Hoops come home

For the past few weeks Celtic have been on the road. They played three friendlies during their brief summer training camp and travelled to Sarajevo last Tuesday to undertake their first competitive match in the Champions League qualifiers.

On Saturday, the supporters were finally able to see the Bhoys at Paradise. French Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais paid a visit for a friendly encounter where the outcome was a goalless draw.

Despite zero goals, it was a useful exercise as Neil Lennon eased his squad nearer to match sharpness. It was evident that some are still behind in terms of fitness whilst others demonstrated their worth for the forthcoming European fixtures.

All in all it was a worthwhile exercise. Stade Rennais are a decent side.

For Celtic, the focus remains at home when FC Sarajevo rock up for the second leg tonight night at Celtic Park. The hard work was done in Bosnia last week with a 1-3 away win for the Hoops.

Neil Lennon just needs to see this one over the line with minimum of fuss. The first leg puts Celtic in a good position, but a couple of goals without reply would put everyone’s mind at rest.

Barring any slip ups, the next match will be against Nõmme Kalju of Estonia who won last night’s tie against Shkëndija of Macedonia with a 91st minute goal. Shkëndija had a 0-1 advantage from the first leg and took that away goal back to Macedonia, but two away goals by the Estonian champions turned the tie right at the death.

It is because of this that Celtic cannot be complacent in Europe. We have a nice lead for tonight, but we cannot lie back until we are secured in the second qualifying round.

Meantime, the transfer window remains open and active for Celtic. The right back berth has yet to be filled and with question marks over other players, there may be further movement.

The Olivier Ntcham saga appears to have been put to bed though. Neil Lennon told the media at yesterday’s press conference that he had spoken with the player about his media comments and the midfielder “was disappointed with the way it came across, that wasn’t his intention.”

So all appears rosy in the garden. For now at least.

The key player filling the headlines right now is Kieran Tierney. He is a highly sought after player and quite rightly so.

KT is not angling for a move away, but we all know that one day, be it this transfer window or another, the likelihood is that he will leave Celtic. From a Celtic perspective all the cards remain in hand’s of our club and the player though.

He is by far one of the best youth products to emerge from the Celtic ranks in this century and in the history of the club. And Celtic have not been short of churning out players since the year 2000.

Stephen Crainey, Shaun Maloney, Aiden McGeady, David Marshall, James Forrest, Jamie Smith, Ross Wallace, Stephen McManus, Charlie Mulgrew, Darren O’Dea and Callum McGregor are just some of the names to grace the Celtic first team since 2000. After successfully emerging from youth level they have all contributed to the Celtic cause and won trophies and been given plenty of first team action which. However, Kieran Tierney demonstrated all the qualities required to such a degree and at an early stage we knew he was the real deal.

I think the last time I saw a Celtic defender of his class come through the ranks was John Kennedy. Even then, we never got to find out just how good he was going to be due to a horrific injury at the hands of an opponent whilst playing for Scotland.

The other thing about Kieran is that he is a die hard Celtic fan and the fans love him. If he was to leave now then he would go with our best wishes but he may not be ready to take that leap.

We’ve sold very good Celtic players for less in recent years, but it has been to club’s that potentially would sell them on to a bigger club in their league. Kieran isn’t going to Southampton though – he’ll only be interested in a club that can allow him to showcase his talents in Europe and challenge for trophies.

He doesn’t need to bridge any gaps or prove himself. The only deal that will be done is a club near the top of the tree in that respective country.

Right now, Arsenal are penny pinching. Frankly, it’s quite embarrassing that a Premier League club are being so measly with their offers.

If anyone at Arsenal has any football knowledge they’ll know KT is the real deal. Celtic don’t need to sell him and the player doesn’t need to leave because he will eventually get the move he wants be it now or in two years time.

The north London club aren’t even a top four side at the moment. They haven’t been for a few years so if Arsenal have intentions of doing so, then they will have to cough up or piss off.

I read the comments of someone online who remarked that English clubs would be unwilling to pay a Scottish club such a hefty fee without them proving themselves in England first. By that they were meaning the likes of Wanyama and Van Dijk who both went to smaller clubs first.

Those two were without a doubt a cert to be great and have proved themselves since moving on from Southampton to Spurs and Liverpool respectively. Others such as Fraser Forster and Gary Hooper were not so fortunate, providing a reminder that the grass isn’t always greener.

To some extent, that may turn out to be the same for Stuart Armstrong. Having provided one brilliant season in his three-and-a-half years at Celtic, it was clear the Highlander wanted to go and earn big bucks down south.

On Monday some were even suggesting that Celtic should bring the Scottish international back to Paradise. I don’t know how that discussion even started, but it’s a non-starter for me.

Armstrong peaked during the invincible season. His day has come and gone in a Hoops jersey as far as I’m concerned and he can live out his career elsewhere.

I desperately wanted him to succeed at Celtic and eventually he did after being played in the right position. I even thought he had the potential to be captain, but stalled on a long-term deal and then jumped ship.

If he does enjoy similar success in the future it won’t be at Celtic. So let’s not waste our time on this baloney any longer.

We’re in a new era under Neil Lennon and we’re rebuilding. Kieran Tierney is a few weeks away from fitness yet which is probably good given the attention he is currently getting.

By the time he is ready to play this transfer storyline will hopefully have been settled one way or another. It’s a bit slow on the transfer front for Celtic bringing in other players, but I’d rather we get it right rather than just drafting in the next Compper, Gamboa or de Vries.

Looking forward to tonight’s match at Celtic Park. Mon the Hoops!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Advertisements

Ntchambles

Every player has a price and every player has a shelf life. For Olivier Ntcham, he’s fast talking himself into an exit this summer.

Celtic have been here many times before with players. More than once in the last twelve months in fact.

The French under-21 internationalist has divided the support in his two years at the club. There is no doubt he is a talented player, but he has had moments when attitude has let him down.

He has recently taken a widespread beating from the support based on last season’s performances alone. Not that I am rushing to his defence, but he did miss sixteen games from January to March.

Whilst it wasn’t his best season in a Celtic jersey, it doesn’t make him a garbage player. What has sparked greater contempt though are his comments to the media, whilst on international duty, regarding his future at Celtic.

If there is any shred of truth in those comments then that future is not with Celtic. You can fine him, reprimand him or chastise him in public, but if he is publicly decrying the club and the quality of competition then he will be offloaded soon enough.

We know Scottish Football is far from the top leagues out there. With the greatest respect though, Celtic have a status that brings the best out in players and gives you a platform to perform.

Has Ntcham done that at Celtic? I don’t think he’s done enough even if he does have the potential.

Nobody wants a disruptive, uncommitted player in the dressing room though. Last summer we had Boyata and Dembele to deal with.

One went, one stayed. Whatever went on between those players, their agents and the club it is far from satisfactory.

Ntcham has claimed he was disappointed not to get a move to Porto last summer. After one season and then signing a new contract, no wonder Celtic turned down any offer.

I think the guy is a good player, but he is getting way above his station. There are too many players like this out there and if Brendan Rodgers has been the catalyst to guys like Boyata, Dembele and Ntcham moving on (as Dembele claimed) then I don’t want them at the club.

We know that if you are good enough, the club will find it difficult to hold onto you if the asking price is met. What doesn’t need to happen is for a player to begin making disrespectful and unprofessional comments to the media.

You sign for a club, you commit. If there comes a point when things have run their course then fine, just sit down and do a deal that works for both parties.

Ntcham has taken a massive dump on his own doorstep. I’ll be happy to sweep him and his turd out of Celtic Park if there is this is the end of the relationship.

There are loads of talented players in our ranks of all ages who are committed to Celtic. I’d rather see them pull on the Hoops than a guy who has thus far failed to even sparkle such as guys like Christie, McGregor or Forrest.

I won’t get hung up on one guy when we have plenty of others waiting to step up. No player is bigger than the club.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Welcome to Sarajevo

As much as I miss watching Celtic, it seems as though the season has just finished. Tonight, Celtic get their European campaign under way when they face FK Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This will be a stern test for Celtic so early on in the summer and in totally new territory as well. In recent years they’ve faced weaker opposition in the first round, but FK Sarajevo will be tougher.

Whilst Celtic offloaded eleven players, Neil Lennon still has a solid core within his squad. There have also been recruits between January and June yet to make their mark for the club.

The unfortunate situation is that we have injuries to a few players before a competitive ball has even been kicked. Hopefully, these will not be long term and are more about being cautious than anything else.

Despite the anxiety around our transfer activity since the season ended, I actually think we’ve done some good work with our recent acquisitions. We still require a couple more players but for now, I think we’ve bolstered what is already a talented squad.

Speculation about some players leaving will remain a point of discussion until the transfer window closes. There is nothing we can do about that.

This evening in Sarajevo that will not matter either. Getting a result that will allow Celtic to return to Glasgow happy they can finish the job on home soil is.

Neil Lennon knows what is at stake. He’s been here before and he is looking to rubber stamp his own mark on this team without risking a stumble.

Even with my reservations about Neil retaking the manager’s job, I am actually pretty excited to see this new chapter unfold. It’s a long road to the group stage and every game counts.

Let’s hope this new beginning is long a fruitful one. C’mon the Hoops!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac