Alarm bells? Really?

On Saturday, Brendan Rodgers suffered his second competitive domestic defeat as Celtic Head Coach. I never saw the game live and I didn’t watch the highlights either.

I made the latter decision not because I was disgusted with the result. This was more of a subconscious decision.

I actually happened to catch the only goal of the game on social media. The likelihood of my reason for not viewing the highlights is probably based on all the negative comments from fellow Celtic fans which engulfed the online community.

To be honest I was blown away by some of the garbage I was reading. You’d think the bottom had just dropped out of our world.

That someone had ripped the team from the teet of success and pulled the plug on our season. Two defeats in seventy-nine domestic games.

Two. Just two.

Now I’ll level with you here. I don’t like how things have gone this season.

Many of our players simply haven’t turned up or been close to last season’s performance levels, though a few have. A fair amount of players have also been injured throughout the season and at the same time.

There’s been very little consistency in team selections. Some of that has been Brendan’s choice, and in other cases his hand has been forced.

Right now we have a virtual starting eleven unavailable. We’ve invested in some areas and we’ve shipped out many fringe players on loan or permanently.

All of these things are not unusual in any given season. So why are Celtic not taking Scottish football by storm again this season?

Could it be they didn’t invest enough at the right time to keep things on the up? Did some players just peak last season?

Or is it simply the case that the invincibles got to some clubs and they decided to do something about it? Well, I think it’s a culmination of thos and other factors.

What I don’t think it is, is something to be overly concerned about. Celtic aren’t untouchable, but they can keep their noses in front.

To repeat last season would have been amazing. It was also going to be unlikely.

That’s not to say that Celtic can’t win the treble again. They just can’t be invincibles two seasons running now.

No matter how you measure it, Celtic have made progress this season. Injuries aside, we finally have a squad size that can be worked with.

Now it is up to the coaching team to make that work. There’s a Europa League match coming up next week.

Last season we weren’t even in Europe after Christmas. Or the season before for that matter.

Brendan is here for five years and he has a job to do. He’s only been here a season-and-a-half so far and there’s still more to come.

I don’t buy into this “he’s taken Celtic as far as they can” malarky. Anyone who says that is narrow minded.

In Brendan’s short time here he’s delivered four trophies, two Champions League group phase campaigns and now he’s in the last 32 of the Europa Legaue with a possible back-to-back treble. And even though it’s still a raw wound, the unbeaten run was quite the record to behold.

I think some Celtic fans need a reality check. The backlash from the Kilmarnock defeat was appalling and embarrassing.

Best fans in the world? Most fickle fans in the world.

You don’t get to chose how you lose. It happens, you deal with it and you move on.

I’m not suggesting you walk away happy because we’re so lucky to have Brendan Rodgers as manger and take any old defetat lying down. Do yourself a favour though and take a deep breath before venting your spleen on social media about two defeats.

There’s no excuse for Celtic losing. Just like there’s no excuse for exaggerating the circumstances at the club.

It’s becoming silly season with some of the bullshit I’ve read about Celtic by fans. You would think we’re a club in crisis.

Let’s be constrcutive in our criticism about match days. At the same time, don’t start ringing alarm bells unnecessarily.

We have a very motivated media who do that for us already. Things will come together for Celtic again and they need the fans at their back.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Fresh challenges ahead

I’ve had several days now to get over Tuesday night’s defeat. I also had to watch it at midnight on catchup having not seen it live.

For some people this result was on the cards. You never give up hope, but Celtic were outclassed by PSG.

The French side got into their stride from the get go. The Glasgwegian side made them wait until the 19th minute, but inevitably the goals came.

This was a team that lived up to the personnel they can afford to buy. A forward line to die for made the home side pay.

There may be easier teams out there in the Champions League but right now Celtic are one of those teams. At times there was some spirit, but the pace and accuracy in which PSG moved the ball left Celtic for dead throughout the match.

I don’t need to mention the PSG players. So I’ll focus on Celtic.

Finally, Brendan Rodgers deployed a makeshift defence that few would have argued with. Up until this match, most have disgareed with his selection of Bitton at the back.

So why wait until now to change it and not earlier? Was he conflicted at the last minute?

Anthony Ralston put in an admirable shift at right back and deserves plaudits – I like this guy. Mikael Lustig moved into right centre back where he has played often enough in his career but rarely under Brendan.

He was joined by Jozo Simunovic and Kiernan Tierney to form a back four that is the best Celtic have to offer right now. It wasn’t enough to snuff out the most expensive forward line in the world though.

Looking back at the goals you might criticise individuals, but this is what guys like Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani feed upon. It is their craft in the game and they are at the top.

We cannot have any complaints because we aren’t on the same level. That doesn’t take time, that takes money.

Money that will never be in Scotland or even at Celtic. When you face a team of such stature there is generally only one conclusion.

Going back to Celtic’s performance, I was impressed by Scott Brown’s tenacity. He never gave up.

Olivier Ntcham got himself involved more than Stuart Armstrong, but we wouldn’t see his effectiveness until the second half. By which time Celtic were already three goals down.

Scott Sinclair was our biggest outlet. Much of the time he was let down by his touches or the timely interception of PSG.

Paddy Roberts had a good one but tired due to lack of match fitness. Leigh Griffiths was out in the cold because of the lack of link up play between midfield and attack.

Other than a poor result, we had a pitch invader and Neymar at his usual antics. I’m not sure who I hate more – the Brazilian diver who shame the game or these dickheads who shame our own club.

Celtic must move on from this though. It’s all about the Anderlecht games.

They won’t be pushovers. Nobody is a pushover for Celtic these days.

What Brendan Rodgers and his players must do though is be more effective. Take those chances and cut out the errors.

Some of the commentary talked about an ’embarrassing’ and ‘poor’ display. I think much of this was reactionary and filled with disappointment.

Yes, mistakes were made and it was hard to watch. Let’s not forget who Celtic were playing though eh?

Celtic were taught a lesson by a classy side for the second season in a row. Brendan has to take that on board and make the right approach for the next game.

I noticed some folk talking about spending more money but we have limitations. It’s only Brendan’s second season and we’ll see further improvements in the years ahead but right now it’s about making this team work.

The next three games are a good break from Tuesday’s disappointment and a time to prepare for Anderlecht. Today it is Ross County at home, Wednesday it’s Dundee away and then The Rangers next Saturday at Ibrox.

Let’s get back to the drawing board. Plenty of fresh challenges ahead.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 Middle ground with Armstrong

So big Stu has signed a new two-deal-year for Celtic. Good news for both parties.

Many will see this two-year-deal as a one-year-extension. The expectancy would be to sell Armstrong next summer with one year left to run.

However, I’ve got a different take on this. What if he’s been given a transitional deal to allow both parties to come back to the table at the end of the season?

It’s obvious Armstrong and his advisors were looking for more. Something that Celtic were not willing to give right now.

I have been of the opinion that the club would like to see the same if not better from the player this season. Should that come to fruition he’ll have proved his worth for a better contract.

As I said in in an earlier blog, Brendan deserves as much praise as the player. Another season will demonstrate how much he has learned and executed in consecutive seasons.

Are Celtic being tight fisted? I don’t think so.

If Armstrong comes up with the goods again this season I would expect he can write his own contract. If offers were as fruitful as reported down south then why is he still here?

Celtic could just cash in on him now and move on to another project. The club aren’t short of midfield talent and I see this as a sign he wants to stay and the player is wanted.

I don’t imagine this new contract is of the length or income he was looking for. So in order to get that, another year (possibly with extra bonuses) will allow both parties to negotiate a better deal.

Personally I don’t think any player can make big demands after one good season. Not unless it was written into your contract or you are hot property, doing it on the park all of the time.

Don’t forget he was average for a season and a half before Rodgers came in. Sure he was out of position, but I’m sure more will be expected from him.

I’m glad this middle ground has been reached and both the player and the manager can concentrate on the football again. Armstrong is a fabulous talent but we’ve yet to see the best of him yet.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

All aboard the Deila bus?

The finish line is still a long way off and nothing has been won but isn’t it just a wee bit exciting? I’m not talking about beating Mk II Rangers (or their exit from another cup competition yesterday), I’m looking at the bigger picture.

Neil Lennon announced his departed from Celtic Football Club in May 2014. In the space of about two weeks his successor was announced and by Celtic standards that is pretty quick.

Ronny Delia was by no means a household name, as many of my non-Celtic supporting associates cared to mention at the time. With the speed at which he was installed though, suggests Celtic had already done their homework.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who Ronny was but in the modern day it doesn’t take long to find out someone’s background. Because you don’t know of someone though doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer and having read his résumé, I quickly began to like what this guy had to offer.

Even for Celtic this was a left field move but I like to think that despite how much some of our fans despise the people that the board consist of, we are progressing in the modern day. There was no preventing the cutting opinions or negative sentiments toward Deila in his early days of the current season.

To be quite frank, I had decided that I was going to reserve judgement until Christmas and had allowed some time to bed in. Change takes place over a long period of time and I was prepared to give him that.

Celtic had some harsh lessons at the beginning of the season. Europe was a mean testing ground for Ronny Deila and one which he was expected to emulate the highs of his predecessors.

With that in mind and the pressure of Champions League qualification it was no surprise that when you have fans with that level of expectation they were bound to be unhappy when Celtic exited the tournament in such disappointing fashion. Though the Europa League would be Ronny Deila’s saviour and an ideal way of testing his and his players own development.

Even without the growing domestic presence of John Guidetti available for Europe and a long list of injuries to squad players, Celtic carved out a respectable group phase. It could have been a lot better with more time served but Deila has made it to the last 32.

Given that Celtic were marching on in all three domestic competitions, Europe was a Brucey Bonus. Like I said, nothing has been won but surely Ronny is on the right tracks?

When you consider that a large portion of Celtic supporters were calling for the Norwegians head as early as September he has taken a group of players barely of his own making and made them challengers in four competitions in his first season. In my opinion that’s bloody marvellous when you look back on what some of our short sighted brethren have been bleating about all season.

Deila has added one or two players to his squad but he has been tasked with shaping his predecessors troops. He was was slated for enforcing lifestyle changes and setting the raising the bar to 24 hour athlete level.

That’s a huge change and one which I welcome but it does take time. And Deila wasn’t wrong when he said this was how top clubs operated.

If Celtic want to challenge at the highest level yet work within their financial means, then this is the way to do it. Setting the standard now will benefit the club in the years ahead.

My most common quote of the season has to be “even Mowbray got until March”. Mowbray’s auto-endorsement into the Celtic faithful was the undoing of the boards collective short-sightedness by appointing him in the first place and it pleases me little that only few saw his downfall before a ball was kicked.

So when a guy like Deila with modern methods in the modern day gets the nod it implies a that a degree of research has taken place. It was well documented by our ever so insightful media that Ronny was not first choice but I think he has been a good choice and certainly better than some of the contenders mentioned at the time.

Other than Barnes and Mowbray Celtic have made good managerial appointments for the last 20 years. They all had their ups and downs but were right for the time.

Tommy Burns, Wim Jansen, Jozef Venglos, Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon have all etched their mark in the clubs history by winning trophies or signing players instrumental in the success of Celtic. I suppose I should give some credit to Barnes for signing Stiliyan Petrov but in reality he played him well out of position in formation barely recognisable on any continent.

So what will Ronny’s legacy be? A first season treble or a even Europa League Final?

That remains to be seen but is everyone done with their bleating? Are we all on board the Deila bus?

The players are for sure and they are responding to the standards being set. Perhaps that will be Ronny Deila’s legacy.

Two of Dundee United’s best players are now on the Celtic books. Both look to be good acquisitions for the squad and in addition to this an extended contract for Kris Commons at long last.

Players like Commons and Griffiths are the perfect example of adherence. The team have moved up a gear and they are recent examples of that.

Another bonus is the fact that Celtic haven’t lost anyone other than Beram Kayal. His time at the club had expired and I am pleased for him and that he has a chance to restart his career.

There may be a few summer departures but for now, everyone remains a Celtic player. There is a four-pronged campaign going on don’t you know?

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

January blues/green with envy

The third Monday of the January is supposed to be the most depressing of the year. In the green half of Glasgow though, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whilst Zombie FC continue to feed upon one another across the city, Celtic have returned from the Canary Islands with a spring in their step. Two wonderful goals from Adam Matthews and Liam Henderson gave Celtic a 0-2 win over Hamilton on Saturday and once more put pressure on Aberdeen in the league.

The Dons are two points ahead of Celtic but with the Hoops having two games at hand, it promises to be an exciting finish to a season in Scottish footballs top flight. Dundee United lag behind Celtic by four points but remain a threat at this stage in the season.

On the subject of United, the pre-contract signing of Gary Mackay-Steven has been seen as a decent acquisition in the Celtic community. The question remains though on whether Celtic will go a little further and bring him in now.

Of all the Dundee United players that have furnished their ranks in recent years, Gary would not have been top of my list. His signing raises more questions about current players futures and where Ronny Deila plans to fit him in to the squad

Is he bolstering the ranks or will he have a defined role in the team? I welcome the player with open arms but there are a large batch of Celtic players in midfield positions which need to be addressed.

Berget has gone but Celtic still employ Wakaso, Forrest, McGregor, Boerrigter in the wide areas, not to mention loanee Tonev. Add to that the question marks over Kayal and Commons and you begin to wonder how Celtic plan to shape up for the remainder of the season.

Kayal looked like he may get a chance under Deila but it looks more likely that he will go. His early Celtic career has never been recaptured and like many at the club, it is money for nothing by keeping him on.

Commons on the other hand is a different kettle of fish. Question marks remain over whether Deila fancies him or not.

Given his omission from starting elevens, we’ve all assumed Deila was planning ahead without him. Recent starts would suggest otherwise particularly when Deila has been singing his praises and desire for him to stay.

The rumours are that Celtic are willing to offer Commons a one year deal but that he wants a two year deal. Whatever the case, I will be happy as long as he sees out the rest of this season in the Hoops.

Among the other transfer rumours is of course Virgil Van Dijk. Once more he’s been linked with a move south and whilst I have conceded that he is a player we will not be able to hang on to, I don’t see him departing before June unless it is a substantial fee.

John Guidetti is another Celtic player with a question mark over his future. Although on loan to Celtic, the club have shown a willingness to sign him on a permanent deal.

The only thing that remains a stumbling block is of course the player himself. If he is holding out for a better offer elsewhere, then I would suggest Celtic waste no more time on him.

Guidetti had a blistering start to his Celtic career this season and looked every bit a quality forward with all the characteristics on show to be a fans favourite. Recently though he has lost his form and faded into the background but that may be a result of his future at the club.

Whatever happens, he will be at the club until the end of the season on loan. That will mean being included in Celtic’s European squad for the first time as well.

Without a regular front man this season, Guidetti will be vying for a place against Inter Milan next month. What Ronny Deila will be hoping for though will be a stronger challenge from Stefan Scepovic and Leigh Griffiths.

Scepovic is settling down but still not hitting the kind of form Guidetti enjoyed last year. Griffiths on the other hand is beginning to make an impact, he just needs to be given more chances by Deila.

The game that is getting everyone’s attention is of course the cup match against Scottish footballs newest club. Press reports of an “Old F***m” revival only goes to show just how poor a media we have in the UK, especially the sporting media of Scotland.

The phrase has never been one adopted by Celtic fans (not all of us anyway) when playing the liquidated club yet the media continue to use it for the purpose of the phoenix club. The only thing that remains of their dead entity are the “fans” and the stadium – the “history” is just that.

The match itself is one I would have preferred to avoid. Whilst a challenge may have been missing for the last few years, the toxicity that comes with this group of supporters fans has been a welcome break for everyone.

What is going on over across the city is an embarrassment to Scottish society. They used to sing about being “up to their knees in fenian blood”, but now they are up to there necks in their own plasma and faeces.

I wish that this was a fixture Celtic didn’t have to play but play it they will. However it is only one of four competitions Ronny Deila’s players side remain in.

The last two seasons have given Celtic fans little to get excited about post Christmas. The second half of this season could be the best we’ve seen for some time.

With the visit of Motherwell on midweek, Celtic could find themselves back on top of the Scottish Premiership once more. After all, its where we belong.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Strange things happen

Celtic were beaten fair and square at Celtic Park last night. I wasn’t overly confident going into the match though if I’m being honest, I didn’t see a smash and grab opening by Salzburg coming either.

They got lucky with a deflection to set up their opener. It would have been hard to miss and it had already beaten the defence so I can’t complain too much about that one.

After that Salzburg didn’t let up and Celtic were punished again. This time the players were still rattled from the first goal and in that mindset sloppiness set in.

I won’t take anything away from Salzburg though. They went on the offensive at Celtic Park just as Celtic did at Stadion Salzburg in September.

In last nights match though Salzburg looked like they had been drinking too much of their sponsored product. They settled quicker, played at the kind of tempo Ronny Deila wants for his team and had some nice movement of the ball.

Celtic on the other hand failed to stamp their authority on the game and the midfield should have imposed themselves more. They failed to take the pressure off the defence and didn’t get into any sort of rhythm.

When Stefan Johansen pulled a goal back Celtic began to play with more purpose. As the second half wore on the equaliser never materialised and Salzburg killed the game dead with a third.

But as I said yesterday, your luck can change in European football very quickly. After Celtic handed FC Astra their first group point a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that it wouldn’t surprise me if they beat Dinamo Zagreb last night.

As it turned out, they did and by doing so handed Celtic a last sixteen place. I wasn’t confident of a win in Zagreb so beating Salzburg was paramount to Celtic’s progress in this tournament.

Even in the face of defeat, Celtic have succeeded. It’s becoming a bit of a habit but in this game sometimes you need a rub of the green.

Whilst Ronny Deila will be disappointed with the home defeat he will be pleased he has a last sixteen spot in the Europa League. Its a credible achievement to do this in his first season.

By the time that fixture comes around, Celtic may have bedded in some new players. If John Guidetti hasn’t had his head turned he will also be included in an updated European squad.

Looking at the teams already through in top spot, Celtic will have their work cut for them. Let’s just hope that when the draw is made it isn’t Legia Warsaw.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

You reap what you Sow

Celtic progressed into the quarter finals of the League Cup with a comfortable win over Heart of Midlothian. This was a victory that Ronny Deila needed as he strives for consistency.

Hearts were up for it from the word go and made the early moves in the game. To their credit, they have shown how a club can fall into a financial mess and recover by repaying their debts and re-establishing themselves on a steady footing.

They gave a good account last night considering the changes they have undergone. However, as the game wore on, Celtic grew in stature.

Its been a period of change for Celtic and Ronny Deila has been tinkering with the team for weeks. I’ve no real issue with that but last night he put out a strong side and got a result.

Although Hearts hit the bar and Osman Sow missed a penalty, Celtic were the dominant force. You can argue that the first chance was a defensive error and the penalty was contentious but Celtic were the dominant force.

It was a another quiet night for rising start Callum McGregor. He’s been Deila’s best performer to date but the lad needs a rest and it shows.

The left wing was where Celtic were getting all the joy. Emilio Izaguirre, forgiven for a horrendous back pass in the match, played a blinder on the left channel.

Together with Stokes in a wide berth they played some neat passing to trouble the Hearts defence throughout the entire match. This is a role more suited to Stokes who to be honest, is never a striker.

That role was left to John Guidetti who quite simply, put the ball in the netty! Sorry about that one, but let’s hope there are loads more goals from him.

Commons tucked away another from the penalty spot to add to his season tally. The final goal came courtesy of a chest propelled back pass from Hearts defender Adam Eckersley.

He did remarkably well to do what he did. I don’t think Neil Alexander was ready for such a close and pacey pass back though!

All in all this was another bit of progress for Ronny Deila. He’s had his critics lately so the timing and importance of this result were important.

The next step is to get into a winning run in the league. There isn’t a huge gap and it is still early in the season but with Europe going on in tandem with domestic duties now is the time to start gathering momentum.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie