Rodgers and Sinclair reuinted for season opener at Tynecastle

Celtic have today confirmed Scott Sinclair as Brendan Rodgers’ third signing. The 27-year-old winger has worked with the Celtic manager in the past and there appears to have been some determination to obtain the services of the English winger.

From the little bit of research I have done on Sinclair, he comes with a lot of experience south of the border. That has been based mainly on playing for a long list of clubs, though only for short spells.

He began his career at Bristol Rovers where he came to the attention of Chelsea as a young boy. Having moved to Chelsea, it was there that Rodgers and Sinclair came together for the first time.

Rodgers was the head youth coach at the time and the two worked together for a number of years. Eventually Rodgers would move into first team management at Watford whilst for Sinclair half a dozen loan spells would begin.

Both mentor and pupil would be reunited once more at Swansea City in 2010 where they would enjoy very positives times in their careers. Because of the success enjoyed during their two seasons together, they would both move on.

Brendan went to Liverpool and Scott went to Manchester City. We all know about Brendan’s Liverpool tenure but for Scott his rare appearances in a Manchester City jersey led to further loan spells before a permanent move to Aston Villa.

Many have pointed out that Villa wasn’t a great success for Sinclair. Then gain, that could be said for Villa has a whole because after flirting with relegation for a long time, they now find themselves in the Championship.

Right now, I am keen to see Sinclair in the Hoops. Brendan has pursued him and looks to be one of his players.

That means he knows what he will get from him and when asked to do something, knows he will get a positive response. The only thing Sinclair needs to do is do what is asked of him.

We might get to see that today as Celtic take on Hearts at Tynecastle. With Patrick Roberts injured and Gary Mackay-Steven facing a loan spell, Celtic are light on wingers for once.

If Sinclair does play, it might just be as a substitute. Either way we are all looking forward to him help bring success to the club.

To play away from home and at Tynecastle in your first Premiership match is about as tough as it can get. Celtic will need to be at their best as I expect Hearts to have built upon last season.

There a fewer better places to play away in Scotland than Tynecastle in terms of intensity. Welcome to Scottish football, Scott.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Welcome to Paradise, Brendan

Back in May 2012 I began this blog as a personal pastime. I had contributed to a few other Celtic websites before and after this, but I decided to go it alone.

Celtic had won the SPL and the landscape of Scottish Football was in the middle of a saga. To escape said saga, I wrote about two football managers ascending in the game south of the border.

Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert had each taken ‘bigger’ jobs within a day of each other. Their stock was on the rise so Liverpool came swooping in to take Rodgers from Swansea and Villa took Lambert from Norwich.

They had both managed to survive their promotion seasons with their Championship clubs finishing. They even finished next to each other on the same points separated purely by goal difference.

Despite having a similar path and success with each of those Championship clubs, it was not so fortunate following their moves. Neither achieved the goal of winning trophies and both were sacked, albeit in different seasons.

One of those men I have retained my admiration for. The other, not so much.

And whad’ya know? That man, Brendan Rodgers, is now in the Celtic hot seat.

Now, play this down all you like. This is by no means a minor appointment – it’s a bit of a coup!

In the days and weeks leading up to this announcement, there have been a several favourites. Getting Rodgers was seen as impossible.

The fact that he has signed on speaks volumes about Celtic’s ambitions. It is also a credit to the new manager and his interest in this club.

Celtic and Rodgers are in a similar place right now. The club require upgrading for Europe, a voice in the dressing room and a plan on match days.

The new head coach needs a club to repair his managerial wounds and a platform to rebuild his reputation. This could be the beginning of something beautiful for both parties.

As I said to a couple of friends, Rodgers should be aiming for somewhere on the scale between Gordon Strachan (WGS) and Martin O’Neill (MON). That means bums on seats, Champions League football and entertaining the fans again.

Now before someone bashes me and points out the differences between the two previous Celtic managers, let me explain something. We had no idea what MON would do but it changed the club forever.

WGS took things one step further in the Champions League. What Rodgers needs to do is pin the tail on the donkey somewhere between those two men and make his own story.

I think he is the man to take Celtic forward right now and I’m confident in his ability. He may well emerge as a man we cannot retain the services of further down the line, but right now Rodgers can do a job at Celtic and that is why Dermot Desmond has made this happen.

Like him or loathe him, we’ve snared a guy who two seasons ago was out of our league. Since being sacked by Liverpool, he has become more attainable.

To ensure his signature though, Celtic have had to invest. That means settling financial terms, projecting expectations and demonstrating what you are offering to make that happen.

In Scotland, money will always be the Achilles heel of the game. There isn’t the customer base, stadia or media that can flog this league to the outside world nor is there a significant TV deal.

So for Celtic to draw in Rodgers is quite something. Whatever terms he is on, Brendan is here and I am hopeful he will bring success to Celtic Park.

The club need someone to man manage, lead, make effective decisions and with any luck get the best out of this group of players we have accrued over a few seasons. It isn’t an easy task, particularly with sort of attention this job comes with and the limited resources to do it with but that is why Celtic have had to aim higher.

Celtic have significantly more funding than the rest of Scottish clubs. It isn’t nearly as much as some of these clubs in Europe though.

Still, Celtic have exited Europe against teams with smaller finances recently so it isn’t just about the money. This is about motivation, tactics, team selection and recruitment.

It is worth mentioning that of all the men mentioned for this role, Rodgers is by far the outstanding candidate. Furthermore, he was the man fans felt least likely to accept an offer given his growth in the game.

There aren’t too many men out there to have managed two of the world’s greatest clubs. Whilst Liverpool wasn’t an overwhelming success, Brendan came very close to winning the Premier League.

Celtic have shown their intent here and the timing is perfect. It isn’t even June and we’ve installed a big name.

Roy Keane was said to have turned the job down two years ago due to lack of transfer funds. If there is more on offer this time it is evident that whilst he may have been more interested this time around, he wasn’t number one choice as he was in 2014.

Does Brendan have the qualities we desire? I think so.

Can he do great things? We’ll find out.

Was there a better, more viable candidate out there? Not in my opinion.

So we are in for an interesting journey. I’ll say it again, I think this could be the best appointment since MON.

Welcome to Paradise, Brendan.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

How can we put faith in our authorities?

It’s been a few days since the initial broadcast of “Hillsborough” on BBC. I finally got the chance to watch it and knowing the impact it had already had on the public, I was expecting a tough documentary.

Like many major events in the life that we live, you tend to remember ‘where you were’ when one occurs. I was only a kid on April 15th 1989, a young teenage boy.

I recall the footage live on TV that Saturday afternoon. I don’t remember if it was Grandstand or BBC News but the images were eye-opening for a boy of my age.

I had seen footage from other football matches in recent times where there had been crowd trouble. This was something else though, this was not crowd trouble.

Nearly 30 years on and with a verdict that has been fought for like nothing I have seen before, justice for the 96 dead was achieved last month. That is a long time to uncover the real truth about that day in 1989, too long in fact.

People have grown older, lives have been lost, families and friends and relationships have all suffered as a result. This has occurred because the failure and malpractice of authorities in the UK in a bid to redirect blame and protect themselves.

This isn’t something new to us of course. It has happened throughout history on these shores.

Institutional failings are at the heart of many historic events in the UK. Not complacency, but a blatant disregard for fairness, honesty and transparency.

It’s clear from the documentary that as well as the people who lost their lives and the families that suffered as a result of that, police officers also suffered. The chaos that ensued that day was caused by policing on the day of the match.

Not just the mismanagement of commanding a match but the failure to support and direct officers accordingly. The horrific images are etched in my mind as I recall the blurred stills and video footage from the BBC documentary.

I have seen disturbing things in my own life and career. I can only imagine the eternal torment on those who both suffered and witnessed the events of that day.

When I think of Hillsborough and the findings of the Independent report, I can only think of other times when the public have been let down by the authorities. We appear to live in a time of endless enquiries and yet nothing seems to change.

How do we move forward if we keep looking back at the same mistakes? Can we ever truly trust those who we are supposed to rely upon to safeguard us?

The Hillsborough disaster was of a completely different nature. Justice was denied before that day even began because of the people who were in charge and their inability to protect life.

The treatment of the victims and their families was abhorrent from the beginning and throughout the initial inquiry. To obtain the justice they deserved, they had to create their own campaign because they were let down by our authorities.

Those who fought are a credit to the dead, the injured and the families who have suffered. They are also an inspiration to the public and me personally.

You cannot allow ‘justice’ to go unchallenged. Never give up the fight for the truth.

Justice for the 96. You’ll never walk alone.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Anfield envy

After watching last nights highlights of the match at Anfield, I was left feeling somewhat envious this morning. Liverpool’s spectacular comeback brought back some pleasant memories of better times in Europe for Celtic.

I have no personal connection or affinity with Liverpool, even though one exists between our two clubs, but I can appreciate the impact this turnaround would have had on everyone. What a buzz that must have been to be at Anfield to witness this performance.

Jürgen Klopp must have had mixed emotions going up against the club he managed for seven years only ending last season. To go from staring at defeat in the face to dumping your old team out of Europe with virtually the last touch of the ball, it must have been quite a roller coaster for him.

I yearn for those days when I can sit and watch Celtic take me from tension on the edge of my seat to leaping into the air with joy once more. Being in Europe simply isn’t enough, you have to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

That was what Klopp instilled in his players last night. This is what Ronny Deila needs to do to his own players.

Do that and you’re heading in the right direction. It might not last forever and you might not win the prize, but if you can take your players there and inspire them then they’ll have tasted what real victory is.

Celtic have been there before and I know we’ll go there again some day. I’d like to think that’ll be sooner rather than later.

Congratulations Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool for giving the game this rare moment. It’s what football is all about.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Eyes on the prize

Celtic travel to Motherwell today in their first game since the international break. With the added incentive of reaching top spot a possibility this game will be one to watch.

For last night, Derek McInnes’s Dons slipped like a jobby on ice. Ross County were the benefactors of what is now a fourth straight defeat for Aberdeen, three in the league and one in the League Cup.

Have the sheep been sheared? Is McInnes’s tan fading as autumn approaches?

Well we’ll just need to see how they respond. I though that with the international break, the Dons might enjoy a break from defeat but they’ve picked up where they left off.

So now Celtic need to move in and capitalise today. However, it will be an ex-Celt aiming to halt the progress of Ronny Deila.

Mark McGhee has been installed in his second spell as manager at Motherwell. The Scotland assistant has his work cut out for him with his predcessor having lost six of the opening ten games so far.

McGhee’s previous spell with Motherwell was fairly influential. He faces a similar task this time by trying to take Motherwell from the bottom of the table to nearer the top.

By doing that last time around he earned praise and received good job offers. Having done the rounds managing other clubs, I’d like to see him stick around this time because we need guys of his experience in football especially in the Scottish Premiership where we lack experienced leaders.

I’m all for blooding the new generation of management and coaching but some times you want a bit of old school. McGhee is just that so good luck to him in his renewed venture.

With all the best luck in mind for him, I’d still like Celtic to go out and smash Motherwell today. Lunch time kick-offs are crud at the best of times, particularly when you are working as I am today and won’t get to see the game live!

Ronny Deila is still without Jozo Šimunović and Charlie Mulgrew. Scott Brown is a doubt however there is plenty of cover for the midfield at the moment.

As well as aiming to take top spot today, Ronny Deila will also be looking to calm things down in defence. The absence of our £5.5M wonder kid means that an unsettled defence continues.

Dedryck Boyata remains first pick at centre half but it remains to be seen whether Ronny will reselect Efe Ambrose. He is back in contention after a run in the team which culminated in a series of defensive mishaps.

Whilst these are not unusual for Efe, they did come along like a fleet of buses. Two howlers against Fenerbahçe and a sacrificial sending off against Hearts are probably enough to keep him going for now.

Ronny has the option of Ambrose or loanee Tyler Blackett. Whilst Blackett is seeking more opportunities, putting a Efe back in might just be what he needs.

Whether we agree or disgaree, he is still our player and you have to do the best by them. If he really does wish to atone for his errors then fine, give him that chance.

What Efe needs to start doing though is being honest with himself, the manager and his team mates. His general demeanour on and off the field has created criticism from Kris Commons and Neil Lennon in the past.

Errors will happen, but his tend to be of the amateur kind. At the age of 26 and with nearly 50 caps for your country that isn’t acceptable.

Whoever gets the nod to partner Dedryck today, they need to work as a unit and communicate with their team mates. Motherwell will be looking for a change in fortunes today and have proven to be a tricky team for Celtic in the past so let’s keep the eye on the prize today.

I was pleased to read that Gordon Strachan has agreed to stay on as Scotland manager for another two years. As I said earlier on, Scotland needs experienced managers and that goes for the international set up as well as in club football, particularly to raise the profile of the country, the clubs and keep the fans in two.

Down south Jürgen Klopp will embark upon his first match as Liverpool manager. It’s a tough job with a lot of expectations from the fans however if you aren’t a Liverpool fan then your expectations of them are realistically low.

Klopp is yet another Liverpool manager tasked with trying to do something Liverpool haven’t managed in over 25 years. Winning the league remains an elusive task for the Merseyside club.

Some thought Brendan Rogers might just do it and he endured a lot in a short space of time. However, it is the likeable character of Klopp who now takes on that responsibility now.

He too has his work cut out for him and if he can do anything close to what he did with Dortmund at their peak, then he’ll be doing okay. Ultimately, winning the Premier League is all that Liverpool fans would like to see now.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Taking stock at the international break

The weekend marked the current season as ten matches played in the Scottish Premiership. It’s also the beginning of a second international break.

For Celtic, this comes after a spell of played 7, won 3, drawn 3, lost 1 in all competitions. Before the previous international break it was played 12, won 9, drawn 2, lost 1.

So far this season it has been pretty challenging on all fronts. Europe has put Celtic under the microscope and in the league it has been a battle.

Ronny Deila has been under fire once more from fans and scrutinised by the media. The Champions League exit is in the past so it was the league position he was getting lynched for.

Now the wheels are beginning to come off Derek McInnes ‘title challengers’ and Celtic are closing a gap. Whilst the gap now stands at 1 point, I doubt there will be any praise for that because it is far too positive for the Scottish media.

The last three matches have been tough. At Celtic Park a 0-0 with Hearts (all credit to them) and a 2-2 draw with Fenerbahçe (all credit to Efe) was followed by a narrow 2-1 victory away to Hamilton yesterday. It wasn’t pretty but it was an important result none the less.

Two draws at Celtic Park are far from perfect though. Heart frustrated Celtic after they themselves had lost three games on the bounce – they needed to shore up.

Fenerbahçe came to Celtic Park in their own poor form and managed a draw. In truth, that was a game Celtic should have won.

We all know about Efe’s errors in that one. For close to 70 minutes though, Celtic were in control.

Sunday through up a stiff challenge from Hamilton and they even took the lead. Celtic fought back though and held off for the much needed win.

This has been a period of tough challenges on and off the park whilst Deila is under pressure to make his defence solid and provide a potent strike force. Neither of these have been achieved yet.

Injuries to Mulgrew and Šimunović have not helped him settle the central defence, nor has the departure of van Dijk. However, we knew Virgil was going if the Champions League was over.

Mulgrew would not be my long-term choice for centre half though he has done well in the past. Šimunović I have not seen enough of or even know much about but at the price paid for him, he will need to be the real deal.

With Efe probably close to suicide right now, the international break is has come at a good time. I don’t like to see players singled out for blame but his tendencies for costly errors are well known.

He was selected for defensive duties against Fenerbahçe because he was the most senior player available for that role. And as someone said to me after the match, you cannot account for individual errors.

Yes, Efe does make them and even Ronny said he has improved. Unfortunately just not enough.

Fenerbahçe made a tactical switch in that game last Thursday and it had the desired effect. The same error could have been made by Tyler Blackett had he been given the nod but we’ll never know.

I don’t have any issue with Ambrose being picked when we have little to choose from. You cannot consider him as a regular though because he doesn’t provide the decision making, focus and capability that is required despite being an international for Nigeria.

The other area struggling is attack. With only two strikers in the squad, one of which has still to settle in, Celtic are lightweight.

You can’t ask for much more than Leigh Griffiths is doing right now and he is on course to be even better than last season. Nadir Çiftçi on the other hand will need to start pushing himself because there is nobody else to step in when called upon and the Turk hasn’t exactly made an impact when used.

Ronny has had Carlton Cole training with the team and having a look at the former West Ham striker but any potential move is on hold for the free agent due to injury. Whether Cole is the answer I don’t know but the fact is even with a lack of form last season at Celtic Stefan Šćepović should not have been loaned out without securing a replacement.

Sure, Celtic may have been trying but we should not be embarking on European competition without sufficient players. It is short-sighted and unacceptable and that goes for the defence as much as the attack.

Any procurements made now are ineligible for Europe until the next phase. Even then, we would need to make that stage in the Europa League first.

Last season we obtained the services of John Guidetti who, before turning out to be a total knob, was on fire. He was signed too late for European deadline and so Celtic struggled up front in the Europa League.

This season we’ve got a similar issue. We’ve immediately put ourselves under pressure.

I don’t know if you blame the scouts, the board or the coaching staff. It appears nothing has been learned though.

That said, I am as ever 100% behind Ronny Deila. Yes, we can list selection or tactical errors but it is time to focus on the positives.

Celtic have played 19 competitive matches in 15 week spell. It’s more compact than that when you consider the international break in early September.

Starting in mid-July is gruelling but something are beginning to prepare for better. It is still a long road though when you consider players are still being recruited during this period.

They then have to be integrated and you might even lose some players during this spell. Then you have to face the reality of which European competition you actually made, if at all.

So when the domestic season starts, everyone else comes out of the blocks like greyhounds after the hare. Whilst Celtic are treading carefully with injuries and trying to survive in four competitions.

Consider ourselves lucky that we aren’t an English club with a multi-million pound budget and under-performing. Celtic may be more financially wealthy than all Scottish clubs but they are a lone force in Europe and against stronger teams at the best of times.

Managerial casualties south of the border are racking up. Brendan Rogers’s was long coming whilst Dick Advocaat’s was a case of jumping before pushed and Steve McLaren could be next but I don’t think Ronny is anywhere near those scenarios.

This international break, let’s take stock of the tough schedule we’ve had, the movement of players, the disappointments we’ve had and the ongoing negative press we’ve received. Then look at what is ahead and see that we’re in all three domestic competitions and still competing in Europe.

The season is only really just started. Keep the green flag flying high this international break.

As a foot note, I’d like to wish Gordon Strachan and the Scotland squad all the best this Thursday. I’ll be watching the game in an English pub which 24 hours later will be hoaching with England fans.

Once more Scotland find themselves in a difficult situation when trying to qualify for a major tournament. In all honesty Strachan should have been in a slightly better position but there is still a chance of making a play-off spot.

Part lies in Scotland’s hands, whilst other results play also play a factor. The bottom line for Scotland is to be aiming for maximum points and hoping that Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland falter.

We’ve been here before. I think we deserve a bit of luck.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

Commons sense

So far this season, the Champions League has not been an easy ride for English clubs. With all of match day two fixtures of the competition done, there will be more relief than joy, particularly down Manchester way.

Despite both Mancunian clubs obtaining wins last night, they both lost their opening Champions League matches. Although they got their first points on the board last night, these were narrow victories.

Elsewhere, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea were overcome by his former club Porto. It’s a similar story to City and United with one win and one defeat so far.

Worst still is Arsenal’s campaign. After two games they have yet to get any points on the board.

What I find staggering is that all these clubs have excellent funding but star signings don’t always seem to buy them success. Is there some sort of complacency amongst the Premier League’s super clubs in Europe or are they just badly managed?

Anything Celtic can do in Europe I hold in high esteem because it is generally a bloody hard task. Celtic may be above all other Scottish clubs but in Europe it’s a different ball game.

Any club that wins their domestic league should go straight into the Champions League, end of story. Unfortunately there are more represented countries than places in the current set up but I do think this competition requires serious revision.

The Champions League continually undermines the smaller teams and leagues whilst ensuring the bigger clubs with more than sufficient funds stay on top. Celtic, whilst having a reasonable reputation in European competition, are well short of the income to compete at the top and hindered even more by going through three qualifying rounds just to get into a group phase every summer.

And yet, Celtic continue to “punch above” their weight as Martin O’Neill once said. That has continued with the managers that succeeded him.

For Ronny Deila it is still coming together. Though despite two failed attempts at entering the Champions League, he has ensured Europa League status for two years running.

We shouldn’t sniff at that. It doesn’t have the glory of the Champions League, but the tournament should still be treated with respect.

Celtic got off to a flyer two weeks ago with a near victory. That draw in Amsterdam got us our first point away from home.

When you consider points on the road are not always guaranteed, that’s a damn good start. Tonight, Fenerbahçe will be a different prospect.

Whilst playing at home in front of your own audience has its advantages, Fenerbahçe are a different opponent. They lost their opening Europa League match a staggering 3-1 at home to Molde.

Turkey is renowned for its hostile atmosphere at matches. You might have read one or two opposing players from tonight’s match stating as much.

The Norwegians didn’t appear to be too intimidated though. So credit to them for axing the Turkish runners up and their team of ‘stars’.

Amongst those plying their trade in Istanbul are former Manchester United players Robin van Persie and Nani. Both have a wealth of experience on the European stage but it doesn’t stop there.

Their team also boast international players such as Raul Meireles, Bruno Alves, former Celtic target Michal Kadlec and Simon Kjær who all have between 50 and 99 caps each. That’s without mentioning the the home grown Turkish players, four Brazilians and a Senegalese international on-loan from Porto.

One on-loan player who will miss out tonight is Serbian, Lazar Marković. The Liverpool winger is out injured but as you can see, the Turkish side have plenty to choose from.

For Ronny Deila, it’s about creating the right blend again. We have a lot of players to choose from but it is about being effective.

With home advantage, he is likely to be more adventurous. However, caution needs to be paid to the experienced players amongst the Fenerbahçe ranks.

Their European and international careers are to be respected. This will be no easy task.

One area Deila needs to consider is who fills in for the suspended Emilio Izaguirre at left back. He has several options but it all depends on how defensive or offensive he wants that role to be.

Kieran Tierney has been getting some game time lately and done well when called upon. However, Deila may feel throwing him into his first European match is a tad risky.

Saidy Janko is another option but he too has yet to play in Europe. So it is likely that he will go with Tyler Blackett given that he has more senior experience over all and has played in one Europa League match already.

The rest of the defence is likely to consist of Lustig, Ambrose and Boyata with Gordon in goal as usual. Šimunović is a doubt for this match and with Mulgrew out injured the defence has more or less picked itself.

Brown and Bitton are certain to start this one but who do you surround them with? A few players have been off the boil recently such as Johansen and Mackay-Steven.

Forrest could be given the chance to turn on the home crowd on the right and if Armstrong is fit a place on the left. That leaves the attacking midfield role.

With Johansen off the boil I think we would all agree Commons is the man for this game. He’s earned his chance and could light things up tonight.

You have to feel sorry for Rogić though. He’s likely to be on the bench for this one but he has been superb this season so far so I expect an appearance at some stage.

The strikers role should go to Griffiths as he is our best option. You can probably expect Çiftçi to be given a chance against the Turkish side at some point though.

Elsewhere in the Europa League Spurs are away to Monaco whilst Liverpool are at home to FC Sion (remember them?). I’m sure with two English heavy weights in the same competition Celtic coverage will be kept to a minimum but with maximum criticism.

Celtic made a good start against Ajax. Let’s hope we see that continue tonight at Paradise.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac