Before a ball is kicked in this season’s league campaign, reigning champions have already been ravaged by injuries that’s left Brendan Rodgers without four key players, two central defenders and two strikers.
Dedryck Boyata was the first casualty hobbling off with a knee injury during the clubs preseason match against Slavia Prague, an injury that will keep him out of action for at least three months.
Next to go was Moussa Dembele after he suffered a setback in training, ruling him out of the start of the league campaign and the rest of the European campaign, with September being the earliest he might be back. Like Boyata, he won’t be rushed.
And just when Moussa broke down, our other main striker Leigh Griffiths complained of a calf strain, serious enough to keep him out of the first Rosenberg match at Celtic Park, recovering only to feature for the last half an hour in Trondheim on Wednesday.
To make matters worse, Erik Sviatchenko, who was also a doubt for the game in Norway, suffered another injury after only 24 minutes of the game. The news today that Erik will be out for at least another six weeks is a blow to Brendan, and the Bhoys, as he tries to get a settled team to try and emulate last season’s magnificent achievements.
What won’t happen though is panic from the manager.
Brendan will look at the situation and decide if he needs to bring in more bodies. He’s already stressed he only wants quality, and he doesn’t want to bring in players for the sake of it.
However, times like this you often discover other players will step up to the plate. Like Nir Bitton did on Wednesday night…
In the crazy world of UEFA and European football, Celtic will travel to old foes FC Astana in a bid to make the Champions League group stages.
Brendan and the Bhoys took care of the team from Kazakhstan in an earlier round of the same competition last season, with two penalty goals from Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele giving the Hoops a 2-1 home win, after a credible 1-1 draw in Central Asia, courtesy of Griffiths.
The tie is definitely the worst we could have hoped for travel wise, but the fact we played them, and won, last season will give the team and fans a boost, as we bid to make it two in a row for the group stages.
And this year, the Bhoys have a different mentality, as we showed against Rosenberg, a mentality instilled by the manager that can cope easier with high pressure games, having played so many over the last 12 months or so.
The first leg of the play-off tie will be at Celtic Park on Wednesday, August 16 (KO: 7.45pm), with the return in Kazakhstan the following Tuesday, August 22 (KO: tbc)
With almost an hour on the clock and the tie poised at 0-0 on aggregate, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers gambled on the fitness of striker Leigh Griffiths as the Bhoys tried to get that elusive goal, that would see the Hoops progress to the Champion League play-offs.
Introducing Leigh gave the team a focal point up front and let James Forrest move to a more natural wide position.
The substitution worked a treat. Almost instantly the Bhoys got a second wind and you could see a renewed confidence in many players.
And it didn’t take long for Celtic to reap the rewards. Only ten minutes after his introduction the Hoops went in front. Scott Sinclair dropped into the middle of the park to pick up a pass from Jozo, he turned and ran at the home defence before feeding the ball wide to Forrest.
After an initial poos touch, Jamesy got the ball under control and fire it high into the Rosenberg net to make it 1-0 to Celtic. It was a goal worthy of winning any game.
Jamesy could have had a second minutes later after great work from Leigh. His pass inside was missed by Tom Rogic but Forrest latched onto the loose ball. sprinting through on the Rosenberg goal. However he took the ball too close to the keeper allowing the stopper to save.
Before the game we’d all settle for any result that would have put us through, especially after last weeks poor performance at Celtic Park. But when you consider Erik lasted only 24 minutes, before being replaced by the excellent Nor Bitton, Celtic never really looked in much danger.
In fact Craig Gordon had more to do last week than last night.
Let’s hope we get a favourable draw on Friday in the play-offs, then see what the group stages brings….
After the last week it’s great to have something positive going on and off the park.
Brendan, like the rest of us will be delighted to have striker Leigh Griffiths and defender Erik Sviatchenko, available for tonight’s crucial Champions League qualifier in Norway.
Although not match fit, both will add a bit of stability and give the team a more recognisable look as we aim to knock Rosenberg out of Europe’s Premier tournament.
The Bhoys seem to be in good spirits, though Leigh had to put up with a despicable taunt of ‘Paedo’ as he was signing autographs at Glasgow Airport yesterday. But in true Griffiths fashion, he put the moron in his place by reminding him his club no longer exists. Now ‘beat it’. Well done Leigh.
All we need now is for Celtic to put in the kind of performance we know they’re capable of. Fingers crossed.
Off the park there was also some much anticipated good news.
Paul Brennan of Celtic Quick News announced on his blog this morning that moves are afoot for a Judicial Review of the LNS Commission, so much so the funding for the appropriate legal counsel has been secured, as has the services of the legal team.
As Paul points out, this Review is for the benefit of football fans from every team, except one.
And despite what the media say, there is an appetite from fans of other clubs to proceed. The notion that this is purely a Celtic only instigated process is a myth. One of many the media and authorities like to spin.
Paul also points out there is no need for crowdfunding at this moment in time, though it may be necessary at a later date. What is required now though, is patience.
We’ve come this far, and I know it’s frustrating, but a Judicial Review was always going to be a possibility. The likelihood of the SPL(SPFL)/SFA admitting wrongdoing was always a non-starter.
Let’s let the legal people do their stuff..
*From what I believe, Celtic are heavily involved in the process, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.
Before I even begin this article I must make clear this is not a ‘whatboutery’ piece. This is solely about human decency.
I think we’ve all seen the video footage circulating showing so called Celtic fans singing about the murdered soldier Lee Rigby. I say so called for a reason.
Celtic travelled to Sunderland on Saturday to celebrate the Black Cats’ 20th anniversary of their home ground, the Stadium of Light. Prior to the game there was a lot of inflammatory messages on social media from a known trouble maker Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) of the EDL.
He was in Sunderland supposedly signing books. His goading of the Celtic support warranted Police intervention, therefore prevention being better than cure, Unless the local constabulary, who I found very helpful all day, thought it best to know where him and his cronies would be.
As predicted trouble ensued with some Celtic fans going to his shop to cause bother. In the course of the fighting one the Celtic support was seriously assaulted by a baseball bat, and was taken to hospital in a hell of a mess.
There were other pockets of trouble in and around Sunderland, I myself was told to F’ck off, just for walking into the same bar after the game where we were drinking before it.
I wasn’t looking for trouble, I’m 55 for Gods sake, but I did have Celtic colours on. However, that didn’t matter to those looking for bother.
Over the last few weeks our support has come under an enormous amount of scrutiny. From the Linfield match in Belfast, where our players where showered with missiles, and some of the home support tried to invade the park at the end, to ‘bannergate’ in the return leg at Celtic Park.
Truth be told, there is an element in our support who just don’t know when to stop. They can’t be told, And won’t be told. They know best.
Glorifying someones death isn’t normal. Singing about Lee Rigby isn’t normal. Nor is signing about Tommy Burns, Scott Brown’s sister or the Lisbon Lions, among other things.
Taunting by means of point scoring on child abuse isn’t normal either.
Being a Celtic supporter is as much about being a decent human being as it is anything else. The principles and ethos of the club were set in stone 130 years ago, to help.
When we pull on a Celtic top of any kind, we represent the club and all its stands for. Let’s get back to putting Celtic first, doing the right thing and above all just be normal.
The cover-up over the Biggest Cheating Scandal in British Sporting history is well and truly underway.
With the football authorities, the SFA, SPFL, and the SMSM all singing from the same hymn sheet about moving one, it appears only the fans can make anyone sit up and take notice.
Most clubs, including Celtic, seem to be sleepwalking their way into a disaster as fans are becoming more and more disillusioned with a game that is quite blatantly rigged. And I’m not talking about another home cup draw for the Ibrox side.
While the clubs remain inactive, making the sponsors sit up and take notice could be a way to bring to attention of the people who put money into the game. They obviously invest money in our game to get a return, so if the fans, and I;m not just talking Celtic fans here, were to boycott the competition’s they sponsor, then they might think again about their involvement.
Now I know boycotting anything that concerns Celtic is a highly emotive issue, but there seems to be little movement from our Board to address the systematic cheating that corrupted our game.
And the only way to make anyone take notice is by hitting them in the pocket.
With the news that Andrew Dickson, one of the architects of the side letter scam, is returning to the SFA, shows the game in Scotland doesn’t want to move forward. Those who run the show are happy to sweep the cheating years under the carpet.
Well maybe it’s time the fans voted with their feet, starting with next week’s BetFred Cup games. And in our case, the game against Kilmarnock.
Celtic visited Sunderland yesterday afternoon to celebrate 20 years of the home clubs ground, the Stadium of Light.
As both clubs have the same shirt sponsor Dafabet, the bookmakers thought it a good idea to play for a trophy at the same time, appropriately called The Dafabet Trophy!
The match gave Brendan Rodgers a chance to give some players more game time, in order to get our fitness up to speed for Wednesday’s all important Champions League qualifier in Trondheim.
Doris De Vries started in goal, capping a fine performance with a first half penalty save, and rebound from James Vaughan. But he wasn’t the only one to shine as the Hoops gave as much entertainment on the park as the 9,000 fans did off it.
Callum McGregor was exceptional as he helped himself to a hat-trick, young Kristoffer Ajer was composed at the back, while Kouassi Eboue patrolled the midfield like a veteran. And James Forrest, the main culprit in last Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Rosenberg, put in a good shift through the middle.
Although the day was meant to be a celebration for the Black Cats, Celtic were in no mood to just play a supporting role.
Further goals from Jonny Hayes, and Stuart Armstrong rounded the scoring off for the Bhoys, as the Stadium of Light was lit up by some slick football from a hungry Hoops team.
Unfortunately for the home side, the lights went out a long time before the end of the game. For them, it looks being a long season ahead, while we have bigger fish to fry, starting this week.
The stage managed circus that’s surrounding the SPFL’s resistance to apply their own rules fairly and squarely, is almost certainly going to end up with a Judicial Review, and that is exactly what the Scottish football authorities are running scared of.
Their handling of the way Rangers (IL) cheated their way through the DOS payments, then continued through the EBT’s years will be brought into question, with damning evidence to prove they not only turned a blind eye to the cheating, they in effect colluded with the Ibrox club.
In their attempt to stave off an inquiry, former Rangers season ticket holder and SPFL chairman, Ralph Topping told us there would be no going back, and after seeking legal advice, basically that was it over. Time to move on.
Enlisting the support of a few key clubs, with Stewart Milne of Aberdeen the most vocal, Topping & Co sought to use the use of EBT’s as a forerunner for any punishment of the old club. It was a squirrel, and the people who really know the ins and outs of the scam saw through it a mile off.
This is, and always was, about their governance of our game and how they failed every supporter outside of the Ibrox club, by not applying their own rules. I’m sure Livingston and Spartans will concur.
As each day goes by, the football authorities, almost unwittingly, are providing the grounds for a Judicial Review with each lie they print or speak.
Their denial of knowledge about Rangers (IL) predicament is only one lie that’s been exposed by the blog RangersTaxCase this afternoon. Many more will follow, as they seek to distance themselves from the Biggest Scandal In British Sporting history.
The repercussions of their involvement should see those responsible behind bars.
And if they think the laws of football governance are above the law of the land, they are very much mistaken. As Fergus McCann proved in 1996, when confronted by a, lets say, less than honest SFA Chief Executive Jim Farry, who withheld Jorge Cadete’s registration.
Farry paid the price with his job. Doncaster, Regan & co better watch out. Only this time it’s not Fergus that’s after you, it’s the fans of every Scottish football club….
*Who knows, maybe Topping will be punished retrospectively?
At the start of last years European campaign, the then new manager Brendan Rodgers asked the Celtic support to be patient and stay with the team, especially at home where we have a lot of the ball.
He pointed out, teams in Europe will come to Celtic Park and sit in, sometimes putting all ten men behind the ball, hoping to hit us on the break. He later found out some Scottish teams do the same!
In last nights match against Rosenberg, we saw exactly what Brendan was talking about. The Norwegians were well drilled, disciplined and a real threat on the counter attack.
They were also fitter, which is to be expected as they are 17 or so games into their league campaign, whereas Celtic were playing only our THIRD competitive game of the new season.
Celtic did have a lot of the ball but without a recognised striker on the pitch it was always going to be hard to break the visitors down. Now I know we played games last season without a striker, but those games were much further into the season, when everyone is up to speed.
And I must say sections of the support didn’t really help much.
It may have been because the drums of the Green Brigade were missing that you could hear more, but every misplaced pass, lost tackle or wayward shot, was met with moans and groans of derision, making the Rosenberg job a lot easier.
After the game, quite a few on social media had appeared to chuck the tie on last nights performance. Hardly the response I’d expect after such a wonderful season. Or maybe the moaners and groaners only want to go when we’re winning.
If that’s the case maybe they’d be better watching from afar. Because the team need us behind them, in every game, win, lose or draw.
Brendan Rodgers is in his second season as Celtic manager. His first was so successful, it’s hard to put into words how we can possible equal never mind emulate it.
With a team that went through a full season unbeaten domestically, the first time the Bhoys falter will present the SMSM with an opportunity to ‘get stuck in’ into the manager and the club. Almost certainly with ‘Armageddon type’ failure headlines they reserve only for Celtic.
That has yet to come.
However, last week, the Green Brigade presented the SMSM with an open goal but putting an image of Brendan on a ‘controversial banner’ akin to those seen in the North of Ireland. One that would be familiar to anyone who resides or visits there.
As expected, the SMSM were all over it like a rash. And to be honest, Brendan was none too pleased himself with the connotations of putting his image on such a banner. It was a step too far.
Brendan Rodgers is a football man. He doesn’t have time to answer questions on banners, Pyro or anything else that deflects from the team on the park. That was a large part of last season’s success, our togetherness.
Tonight, Celtic play host to Norwegian outfit and old foes, Rosenberg in a Champions League qualifier at Celtic Park. The manager has number of injuries to contend with, not least in the striking department. But Brendan being the first class manger that he is, doesn’t show too much concern.
He accepts it’s his job to find a way through the Rosenberg defence with the players at his disposal.
And it’s our job to give him all the support we can to do the job.
He’s a football man, first and foremost, let him get on with the job…