The ugly games

Football brings out the very best and the very worst in people. The dust is just settling another week or so of intolerable bile from a variety of areas in the game.

There are many factors in football that don’t exist in sports like athletics or tennis. You might see football as the sport of the working class and that isn’t far wrong, but it is also a sport for anyone of any race, gender or religion.

Supporters are a huge part of the game. Jock Stein famously said “football is nothing without fans.”

That isn’t just a credit to one of football’s legendary figures. It is also the truth.

Yet there are many in the world football who choose to disgrace themselves by behaving in such abhorrent ways. By doing so, they drag with them their fellow supporters, clubs, newspapers, broadcasters or even the good name of that country through the mud.

The media often take the critical and reactionary route for profitable reasons. Rumours get reported as fact and when neither of those are available, whatever serves the agenda best gets broadcast or published.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen Celtic secure the league title unbeaten. In the immediate aftermath, rather than choose to praise Celtic, Sky Sports’ resident Scottish football dick head, Neil “EBT” McCann, plumped for the “Celtic could lose Brendan Rodgers in the summer” declaration. 

I mean, the guy just couldn’t help himself. Its bad enough that he’s a bitter wee prick that owes HMRC money, but he knows every time he speaks negatively about Celtic it is retaliatory. 

Similarly you have other guys like Simon Jordan and Dietmar Hamann claiming Celtic woukd struggle in the English top flight. That Celtic would disappear down to the Championship after a brief spell.

Are these guys on drugs? Hamann I’ll ignore because he’s probably headed the ball too many times, but Jordan I won’t.

The former Crystal Palace owner also claimed Rangers were better than Celtic. I guess that’s what you can expect from a man who walks away from the club he owned after it goes into administration.

He has a lot in common with Oldco. Hr also sounds like he’s been hanging out with Adrian Durham.

The truth is Celtic are missing only one thing to survive in the Premier League – the same income as everyone else. By simply being the Premier League, Celtic would be better off.

Guys like Jordan are regularly beaten down by checking a few facts. Celtic are often placed on the top financial lists by experts which collates clubs operating well within their means and in Celtic’s case, credited that if in a bigger league they would flourish.

McCann got shut down with Brendan signing a contract keeping him at the club for the next four years with money to spend this summer. That was the perfect reply.

With McCann getting a lot of heat from the Celtic support, it is no wonder he’s taken up a temporary role at Dundee. I can’t imagine he’ll be performing any miracles there but it might keep him out of media spotlight for a wee while.

Speaking of which, I see Tom English was getting it tight for his jibe Tweets at Celtic fans. I don’t get Tom English.

One day he’ll write a fair account of a Celtic match. The next time he’ll omit anything that relates to the controversial, such are the ways things go at the BBC.

It isn’t just about Celtic though. Often it is worse.

Recently, Kelvin McKenzie savaged Everton and England defender Ross Barkley in his Sun column in the aftermath of an attack on the player in a Liverpool bar. The content of that column I won’t be quoting, but this piece of shit didn’t stop at unleashing upon Barkley in his column.

He continued to attack the good people of Liverpool. If you didn’t already know, it will come of no surprise to you that this guy was editor during the shameful reports by this paper at the time of Hillsborough.

In fact he is solely responsible for some of the most vile newspaper headlines in British history. He feels no remorse for these acts.

Now Liverpool and Everton stand together against this paper. The Sun is banned.

The timing of his article was an outright disgrace. It was the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster last Saturday.

Speaking of anniversaries, we saw on that very same day Sevco fans holding aloft a banner praising former Oldco player, Sam English. It isn’t unusual to praise a former player on a significant anniversary such as this one especially with his goals to games ratio for the former Ibrox club.

On the 50th anniversary of his death (some days earlier), not something you hear about much amongst the Ibrox fraternity, you might expect to read something relevant to his career. Instead, the focal point of his death and association with Rangers was that “He was a proud young protestant”.

Was it really necessary to hone in on this? Talk about provoking a reaction.

You have to question why one man’s religion is relevant here. I think we know why.

History doesn’t place Protestantism atop of his epitaph. I think we know what might.

You could not find a trace of this story in the SMSM. You’d never be short of reading about anything similar happening at Celtic Park.

Still, this kind of behaviour is expected from some people. It doesn’t mean that when it happens you are any less shocked.

What is being done to address these issues though? The police were investigating the Kelvin MacKenzie’s article but the Sun are the ones who agreed to publish it.

