Çiftçi and McGeady?

I don’t know what I am more alarmed about. That Celtic have reportedly made a bid for Nadir Çiftçi or that Aiden McGeady is rumoured to be returning to Paradise.

Firsty, lets talk about Nadir Çiftçi. On the face of things it looks like a mediocre move for Celtic.

The Turkish striker has made a name for himself at Dundee United and in Scottish football, particularly against Celtic. I’d say he is a key player for McNamara’s team but is he really up to the job at Celtic or in Europe?

Well, lets go a wee bit deeper. At 23 years old, this is a young striker playing regular football in Scotland for the last two seasons.

Prior to his arrival in Scotland Çiftçi had spells with Portsmouth, Kayserispor and NAC Breda. He has also been capped at under-17 level by the Netherlands and under-19 level by Turkey, the latter being his actual place of birth.

Ironically, he was convinced to switch allegiances to Turkey by Guus Hiddink, a Dutchman. He was Turkey manager at the time and evidently liked what he saw.

In my total ignorance before today’s blog, I thought Çiftçi was an older player but that may just be the beard! That got me thinking – does Ronny see this guy with greater potential?

Well, it still sounds like another gamble, something Celtic have done a lot with strikers these last few years. However, he does have good experience playing in Scotland which is one less risk.

Does this guy have more to offer? Are Celtic going to raise the bid?

Elsewhere, rumours have begun to circulate about Aiden McGeady. He left Celtic five years ago for a whopping fee of £9.5M.

At the time I thought this was superb business by the club. Many saw it as Celtic cashing and I had no argument about that then or now.

For me McGeady was a one trick pony who had one amazing season at the club. Despite his flare, it rarely had an end product and his place in the team was always under scrutiny.

Crossing the ball was not his thing either despite it actually being his job on matchdays. In fact, I think his best position may have been playing off the front man but I didn’t see him given that role too often.

In the back of my mind, yes it would be interesting to see him play in the Hoops again. On the other hand, has he actually improved since leaving Celtic in 2010?

As I said in a forum thread last night, if his career had blossomed since leaving would we even be talking about a potential move back to Celtic? I doubt it because he would be priced out of such a move whereas now, people think he might have to lower his demands such is his career dip.

Now after a three-and-a-half year spell in Moscow and just over a year with Everton he has apparently put in a transfer request. Given that his appearances have been limited at Everton I’d say he’s done the right thing for himself but is Celtic really on the radar or is this pure speculation?

I think McGeady will have matured in his five years since leaving Celtic. I know many would like to see him back, but there’s an equal amount (if not more) who wouldn’t.

Fancy tricks aren’t everything in this game and it doesn’t win you matches. You need to be able to deliver and that is where my frustration with McGeady lies.

Throw in the fact that coming back is rarely, if ever, a good thing and I think you have your answer. The way forward for Aiden is not the way back so perhaps this should remain a rumour.

Tomorrow Celtic take on FC Den Bosch at St Mirren Park. I’m desperate to see the Hoops play again.

I’m also looking forward to seeing some fringe players getting a chance to shine. For some players, it may be the last or close to last time we see them don the Hoops as Ronny aims to trim the squad so I’ll be tuning in for sure.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Waiting for a decent match

During the international break, football fans find themselves divided. Some will tune in or travel to follow their country whilst others a dislike of the whole bout of fixtures.

As a Celtic fan, I’ve always followed Scotland. I’m not in the Tartan Army league but I always had time for Scotland (except when they’ve had really awful managers).

Last night Scotland played Northern Ireland but I wasn’t all that interested. International friendlies are,for the most part, tiresome.

I don’t mind meaningful qualifiers and of late Gordon Strachan has reignited the fires . So I’m happy to wait until Sunday’s encounter with Gibraltar to get on board.

If anything, I think friendlies could be played behind doors. They’re good for the players but not always for fans.

On the subject of meaningful matches, I tuned into El Clásico on Sunday. As far as huge fixtures go, this is one of the best and yet I always find the same disappointment.

Diving.

When I was growing up folk used to go on about the dirty South Americans and the divers from Italy, Spain etc etc. Whilst the former may be a distant memory (except maybe Honduras in last year’s World Cup Finals) the latter is still in full flow today.

El Clásico had plenty of antics going on last Sunday. I get that its part of a culture with some countries but its a negative one.

I tune into these matches hoping to be dazzled by the things that Scottish football cannot produce. So when I see guys billed to be the best in the world, falling over holding some part of their body Family Guy style is a little embarassing to watch.

If you’re not very good and you need all you can to get the game, fair enough. These guys earn a fortune though and have global exposure, yet collapse with all the drama of an injured ballerina.

Its a total disgrace to football and its crept into the game in the England. That may be to do with the influx of huge salaried foreign ‘stars’, in fact it is.

Lets hope it doesn’t become prevalent  in Scottish football. We need a helping hand now and again but this we can do without.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Destiny awaits

Today sees the return of two fierce rivals at Hampden Park, Glasgow. I am of course talking about Celtic fans and Rangers fans.

Both sets of supporters will take up their old places in the stadium. The teams being supported meet for the very first time though.

Articles and blogs have been populated with this fixture ever since the draw was made for the Scottish League Cup sem finals. The media continue to perpetuate the lie that the club Celtic face on this afternoon is the same one they faced for over one hundred years.

As I said in my last post, you are never going to change the opinions of others. People believe what they want to believe but credit to those who aim to set the record straight.

Just as my fellow bloggers have done, we can lay down the facts around the the truth about Rangers. As one half of the divide though, we will struggle to convince anyone who is neutral because we are in direct opposition to the other half.

That is all that people see and that is your problem right there. Despite the media initially reporting the death of Rangers in 2012, they are now fully paid up members of the Rangers are alive and kicking club.

Sound familiar? Well Sir David ‘Moonbeams’ Murray had the media in his back pocket for the entirety of his reign at Rangers 1872. Rangers 2012 have now managed to convince the Scottish media, the SFA and the SPFL that it is the same club.

In reality, the only ones who believe this is the same club are the deluded fans who need someone to follow, follow. The media toe the line along with the muppets at Hampden.

Celtic also play their cards close to their chest. By doing so, they keep the peace.

The sad reality here is that Scottish football has once more gone backwards. Every time an opportunity arises to change the shape of our ailing sport, the powers within the game make a patchwork effort in healing Scottish football.

Everything was done to get Rangers 2012 into the top flight of Scottish football as soon as humanly possible. Only the integrity of the majority of Scottish clubs prevented that from happening.

It didn’t prevent the SPFL/SFA from reforming the structure and adding play-offs though. With the Ibrox club having no chance of winning the Scottish Championship this season, they have a life line in the play-offs with thanks to SPFL/SFA.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the play-offs are a good thing, as it has been in England. The timing of these changes is very convenient for Rangers 2012 though.

So it is up to Celtic to lay to rest this Ibrox team’s efforts in the league cup. Celtic are expected to win but that isn’t how football works.

The Hampden surface is in a terrible state and that will help level the playing field today. Add to that that we’re the biggest team Rangers 2012 have ever faced in their competitive history and there is plenty of motivation for them.

As former Celtic coach Kenny McDowall said:

“We are under major pressure to perform and it’s up to us to prove, if you can work, like Bradford and Middlesbrough did at the weekend, you can upset the favourites.”

Well, it is a cup game and it is not impossible. The only upset I want to see though is that continued upset look on McDowall’s face.

Ronny Deila is new to this level of tension in a fixture. It can get to you but he has plenty of experience around him from head to heads with the old club in guys like John Collins and John Kennedy.

On the field if play he hss more than enough experience and influence to see off the opposition. Gordon, Zaluska, Matthews, Izaguirre, Mulgrew, Brown, Commons, Forrest, Griffiths and Stokes have all played against the old club though not all will play today.

Mulgrew is injured so the rest comes down to starting lineup and substitutions. There are a whole host of options open to Deila for this one though.

My favoured lineup would be:

Gordon, Matthews, Izaguirre, Denayer, van Dijk, Brown, Johansen, Commons, Bitton, Stokes and Griffiths.

Lustig, Forrest and Guidetti as potential substitutes.

The pitch may be a mess, but there can be no mistakes from Celtic today. A date with Dundee United awaits.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Change is never easy, but time is on our side.

When I read about football manager’s getting their marching orders so early in a season I find it sickening, particularly when it is their first season at a club. I haven’t changed my stance on that in the case of Ronny Deila either and I remain, for now, a supporter of his.

With the Scottish Premiership nine games old, Celtic sit in sixth place. They have played one game less than the five teams placed above them and sit a mere four points off the top spot.

Celtic are not running away with the league as is expected these days. With their old rivals long gone, the forecast is not about who will win, its by what margin.

Last season was a pretty dire affair, particularly after Celtic’s exit from Europe by which time the league was a forgone conclusion. It wasn’t a particularly good European campaign either but that was to be expected having lost the spine of the team that had been the cornerstone of each good performance.

You see without European football, the domestic campaign will always be like a wet weekend. Winning the league isn’t all that special when you’ve obliterated teams that cannot match you.

So whilst losing to Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hamilton Academical might seem disastrous to supporters, I suggest that it lays down a challenge. Credit must be paid to the SPFL clubs, particularly when stronger teams like Motherwell sit well below.

A couple of years ago, after the downfall of Celtic’s old foes, I laid down my wish that other clubs would come and have a go. That a challenge in the league would be welcome for the sake of Scottish football.

We balk at English suggestion that it was always a two horse race in Scotland. Though for the last couple of seasons it has been a solo run.

I’m certainly not lobbying for the phoenix club across the city to fill a void left by their predecessors because let’s face it they might not even make that far. What I do welcome though is a stronger Scottish Premiership.

Right now we have that through whatever circumstances that may be. I would suggest that this is healthy for the game in Scotland.

My point here is that I don’t want Celtic to run away with the league. Where is the entertainment in that?

If anything there is an opportunity for Celtic to do something different within the club. For many Ronny Deila was a budget appointment but I see it differently.

I said a few months ago that it was a left field move by bringing in Deila. Personally, I didn’t think the club had the balls to go down this road and as well as proving me wrong, I also think the risk involved is affordable.

By taking that risk Celtic have a chance to raise the bar. If Ronny Deila has the backing of the board to impose these changes then surely this is a positive move for the club’s professional standards?

The media and the fans have both voiced their opinions on Deila’s belief in the 24 hour athlete. Those who have mocked him about that are a true reflection of those unwilling to make a change for the better, as seen during Paul Le Guen’s time across the city.

Given half a chance to be a professional sportsman, I would jump at the chance to be the best and I’d be more than willing to make lifestyle changes. Deila wasn’t wrong about guys like Andy Murray either.

You can play against any team at any time in your career. If you want to compete you have to be doing it the same level or better than the best.

As a tennis player Murray might never be the best in the world but look what he has done by pushing himself in all areas. Anthony Stokes might never become Henrik Larsson by changing his lifestyle but at least we know we’ll have the fittest version of the Irishman.

Yet for some it isn’t about that. Its about Deila being clueless on the park.

In all honesty, I don’t think what we are seeing now is as good as it is going to get. Deila is a young manager and a stranger to Scottish football but he is also someone who could pioneer something brilliant at Celtic if he is given the chance but he’ll need more than two months.

If the section of the fans who want him gone were to get their wish now, where would we go from here? Where does Scottish football go?

Do we go back to fizzy drinks and crisps because its always been like that? Or do we dare to try something new with the possibility of influencing the rest of Scottish football by attempting to emulate the standards set by other European clubs?

I don’t know about you but I would like to see what Ronny Deila can produce for this club in the long term. Its not just about today or tomorrow, but rather next week and the months and years that follow.

Change doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t happen overnight either. Celtic have time on their side and for once I am glad they are being bold enough to do something with it rather than just winning the league come new year.

The ground work being laid might not resonate with many supporters at this moment in time or produce the football on the park. However, if Ronny Deila can emboss the standards now it can attract and create a better player within Celtic Football Club in the future.

If one year from now we are sitting here with Celtic looking like a deflated dinghy then I’ll hold my hands up. In reality though, we’ve only just entered October and are far from the finished article so let’s just sit tight and let things unfold.

Time is on our side.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Forster among equals

Fraser Forster came to Celtic in August 2010. Although a Newcastle United player, he had been plying his trade on the road.

Two loan spells at Stockport County and Bristol Rovers got his career under way. A third loan deal took him to Norwich where his performances drew praise after a fine season under Paul Lambert.

It was there that he caught Celtic’s eye. He also came highly recommended by Lambert and so Celtic took him on loan for a season.

Although still a young keeper, he maintained his position in goal throughout that first season with Celtic. He was growing in stature, as was Neil Lennon’s team but he would return to Newcastle United at the end of that season.

A further year long loan spell was negotiated and he was back in the Celtic goal once more. After another steady season under Neil Lennon, Celtic were ready to do business.

Sadly, Newcastle United wanted to play hardball. Despite being a third choice keeper Alan Pardew insisted that Forster was still a key player.

At the time I wasn’t totally convinced that Celtic should be pursuing Forster with such determination. Newcastle weren’t easy to deal with and although Forster had had two decent season’s under his belt, my feeling was that Celtic shouldn’t be held to ransom for someone Newcastle had never played in a competitive match.

Both clubs eventually agreed fee of £2M and he was a finally a Celtic player. Any doubts I may have had over the protracted negotiation were laid to rest in his third season for Celtic.

Despite showing good shot stopping ability in the past, he saved his best for Europe that season. Saving penalties, pulling off wonder saves from world class opponents and being a stand out performer drew praise across Europe.

In Barcelona, the media named him “La Gran Muralla” – The Great Wall. This was a testimony to his size and ability in defying the Catalan side.

There is no doubt he was at his best in Europe. When you consider he was rarely called into action during domestic matches, this was some feat.

His fourth season was equally as good as his third even if Celtic’s luck wasn’t as fortuitous in Europe. Forster continued to earn praise from the media and fellow professionals and rumours of his departure were almost daily.

England eventually took notice and the mild mannered giant was named in several squads. To date he has earned two England caps and was included in 2014 World Cup squad, though never featured in what was a disappointing tournament for the England team.

So it was only a matter time before the big man would leave. The rumours that have surrounded his Celtic career have now been laid to rest following his move to Southampton.

I will miss Forster for several reasons. His application, dedication and professionalism as a player are as great as his presence in goal.

He broke and set records whilst a Celtic player as well as winning trophies and plaudits. Most of all, he had his finest hours in goal for Celtic and provided fans with some breathtaking and chest beating moments.

Leaving Celtic for the fee agreed is a testimony to his growth, stature and achievements as a Celtic player. Hopefully playing in the Premier League in England will further his international ambitions.

He has earned it and he will be missed. Good luck and all the best to the future, Fraser.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Nurturing talent

Now that the English ego’s are out of the World Cup picture, we can recline and enjoy the rest of the tournament. Okay, there’ll still be the odd reference to whatever excuse they’re using for exiting early, but at least we won’t have to check in on how squad preparations are going for their next disappointment or 1966 for that matter.

In Scotland we know how unbearably poor we are and when there might be something worth making a noise about. What we don’t require is to travel half way across the world to debate it over and over in a studio with a team of pundits who can’t even agree on the reasons.

On that subject, I would I just like to congratulate Andros Townsend on a fantastic World Cup performance. Easily one of the best pundits during this tournament.

Its not all doom and gloom though. England are in really company down at the departure lounge along with Spain, Italy etc.

I’m excited for the knockout phase and seeing some tastier matches. This is when you find out which teams wear women’s underwear.

What excites me even more though is getting back to all things Celtic. Sure, the World Cup is great and there’s plenty left to go, but with the Champions League draw on Monday past, I’m already champing at the bit.

I’m keen to see what Ronny and Johnny can bring to this group of players. The nurturing of young talent is something I have longed to see for years and I think its about time Celtic showed they are serious about this.

Fine, if then talent isn’t good enough, then fair enough. Much of the time though I feel the club have just moved youth players on to collect a small fee without giving them a real chance.

We like to rave about some guys before we’ve ever actually seen them. Where are they all know?

The transfer market isn’t a good place for Celtic unless they are able to unearth a gem. Your scouting will get you so far but you have to be dedicated and trusting of your youth as well.

If you don’t bring them through and give them a chance then what is the incentive? This does not set a positive example for young talent.

Not many make the grade at Celtic but how much of it is down to the player and how much the club? Other Scottish clubs fair better when producing talent not because they get the better talent, but because they give them a chance.

If the national side want to benefit as well then it has to begin at club level. Scottish football needs an enema!

Buying players is not going to get any easier for Celtic. Not in the economy the club is playing in.

If Ronny is here to take the necessary steps then I look forward to some long awaited changes. And let’s face it, if all else fails John Collins can just take his shirt off in the changing room and shown them what to aim for!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Now that the English ego’s are out of the World Cup picture, we can recline and enjoy the rest of the tournament. Okay, there’ll still be the odd reference to whatever excuse they’re using for exiting early, but at least we won’t have to check in on how squad preparations are going for their next disappointment or 1966 for that matter.

In Scotland we know how unbearably poor we are and when there might be something worth making a noise about. What we don’t require is to travel half way across the world to debate it over and over in a studio with a team of pundits who can’t even agree on the reasons.

On that subject, I would I just like to congratulate Andros Townsend on a fantastic World Cup performance. Easily one of the best pundits during this tournament.

Its not all doom and gloom though. England are in really company down at the departure lounge along with Spain, Italy etc.

I’m excited for the knockout phase and seeing some tastier matches. This is when you find out which teams wear women’s underwear.

What excites me even more though is getting back to all things Celtic. Sure, the World Cup is great and there’s plenty left to go, but with the Champions League draw on Monday past, I’m already champing at the bit.

I’m keen to see what Ronny and Johnny can bring to this group of players. The nurturing of young talent is something I have longed to see for years and I think its about time Celtic showed they are serious about this.

Fine, if then talent isn’t good enough, then fair enough. Much of the time though I feel the club have just moved youth players on to collect a small fee without giving them a real chance.

We like to rave about some guys before we’ve never seen them. Where are they all know?

The transfer market isn’t a good place for Celtic unless they are able to unearth a gem. Your scouting will get you so far but you have to be dedicated and trusting of your youth as well.

If you don’t bring them through and give them a chance then what is the incentive? This does not set a positive example for young talent.

Not many make the grade at Celtic but how much of it is down to the player and how much the club? Other Scottish clubs fair better when producing talent not because they get the better talent, but because they give them a chance.

If the national side want to benefit as well then it has to begin at club level. Scottish football needs an enema!

Buying players is not going to get any easier for Celtic. Not in the economy the club is playing in.

If Ronny is here to take the necessary steps then I look forward to some long awaited changes. And let’s face it, if all else fails John Collins can just take his shirt off in the changing room and shown them what to aim for!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie