Ibrox Blues, Paradise News

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This was a game that the home side needed to win. And for the opening 30 minutes they certainly gave it a go. 

Mark Warburton’s players went at Brendan Rodgers players with some purpose. They didn’t allow the visitors to get into their stride and drew first blood as well.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be the breaking point in Celtic’s season…if you were a fan of the home side. That their new Ibrox club were going to be the team to halt Celtic’s unbeaten run in domestic competition this season.

However, there was also a sense of inevitability about the match. That when Celtic did get into their stride that they would show their dominance.

So whilst Kenny Miller’s jubilation at the opening goal was still filtering through the home crowd, they were unable to follow-up with a second. Celtic were working themselves into the match slowly whilst Warburton hoped another goal would come his way.

It didn’t, and Celtic began to settle down. The truth is, that was all it was going to take.

To be fair to Warburton, things started well for his team. When Celtic eventually got a foothold though there was no looking back.

After half an hour of the home side throwing themselves at Celtic, the Bhoy’s eventually stepped in. Or rather, Moussa Dembele did.

A corner from Scott Sinclair found the French under-21 international behind a crowd of players who lashed home a fine effort. I didn’t think Celtic would go on to slaughter the home side but I was somewhat relieved at them finally getting on score sheet.

I say relieved because I had spent 5 hours wondering what the bloody score was and avoiding all forms of communication so I could watch the game several hours ‘live’ after I’d finished work. Not good for the soul, I tell you!

I wasn’t on my own though.  There were others in the same boat as me as we started our Hogmanay early in the evening rather than at lunchtime!

After a breather at the interval, we sat down to watch the second half. As the game wore on and chances came and went for Celtic I had the mindset that this was heading for a draw.

There was nothing wrong with how Celtic were playing. Despite the dominance the Hoops were now showing, it was just beginning to look as though it wasn’t going to come off on this occasion.

That was until my man-of-the-match, Stuart Armstrong slung in a direct pass across goal to find Scott Sinclair unmarked at the far post. Boom!

Celtic had come from behind at Ibrox to win the match and with time to spare. As narrow as the score may have been, there were a chances galore for Brendan Rodgers side.

The Bhoys showed their class by taking control of the game after a half-an-hour flutter by the home side. Now Celtic sit very comfortably on top of a 19 point lead in the Scottish Premiership.

Mark Warburton now has Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen breathing down his neck. The Dons are only 2 points behind second place and with one game at hand.

Meantime back at Fortress Paradise, it is exciting times. New contracts are going on the table for current players, new targets are mooted and some players will be moving on.

2017 will be a good year.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Friday night lights

rugby-park-kilmarnock-general-view_3453658Celtic are back in action tonight in a rare live broadcast for Hoops fans on a Friday evening. However, it’s been another disappointing international break for Scotland fans like myself.

Gordon Strachan may have got a half-decent performance from of his players against England. That amounted to nothing though with three goals being conceded at Wembley.

Thankfully, I have Celtic to lift my spirits tonight. An away encounter with Kilmarnock to watch on a Friday evening is most welcome.

Mind you, there have been plenty of other football stories circulating to attract our attention this week. Aside from the Steven Gerrard rumour, the meltdown continues over at Snake Mountain.

With the strength and variety of damaging storylines coming out of Mordor these days, it has gone from tribute act comedy to a sporting embarrassment waiting to crumble die. I honestly cannot keep up with the plethora of threads that emanate from the other side of Glasgow not that the Scottish media report much of this.

On top of that shambles, the SFA are a hot topic once more. The Resolution 12 story is back in the fold after getting an airing at Celtic’s AGM during the week.

With FIFA already looking at the SFA (as well as the English FA) over Poppygate, UEFA are coming in at another angle. The latter is with thanks to the truth seekers who have fought hard for justice and transparency over rule breaches in Scottish and European football by the governing body of our game and their now deceased pet team.

There will be lots more to come from this. There will also be a lot more to come from Ibrox unless the establishment’s new puppy team implode before the shit really hits the fan.

Meanwhile back at the Rodgers Ranch, Brendan is tending to his flock of warriors. Tonight we can turn our minds back to the progress Celtic are making.

The league title is the theme for tonight and obtaining more goals and points to make that happen on the agenda. With 10 points between Celtic and Aberdeen, the Hoops are looking comfortable.

Hard work continues behind the scenes and that means fine tuning the talent currently at the club. There are still several fringe players whose futures will be decided throughout the remainder of this season, if not by January.

Might there be the possibility of one or two coming in? I’m not sure that is something Celtic are in desperate need of to see us through this campaign unless there are departures.

One player who has been mentioned as coming in is Steven Gerrard. Personally, I can’t see any advantage to bringing him to Celtic at this stage.

We have a midfield more than capable of winning the title, double and treble. Had European football been on the cards after Christmas I might have understood, but that remains an unlikely possibility.

Right now Celtic need to carry on the charge with the team we do have. As I said before, we have a lot of fringe players who will need to either need to get an opportunity or move on temporarily or permanently.

This size of squad is not sustainable particularly if you want youth to flourish. So expect some exits as this team continues to grow.

As for Rugby Park tonight? Three points please Bhoys.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Start as you mean to go on

Brendan Rodgers and Celtic got off to a flyer against their new Glasgow rivals on Saturday. Celtic Park was bouncing as the Premiership Champions smashed the Premiership newcomers 5-1.

The Ibrox oufit were assembled predominantly behind the ball throughout the match. However, they did put together a few decent moves with some neat passing as well.

It has to be said though, at no point did this ever overshadow what Celtic were doing. The five goals scored by the Hoops were spread out over the last sixty minutes of the match.

The goal scored by Mark Warburton’s side was merely an interruption to what Celtic were doing. In fact as was better put by my buddy, this goal sharpened the Hoops up for the second half.

Having drawn first blood thanks to Moussa Dembele on 33 minutes, closely followed by the second on 42 minutes,the Ibrox side must have been thinking they were still in with a chance when they pulled back a goal on 44 minutes thanks to Joe Garner. With no disrespect, Dorus de Vries was culpable for poor positioning.

2-1 at half time was no big issue but it kept us all on our toes regardless. The early stages of the second half saw more impetus from the away side and changes were made by Brendan Rodgers to address this.

Tom Rogic made way for Stuart Armstrong whose impact in the centre of midfield was beginning to look effective. How I have longed to see him play in that position. 

He would be involved in much of what happened since he came onto the field on 54 minutes and 7 minutes later was involved in Celtic restroring their two goal lead. Armstrong slipped the ball across to Dembele who played a neat touch through the opposition defence that found a preying Scott Sinclair to score in all of Celtic’s league games so far this season.

In high profile games, players can lose the plot unnecessarily and for Phillipe Senderos he found himself on a secod yellow card for handball,thus reducing his team to ten men. That allowed Celtic to turn the screw further on their Glasgow rivals.

Celtic weren’t finished with this game and more importantly, neither was Dembele. Having scored his first goal with his head andthe second with his right foot, he completed his hatrick in the 83rd minute with a left foot finish.

To wrap things up and demonstrate Celtic’s dominance in this fixture, Armstrong helped himself to goal number five for the Hoops in injury time. I was pleased to see him get a goal given his return to the team and impact since coming on.

This was a game with so many positive talking points for Celtic. Even the post match interviews were a good viewing thanks largely to Scott Brown’s banter and Brenda Rodgers’ respectful assessment of the game.

All the fighting talk from Joey Barton since he dismissed his claims as a Celtic supporter and joined the zombies, didnt help the fact that he was posted missing in this match. His assistant manager’s red card drew more attention than Barton’s derby performance. 

Now Celtic sit two points clear at the top of Premiership ahead of Hearts who have now moved up to second place. Celtic still have a game at hand and a 100% record in the league so they are in good form going into Tuesday’s game against Barcelona. 

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac 

Sinclair breaks Hearts

Just when it was looking like a draw, up stepped debutant Scott Sinclair to send Celtic fans wild. Tynecastle is a hostile environment and it rarely produces a dull match when Celtic come to town.

Sunday’s opening league match away to Hearts was always going to be a tough start for Brendan Rodgers. Celtic took the lead though in just 8 minutes as James Forrest pounced onto the loose ball Callum McGregor had been relieved of inside the penalty box.

It looked like a penalty but play continued to allow Celtic their first goal of the domestic season. Hearts were up in arms about Stuart Armstrong interfering with play (though not at the time of the incident) but whether the rules say he was or wasn’t,  McGregor was fouled for a penalty that wasn’t given so let’s scratch that one shall we?

Talking of penalties, Hearts equaliser came courtesy of a Jamie Walker dive. There was no contact with Kieran Tierney and by his own admission the referee owned up to getting that one wrong. 

Will Jamie Walker face retrospective discipline for cheating? Not unless he changes his name to Derk Boerrigter.

One glaring opportunity that Hearts should have equalised with was the free header ex-Celt Tony Watt had. Not only was he unmarked by Mikael Lustig, the goal was wide open for him. 

Nae luck wee man. Thanks for missing though.

Later on there was another penalty shout for Hearts. At best it would have been very soft and not giving it was the correct decision, most likely aided by the Hearts spot kick awarded in error earlier in the match. 

Like Wednesday night against FC Astana though, this match produced a winning moment from the bench. I don’t know if ‘Mystic Mick’ McManus saw this in his crystal ball, but Scott Sinclair seized his opportunity to win the match for Celtic. 

Celtic broke down the left hand side after a Hearts move broke down. The ball was chased down by Leigh Griffiths who, after fending off his pursuers, squared the ball long and low to the onrushing Sinclair who finished neatly inside the box.

What a start for the English winger and what an end to a fiesty match. Celtic deserved their victory, even when you take into account all of the right and wrong decisions.

Robbie Neilson, a good young coach, sadly had a touch of the Jim Jeffries about himself post-match. Being a sore loser and not understanding the rules of the game only makes you look like a bit of a fanny, so only whinge when your facts are solid.

On the subject of fannies, Sportscene was back last night and in glorious er…SD. We were told of this new time slot and promised longer coverage.

What about the Scottish Championship coverage though? Why would they ever have dropped that segment for this season I wonder?

Still no post match interviews from Ibrokes for the BBC. I guess Sportscene will need to try even harder though I doubt their two bob mixture fund will stretch any further.

The Scottish Premiership’s first timers might have failed to speak to the grovelling BBC, but it wasn’t because they drew with Hamilton Accies at home. It’s all historical, though given their history only goes back to 2012, not that historical.

Elsewhere the Dons drew with St Johnstone in a 0-0 thriller. Having gone out of Europe to Celtic’s old foes Maribor midweek I thought Aberdeen would come out of the traps at the weekend.

So none of Celtic’s so called ‘contenders’ managed a winning start. I guess that’s because only Celtic have a £4M player on the bench eh Robbie?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Pitched Battle

Celtic started off the month of February with a defeat away to Aberdeen. Since that blip against the title challengers, the Hoops have notched up 3 straight wins.

The title challenge continues tonight against Hamilton at New Douglas Park. The Accies’s playing surface is a topical subject given the recent outbreak of “pitch-gate”.

After Sevco boss Mark Warburton stated last week that artificial surfaces should be banned in the top flight, Ronny Deila was prompted to comment on the matter by the media. In direct opposition, though not aimed at Warburton, Deila stated that he welcomed artificial pitches, so long as they were of a good standard such as the ones used in his homeland.

This brought into question the playing surface at Hamilton which the Celtic head coach branded as “slippy”. If it is slippy and not properly maintained (whatever that amounts to) then obviously that isn’t ideal, particularly if you are trying to promote use of these artificial surfaces, but then grass gets slippy as well!

I’m no expert on playing surfaces but I know they vary depending on weather and treatment. Even though I agree that more artificial surfaces are likely to end up in stadiums, especially as the material improves, I don’t think it is a road Celtic will go down anytime soon.

Warburton wasn’t finished with the matter though and responded to the comments made by the Celtic boss. Deila apparently claimed that senior players playing on grass only was “very old-fashioned”.

Personally, I don’t really care if Ronny said that or not. Why Warburton is getting his knickers in a twist though is beyond me but he’s clearly taken the bait.

It’s a poor attempt by the media to create a war of words between the two managers. In fact if anything, Warburton comes off looking like a total idiot.

More importantly, old Warbs says that artificial surfaces should be banned in the top flight. Well, sorry to break it to you Warbs but you’re not in the top flight matey.

The fact that there are more artificial surfaces in the professional game only backs up Deila’s so-called comments that it is “very old-fashioned”. We’d all have the green, green grass any day of the week but even I can see the benefit of plastic pitches such are the adverse weather conditions encountered in certain environments.

Hamilton boss Martin Canning had his own say on the matter as well. Just to make the subject more interesting, he basically said Warburton and Deila were both wrong.

So as you can imagine, by the time Hamilton and Celtic take to the pitch tonight, every blade of artificial grass covered will be scrutinised by the onlookers. It’s a total storm in a teacup if you ask me and deflects from the real matter which is of course 3 points.

These playing surfaces aren’t an issue because they’re more readily available to Celtic players these days at Lennoxtown as well as throughout the course of the season at other grounds. Given some of the marsh-like pitches Celtic have played on over the years, at least we can rely upon the New Douglas Park surface.

I don’t care if Celtic are playing on red ash. Getting the right result is the only item on the agenda.

Ronny Deila only has Jozo Šimunović and long-term absentee Saidy Janko on the injury list. The rest of the squad are said to be available or working back to fitness.

With James Forrest turning down a contract offer, it is doubtful we’ll see much of him before now and the end of the season unless it is to generate interest for a potential sale. Ronny Deila has not ruled out the possibility of a turnaround on talks but you have to feel that this deal is dead, particularly with swollen squad numbers.

Once more, we’ll all be looking to see more of the seldom seen kids play tonight. In an away game, it is more likely to be a tried and tested line-up with the usual suspects but you can always hope to see one or two getting a run out.

Friday. Night. Football.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Scottish Football’s Cancer

Scottish football, it’s relationship with the media and more importantly the existence of Sevco, has culminated in another new low. Scottish football as a whole is always a topic of debate but the recent apology to Sevco by the Herald (on behalf of a Graham Speirs column) has left a bad taste in the mouth.

On the one hand, bravo to Graham Spiers for giving his own take on the matter. It was over and above the Herlad apology and as well as putting the truth out there, discredits the ‘official’ statement by the Glasgow broadsheet.

Let’s look at this scenario with some perspective:

A director of a football club claims a song, regularly sung by the club’s fans (and the club whose ashes they arose from), is a “great song”. That song, as it turns out, is by far one of the most sectarian chants heard in Scotland if not the worst.

To admit such a thing to someone in the media, particularly a person in such a position, must either feel completely comfortable with that scenario or are totally stupid. The fact that Spiers prints this is where the fun begins.

Now you have the club getting involved with the paper. A resolution is sought to maintain relations, subsequently dismissing the article and it’s writer.

I get the public relations thing with the media and clubs. Aren’t we avoiding the real subject here which is a bigoted football club director?

Just so we’re clear, that wasn’t a question. That was just a reminder of the issue.

It’s not often I believe or read what a sports journalist has to say particularly when it is to do with Scottish football. Every now and again though something credible pops up on the sports pages that is worthy of our attention.

To this day I am utterly astonished at how blind people are when dealing with sectarianism and bigotry. This subject has been mishandled by virtually everyone in authority from police to politicians and of course our very own incompetent football authorities at the SPL/SPFL and SFA.

Fan’s will sing what they sing. There is little a club can do to control that but for the love of god, “up to our knees in fenian blood” is NOT repeat NOT okay on any level.

Fine, calls us a bunch of fannies. That’s funny and that’s banter.

The Billy Boys is not banter, a laugh or taken in good humour. It’s offensive, derogatory, abusive and more importantly direct in the face of a living, breathing community.

I mean some people actually live a life steeped in this shit and see no wrong in what they sing or believe. This is a historic debate but we live in a modern world where we know what is right and what is wrong.

This bile is a stain on our football community in Scotland which thanks to the death of Oldco, has been silenced for almost four years. Now it is rearing its ugly head and as you can see we are back to square one where the media bows to the (new) Ibrox club over a matter which is quite frankly disgusting.

Graham Spiers isn’t the first to be targeted by the Ibrox club. Jim Spence, formerly of the BBC, was the target of abuse not so long ago which eventually ended with him leaving the BBC.

The BBC didn’t back him as they should have. The cowardice (or is that collaboration?) shown by the Scottish media when dealing with Oldco/Newco is close to Jimmy Saville standards.

It appears you cannot question, criticise or investigate matters over at Ibrox for fear of death threats to you or your family. Is this really being tolerated in modern soceity?

I say this quite openly, but what harbours at Ibrox, not just now but in the past, is a cancer. Despite having fiddled the HMRC whilst trying to get one over Celtic, they have failed to learn their lesson on any front.

As a business they went caput and couldn’t even muster a singular mindset to use the opporuntity to rebuild a club, such as Hearts did. Instead they avoided all responsibility to their debt and now dare to function as the same club.

The only item high on the agenda at Ibrox appears to be the same sectarian shite that they are well known for and has not been missed since they died in 2012. That is the only thing I can credit them for getting right with Newco.

You are and always will be Scotland’s shame.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Complicit and Corrupt

In this international break there are no Scotland fixtures to torture myself with. So I’ve been contemplating sport in general in this window.

Football is always top of my list but this week news broke about allegations of bribery, corruption and doping in athletics. In recent times athletics has given us some memorable moments with successful Olympic and Commonwealth Games on these shores.

Now an independent commission report details doping cover-ups involving Russia and the IAAF. Russia themselves came under deserved criticism in the most recent Winter Games but this new story has blown athletics wide open.

Compared to the investigations on FIFA, this is said to be larger. No sport is without corruption it seems.

Corruption isn’t new to our world of course. We just live in an era that seems to be exposing it day after day.

Every time I watch the news it is exposing police corruption, political bribery or abuse, government fraud, a religious sex scandal or a historical paedophilia case being uncovered. I don’t know where it will end, perhaps never, but it is fair to say that these issues are a cancer of society and cannot be ignored.

It is an ongoing cleansing of humanity for matters where people have cheated, failed, betrayed, lied and covered up. It leaves you feeling somewhat disappointed with the world we live in today but more importantly are we ignoring what is going on in the present day?

That is another debate and I’m happy to bring that up another time because it has substance. Right now we have to deal with the issues before us so that we can move on but not before justice is served.

One of those matters affecting sport in Scotland is of course the Big Tax Case. Again, another historical matter and one that many are still trying to deflect.

Justice is being sought by the grand masses of Scottish football after the HMRC’s recent appeal was successful. In direct opposition the supporters of Oldco/Newco are banging a different drum.

We’ve been over this debate a million times. In fact it hasn’t died down since Oldco was put to sleep.

As a community of Celtic supporters we’ve been branded as “obsessed”. It’s nice to know they’ve moved on from calling us “paranoid”.

To go from the paranoid to obsessed implies that we were in fact right to act in such a way. With the guilty verdict coming into play there is certainly a case for being “obsessed” as well!

In all honesty though, I got bored with the Oldco story. I knew they were guilty despite the original verdict.

It was still a ongoing topic but I was done listening to it. Only now does it bear any fruit because of the appeal.

To deny such a blatant sporting advantage only demonstrates what sort of club once resided at Ibrox. The one that now resides there are linked in every way possible except the ones that make them one club.

More concerning is that our governing bodies for Scottish football are equally complicit in this matter. They did everything in their power to get Newco into the top flight eventually having to settle for entry level and I even question that.

People involved with Oldco during those years are now in the frame. Today some are present at Newco as fit and proper or even guarding the gates of Hampden.

This is as big a sporting scandal as you’ll get in Scotland. And yet, some still can’t accept it in fact they are defiant.

Personally I would be disgraced if this was my club. You can’t defend it but over at Newco they want no association with the guilt, just the ‘glory’.

It didn’t happen. Blah, blah, blah…we’re not listening.

You want the history and the titles but you don’t want the debt? Well tough because Scottish football clubs and their supporters simply will not allow it.

Like I say, we don’t live in an age of corruption. It’s the age that exposes it.

We’ve been reading about in blogs for many years now what the Scottish media failed to report. Now the truth is out and we’ll be running with this despite the media’s efforts to try and ‘move on’ after a brief acknowledgement.

Few in the media have reported heavily on it. When they have they have received abuse of the highest order.

What sort of society do we live in where that his deemed acceptable? A Scottish society apparently.

I’ve been saying for years that it would take Scottish football to fall on its knees before it saw any improvement. A golden opportunity was missed not to far back where their was a chance to make wholesale changes to benefit the whole game.

Our governing bodies showed their true colours with a very weak effort at re-branding and restructuring. When Henry McLeish got involved I thought that intervention was going to be the start of a regeneration but it wasn’t.

That moment faded faster than a Newco investment. Now, Scottish football limps on once more due to the people who run it.

Some folk will tell you that you need a strong Rangers at the top because the game needs it and that Celtic need them to help them (insert any excuse that gets them into the top flight). Is that what Sir David Murray was doing for over a decade with EBT’s – helping the Scottish game by cheating the arse out of every other club?

He hobbled away taking no blame or responsibility in the end, not even from the Rangers fans. The SFA and SPL did not investigate thoroughly because they carry the same guilt for being inept, gutless, giving a helping hand and turning a blind eye when required.

It is simple. Nobody in Scotland will rest until justice is done.

You don’t do walking away. You don’t surrender either apparently.

Good for you. I’m glad your still around to watch your club(s) crumble before your very eyes.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac