Bouncing back

Celtic bounced back from European disappointment once more by beating Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Sunday. Despite concerns over the weather, the game went ahead and the trip wasn’t a wasted journey for the fans or the team, well unless of course you are Anthony Stokes.

He tweeted his disappointment at being left out of the starting eleven and bench. What drove him to voicing his opinion on social media I have no idea but it was foolish.

As Ronny Deila pointed out to the press, it’s the same format each game. 20 payers to choose from, 11 start and 7 sit on the bench with 2 inevitably missing out.

We can debate whether Stokes deserves a chance or not another time but his absence from the team these days is nothing new. Why disclose your unhappiness now?

We were treated to an apology on Twitter later on but it won’t help him get back into the team if that was his aim. Perhaps he should take a leaf out of Carlton Cole’s tweeting handbook….or maybe not.

Regardless, Celtic ran out 3-1 winners with goals from Deila favourite Callum McGregor, leading goalscorer Leigh Griffiths and an own-goal-via Carlton Cole’s hand. It’s generally a difficult match at the Caldeonian Stadium so 3 points after a European defeat and an exit from the tournament at the same time, was a welcome boost.

The treble remains Ronny Deila’s target for the season. It won’t come easy but he needs this trophy haul to win over some of the doubters.

Out there among the Celtic support is a growing proportion of fans seeking changes. As I’ve said before I just don’t see that happening right now.

The last Celtic manager to depart before the end of the season was Tony Mowbray. Ronny isn’t in that category because it’s a different scenario.

He hasn’t blown it domestically as Mowbray had. He hasn’t lost the dressing room either, with the exception of Stokes and maybe Kris Commons.

Ultimately, it will be the board of directors who will decide Ronny’s fate but not until the end of the season and even then it is unlikely they will be looking for a replacement in the summer. So if you’re a Celtic supporter calling for the head of the Norwegian, you may as well save your breath.

The way things are going Ronny will probably get one more crack at the Champions league. At the same time, the overall team will need to be assessed and reinforced.

Right now I’d retain most of our players but some will need to be jettisoned as well. Between now and the end of the season some have a lot to prove whilst for others we want to see more of the same.

Weak in attack and defence, Celtic need to be better balanced than they are. Midfield is our area of strength but frailties front and back interfere with that area of superiority.

One thing we can be certain of is that if the weaker areas are not addressed before next season we can expect the same results. Whether we find strength from within or in the transfer market, this team will need to convince the fans we have improved and not just by saying it.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Exclusions aside, a win is essential.

If you thought Ronny Deila had a tough job ahead of him tonight already, it just got harder. Injuries and suspensions have excluded several Celtic players ahead of tonight’s must win game at home against Ajax.

Craig Gordon will be in goal as expected. The back four are likely to be Mikael Lustig, Dedryck Boyata, Jozo Šimunović and Emilio Izaguirre.

As we already know, captain Scott Brown is out with a lengthy injury. Add to that star performer Nir Bitton and Stefan Johansen who are both suspended.

Kris Commons is also said to be unlikely to make it due to injury and illness. That leaves Celtic extremely lightweight in the one area of the field they’ve had sufficient numbers for several years now.

Charlie Mulgrew is said to be back in the fold after a long time out. There is also the availability of Scott Allan but like Mulgrew, he has rarely been seen in a Celtic jersey this season so it isn’t just about availability, it’s about match fitness.

Another player who can possibly play a holding midfield role would be Efe Ambrose. When he arrived it was mooted that he would play in that role but he has been predominantly a defender in his Celtic career, much to our disappointment.

As desperate as we are, there is also the possibility that Stuart Armstrong could play a central role. He’s been played out wide since he joined this year but I’d like to see him play in the middle of the park.

He has ability but I do question him being played in a wide role but tonight could be a defining moment for him. What I’d like to see from him tonight is him spreading his wings because he’s looks like he’s holding back a little at times and I think there is more to this player than we’ve seen.

Thankfully, Tom Rogić will be in from the start. This is one player I am pleased to say isn’t missing out tonight because he has been a breath of fresh air.

He’s been so good this season, he has overtaken a less than impressive Johansen who was king of the attacking midfield last season. Rogić’s form has been immense and has been loving every moment on the park.

So Ronny has got some decisions to make for the midfield. On the wings it is bound to be a combination of Gary Mackay-Steven and James Forrest.

There is also the option of playing Callum McGregor. Kieran Tierney has found himself getting forward in games as well so if he doesn’t start the match he is another in with a shout.

Leigh Griffiths a certainty to spearhead the attack, so the the focus is on the midfield blend. Get that right and we might just have a game on our hands.

Ajax believe that they are a better team than Celtic but they can stutter just as much. In truth I think both teams are about the same.

This will be an edge of the seat affair. Our Europa League campaign rests on this evenings result.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Defiant Deila, sheepish McInnes.

What negative Celtic headlines will we be reading in the coming days? After a convincing win over Aberdeen on Saturday lunchtime, will the media continue to chip away at Scotland’s best football club and their head coach, Ronny Deila?

I’ve mentioned to quite a few people over the years how the English press lay into their national football team in every way possible. They treat then almost as if they are the enemy and I just don’t get it.

The Scottish press are a similar bunch with one difference. They’re supportive of our national side (unless they are truly are honking!) but they stick the boot in to Celtic at any opportunity so long as it makes a headline – fact or fib.

This is part of the reason why many Celtic fans, including myself, despise the sporting media in Scotland. The other part stems from the protection and promotion of our deceased rivals across the city.

The Scottish media’s failure to report the truth about their demise was every bit as blatant as the decisions they received over the years from referees and the SFA’s agenda. Officials and the media are of course two totally different areas of the game though populated by people with similar leanings.

If you dare to report the truth about the dark side or even utter anything factually correct, they’ll take it as far as it needs to. Just ask former BBC journalist Jim Spence, the most recent victim of abuse from the tribute act.

However, I digress. The point is even now with our old rivals long gone, their phoenix club potentially meeting a similar fate, and rivals Aberdeen fading faster than Derek McInnes’s tan in December, Celtic remain the media target.

It doesn’t matter whether they are having a good season or not. The media will do everything and enlist anyone to push Celtic’s buttons.

David Tanner and Andy Walker were at it yesterday during the Sky Sports coverage apparently. I didn’t see the game live but Ronny “losing the plot” and “being lucky” were being banded about on Twitter.

Gordon Strachan did not jump on their bandwagon though. For a guy who played for Aberdeen, did a great job for Celtic and still never won over all the Celtic support fans, he’s never ever stuck the boot in on Celtic like some ex-Celts have.

When he resigned a rather large portion of fans were happy to see him go and his replacement, Tony Mowbray, walk in. And we all know how that turned out.

So let’s see how our media handle Celtic this week particularly with a home tie against Molde in the Europa League on Thursday. Criticism has been rife this season and not without good reason but I sense Celtic have unity among the ranks even if some fans have lost faith.

Aberdeen have slipped into third. Hearts are the new title challengers and we disposed of them in the League Cup last Wednesday.

Celtic are still the best team in Scotland by far. It’s a shame they aren’t given the credit they deserve particularly when they have earned it.

Top of the league. Mind the gap.

The only footage I’ve seen of the Aberdeen match so far contained the Leigh Griffiths header and James Forrest goal which were both sublime in the build up and the finish. I also caught the tackle by Graham Shinnie on Nir Bitton which was horrendous.

That was a red card in my opinion and in Europe he wouldn’t have been so lucky, not that Aberdeen know what Europe is like these days. I’ve seen players sent off for less and any attention Shinnie received from the Celtic players throughout the match was most definitely warranted.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Celtic in crisis: we’re doomed!

The Celtic crisis continued on Sunday as Ronny Deila’s player’s could only manage a 6-0 win over Dundee. Failure to take the scoreline into double figures must be a concern for all concerned at Celtic?

Emilio Izaguirre, fresh from his red card on Thursday in Amsterdam, scored two goals against Paul Hartley’s side. After failing to convert a penalty to secure his hat-trick in Sunday’s match, he is sure to be transfer listed asap.

Nadir Çiftçi scored his first goal for the club after coming on as a sub. The pressure must surely be on him now after only managing to score one league goal in two league appearances.

James Forrest skelped the upright after a route one run on the Dundee goal. He can expect to be left out of the next match after that disappointment.

Scott Brown looked very disappointed after his goal as well. His demonstration to the Celtic Park crowd is surely a sign that he is unhappy with the way things are going at the club.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Leigh Griffiths is demonstratimg just how bad things are. 7 goals in 8 league appearances is well short of what is required to successful and he is mistaken if he thinks 3 goals in 5 European appearances will help him.

Tom Rogić has not helped his career or Celtic this season either. After a long spell on the sidelines and on loan back in Australia, 3 goals in 6 appearances in the league, this is a sure sign of what under-performing in a Hoops jersey is like.

There is some good news though. Ronny Deila turns 40 today which is great because that makes him marginally older than me.

I don’t know where Celtic go from here but the signs are not good. If only we could change our attitude and get some good results.

Maybe Carlton Cole will help Celtic deal with all the negative press they get within Scotland. Handling the club’s Twitter enquiries could be right up is street.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

A week of woe, wonder and welcome.

It has been quite a week for Celtic on and off the park. Enough talking points in fact to release a box set.

After the dust settled on Celtic reaching the Champions League play-offs, there was the draw. Out of the hat for Celtic came Swedish Champions Malmö FF.

I wasn’t the worst draw from the selection but it wasn’t the best either. I’d say of the five possibles Malmö lie somewhere in the middle of my preferences.

Just as we were digesting those two European ties, Celtic returned to domestic duties by dispatching Partick Thistle in the Glasgow derby.

Hot on the heels of that victory, John Collins became the focal point of Celtic Football Club. His comments around Scottish clubs and their inability to be clever enough to beat Celtic didn’t go down that will as I’m sure you can imagine.

On the one hand it is a bit arrogant and disrespectful toward other Scottish clubs. On the other, he was merely saying what most people already know and think.

As Mark Wilson said on Sportscene on Sunday “he was only saying what people are thinking, it’s just that nobody mentions it.”

And he isn’t wrong about that. Did he have to say it though?

Well the subject matter was actually on Celtic in Europe. Upon reflection of last season and this season the topic of how domestic football affected that.

This wasn’t a singular swipe at Scottish clubs. It was more of a case that this is the domestic situation Celtic are in and this is how it affects them in Europe.

Collins’ comment brought mixed reactions though. Players, managers and of course the media all came out either to back or blast the Celtic assistant manager.

It’s a storm in a tea-cup though. If on the opposing side to JC’s comments you would have taken great pleasure in the 2-2 draw at Kilmarnock midweek.

In a game where Celtic ran the Ayrshire side ragged it is hard to believe this one finished a stalemate. There were umpteen chances to put Killie to the sword but a late penalty saved them and shamed the Hoops.

James Forrest had an absolute blinder and Nir Bitton scored a peach of a goal. This game should have been a thrashing of Kilmarnock.

Karma for the Collins outburst? I’m sure many think so.

In the midst of that story came another. This time though on the transfer front.

Celtic are never far away from a transfer rumour be that one of their own players on the move, or bringing someone in. I’d love to see the statistics on these kind of stories because it would make interesting viewing but the one rumour that came from left field was the signing of Hibernian midfielder Scott Allan.

Up until Celtic’s rumoured interest in him, he was in the sports news almost daily about a move to Ibrox. This was on the back of handing in a transfer request and his supposed love of Rangers (though which version has yet to be determined).

This move has caused more of a stir than the John Collins story, ironically a former Hibernian midfielder himself. The pain emanating from the blue half of the divide has been quite palpable.

As you might expect from this kind of scenario, there have been the mandatory bigoted and sectarian chants across social media and beyond. This one must be quite painful for the Ibrox crew to take, particularly as Celtic have sent Liam Henderson in the other direction on loan.

The young midfielder has had a fantastic year under Ronny Deila getting a reasonable amount of game time. That was followed up with a short but productive loan spell at Rosenberg and all of this has been enough for the club to sign him on a new three-year deal.

Now he will have a full year under former Celtic defender Alan Stubbs at Hibs to bolster his experience. A two-way battle with the Ibrox club for the Championship should make these encounters worth a watch alone.

I didn’t take much of the Championship in last season at all. For that reason I can’t even give you my opinion of Scott Allan or what he could achieve potentially.

Like any new player he will get his chance to prove himself. I look forward to seeing what he can achieve.

With the current personnel vying for a place in the Celtic midfield he may find it difficult to obtain a place. I do wonder what Ronny Deila’s take on this signing is.

Are we expecting a departure, is this signing with a long-term view or was it purely just to get it right up the Ibrox crew. I must say one of the best response I saw on Twitter was from @SirBroxiBear “We need to strike back here and hit them where it really hurts and book the Thai Tims for our Christmas party”.

A perfectly weighted response from the blue half of the divide to diffuse any heated moment. I know that isn’t the opinions of all but this one made me grin so well done that man.

Continuing on the contract front, young Kieran Tierney signed a new contract with Celtic. He has impressed in his appearances for Celtic and a four-year deal will see him push Emilio Izaguirre for a place.

And so to today’s match against Inverness. After Wednesday’s slump against Killie, it’s time to get back on the horse and pump the Highlanders at Paradise.

Not sure if Allan will be available to play but at least he will be unveiled at the stadium today. A more clinical end product will be required against John Hughes’ side.

Inverness were more of a threat to Celtic than closest rivals Aberdeen so the warning signs are firmly in place. Let’s get this one ironed out with no mistakes because it’s Malmö on Wednesday.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

 

Guidetti should be indebted to Celtic

Yes, that’s what I said. Indebted.

You might ask why that may be if you’re not of the Celtic persuasion. Well, I’ll explain.

John Guidetti came to Celtic on loan just as the summer 2014 transfer window came to a close. Up until then he had little other than a few loan spells under his belt which included IF Brommapojkarna (the club where he began his career), Burnley, Feyenoord and Stoke City.

That spell at Feyenoord was productive but he returned to parent club Manchester City after an incomplete season. Having never established himself in Sweden or England his career has not yet taken off.

Celtic offered him that opportunity and immediately hit the ground running. As I’ve said in the past, we all liked what we saw.

Frustratingly, he was ineligible for European competition but his domestic form was drawing praise from the support. He had charisma and we all sensed there was something about this guy.

What we soon discovered though was that he had his own agenda. The more Celtic were convinced by his form, the nearer a deal came to being ratified for a permanent signature.

It’s not too often Celtic make such a move. The club have let many a player slip through their fingers but to be fair to the board, they moved swiftly.

What they didn’t bargain for was Guidetti stalling. Not only did he stall, he decided to hawk himself to other clubs.

This public show of availability to clubs in Italy and the Netherlands drew a different sort of reaction. Celtic fans were no longer behind this guy, they were beginning to feel betrayed.

Guidetti isn’t the first player to do this to Celtic. In fact, you could say he’s now joined an elite bunch of former servants.

The difference is, I feel Celtic deserved a chance with this player. The club did all the right things and Guidetti threw it back in their faces.

For a talented player, he has yet to establish himself at any one club. He has the skill but the mindset is questionable.

Perhaps the signs were already there and we all failed to see them. At the end of his first contract with Manchester City, he apparently struck a deal to join FC Twente.

At this time, Manchester City offered him another contract and eventually stayed. FC Twente debated that their contract was legitimate but that would be the end of it.

Ironically, Guidetti moved on loan to Feyenoord not long after signing that first team contract with City. It was a productive time for him in Rotterdam but illness marred the remainder of that loan spell and he returned to Manchester.

After recovering from illness, he went out on loan again. This time it would be Premier League club, Stoke City.

There he would vent his frustration at lack of appearances. Most of which was levelled at manager Mark Hughes.

So what has Guidetti achieved then? Well, his only honours to date have come from one season at Celtic.

He threw away the opportunity to build upon that success. Even after scoring against Inter Milan on the European stage, he still had a chance to resurrect a permanent move but he would continue to flaunt himself to other clubs.

At the League Cup Final he would spit the dummy out on the field of play. His reluctance to celebrate winning his first ever club honour was the end of the affair.

In many respects Celtic may have got off lightly here though. Despite his talent, Guidetti clearly has some issues.

He has cited a lack of challenging games on the domestic front with Celtic being an issue for his international career. Domestic football isn’t always what we want it to be though.

It doesn’t matter which club you play for. Every league has its fair share of poor fixtures.

Real Madrid might be a big club but do you think they face a huge challenge week in week out? I mean, Celtic may be the best team in Scotland, but they haven’t exactly wiped the floor with teams this season particularly when Guidetti was starting games and it has been a challenging season.

In fact the Swede played in probably the toughest period of the season gone. When Guidetti lost his place, Celtic grew stronger though.

With that in mind, it actually makes his spate of form look less influential. Aside from that goal against Inter, his influence ended long before Christmas 2014.

If John Guidetti wants a decent club career, then he will need to do some serious self assessment. He appears to have a high opinion of himself but lacks the mental ability and dedication to conduct himself in a professional manner.

Like Feyenoord, Celtic gave this guy a solid chance. Once more, a club has helped him raise his profile.

Adjö John.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

One way traffic

Last night at Celtic Park, Ronny Deila’s player’s executed a near perfect performance. Whilst Dundee offered nothing at all, Celtic played some nice, easy on the eye football.

The task was not completely difficult as Dundee chose to sit back the entire match. It did take Celtic a bit of time to break them down but they got there in the end.

Paul Hartley claimed in his brief post match interview that Celtic had them pegged them back from the beginning. In reality, it was more that Dundee sat back and planned to hit on the break.

As it turned out, they were rarely given that chance because Celtic pressed the whole match. Their ‘plan’ backfired but Celtic’s tempo kept us all entertained and if you come to Celtic Park and play like that, well, you deserve everything you get.

Take nothing away from Celtic because they carved out some nice goals. With all of their men behind the ball, Dundee weren’t doing anything but defending.

Leigh Griffiths popped up in the 30th minute to score a great header. On watching the replay, the goal had a touch of Larsson about it.

My thoughts were mirrored by an associate on Twitter, I just didn’t have the balls to say it myself! Whilst Griffiths and Larsson are two totally different players, it does show you how long its been since I’ve seen someone score decent headers in the box.

Seven minutes later the second goal came and with it the hallmark of Champions. Every player got a touch without a Dundee interception before Captain Scott Brown rounded off the passage of play by running into the box to make a calm finish.

Commons got his name on the score sheet later in the second half. Darnell Fisher came off the bench, added some pace to the right hand channel and was duly fouled in the Dundee penalty area – Commons didn’t waste the chance.

Then came James Forrest, man of recurring injury but with pace and ability to cause problems to most defences. The ball fed through to him was perfect but the finish was difficult so to score it was the icing on the cake.

They say you save the best until last and whilst the four goals in the game at that point were all excellent, the fifth was brilliant. Nir Bitton, a player who has taken his opportunity to impress this season went one step further last night.

In the 89th minute, he took control of the ball 35 yards out and smacked it towards goal. If Forrest’s goal was the icing on the cake then Bitton’s was the candle.

As far as Friday nights go, this was one to remember. Many will say that without a decent challenge from our opponents that it wasn’t a test.

It certainly wasn’t a test, but it was great to watch. Even as I write this, I’m watching the goals again.

The finish line is in sight but the title has not been decided. Aberdeen still have a say in this but should they fail to get anything other than a victory today at Tannadice, Celtic will be crowned Scottish Champions.

Personally, it would be sweeter to go to Pittodrie next Sunday and try and win it there. It would certainly make it a huge occasion, given what is at stake.

For now, Celtic can sit back and see what the weekend brings.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie