The month for reflection…..and preparation!

So the season is over, the summer is here, and the speculation can start.

June is that month of the year when all things Celtic slow down and every second year we get a distraction of a World Cup or European Championships to break the humdrum and boredom that cricket, tennis and gardening brings!

We can dwell on the previous season’s fruitions and successes, and debate where we should be going in the season ahead, which players should go, which players should stay and look forward to getting back the fix that following Celtic brings.

Season 2011/2012 can be looked back as one whereby we achieved the ultimate goal that was set in July 2011 – that of the SPL title. The Cups went astray but for the next month or so we can sit down and watch from afar the trials and dramatization that unfolds across the water afflicting our dearest neighbours. Regardless of what happens there, we cannot and should not fall into the belief that we can rest easy and fail to build on what was achieved last season; with the real test now being how we can retain the title whilst improving and competing in all competitions entered.

The knockers will point to the disarray that befell the Ibrox club in the latter stages of the season, but I point to the fact that we were well adrift of the summit of the SPL in late October but sat proudly top of the rest before the end of January, and more importantly before the real problems surfaced at Ibrox. They may well have been hindered with the internal strife but we were a team on fire and there is no doubt we were not going to be prevented from winning the title. We won it in the end by 20points, 10 if you donate them the 10points they had been docked, but we won it and that’s what counts. We did not play the disarray card in the 90’s when our club was on its knees, and now we deserve the credit our title deserves.

What we must ensure going forward is that we focus on our own club, and ensure what we do what is in the best interests of our club and fans, and not allow what happens elsewhere to affect our own actions. Wherever our plans lie in terms of long term longevity and fruition as a club is a matter for the powers that be in Celtic Park, but we need to set out clear objectives ahead of the return to action in July and for season 2012/13. We must retain the SPL title as a priority but hopefully start to compete in Europe against all opposition. We need to improve the team and enhance those areas of the playing panel that struggled at times last season and by addressing these problems then our ability to make progress in Europe will improve. We have a budget to work to, and I hope that this budget is not based on what happens over the other side of Glasgow – get our own house in order and worry not a jot about anyone else.

Now the job at hand for achieving the goals is all down to Mr Lennon and his management team, along with Mr Lawell and Co. on the board…..but if they are looking some free advice on adding some squad players then I can gladly nominate that I do believe the likes of Afellay, Ozil, Van Persie, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Ronaldo (if he knocks the diving on the head) may be good additions to our set up – granted they need to realize it may be the bench at Celtic Park, but isn’t the bench at Celtic Park better than the starting 11 at Madrid?

FrankieBhoy

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The Weather’s On The Up – Jelly & Ice Cream Time!

So we are into the Scottish Cup semi-final, are due to play in the Scottish League Cup final this Sunday and are in the pole position to wrap up the SPL league title within the next few weeks. A possible treble and a feat not completed since Martin O’Neill’s debut season of 2000-2001.

Given our precarious position at the end of October when Neil Lennon was almost at the point of no return as manager of Glasgow Celtic, we have seen a miraculous turnaround in fortunes and credit to the squad and players, greatly assisted by the wholehearted backing of the green and white legions of fans for putting us there.

But why is there not the credit and acclaim that the team deserve for being in this position, forthcoming from the media?

Possibly because we have nothing won as yet and until the trophy room is adorned with the three trophies then we cannot allow ourselves to get carried away. Our biggest rivals in recent times for the honours are out of both cup competitions and currently are fighting to stave off the dreaded inevitable axe falling on any remaining title aspirations, so does this mean we are shoe-ins on all 3 competition fronts? Any right minded Celtic fan will confirm that we take nothing for granted, but we are on the verge of a great achievement and the players need to realize that they simply have to complete the job they have started; and in so doing take their place in the history books of our great club.

Let’s not allow any mention of happenings across the city dilute our achievements this season – the papers are full of their dashing brigade of Blue Knights, riding gallantly across the Clyde, slaying all in their path en route to rescuing the great damsel in distress.

We were top of the league before this whole debacle kicked off at the end of January, and they were already out of the cup competitions by then, so let’s take no credit away from what we have achieved so far. Everyone has an opinion on what is happening at the ‘great’ institution that is Glasgow Rangers 1873 and why they stand facing the plight of liquidation; where the blame firmly lies; and what lies in store for the remaining SPL clubs as a result. My viewpoint is that they done wrong and they knowingly took risks that have come back to bite them on the posterior – no-one is at fault at Celtic Park, HMRC, or the SFA (as if!!!) for their wrongdoings. If I commit a crime or am involved in illegal wrongdoings then I know the chances I take and what the likely outcome will be if I get caught. I have no sympathy for the position they find themselves and am firmly of the belief that we cannot base our future existence and chances of prospering alongside the existence of Rangers. We simply must get our own house in order and take care of our own interests. Wherever our future as a club lies then so be it but we must and cannot allow us to be part of a marriage with a Rangers team that has been unlawful in its financial dealings for quite a while whilst we have played by the rules and lost titles and honours to a team not playing by the rules and regulations. This is the prime time to lose the Old Firm tag that often hinders our chances of sponsorship etc and we must now look at the bigger picture for Glasgow Celtic FC and not let what may or may not happen to Rangers be instrumental in our decisions.

I hope that in the remaining league encounters and cup games, we demonstrate just how good a team we can be and how worthy we are as champions and hopefully treble winners. Neil Lennon must ensure his players do what he did, and achieve all 3 domestic medals in the one season, whilst putting himself up there with Jock and Martin as managers to have achieved the treble. I also hope that the media ensure that our achievements this season (whatever way we finish the season) are met with the same level of praise and congratulations that has met Mssrs McLeish, Advocaat and Smith rather than failings and excuses from across the city……….but I won’t be holding my breath on that one!

Whatever Lenny achieves this season is remarkable and rewarding to all Celtic fans – not only have we stopped the dreaded 4 in a row but all from a position earlier this season when Lenny walked down the tunnel at half time at Rugby Park on 15th October 2011, trailing Kilmarnock by 3 goals to 0. Lenny admitted that at that moment he pondered his future as Celtic manager and his ability to turn things around.

Now before I start pouring myself a wee triple drink, I’ll have to finish off my jelly and ice cream; but Hampden on Sunday, Ibrox next Sunday, then home to St Johnstone on April’s Fool Day to maybe parade the first 2 domestic trophies of the season.

Hail Hail

Frankie Bhoy

The Great January Transfer Window

Well we are in the midst of the mid-season transfer window when clubs have the opportunity to re-assess and make changes to their squads that will hopefully improve or consolidate on their league standings to date; whilst also improving on their chances of glory or progression in any remaining cup competitions. 

Currently as I write, we sit top of the SPL table by 4 points, and remain in contention for both domestic cup competitions. We have also made additions to our playing panel this month with the addition of Swedish defender Lustig and Nigerian midfielder Ibrahim, whilst also actively seeking others to complement our current panel of players. January is a difficult month for transfer dealings as generally players on form are reluctantly released by their clubs, or teams that are pursuing honours do not wish to lose any of their squad, whether they be first team regulars or generally just squad players. No honours have yet been handed out hence why dealings in January can possibly either result in the dissolution of any trophy ambitions or propel the club on to glory. We all have our views as to the areas of the team that we feel needs addressed and are quite often opinionated as to whom is not pulling their weight for the cause, whom should be punted and dream of whom we should be replacing them with. But realistically there is not always the wealth of talent available in the January window. Many clubs and players prefer to move or do their dealings in the summer months, with January being a month largely favoured for loan deals. This is not to say that there is no talent out there in January. We have seen in the loan signings of both Craig Bellamy and Robbie Keane that players out of favour at other clubs, can use the opportunity to play regularly as a window for permanent moves elsewhere and can indeed bring vigour and excitement back to the club. Unfortunately for both aforementioned players we ended up without a league title come May, but there was no doubting that they were attempts which nearly reaped dividends in the pursuit of the SPL title. Another player who arrived in January 2011 and whom instantly settled into the team, scoring freely and cementing a starting spot was Kris Commons, however we must remember that other arrivals in January have not always delivered the expected success anticipated; none more so than Freddie Ljunberg. For whatever reason the move just did not work out and yet another title ended up going elsewhere. To win the league we need a squad that can cope with injuries, can offer various differing playing options when required, and show the mettle and determination to succeed when the crunch arrives during the title run-in. 

Whilst our nearest neighbours will have their own problems this January, we must not let this affect our own dealings. Get our own house in order and everything else will fall in place. We cannot let the fact that we are sitting 4 points clear of the competition to give us a sense of complacency. Remember it was only just over 2 months ago when we faced falling possibly 15points behind in the title race so a lot can change in a small space of time. We must strive to retain key players of our squad – bids have been received for Gary Hooper and young James Forrest continues to be courted by English Premiership teams. The board must also show faith in Neil and allow investment where Neil feels is needed. It was only a few years ago that we failed to properly address our problems and signed only Willo Flood in a January window, and the result was that the title drifted across town as we stumbled through the title run in struggling for form and goals. Lessons have surely been learnt and the hunger and determination to yield a first title in 4 seasons must drive us on to ensure our league position does not change come May. 

So Mr Lawell, let’s start with a bid for Messi to improve our attacking options, and a loan deal for Nesta to give our defence some help until Fojut arrives. The rest should suffice and I look forward to doing the hokey cokey up London Road as part of our title celebrations in May! 

Hail Hail

FrankieBhoy

Player Ratings v Dunfermline Jan 2nd 2012

Forster 7
Not a lot to do

Matthews 7
Steady performance, mostly untroubled.

Rogne 6
Least convincing of the back four, but again hardly tested.

Mulgrew 8
Involved in all 3 goals and defended well when asked

Forrest 7
Always causes a threat with his pace, even when having a quiet game he is still a stick on 7

Brown 7
Some driving runs and nice interchanges with forwards, though would like to see a bit more from him

Wanyama 7
Another pretty flawless display, nice to see him score and unlucky with a really good volley

Samaras 6
Pushed wide for the most of the game, got some rough treatment but wasn’t his day.

Hooper 6
He didn’t really get going yesterday.

Stokes 7
Nice return to the team, superb finish set us on our way

Subs
Iza, Lennon is so right, his wee cameo shows us how much drive and penetration he gives the side, I suspect we can play a narrower MFr now he is back
Cha, Ki both did ok.

Sweensters Match Ratings v Rangers Dec 28th 2011

Forster 7
Plucked the ball “off” the line in superb fashion, little else to do against a much vaunted Rangers strike force.

Matthews 7
Excellent return to the team, I was relieved to see him start ahead of Cha.

Rogne 9
A Colossus at the back, every header was a clearance with distance, bossed Jelavic and Lafferty

Mulgrew 8
Fantastic performance from Charlie, looked great at Centre Back with Rogne, great delivery for the goal.

Ledley 7
Kept Aluko quiet all night, took his goal well.

Brown 6
I thought he had a quiet night, nullified any threat down the Rangers left.

Kayal 9
Wonderful performance, took the game by the scruff of the neck and was the platform for Celtic’s dominance.

Wanyama 8
Davis didn’t get a sniff, nice passes when on the ball, looks a real player. Was quick to get in and let the Rangers players know about it in any minor skirmishes.

Forrest 7
Had the beating of Broadfoot all night long.

Samaras 7
Difficult for the big fella to get going in the windy conditions, won a lot of balls in the air and ran Rangers down all night, gave us out ball going long or down the flanks.

Hooper 6
Not the conditions he was ever likely to relish, stuck with it and tried to get some interchanges going with Samaras, would’ve like a wee bit more chasing down at times.

Subs
Ki Got to the pace of the game reasonably quickly.
Stokes foul was hardly worthy of a booking, but his only notable contribution.