FC Alashkert Facts

The first game of Celtic’s season kicks off in less than an hour. But what do we know about this club from Armenia?

The club are based in the capital, Yerevan. They were originally founded in 1990 and based in Martuni, but were dissolved in 2000.

In 2011 they were refounded by the current owners. That makes them slightly older than the current Ibrox club.

Since then they have relocated, moving to the current stadium in 2013. They have won the Armenian title three times.

In 2015, they made there first appearance in Europe. The first qualifying round of the Europa League paired them with St Johnstone who they beat on away goals.

That lead them to the second qualifying round against Kairat. The Kazakh team put the Armenian newcomers out 4-2 on aggregate.

The following season they entered the Champions League first qualifying round for tge first time. Santa Coloma were their opponents and beat the Andorrans 3-0 on aggregate. In the next round they faced Dinamo Tblisi who won 3-1 on aggregate.

Last season Alashkert played Santa Coloma once again. On this occasion it was a 2-1 aggregate victory for the Armenians.

Next up was BATE Borisov who like Tbilisi won the second round of the Champions League qualifier 4-2 on aggregate. And that brings us to this season and Celtic.

There’s no doubt that this is the toughest first qualifying round Alashkert will have had. That doesn’t mean it will be a walk in the park for Celtic either.

It is the first time Celtic have faced an Armenian club. As @SPLstats pointed out on Twitter, Celtic have now played clubs from 42 of the 55 UEFA nations.

The Alashkert squad is largely made up of Armenians, but they also have Russian, Serbian, Mexican and Brazilian nationalities within their setup. The latter stems from their partnerships with Brazilian clubs Botafogo and Fluminese.

For both teams, it is the first game of the season. So there is no advantage in terms of preparation.

Celtic are missing players through injury and World Cup duty. They have a team more than capable of making progress though.

The season starts today in Yerevan. Come on the Hoops!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Lies? Racism? Sectarianism?

Just another week in Scotland. Never a dull moment.

The media was awash with stories of Kieran Tierney and done deals to join Everton. Since this fabricated story lost momentum, those guilty of reporting it as fact have either disappeared or updated this by stating that the Merseyside club have cooled their interest.

How convenient. Shame on you if you bought into this or fed the lie.

Meantime over at Ibrox, it seems you should be putting all of your money on the Gerard revolution next season. The 6-0 demolition of the mighty League Two side Bury all but confirms that the title is heading across the city in 2019.

At least, that’s how the media are writing it up anyway. It’s almost as bad as “football’s coming home”, but that’s another topic.

I guess Celtic beating Shamrock Rovers 7-0 means we’re winning the Champions League then? Topically, that long road in said competition begins tomorrow for the Hoops in Armenia against Alashkert.

Brendan Rodgers had his players over in Austria again for preseason training. It seems to suit their needs and the squad know their way around but they don’t have the same stylish ice bins as seen in the Rangers training camp.

One of Brendan’s four World Cup players is still over in Russia. Dedryck Boyata, having played the opening three group games, was left out of the last sixteen and quarter final fixtures, but remains part of the Belgium squad for the semi-final against neighbours, France.

Australia’s Tom Rogic headed home after the group phase along with Costa Rica’s Cristian Gamboa. Whilst Mikael Lustig, suspended for the game against England, will be heading home as well after the Swedish team’s lacklustre display in the quarter final.

Every World Cup player will have two full weeks rest after their respective duties have ended. Celtic will have other options to choose from in the meantime bar one or two injured players.

Some folk have been bashing the club for a lack of transfer activity. Well, I’m not anxious about things just yet especially with the world of football focused on Russia.

We don’t know whats going on behind the scenes or when something will happen. Which is why you see headlines like the Tierney one as well as the old Celtic and Rangers chase the same player routine.

Honestly, they need to be more imaginative. The media couldn’t write this pish when that mob were down the divisons and it didn’t take them long to resume the same stories when the tribute act made it to the top flight.

Talking of headlines, it was appalling, yet unsurprising, to read about the vile behaviour of the Orange Walk in Glasgow. If spitting and assaulting members of a Catholic church is the way you role, and it’s clear that it is, then it is way beyond time that these bigoted and sectarian marches were brought to a standstill.

The tolerance of this in Scotland only goes to show how far the country has to go in order to move forward especially as an independent nation. These processions don’t stand for anything modern, multicultural or progressive.

To be allowed to march across the land spouting their triumphalism is a a stain on society. There is a desperate need to banish this filth forever, but I won’t hold my breath.

As well as that ever lasting side show, Shay Logan decided to groan about alleged racist abuse from Celtic fans last season. As a black man, I don’t doubt he’s ever received racist abuse.

He was also allegedly the recipient of racist abuse in 2014 from Celtic player Aleksandar Tonev during a match. The hearing that followed the allegations went in favour of Logan.

There was no evidence other than each players account. The ban was lengthy and the subsequent appeal was unsuccessful.

We have no way of knowing the truth but Celtic went a long way to back Tonev. Had there been a shred of doubt about Tonev’s stance, Celtic could have hung the loan player out to dry, but stood together with player, parent club Aston Villa and his national side, Bulgaria.

The case was decided on the basis of who gave the most convincing testimony and the balance of probability. Had there been a case to answer, I’m confident Celtic would have done the right thing.

Many years on, Logan has become a bit of a hate figure. Not because he is black, but because of his attitude on and off the field.

He’s taken to social media on several occassions to bait Celtic fans whislt making a name for himself on the park. Whether Tonev was truthfully guilty or not we’ll never know, but what we do know ever since that event is that Logan has become a bit of a troublemaker.

His unncessary part in the incident with Scott Brown at Pittodrie last season was addressed accordingly by the club captain. “Wee Logan did a runner right after it like he usually does.”

And talking of trouble making it seems England have curtailed the behaviour of their travelling support. Instead they just let them beat the shit out of vehicles and each other on home turf instead.

Problem solved. That’ll be the hard Brexit then?

I’ve loved the World Cup especially as I’ve spent pretty much all of it on holiday here in Canada. Not only has that meant seeing more matches than I’d have seen if I’d been working, but I haven’t had to suffer the BBC or ITV coverage.

TSN have covered all the games over here in a way that is much more balanced. The focus is not England, but the individual game.

The host and analysis team are predominantly British for this tournament, but that didn’t mean you got the usual bias. Steven Caldwell has been one of the analysts and actaully comes across quite well.

It’s done in a very North American style, but the product is decent. The commentary is also British, but it has been quite a mix though Jon Champion found it hard to restrain himself in one particular England game.

There is much the UK networks could learn from this impartiality. Such as remembering your audience isn’t just about one country.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end and I must return home having spent three glorius weeks in the hot, humid and sunny climate in Ontario. So I’ll be back in Brighton just in time for England’s semi-final with Croatia.

Proabably for the best that it wasn’t the host nation they met instead. Can you imagine?

Don’t forget though, it’s Celtic on first tomorrow. That’s 5pm UK time, 12pm Canada time!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Tierney ‘story’ succeeding with some it seems

From the first moment it was mentioned I felt it was total nonsense. Unfortunately, this seemingly fabricated headline has escalated with the assistance of several media outlets and some of our own ‘club friendly’ websites.

Kieran Tierney is hot property and not just for Celtic or Scotland. He is in the limelight of the footballing world in a position that is hard to fill in any era for any club.

His rise from the youth ranks to the first team at Celtic Football Club is no fluke. The Hoops have seen several Bhoys, not all in the same class, make it in the first team, though none as impressive or consistent as Tierney since the days of Paul McStay.

And that is no slight on our talent streams in general. We’ve had some great youth players in the last couple of decades.

Miller, McGeady, Maloney, Mulgrew, Forrest and McGregor to name but a few. However, I digress.

You only have to look at Kieran’s first full season compared to the seasons that followed. His composure, demeanour and physique have totally evolved in a short period.

Match time in Scotland is regularly dismissed as pub league to some outsiders, but Tierney has proved himself in the Europa League, Champions League and for his country on the international stage. And that is why he is sorely sought after by clubs elsewhere and equally…Celtic.

To suggest Kieran will never leave the club would be silly. However, to say that he is to leave now in the midst of greatness is quite frankly laughable.

We often say as Celtic supporters that no player is bigger than the club. True story.

It is also the case that Kieran loves Celtic. Indeed, he is Mr Celtic.

A fan, a youth player, a future club captain and someone who can still have a future elsewhere should he want it. That isn’t right now and not for a few years yet.

So why the story? Is there any truth?

What do you think? Not for me.

This thing has grown arms and legs. Why and for whose benefit?

Need I say any more? Just look at the situation across the city.

Sporadic gestures of intent. Continued failure.

It’s rock bottom over at Ibrox. I’m not going to tell you that they’ll never make a move on Celtic in the future, but to make that happen at all they have a lot to face up to first.

They are not the same club. They are not the same force.

Every chink in our armour is a succulent lamb story to them. This is why we see lies the magnitude of Tierney moving south as a done deal.

To destabilise us, thinking it will give them a baw hairs chance on gaining ground is desperate. I can’t believe that a faction of people, so in control of the media at one time with their now deceased club, thought that this would succeed.

I suppose in some ways it has succeeded. The supporters have been in session over this story for days.

I’m not claiming I know Kieran’s mind. HE will decide when it is time to go NOT the media.

It has convinced some folk. That’s only for those who have bitten though.

The big fish are still swimming. Get your blinkers off folks.

This is a rouse. Time to focus on where we are going.

He is no Stuart Armstrong. KT is here for 10.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac