A tale of two Thistle’s

Celtic completed their third successive win in a row for the second time this season. If you count the 3-0 awarded to Celtic against Legia Warsaw, this would be the third occasion that a hat-trick of competitive wins has occurred.

In the club’s overall history this isn’t ground breaking stuff, but in the current season this was another vital victory for Ronny Deila as he aims to improve the team’s consistency. It may not have been the prettiest of matches to begin with but Celtic got the result they craved in the end.

Even more pleasing was seeing Guidetti and Šćepović getting on the score sheet again. For the time being this partnership cannot work together in Europe, but it was good to see them working together in the league.

Guidetti’s free kick was slotted home nicely from just outside the box but their were plenty more chances. With Kilmarnock’s red card a cause of said free kick, it was a large contributor to Celtic’s goal threat as the match progressed.

Take nothing away from Celtic though because as I have said before, they have the ability to throw away chances in games. So not only was it pleasing to see Šćepović score, but to see him have a number of chances demonstrated some desire.

Having only seen the highlights, I never really got an overall impression of the team performance. To the player’s credit, they have dealt with a post European fixture, albeit on home soil.

The next two matches for Celtic are also on home turf. Partick Thistle in the League Cup on Wednesday and Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday.

Two victories would keep Celtic in the League Cup and closer to top spot in the league. They would also signify the first point in the season where four and five consecutive competitive wins would be achieved.

In a season that has seen some disappointing results at home and abroad, this would be a welcome boost. It would also go a long way to boosting morale amongst the support which has not shown up in great numbers at Celtic Park.

Ronny Deila has had his critics in the media, from ex-players and within the support. Decent results in the Europa League are helping to ease some of that but he still has his critics for not killing off games and making unsupported team selections.

And yet this is still only October and the building is ongoing, but I see the team getting stronger. Celtic are not the finished article, but I remain a firm supporter of Ronny Deila.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Are Celtic beginning to click?

Celtic took to the Highlands on Saturday in search of a win. They put on a solid display and routed Ross County 5-0 as result of their efforts.

It’s fair to say that Ross County weren’t at there best. Celtic on the other hand were ruthless.

The passing was neat and tidy, the tackles solid and the opportunities were plentiful. Celtic looked dangerous in attack and there was a sense that something has finally clicked.

Ross County might be rock bottom of the Premiership, but even Celtic have the ability to look a gift horse in the mouth. It just so happens that they didn’t on this occasion.

If Celtic can continue with these type of displays then I’m certain Ronny Deila will win over his doubters amongst the support. He said during the summer that a year from now, the fans would see a totally different team.

I think what he was driving at when he said that was more than just about a team of his own players. For me it was a signal of radical change.

Celtic have invested in a young manager with fresh, modern ideas. There’s an element of risk in this but what Ronny Deila is putting in place now should benefit the club in the long term.

Much has been made of Deila’s philosophy about players being 24hr athletes. There’s been criticism, not by players, but by the media and sections of our support.

Its been highlighted predominantly due to inconsistent form. If results had been better for Celtic earlier in the season, I doubt people would be dissecting Deila’s coaching.

Should Celtic hit a bit of form now, it will be interesting to see what people have to say about Ronny Deila’s methods. There’s still a long way to go and much more work required I’m sure, but Saturday’s result against Ross County was a sound victory laced with positive individual performances.

Stefan Johansen was a standout performer. So far this season he’s looked well off the pace but on Saturday he looked more like the player we saw under Neil Lennon.

Anthony Stokes had a fine game as well, bagging two great goals into the bargain. Having found new life out on the left flank, his presence in the team looks more beneficial than when deployed up front.

John Guidetti also seems to be settling in nicely. I like this guy a lot and reckon he could be huge for Celtic.

Its a shame he can’t play in the Europa League because he could do with his presence and goals. Instead, he will have to make way for Stefan Scepovic.

The Serbian hasn’t settled as quickly as fellow striker, Guidetti. Goals have eluded Scepovic in the first team but he did bag one last week in the development side.

His substitute appearance on Saturday didn’t show any signs of progress though. At the moment he looks like he has a touch of the Pukki’s.

There’s a cloud hanging over this guy and he needs to exorcise whatever is affecting his performance. Thursday night would be a good time for him to step up and prove himself.

Its the first of four home fixtures for Celtic and this one against FC Astra is important. A winning double header, home and away, over the Romanian club would be a huge boost for progessing in the Europa League.

Should Celtic qualify for the last sixteen, Guidetti is sure to be installed as first choice striker. So Scepovic should make every effort now, whilst Guidetti is ineligible, to ensure he stays in contention.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

The time is now

As a positive international break for Scotland closes, the spotlight returns to domestic football. For Ronny Deila, that means its back to finding form for Celtic.

I said a wee while ago that time was on his side even if all of the support weren’t. We’ve now reached a point in the season where there has been an international break, a mid-term so to speak, and now its about the run in to Christmas.

In terms of the league, Deila, his coaching staff and indeed his players must start to harvest some results. There is still a long way to go in the league but this break must have been a good opportunity for Ronny to take stock of the season to date.

Six points off the top with one game at hand isn’t ideal for Celtic but it isn’t unrecoverable either. Its time to start turning over teams and stepping up a gear.

A good run starting tomorrow away to Ross County is first on the agenda. Then there are four home fixtures against FC Astra in the Europa League and Kilmarnock, Patrick Thistle and Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the league and league cup.

Celtic must make the most of home advantage and install some confidence amongst the support. The time is now.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Not so keen on Keane

Roy Keane, the player, the manager, the assistant manager and all round head case. With his new book out, extracts are been banded around the internet so much, you probably won’t need to purchase it.

The words read and seen discussed the most online are of course the Celtic related ones. Yes, yes, he’s had more interesting times in his career, but as a Celtic fan, you tend to take more of an interest in the comments that hit closer to home.

In his book he talks about turning down the Celtic managers job as well as making references to his short spell playing for the club under Gordon Strachan. Strachan didn’t come in for any abuse but he was singled out by Keane for something not far off.

Personally, I was never really a fan of Roy Keane coming to Celtic. It was an unnecessary move for the club but Dermot Desmond obviously wanted him no matter how long or short that would have been for.

An Irish International basket case in a Celtic jersey. Every Celtic supporters dream right? No.

First off, when he declared he wanted to finish his career at Celtic all I could marvel at was the arrogance. That Celtic Football Club was some kind of retirement home for ageing footballers.

Celtic were doing just fine that season if memory serves correct. Sure, Keane came in and twisted the knife a little more to compound further misery on our now extinct rivals.

That may have been worth it alone for some. If he had played another season I might have given him some respect.

Keane said he was on £15K whilst others were saying it was more. Personally I don’t really care how much it was because what annoyed me more about it was that Dermot Desmond was prepared to sanction that kind of money when it suited him and not when it was badly needed as we have seen over the years.

In the years that followed, Celtic made a similar move by bringing in Robbie Keane. By that point the league was pretty much over for Celtic but still, the club sanctioned a loan move for Robbie Keane when things were grim.

To be fair to Robbie, he did his job by scoring goals. His goals to game ratio was just under one for every game but it didn’t change the fate of Celtic that season or indeed the fate of Tony Mowbray.

Perhaps it was a throw of the dice by Dermot, perhaps it was just to boost shirt sales and put bums on seats. I would probably argue that it was more of a need then, than when Roy Keane joined.

The book itself has more in store than just Celtic stories. Indeed some of the juicier stuff is from his days at Manchester United but it gets my back up when screw-balls like Roy Keane feel they just have to vent their spleen about Celtic.

As a person he will always tell it how it is. As a pundit he has been no different.

I don’t dislike the guy, but sometimes he just needs to shut his noise. He was a great player, not right in the head and controversial pretty much all of the time, but every now again he reminds me of why I never wanted him at Celtic Park as a player or a manager.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Change is never easy, but time is on our side.

When I read about football manager’s getting their marching orders so early in a season I find it sickening, particularly when it is their first season at a club. I haven’t changed my stance on that in the case of Ronny Deila either and I remain, for now, a supporter of his.

With the Scottish Premiership nine games old, Celtic sit in sixth place. They have played one game less than the five teams placed above them and sit a mere four points off the top spot.

Celtic are not running away with the league as is expected these days. With their old rivals long gone, the forecast is not about who will win, its by what margin.

Last season was a pretty dire affair, particularly after Celtic’s exit from Europe by which time the league was a forgone conclusion. It wasn’t a particularly good European campaign either but that was to be expected having lost the spine of the team that had been the cornerstone of each good performance.

You see without European football, the domestic campaign will always be like a wet weekend. Winning the league isn’t all that special when you’ve obliterated teams that cannot match you.

So whilst losing to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hamilton Academical might seem disastrous to supporters, I suggest that it lays down a challenge. Credit must be paid to the SPFL clubs, particularly when stronger teams like Motherwell sit well below.

A couple of years ago, after the downfall of Celtic’s old foes, I laid down my wish that other clubs would come and have a go. That a challenge in the league would be welcome for the sake of Scottish football.

We balk at English suggestion that it was always a two horse race in Scotland. Though for the last couple of seasons it has been a solo run.

I’m certainly not lobbying for the phoenix club across the city to fill a void left by their predecessors because let’s face it they might not even make that far. What I do welcome though is a stronger Scottish Premiership.

Right now we have that through whatever circumstances that may be. I would suggest that this is healthy for the game in Scotland.

My point here is that I don’t want Celtic to run away with the league. Where is the entertainment in that?

If anything there is an opportunity for Celtic to do something different within the club. For many Ronny Deila was a budget appointment but I see it differently.

I said a few months ago that it was a left field move by bringing in Deila. Personally, I didn’t think the club had the balls to go down this road and as well as proving me wrong, I also think the risk involved is affordable.

By taking that risk Celtic have a chance to raise the bar. If Ronny Deila has the backing of the board to impose these changes then surely this is a positive move for the club’s professional standards?

The media and the fans have both voiced their opinions on Deila’s belief in the 24 hour athlete. Those who have mocked him about that are a true reflection of those unwilling to make a change for the better, as seen during Paul Le Guen’s time across the city.

Given half a chance to be a professional sportsman, I would jump at the chance to be the best and I’d be more than willing to make lifestyle changes. Deila wasn’t wrong about guys like Andy Murray either.

You can play against any team at any time in your career. If you want to compete you have to be doing it the same level or better than the best.

As a tennis player Murray might never be the best in the world but look what he has done by pushing himself in all areas. Anthony Stokes might never become Henrik Larsson by changing his lifestyle but at least we know we’ll have the fittest version of the Irishman.

Yet for some it isn’t about that. Its about Deila being clueless on the park.

In all honesty, I don’t think what we are seeing now is as good as it is going to get. Deila is a young manager and a stranger to Scottish football but he is also someone who could pioneer something brilliant at Celtic if he is given the chance but he’ll need more than two months.

If the section of the fans who want him gone were to get their wish now, where would we go from here? Where does Scottish football go?

Do we go back to fizzy drinks and crisps because its always been like that? Or do we dare to try something new with the possibility of influencing the rest of Scottish football by attempting to emulate the standards set by other European clubs?

I don’t know about you but I would like to see what Ronny Deila can produce for this club in the long term. Its not just about today or tomorrow, but rather next week and the months and years that follow.

Change doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t happen overnight either. Celtic have time on their side and for once I am glad they are being bold enough to do something with it rather than just winning the league come new year.

The ground work being laid might not resonate with many supporters at this moment in time or produce the football on the park. However, if Ronny Deila can emboss the standards now it can attract and create a better player within Celtic Football Club in the future.

If one year from now we are sitting here with Celtic looking like a deflated dinghy then I’ll hold my hands up. In reality though, we’ve only just entered October and are far from the finished article so let’s just sit tight and let things unfold.

Time is on our side.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie