Redemption

Yesterday, Brendan Rodgers claimed that Dedryck Boyata would be back in contention for the upcoming game against FK Suduva. Before that statement, I was all but convinced he’d never don the Hoops ever again.

His banishment to the development side is clearly for making the “mistake” Brendan refers to. From the managers own words it suggested possible interference from the player’s agent.

Brendan stated “It wasn’t just about him, other people were around the situation.” That indicates other influences and with his head elsewhere the decision to exile him was probably the right one despite the damage it has caused, albeit temporary.

Now it seems the Belgian will resume first team training on Monday with the rest of the squad. It’s quite the turn around, but the question some will be wondering now is will Boyata stay or will he go?

With less than two weeks to go until the Transfer Window closes, there is every chance Boyata could still leave. Brendan seems adamant that he wants him to stay and rates him highly.

If he does stay then the next question is will that be to run his contract down or will he get/sign a new deal? There is also the possibility he could leave in January.

Some of these decisions could be around whether Celtic get into the Europa League Group Stage and progress from it beyond Christmas. With that as a potential incentive, Boyata may sign a new contract or just see out the current one.

I can’t help but think that this whole situation has left a bad taste in the mouth. As Brendan said though, every player has a right to redeem themself.

What has actually gone on we can only speculate. For now, Boyata is our player and it is highly likely that he will play in Lithuania on Thursday.

Should Boyata be sticking around I don’t see Celtic buying another centre half this season. In fact, I’m not sure if we will recruit anyone else until our position in Europe has been finalised.

The most important thing for the club is to be involved in Europe. The fans want it and it is essential to player development and the business side of the club.

Our focus now must be 100% on beating Suduva over two legs. Reaching the Group Stage of the Europa League would be huge boost for everyone.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Celtic continue winning run in Scottish League Cup

Celtic got past Partick Thistle today with a 3-1 win at Firhill. There were plenty of chances to put the game to bed earlier, but it took for a Thistle equaliser to pull Celtic out of their slumber.

Brendan Rodgers made further changes to the team with six players being dropped or out injured. There was enough in that starting lineup to win and it was Leigh Griffiths who fired home from close range after a great cut back by Scott Sinclair in the 18th minute.

Further opportunities came and went as the match wore on, but Celtic were unable to find that second goal to ease the tie. Then came a moment for the Jags and they didnt’ waste it.

Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo slid home from inside the Celtic box after finding himself some space in the 73rd minute. That prompted a reaction from Celtic.

They had already switched Griffiths for Moussa Dembele and James Forrest for Mikey Johnston before the Thistle goal. Dembele was then on hand restore Celtic’s lead in the 78th minute.

After a run down the right hand side, Gamboa crossed in a pacey ball which Dembele knocked into the goal from close range. It immediately soothed any fears.

Brendan Rodgers then introduced Callum McGregor for Olivier Ntcham to keep the engine room running. Gamboa continued to make a name for himself with another assist.

Another run down the right picked out Tom Rogic who slotted home from close range. Two assists from Gamboa then.

Brendan was critical of his side in the aftermath of the game. The win was obviously the desired result, but he appeared unhappy with our overall performance.

It is still early in the season, we’ve had some obvious disappointment recently and Brendan is rotating the team. We do still need a couple of players, but we also need the team to get up to speed.

There were some positive displays by Gamboa on the right and Emilio Izaguirre on the left. Sinclair looked more effective today as well.

Griffiths got his 99th goal for the club and we see just how important Dembele is again. There was one ridiculous challenge on Scott Brown by Jack Storer which should have been a red.

Craig Thomson had as good as view as anyone and only produced a yellow. I can only imagine how that had gone down had the roles been reversed.

Aside from that, Broony hasn’t looked very sharp so far this season. As I said though it is early on so plenty of time for himself and the squad to get up to speed.

The most important thing was the win. Next up is the trip to Lithuania.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

A case for the defence

Celtic go into today’s Scottish League Cup tie off the back of a disappointing spell. Transfers, results, injuries and a contract rebel all playing their part in the club drama right now.

On successive Friday’s though, the club have signed two players. Last week Emilio Izaguirre returned to the ranks and yesterday the club officially announced Daniel Arzani on loan from Manchester City for two years.

Izzy is a no brainer as Brendan did not have ample cover for Kieran Tierney since the Honduran international departed in 2017. Now he does and also knows what he’s getting into the bargain so today he will make his comeback against Partick Thistle in place of the injured Tierney.

The acquisition of Arzani hasn’t exactly been a secret, but has also understandably raised questions from the supporters. New recruits are required but not necessarily for this type of player.

Yet I’m certain this kid will make an impact and it’s a positive nonetheless because we are without Patrick Roberts for the first time in over two years. These last couple of weeks have been damaging for everyone at the club as well as our fans.

This is a time when we need to show strength of character and determination to get back on course. Perhaps the timing of Arzani’s arrival will be significant for our fortunes.

The young Aussie won’t solve all of our issues. Maybe he will dazzle us and provide the team with a much needed spark.

Sometimes you need that. We must repair the damage of the last fortnight though.

High on that agenda is getting shot of Dedryck Boyata. The contract rebel is quite clearly heading for the exit.

Did he ever intend to extend his contract or did his agent utilise the World Cup for a bigger payday? It doesn’t matter anymore.

We need to move him on now. If Celtic did indeed turn down £9M for the Belgian they must have pinned their hopes on him either signing a new deal or receiving a bigger follow-up bid.

Personally I don’t believe he’s even worth that price. That being the case, Celtic have been very sloppy here and they should have bitten Fulham’s hand off.

Now we have a guy who will probably never wear the Hoops again. Potentially we may also have missed out on a multi-million pound fee.

Right now clubs overseas will be wondering whether to hold out until January. Meantime Boyata will rot in the development side.

I’m sure something will be ratified soon to get him off our books but I can’t see it being as big as £9M. It will probably less now that everyone knows we have an unhappy player and a club that want rid.

Celtic will also need to live with that situation. A situation that could have been better handled.

Where does that leave Brendan Rodgers defensively then? No better.

Like them or not we now have at least two players for every defensive position. I said before that we wouldn’t sign another central defender until we got shot of one.

Well, when Boyata goes that’s our chance. Brendan needs to bring order to his defence pronto.

It should have been a priority when he came on board. Instead he tried to utilise what he had.

Kolo Toure was his only central defensive acquisition in 2016. Even then, that was more for the dressing room than on the park.

I don’t think that was a bad move because at that stage he was evaluating what he had. Sometimes older players can be influential, but that doesn’t escape the fact we have been shoddy in defence ever since we lost Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer.

Conversely, Denayer’s name has cropped up on more than one occasion recently about a return to the club. I think we can safely say if he really wanted to come back to Celtic it would have happened a long time ago but it now seems he will be moving to Lyon anyway.

Celtic’s scouting team need to pinpoint a player of good quality who will come in and steady the ship. A player who isn’t injury prone, work-in-progress or in the advent of their career – we already have each of those on our books.

I’m satisfied that Kris Ajer and Jack Hendry will continue to improve this season, but it is also unfair to place all of our hopes on two young guys, particularly in Europe. Jozo Simunovic is a very good player on his day but prone to injury especially on artificial surfaces, whilst the ageing Marvin Compper hasn’t even got his Celtic career under way yet.

It’s a far from ideal situation and doesn’t make anyone look good. You could say we’ve been a bit unfortunate, but it also looks as though bad choices have been made internally.

At right back we have three players vying for a place. After this season, Mikael Lustig and Cristian Gamboa will be out of contract and if either of them stay they will be lucky.

So a long-term replacement still needs to be scouted because Anthony Ralston is another work in progress for the club. It may not happen this summer but the work needs to be done now.

Brendan Rodgers is well equipped from the midfield forward, but it is these defensive areas that remain a concern. After today’s relatively risk free fixture, Celtic travel to Lithuania to face FK Suduva in the Europa League play-off.

The coincidence of this European tie is remarkable. It was another Northern Irish Celtic manager in his third season that faced FK Suduva immediately after dropping out of the Champions League sixteen years ago.

Having lost out to FC Basel on the away goals rule, Celtic dropped into the UEFA Cup in 2002. That was the beginning of the road to Seville in 2003.

Now I’m not about to suggest that Celtic are on the road to Baku. As much as I would love that, this is only a play-off.

Get past Suduva and we have European football guaranteed until Christmas. At this stage in the season I would be happy with that.

The one coincidence I would like to avoid from Martin O’Neill’s third season is of course the fact that we won nothing at all. That doesn’t even bear thinking about.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Time for the entire club to admit to their failure so we can make amends in time for Europa League challenge

CrestCeltic’s exit from the Champions League in the Third Qualifying Round raises more questions than answers. From this point forward the club need to have a look at their performance on and off the field of play because it is evident this isn’t purely down to the team and coaching staff.

Should entry into the group phase of the Europa League be achieved, the income will be substantially smaller. If Celtic were to buy any more players this summer then the only way to make that happen would be to sell.

Candidate number one is Dedryck Boyata. The recent stance taken by himself and his agent has caused a lot of turmoil to add to everything else that is going on right now.

As Chris Sutton stated last night in his role as summariser, “get rid of Boyata now!” If Celtic did knock back £9M for him then I have no idea why.

He is no Bobo Balde, Johan Mjallby of Joos Valgaaren. Brendan Rodgers has improved his performances over the last two seasons, but he is still a liability.

Before Jozo Simunovic went off the boil, I’d say the Croat turned Bosnian was a better player. Both have been subject to transfer rumours since Brendan came on board and he has yet to establish a central defensive partnership.

That is the back bone of your team and doing it on the cheap might save you money for midfielders and attackers. In the long run it will cost you in more in European competition.

I’d like to make a case for Kristoffer Ajer and Jack Hendry. Both of these guys are work in progress, yet taken a some flack since they each made their debuts.

Ajer has shown progress whilst Hendry is only just getting into his stride. Relying on young, inexperienced talent is a risky business though.

Whilst I welcome the opportunity that they are getting, it is a foolish game to play. The pressure on these guys has been massive.

The acquisition of Marvin Compper has not made the backroom staff look much better. His continual stream of injuries makes you question the ability of the scouting team or was he simply a panic buy?

We haven’t seen enough of the guy to judge what type of player he is. Chris Sutton compared him to Raphael Scheidt last night, but I think we saw more of him in the Hoops than Marvin!

The bottom line here is that what was once a overinflated squad has been reduced to a manageable size. However, it still requires fresh blood to rejuvenate the ranks for the season ahead especially with other players certain to depart.

Some of the current squad are out of contract next season. The £9M shelled out on Odsonne Edouard is beginning to look like the board have put all their eggs in one basket though.

Whether you were for or against the pursuit of John McGinn, Celtic didn’t get the deal done quick enough. As soon as interest from down south came, the player’s head was turned by better money.

The entire club is accountable for this summer’s woes. If there hasn’t been already, there needs to be a sit down to address these failings.

If the club admit to their failings and address them now, a run in the Europa League may just be possible. There is a lot of work to be done first.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Greek tragedy

On a night we needed to see something from Celtic we got nothing. Another early goal conceded in Europe and followes up by a goal early in the second half, condemned Celtic to the Europa League play-offs.

There was ray of hope when Sinclair came off the bench and scored a header. Celtic were unable to get that crucial second goal to take them through on away goals.

The worst of it is, I’m not sure if Celtic will even get past Suduva or Spartaks Jurmala. One of those teams will be the final hurdle for Celtic to secure European football until Christmas albeit it in a competition that is financially less rewarding.

We as fans will look at the events of this past week and Celtic’s relative inactivity in the transfer market as the cause. This along with the results have certainly cast a shadow over Celtic Football Club.

Has the bubble burst? Too soon to tell.

How the club move forward now will tell us everything we need to know. The days and weeks ahead will be very interesting.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Must win Tuesday

Well, a 1-1 draw keeps us in it. A win would be magic though!

First of all Celtic need to score. Something that we managed to do just once in the first leg.

The fact is, the Hoops played more than one-third of the match with a one man advantage and couldn’t win on home turf. The other crazy thing about that first leg was that AEK didn’t look all that great to me.

They sat in, defended, hit on the break and yes looked comfortable with it. Celtic looked inept in the final third despite starting brightly though.

Whichever way Brendan Rodgers plans to pick the lock on tonight the team requires a spark. That could come from any number of players rising to the occasion, but the one player that could be provide that is Moussa Dembele.

The French striker travelled to Athens and appears to be available again. My only concern is that he is being rushed back and could get injured again.

That’s up to Brendan though. The coaching staff should know if it is too soon or not.

Even then, you don’t really know until they’ve participated in a match to know if you’ve made the right decision. I don’t think anyone would disagree that some muscle is needed in this game though.

AEK played very defensively last week especially after they lost a player. They may well do the same this evening in the warm Mediterranean climate of Athens.

Celtic will try to play football, but away from home the tactic will be slightly different. We cannot afford to hold back though – there is too much at stake.

The Greek champions will fancy their chances with the away goal that they got last week. Celtic will not only have to score, but show the character and ability to earn that play-off place.

A 1-1 draw would mean extra-time and possibly penalties which was probably on the mind of Brendan when he made such big changes on Saturday against Hearts. 0-0 no good, 2-2 we’re through, but a win would be far more desirable.

Whatever has gone on in the last week, the club need to move on swiftly. The Champions League money is essential to the club and the participation is what gets fans excited.

Every single Celtic player on the field this evening needs to be on top form. Because even if we score first, AEK will come back at us and that is why we need to aim for a win not a draw.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

How did we end up in this position?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I refer of course to the bad day at the office turned bad week. Now it could roll into another week if tomorrow night’s result goes against us.

The mood amongst the Celtic community is a little fragile. And don’t the media just know it?

What began as a criticism of the transfer brokering men at the club by our manager later developed into a mini drama. The draw with AEK at home, followed by John McGinn signing for Aston Villa looked like Celtic didn’t have their finger on the pulse at all.

Then there was the claim that all was not well between Brendan and the board. That fractures may be appearing at Celtic Park and Lennoxtown.

In preparation for the match against Hearts, the team was leaked hours before kick-off by someone inside Celtic. On which side of the so-called ensuing disharmony we have no idea, but it was not released for anything other than to get a reaction.

And what could be worse than a defeat to Hearts at Tynecastle? The only goal being scored by none other than Kyle Lafferty.

Or if that’s not enough for you, how about Dedryck Boyata? He’s spat the dummy out or at least his agent has on his behalf.

I mean, talk about the game’s a bogey! Did someone just turn the lights off, put their foot on the accelerator of the Celtic team bus and head straight off the edge of the Campsies?

This was the sort of week that makes Craig Levein’s am no lettin’ it go “grass-gate” look like Harry Hill’s TV Burp. I’m not sure how we ended up here.

What started out with Brendan’s candid comments has descended into total chaos. All at a time when the club need to be strengthening from a position of strength and galvanising the squad for another go at the Champions League.

It is far from ideal. In fact it is the proverbial shooting oneself in the foot.

The media are having a field day. The rest of Scottish football are sitting back, watching with glee.

Someone at Celtic needs to take control of this now. The opportunity to get out in front of it passed the minute Brendan opened his mouth.

I’m not taking any sides in this matter for one simple reason. The availability of credible information is sorely absent.

Everyone is having their say. I no longer know who or what to believe.

It seems as though everyone has a source or well placed mole. I don’t have either of those.

I just call it as I see it as a fan. In the absence of evidence you can only go with what is written or broadcasted and try to filter out the guff.

And that’s where the confusion comes in. Each report contradicts the other.

Up until now, Celtic have been fairly good in recent years at keeping matters in-house. Even when there has been a shred of a story, everyone has kept schtum.

Now it seems as though it is open season and everyone has a voice. I suggest Celtic get a grip fast.

If it’s true that Boyata doesn’t want to be there then fine sell him now. Brendan can’t keep someone who wants to leave.

Should others be surplus to requirements (Ryan Christie, Scott Allan) then get rid of them too. I’m fed up with all of this pussyfooting around.

The irony about all of this is that it all seemed to stem from the McGinn saga and I’m not even bothered about him going to Villa. Yet here we are licking our wounds over a player who if he really wanted to could have signed for the club he supports, but didn’t.

We need to get past this and move on. There are far better players available to Celtic and if they do not have a list of scouted options ready to make a move on then people are not doing their jobs.

You don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. That is as short-sighted as it is unprofessional in today’s game and at a club of our size.

We may have to cut our cloth accordingly, but we can also do better than just targeting Hibs for a player. There has been plenty of time to get a list of targets ready to move on.

What may scupper things is whatever occurs in Athens tomorrow night. I’m already wondering who will provide the spark in that game to get us out of this predicament.

That is of course another story for another blog. Lessons to be learned for sure.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac