A Good Few Days

Two wins in three days is just what we all wanted and Neil and his players are due our thanks. Oh! There will be those who are critical of the side’s play – there always are – but at any stage of a season, results are what matter and these two recent performances keep the status quo in the league and improve our position in the Europa League table.

Now, unfortunately, we have an international break, a situation which must be galling to many managers. It does allow for the injured to re-gain some fitness but for a club in Celtic’s position, some way behind our major rivals in the league, it causes an un-wanted break to the team’s rhythm and one can never be sure about the condition of those players on international duty when they return to the club.

Let’s hope our players all do well and keep fit, as it will not be easy in Inverness when we travel up there for our next league fixture on the 19th of the month.

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The two Edinburgh sides are under pressure at the moment. Hearts have a supposed debt of around the £30 million pound mark and from the occasional statements – and accusations – put out by their Lithuanian owner, he wants to make extensive savings. That invariably means that the biggest earners at the club will be sold, presumably in the January transfer window, at prices that only English clubs in the Premiership or the Championship – or some bigger foreign clubs – could afford.

A problem there is that these clubs are not in the business of providing charity for a selling club. If they know that these players have to be sold to bring down the club’s debts, then they will play hardball and make an offer well below the asking price. If the owner accepts the price, well and good; if he says ‘no’, then he is stuck with that player, one he really does not want, until the next transfer window in the summer. It could be an interesting January down the Gorgie Road.

NB  The following words in italics were written around 3pm on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, things changed after that and I have added an extra piece at the end

Hibs are not in good shape either, either financially or on the field of play. It is fairly clear that the manager, Colin Calderwood, has not caught the affection of the fans as their results have been indifferent. Three wins in 14 matches is very disappointing and their Board of Directors must be having serious doubts about their choice. An attendance of 9,531 for the home game against Dunfermline will have done little to assuage the Board’s concerns. I just wonder how long it will be before they act decisively.

Well, they did and can hardly be blamed for the decision. Whether he was the right choice in the first place is a matter for the Board to re-consider. Now, they will be hoping to get the right man in as quickly as possible; might there be a way back for John ‘Yogi’ Hughes?

Some of you may be wondering why these matters are being aired in an article ostensibly about Celtic? Well, our club does not exist in a vacuum. It is important that we have strong competition to cope with at domestic level; otherwise, when we are involved in the European scene, we have problems raising  our  game to  match the higher quality of opposition. It is much better for our players to meet good sides as much as possible in our domestic environment, hence the worries that two of our supposed Scottish sides are struggling.

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Finally, this has been a good week for one of my favourite pastimes, reading what players are talking about to journalists. This scene has changed a lot since I wore the Hoops. There were far fewer features on players written in those days and besides that, Jock Stein was not all that fussy about his squad talking to the press in the first place!

First up this week was the ‘what a good job the manager is doing’ column. A player tells us how great everything is within the club and how the man in charge is the best he has ever had. You know the idea. This week, unfortunately, the player was under twenty! How many managers has he had at that age? Incidentally, this scenario shows how much has changed in football since the 1970s. If I had been involved in a written piece about how good a job Jock Stein was doing, I would have been reluctant to show my face in the dressing-room. I could just imagine the stick I would have received!

Secondly, we have those wonderful moments when a player who has had a poor game or made a bloomer of some sort tells us what he is going to do to the opposition the next time we play them. Frankly, they might be better keeping out of the limelight for a few days.

Thirdly, there is the ‘I am ready and willing to sign a new contract’ story. This invariably involves a player whom the fans are not convinced is worth his place in the side. Thank goodness, though, in spite of the fans obvious suspicions, the star is brazen enough to push for a longer tenure at the club; it gives us all something to laugh about!

And lastly, there are those features where one of the stars informs us the true qualities of some of his team-mates. Just in case any of you have never realised this, we seem to be able to watch a Beckenbaur, a Platini, a Pele, a Maradona and a van Basten on a regular basis. What have we got to complain about?

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