He isn’t sorry and neither are the paper. If ever there was a reason for clubs to be tougher with the media it is this one.

Celtic should take note from what their fans have been telling them for years. With all of the tabloids.

The authorities are equally guilty. Particularly in Scotland. 

The only thing to be introduced in Scottish football was the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. A thoughtless, heavy handed piece of legislation that still fails to deal with issues in the Scottish game in a fair and just manner.

Can we expect much to change? No because that has to come from the clubs.

The game remains ugly and everyone is a particpant. That needsto change for the health of the sport.

Just so I don’t end the on a dismal note on a fine sunny day, I’d like to congratulate local club Brighton & Hove Albion on securing their promtionto the Premier League. It has been 34 years since the Sussex seaside clubhave played in England’s top flight.

They have a magnificent new stadium and a vibrant city status. I’m sure the big guns will be made to feel welcome in the place that I’ve come to know as ‘home’.

Still not forgiving you for selling us Adam Virgo though. Some scars never heal!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Ross County v Celtic: preview and lineup

Celtic and Aberdeen sit top of the Scottish Premiership on the same points this morning. Come lunchtime, Ronny Deila has the opportunity to take advantage of one of those games at hand to make open up a gap.

Midweek saw Celtic go ahead by a single point after a comprehensive win over a lacklustre Motherwell side. Derek McInnes’ side could only manage a draw away to St Johnstone last night and lost the chance to keep the pressure on Celtic.

This season is far from over though and there will be more twists and turns to come I am sure. Today though, Celtic must keep up their progress and get an away.

They visit Ross County for today’s 12.45pm kick off and despite the Dingwall outfits league position, nothing should be taken for granted. The last the two teams met, it was a rather drab 0-0 affair and a disappointing end to 2014, having suffered a 2-1 defeat to Dundee United six days earlier.

After a short break to Gran Canaria, Celtic have returned with a spring in their step. With three clean sheets and three wins to start 2015, Deila will be keen to see that maintained.

Yesterday saw the departure of Beram Kayal to Championship side, Brighton & Hove Albion. Albion are struggling this season and will be aiming to avoid the drop.

When Kayal came on the scene at Celtic, he made a huge impact. Injury saw him displaced when he was a key player though he did make a comeback.

His career began to dwindle as he struggled with some injuries. Eventually Victor Wanyama would keep him out of the side before he himself departed for the south coast of England.

There is no doubt that Kayal has talent, but he appears to have wanted to leave for some time. At one stage this season it looked as though Ronny Deila might give him his chance but his departure is good for everyone and I wish him all the best.

If Ronny Deila can offload a few other players not fulfilling their roles or achieving full potential, it will free up wages and open up spaces for youth players and new signings. We may not see much more activity this transfer window for Celtic, but the summer is likely to see Ronny Deila impose more of his own vision on Celtic.

As for today, three points will do nicely. The team:

Gordon, Matthews, Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre, Brown, Bitton, Commons, Guidetti, Henderson, Griffiths.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Headhunting

Where do you begin when searching for a new manager? Well avoiding past mistakes would be beneficial to begin with.

Appointments aren’t always about replacing like for like. You have to look ahead and where you are as a business or in Celtic’s case, a club and a business.

The question the board must ask themselves is “what direction is the club going in?” The football climate in which Celtic exist is one with restrictions, that we are all well aware of.

There isn’t the kind of money flowing through Scottish football like there is in other leagues in Europe. I’m not just talking about the flagship leagues mind you, they are an inner circle that requires more money than sense.

I’m referring to countries elsewhere in Europe where there are league’s that fair better with TV revenue. Some of these countries appear to have better deals with similar or smaller audiences than Scotland and yet I’m not entirely convinced that the quality is substantially better.

Despite this, Celtic Football Club is set up well to survive the financial shortfall, even if the rest of the Scottish clubs are not. The financial backbone that is in place ensures stability which in this day and age is a saving grace.

On the playing field, the league is of course bread and butter for a club like Celtic. Currently, there is no opposition to threaten Celtic’s claim season after season.

Not even the emergence of Second Rangers can be considered a threat. They don’t play in the SPFL, are not guaranteed promotion after next season or to even exist long enough to get there.

So what is the attraction for a potential suitor to the Celtic throne? Well, should an appointment come from within the Scottish game, it will be a big step up by taking the reigns of a club like Celtic.

Winning the league would be a huge challenge for guys like Jackie McNamara or Paul Hartley whose names have been mentioned in the past few days. Europe would be considered an even greater task but Lennon was in that boat as well and proved the doubters wrong.

It took him a couple of years to get to grips with competing in Europe but he learned. The question is will Celtic go down the same route as they did with Lennon or pick someone with more experience?

Henrik Larsson has been talked about heavily, even before the departure of Lennon. As a club legend it is not surprising to hear his name every now and again.

Many fans would love be to see the return of the king and Larsson himself has hinted at a return some day. He has been busy coaching in his home country of Sweden for five years now and looks set to continue that unless matters change.

For some, it isn’t Henrik’s time and feel if he had to come now it might tarnish his legendary status. For me though it would be the board’s desire to capitalise on Larsson’s marketing value that is of concern.

PR stunts are not beyond Celtic and if Larsson’s attraction was purely a financial one I disapprove. Robbie Keane was drafted in at a time when Mowbray’s efforts to make Celtic success flopped.

Keane’s appearance in a Celtic shirt must have sold dozens of jerseys and put bums back on seats. In reality, getting rid of Mowbray was the best thing the club did that season, the worst being his appointment.

If the club are looking at managers from outside of Scotland then you are looking at someone who may have handled a larger spending budget or worked in a tougher league but probably not managed a big club. There are a number of candidates out of work right now and when a club with the stature of Celtic are headhunting, interest is most definitely going to be high.

For example, David Moyes, ex-Celt and long-term guardian of Everton, recently sacked by Manchester United. He might be out of Celtic’s league financially and not everyone’s cup of tea, but on the other hand Celtic could a be the perfect opportunity for him to rebuild his reputation.

After just ten months at Manchester United he could be considered tainted goods, but he didn’t get that job by chance. He earned the opportunity through hard work obtaining his coaching badges whilst still a young player and earning plaudits from his fellow professionals as he climbed the managerial ladder.

Promotion to the second tier of English football with Preston (and very nearly the Premier League) brought him to the attention of Everton. He maintained Everton’s status in the top half of the Premier League in all but two of his eleven years at the helm.

He brought some brilliant talent to Everton, though the money was there to do so. What goes against him is that he never won a trophy or made an impact in Europe despite getting some very respectable league positions and making a domestic final.

Also in the managerial wilderness right now is another former Celtic centre half, Malky Mackay. Disposed of by Cardiff in December, he is certain to be looking to get back into the game as soon as possible.

He first stepped into the management hot seat as caretaker at Watford. That role would become his own but only after Brendan Rodgers had failed to deliver first.

Cardiff then came calling for Malky and it was there that he made a name for himself. He made the play-off’s and the League Cup Final but would eventually see defeat in both challenges.

The following season he won the Championship title and earned automatic promotion to the Premier League but soon after a rift would materialise between the himself and the owner. There is no doubt that the souring of that relationship diluted Cardiff’s chances of staying up and that was ultimately the end of the road for Malky and Cardiff.

Would he be a good choice for Celtic? I think so, but the main question is, is he the kind of coach the club are interested in or could even persuade to come north of the border?

Paul Lambert, another former Celt, currently plying his trade in management at Aston Villa could be looking for a move. New ownership is on the cards at Villa and when that happens you tend to find that your face no longer fits.

At this stage new owner’s have not been acquired but Lambert may take this opportunity to move if he feels his role is under threat. He stepped away from relative safety with Norwich to take the job at Villa but it is a big ask to get success at that club these days.

Staying up isn’t generally a concern for Villa, its progressing that is the challenge. Lambert may well continue his career at there, but if Celtic do come calling and money was not a huge concern for either party, I think Lambert would find it hard to refuse.

Also on that list of rumoured candidates is Steve Clarke. He has carved out a very respectable career as an assistant manager for a Newcastle United, Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool.

Clarke has also worked under some big names in management. Ruud Guillit, José Mourinho, Avram Grant, Gianfranco Zola and Kenny Dalglish have all utilised his services over the years but he would eventually venture out on his own.

That came in the form of Head Coach at West Bromwich Albion. His first season there was a huge success finishing eighth in the league.

Sadly for Clarke, that success would not be mirrored the following season and he was axed before Christmas. Whether he returns to management or not only time will tell but the one fact that is unquestionable is his ability as a firsf teamm coach.

Then there is Owen Coyle, a man formerly linked with the job at Celtic. On that occasion he was said to have been offered the role before Tony Mowbray but turned it down.

His managerial career was on the up with Burnley and he chose to stay in England. It could have been a good appointment for Celtic at the time but my feelings on that have changed.

As much as I understood his decision to make a name for himself in England, his career is in a different place altogether now. After gaining promotion to the Premier League with Burnley he jumped ship mid season to former employers Bolton who he had once played for.

Burnley were relegated that season and many felt Coyle had turned his back on them and I am inclined to agree. Although he had managed to keep Bolton in the Premier League for two seasons, he would eventually find himself back in the Championship.

Results didn’t go well down there and he was out of work only a few months into the new season. The following year he took the reigns at Wigan but once again he found himself out of work just six months into the job.

Celtic may have decided that with a poor run in the game in the last couple of years he is not the man for the job anymore. He was once, but for many Celtic fans he missed his chance and his value has plummeted.

A left field entry on the list is Oscar Garcia. He took Brighton and Hove Albion to the play-off’s this year but was unsuccessful in the end.

The Championship is a competitive league and he did well to get Brighton into the play-off position. The fact that he chose to resign after such a short spell is surprising given that he did well with relatively limited experience.

He may be looking for a bigger club and Celtic are certainly that. Whether he could cut the mustard in Scotland I do not know but I do question his staying power given that he has left his two most recent jobs after only one season in charge.

Also in that play-off battle is Steve McLaren. Having made the final and losing to a late goal might he be looking to move on?

Love him or hate him he has bags of experience. He hasn’t made any signs of leaving Derby but he remains a possibility and given his coaching credentials oversess and at international level he is not to be sniffed at.

Lastly, there is Roy Keane, another ex-Celt whose name has been mentioned. His recruitment as a player, whilst totally unnecessary, was amother PR stunt that Celtic just couldn’t refuse.

Sunderland was his first venture into management where he won promotion to the Premier League in his first season. He kept Sunderland up during his second season but the season that followed saw a poor start and Keane eventually resigned.

With a character like Keane’s there was the usual controversy. Never afraid to speak his mind, his management style didn’t go down well with players and officials during his time there but that’s Roy Keane I guess.

Ipswich Town would be Roy’s second crack at management. It failed to develop into anything successful for him or the club during an eighteen month period and having falling down the league he was sacked.

He returned to coaching last year taking up the assistant managers role under Martin O’Neill for the Republic of Ireland’s national team. Although still a relationship in its infancy, it hasn’t prevented Keane’s name being mentioned with the Celtic job.

His opinions and temperament don’t always win him votes with people. Roy is never afraid to speak his mind though but whether Dermot Desmond sees Keane as the kind of character he wants to coach the team, the Kaiser will have the final say.

What Celtic require is someone who will stick around for a few years and make some progress. The league is almost certainly assured given the gap between Celtic and the rest of the SPFL clubs.

Whoever takes over will have to emulate that domination in the league. A more successful run in the cups would also be desirable.

Then there is Europe and with it the income that Celtic require. European nights at Celtic are what we as fans all crave and without those evenings the domestic season would be very dull.

Being involved in the Champions League group phase is essential. Qualifying from that stage and reaching the last sixteen is a target that can only be surpassed by repeating the journey year after year.

Only two Celtic managers have ever made the knockout phase in the current format of the tournament. The board may not expect that next season given the change in personnel, but surely progression in Europe is the objective that makes this all worth while?

On the other hand, Celtic may be looking overseas for someone who can tweak those European fortunes. Though it’s unlikely that the club will be able to obtain the services of a coach with an admirable CV without breaking the bank.

Celtic may play in Europe but as I have said before, there are limitations to what you can and can’t do and that includes attracting the right people and being able to pay the right money. Whoever the club appoint, it will clarify their ambitions and intentions.

They must move swiftly though. The World Cup begins soon and with it an opportunity to scout talent.

Ideally it would be best to appoint someone before then and get them preparing for the Champions League qualifier’s in July. In the past the club have been slow to elect a manager so I hope that they are actively seeking one now.

Peter Lawwell stated that the club haven’t begun their search. Personally, I find that hard to believe, this isn’t the public sector after all.

Lennon said leaving wasn’t a knee-jerk decision. I’m sure the board may have either been expecting it, or helping him wind things down.

The new manager will need the backing of the support and not just the board. It would be advisable to give him every chance to succeed by getting him on board now.

So let’s hope the club don’t waste too much time and make an announcement soon.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie