When Brendan Rodgers was unveiled to the Faithful at Celtic Park last June, he told us of his immediate aim to continue Celtic’s domination of domestic football.
Thus far, with the League Cup, the clubs 100th trophy, safely in the boardroom, and the team on an unbeaten run of 31 domestic games to boot, giving the Hoops a massive 24 point lead over nearest rivals Aberdeen, Brendan and the Bhoys are certainly doing their stuff on the park.
And the possibility of going through the full season unbeaten and securing a first season treble is very real.
So it’s hard to think how things could get any better, yet the club show once again, that ambition in the boardroom is also in abundance with yesterday’s announcement of a proposed hotel, museum and new superstore.
It may well take a few years to complete, but once the project comes to fruition, the iconic Celtic Park and the surrounding area will be once more the premier venue in Scotland.
A place fit for Champions League football with the home side an established Champions League team.
Sounds like it’s all part of a Masterplan…
There was an quite remarkable stat from Saturday’s 2-0 league win over Motherwell at Celtic Park. The visitors were the last side on league duty to take three points away from Paradise, just days before Christmas 2015, 19th of December to be exact. And on Saturday, Celtic played with the same back four!
On the day, ‘Well forwards Scott McDonald and Louis Moult bullied the Celtic defence, in particular the middle pairing of Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic. At the time the fans were still in doubt over the Belgian internationals ability and Jozo, for the first time really laboured during a match.
It was after this game the true extent of Jozo’s injury became clear.
Fast forward to Saturday, a full 14 months on and things have changed considerably.
Not only do Celtic have a new man in charge, Brendan Rodgers, but the same two players are now playing with a confidence that winning and playing to your potential brings. Boyata’s journey to becoming a first team regular is stuff of fairytale after injury and loss of form found him well outside the squad for several months.
He has, with the help of the manager, and some dedication, resurrected his career at Celtic Park, so much so the fans now have a song about him!
His form of late has almost made him an automatic pick for the boss. Who’d have thought that 14 months ago?
Before yesterday’s game I wrote a piece asking if we were going to get the now customary clobbering from teams coming to Celtic Park, and to be fair to Motherwell, for most of the game they were competitive but not dirty.
That was until the 65th minute when ‘Well substitute Ryan Bowman committed what was tantamount to an assault on our left back Kieran Tierney.
As Kieran collects the ball on the touchline, he’s basically taken out by an over the top tackle that could quite easily have had far more serious consequences than the gash Tierney received. Should the Bhoy have his foot planted on the ground then we’re looking at a potential leg breaker.
Everyone in Celtic Park could see the severity of the challenge, except referee Don Robertson. Keeping with the inconsistencies shown by his colleagues in recent months, the whistler failed to punish the assailant properly and only administered a yellow card. (there’s a link to the challenge below)
With almost a licence to kick us, opponents are taking full advantage knowing they won’t be sent packing no matter the offence. But there’s another side to that policy.
At some point one of our players are going to be subject to a career threatening injury. We’ve already witnessed Tom Rogic missing most of the season courtesy of a reckless lunge by former Celt Darren O’Dea. And only last week, Scott Sinclair was a very lucky Bhoy not to have been badly injured by ICT’s Ian Vigurs, who’s two footed tackle should have been a straight red card.
Turning a blind eye isn’t an option any longer, it’s time the officials took action.
The Celtic slump continues as the Hoops move on to an amazing 31 domestic games without defeat. Yesterday’s 2-0 win over Motherwell means the Bhoys have only dropped two league points with 73 out of a possible 75 points. This tally includes visits to nearest rivals Aberdeen, Sevco, Hearts and St Johnstone, twice, scoring fourteen goals for the loss of six, whiles collecting a full fifteen points.
Yet it was only a few weeks ago the SMSM were accusing Brendan Rodgers’ side of going through a slump, as we were winning games by the odd goal.
Instead of praising the Bhoys for keeping the unbeaten run going through difficult games, the hacks thought a negative approach was the way to go. As if we should be surprised. Great teams find a way to win while not playing at their best, that’s exactly what the Hoops did.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what they say. Celtic are on course to go through the season with a record number of points and possibly a domestic Treble to celebrate. All in the managers first season in charge!
I’m sure the support will be quite happy with our current slump, as long as the slump keeps our fantastic record intact..
When Fergus McCann appointed the curly haired Dutchman Wim Jansen as Celtic manager in July 1997, many fans were asking ‘who?‘ as they were under the impression former Portugal manager Artur Jorge was to become the gaffer.
This claim was made by the hacks, Hugh Keevins in particular, so when they got it spectacularly wrong they immediately went on the offensive. The headline the the Daily Record ‘The Worst Thing To Hit Hiroshima Since The Atom Bomb’ in reference to his previous job in Japan was typically in bad taste and unfortunately something we’ve come to expect from the gutter press in this country.
None of the so called footballing journalists had recalled Wim as a player who’d featured in the Feyenoord side that beat Celtic in the 1970 European Cup Final, or the Dutch international who played in TWO World Cup Finals, 1974/78.
His footballing pedigree was there for all to see.
Wim was basically brought in to stop the then Rangers winning ten-in-a-row. His first port of call was to old club Feyenoord to lure Swedish international Henrik Larsson to Celtic Park. Little did we know then how much an impact the dreadlocked Henrik would make in Celtic’s history.
But things didn’t start too well on the park for Wim. Two defeats in our first two league games, away to Hibs at Easter Road, and home to Dunfermline, both by a 2-1 scoreline left the Hoops second bottom of the league.
Gradually, as more players came in, most notably Paul Lambert from Borussia Dortmund, the team began to settle to become a good side. A League Cup win, 3-0 over Dundee United at Castle Greyskull showed everyone the Bhoys had a winning mentality.
That was confirmed when goals from Craig Burley and Paul Lambert helped Celtic defeat Rangers 2-0 at Celtic Park in the New Year game showing we meant business in the title challenge.
As it was, we had to wait until the last day of the season to win our first league title in ten years, with 2-0 victory in Paradise courtesy of Henrik and Harold Brattbakk. The scenes that day will live in the memory for a long, long time…
Today, Wim Jansen will be at Celtic Park, let’s all give him a great big welcome back, his place in history is secure!
Unbelievably, our visitors Motherwell were the last team to take full points from Celtic at Paradise. The game played on 19th December 2015, saw The Steelmen run out 2-1 winners with a double from Louis Moult, in a game where Celtic were lucky to get away with just a single goal defeat.
In fairness the Hoops had top scorer Leigh Griffiths missing and despite having more attempts, were toothless in front of goal. Club captain Scott Brown was also missing with injury.
Much has changed since that game, but believe it or not, Brendan Rodgers could line up with the same defence that were ran ragged and bullied by the combination of Moult and Scott McDonald.
Craig Gordon was in goal with Mikael Lustig and Kieran Tierney at full backs. We can pretty much expect the same today. In the centre of defence was big Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata. Both were shocking that day, in fact Jozo was sent for an operation on his knee soon after.
But it’s the difference in Boyata that’s caught the eye.
The Belgian spent a long time on the sidelines in-between and has had to overcome injury and the prospect of leaving the club, to become a regular in the team. His attitude on and off the park has been commented on by Brendan Rodgers, who told him exactly what was required to establish himself as a Celtic first team player.
Dedryck has responded magnificently to become a mainstay in our defence.
At the other end of the park we no longer depend on one player to get us goals. Hit man Mousa Dembele has already scored 26 goals this season and Scott Sinclair is ripping up defences for fun.
One thing is sure, the Lanarkshire side will be quite happy to ‘mix it’, so it would make a nice change to have a whistler who will protect our players.
Can’t see a repeat of that day, the Bhoys have put 14 goals by Motherwell since that game, winning 7-0, 5-0 and 2-0.
Forecast: Celtic 3 Motherwell 0.