Preseason kicks off with a draw

Brendan Rodgers began his Celtic managerial career with a 2-2 draw in Slovenia. He watched his squad come back from 2-0 down to even things out with two second half goals.

Celtic conceded a goal either side of the interval to opponents NK Celje. The first came from corner, played out to the edge of Celtic penalty area and was hit home unchallenged in the 28th minute.

There were opportunities for Celtic to pull one back but went in at half time a goal down. For the second half, Brendan Rodgers sent out a fresh eleven players and within five minutes of the restart found themsleves 2-0 down from a freekick.

From that stage on it was pretty much all Celtic and before long they were back in the game. The half time changes had brought a better flow to the game for the Hoops.

Stuart Armstrong looked buoyant and provided Nadir Ciftci with a well delivered cross to nod home from close range in the 66th minute. Almost 10 minutes later he was provider once again picking out Tom Rogic who hit home a fine finish to draw level.

Two goals from open play was a pleasing sight particularly the way the second half eleven went about their buisness. Although a mere preseason friendly, there was plenty to be encouraged about.

I was impressed by the 12 players who played in the second half. I’ll single out Stuart Armstrong in particular but I felt the work rate, flow and stability from back to front in the second half was very positive.

Those who started the game will feel a little unlucky going in 1-0 down at half time and unable to remedy it in the second half. However, these are warm up games and everyone needs to get up to speed.

It also gives Brendan a good overview of individuals. Sunday’s game against Sturm Graz is likely to have yet another starting lineup.

Plenty to look forward to

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Dembélé signing marks a new era for Celtic

It was suggested by Brendan Rodgers that he would not draft in a whole new batch of players to Celtic. And he’s right because there is no need.

The current squad is huge and there are already sufficient numbers to work with. Performance levels have not been the best in the last few seasons but there is plenty of room for improvement and that is where Rodgers’ work will begin.

Under Ronny Deila, the attitude of some players was largely negative. He managed to motivate some whilst others drifted way out of the picture.

That wasn’t healthy and it is obvious he didn’t have everyone in his corner. Although that was a theory that was never publicly proven, there were clearly divisions within the squad.

Ronny didn’t gain the respect of some and he dealt with it the only way he knew. He didn’t possess the character or that big club mentality to deal with certain matters.

At the end of the day he was a coach and probably a really good one. As for management, the Celtic job was too great for him.

Under Brendan Rodgers we will see something different. Not just because he is the new guy, but because he has admirers in the game already and has worked with large egos.

Brendan has now made his first signing and it will be one which defines him at Celtic. Moussa Dembélé has joined the ranks and despite being just 19 years old, he is already making a name for himself.

His goal tally brought the attention of many but Celtic moved quickly and will offer a fresh perspective to the Celtic attack. Up until now we have relied heavily on Leigh Griffiths and he has not let us down.

All those other pretenders that arrived with the promise of goals handed now departed. Cole, Kazim-Richards and now Scepovic. 

It remains to be seen whether Ciftci also faces the axe. I’m of the opinion that he’ll be given a second chance and if no improvement is seen before Christmas he’ll be off to.

In the meantime, Brendan has his first signing and it looks like a good one. One, possibly two more are certain to follow.
This existing squad of players can do so much better than we have seen the last two or three years. You don’t suddenly become a bad player when there is enough historical evidence to show you are anything but that.

There are a few left in the squad who either won’t fit the bill in my opinion or have this season to prove their worth. Not just to Brendan Rodgers, but to the Celtic supporters as well.

I’ve already been through the entire squad with a fine tooth comb in a previous article. No need to redo that.

There is one player who should definitely leave this summer because he is simply not good enough. There are also four or five who have yet to convince me they are worthy to wear the Hoops at all.

Under Rodgers, they will get another chance but if they don’t shape up they must be shipped out promtly. There are plenty of candidates in this squad and in the development side desperate for a chance.

Things are coming together and preseason is already under way. The squad are over in Slovenia and take on NK Celje in their first summer friendly.

It might be a preseason match but I’m already excited at seeing Brendan’s first game in charge. Let’s hit the ground running.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Room at the top

A few weeks ago I offered the opinion that John Kennedy could retain a position as first team coach. If not permanently then possibly in a role to bring first hand knowledge of the senior team to the new manager, Brendan Rodgers.

Of course, Brendan brought in his own men in the form of Chris Davies as assistant and Glen Driscoll as Head of Performance. Bringing in colleagues he had worked with before were key appointments as Brendan gets to grips with his large squad and John Kennedy provides an inside angle to that.

However, my suggestion was met with strong opposition by those who commented on my blog. Kennedy has since been given another shot and I don’t think it is such a bad idea.

John’s presence may remind Celtic fans of the Ronny Deila era, but under new management there is an opportunity for everyone to move forward. Kennedy is as honest as the next guy and his role will be of the new managers choosing.

The other week we got an overview of next seasons fixtures. This week preseason training got underway and more importantly the draw for the club’s first Champions League qualifier was made.

Whilst it’s been quiet on the playing front, plenty has been going on off the field. Celtic said goodbye to Derk Boerrigter some time ago but since Brendan Rodgers has arrived he has overseen the departures of Calum Waters, Tyler Blackett, Anthony Stokes, Colin Kazim-Richards and Carlton Cole.

The club are still top heavy with players so more could follow. We’ve already seen one addition in Kristoffer Ajer, a deal that was done earlier in the year.

So far there is no sign of any further signings, just speculation. For me, it is more likely that new players will appear later in the summer and Brendan has certainly acknowledged.

With a large squad already at his disposal, Brendan Rodgers is certain to get to know his players first. Until he does that, he won’t know exactly what he needs.

We are all craving a landmark signing and in time I’m certain that will happen. Right now though there is enough in this squad to get us started.

If the new manager can’t get what he needs out of a current squad member then it’s time to ring the changes and bring in another. What if Brendan somehow gets more out of someone though?

That’s a result right away don’t you think? It’s no guarantee and if it did occur, the law of averages tells us that it won’t happen to all those who are awaiting judgement.

Still, it is worth waiting for. Even if that is one or two weeks.

With the Euros is full swing it can hinder early transfer business. The waiting game will need to played particularly if any of your targets are playing in France.

Major signings may only occur on the strength of Champions League qualification . However, I am banking on one or two key signings for Rodgers to get his revolution under way.

Perhaps not for the first round of European fixtures but for the next. The emphasis is to get the current squad playing Brendan’s way.

Right now though preparations are under way for the preseason tour of Slovenia. The team will take on NK Celje, Sturm Graz (in Austria), Olimpija Ljubljana and old foes NK Maribor.

Once things are wrapped up there, Celtic will embark upon Champions League qualification once more. So far we know only that it will be either Flora Tallinn of Estonia or Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar.

Neither team should pose a serious problem for this Celtic squad, but all the same no chances will be taken in the approach. Brendan has a huge task ahead of him as far as Europe goes, just like any Celtic manager before him.

I am confident Brendan will get the best out of this squad and discard those who don’t meet the grade. That’ll be an ongoing process but hopefully in the early days will offer a good enough assessment to bring in a player who will be a key signing for him and this team.

This squad can do a lot better than they have done. With a little bit of help they can go even further.

In the last 24 hours we’ve read about a two year deal on the table for Charle Mulgrew. He should take it and allow Brendan Rodgers to use his skill set.

Today we discovered that Kieran Tierney has penned a five year deal. Two players at either end of their careers working for one of the best young managersin the UK.

There’s alwas room at the top for the best. More good things are coming.

I wanted to make a special mention to Euro representatives Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Wales. They’ve all battled to get through to the last sixteen but it was the diehard performance of Martin O’Neill’s that brought me close to tears.

We all know of his passion. He demonstrated that for five years solid.

It was a remarkable end to the game against Italy and a well deserved victory. My wee cousin remarked that it was a typical Martin O’Neill performance and he as on the money.

Equally, it was the heroics of former Celtic goalkeeper Michael McGovern that helped keep the deficit down in Noerthern Ireland’s final group game against Germany. I don’t think he’llhave any problem finding a club this summer.

The EU may have been dealt a blow today, but at least we’ve still got Euro 2016. It’s short term but I’ll take it.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac