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

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Shades of the recent past

Next season the Scottish Premiership welcomes a new club to the top flight. The tribute act by the name of The Rangers will take up one of the twelve positions in the Scottish top flight for the first time in their short history.

We widely acknowledge that they wish to be known as the Rangers that liquidated in 2012. However, we simply won’t allow it.

Even though the SPFL and the SFA attirbute all of the liquidated club’s honours to the club that took their place within Scottish football, many will contest this forever. It may well be futile, particularly given the support they are given within Scotland by the football authorities and the media.

Recent stories across the web have emerged that the Scottish media won’t go near any story regarding The Rangers these days. To be honest, we probably didn’t need to be told that, we already had that idea even though it is regularly dimissed as ‘paranoia’.

This does not bode well for next season. Because already, The Rangers have all the backing they desire from the media and the football authorities so that they can get on with trying to survive.

Does this sound familiar? A helping hand to stay in the top flight?

I’ve never had any doubts about how badly Scottish football and it’s authorities have damaged the game. Even after all that has happened in recent years, tax cases, EBT’s, refereeing scandals, peoples lives threatened, the demise of one club…we are still in the same rut.

I’m sorry to say it but The Rangers entering the Scottish Premiership is a bag of trouble already. It looks as though they’ve secured everything the liquidated club had.

Not just the facilities and the honours. The media and the authorities.

I fear for Scottish football. Dark days are looming.

If you cannot rely on the Scottish media to report the issues that plague the game and you cannot trust the authorties to run the game in a fair and transparent manner what is going to happen? I dread to think, I really do.

Celtic might be searching for their new manager, but they best keep and eye on matters within the Scottish game. I suggest the rest of Scotland’s football clubs do the same because you can already see the landscape changing and not for the better.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Is there a big game this weekend? Let’s hear it for the bloggers and freelancers!

I hope everyone reset their paranoia counters to zero last weekend? No? Well you must be overclocking by now given the mount of anti-Celtic stories in the Scottish media this week.

Because there have been no “Celtic and Rangers” stories to write about in the media for so long now, it’s easy to spot the torrent of anti-Celtic stories there have been recently. All in the week leading up to the second ever meeting between the Hoops and the tribute act across the city.

If it hasn’t been about the so-called ream of players al set to leave Celtic Park, it’s been further speculation about the Head Coach or the CEO that has populated the back pages this week. The media still haven’t let go of the O** F*** tag either and have been positively purring with jubilation at “The Rangers” getting promoted to the Scottish Premiership and winning the Pathetic Cup.

Apart from the usual garbage there was a story printed by the Scotsman newspaper only yesterday about Scotland’s oldest clubs. On that list was Rangers 1872, a club they seem happy to endorse as the same one which started over in 2012 following liquidation.

My debate isn’t about the 1872 v 2012 question. That argument will rage on until it is archived along with all the other wrongdoings of the 1872 club thanks to the endless bias in Scotland.

It is more about the timing of the article and it’s pertinence to the two clubs playing in Sunday’s semi final. There was no need for this story to be printed.

The fact Celtic aren’t on the list isn’t an issue for me either. In fact I’m more bothered why Third Lanark weren’t listed.

It’s typical of the media to carelessly throw something like this into the mix like a grenade in a room full of people. Something which saddens me to the core about Scotland and it’s media.

This kind of behaviour is every bit as irresponsible when dealing with supporter rivalry as any supporters misbehaving themselves. And yet, the fuel the media add continues without any real moderation.

Another issue that cropped up recently was the warning issued by Police Scotland regarding celebrations around the Easter Uprising. Even from 400 miles away I was astonished by this approach.

Given that Police Scotland are already on the blacklist for harassing Celtic fans, this is a step too far. The people behind this should bookmark this moment in time for future reference.

I mean aren’t we forgetting something? Like the Orange Walks that are paraded through the streets of Glasgow for weeks, year on year right in the faces of those who are offended by their very existence.

Lets not forget what these marches symbolise. You would think that after several decades the police and politicians would be able to handle this more even-handedly but of course they can’t can they?

However, I digress. Something which I’m sure I’ll do again in the near future.

So what positive Celtic stories have I perused this week? None in the press, that’s for sure, so let’s hear it for the bloggers and freelancers out there speaking the truth and talking sense (mainly).

Be it negative or positive, it is generally always ‘real’. Good topics, proper facts and open to the audience.

The Scottish media will tell us otherwise of course. Blogger bashing by these jokers who get paid to write whatever sells is the kind of reaction you expect when you question their ‘integrity’, of which they have none.

There are some great bloggers and freelance journalists out there though. They all vary in terms of content and tone but it is all good stuff.

With so few in the media that are worth following it is important to get untainted views elsewhere. Yes, you could argue that a self indulging Celtic fan blogging about “The Rangers” is biased or from their own perspective.

What you can say about that though is it is ‘their opinion’. Whereas in the media, it is written as gospel as though it actually happened.

So for the remaining days leading up to Sunday’s semi final at Hampden expect the worst and further trash to sift through if you can even bear to read it. As for now, I’ll keep tuning into my favourite blogs for which there are many.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Walk on, walk on

Ronny Deila walked away from Fir Park yesterday with all three points. As for his opposite number, Mark McGhee, well he just walked on by.

The post-match handshakes that are generally customary in football did happen yesterday. However, McGhee chose to brush past Deila and go straight for John Kennedy’s hand instead, leaving the Norwegian visually stunned.

Viewers were left equally perplexed by Deila’s bemused face. There seemed to be no reason for this act of ignorance.

Now I’m not interested why McGhee chose to body swerve Deila or even filter through the bullshit he churned out after the game. It is pretty childish, insulting and unprofessional to act in such a way, particularly in front of the live TV cameras.

Whatever happened was in one man’s head. A man who up until yesterday I had been commending for his efforts in taking Motherwell up the league.

I’ve never had a bad word to say about McGhee but yesterday he made himself look like a complete chump. This may have been a ‘misunderstanding’ but he turned everything sour with his petulant demeanour.

Motherwell played well, particularly their keeper Connor Ripley. This was also one of Celtic’s better performances of late.

As hard fought a win as it was, there was enough to praise about both teams. Celtic are grinding out results, Motherwell are worth their place in the league.

Better still, Celtic are now eight points ahead of Aberdeen and in the driving seat for a 5th consecutive title. Two wins and a draw from our last five fixtures would be enough to secure the league.

The post-split fixtures list will be announced on Monday. So far we know Celtic will play Aberdeen at Celtic Park and is already being billed as the title decider.

We’ll find out soon enough. Next up though there is the small matter of playing a team across the city.

Celtic meet Rangers at Hampden in the Scottish Cup Semi Final. It’s the second time the two teams have met in their history.

Despite the blanket opinion of the media to name this an O** F*** tie, we Celtic support see it somewhat differently. The battle rages on about the claim that the Rangers that died in 2012 and the one that resides at Ibrox in the aftermath of the old club’s demise are one and the same.

The media will continue to call them the same club. The followers will continue to call them the same club.

This is a debate that will never be resolved and it’s almost a waste of time pursuing the truth of the matter. I’d like to think this new argument with the 2012 club would replace the abysmal history between Celtic and the 1872 club.

That is wishful thinking though so get ready for it. Because the “blue-fest”, sponsored by the Scottish media, is coming you way.

Oh yes, the succulent lamb brigade are positively salivating at the mere mention of “Rangers”, “Ibrox” and “Scottish Premiership” all in the one sentence. Well you know what, sentence me to death right now because this is going to be one horrible ride.

At long last the Scottish media can begin talking about a team in the top flight that they are happy to serve. This is not paranoia, this is how it is.

We’ve all seen how things can go wrong when someone in that media does say something that goes against the grain of their club or their supporters. Just ask Jim Spence.

I’m looking forward to next Sunday and Celtic maintaining a 100% record against the newcomers. Make mine a double.

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

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

Three and easy, but it’s time to trim the numbers

Celtic won their Scottish Cup quarter-final match against Greenock Morton on Sunday in just 35 mins. The Hoops went in 3-0 at the interval after goals from Leigh Griffiths (14), Gary Mackay-Steven (25) and a superb finish from Callum McGregor (35).

Despite the meagre attendance of under 15,000 at Celtic Park and the opposition lying 6th the Championship, Ronny Deila needed a response from his players. He got one as well with Celtic pressing Jim Duffy’s side from the beginning.

There was certainly more conviction with Celtic’s play on Sunday, something which has been missing in quite a few games recently. If it came from these so-called clear the air talks then it looks as though it had the desired effect.

To say that Morton weren’t any trouble though would be disrespectful. They drew two great saves, one either half, from Craig Gordon which the keepers deserves full credit for.

The truth though is that Celtic were pummeling Morton and should have finished more than 3-0 especially with the foothold they had in the game. Second half substitute Patrick Roberts hit the foot of the post after some fine work and Mackay-Steven rattled the crossbar.

Another substitute, Colin Kazim-Richards, came close as well but to his frustration hit the side netting. This was better from Celtic over all but as I said, the game was already won in the first half.

Speaking of which, Stefan Johansen’s game came to a halt at half time. A dangerous challenge by Mike Miller left the Norwegian’s writhing in pain.

Referee Willie Collum took no action on the incident. Instead he blew his whistle for half-time and trotted off, leaving a Johansen sprawled out on the Celtic Park surface like nothing had occurred.

Miller had just been booked moments before and given the nature of this challenge, should probably have received a second yellow. Instead, he walked in at half-time a lucky man but he was substituted 7 minutes into the second half which was probably a smart move by Jim Duffy.

Johansen was subsequently replaced by Kazim-Richards for the start of the second half. Later on, Patrick Roberts would replace an unhappy Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong came for Kris Commons.

So 3 goals, a clean sheet and a bit more conviction was a welcome boost. Then came the draw and a pairing with Rangers at Hampden for the semi-final.

This will be the second time Celtic have faced the Championship club. They met for the first time in their history last February in the semi-final of the League Cup at Hampden.

Ronny Deila’s players ran out 2-0 winners that day without the Ibrox club managing a single shot on target. Griffiths and Commons were both on target that day to book Celtic a place in the final which they would go on and win.

This season it’s the Scottish Cup and with Rangers looking very likely to get promoted to the Scottish Premiership, they will fancy their chances this time around. They beat Dundee 4-0 at Ibrox on Saturday to secure a spot in Sunday’s draw and already comparisons have been made by the media.

Dundee drew 0-0 with Celtic in the days before that game at Ibrox and as you can imagine, media mouths are watering already. The build up to this one is going to be unbearable.

The match itself is many weeks away and a lot can happen between then and now. It’s a must win game for Ronny Deila for many reasons though.

Firstly, a win means a place in the Scottish Cup Final and secondly, it keeps the dream of a double alive. There is also the small matter of Deila’s place among the fans which is a debate of its own.

Then there is the ‘rivalry’ between the two sets of fans. This Rangers is supported by the same fans as the old Rangers even if these same fans fail to admit they are two different clubs.

As someone who deals in fairness and justice in their working life, I will never accept this Rangers as the same club. After the old club cheated Scottish football as well as the taxpayers, I only see this current incarnation as a new club wearing the same colours as the one that no longer exists.

A new rivalry will be built and this fixture next month at Hampden is another part of that. Whatever came before is now confined to the history books.

No person in the media will ever say that right enough. After all, this is Scotland we’re talking about.

Let’s talk a bit more about Celtic though. Sunday was a solid performance but we need to see more of this kind of effort for the remainder of the campaign.

The debate continues as to whether Ronny Deila will be here next season or not. Right now, I think that idea needs to be shelved.

Celtic are in a winning a position and the focus must be upon winning. Recent displays have cast doubt over this team and the coaching staff as to whether they can secure a league and cup double.

There is certainly more ability in this squad than we have seen. There are a lot of players at Ronny Deila’s disposal compared to any other Scottish club.

Too many options in fact. From now until the end of the season, injuries aside, Deila must narrow those options.

We’ve seen too many changes. Some have been obvious alterations through injury or suspension but there are other issues that affect the choices made and I am not just talking about form.

James Forrest is a yo-yo and with his contract talks hitting the skids his appearances are now tainted. Tom Rogić suffered a similar story though he himself rubbished that.

Callum McGregor’s focus looked to be a factor when he was absent for a while following his drink driving case. This is all over and above the guys who, whilst have had their illnesses and injuries, never seem to get a proper run.

Kris Commons is a fans favourite and rarely gets a look in. Scott Allan has been waiting in the wings and after a short run of games has found himself out of the picture again.

You see all these guys, and even the ones I haven’t mentioned, must make selecting a Celtic team a total nightmare. There is no excuse though because this is one of Ronny’s own making.

He said a long time ago he wanted to trim this squad down. Well, it just keeps getting bigger.

I’m all for options but if someone is out for one reason or another we have more than enough options. The problem right now is that we have a first, second and third choice for virtually each midfield/attack position and can’t please everyone.

That’s without even considering the young players who in your worst case scenario would probably get a chance. You can’t even begin to imagine a youth player getting into the team right now.

If making the squad bloated is an indirect way of trying to push certain players out then its a strange business we’re running. Whether it is Ronny that gets to do it or someone else, this squad needs some breathing space to allow youth to develop as first team players.

For now, the best thing Ronny can do is channel the first team squad into a smaller group and stick with it. If a place becomes vacant then pick from his backup group.

There are too many fighting for the one spot and that would make me miserable as a player. If Ronny doesn’t know what his best team is then perhaps he should look at the numbers he is working with.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac