Game Changer

Last night Celtic were going about their business at New Douglas Park when disaster struck. No, it wasn’t a slippy pitch, just an honest mistake.

Pitch-gate made way for referee-gate on Friday night in Lanarkshire. Craig Thomson, Scotland’s cream of inept officials, reduced Celtic to 10 men with a few minutes remaining of the first half.

It was a game changer and a bitter blow for Celtic. Even with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Leigh Griffiths penalty, Hamilton were handed a lifeline before Celtic inflicted any more damage on them.

Ronny Deila hooked Kris Commons and replaced him with a more versatile Charlie Mulgrew who filled in at centre back. It was the right move and despite the one man disadvantage, enabled Celtic to keep at the home side intermittently even if they did have to surrender their 80/20 possession.

Hamilton had their own agenda though and plundered Celtic after a slip up by captain Scott Brown. His error set up a passage of play that allowed Eamonn Brophy in to level the match on 73 minutes.

The timing was bad for Celtic as the chance to pull one back became bleaker. Already down to 10 men, the Hoops earned a penalty only to see it saved by former Celtic prospect Michael McGovern.

The key talking point though was the refereeing decisions. A lack of yellow cards on the Hamilton players perhaps allowed them to carry on regardless when they should have been disciplined earlier in the match.

Dedryck Boyata’s red card was top of the pile though. After a moment of Celtic sloppiness, Hamilton were let in and Boyata was forced into making a risky tackle on Carlton Morris.

Now my first instinct was “this could go either way” because it looked as though the ball was moved. The referee, Craig Thomson, would have had a better view than the live footage I had just watched.

Having sent Boyata off I was very keen to see the replay. Based upon that replay it wasn’t a red for me.

I don’t have the rule book to hand but Boyata got the ball and the Hamilton player goes over next. It was a risky tackle because if he didn’t get the ball, he may have got the player or the player was getting away but he didn’t go through him to get the touch he needed.

For Thomson, he has to be 100% certain that Boyata made the foul and I don’t think he was because their was not absolutely no certainty about the challenge in my initial view. He didn’t have the benefit of the TV replay as I did which only made my on-the-fence view a no foul scenario but Thomson did have a closer live view so how he has arrived at that decision is beyond me.

Ronny Deila didn’t go down the road of criticising the referee last night. His view was that Boyata should have stayed on his feet and whilst that is generally true in defending, I can’t agree with Ronny’s take that Boyata was deservedly sent off.

So that ruined the game for Celtic. Aiming for 3 points quickly became I’ll take 1 point.

You never know how a game would have played if you’d kept all 11 players on the park. What I would say though is that some of our players once more were not playing at their best.

Scott Brown looked well off the pace last night as did Kris Commons. Stefan Johansen I don’t even need to comment on such is his overall form this season.

Scott Allan was very active and Gary Mackay-Steven was decent early on. The former wore himself out though and the latter faded as the game went on.

The defence did its job for the most part. Despite a misjudgement by Logan Bailly, he also had a reasonable game.

Griffiths was lively as usual and should have scored more though. The penalty miss I wasn’t surprised at all but there were other chances for him.

I thought both penalties last night were soft and have seen them waved away on many an occasion. The first one I didn’t really see as a penalty until I saw the replay so I was surprised Craig Thomson saw it at all.

The second penalty was the one that bothers me the most. I can’t remember how many times I have seen defenders manhandle the opposition in their own box at set pieces and the referee takes no action but to warn both players and then give a free kick to the defending team if the incident persists.

To get a penalty for the holding on Mikael Lustig was a surprise. Kind of like that surprise you get when a referee gives a decision against a player for a foul throw – rare!

Craig Thomson is not alone though. He comes from a long line of inconsistent refereeing in Scotland.

What used to be rife with funny handshakes, masonry, winks and lodge meetings is now just a club of incompetent individuals. I’m not putting bad refereeing as the soul issue for last nights result.

Celtic have themselves to blame as well. For not being ruthless and taking your chances against a team who have less than half the points they do in the Scottish Premiership.

Yes the red card was a poor decisions and a gamer changer though not for the first time this season. This is when Celtic have to take their chances and step up and make it count.

Leigh Griffiths stated that he should be blamed for not scoring more last night. That’s mighty big of him to do that and I respect what he himself has done to improve his career as a footballer at Celtic but this is a team game and whilst he might put his hand up, I don’t think many of his team mates did much to help him last night at all.

It’s a disappointing result but certainly not the last time we’ll see points dropped this season. Aberdeen will look to close the gap today at home to St Johnstone.

A win for the Dons would put them 5 points behind Celtic with the same amount of games played. That would leave 11 games left to play and 33 points at stake for each title challenger.

Aberdeen have already achieved what they failed to do last season and that is taking points off Celtic. Like Celtic though, they are also vulnerable.

They’ve lost two more games than Celtic have so far this season and also have a poorer goal difference. The title race remains a title race and there is everything to play for.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Pitched Battle

Celtic started off the month of February with a defeat away to Aberdeen. Since that blip against the title challengers, the Hoops have notched up 3 straight wins.

The title challenge continues tonight against Hamilton at New Douglas Park. The Accies’s playing surface is a topical subject given the recent outbreak of “pitch-gate”.

After Sevco boss Mark Warburton stated last week that artificial surfaces should be banned in the top flight, Ronny Deila was prompted to comment on the matter by the media. In direct opposition, though not aimed at Warburton, Deila stated that he welcomed artificial pitches, so long as they were of a good standard such as the ones used in his homeland.

This brought into question the playing surface at Hamilton which the Celtic head coach branded as “slippy”. If it is slippy and not properly maintained (whatever that amounts to) then obviously that isn’t ideal, particularly if you are trying to promote use of these artificial surfaces, but then grass gets slippy as well!

I’m no expert on playing surfaces but I know they vary depending on weather and treatment. Even though I agree that more artificial surfaces are likely to end up in stadiums, especially as the material improves, I don’t think it is a road Celtic will go down anytime soon.

Warburton wasn’t finished with the matter though and responded to the comments made by the Celtic boss. Deila apparently claimed that senior players playing on grass only was “very old-fashioned”.

Personally, I don’t really care if Ronny said that or not. Why Warburton is getting his knickers in a twist though is beyond me but he’s clearly taken the bait.

It’s a poor attempt by the media to create a war of words between the two managers. In fact if anything, Warburton comes off looking like a total idiot.

More importantly, old Warbs says that artificial surfaces should be banned in the top flight. Well, sorry to break it to you Warbs but you’re not in the top flight matey.

The fact that there are more artificial surfaces in the professional game only backs up Deila’s so-called comments that it is “very old-fashioned”. We’d all have the green, green grass any day of the week but even I can see the benefit of plastic pitches such are the adverse weather conditions encountered in certain environments.

Hamilton boss Martin Canning had his own say on the matter as well. Just to make the subject more interesting, he basically said Warburton and Deila were both wrong.

So as you can imagine, by the time Hamilton and Celtic take to the pitch tonight, every blade of artificial grass covered will be scrutinised by the onlookers. It’s a total storm in a teacup if you ask me and deflects from the real matter which is of course 3 points.

These playing surfaces aren’t an issue because they’re more readily available to Celtic players these days at Lennoxtown as well as throughout the course of the season at other grounds. Given some of the marsh-like pitches Celtic have played on over the years, at least we can rely upon the New Douglas Park surface.

I don’t care if Celtic are playing on red ash. Getting the right result is the only item on the agenda.

Ronny Deila only has Jozo Šimunović and long-term absentee Saidy Janko on the injury list. The rest of the squad are said to be available or working back to fitness.

With James Forrest turning down a contract offer, it is doubtful we’ll see much of him before now and the end of the season unless it is to generate interest for a potential sale. Ronny Deila has not ruled out the possibility of a turnaround on talks but you have to feel that this deal is dead, particularly with swollen squad numbers.

Once more, we’ll all be looking to see more of the seldom seen kids play tonight. In an away game, it is more likely to be a tried and tested line-up with the usual suspects but you can always hope to see one or two getting a run out.

Friday. Night. Football.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Best of the best

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After reading Ramon Vega’s recent comments on his regret about leaving Celtic, albeit fifteen years ago, it got me thinking about former Celtic players in a similar position. When it comes to leaving Celtic prematurely, he is not alone, even if some players have failed to acknowledge it.

Vega is but one example of a player drafted in in the short term with little expected of him. Yet he turned out to be an influential player during a very brief period under Martin O’Neill.

Apparently Celtic had tried to procure his services prior to that season but Vega turned down the opportunity. He later accepted a loan move midway through season 2000-2001.

In 26 appearances he scored 4 goals for the club and picked up a treble into the bargain. This still wasn’t enough to convince him to stay on though.

Instead he followed the money and went to Gianluca Vialli’s Watford, opting for cash over trophies. That move lasted one season and eventually he was shipped out.

He found himself playing for Ligue 2 French side Créteil, where he would end his career at the age of 33. Fairly early by even by standards back then.

In some ways, getting a large payday in his second last season wasn’t such a bad move financially. The fact that he regrets leaving Celtic though suggests what many fans though at the time.

He could have had another shot at glory the following year and maybe even retired with Celtic. The decision he eventually made he regrets, but he isn’t the first ex-Celtic player to do this.

For other former Celts it’s been a mixed bag of success. Many have come through the ranks and at the first sign of progress, headed for so called greener pastures.

Historically, Celtic have been criticised for not stumping up the cash. When you go back to the era when the club was run by the Kelly’s and co, that isn’t much of a surprise.

Having said that, the way business was conducted back then, I wouldn’t know who to believe. I mean in those days you had the Kelly, White, Grant, McGinn and Farrell stronghold in one corner and in the other you had jokers like Charlie Nicholas or Frank McAvennie.

In the era of change for Celtic, i.e. Fergus McCann onwards, club business was moving into new territory. McCann was a tough and shrewd businessman who generally did it his way or not at all but he had a plan.

He encountered the infamous “three amigos” during that period and stood for none of their nonsense. Whilst the fans were in their debt to Fergus for saving the club, they idolised Pierre van Hooijdonk, Jorge Cadete and Paulo Di Canio at the same time.

This was a forward line to get your juices flowing if every there was one. They all left within months of one another with money at the heart of most of it.

They each had different experiences following those moves. Van Hooijdonk (money demands) moved to Nottingham Forrest in March of his final season and ended up getting relegated but he experienced an upwards turn in his career with a moves to Vitesse, Benfica, Feyenoord, Fenerbahçe, NAC Breda and back to Feyenoord once again.

Di Canio (also money demands) went to Sheffield Wednesday in a swap deal with Regi Blinker coming in the opposite direction. Di Canio carved out a relatively successful career following that move to England, moving onward to West Ham and Charlton Athletic before winding up his playing days back home in Italy with Lazio, his first club, and then minnows Cisco Roma.

As for Cadete, well his so called ‘mental state’ didn’t really wash with many Celtic fans. Devastated as we were, it was clear that he wanted to move, whether that motive was money or adjusting to life in Scotland.

For a free transfer, he certainly gave Celtic a shot in the arm with his goal return even if it resulted in no trophies. I don’t even think Jorge would argue that Celtic was a career peak for him.

Had he or any of the other ‘amigos’ stayed on for the season that followed, who knows what devastation they would have unleashed. Perhaps if they had we may never have seen Henrik Larsson in the Hoops.

Whilst each of those players left on bad terms they had their own post-Celtic story to tell. They netted Celtic on average about £4m each in transfer fees which 20 years ago was pretty good money for the club.

Let’s not forget about the goal tally these players amassed in a short space of time. Van Hooijdink – 52 goals in 96 appearances; Di Canio – 15 goals in 37 appearances; Cadete – 33 goals in 44 appearances.

Cadete easily had the worst career path following his Celtic exit, whilst Di Canio and Van Hooijdonk had positive experiences right up until the end of their playing days.

These guys were markers for the future. Lessons learned, money earned.

Celtic would still fumble matters with players though. Though let’s face it, footballers aren’t the easiest of ‘personalities’ to deal with in business.

Another player who left Celtic that summer was none other than current assistant coach at the club, John Collins. He became Celtic’s first Bosman departure in 1996.

That took him to AS Monaco, a European force at the time. After two years there, he moved on to Everton and later, Fulham.

To be fair to Collins, he was a fantastic player at Celtic and had earned his free transfer. After six gruelling years at a the club, mostly bad years, he deserved more from his career.

In the years that followed, Mark Viduka would become the another player to make a name for himself at Celtic only to exit when he had had enough. His arrival was surrounded with controversy following a messy departure form Croatia Zagreb and a move that had looked to have collapsed.

Still, he made a valuable contribution in a season and a half at the club. He scored 27 goals in 37 appearances at Celtic but before too long he would be plying his trade with money laden Leeds United.

Once more, Celtic had lost a marvellous player to a higher paying employer. In the midst of all this, a new era was taking shape with higher valued players filling the ranks at Celtic Park.

New management began to reshape what was already in place. There would also be key additions to the team as Celtic went from manager to manager over a short time.

The club needed stability and they had one player whose loyality, relationship and professionalism will never ever be questioned. If ever there was a model professional it was Henrik Larsson.

Either side of his 7 years at the club, as well as during, there were players coming and going which have never equalled what he did. A few have come close, but it just goes to show it is more than ability that makes a player special.

You must have that rapport with the fans. The style of play that wins you praise from around the globe and earns you the kind love you can only get from a particular kind of club and fan base.

When guys like Simon Donnelly, Mark Burchill and Liam Miller were playing with Larsson, they were looking for more money as well. Larsson was rewarded more than any other Celt in history.

The difference is that he had earned it through more than just one good goal, one good match or one good season. He did it across the board like a true professional which is something of a rareity in the modern day.

Of those players who have come and gone at Celtic, undervalued what they were part of at the time and later moved on to bleaker times, take note. The grass is not always greener.

Now James Forrest looks set to go the way players such as Shaun Maloney and Stylian Petrov did. The deal offered to him has been rejected and now he is prepared to join the list of players who probably have it made at Celtic but see bright lights in the distance.

To be the best of the best you must evaluate what you have before you consider what’s on offer and where that might lead. If your desire lies elsewhere get good advice or you too might be sharing the regret that Ramon Vega has come to know.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Trimming the numbers

Following on from my pre-match blog yesterday, I’ve included the part about current Celtic squad members and their futures. The team as we know is inflating to the point that it is becoming the new criticism on supporters lips.

Almost every Celtic midfielder right now, has a valid reason for wanting to go or for the club moving them on. It’s a lottery to be quite honest and its anyone’s guess who is for the chop.

After a dire season for him so far, Stefan Johansen is top of some lists. Come the summer he will have been at the club for two-and-a-half seasons and with only one of those seasons being poor (the current one), it would seem rather harsh to sell him based upon that.

Nir Bitton, one of Celtic’s best players has a long-term deal (not that, that stands for anything at Celtic) but he is probably our most profitable midfielder right now. For that reason, it would not surprise me if Celtic tried to cash in on that this summer.

Recently back from long-term injury is Charlie Mulgrew. Now I am a fan of Charlie, but because his deal is due to run out, questions have been raised over his future but with his versatility, relatively low salary (I assume) and an influential Scottish player, I doubt Celtic would let him go.

Tom Rogić, a player I thought would never wear the Hoops again, has been a revelation this season. Even though Europe was a major let down for the club and the domestic scene has been a real slog, Tom has been a stand out performer for me and his Celtic future should be a priority.

Kris Commons has ben on the sidelines recently with injury and illness. He has weighed in with 9 goals overall this season but at the age of 32 and not always a first pick for Ronny Deila, he could be moved on.

It would be a great shame to part with such a gifted player though. Last season he was well out of the picture at one point but he still massed 16 goals in all competitions.

I think his experience is undervalued at times, especially for big games. Personally, I would be looking to retain his services as one of the club’s most experienced players but with a large squad at the club, he could be on wrong end of the decision making.

Out on the wide areas there are a few players vying for similar positions. James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Gary Mackay-Steven have all seen action this season but Celtic cannot possibly sustain all three, particularly when Patrick Roberts has been drafted in on loan until the end of next season.

When on his game, Forrest is a nightmare for defenders. He can add goals as much as a assists but he is often let down by injury and used sparingly one would assume to prevent these injuries.

McGregor got his chance under Ronny Deila last season and repaid him immediately with a goal on his European debut. As that season wore on, he faded out of the picture and after getting injured has made it back into the fold this season.

He appears to be one of Ronny Deila’s favourites. In fairness to McGregor, he has made a fair contribution recently as well.

Mackay-Steven has also been out of the picture or underperforming but he came back onto the scene recently with a few goals. He too has goals in him and plays in a wide area but can support the front man as well.

In this area though, something has to give. And there are other players possibly looking at summer exits.

Efe Ambrose is far from having a CSC named after him (or does he have one already?). With the defence already beginning to take shape without him, he could be on his way out.

Tyler Blackett is most likely going to return to Manchester United. He hasn’t impressed at all, though to be fair I think he was out of his depth to begin with.

Stefan Šćepović, currently out on loan at Getafe, may not even return to Celtic. Having signed on deadline day two summers ago, he has failed to hit the heights in Scotland.

I thought he had a good chance this season to prove himself but was sent out on loan instead. Whether that was his desire or Deila’s, I can’t see Celtic bringing him back again/him wanting to come back.

Also out on loan is Anthony Stokes at Hibs. Despite what any fan thinks of his playing ability, good or bad, it would appear it is his off the field issues that are the problem for Celtic.

There is no doubt that the player has talent but his time is almost certainly up. I am fairly certain Celtic will move him on this summer.

A question mark remains over Nadir Çiftçi though. He got the nod in Europe early on in the season mainly because he had a domestic ban and couldn’t play in the league.

In half a season he hasn’t looked anywhere near doing a job. Will he come back?

I think he probably will. Whether he ever makes it at Celtic though remains in doubt.

Right now Carlton Cole is probably ahead of him in the pecking order of attacking options. That’s saying something considering he has barely kicked a ball for Celtic.

Last but not least is Derk Boerrigter. Since signing in the summer of 2013 he has managed 26 appearances and scored one goal.

His absence has been largely through injury. However, he hasn’t played for the first team since his ban for diving was served back in 2014.

With his injury history, it is still questionable why Celtic spunked £3M on him. Let’s hope appearances were set into that figure because if they weren’t heads should be rolling upstairs at Celtic for his signature and many other failures like him.

Most of those failures we have seen off now. That doesn’t stop you thinking about how many bad ones there have been.

Celtic need to start getting it right again on the transfer front. Ronny Deila has used a mixture of loans and buys in his first two seasons.

On that note, I actually think our most recent purchases are of a better standard. Jozo Šimunović, Erik Sviatchenko and Colin Kazim-Richards all look like decent buys though I know very little about the incoming Kristoffer Ajer.

Although only 17, he is a midfielder and another reason for Celtic needing to trim their numbers. There is also the likes of Liam Henderson, himself a worthy prospect, currently out on loan at Hibs.

There is every chance that he might even stay another year at the Edinburgh club. I rate him as a decent prospect but it is hard to see where he would fit into this Celtic midfield right now.

Also out on loan are Darnell Fisher (St Johnstone), Eoghan O’Connell (Cork City), Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock), Calum Waters (Dumbarton) and Aidan Nesbitt (Partick Thistle). Fisher I liked the look of since ever since he made appearances under Neil Lennon and reckon he would be a good squad player.

O’Connell is now on his second loan of the season and still requires more experience. Nesbitt is said to be a very good prospect which is food for thought.

Findlay and Waters are getting valuable experience playing elsewhere this season. As for their Celtic careers, you are always doubtful when someone goes out on loan, if they will come back and break into the first team.

At the end of the day it is a numbers game and Celtic will have to trim accordingly. Next season is make or break for Ronny Deila in terms of Europe but there remains a domestic double to chase this seasonbefore then.

That should be the all inspiration and motivation the current team require to prove themselves for this club, its supporters. Not to forget their own futures whether they are out on loan or in the current playing squad.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Celtic v Inverness Caledonian Thistle

When it comes to giant killing, Caley Thistle have done their fair share. Unfortunately for us Celtic fans, we’ve been on the end of these killings in three cup competitions.

John Barnes was the first Celtic manager to suffer at the hands of Inverness in the Scottish Cup 16 years ago. That was later followed up in 2003 under Martin O’Neill’s tenure in the same competition.

On both of those occasions, Inverness were a First Division club (now the Scottish Championship). In the years that followed, Inverness showed that they were a team worth paying attention to having made the SPL (now Scottish Premiership) in 2004.

They certainly weren’t one season wonders either. After five seasons in the top flight, they were relegated but only for one season.

in 2010 they were back in the top flight and have remained there ever since. Last season they inflicted more pain on Celtic when they dumped the Hoops out of the Scottish Cup for the third time.

They went on to win the cup last year and also made their debut in Europe, exiting the Europa League in the second qualifying round. So far this season they’ve failed to duplicate last seasons form.

However, despite things being slow moving this season, they have still managed to keep Aberdeen at bay for almost a year. The Dons haven’t beaten them this season at all and credit to John Hughes, he has managed to haul his team up the league and into the top half.

In fact, Caley Thistle are only 1 point off 4th spot in the Scottish Premiership. They also have two games at hand over the current 4th placed club, Ross County.

So today will be no easy ride for Celtic I’m sure. There have been a handful of additions to the Ronny Deila’s team recently, some back from injury and some who have rarely featured at all.

Celtic supporters are talking about seeing more of Scott Allan, Ryan Christie and of course loanee Patrick Roberts. John Collins hinted that we may see the latter of the three today, but we’ve yet to see Allan and Christie in as regulars.

Their futures are long-term at the club and it is likely that because of that, they are not been thrown into the team just yet. It seems that with the growing number of midfielders at the club though, we’ll have to shed some of our load.

That is a no brainer of course. You don’t need a crystal ball, the media or John Collins to tell you that.

What fans are also talking about is “who is for the exit door?” At this stage you can only speculate.

Almost every Celtic midfielder right now, has a valid reason for wanting to go or for the club moving them on. It’s a lottery to be quite honest and its anyone’s guess who is for the chop.

After a dire season for him so far, Stefan Johansen is top of some lists. Come the summer he will have been at the club for two-and-a-half seasons and with only one of those seasons being poor (the current one), it would seem rather harsh to sell him based upon that.

Nir Bitton, one of Celtic’s best players has a long-term deal (not that, that stands for anything at Celtic) but he is probably our most profitable midfielder right now. For that reason, it would not surprise me if Celtic tried to cash in on that this summer.

Recently back from long-term injury is Charlie Mulgrew. Now I am a fan of Charlie, but because his deal is due to run out, questions have been raised over his future but with his versatility, relatively low salary and an influential Scottish player, I doubt Celtic would let him go.

Tom Rogić, a player I never thought would wear the Hoops ever again, has been a revelation this season. Even though Europe was a major let down for the club and the domestic scene has been a real slog, Tom has been a stand out performer for me and his Celtic future should be a priority.

Kris Commons has ben on the sidelines recently with injury and illness. He has weighed in with 9 goals overall this season but at the age of 32 and not always a first pick for Ronny Deila, he could be moved on.

It would be a great shame to part with such a gifted player. Last season he was well out of the picture at one point but he still massed 16 goals in all competitions.

I think his experience is undervalued at times, especially for big games. Personally, I would be looking to retain his services as one of the club’s most experienced players but with inflated numbers at the club, he could be on wrong end of the decision making.

Out on the wide areas there are a few players vying for similar positions. James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Gary Mackay-Steven have all seen action this season but Celtic cannot possibly sustain all three, particularly when they have just drafted in Patrick Roberts on loan until the end of next season.

When on his game, Forrest is a nightmare for defenders. He can add goals as much as an assist but he is often let down by injury.

McGregor got his chance under Ronny Deila last season and repaid him immediately with a goal on his debut in Europe. As that season wore on, he faded out of the picture and after getting injured has made it back into the fold this season.

He appears to be one of Ronny Deila’s favourites. In fairness to McGregor, he has made a fair contribution recently as well.

Mackay-Steven has also been out of the picture but he came back onto the scene recently as well. He too has goals in him and plays in a wide area but can support the front man as well.

In this area though, something has to give. And there are other players possibly looking at summer exits.

Efe Ambrose is far from having a CSC named after him (or does he have one already)t. With the defence already beginning to take shape without him, he could be on his way out.

Tyler Blackett is most likely going to return to Manchester United. He hasn’t impressed at all, though to be fair I think he was out of his depth to begin with.

Stefan Šćepović, currently out on loan at Getafe, may not even return to Celtic. Having signed on deadline day two summers ago, he has failed to hit the heights in Scotland.

I thought he had a good chance this season to prove himself but was sent out on loan instead. Whether that was his desire or Deila’s desire, I can’t see Celtic bringing him back again.

Also out on loan is Anthony Stokes. Despite what any fan thinks of his playing ability, good or bad, it would appear it is his off the field issues that are the problem.

There is not doubt that the player has talent but his time is almost certainly up. I am fairly certain Celtic will move him on this summer.

A question mark remains over Nadir Çiftçi though. He got the nod in Europe early on in the season mainly because he had a domestic ban and couldn’t play in the league.

In half a season he hasn’t looked anywhere near doing a job. Will he come back?

I think he probably will. Whether he ever makes it at Celtic though remains in doubt.

Last but not least is Derk Boerrigter. And that’s all I have to say about him.

Good luck to the Hoops today, whoever manages to get a game! Time to open up that lead at the of the Scottish Premiership.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Comfortably Thumb

Celtic turned in a comfortable performance yesterday at home to Ross County. After a spate of bad form, Ronny Deila got a decent response from his players.

Leigh Griffiths, a recent victim of social media abuse, notched up goal number 30 of the season. He’d been denied by the post earlier in the match which could easily have turned out to be the story of the game but it wasn’t.

Instead, the timing of Celtic’s opening goal was ideal with it coming in injury time in the first half. Kieran Tierney crossed the ball into the Ross County box which their defence failed to clear sufficiently thanks to pressure from Stefan Johansen.

The ball dropped to Griffiths who smashed it home from close range. This made him the fastest Celtic player to reach the 30 goal mark since Henrik Larsson.

Dedryck Boyata doubled Celtic’s lead in the 57th minute with a great header. With a deep cross coming in from Stuart Armstrong, Boyata leapt to nod it in at the back post.

It helped settle things down but results are rarely settled with a two goal lead. Craig Gordon demonstrated a fine save late in the game to deny County an equaliser.

He’s not been in his best form this season but that save showed he still has the ability and focus. This was a steady performance by Celtic who have now won their last two game’s 2-0.

Ronny Deila needs to rebuild the confidence that the team were displaying throughout January. The League Cup exit remains a scar on the season but the focus remains on the League and Scottish Cup.

Now it is over to Aberdeen who face Inverness tomorrow night at the Caledonian Stadium. Both sides have only lost 1 of their last five matches but with 26 points separating each side, Aberdeen are the favourites for this match.

Though it is worth remembering that Derek McInnes’ side have not beaten Inverness in their last two league meetings. They drew the last match 2-2 at Pittodrie on Boxing Day and Inverness won 2-1 at the Caledonian Stadium back in late September.

The Dons are on form though and in pursuit of Celtic who despite a difficult period, remain 3 points at the top of the league. Win, lose or draw tomorrow night, Celtic will still have a game at hand.

Congratulations to Leigh Griffiths this weekend for reaching that milestone. Even greater credit for enduring the internet trolls.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

In the green corner with Boyd

There have been a lot of headlines for Celtic recently. That isn’t unusual of course but with the transfer window closed, most of the rumours die down and focus returns matters on the field.

After a bad week which involved 2 defeats and 1 win, a treble gone, Ronny Deila has been subject to further opposition from the Celtic support. Despite beating Lowland League side East Kilbride, the manner of the win failed to meet the expectations of many.

Personally, I don’t really care how Celtic played against East Kilbride that day. It was far from the performance or scoreline that was desired but it was enough to see Celtic through to the next round.

I’m not making excuses for Ronny Deila or the team but going into that game after two straight defeats, it was only the win that mattered. The heads were obviously down and the body language lacklustre but the win was the most important thing.

For many, this performance was the last straw though. I’m inclined to agree with Celtic’s new ambassador, Tom Boyd, when he said that the fans are overreacting.

Boyd is a Celtic man through and through. In fact he is a club man, regularly co-commentating on Celtic TV and representing Celtic in a variety of areas not to mention his charity work which my family appreciate a lot.

The cynic in me can’t help but think he is a typical club ‘yes man’. Don’t be fooled by the mellow and popular Boyd though – he loves Celtic with a real passion.

He came to the club at a time when we were fortunate to have a player of his quality. At that time Liam Brady was in charge, Celtic were in decline and the old Rangers were high on the ascendancy.

Boyd knows the bad times all too well. Trophyless seasons, bad results, an incompetent board and fan protests.

These were the bad times and any Celtic fan who lived through them such as myself knows all too well just how bad they were. The good thing for Boyd is that before he hung up his playing boots, he got to see better times for the club.

In an 11 year spell he played under 10 managers at Celtic. 3 of those were interim managers, a story which tells itself.

This is something that I am sure the club would like to avoid, despite the calls for Ronny Deila to leave now. Boyd has backed the current manager and is the ideal candidate to re-educate the fickle among our fan base.

When I hear this rebellion among our support you would think we were back in the early 90’s. I mean have a look at yourselves, we are nowhere near the low point we experienced back then.

Yet some fans think we are being misled, mismanaged and underfunded in every way. Well I hate to break it to you but this is the current Scottish football climate and thankfully Celtic are living within their means.

That may seem unacceptable for many of you but that is the environment we are tied to. This isn’t to say we cannot do better because we can but this is the hand we have been dealt and only time will see improvement.

If Ronny Deila had messed everything up then I might understand calls for him to leave. Come on though folks, you have to be off your head to sack a manager sitting top of the league and in with the chance of a domestic double.

We all know the areas that need improving and we are all passionate about the club. You need to see the bigger picture here though and apply a bit of perspective.

This rebellion is misplaced. Fans are reacting to a situation which warrants a bit more patience.

I’m glad that Boyd came out and said what he did. I also hope he has better luck getting the point across to people because I’m tired of hearing the same whingeing.

The support is divided but I remain firmly behind the manager right now. We’ll see what happens at the end of the season but I’m glad that as a Celtic supporter, I can stand in the same corner as Tom Boyd today.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac