As Celtic host Hamilton Accies tonight at Celtic Park, in their quest to achieve a sixty-ninth domestic match unbeaten, the desperation from the SMSM, and many punters, for OUR record to end is palpable.
The game will be the InVIncibles thirty-fifth match on Scottish soli this season, almost a third more than any other club in the country.
Add to the fact twelve of those games were played in European competition, always tougher games, including a trip to Kazakhstan, the far travelled Bhoys have coped really well with what’s been thrown at them, sometimes literally!
Of course living up to the fantastic standard set by the players of last season was always going to be difficult, that’s why it was so special, but who at the begining of this campaign would have thought we’d still be unbeaten a fortnight before Christmas?
Every season has it’s own unique challenges. Injuries, suspensions, loss of form, are all contributing factors in how any season pans out. It’s how you cope with all those things that will determine the level of success you have.
This season we don’t seem to be seeing games out, losing goals we might not last season. I think it’s fair to say, we are also missing more chances, so the loss of more points is as much down to the forward as the defence. We win as a team, and lose, although not in Scotland, as a team!
Should Brendan Roagers’ Bhoys return to winning ways tonight, I think you’ll see us go on to take full points between now and the end of the year. That won’t shut the critics up, nothing ever will….
So, it’s 68 games not out. Quite an achievement, and one that was under threat late on in today’s game at a freezing Easter Road when the Bhoys shipped two goals in three minutes allowing Hibs to draw level.
The home side even had a gilt edged chance to go ahead with only minutes to go after Craig Gordon spilled a long ball into his box. Luckily for him and us, Mika Lustig was covering and cleared the ball off the line.
Even then, the game could have still gone our way, with Dedryck Boyata missing a point blank header, then two goal Scott Sinclair blasting wide with the last kick of the ball.
But it could have been all so different if Celtic, once again, took their chances.
Celtic could quite easily have had an early penalty when Callum McGregor was taken before the ball by Hibs defencer Lewis Stevenson. Although there wasn’t much of a shout at the time, the replays show Stevenson getting Callum before the ball. Then midway through the half James Forrest missed a golden chance when he intercepted a stray Hibs pass, only to slip the ball past the post.
With Celtic controlling most of the game, thanks to Broonie and Olly, another great move almost brought the opener just before half-time. Mika Lustig shooting wide after a great move by the Bhoys.
It didn’t take the InVIncibles long to open their account in the second period. As the clock reached the hour mark, Scott Sinclair pounced on Odsonne Edouard’s shot as it came off the post. The goal gave the current Player of themYear a real lift, and four minutes later the Bhoy hit a second after the ball defelected off a Hibs player on it’s way into the net.
Credit has to go both Dedryck Boyata and Callum McGregor for their part in teh second goal, a great pass by the former and a fantastic run by the latter.
At 2-0 up, the game for Celtic should have been in the bag. In fact, when Scotty had what would have been his third chopped off for offside, the game was still in our control. However, we went to sleep at the back and lost two daft goals in the space of three minutes to hand the home side a share of the points.
A share they hardly deserved but were happy to accept. If only we took our chances…
Celtic got their hands on another Treble last night at the Scottish Sports Awards, when manager Brendan Rodgers, captain Scott Brown and striker Leigh Griffiths were all recipents of these prestigous awards.
Brendan was named Manager of the Year for leading Celtic to an incredible undefeated Treble winning Invincible season. Captain Scott Brown received the Team of the Year award on behalf of his team mates, in recognition of our outstanding achievements last season.
And Leigh Griffiths was awarded ‘Inspirational Performance of the Year‘ for his two wonderful free-kicks for Scotland against England at Hampden in the World Cup qualifier in June.
All three were obviously delighted to be recgonised for the work they do in their chosen profession, football.
Meanwhile, across the city, new club Sevco will no doubt be looking for a special award of their own, following their six week Red October hunt for Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes!
With the help of the SMSM, and almost every breaking ex-player and manager of the old club, the pursuit of Del Boy was relentless. Although making it official only came about this week, when the compensation money was in place. Being skint isn’t funny.
As every hack and pundit, with very few if any exceptions, heralded the proposed new Messiah at Ibrokes, McInnes decided he’s better off in the cold North East, than the cesspit of Glasgow’s Southside.
And while the weathermen and women, were warning the people of Scotland to brace themselves for the snow and ice of Storm Caroline, there was in fact increased chances flodding, as Scottish football fans all over the country pissed themselves laughing at the comedy act calling itself Rangers.
I’m sure Mr Custard will be proud of them….
Football is an emotional game, we all know that. And emotions can run high at times, particularly after your team loses, and more so if they’ve performed poorly in a game they’re expected to win!
That’s where perspective comes in to play.
Like every other Celtic fan, I was hugely disappointed with the way the Bhoys played against Anderlecht in our final group match of the Champions League on Tuesday night at Celtic Park.
Losing 1-0 to a Jozo Simunovic own goal was bad enough, but the Hoops just didn’t look like a team capable of drawing or winning the game. Several players were well below par, I’m not going to start naming them, that for me is pointless.
Players do have off days, and if we cast our minds back just a few weeks, the same players getting slaughtered these past two days are the one that played so well against Bayern Munich. That performance was the standard we, the fans, manager and players want to see in every game.
And in some way, that may have contributed to the level of disappointment on Tuesday evening. Knowing we can play at that higher level.
Or maybe the four games in nine days, including a Cup Final and an opponent who would rather kick you than play football, played a part? Who knows?
Anyway, as the disappointment subsides, we should look at the positives of our Champions League campaign. Our aim at the start of July was to qualify for the group stages. We did that. Fate dealt us another blow though, as we were put into pot four for the group draw. We had hope to get into pot three.
The draw itself landed us in with mega-money PSG and German giants, Bayern Munich, two teams with aspirations of winning the cup with the big ears. Any hopes we might have of staying in Europe would depend on who came out of pot three.
Belgian champions Anderlecht were to come out as our third opponents in our group. They were to be the target for our Europa League place. That wouldn’t be as easy as many thought, the team from Brussels only lost out to an extra-time goal in last season’s Europa league quarter final, to eventual winners Manchester United.
Despite the media view, they were no mugs, with a good recent European pedigree.
Now we all know how the group panned out, two heavy defeats home and away to PSG, a loss in Munich and narrow defeat in Glasgow to Bayern, and a win in Belgium by 3-0 followed by Tuesday’s 1-0 loss.
Three points from out six games was enough to put us into Monday’s draw for the Europa League last 32, and European football after the New Year.
That was our aim when the draw was made. And we achieved it.
And contrary to the misinformed English media, we didn’t qualify with the least points, Borussia Dortmund only reached two points, and our defeat in Paris wasn’t the worst of the Champions League campaign, Liverpool twice scored seven, against Maribor and Spartak Moscow.
Once again their ignorance knows no bounds.
Last but not least, Celtic have played twelve matches in this season’s Champions League. We were the only team to come through the champions route to actually record a win. That 3-0 in Brussels was a lot more significant than most of us thought…
When Celtic take on Belgian side RSC Anderlecht tonight in our final Champions League match of this season, the sole aim for Brendan Rodgers’ team is to do enough to have the club playing in the Europa League in the New Year.
Now I’m not saying he’ll send out a team to do anything other than win, he’s already said he sets his Celtic team as out to play the Celtic way, but the bigger picture is to be in the next Europa League draw.
The Bhoys have a fairly comfortable cushion after demolishing the Belgians in the first encounter in Brussels, 3-0, in what was a fantastic European performance.
That scoreline means Anderlecht come to Paradise tonight having to score four goals without reply to knock the Hoops out of Europe altogether.
Nothing is impossible, especially in football, but the chances of Celtic totally collapsing are remote.
With Moussa Dembele fit, Edouard banging in the goals, and Leigh Griffiths doing what leigh Griffiths does best, Celtic will be going all out to get the tie over and done with as soon as they can.
And let’s not forget, when the draw was made, Celtic were in Pot 4, so were weren’t expected to progress. That itself, would be an achievement given the comparable resources and stature of the other teams in our group.
Bring it on….
If anyone ever had any doubt about the credentials of Brendan Rodgers as the leader of our club, then the gaffer yesterday answered those doubters with a proper statement.
Not a statement manufactured by a bitter PR man or a seething club official.
No, this was a statement from a manager defending his club, his players and his fellow supporters in response to the ludicrous mud slinging from both the SMSM and Motherwell this last week.
I’ve posted it below, read it and you’ll see the honesty and professional integrity of our leader. Brendan Rodgers.
“This week, there was a debate about the honesty and professionalism of the Celtic players, and questions asked about the supporters. This is not a debate. These are players who have got to this level of 67 games unbeaten because of their professionalism and their honesty. in how they work and how they devote their life to their profession and. along with the supporters, they have been absolutely brilliant.
“I understand Motherwell were probably hurt after the game on Sunday and that probably spills into Wednesday, but some of the nonsense that came out of there this week was absolutely incredible. I just want to make the point on behalf of the players and the supporters of this club, and the humility they have shown.
“After the game on Wednesday, we have a chief executive of Motherwell, a guy in senior authority, walking around with a laptop trying to show and demonstrate to the media that it wasn’t a penalty.
“He was also in the media room, trying to show members of the media that it wasn’t a penalty and then tweets later on that evening, talking about retaining class and dignity. That’s not behaviour that defines and fits that.
“For us, Motherwell have been three really good games. I have nothing with the manager as Stevie is a great guy and done brilliantly with his team. and all the games were competitive in different ways. But for senior members of the club to do that, I find very disappointing.
“Three good games, three tough games and I respect the emotions of them, but we have done our talking on the football field, and that’s where it should take place.
“Nothing should be written against our supporters and players about honesty. These guys have this record because of their honesty, because of how hard they work, because they never have a lazy day, because every time they play home and away, they are up for every game and not doing daft or lazy things. Their professionalism has been exemplary.
“The two officials involved have been questioned. Craig Thomson, he was there – OK, it was a bit soft but it was a foul. On Wednesday night, it was a bit soft but the motion of the player, he puts his hands on the player, and Willie Collum was there, so there is support for the two officials as well as they have got hammered for giving penalties – they were soft penalties, but they were penalties. It’s done, three games are done and we move on.”