Thistle get stung by Celtic

soccer-pa-45Celtic tucked away a 4-1 victory on Friday night at Firhill. Partick Thistle missed opportunities but they didn’t really trouble Celtic enough to alter the destination of the game.

Brendan Rodgers made some personnel changes and the football wasn’t as fluid over the 90 minutes as we’ve seen of late. However, after going out of Europe with a spirited display on Tuesday night you could forgive the squad for displaying some fatigue.

There weren’t too many talking points from this game apart from the goals which were all of good quality. Stuart Armstrong sent home his first goal six minutes from the interval thanks to a great square ball by a hard-working Leigh Griffiths.

Armstrong was front and centre once more in the second half as he received yet another assist from Griffiths in the 49th minute. A free kick from the right hand side of the Thistle box was knocked low into Armstrong who controlled and finished calmly.

Griffiths then turned from provider to opportunist a minute later. It was a reminder of what he is great at when capitalising on hesitant opponents by notching up his first and Celtic’s third, after some quick-wittedness in the danger zone.

Thistle then pulled one back after a solid header from a free-kick beat Craig Gordon. Celtic were sloppy on this occasion but the a Jags weren’t.

The Firhill players then sensed another opportunity and almost did the same again with a near identical free kick and header. Thistle weren’t as fortunate with offside given on this occasion, but if they had been the game may have looked very different from this point on.

With Thistle not giving up, Callum McGregor had come off the bench to secure the win for Celtic. A delightful ball in from cut back on the touch-line by Emilio Izaguirre found McGregor who slotted it ball home from close range.

There has been criticism on Callum McGregor and his finishing. Yet, he’s scored twice in his last two games and as Brendan Rodgers says, he’s always good for a goal.

I think he is a magic wee player who has a role to play. Goals and guile he has in abundance and is a good squad player.

The one key talking point for me in this match was the foul/penalty claim by Ade Azeez. I didn’t see much contact when it happened in real-time and when the replay was shown, I couldn’t see much more either.

Chris Sutton was keen to see the replay and the different camera angles but he along with the rest of the pundits were convinced Gordon had taken Azeez out of the game. Well, I’ve looked at it several times and I still can’t see any contact in or outside the box and I am by no means in denial.

I don’t think any of the replays show contact and for once I’m not hearing too much from the media suggesting that Celtic got away with murder. Despite this not being a polished display, there were some very good performances at Firhill though.

I thought the Partick Thistle keeper Tomas Cerny was great to stop Leigh Griffiths from helping himself to more goals. In turn, Leigh Griffiths was instrumental in practically every forward move.

He demonstrated his full skill set in this match. His footwork is unbelievable at times and has proven time and time again that he can provide assists as well as goals.

That was certainly on display at Firhill. He did so much in this game which at times even includes tracking back which isn’t something you get from a player like him very often.

And….that’s the difference between Leigh and Moussa Demeble. The French forward has been fantastic for Celtic but there are significant differences between himself and his Scottish counterpart.

They both offer something different to Brendan Rodgers and equally as effective. That is the kind of headache you want as a manager but it remains to be seen if he will ever play them together.

Out on the wings, it was a pretty quiet night for Celtic. Patrick Roberts looked decent early on but like his fellow winger, Gary Mackay-Steven over on the left, they were both having a largely unproductive match.

The same could be said for Tom Rogic but to be fair, I felt the majority of the play was coming from Cristian Gamboa and Emilio Izaguirre. Some Celtic fans have been quick to judge Gamboa but he came onto a game at Firhill.

It should be remembered that he has barely kicked a ball for Celtic this season and needs time to establish himself before we sound the horn of disapproval. On the other hand, I though Izzy was great down the left and provided a lot of support to the front men.

Armstrong was good throughout as was captain Scott Brown who continues to have a fantastic season. The Celtic defence was steady enough to see off Thistle but in terms of future proofing, Brendan Rodgers will need to establish interchangeable players for central defence.

Whilst Mikael Lustig can play in there, I still think he is better at right back or in a back three. Erik Sviatchenko is a key figure in this squad and will play there week-in, week-out but I am sure he would like to know who his partners are going to be in the long-term.

Jozo Simunovic is being used sparingly for fitness reasons which is fine but I’d like to think we can bring in one more suitable defender to do the same job. Kolo Toure brought steadiness and experience at the beginning of the season but even he is looking short of confidence right now and almost certainly won’t be here next season.

As for Dedryck Boyata, I am not sure what will happen with him. I’ve never really been convinced by him and I’m not sure if Brendan Rodgers is either.

Efe Ambrose has become a spectator and his time at the club will end in the summer if not before. So unless Eoghan O’Connell is deemed to be an option in the long-term, central defence needs another player.

However, a good win for Celtic and good to see some players getting a run out. I’m sure as the season progresses and January looms, availability for places will grow with injuries, suspensions and exits.

Eleven points clear at the top of the league, two games at hand and the rest of the Scottish Premiership in action today. The question remains, will Celtic go the distance unbeaten?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

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First time at Celtic Park? Welcome!

This Saturday, I am almost certainly due to be suffering. Because on Friday night, three of my best friends are celebrating their 40th birthday and I’ll be hanging by lunchtime the following day!

It just so happens that this coincides with Celtic’s first ever league meeting with the club now operating out of Ibrox. Until now, both Glasgow clubs have only ever met on neutral ground.

They first met on 1st February 2015 at Hampden Park in the League Cup Semi Final. Celtic won the match 2-0 with goals from Kris Commons and Leigh Griffiths.

The pair’s next encounter came almost fifteen months later on 17 April of this year in the Scottish Cup Semi Final, also at Hampden. The match was a draw at full-time (1-1) and after extra time (2-2) which resulted in a penalty shoot out.

Celtic lost 4-5 on penalties and the new Ibrox club got their first ever scalp from Scotland’s biggest club. It isn’t the first time Celtic have lost a vital cup match to a club from a lower division.

The game itself was the death knell for Ronny Deila. His time at the club did not inspire many fans and this defeat was the final nail in his managerial coffin, although his departure would not come until the end of the season.

It was unthinkable that Celtic could lose to this tribute act but lose they did. Defeat by a team, masquerading as Celtic’s old rivals, was enough to convince even the most sympathetic Celtic supporter that Ronny had to go.

In fact, it was evident in that particular match just how disjointed that Celtic side were. In terms of personnel, Celtic should have done a lot better but the real issue was their inability to play as a unit.

The club may have come in for criticism for not funding a decent team. However, it was still better equipped than any other club in Scotland.

You could see a less expensive, less experienced Ibrox side playing together as a team in spells throughout the fixture. They were up for it and they proved that by taking the lead through former Celtic and Rangers player, Kenny Miller (15).

Although a hatful of chances would come Celtic’s way, they did not equalise until the second half. Erik Sviatchenko, who had replaced the injured Dedryck Boyata in the first half, levelled the match in the 50th minute.

It was just what the Celtic fans wanted to see after going in 0-1 down at the interval. Further opportunities to take the lead would come and go for the Hoops.

In the end, the match went to extra time. Five minutes into extra time, the Ibrox club were in front once more.

After a throw-in was awarded incorrectly against Celtic, Barrie McKay received the ball outside the box and lashed home a fine effort. Celtic would respond ten minutes later with an equaliser after some great work by Kieran Tierney and the resultant scorer, Tom Rogic.

Then came the penalty shoot. Ironically, the outcome would be decided by the player who took the match to penalties in the first place.

After each team had scored and missed penalties, Tom Rogic stepped up to keep Celtic in the game. As he blazed his shot over the bar, the unthinkable finally happened.

Another Celtic loss in a cup competition to a team from the lower division. Now of course, the Ibrox club have found their way into the top flight.

They also sit in second place on 8 points after four matches. Celtic are a point ahead with a game at hand against other Glasgow rivals, Partick Thistle.

Saturday’s lunchtime encounter with the Ibrox club isn’t just the first league meeting of the two clubs. This is the first time they will have played at Celtic Park.

Sure, their fans might sing the same songs and their players might wear the same colours as Rangers, but let’s get one thing clear. This Ibrox club is a new club and we will never accept this continuity myth from anyone associated with this new Glasgow club or the Scottish media.

Buying the assets of a liquidated club doesn’t make you that club, it just means you have the assets. You cannot control what no longer exists.

Rangers 1872 are gone and what you will see on Saturday, is a club that rose from their ashes. They have four-year history and have never competed in European competition but we welcome them regardless.

When Rangers were going down the tubes, it was widely accepted and reported that this was indeed the end for the 1872 club. It was written about, spoken about on air and even cried about though many have changed their tune.

Those irresponsible parties in Scottish football and the Scottish media that continue to pedal this continuity myth are quite frankly an embarrassment to the game. It is no wonder that Scottish football is such a joke to so many when you look at just how appalling this saga has been handled by the authorities, the media and the long list of pretenders who set out to resurrect the club.

The truth of Rangers 1872 demise was brought to the masses by bloggers and independent journalists, not the Scottish mainstream media. For years and years, the old Ibrox club had the media in their back pocket as part of their ongoing regime.

Ultimately, the bubble had to burst and it did so in epic fashion. Rangers 1872 died in 2012, several million pounds in tax and bills were never paid and so the fxitures and fittings were sold on.

With the club gone and the assets sold on that meant only one thing. Someone starting over.

Despite multiple attempts by the football authorities to get Rangers 2012 into the top flight, the majority of Scottish fans and their respective clubs said “no chance”. The new Ibrox club started at the foot of Scottish football in 2012, working their way up to where they now find themselves – in the Scottish Premiership.

They were not relegated. They were not demoted.

It was a complete restart for the new Ibrox club. Even then, they were lucky to be granted entry into the bottome tier as I am sure there were many clubs out there awaiting such an opportunity at the big time.

However, as our football authorities and sporting media in Scotland have demonstrated in their actions over the years, “Scottish football needs Rangers”. Well, now they have something that looks and sounds like Rangers ‘back’ in the top flight, only it isn’t Rangers.

At 12pm on Saturday, with my hangover in tow, Celtic will host the New Rangers Football Club. This is the beginning of a new era.

We know the truth. We won’t let it lie.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Title twists

When I was writing my preview for Tuesday’s game at Dens Park, I wondered if this would be another of those ‘turning points’. Well, it wasn’t and Ronny Deila ended up with the same result when Paul Hartley brought his team to Celtic Park in March.

I didn’t see the game and I’m glad I didn’t either. Otherwise my wife would have been as just disappointed with our anniversary celebrations as I would have been with a 0-0 draw!

Worse still, Celtic blew their game at hand by dropping two points. This was a good opportunity to put daylight between ourselves and Aberdeen.

Instead, Derek McInnes will be encouraged by this slip up. He knows that if Aberdeen beat Celtic after the split they could potentially be 2 points off top spot.

With other points likely to be dropped by both teams, this makes for a nervy finish to the current season. If you’re a neutral or even interested in Scottish football it makes for good viewing.

In fairness to Dundee though they’re trying to secure a top six place. On recent performances I’d say they are on course but the truth is there are four teams in total battling it out with St Johnstone, Partick Thistle and Ross County also in the mix.

Celtic play Motherwell at Fir Park for their final match before the split. Mark McGhee has hauled the Lanarkshire club up the table to a very respectable 4th and his team will remain in the top six.

That won’t deter Motherwell from upsetting Celtic’s title chances though. We’ve been there before and they’ve also been the ones to spoil the show in the past.

Before that challenge on Saturday though, all eyes will be on Tynecastle on Friday night. With Hearts hosting Aberdeen, all Celtic fans will be hoping the Dons will drop points un the capital.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d much prefer Celtic to be winning this fight on their own but it is clear that this team haven’t got it in them right now. Too many players aren’t turning up in matches and at this point in the season you need a concerted effort by everyone.

If someone hasn’t been injured, they’ve been off form. That isn’t an excuse, that’s just football.

I never expected Celtic to win all of their remaining matches. In fact I even said that if we dropped points it doesn’t mean we’ve lost the league.

What I am concerned about is the attitude and character of the players. We saw against a dominant Hearts side at Celtic Park what sort of result could be achieved even though we weren’t as good as the visitors for most of the game.

Don’t think for a second that the towel is being thrown in though. This will be a battle to the death despite how unconvincing our performances have been.

The Scottish media have rallied around the promotion of the Championship winners and the ‘boost’ it will give the top flight. Well from my perspective it seems to have been doing just fine judging by the title challenges of the last two seasons.

Of course we welcome all newcomers to the Scottish Premiership. Just don’t belittle the battle that has been going on in the last two seasons between Celtic and Aberdeen by suggesting the arrival of the new Ibrox club are here to solve all that is wrong with our game.

Scottish football suffers through the mismanagement by its authorities and a self-serving biased media. The pro-Ibrox revival is hard to miss given how many folk are licking their lips across Scottish football and the media.

As I say though, it’s nice to have newcomers to football. We’ll give them the proper treatment when the time comes.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

What does the future hold?

The current season is far from concluded but the one that follows isn’t far away in terms of time or planning. In fact it is most certainly well in to the latter already, but the question is who will still be involved next season?

Celtic bought in the January transfer window once more. By acquiring certain players it suggests future planning with a central defender, winger and striker added to the ranks.

There will be further movement come the summer and no doubt, some will need to go. Not necessarily to make way for new players, but because the squad is too large and not everyone is performing as they should be.

Craig Gordon – a standout performer in his first season, he has slid in terms of reliability in this current season but has looked better recently. I don’t think his position is in jeopardy for next season though. Verdict: still no.1 in the current set up

Logan Bailly – nothing to suggest he will get the nod ahead of Gordon or that he will be on the move. Will remain no.2 to Gordon. Verdict: must push Gordon for no.1 spot

Leonardo Fasan – the young goalkeeper would have loved to get the no.2 slot but was deemed too inexperienced. At 22 he will want and will need first team experience. Verdict: loan out for a season

Mikael Lustig – close to equalling his best ever season in terms of appearances and goals, the Swede has had his share of injuries at Celtic. This season he has avoided major injury and worn the captain’s armband in the absence of Mulgrew and Brown. I fully expect to see him back in the fold next season as well. Verdict: a key player, particularly in big games

Saidy Janko – unlike his fellow right back, the Swiss youngster has been out for the majority of the season due to injury. He showed early promise and left many Manchester United fans disgruntled at the loss of a good prospect. It will be good to see him back in contention for next season. Verdict: target a place in the team for next season

Efe Ambrose – the Nigerian internationalist is now in his fourth season for the club and on course for his fourth league winners medal. He joined a Celtic side at their peak under Neil Lennon but his errors have exposed him badly, particularly in big matches. Whether he remains a bit part player or is moved on remains to be seen but I personally don’t see him as a key player for Celtic in their bid to make progress. Verdict: time to go I’m afraid

Emilio Izaguirre – the Honduran internationalist made a huge impact when he signed for Celtic nearly 6 years ago. He has endured serious injury, won prizes and is still very much a talented player. This season he has lost his place to an emerging youngster but it remains to be seen if this spells the end for Izzy. With good left backs a rare breed it is both hard to satisfy and retain two good ones at the same time. Verdict: more than happy if he stays but club may cash in this summer if the opportunity arises

Kieran Tierney – nobody expected such positive results from this player when he stepped into the first team but he has now held down the position and made it his own. It is a testimony to his ability and application that he can keep an internationalist of more than 80 caps out of the side whilst he embarks upon his own career for club and country. Verdict: a very long and bright future at Celtic

Charlie Mulgrew – out for most of the season through injury, he has emerged (not for the first time) as a calming influence at the back for Celtic recently. Versatile as he can be, it is hard to know what Mulgrew’s best position is but he does provide options for a manager and that is a valuable tool to retain and utilise. Verdict: worth another contract for sure (and looks like he’s getting one)

Dedryck Boyata – brought in last summer as a replacement from Manchester City who took back Jason Denayer much to our disappointment. I think I am being honest in saying that Boyata isn’t a patch on his fellow Belgian and former City colleague. There is still time for Boyata to prove his worth but to date, I am less than convinced. Verdict: no doubt will remain at the club but as backup to the preferred centre backs

Jozo Šimunović – the young Croatian was drafted in with a hefty price tag but that transpired to be off the mark in terms of accuracy. He was injured early on in his Celtic career and is once more, but hopefully once recovered he can show as much promise as he has in the games he has played in so far this season. The hope is that he makes a full recovery from this season ending injury which required surgery recently. Verdict: hopefully we’ll see him emboss himself in next seasons defence

Erik Sviatchenko – this is the player I’d like to see build that relationship with Šimunović. Sviatchenko has been thrown into the mix and helped settle things down at the back for Celtic during a turbulent and pressurised period. He claims not to be fully fit at the moment and just scooped player of the year in his homeland, suffice to say I think we’ve got a good one. Verdict: looks a like a good acquisition for Delia

Tyler Blackett – Manchester United allowed this young, inexperienced defender to come to Glasgow on loan. He got his chance earlier in the season but was less than impressive. Verdict: return to sender

Eoghan O’Connell – this promising central defender has played a handful of games for Celtic and looked comfortable at senior level even as a teenager. A loan spell at Oldham Athletic this season was used to gain him some first team experience only to be cut short by injury. He has now gone on a further loan spell to home town club Cork City to get the experience he missed out on last year. Verdict: still a good choice for the future

Stuart Findlay – another young talent currently out on loan at Kilmarnock, seeking first team experience and a future at Celtic. The central defender has plenty of international experience for Scotland from under-16 through to under-21 and despite no real opportunity at Celtic just yet, there is nothing to suggest that his future cannot start at the club in the near future. Verdict: still time to stake a claim

Calum Waters – the young full back has also been out loan this season with Dumbarton benefiting from his talent. He has also represented Scotland, at under-16 to under-19 level and will be looking for a chance at Celtic, but with right back an oversubscribed position at the club, he may struggle in getting that chance. Verdict: another loan spell wouldn’t be a disaster

Darnell Fisher – sent out on loan for the season, I think this is one player who deserves to be part of the squad. Nothing fancy but showed enough under Neil Lennon when called upon to do a job at right back and right midfield. His loan spell could prove to be useful should Celtic bring him back and keep him and upon turning 22 next month, the first team should be his priority or the club may move him on. Verdict: time to push for a first team place

Scott Brown – club captain and still a big influence in the first team, he remains a key part of this squad. He is a strong character who has matured well in the Celtic jersey. There is little doubt he could retire at Celtic but he has many years left in him before that happens. Verdict: can’t imagine a Celtic squad without Broony right now

Nir Bitton – the Israeli midfielder has blossomed over the last year or so into a key player for this team. At 24 he still has his best years ahead of him and whilst that is good for Celtic, they may find it difficult to hang on to him if his talent continues to grow. A good offer may not come this summer but I wouldn’t rule out one in the near future. Verdict: an essential player who may be tempted by a big money move

Derk Boerrigter – definitely in the top ten of Celtic’ s worst ever signings, this guy should have gone last summer never mind this summer. Verdict: go now please

Stuart Armstrong – looking more assured in a Celtic jersey since he signed just over a year ago, I think he will grow into a key player for Celtic. Verdict: would like to see him in central midfield

Kris Commons – few would argue that he is one if not the most talented players currently plying his trade at Celtic. Age is currently against the gifted player and for many, he hasn’t seen enough game time under Deila. Verdict: Celtic will want to retain his skills for as long as he can still cut it at the top

Gary Mackay-Steven – another Dundee United acquisition from last year, he has made a reasonable contribution to the team albeit, not consistently. This is a player who has put in some fine games but needs to push on if he wants to keep a place in the team. Verdict: still looking for more from the winger

Ryan Christie – after signing in the summer he went back to his previous club on loan but now he is pushing for a place in the Celtic first team. Verdict: a very promising young player who could be very big for this club

Tom Rogic – I for one am glad this guy has made it into the first team. His services have been a rare joy this season and I look forward to seeing more and more from this exciting Australian. Verdict: Celtic should pull out all the stops to keep this guy

Scott Allan – many think a run in this team is long overdue for the former Hibs midfielder but his time will come. As established midfielders begin to age or become subject to transfer speculation I have no doubt he will be among this next wave of talent at Celtic who are the future of the club. Verdict: a key part of the future midfield

Stefan Johansen – even though he has been way off the boil this season he is still a big player for the club. His first season and a half were impressive and whilst this one has been largely forgettable, I think any suggestion of him being sold is utter nonsense unless it is what he wants. Verdict: needs to get back to his best next season

Patrick Roberts – on loan from Manchester City, this player has come highly recommended. With his services available at Celtic until next summer, Deila will be looking for this bedding in period to help the winger establish himself in the first team and play a key role next season particularly in Europe. Verdict: high expectations from his long-term loan

Callum McGregor – he is but one example who has responded to and performed for Deila. He is a big part of the team now and provides the team with a good attacking option. Verdict: has taken his chance at senior level

James Forrest – now at the age of 24 and in his 6th full season in the first team, the often exciting winger is now looking close to leaving the club after turning down a new contract. The contract was said to be a good one but the player obviously sees that differently. As much as I would hate to lose his services, injuries are a problem for Forrest and it could well be that was factored into the deal he was offered by the club. Verdict: likely to depart in the summer

Joe Thomson – a young player who still has age on his side, he has made just one sub appearance for the club. Like many other Celtic hopefuls, he has a lot of international experience with Scotland at across the youth teams from under-15 up to under-19 but lacks the first team experience to push past the current list of midfielders-in-waiting. Verdict: a loan move will be essential for his development

Liam Henderson – this is one player who has shown to be a promising talent both in the Celtic first team and out on loan. He burst onto the scene under Neil Lennon and continued that under Ronny Deila but in a congested midfield, he was sent out on loan to Rosenborg and now with Hibs where he has played more than 30 games this season. He has made a significant impact with both clubs in the space of a year. Verdict : undoubtedly a player I look forward to coming back and wearing the Hoops for many years to come

Leigh Griffiths – Celtic’s top player right now and prime candidate for player of the year. His goals are the statistical difference between first and second place in the league but his skill and touch are equally as impressive. Some strikers possess pace, some with a powerful shot but when on his game the touch displayed by Griffiths can be spectacular. Verdict: unplayable but needs more support at times from his midfield or a second striker

Colin Kazim-Richards – the “Coca-Cola Kid” hasn’t had the success he may have liked in football but he has certainly has had the clubs. The London born Turkish international has been around English and Turkish clubs with pit-stops in France, Greece, Holland and now Scotland. At 29 years old, he comes with experience but the real hard work will be done next season when he will be expected to provide more to this team. Verdict: only time will tell

Carlton Cole – the former England international penned a two-year deal with Celtic last year but has been a seldom seen figure. With the greatest of respect to the big fella, he is little more than a squad player who might provide a ‘presence’ up front at a key stage in a match. In all honesty his best years are behind him at West Ham United. Verdict: a curious signing but he’s all ours for another year!

Nadir Çiftçi – for a player we were all pretty much universal in our condemnation of, he has done little to appeal even to the most passive of Celtic fans. He got plenty of game time at the beginning of the season but it proved to be largely uninspiring despite scoring 4 goals in 11 league appearances. This loan spell Eskişehirspor has yielded 1 goal in 4 appearances but what has been more notable was that he subbed in his first game, then sent off in the second. It could happen to anyone but he never seems far from on-the-field controversy. Verdict: can Celtic afford another striker failure?

Stefan Šćepović – yet another striker who failed to hit the mark for the club. The Serb came with a reasonable scoring record from his previous club like fellow Celtic loanee, Çiftçi but struggled to make headway in the first team. All his 6 goals in 25 appearances last season earned him was a loan move to Getafe. Verdict: doubtful to return

Anthony Stokes – unlike the previous two loanees, Stokes has actually done a job for Celtic since he joining in 2010. Under Deila though, he has been frozen out. Off the field, Stokes has not helped himself and the club have frowned upon that. Verdict: Despite his skill and success he will be gone in the summer.

Aidan Nesbitt – of all the strikers out on loan, only this kid is a certainty to return t the fold. He has been hailed as one for the future and could well go out on loan again next season but if the current backup to Griffiths fail to deliver, you could be seeing this kid sooner rather than later. Verdict: great expectations

So, there you have it. My take on the current squad is that from front to back Celtic could or should be parting with Blackett, Ambrose, Boerrigter, Forrest, Stokes and Šćepović permanently but that list is by no means final.

The only player confirmed for this coming summer is Kristoffer Ajer who is yet another midfielder. At 17 he is much younger than anyone else in the Celtic team but a player which Deila has pursued with intent.

Next season this team could look very different in terms of regular appearances. Until then, there is work to be done and places being fought for to secure a league and cup double.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Steady as she goes…

For the second time in a week, Partick Thistle were turned over 2-1 at Firhill. This was good news for Ronny Deila even if it wasn’t for Alan Archibald.

It was an important win for Celtic which had a nervy ending. With Aberdeen inflicting the other 2-1 win over the Jags, the title race is being maintained for now.

The Dons also won on Saturday to close the gap to 1 point again. Though Celtic still have a game at hand to play with.

A slender gap keeps everyone on their toes and right now, that is a good thing. Yesterday’s performance at Firhill didn’t ooze class but it was solid enough once more from back to front.

Craig Gordon seems to have rediscovered his form recently which is good because he has kept us in the game with some of those performances. A bit earlier in the season and we may not have been so lucky.

Since Charlie Mulgrew has stepped into the back four he has looked good. We found out by accident under Neil Lennon just how useful he was as a centre back but he has rarely played there in recent times.

Right now, I think he is a good choice next to Erik Sviatchenko who, aside from handing Partick a late penalty, has been an imposing presence. With a more settled defence, it has probably aided Gordon with his goal keeping, knowing what his defence are going to do.

Mikael Lustig has had a long run of games and dealt well with his injuries this season so far. On the opposite berth Kieran Tierney hasn’t just ousted Emilio Izaguirre, he has established himself as one of this seasons best players and is without a doubt a fans favourite certain to pick up at least one award at the end of the year if not two.

In the midfield it has been chop and change throughout. Too many players to choose from has been a hindrance in my opinion.

Yesterday it was a good display from the quintet of Scott Brown, Nir Bitton, Kris Commons, Callum McGregor and Gary Mackay-Steven. They all worked hard and kept things moving though only Commons looked a little off the pace at times.

McGregor grabbed a beauty of a goal as did the man in front of him, Leigh Griffiths. Both players demonstrated good footwork and finishing and despite losing a goal towards the end of the game it was enough to take all three points.

So job done and onto the next match which is away to Aberdeen’s latest challengers, Kilmarnock. In fact including yesterday’s game at Firhill, Celtic will have played 4 of their final 5 Scottish Premiership matches before the split away from home.

Call me Paranoid Patrick, but isn’t that just a tad ridiculous for any club? Sure we get the live TV coverage, albeit 4 of those 5 games have now all been scheduled for lunchtime kick-offs, but does that really serve the travelling fans well?

No, not really. Celtic fans should get a medal just for coming in their droves at stupid o’clock just because the club are at the mercy of BT Sport and Sky.

There isn’t much you can do about it without it. As a Scottish football club you are lucky to get a game televised and the available slots aren’t any better.

The best we can hope for TV coverage are evening slots during the week or on Friday nights. Our next match though is yet another Saturday lunchtime kick in the baws…..as is the next one…..and then the match two after the next…..

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Title credentials

Today Celtic must demonstrate their title credentials by showing the character of title winners. Aberdeen edged closer to them after beating today’s opponents Partick Thistle in a midweek encounter at Firhill.

Now it is the turn of Celtic to pay the Maryhill club a visit and demonstrate to our supporters that they are up for this fight. To quote captain Scott Brown, this team need to “grow a set”, himself included it should be said.

Leadership has been severely lacking on the field at times. Even though Brown has spent a portion of the last two seasons out through injury, he is just as guilty as the rest of the team when not performing.

On his game Brown can be great but he hasn’t been a stand out performer this season. In fact very few have with two or three being the exception.

If that figure of two or three was five or six it would have made a difference to Celtic’s progress. Instead it has been a season where the team have taken a step backwards.

So with ten games left to play it is time to step forward. Not just the two or three key performers or the desired five or six, the entire squad.

Aberdeen have made a case for themselves this season. If they did win the league, then without sounding disrespectful, you would have to say that it was Celtic that handed it to them.

It has been a genuine challenge from the Dons but like Celtic they have faltered. Neither side has stood out as the outstanding performers to be quite frank.

Celtic are favourites for several reasons, one of them being that they are by far the biggest club in Scotland. Even with their chequered form though they remain the benchmark for ALL of Scottish football.

There is also the small matter of 21 years since a club other than Celtic or their deceased rivals have won the league. That dominance rests solely with Celtic, now that Rangers exist only as a reformed club.

Aberdeen were the last team outside of Glasgow’s former “big two” to win the league. That was of course under Alex Ferguson in the 1984-1985 season which was the second of two successive league titles for the Don’s but only their 4th in total.

The sheer dominance by Celtic and their former rivals hasn’t exactly been healthy for Scottish football. There have only ever been 11 teams to have won the top prize which has changed name and shape since it began back in 1890.

2 of those 11 winners no longer exist of course but the titles still stand, even if some of those are tainted. Whichever way the Scottish game goes, Celtic will remain the dominant team for a long time.

To win their 5th consecutive and 47th title over all, they will need to focus on their next 10 games starting with a win at Firhill today. With Aberdeen hot on Celtic’s heels, it is too close to call right now.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Glasgow Derby on the horizon

The day looms closer when Glasgow’s top two clubs lock horns once more. Partick Thistle will host Celtic at Firhill this Saturday lunchtime in the Scottish Premiership.

It’s another hugely important game for Ronny Deila as he aims to keep the title hopes on the radar. It has suffered a few blows in 2016 after a good start to the year and even with Sunday’s positive show against Greenock Morton, consistency is now the essential.

Before this match though, Partick Thistle have an opportunity to put a dent in Aberdeen’s title hopes. The Dons travel to Firhill tonight hoping to close the gap on Celtic to one point.

It would still leave Celtic with a game at hand, but psychologically it could be harmful. That’s all it is though, a psychological.

Right about now is the time teams need to start demonstrating their title credentials. If Aberdeen beat Thistle then they’ve done their job.

Then it would be down to Celtic to cross the city and do the same on Saturday. However, you just don’t know what will happen in these two Firhill fixtures.

The next four games for Celtic are all televised for Saturday lunchtime kick offs, this one included. All eyes are upon this club and the coaching staff with the media hoping for some headlines and we all know what that means.

Are Celtic going to see off this threat from Aberdeen? Will they maintain a winning run or get a favour or two elsewhere?

I’ve been watching some highlights of Celtic matches from the Gordon Strachan era recently. Real battling performances to fight back in big games after falling behind and even snatching victory at the death.

This was not uncommon under Strachan. Playing to the final whistle and grabbing something when you least expect it.

Like any Celtic manager, Gordon had his flaws but pushing his players to the max was not one of them. If Ronny Deila can coordinate the same kind of spirit with this squad it would get better results even if the majority of a game proves to be lacklustre.

The problem is that right now the heads go down in this current side. They lose focus and end up looking rudderless.

I’ve often mentioned motivation with this team and I keep coming back to it. These players should be performing much better than we have been seeing.

If Ronny Deila is to blame for that then he will carry the can. However, these players should be doing it for themselves, the manager and the supporters.

It’s their playing careers that are at stake. A short one at that.

There are 10 games each left in this title race for the title challengers. 30 points are available for each of them as well.

Should Aberdeen win all 10 of their remaining matches, Celtic would need 26 points to secure the league. That’s based on goal difference and assuming Celtic maintain their superiority in that area.

Let’s hope it isn’t as close as that though. Instead let’s take the initiative and widen the gap.

Time to start proving yourselves Bhoys. There’s a fifth successive league title to be won.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac