Davies joins Rodgers at Celtic – Kennedy to follow?

With Chris Davies appointed as assistant manager to Brendan Rodgers, the coaching team is beginning to take shape. Davies was Rodgers’ assistant at Swansea and Liverpool so the partnership is an established and familiar one.

Both men have had strikingly similar career paths as well. Each retired as youth players through injury and each entered coaching at a young age.

For Brendan, it was Tommy Burns who gave him his opportunity to coach after retiring at the age of 20. For Chris, it was Brendan who gave him his opportunity to coach at Swansea some years after retiring at the age of 19.

The two obioviously knew each other from Reading, where both men’s professional playing careers had ended. It seems Reading is the key link in this affiliation, both having managed the academy but they each gained experience in coaching at other clubs as well.

I now wonder if John Kennedy may be given the chance to return to the fold as a first team coach. He too suffered a career ending injury, albeit after a long and protracted recovery attempt.

That eventually ground to a halt and Kennedy was never the same player. However, he has remained at the club since then, first as scout and then in a coaching capacity.

He knows the current squad from working under Ronny Deila in the first team and would be a useful addition to new coaching team. There is no doubt he can learn as much as he can offer and would enable a smooth transition for first team matters, particularly with things moving so quickly.

It may well be that Kennedy is not required for first team matters. However, Brendan mentioned him in his press conference on Monday so I expect he will provide the management team with some up-to-date insight.

Welcome to the club Chris.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Which players should make way at Celtic Park this summer?

Given the swollen numbers in Celtic’s first team as well as those wishing to make an impact, who should stay and who should go this summer?

Time for out of contract players to stay out of contract? Cash in on those in their final year?

Or do some a deserve another go? Let me know what you think?

 

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Brendan takes a bow at the Bredanbeu

Brendan Rodgers was paraded in front of the media at Celtic Park yesterday. Over ten thousands of the Celtic faithful swooped to Paradise to see the unveiling of the man we all hope will take the club forward.

Like his predecessor, the Celtic way was to be the staging area of the fans welcome. However, Celtic rightly predicted large crowds and opened the south stand to house everyone.

At his press conference and his address to the fans, Brendan said all the right things. You could forgive Celtic for preparing their man for speaking to the media for the first time as Celtic Manager, in fact it is very much part of today’s game in general, but the new manager is already in touch with all things Celtic.

When speaking, his words sounded genuine, honest and true. These days we are too smart to be fooled by guys who supposedly stood on the terracing etc.

The only item on the agenda here is how much success Brendan can bring to Celtic. He has already stated the differences in finance between the Premiership and the Premier League and that it is the club that was the attraction.

As he said himself, he is here to continue Celtic’s “domination of Scottish football” and “make an impact on European football”. There is as much pressure to do that at Celtic as there is to get even a whiff of success in England.

They are two different leagues – “they’ve got their game and we’ve got ours” – Jock Stein once said. The pressure is every bit as great given the high expectations at Celtic and those of certain teams south of the border.

For Brendan, this move means domestic success, European progression and as he stated himself, filling the Lisbon Lion Stand again. I’m confident he has already achieved the latter and a ball hasn’t even been kicked yet.

He took on the questions from the media, finance central to most of their agenda. He acknowledged his comfort with what was on the table and what could be achieved.

To be fair to Celtic, they would not have got their man if they could not agree on a way forward that both parties were comfortable with. Celtic have already invested by bringing in Brendan and the next step will to take this current squad to the next level.

Some players will leave, there is no doubt about that. I wouldn’t expect too many to come in though.

To shape the team their must be key targets. Three at most but I would expect these to be impact players rather than squad fillers.

Martin O’Neill inherited a pretty good squad and it is no different for Brendan Rodgers. The new manager doesn’t have Henrik Larsson of course, but there is the nucleus of a very good team and a batch of youth to go with it.

O’Neill brought in Chris Sutton, Alan Thomson, Joos Valgaeren, Didier Agathe and later on Neil Lennon. These were all impact players for Celtic who added to a team that already had Paul Lambert, Johan Mjallby, Stylian Petrov, Eyal Berkovic, Alan Stubbs, Tom Boyd, Jackie McNamara, Lubomir Moravcik and of course, Henrik.

For Brendan he has a slightly different task in that his squad is too big. Downsizing will not be a problem though, it will serve us better.

These are interesting times for Celtic and this is an exciting time to be a supporter. I have high hopes for Brendan and what he can achieve.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

Time to be cut-throat with our over-inflated squad

No sooner than he is announced as Celtic’s new manager, Brendan Rodgers is said to be planning a clear out of players. This isn’t much of a surprise but it does seem to be prompt action.

Celtic have a massive team and in the hours following Rodgers signature, I’ve been discussing the current squad in my circle. Downsizing is a must particularly if fresh players are to be introduced but there are some question marks over key players.

Rumours are suggesting that Stefan Šćepović and Carlton Cole have already gone. Emilio Izaguirre was also set to leave but the word on the street is he will be back for pre-season training.

Perhaps the arrival of Rodgers has some players reconsidering their Celtic careers. This is not just limited to Izzy though, there are several players who will be evaluating their positions.

The latest rumour is linking Efe Ambrose with a move to Europa League opponents Fenerbahçe. I mean, if the Turkish club didn’t get a good enough look at his calamitous efforts when playing against him then I would say this is a cruel joke.

However, he does need to go and won’t get any argument from me. Tyler Blackett can also return to Manchester United after a poor loan spell.

In terms of do-they-or-don’t-they get new deals are Charlie Mulgrew, James Forrest and Darnell Fisher. All three are out of contract, though Forrest’s is said to run until mid-season, but whether they have futures at the club will be the first piece of business.

Mulgrew is a valuable utility man and any deal he offered is most likely to be small given his recent absence from the team. Forrest has also been a player absent from the first team but how much of that has been injury based is unclear.

He has had his fair share of them and has hindered his career at the club. Despite that, he has had some fantastic games for the club, we just haven’t seen it for so long and he might become surplus to requirement.s

Fisher, has been on loan at St Johnstone this season but played less than a dozen games. He looked like a decent prospect, despite playing in an oversubscribed playing position.

With Mikael Lustig currently first choice, Saidy Janko second, Fisher is likely to be cut. That would only change if either of the first two were to leave which is doubtful.

In the final year of their contracts are Kris Commons, Stefan Johansen, Tom Rogic, Leonardo Fasan and Eoghan O’Connell. Also on that list are Emilio Izaguirre and Efe Ambrose.

There is opportunity for Celtic to cash in on all or some of these guys. However, one player the club should make a priority to keep is Tom Rogic.

Put simply, he is one of our best players and given the season he has just had, deserves a new contract. Commons’ value will be low given his age but his ability suggests he still has a role to play at the club.

Johansen had a great start to his Celtic career but this season has been poor. There is nothing to suggest he won’t get back to his best and a new contract would depend on that and his desire to stay.

Fasan and O’Connell are squad players who have never made an impact and could will either go out on loan, let their contracts wind down or be sold off. The only other player with a year left to go is Cole but if rumours are accurate, we can confine him to the scrap-heap.

Then there is the matter of Celtic’s players out on loan. Fisher we’ve covered, the Šćepović rumour has yet to be clarified so that leaves some key players to discuss.

After 4 goals in 22 appearances for Celtic, Nadir Çiftçi was shipped out on loan to Eskişehirspor during the January transfer window. He lasted just 34 minutes in his first game before being substituted and was sent of in his second after receiving two yellow cards in the space of a minute.

In 10 appearances he managed 3 goals and now Eskişehirspor have been relegated. Given that their fans set fire to their own stadium following that, I’d say Çiftçi and Eskişehirspor are a good fit for each other.

Before going to Hibs, Liam Henderson was looking like a very decent midfield prospect. However, it is a busy area in terms of personnel and Celtic farmed him out for some first team experience.

He played the end of last season at Rosenborg where he scored 4 goals in 13 games. After returning to Celtic he was then off on a season long loan to Championship club, Hibs.

He’s played a massive 48 games and scored 6 goals. Will he be returning to Celtic this summer and making an impact in the first team?

Well he certainly has the talent but like I say, there is a lot of competition in the team right now. His future may depend on the future of others with expired/expiring contracts.

Another Hibs player with a question mark over his future is Anthony Stokes. I’ve been fairly convinced the club have been trying to move him on but as you might have seen from his performance in the Scottish Cup Final, he still has a lot of worth.

He is still only 27 and you know what, Brendan Rodgers might just fancy him for the left flank. At the moment, it isn’t our strongest position but it is a place Stokes knows inside out.

Is it time for the prodigal son to return? Watch this space.

Other loanees are Stuart Findlay, Calum Waters, and Aidan Nesbitt. These guys could very well be part of the next generation but right now there immediate futures are not a burning issue.

So what about our other team members? Will we see any more movement within the squad?

Well in the goalkeeper department we are reasonably secure for the coming season with Craig Gordon as number one and Logan Bailly as backup. The defence isn’t looking too bad either though that will all depend on who is available.

Erik Sviatchenko looks good and steady at the back. He needs a permanent partner though and my first choice would be Jozo Šimunović.

However, Jozo has had his injuries and the central defensive pairing will depend on his recovery and long-term fitness. If that doesn’t work out then you are looking at Dedryck Boyata.

In all honesty, I haven’t been convinced by the Belgian who was a permanent buy from Manchester City once Jason Denayer returned to them from his loan spell. Boyata hasn’t even come close to looking as good as Denayer so this season is make or break for him.

Our midfield is flooding with personnel right now and to accommodate all of them is a tall order. Captain Scott Brown has had a dodgy season but there is no danger of losing his services though I do think Rodgers should not be afraid to drop him.

Nir Bitton is a fine player when he wants to be, despite his languid demeanour at times. I’d be happy for him to stay on though with a return to form we may find it difficult to prevent a future move.

Gary Mackay-Steven has had some decent games for Celtic but he lacks any sort of consistency. Even at his best, he hasn’t looked as good as James Forrest and with Patrick Roberts currently blowing away almost every other Celtic player right now, Mackay-Steven is on the fringes right now.

One player growing in importance and demonstrating is adaptability is Callum McGregor. Ronny Deila gave him his first outing in the first team and has been a very loyal servant to the now departed Celtic Head Coach.

He can play wide, central or deep and has an eye for goal. His place in this squad is not in jeopardy.

Stuart Armstrong is wasted out in the wide areas. He might have a left foot but he is not a let winger.

For me, he needs to play more of a central role. He isn’t fast but he is strong, has great technique and can pick out a pass.

The two players who will be knocking on the door of the new manager will be Ryan Christie and Scott Allan. Both came in last summer and have played a small amount of matches, though Christie was loaned back to his previous club for half of this season as well has suffering and injury.

They are both highly rated players and could well be the part of the new season under Rodgers. Celtic need to push forward and these guys can be part of it but as I have said before, we have a lot of players in the midfield position and something or someone will have to give.

In the youth front, Anthony Ralston and Joe Thomson are still on the periphery. With so many players ahead of them their time is likely to be a bit further down the line.

Up front is an area where Celtic are lightweight. Leigh Griffiths is our star player right now but he has not backup. Colin Kazim-Richards is a more physical player but he doesn’t’ provide anywhere near the same kind of ability so this is an area where Celtic will have to strengthen, particularly if we are to make inroads in Europe once more.

Jack Aitchison came off the bench to score with his first touch in his first senior appearance for the club in the 7-0 mauling of Motherwell. He also became the youngest ever player to score for Celtic, breaking an age-old record.

You can’t judge the boy on one goal. If he can offer something long-term in attack we will soon find out though.

Rodgers might have to be cut-throat to bring down the squad size in order to make some space for new players. We already have a new player in Kristoffer Ajer joining the ranks as part of a pre-planned deal but there will be further moves and changes in the coming weeks.

Exciting times to be a Celtic supporter.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Welcome to Paradise, Brendan

Back in May 2012 I began this blog as a personal pastime. I had contributed to a few other Celtic websites before and after this, but I decided to go it alone.

Celtic had won the SPL and the landscape of Scottish Football was in the middle of a saga. To escape said saga, I wrote about two football managers ascending in the game south of the border.

Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert had each taken ‘bigger’ jobs within a day of each other. Their stock was on the rise so Liverpool came swooping in to take Rodgers from Swansea and Villa took Lambert from Norwich.

They had both managed to survive their promotion seasons with their Championship clubs finishing. They even finished next to each other on the same points separated purely by goal difference.

Despite having a similar path and success with each of those Championship clubs, it was not so fortunate following their moves. Neither achieved the goal of winning trophies and both were sacked, albeit in different seasons.

One of those men I have retained my admiration for. The other, not so much.

And whad’ya know? That man, Brendan Rodgers, is now in the Celtic hot seat.

Now, play this down all you like. This is by no means a minor appointment – it’s a bit of a coup!

In the days and weeks leading up to this announcement, there have been a several favourites. Getting Rodgers was seen as impossible.

The fact that he has signed on speaks volumes about Celtic’s ambitions. It is also a credit to the new manager and his interest in this club.

Celtic and Rodgers are in a similar place right now. The club require upgrading for Europe, a voice in the dressing room and a plan on match days.

The new head coach needs a club to repair his managerial wounds and a platform to rebuild his reputation. This could be the beginning of something beautiful for both parties.

As I said to a couple of friends, Rodgers should be aiming for somewhere on the scale between Gordon Strachan (WGS) and Martin O’Neill (MON). That means bums on seats, Champions League football and entertaining the fans again.

Now before someone bashes me and points out the differences between the two previous Celtic managers, let me explain something. We had no idea what MON would do but it changed the club forever.

WGS took things one step further in the Champions League. What Rodgers needs to do is pin the tail on the donkey somewhere between those two men and make his own story.

I think he is the man to take Celtic forward right now and I’m confident in his ability. He may well emerge as a man we cannot retain the services of further down the line, but right now Rodgers can do a job at Celtic and that is why Dermot Desmond has made this happen.

Like him or loathe him, we’ve snared a guy who two seasons ago was out of our league. Since being sacked by Liverpool, he has become more attainable.

To ensure his signature though, Celtic have had to invest. That means settling financial terms, projecting expectations and demonstrating what you are offering to make that happen.

In Scotland, money will always be the Achilles heel of the game. There isn’t the customer base, stadia or media that can flog this league to the outside world nor is there a significant TV deal.

So for Celtic to draw in Rodgers is quite something. Whatever terms he is on, Brendan is here and I am hopeful he will bring success to Celtic Park.

The club need someone to man manage, lead, make effective decisions and with any luck get the best out of this group of players we have accrued over a few seasons. It isn’t an easy task, particularly with sort of attention this job comes with and the limited resources to do it with but that is why Celtic have had to aim higher.

Celtic have significantly more funding than the rest of Scottish clubs. It isn’t nearly as much as some of these clubs in Europe though.

Still, Celtic have exited Europe against teams with smaller finances recently so it isn’t just about the money. This is about motivation, tactics, team selection and recruitment.

It is worth mentioning that of all the men mentioned for this role, Rodgers is by far the outstanding candidate. Furthermore, he was the man fans felt least likely to accept an offer given his growth in the game.

There aren’t too many men out there to have managed two of the world’s greatest clubs. Whilst Liverpool wasn’t an overwhelming success, Brendan came very close to winning the Premier League.

Celtic have shown their intent here and the timing is perfect. It isn’t even June and we’ve installed a big name.

Roy Keane was said to have turned the job down two years ago due to lack of transfer funds. If there is more on offer this time it is evident that whilst he may have been more interested this time around, he wasn’t number one choice as he was in 2014.

Does Brendan have the qualities we desire? I think so.

Can he do great things? We’ll find out.

Was there a better, more viable candidate out there? Not in my opinion.

So we are in for an interesting journey. I’ll say it again, I think this could be the best appointment since MON.

Welcome to Paradise, Brendan.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Ronny’s Final Stop

Today, the Deila bus will make its final stop. It has been a two-year journey with mixed success.

On the one hand there has been a League Cup and two League titles, the second of which will be presented today at Celtic Park. The overriding factor is of course the lack of progress this season and in particular, in Europe.

To win support from the majority you will be measured by your efforts in Europe. It is a money spinner for the club and an essential part of the season for the support.

Last season things turned around as Christmas approached. There was also a decent inning in the Europa League to speak of.

This season the football has been dire and many, many players have let themselves and the club down on the park. Having said that, there have been a handful of players who have turned in a fine season.

To progress and succeed though, you need you whole team doing it and they haven’t as a collective. Too many areas on the field of play have been an empty jersey.

A hollow central defence has only recently seen any stability thanks to the January signing of Erik Sviatchenko. By then Europe was already a distant memory but he did make things look more assured at the back.

He is captain material and so long as he has the right partner next season things should start to stabilise at the back. Hopefully an injury free Jozo Šimunović can restart his Celtic career next season alongside him.

At left back Kieran Tierney has been a joy to watch. For his age and experience he has done remarkably well and his presence in the team has been a breath of fresh air.

His attitude is perfect and should mature into a fine player. He has the classic full back style and it is good to know that left-back berth is in good hands with the expected departure of Emilio Izaguirre in the summer.

In the midfield, it has been one of Celtic’s worst seasons for a while. I don’t dare to mention Nir Bitton (who I don’t think has done as bad as some make out this season) but Tom Rogic certainly deserves some recognition.

At one stage his Celtic career looked to be in jeopardy. Having sustained injury and a loan spell back in his homeland he made it back to Celtic and in to the first team.

Not many Celtic players manage that and to his credit, he made his mark when given the chance. He displaced Stefan Johansen in the midfield attack role that the Norwegian made his own last season and was rightly awarded for.

The only thing Rogic may have been missing this season were more starts. He came off the bench and missed some games but I there were games where he wasn’t picked when I think we needed him.

Still, he got goal of the season award for all of his efforts. And in all honesty, there were some great goals from him this season.

Callum McGregor has proved that his efforts from early last season were not a one-off. Since his return from injury he has made another impact on the team.

He is versatile and has an eye for goal. Much as he may not be player of the season, his efforts have not gone unnoticed.

On the subject of goals, Leigh Griffiths has been a lone striker all season. I personally wasn’t sure whether he had the ability in Europe but he still managed to score 4 times in 11 appearances.

The most impressive part of his season is of course reaching the 40 goal mark. Never since the days of Henrik Larsson has this ever been achieved by a Celtic player and Griffiths becomes only the 8th Celt ever to do so.

It is fine company and he has earned it. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Leigh Griffiths has proven me wrong.

I was sceptical about his transfer to Celtic and his off the field behaviour. If Ronny has anything to be proud of it is his work with Griffiths.

A late addition to the plaudits for this season is Patrick Roberts. Signed on an 18 month loan deal from Manchester City, he has scored 5 goals in 12 games.

Today, he could well add to that tally as Celtic host Motherwell. With Griffiths suspended Colin Kazim-Richards will step into the strikers role but the goals could well come from the winger rather than the seldom seen striker.

So to Ronny Deila and his final appearance in the dug out. For many he should have gone long before now but I don’t agree.

Yes, we lost out in two cup semi-finals but changes before then would not have guaranteed anything better. He was entitled to finish the season and I am glad he has.

This way, he gets to say goodbye in his own way rather than being pushed out the door mid-season with failure rubber stamped on his CV. He can lift the Scottish Premiership trophy for the second successive time and walk away respectfully.

I liked the guy. I liked him a lot.

Perhaps the job was too big for him. Maybe he didn’t impose himself enough earlier as he mentioned in the media.

Life is about making mistakes and learning from them. To say Ronny was a failure would be wrong.

It was an experiment and one that I backed. We now know what we must do in the aftermath of this venture.

There is a decent team at Celtic right now. The next man needs to get the best out of them and move on those who don’t fit the bill.

Today we may be seeing some Celtic players for the last time in the Hoops. Let’s celebrate Five-In-Row with a Ronny Roar and a farewell to those departing after today’s celebrations.

Here’s to the future.

Hail! Hail! Ronny and all the best.

Stevie Mac

How can we put faith in our authorities?

It’s been a few days since the initial broadcast of “Hillsborough” on BBC. I finally got the chance to watch it and knowing the impact it had already had on the public, I was expecting a tough documentary.

Like many major events in the life that we live, you tend to remember ‘where you were’ when one occurs. I was only a kid on April 15th 1989, a young teenage boy.

I recall the footage live on TV that Saturday afternoon. I don’t remember if it was Grandstand or BBC News but the images were eye-opening for a boy of my age.

I had seen footage from other football matches in recent times where there had been crowd trouble. This was something else though, this was not crowd trouble.

Nearly 30 years on and with a verdict that has been fought for like nothing I have seen before, justice for the 96 dead was achieved last month. That is a long time to uncover the real truth about that day in 1989, too long in fact.

People have grown older, lives have been lost, families and friends and relationships have all suffered as a result. This has occurred because the failure and malpractice of authorities in the UK in a bid to redirect blame and protect themselves.

This isn’t something new to us of course. It has happened throughout history on these shores.

Institutional failings are at the heart of many historic events in the UK. Not complacency, but a blatant disregard for fairness, honesty and transparency.

It’s clear from the documentary that as well as the people who lost their lives and the families that suffered as a result of that, police officers also suffered. The chaos that ensued that day was caused by policing on the day of the match.

Not just the mismanagement of commanding a match but the failure to support and direct officers accordingly. The horrific images are etched in my mind as I recall the blurred stills and video footage from the BBC documentary.

I have seen disturbing things in my own life and career. I can only imagine the eternal torment on those who both suffered and witnessed the events of that day.

When I think of Hillsborough and the findings of the Independent report, I can only think of other times when the public have been let down by the authorities. We appear to live in a time of endless enquiries and yet nothing seems to change.

How do we move forward if we keep looking back at the same mistakes? Can we ever truly trust those who we are supposed to rely upon to safeguard us?

The Hillsborough disaster was of a completely different nature. Justice was denied before that day even began because of the people who were in charge and their inability to protect life.

The treatment of the victims and their families was abhorrent from the beginning and throughout the initial inquiry. To obtain the justice they deserved, they had to create their own campaign because they were let down by our authorities.

Those who fought are a credit to the dead, the injured and the families who have suffered. They are also an inspiration to the public and me personally.

You cannot allow ‘justice’ to go unchallenged. Never give up the fight for the truth.

Justice for the 96. You’ll never walk alone.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac