK Linz and Dukla Prague matches come around Ronny and John should have a better idea of a starting eleven. That first competitive match against KR Reykjavik is now only 11 days away.

The management team have already underlined the room for improvement but they will be encouraged by the start made in Austria. The most important thing from this was that Ronny got to cast is eye over so many of his players in one match.

Celtic are of course without a handful of players such as Forrest, through injury. They are also without their World Cup contingent of Izaguirre, Forster and Ambrose.

The latter three are unlikely to feature in the first competitive match over in Iceland. Though there is the chance that they could be included in the squad for the return leg at Murrayfield a week later.

That will all depend on whether Ronny feels they have each has had sufficient rest after the World Cup. It will also depend on whether he deems it necessary to call upon their services.

All are important players for the club but Celtic have sufficient cover. What is encouraging is that Ronny is already talking about how different things will look a year from now.

For the time being, its a positive start for Ronny and John and they will be keen to influence and improve the team further. The next friendly match is on Sunday against Rapid Vienna where we will hopefully see another advance in preseason preparations.

New signing Craig Gordon has joined up with the squad now. With four keepers now involved with the first team matters, it is likely one will be shipped out on loan or sold.

Fraser Forster is the prime candidate tipped for a big move away from the club. It has also been mooted that Lukasz Zaluska could depart but it even young keeper Leonardo Fasan could find himself on a loan move if he requires experience.

This story will unravel itself over the coming weeks but for now we know there is no shortage of keepers. The same can be said throughout the squad, unless of course Celtic move anyone on or accept bids for players in key positions.

For now, Ronny Deila must assess what he has in experience and what he has coming through the ranks. Youth finally looks like it will be given a chance and for me that’s encouraging and long over due.

Ronny seems determined to make that happen. With that in mind there may be no rush for new signings.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie