The invincible truth

kr_celtic_treble8jpg-js327350725Celtic will never have another domestic season quite like this one. They’ve set the bar so high that next season they will have the rest of the Scottish Premiership gunning for them.

The 2017-2018 season will see Aberdeen, Rangers, St Johnstone, Hearts, Partick Thistle, Ross County, Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Dundee and newly promoted Hibsernian all vying to take points from Celtic. Hamilton Academical will remain in the top flight at the expense of playoff finalists Dundee United who will be deeply disappointed to have missed out on promotion.

Heading down to the Championship are Inverness Caledonian Thistle after a seven-year spell in the top flight. I’m actually a bit disappointed to see them go down given that they’re generally one of Celtic’s better opponents, but this season they missed out on the playoff spot by two points.

Whilst Celtic won’t need to concern themselves with any trips to Inverness for a while, the other Premiership candidates will need no motivation. Their task will be to close the gap – a 30 point gap – by chipping away at the invincible Celtic machine that conceded only 25 goals and dropped just 8 points all season.

The treble winners drew against four opponents during the 2016-2017 campaign. Inverness, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Ross County.

The last three draws occurred in the final 11 league games of the season.  Two of those draws took place after the title was secured.

Celtic hadn’t given up, but there were signs of battle-weariness. The smell of a treble and an unbeaten domestic season remained alive though.

Next season I wouldn’t expect or bet on that happening again. Brendan Rodger’s will of course be looking to retain the title but he will also be hoping to make in-roads on the European scene.

A spot in the Champions League group stage is three rounds away and begins for Celtic in a matter of weeks. An early start to the season is a huge task for clubs with European aspirations.

It is criminal that a league champion, regardless of coefficients, has to go through this rigmarole. Some clubs have to endure an extra round, but this is bad enough particularly after a long, tiring season.

The Celtic squad will get some well deserved time off. Some will have international duties and pre-season training will begin much earlier than the majority of European teams.

Sadly that is something that Celtic have to live with these days. Until things change by UEFA’s hand or other Scottish clubs get the finger out to help raise the country coefficient then Celtic will be in this situation for some time yet.

With Europe firmly in the mind of Brendan Rodgers, it is likely that Celtic will drop more points next season compared the one that has just gone. As I said earlier, all teams will be gunning for Celtic, especially those who failed to take any points off the treble winners.

Even with the season over, I can’t wait to see the Bhoys reassemble for the next campaign. The squad won’t look too different next season though will definitely be smaller.

Kris Commons and Efe Ambrose are now free agents. The future of many others will also be ratified especially those who were out on loan.

Brendan Rodgers has worked with the large squad he inherited for one year now. He is in a much better position to chop and change now that most have been given a chance to prove their worth.

It isn’t clear what sort of targets Brendan has in mind to bring in just yet. I can’t imagine it will amount to any more than two or three players though.

Top of that list will be Patrick Roberts. The Manchester City loanee has now returned to the Premier League club, but his future is uncertain.

There are two options open to Celtic. Another loan spell or a permanent switch.

Some reports suggest that Celtic have made an agreement with City for a permanent move. If true then the ball is in Roberts’ court.

One thing is for certain and that is he will never play for Manchester City any time soon. Pep Guardiola has the capability to bankroll a whole new team for next season and with money burning a hole in his pocket I doubt Patrick will be gracing the Premier League with his skills.

Given the personnel the City managee already has at his disposal and the potential he is likely to recruit there isn’t a chance Roberts will be part of that plan. That isn’t being disrespectful to Paddy that’s just being realistic.

He is an exciting player. An exceptionally talented player, but he is competing with players from all around the world to play in one team.

City has the financial prowess to buy the best players from anywhere to play under one of the best managers in the game in a league that is also heavily funded. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Premier League is the best in the world because I’ve watched enough matches to tell you that it is anything but that.

However, this is a playground that many of the worlds players want to play in be it for the money being thrown at them or the top clubs of that league. If Paddy was to return south he should do so only to play for a top club because that is what he deserves.

Should that fail to transpire then he should make Celtic his home until that becomes a reality. The Celtic family would not stand in his way if that day came, but I personally think he should return to Celtic for one more season at the very least and assess his options now.

That is one player who should almost certainly be coming to Celtic next season. He has proven his worth and been welcomed with open arms the club, the fans and the players.

With a very successful season behind us, everyone can take a breather. The treble winning invincibles of the 2016-2017 season will go down in history not just in Celtic history, but in world football history.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

 

History awaits Celtic at Hampden

The last time Celtic won a treble, I was still a season ticket holder and living in Glasgow. After four managers in three seasons the club procured the services of Martin O’Neill.

The Northern Irishman, a breath of fresh air in the English Premiership, promised he would do everything he possibly could to bring success to the club. And he did. 

Many will cherish the UEFA Cup run of the 2002/2003 season which was ironically trophyless one. However, it was O’Neill’s debut season treble that regenerated the club and set us on a course to better things.

Nobody knew what to expect, but we all knew O’Neill was the right guy for the job. He would add a few key players to an already talented squad.

Sound familiar? Is history repeating itself?

Well, we’ll find out today at Hampden when another Northern Irishman leads Celtic to the Scottish Cup Final. Aberdeen, the Scottish Premiership runners-up, stand in Celtic’s way of a historical moment.

Gordon, Lustig, Tierney, Simunovic, Boyata, Brown, Armstrong, McGregor, Sinclair, Roberts and Griffiths, the expected line-up, will walk out onto the Hampden turf this afternoon. They are charged with bringing home the treble and securing the final piece of an unbeaten domestic season.

There is a possibility we may see Sviatchenko, Toure, Rogić, Forrest or Dembele at some point as well. That will all depend on how the game pans out.

Your moment awaits Bhoys. Bring home the treble.

Stay invincible. Stay great.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac 

50 years on…the Lions of Lisbon roar

In 1967 I wasn’t born. In fact I wasn’t even a twinkle in my father’s eye.

My parents had only just got married in late April of the same year. A month later, Celtic were playing in the biggest match in their history.

My oldest brother might even have been a bi-product of that moment in history given the accuracy of the timeline. I wouldn’t appear myself for another 9 years, but this is a piece of history that every Celtic supporter learns.

I am every bit as moved by the story of the events that took place on May 25th 1967 as those who saw it themselves. When you are a Celtic supporter growing up, learning about the Lisbon Lions is one of the fundamentals.

The tournament was in its eleventh year when Celtic won it. The first five had been won by Real Madrid, followed by two-in-a-row by Benfica, a one-off by AC Milan and then a double header by their city rivals Internazionale.

With teams of that calibre having gone before Celtic, you’d be forgiven for thinking they didn’t stand a chance. That was certainly the opinion of the football world at the time.

Jock Stein and his players had plenty of ability and belief though. I never tire of hearing the stories about the build up to their moment of history either.

Last night the BBC aired a show commemorating the victory which if I am being honest, touched my heart. As I said, I wasn’t even born, but I shed a tear just as it reached the climax.

It was moving and I would urge you to watch it if you haven’t already. In fact I will probably watch it again at the weekend with a few beers and ball my eyes out.

What is important about this celebration of history isn’t just the 50 year milestone. This was a true historical achievement.

I often wonder how other football fans look upon this. Do they truly recognise its meaning?

Jock Stein deserved a knighthood above any other British manager in history. He was the first manager to lift that trophy for Scotland, Britain and northern Europe.

It is the opinion of many Celtic supporters that Jock Stein was not properly honoured. A year after Celtic’s achievement, Matt Busby followed in the footsteps of the Lisbon Lions with his Manchester United team.

He received a knighthood for it. Much sooner than the new year as well.
In government documents released many years later, it was revealed that Stein’s name was removed from the honours list. The decision was based upon player behaviour between Celtic and Racing Club of Argentina in the Intercontinental Cup.

Six players were sent off. Two for Racing Club, four for Celtic. 
The dirty antics of the South Americans had been plentiful in the home and away tued. By the time a decidimg third match came around Celtic were baited into retaliation.

You can read about the details of these three games anywhere online but the important thing to remember is that these ‘antics’ were common place in South America. Very little would change in that football region. 

Further examples in the same competition would occur again and again. To exclude Stein from the one honour he deserved because of what Celtic had to endure demands revisiting.

A posthumous knighthood may well have been turned down before. This is a distinction that should be honoured now.

I’m proud to be a Celt. I’m proud of Celtic. 

History was made by these special group of men. On this, the 50th anniversary it is time to honour their achievement. 

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac
 

 

Oh what a night…

Nothing to play for? I think not.

Friday night’s live match was a lively encounter. Depsite the final score, credit must go to both teams.

Celtic came out of the traps and drew first blood in quick succession. Three time to be exact.

Most of us were just getting comfortable during this time. Three goals later we were all wondering where this match was going. 

Celtic were dominating their hosts from the off. How this game was going to finish was anyone’s guess.

After Boyata, Armstrong and Griffiths had dispatched their efforts inside 11 minutes the final result was anyone’s guess. Aberdeen responded in the 12th minute, but no more goals would follow from either team.

The remaining minutes of the match were anything but dull though. Sure, there was the odd lull in the game, but the first and second placed Scottish Premiership teams were having a real go at each other. 

Realistically there should have been more goals, that statistic was not to the detriment of the entire match right enough. Each player was fighting for the very piece of turf they were deployed on.

A fair amount of credit must go to Aberdeen. Mainly because after going three goals down so quickly they were in shock but responded.

When they pulled one back they remained focused for the rest of the match. From there, they looked hungry, but the second goal didn’t transpire for them.

At either end of the park, chances came and went. The goalkeepers did their job but on a different day this could have been a higher scoreline.

One or two flash points happened as well, but these were more competitive than malicious. This was a good advert for the Scottish game.

Friday night matches have rarely been dull occasions for Celtic this season. They’ve yet to lose one either so it was pleasing to see this game out as a victory.

Celtic are now 30 points clear of Aberdeen on 100 points. That’s a mere 3 points off equaling a record they already hold.

This was by far the hardest game Celtic had left in there run-in. Not that Partick Thistle or Hearts will be a pushover, but what lies ahead is far less daunting if Celtic are to break further records.

Three points and six goals would see them equal their own record in the league. However, as it stands 100 points and 99 goals scored doesn’t look too shabby for one season with two games left to play.

The unbeaten run continues for now. Two more league games await.

Full praise to both teams for putting on a fantastic display in the build up to a final which they will both appear in. That will be a different game of course, but this was a great match for the neutral.

Aberdeen gave a great account of themselves. I hope they push on next season as well.

As for Celtic it’s another great result. Here’s to maintaining the unbeaten run.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Dress rehearsal at Pittodrie

 

For Celtic supporters everywhere, this season has been one to remember. Even better, the season isn’t over and there’s still more to play for.

The league title was secured last month. We knew it was Celtic’s long before that though.

What remains on the cards for Brendan Rodgers and his team is two-fold. Winning the Scottish Cup to complete a Scottish treble and completing the domestic season unbeaten.

The Scottish Cup is the last game of the season and Brendan will already be preparing for that match by ensuring his players in their best shape. He has the squad to make the changes, but with one eye on an unbeaten run in the league, he won’t be taking any risks.

So tonight’s game at Pittodrie will not be taken lightly by the manager. Celtic are three games away from an unbeaten run in the league, four in the entire domestic season.

Those two goals are driving this team on. Nobody will want to see anything other than achieving both for themselves, the fans and for the club.

There are also a few other milestones and records available. By winning their remaining three league fixtures they could surpass some of the current Scottish records, all held by Celtic.

The club records up for grabs are most wins in a season, consecutive games unbeaten, most points in a season and most goals in a season. These currently stand at 33 wins, 32 games, 103 points and 105 goals.

Celtic are 2 wins, 1 unbeaten game, 6 points and 8 goals away from equalling those respective records with three games in which to do so. It isn’t an impossible task, but in order to match them, or better still beat them, will require a strong finish to the season.

Aberdeen, Partick Thistle and Hearts all stand in the way of that. Tonight, Celtic will be looking to keep that dream alive.

These live Friday night scheduled matches have been great to watch this season. This one has extra meaning and could also been seen as a dress rehearsal for the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden in two weeks time.

Brendan Rodgers is so close to making the same kind impact on Scottish football as Martin O’Neill did. Despite Celtic’s dominance in the Scottish game, trebles are rare things at the club.

The club have only won three domestic trebles in their history. Across the city, their former rivals won the treble seven times before their eventual demise in 2012.

Given the domination by both clubs throughout the history of the Scottish game you would expect those figures to be higher. Celtic certainly should have won more trebles in recent years, but have come unstuck for a variety of reasons – that’s another blog for another time though.

If Brendan were to reach this milestone, he would be in the company of the only other men to have delivered trebles for Celtic. Jock Stein and Martin O’Neill.

Last week against St Johnstone, Celtic went with a few changes, but tonight I expect to see a strong side. Scott Brown is still suspended and Moussa Dembele is currently injured, but Celtic have other players to call upon.

Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic are certain to start tonight. With an outstanding Scott Brown missing, the door is open to Callum McGregor, Liam Henderson, Nir Bitton and Eboue Kouassi.

Bitton played the ninety minutes last week and may be preferred in a holding role. However, McGregor has scored in each of Celtic’s last three games against St Johnstone and in the double-header at Ibrox and Hampden.

With Rogic not long back from injury he is unlikely to play the entire match. Therefore McGregor could be seen as one to bring off the bench.

I think Celtic will line up as:

Gordon, Lustig, Tierney, Boyata, Simunovic, Bitton, Armstrong, Rogic, Sinclair, Roberts, Griffiths

I expect to see McGregor to appear at some point and possibly James Forrest as well. Here’s to maintaining that unbeaten run.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Is Kenny Miller still greetin’?

I’m not talking about that perma-tanned expression he wears. Just that he’s not letting Sunday go.

I get it, he’s pissed at losing. Who wouldn’t be?

He hasn’t let go of the Simunovic tackle. Now he’s added that Broony ‘knew what he was doing ‘.

The comment relates to a tangle between the two former Hibernian players. Both are playing for the ball, but Miller claims Broony deliberately used his arm/elbow on him. 

Firstly, Brown isn’t raising his arms. Secondly, Miller is stooping into the challenge. 

Who sounds the more guilty? Or better put, who is looking to get something out of it?

I get Miller’s frustration I really do. These post match claims sound nothing other than sour grapes. 

As physical as Broony is, Miller isn’t shy of the playing the physical game either. He’s quick and aggressive, even at 37, so pot, kettle etc.

He was outraged when zero action was taken upon Celtic players. Might it just be frustration due to the fact he gave it his all whilst his team mates let them down?

I’d say so. Miller got the consolation goal because he was deteremined and driven which is more than can be said for his team mates.

Kenny Miller needs to wind his long orange neck in. His team were beaten fair and square.

Broony and Jozo have nothing to answer for. Dry your eyes.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac