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Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am still buzzing from Thursday night. We invest a lot as football supporters and for passionate Celtic supporters we probably go that bit further.

The team’s physical and spiritual transformation in recent weeks allowed us to get that result against Leipzig. This could be the making of Celtic’s season.

Players are evolving into strong or stronger characters. Taking their place as key contributors in this squad.

There is a shift within the team which is beginning reshape the way we look and feel altogether. A team without Scott Brown as the anchor man was unthinkable.

Since he got injured, enforced changes have been a blessing of sorts. The club captain is an important figure in this side and with the fans.

The rest of the team has shown that they can perform without him. Even though he is in the final year of his current contract, I don’t think that necessarily spells the end of Broony.

It is encouraging though that we are beginning to see the talent in this squad shine. Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Kieran Tierney, Filip Benkovic, Kris Ajer, Tom Rogic, Odsonne Edouard, Oliver Ntcham and now Ryan Christie have all been exceptional under Brendan Rodgers this season.

Benkovic aside, all of these guys have long-term futures at the club, with Ntcham the latest to pen a new deal. Christie could well be the next to agree new terms, following his recent rise in popularity.

I also hope to see more of Lewis Morgan. He looks to be a sound investment and could have a key part to play as the season progresses.

Of course, Brendan will still be counting on the contribution of maturer players in the team. They have as big a part to play, but the future is bright with the young talent we have at our disposal.

And so onto today’s lunchtime meeting with Livingston. The West Lothian club started off this campaign strongly, but their form has taken a bit of a battering of late, losing their last two games.

What won’t help them today is that Celtic’s form of late has been devastating. They lost the first game of the season 3-1 at Celtic Park and defeat today be three straight losses.

Despite having dropped to 8th in the league, they are still only 8 points off the top spot with two games at hand over Hearts. So there is an incentive for them to claw themselves back up the league again.

The incentive for Celtic is not only about maintain their own form. A win today (or a draw for that matter) would put them back on top of the league.

Hearts lost at home to Kilmarnock yesterday and now have the same form (2 wins, 2 defeats, 1 draw) in their last five games as Livingston. Should Celtic get the right result today and retake their place at the top of the Scottish Premiership, I don’t expect to see the Hoops shift.

Celtic are firing on all cylinders right now and the momentum is building. Nobody will want to give up their place in the team whilst others will be champing at the bit to be involved.

This is a good period for Celtic. You can feel the difference.

Long may it continue. Next stop, Almondvale Stadium.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Belief…

Last night, Celtic had to shine. And shine they did.

They didn’t have it all their way of course. Progress comes in stages.

Celtic had to weather the Leipzig storm on more than one occasion. This was, to a certain extent, the making of the Hoops though.

Having been pressed by the visitors for the opening 10 minutes, Celtic responded by scoring the opening goal in the 11th minute. And in the 78th minute Celtic conceded an equaliser only to go up the other end of the park and score the winner in the 79th minute.

This was a demonstration of character, determination with mental and physical strength at the heart of everything they did. Apparently this is a weaker Celtic team than last season.

Right now I’d say this group of players are showing attributes of a strong Celtic side. Last night they rose to the challenge.

Kieran Tierney scored the opening goal which was a key part in him winning man-of-the-match. However, Callum McGregor was a phenomenal presence, covering every blade of grass and was perhaps every bit as good if not better.

Leipzig found the net themselves much later on. A perfectly weighted cross was poorly defended by Mikael Lustig, a constant weak link on the night, and was hammered home by Jean-Kevin Augustin.

As was evident throughout this match, Celtic were not dead. 15 seconds after the restart, Celtic put together a passing move from the centre spot which resulted in a match winner, courtesy of Odsonne Edouard.

It was a euphoric moment. Celtic never seem to bounce back from these type of setbacks, but they did last night.

Even when Leipzig later slapped the woodwork the team dug deep. The belief we saw from the Hoops was encouraging and rewarding.

Celtic’s only weak links came in the form of vice-captain Lustig and Scott Sinclair. Sinclair didn’t start to badly, but as pointed out by a friend, Sinclair goes into his shell when something goes wrong for him and he did.

Lustig’s performance was somewhat different. He was getting roasted down Leipzig’s left flank and failed to cope with everything that came his way.

Next season Celtic will have to invest in that area. It is unlikely the Swede will be given a new contract or at least one that means regular football.

Elsewhere on the field every player was tireless. This was exactly what we needed from the team.

Ryan Christie continued to impress un central midfield. He even outshone Tom Rogic on the night with his work rate.

James Forrest ran himself into the ground. Craig Gordon was dominant behind his defence which, Lustig aside, was convincing.

Odsonne Edouard grew into the game after a slow start. He just got better and better and capped things off with that winner.

The players should be proud of themselves. We now have a fighting chance of qualifying for the last 32.

There is still much work to be done in the remaining two matches. However, had we not won last night the party would be over.

This was a point Brendan Rodgers tried to batter home to BBC’s Jonathan Sutherland. The Sportscene presenter chose to reflect on the negative instead.

It was Celtic’s night though and they should enjoy the moment. They rose to the challenge and got the result.

We build on that and face the next task. Away to Livingston at lunchtime on Sunday.

Well done Bhoys.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Shine…

Now is the time for Celtic to shine in Europe under Brendan Rodgers. The majority of this team have had plenty of high-profile European matches under their belt now.

That sort of exposure counts as experience. Others know the continental game because well, that is where they are from.

So what is holding us back? Self belief? Confidence? Communication? Tactics? Quality?

Probably a bit of everything and a different times. Right now though, Celtic are playing well, domestically at least.

To perform on the bigger stage requires more. More from everyone involved.

It isn’t simply about spending money on the best players out there. It is about developing your own talent and creating a team that can execute orders together.

Just because Callum McGregor was born, raised and developed as a player in Scotland doesn’t mean he isn’t as good as someone at Barcelona, Juventus or Bayern Munich. It only means a player in one of those teams benefited from the system of development in that country and club.

In fact I would argue that our versatile midfielder would be comfortable in any of those teams mentioned. The point I am trying to make is that we often mention that it is the gulf in finances that holds us back.

Certainly, that is the conclusion with some clubs, but not all of them. Are Leipzig and Salzburg really that much better than Celtic?

Is it really impossible to beat these teams? I’m not buying that.

When we play the cream of Europe – and I mean the “cream” – then I recognise the gulf. When you are playing a team who undoubtedly have the best players money can buy then the odds are stacked against you.

We’ve played the best in recent years and been put to the sword. But we’re not playing the best in this group nor did we exit the Champions League at the hands of the best.

Celtic have lost those matches because they didn’t play well enough. There is little wrong with the talent we have right now.

Leipzig paid close to £40M on three players during the summer. We spent less than a quarter of that on one player for the first time in our history.

That demonstration of spending power comes from investment or reinvestment. You can only put in what you are hopeful of getting back and to be honest, Leipzig sold Naby Keita to Liverpool for over £50M so they aren’t necessarily richer.

Celtic are still developing as a club in this type of market by buying “cheap” to sell on for more. Scotland is a hard sell to overseas players, but we are fortunate enough to tick a lot of boxes for players looking to develop their careers.

For Celtic to get anything out of the Odsonne Edouard purchase, he has to score in big games and help the team progress. He has done wel thus far, but he has more to do before he becomes a profitable player.

One day he is sure to make way for the next star, the way Moussa Dembele has for him. That is our market.

To get back to the main point though – money. More money can increase your options, but it doesn’t always buy success.

By comparison our Europa League group leaders, Salzburg, spent just over £10M this summer. In return they received almost £50M in sales.

So are these clubs richer than Celtic? Or is it just a better market place in Austria and Germany?

For clubs like Salzburg and Leipzig they are not too different from Celtic. They buy to sell and generate some of their income that way though domestic TV revenue is better.

Potentially, Celtic are a bigger club but we are confined by the league standard and domestic TV revenue. We make our own major income through merchandise, season tickets, players resales and European TV money.

On our day we can still beat teams in Europe. When we do not it isn’t necessarily because we aren’t spending the same sort of money.

Yes, you need the right personnel, but it is also about belief in your abilities. That must come from every player and coach at the club.

Martin O’Neill once said his Celtic team were punching above their weight. He was right about that to a certain degree, but he also had one of the best Celtic teams in history.

It is not out with the realms of possibility for this Celtic squad to go further. The evidence is there, but every single player needs to have the confidence, belief and conviction with everything that they do.

To be blown away by the likes of Barcelona and PSG in the last two seasons was tough especially when you are trying to progress as a team under new management. Those were setbacks however, we are not playing those teams right now.

Celtic Park is our turf and it is time to shine at home. It is time to believe in ourselves and our ability to win.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Can Celtic carry their domestic form into Europe?

 

It’s been a week since I published anything and during that time a number of things have happened on planet Celtic. Last Wednesday, Celtic wiped the floor with Dundee at Dens Park.

The Hoops destroyed the bottom club 0-5 in a rare full midweek domestic card. Five different scorers provided the goals in that game to continue Celtic’s blistering form including the rise of Ryan Christie and a more positive looking Scott Sinclair.

The sad news from that game came in the form of another injury. Having waited two-and-a-half months to make his first team debut, the player came on as substitute.

He was lively and making his presence known until he got his studs stuck in the grass and twisted his knee. The Australian international will take no further part in this season.

Whilst Celtic were humping Dundee at Dens Park, Hearts were struggling to score against Hibs at Tynecastle. The Edinburgh derby remained a stalemate, even with Hibs down to ten men for a third of the match.

That game was not without incident though. As Hibs manager, Neil Lennon, found out to his own personal cost.

Once again he was the victim of abuse by a Hearts fan. Once again, he was attacked by Scottish football.

The ugliness of our game north of the border appears to be alarmingly comfortable with its hatred toward the ex-Celtic player and manager. It served as a sad reminder of how troubled Scottish football still is.

It also served as a reminder to what sort of club Hearts are. Their fans are vile.

Even when sitting atop the League for as long as they have, they can’t conduct themselves in a decent manner. They contain a proportion of subhuman scum of the highest order.

Last Saturday Celtic hosted the table-toppers at Celtic Park. It was only the previous weekend that Brendan Rodgers’ Hoops put Craig Levein’s Jambos to the sword in the League Cup Semi Final with a 0-3 victory at Murrayfield.

The upturn in performances by Celtic continued at Celtic Park with a 5-0 slaughtering of the visitors. To say the scoreline flattered Hearts would be an understatement.

Celtic were emphatic. It could have been more.

The tide is turning in the league. Hearts are losing momentum and Celtic are gaining some.

To see the Edinburgh club stumble three times in three games gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. “Natural order”, as Craig Levein likes to put it, will soon be restored when Celtic take their place at the top of the Scottish Premiership again.

The way in which Celtic are performing in domestic football right now has not been seen for some time. Perhaps not since Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge.

Celtic progressed through last season with some very unconvincing performances. They still won a treble of course, though it was anything but pretty.

This season was looking like a good advert for Scottish football with the top six slugging it out. It is difficult to back that up when one man continues to be abused left, right and centre.

Even the social media reaction to him being hit by a coin at Tynecastle was disgusting. You even had pundits like Gary Caldwell saying “he doesn’t help himself.”

An outrageous statement to make by an ex-Celt. Not the first time we’ve heard that from a pundit.

It seems to be the default stance by many. What a despicable crowd we serve.

For those that say “he brings it on himself”, is that really a valid argument? Are you saying that he deserves to be coined or verbally and physically abused?

This is old ground we’re covering. The football authorities do nothing about it.

The failed Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 is evidence of that. This was a law so flawed it failed to prevent or protect anyone and was repealed.

So concerning is this latest attack on Lennon that I find myself talking about it in the midst of a great period for Celtic. When will Scottish football grow a pair of balls and hammer the culprits?

Having scored 13 goals now without reply, Celtic have now come full circle. They last conceded against RB Leipzig, losing in Germany 2-0.

Two weeks on, Celtic have the chance to carry their domestic form into Europe. Leipzig will be in Glasgow tomorrow night for a crucial tie with Celtic.

Are they a better team than Celtic? You would have to say that they are because they are ranked higher by UEFA, play in a superior domestic league and have gone further in Europe as recently as last season.

That doesn’t mean Celtic cannot beat them though. Celtic lost sloppy goals in Germany and not for the first time.

Winning over there has never been achieved. Celtic can take the game to them in Glasgow and get a result though.

The emphasis on this fixture is one of make-or-break. Celtic have 3 points from 3 games and are 3 points behind Leipzig.

Salzburg are expected to win the group, so it will be between the Scottish Champions and last season 6th placed team from the Bundesliga.

It’s a remarkable rise for Leipzig who have come from the lower leagues. Of course, that has not been without the financial backing and business acumen of several faces at Red Bull.

There has already been a separate debate about Red Bull’s interest with more than one club and the amendments made for them to continue in German football. That isn’t a matter I want to get into though as Celtic only have one goal here – to win.

Leipzig are no unbeatable. Celtic on the other hand will have to be at their best to get a win.

European performances so far this season have been poor. A narrow home win over Rosenborg back in September was followed by a second half capitulation in Austria when Celtic threw away a 0-1 lead over Salzburg to lose 3-1.

Whilst we were no better in Germany, Celtic can make amends in Glasgow. A win puts us on level pegging with one away game to Rosenborg and a final home game against Salzburg who by that time should have secured the winners spot.

To make the last 32 would be a great boost for everyone. Especially after such an awful transfer summer.

The players are working hard and getting results. We are seeing the team in their best form in a long time.

I hope to continue writing positive things after tomorrow nights match.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

Today Celtic released a statement on the further conviction of Jim Torbett, who founded the Celtic Boys Club in the 1960’s. Whilst justice has been served on this deviant for the acts that he committed, many still wish to bombard Celtic Football Club for their association and relative inaction.

From time-to-time you hear the chatter from across the city accusing key figures at the Celtic for not taking action or falling silent on the matter. It is entirely possible that those who were running the club back then and in the years that followed did not handle the matter appropriately.

Indeed it is also possible that some were asked or told to remain silent on the incidents that took place. You could even argue that the magnitude of the matter may not even have been known to those at the club.

However, that does not disregard the fact that it was a despicable and horrific series of acts carried out by this man. The victims and their families are the ones who have suffered here.

I hope that the justice served provides some form of closure to the victims. As mentioned in the club’s statement, this type of historical act has plagued society in many of our sports, social and working groups for too long.

Sadly, this type of thing still happens today. To utilise this, as many have across the city, to bait the Celtic community as a form of banter or rivalry is equally as sick as the crime itself.

This does not help the victims. It only disrespects them.

The Scottish Premiership: full midweek card

Tonight’s full lineup in the Scottish Premiership could see further changes in the league pecking order. The top six clubs are slugging it out right now with Hearts still sitting comfortably at the top on 25 points.

They host Hibs (6th) at Tynecastle and have played one more game than the Easter Road side. Kilmarnock (2nd) are on 20 points and have also played the same amount of matches as Hearts.

A tough visit to Ibrox to face Rangers (5th) awaits them, with the home side currently on 17 points along with Hibs. Celtic (3rd) are just one point behind Kilmarnock, but have a game at hand over first and second place.

The Hoops travel to Dundee who are rock bottom with a mere 3 points to their name. This season’s surprise package, Livingston (4th), are at home to St Johnstone (7th) who are on 14 points.

The newly promoted Lothian club are in the enviable position of being a point behind Celtic and a point ahead of Rangers. Aberdeen (8th) are way off the pace right now on 12 points and entertain Hamilton (9th) at home who have 7 points.

That leaves Motherwell (10th) who are away to St Mirren (11th). Neither club have done much better than Dundee with the clubs on 5 points and 4 points respectively.

In terms of an open competition, this is what you want to see in the Scottish game. It isn’t something we see very often and certainly not much of in recent years.

You could argue that Celtic’s faltering start allowed Hearts to make off with an early lead. However, when you look at the league table the current top six clubs have been fairly consistent having lost no more than two games a piece.

That kind of competition makes for good viewing and entertainment. Scotland’s clubs may still be well off the pace in Europe, but in order to make a better job of it on the continent, you need to make your domestic game more competitive first.

I’d like to think that will increase and so far this season I haven’t been disappointed. Long may it continue.

So to tonight and the big fixtures that could change the current look of the league. Well Hearts v Hibs has to be the big one.

Hibs have not beaten Hearts at Tynecastle since May 2013. In between then they’ve had a fair few draws there so that might be their best hope.

Having said that, Hearts are troubled by injuries and perhaps this is a good opportunity for them to take something from the derby. It will be one to watch for sure.

Rangers v Kilmarnock will be another one to keep and eye on. Steven Gerrard has not lost at home this season whereas Steve Clarke has only lost one game on the road.

Killie did lose at home to Rangers in the League Cup last month. However, they have had their own luck at Ibrox in the last year with one win and one draw.

Dundee’s poor form and subsequent sacking of Neil McCann should not present Celtic with too many problems. The Hoops do have injuries, but they should have more than enough available personnel to put this fixture to bed and keep the pressure on Hearts.

There has also been the suggestion that we’ll see Daniel Arzani grace us with his presence. The World Cup youngster hasn’t featured since his arrival from Melbourne via Manchester City in the summer.

Now we could be set to see him in the Hoops at last. And there will be opportunities for others to come in as well.

Olivier Ntcham and Eboue Kouassi both went off injured at the weekend and will be assessed pre-match as to whether either can face Dundee. With Yousouff Mulumbu and Scott Brown also injured, defensive midfield duties would fall to Callum McGregor.

However, the possible inclusion of Arzani and impressive display by Ryan Christie against Hearts on Sunday, the Hoops are well equipped going forward. We are also beginning to see a more confident looking Scott Sinclair for about the first time in a year.

For a player who took ot the Hoops like a duck to water, he has been a man in desperate need of a kick-start these past twelve months. And already, he looks like he is beginning to put all that behind him and get back to his best.

That goes for the Celtic squad as a whole. Even with injuries, Celtic look galvanised again.

Europe may not be a happy hunting ground right now, but you cannot argue with our domestic resurgence of late. Long may that continue this evening at Dens Park.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Celtic remain undefeated* at Murrayfield

Celtic travelled to Edinburgh yesterday to face Hearts in the League Cup Semi Final. After a venue switch from Glasgow, Murrayfield was the agreed location for this tie.

Hearts used the rugby stadium whilst Tynecastle was being renovated a year ago. They played four fixtures between September and November last season at the home of Scottish rugby.

Celtic themselves played two matches there under Ronny Deila whilst Celtic Park was being utilised for the Commonwealth Games. They competed against KR Reykjavik and Legia Warsaw in 2014 during their Champions League qualifying campaign.

So this was familiar turf for some players though not everyone. Brendan Rodgers himself wanted the team to feel the benefit of the stadium beforehand as Hearts were more familiar with it.

And let’s face it, Murrayfield isn’t a million miles away for Hearts home ground either. I walked past Tynecastle on my way to Murrayfield four years ago for the Legia Warsaw game.

Both teams had injuries to contend with going into this match. Celtic also had a midweek Europa League away defeat to recover from.

They welcomed back Tom Rogic, James Forrest and Filip Benkovic with Dedryck Boyata out suspended along with the injured Scott Brown, Leigh Griffiths, Jozo Simunovic, Cristian Gamboa and apparently Youssouff Mulumbu as well. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the inclusion of Kris Ajer.

The up-and-coming defender has been out for a month and has also been missed. We all expected to see Jack Hendry alongside Benkovic, but Brendan slotted the Norwegian youngster in along with the Croatian centre half, Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig, the latter wearing the captains armband.

Celtic lined up otherwise as expected with Oliver Ntcham and Eboue Kouassi the anchors in midfield. Forrest, Rogic and Callum McGregor sat behind Odsonne Edouard in attack.

The first half saw a soft yellow card given to Steven MacLean in the 2nd minute, Steven Naismith went off injured in the 8th minute and Kouassi was substitued in the 26th minute. None of that aided the flow of the first 45 minutes which was very scrappy by both teams.

With no goals before the interval, something had to give in this semi final. And it didn’t take long either.

Before the restart Celtic suffered another injury blow with Nthcam being replaced Ryan Christie. Would Christie seize the moment?

Well, whilst we were all worrying about losing our shape, Christie had others ideas. McGregor dropped deep allowing Christie to play further forward and eight minutes into the second half he won a penalty.

It looked soft and the decision had everyone split from the studio to the stands. Having said that the Hearts defender never protested and Willie Collum couldn’t have had a better view.

As Chris Sutton said, had that been outside the box a free kick would have been awarded without hesitation. The penalty perhaps comes across as being harsh because there was minimal contact, but to be fair that is on the Hearts player.

If it’s not a penalty then Collum has to book Christie for diving. Though the only player to do something stupid in the box was Oliver Bozanic.

I don’t think Christie made any more of it than any other player would have and he is entitled to do so. I’ve seen worse attempts by Celtic players trying to con the referee and this wasn’t one of them.

So up stepped Scott Sinclair, who himself had come off the bench for Kouassi in the first half, to give Celtic the lead. It also provided the Hoops with a springboard for the rest of the match.

If the first half was ragged, Celtic were beginning to look sharp in the second. The football was flowing so much better and with that, another goal.

Christie, in about matters again, had a shot spilled by Zdenek Zlamal. The ball looked to have crossed the line before it was scooped out by the goalkeeper, but James Forrest pounced quickly to put it in the net on 66 minutes.

Celtic were really into their stride now. Not happy with winning a penalty and losing the goal award to his team mate, Christie got a goal he could claim for himself.

As the ball ran free 25 yards from the Hearts goal, the midfielder latched onto it and placed an unstoppable shot past Zlamal. This time it was Christie’s and it was a belter.

Having signed for Celtic just over three years ago, the midfielder has had limited opportunities under two Celtic managers. He’s played more football on his three loan spells than he has for his parent club.

There are many Celtic fans who believe he isn’t good enough for the Hoops. For a player who hasn’t really had a chance that is a bit harsh.

He was brilliant at Aberdeen last season. Outwith Celtic, he was one of the best midfielders in Scotland.

Christie is one of many young talented players recruited by Celtic in recent years who never really got given a fair chance. Scott Allan is another and like Christie found better opportunities out on loan.

The question for Brendan Rodgers now is does he stick by him? If he does he’ll know whether he is worth another contract.

His current deal expires next summer along with the likes of Allan, Broony, Boyata, Lustig, Gamboa, Izaguirre and de Vries. Is it too late or has Christie just got himself a golden ticket?

We’ll see. One thing’s for sure, he was yesterday’s star man and I’m over the moon for him.

What was even more impressive were the circumstances. European hangover and injuries before and during this match meant the gauntlet had been well and truly thrown down.

The Bhoys responded. None more Ryan Christie.

Now a place in the final is secure. We will be joined by Aberdeen who disposed of Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side at Hampden.

The treble remains on the table. Well done Bhoys and well done Ryan Christie.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Invest before we become a team in decline

Thursday delivered another European blow to Celtic’s current campaign. The club have failed to establish a foothold in Europe under Brendan Rodgers.

Whilst winning the Champions League is fairytale stuff, the Europa League is not totally unrealistic. That doesn’t mean it is easier, but it can be achieved by more prudently run clubs compared to the millionaires playground that the Champions League is designed for.

Money isn’t really the big issue for Celtic. It is themselves.

Yes there are some opponents that are just too financlially superior to overcome. Celtic have been smashed to a pulp by some of these teams like Barcelona and PSG in the last couple of years into the bargain.

That kind of hammering is hard to recover from. I can still feel every one of those goals in my soul.

Whilst the summer was not particularly great for Celtic, we have been playing better recently on home soil. Sadly, we haven’t been able to replicate that in the two Europa League games in Austria and Germany and even made heavy weather of the win at home to Rosenborg.

When Celtic entertain Salzburg and Leipzig at Celtic Park, they will have to put on a much better show of conviction, discipline and organisation. Because it has been largely self-inflicted errors that have been the cause of their disappointment in Europe.

This isn’t new of course. We’ve seen this before under other Celtic managers as well.

Losing goals early in European ties or conceding late on when we are winning or drawing. Do we have the correct personnel to do better?

Yes and no. We have a good squad without any real superstars.

There are some weak areas that need strengthening badly. Some players are on their last legs as well.

Brendan is culpable as well. Sometimes he has got it right and other times not so much.

The club take a prudent approach in the transfer market. This much we know and understand.

Splurging £9M on one striker was big business, but the whole team needed a bit of a facelift in general. Between January and June we will lose about half a dozen players.

Some of these players will need to be replaced. Others are just natural churn.

How do Celtic move forward though? This middle year of Brendan’s five year contract looks almost transitional.

If we are taking Europe seriously, we need better personnel, improved focus and better tactics. None of this is out with our reach.

Indeed it is imperative. We might not be able to win a European trophy, but we should be making a better attempt at being involved.

Tomorrow it is back to domestic duty. Celtic travel to Edinburgh to face Hearts in the League Cup Semi Final.

Celtic are odds on to win inn the neutral ground of Murrayfield. In light of results against Hearts over the last year, I don’t think this is a foregone conclusion.

In the Scottish Premiership Hearts sit at the top a comfortable six points ahead of Celtic and Kilmarnock. For many, this has been a surprise start by Craig Levein’s side, but they are there on merit.

They’ve lost just one game in ten played so far this season. Only Livingston can match that statistic.

Having said that, Celtic have been on a steady climb again. Europe has not been fruitful, but domestic form is taking shape again.

With several players missing from the away game to Leipzig, some will return to face Hearts. The impression most of us got from Tom Rogic and Filip Benkovic’s omissions on Thursday were that the League Cup tie was the priority fro Brendan Rodgers.

James Forrest was suspended whilst Kristoffer Ajer, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths were injured. With Dedryck Boyata suspended for the Hearts game and those three injured players still out, wrapping Rogic and Benkovic up on cotton wool was perhaps something that was risk assessed with the likelihood of a defeat in Germany.

So from that point of view I get it. Even if Rogic and Benkovic had played, we were still not at full strength.

For now we must limp on without our captain, key striker and up-and-coming central defender. We’ll be looking to those players bang on form to get a result at Murrayfield.

Rogic, Ntcham, Forrest and Edouard are all playing well right now. This is a team game though and we need to see more from the rest of the squad.

Scott Sinclair got a goal recently and with any luck will have spurred him on to rediscover that first season form. Lewis Morgan is pushing for more game time as is Ryan Christie.

With our captain absent for a while, Eboue Kouassi and Youssouff Mulumbu will need to fill the defensive midfield role. Callum McGregor can also play in there, but he has so much more to offer as we have seen over the previous four seasons at the club.

Defensively, Celtic have to steady the ship. It remains a major area of concern and one that Brendan has yet to resolve in over two years.

With Benkovic only here on loan, Boyata almost certain to leave in January or June, Simunovic an injury nightmare and Lustig, Gamboa and Izaguirre’s current deals ending next summer,it is hard to fathom what Celtic’s future defence is going to look like. Ralston, Tierney, Ajer and Hendry are the only defenders with any hope of a future at the club albeit with a distinct lack of collective experience.

And let’s be brutally honest. Whilst Craig Gordon is far and away our best goalkeeper, he is not getting any younger.

We’ve seen a lot of players leave in the last couple of years. There isn’t much profit left in this side and we can’t keep selling everyone.

Celtic need to start reinvesting and soon. Otherwise we will become a team in decline if we aren’t already.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac