Ibrox Blues, Paradise News

brendan-rodgers-celtic_3756629

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

Advertisements

New Year, New Rivals, Old Ibrox

brendan-rodgers-and-mark-warburton

 

This afternoon Celtic will play their final match of 2016. The Bhoys will head over to Ibrox for the first time in over four years.

Back then it was their old rivals Rangers. This time it is their new rivals, The Rangers.

Putting the old and the new argument to one side, today’s match will be marked with a minute’s silence in memory of the Ibrox disaster and it’s victims. 66 people died and over 200 were injured from the events that occurred in s Rangers v Celtic match on 2 January 1971 at Ibrox.

For one minute, I would urge all Celtic supporters to be respectful and observe the 60 seconds of silence. After this there will be more than enough time to make plenty of noise.

The sad irony about this minutes silence is that it was a series of historic safety issues over a 70 year period at Ibrox that led to stadium improvements in the first place. Unfortunately, the stadium has been in the headlines recently for health and safety concerns which will leave many feeling uneasy.

What is important about today’s match is that it is completed with as little disruption as possible. I hope that all fans will observe the one minutes silence and go into the new year without causing havoc inside or outside the ground based upon the result.

Celtic go into this match as league leaders and with a very healthy 16 point gap over today’s opponents who lie in second place. However, with Aberdeen breathing down their necks a mere 2 points behind the heat is on for The Rangers.

This is a must win game for Mark Warburton’s side. He is under pressure not to win the league, but to close the gap on Celtic and keep ahead of the rest in second place.

That position is under serious theat now and even more so if Celtic win at Ibrox this afternoon. In fact, I don’t think many are in any doubt that Celtic will win this afternoon.

It may be Brendan Rodgers first visit to Ibrox as a manager but he is no stranger to big arenas or intense atmospheres. He has already hosted Mark Warburton’s team at Celtic Park  and wiped the floor with them.

Amongst that he has played many European heavyweight sides home and away as well as a whole host of others south of the border in the English Premier League. He and his players will not be phased by this fixture.

Today, all Brendan needs to do is pick his best side for the job. Mark Warburton and his players will do everything they can to disrupt that.

They are fighting for survival. Beating Celtic would be a huge boost for them.

Their club is in a mess financially, their stadium is falling apart but their existence continues to be unquestioned by the media. We all know what condition they are in right now despite not reading it anywhere in the SMSM.

So let’s help further their misery and give them a good thumping today. Celtic are on the crest of a wave, need not be overzealous in their approach.

The unbeaten run must continue at Ibrox today and into 2017. This will be a season to remember.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Forging ahead

20150921-mind-the-gapThere was nothing scintillating about Celtic’s win over Kilmarnock last night. A single goal decided the match, but this was no easy three points for Brendan Rodgers.

In the first half Celtic were dominant with good work rates from Callum McGregor and James Forrest in attack. Despite retaining the ball for long periods though, Celtic weren’t really penetrating the Kilmarnock defence.

In fairness to the Ayrshire side, they put up a solid formation, but they didn’t sit back too much either. They hit on the break and put Celtic under pressure at times and probably could have scored a goal or two had it not been from a lack of composure or better fortune, which in this game would have made things more interesting.

Celtic had several chances themselves, but composure and luck deserted them on all but one occasion. The second half was a little more feisty with several players becoming involved in mini-tussles.

Craig Gordon had a least one blip which could have been worse and Dedryck Boyata, starting his first game under the new manager, looked shaky on more than one occasion. Gordon did recover though but I’m still no more impressed with Boyata than I was when he played under Ronny Deila.

Stuart Armstrong also found himself under pressure in the first half a couple of times. He looked like he was wearing the wrong boots….until he scored.

Armstrong, a growing presence in the Celtic midfield these days, put away a tidy finish after a good run and some neat interplay in front of him. His all round game is becoming more prominent in the team with every passing game and he showed that even after a slip up earlier in the game he can retain his composure when required.

When you have a young talented player like this in your squad, why would you even bother with Steven Gerrard? We already have one senior midfielder in Scott Brown who is playing his best football in years.

And when you consider that Tom Rogic is adding goals, pace and skill in a midfield-attack role, our midfield is looking healthy. Nir Bitton will want to sort out is ailing game and get back in the program because he is slipping down the pecking order and rightly so.

So it is another 3 points for Celtic and the gap is widening. Another clean sheet takes Celtic step closer to obtaining another Scottish league record.

The rest of the Scottish Premiership are in action this afternoon and on Monday night. Four teams will be hoping to catchup with Brendan Rodgers runaway train.

Aberdeen (2nd) have a tricky one away to Inverness (6th), The Rangers (3rd) have and easy one at home to Dundee (11th),  St Johnstone (joint 5th) are at home to Ross County (12th) today and Hearts (joint 5th) are away to Hamilton (9th) on Monday night. With Celtic are 13 points clear at the top of the league, only a point separates second, third and fourth/fifth placed teams.

It is that tight and the pecking order could change very quickly. This is an interesting battle as four teams compete to be Celtic’s real contender though at this stage it is looking like the best of the rest.

Aberdeen have been that team for a while. Hearts showed their intentions last season.

We’ll know by the end of the season just how close The Rangers are to mounting a serious challenge. Right now they are sitting third, but no team is as near as Celtic as they would like to be.

In the meantime, Brendan Rodgers will prepare for Barcelona on Wednesday night in the Champions League. Can he beat the Catalan machine on home turf as his Northern Irish compatriot Neil Lennon did in 2012?

Well, let’s put it this way, one win from the last two games is the ONLY way Celtic have a chance of qualifying in third spot. Beating Manchester City away seems like a tough one so why not Barcelona at home eh?

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

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

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