OK, I know in my ‘return’ post I said I was going to leave old news alone. I’d promised I’d keep things fresh by looking at new, fast moving information, and shed my very own light on them. Well, I’m going to slightly break that in order to combine my view on the Mexican game and my beloved Celtic. You see, since I’ve been away the Hoops have announced a link to the Coahuila-based club, Santos Laguna.
As somebody who sees a great deal of Mexican football, I see this a really shrewd move by the board, and am delighted at the potential it offers the club. As we all know, Celtic’s traditional markets have been strangled by the vice-like grip the Premier League holds over the majority of Europe. Greatly inflated fees have quickly spread all across Europe, with even 17 year-old unproven kids being priced at £20m. (Yes, anybody who has seen him can appreciate that Romelu Lukaku of Anderlecht is a wonderful talent, but £20m? I think not!)
This has forced the club to widen the net, and look to markets that would normally be both out of sight and out of mind. So far, Lennon has done reasonably well in the transfer market from very different areas of the world, with the Israeli Beram Kayal and Emilio Izaguirre from Honduras being particularly impressive. And this is the right type of market for Celtic to exploit, finding players who are relatively young (Kayal is just 22, and Izaguirre is 24) to bring to Europe, nurture, and sell on for a profit. Indeed, there is already reported interest in Izaguirre from Manchester United, with a rumoured £10m figure for him.
Of course, it is disappointing to think that a club of Celtic’s size will have to become a ‘selling club’, but we have to be realistic. There is no money at all in Scotland, which means the game and the clubs will have to adapt to survive. This means a combination of signing youngsters at a really early age (the Ajax system) and then buying players from leagues with even less finance than our own, and selling them at a huge profit (the ethos of PSV). And of course, if Manchester United will sell Cristiano Ronaldo, ANYBODY is for sale.
What better way then to look to exploit these kind of markets than by taking on a feeder side? A club right towards the top of the Mexican game (they finished runners-up in this year’s Apertura championship, progressed through to the CONCACAF Champions League quarter finals, and won the Clasura in 2008) makes them an attractive proposition for the better players in South and Central America, which ultimately benefits us, too. After all, the better they do, the better the calibre of players available to us through the partnership.
Now as the Mexican Primera is not exactly a regular on European television, many Celtic fans may well be wondering just how fruitful the partnership will be. Are there any players worth signing? Is the Mexican league actually any good, or is this nothing but a publicity stunt? Well, I’ve decided to do my very own little scouting trip to hopefully provide you all with a little more info, and whether in my opinion they’d offer anything extra at Celtic Park.
Oswaldo Sanchez: 37 year old Mexican international goalkeeper. Sanchez has won 98 caps for his country, and played at Santos for four and a half seasons. A decent shot-stopper, but prone to the odd error, especially with crosses. Too old to be a realistic signing for Celtic, with no re-sale value. Worth signing? No.
Jose Antonio Olvera: 24 year old Mexican international central defender. Olvera has won 3 caps Mexico, is good on the ball which also allows him to play in midfield. He’s calm while under pressure , but he’s greatly let down by his lack of size. At only 5 foot 8, he would struggle at the back in the aggressive nature of Scottish football. Worth signing? No.
Uriel Alvarez Rivera: 20 year old Mexican defender. Rivera has yet to win a cap for his national side, but he certainly shows promise. He is strong in the tackle and good on the ball, although he does suffer a little with inconsistency. Perhaps one for the future. Worth signing? Maybe in a few years.
Jonathan Lacerda: 23 year-old Uruguayan defender. At 6 foot 2, Lacerda is certainly built like a defender. Decent in the air, and with an ability to win some vital challenges, Lacerda could be ideal at Parkhead. At 23 he is a great age to sign, but he is currently fourth choice central defender defender for Santos. He’ll need to break his way into the side for a sustained period before he’s even considered. Worth signing? Yes, but not just yet.
Felipe Baloy: 29 year-old captain of Panama, central defender and club captain. 6 foot 2, and a colossus at the back, Baloy is right out of the Bobo Balde mould. Very mobile, with a desire to get forward, Baloy would become a cult hero at Celtic Park. Only negative is that he is a month away from his 30th birthday, and as such he would have little or no resale value, but this is countered by his qualities on the pitch. Worth signing? Yes, immediately.
Jorge Estrada Manjarrez: 27 year old Mexican international wing-back/ full back. Santos Laguna regularly play with three central defenders, and so I’ve normally seen Manjarrez play as a wing back, but what impresses me most is his mobility. He’s constantly joining attacks, has a lot of ability when it comes to crossing and he even pops up with the odd goal. Only made his Mexico debut in 2010 and suffered an injury, or I suspect he’d have a few more than just one cap. However, once again I think his size would be an issue as he is only 5 foot 6. In addition, he’d struggle to dislodge Cha, Hinkel or even Wilson out of the side. Worth signing? No.
Carlos Morales: 31 year old Mexican international left wing-back/ left midfielder. Morales has won 8 caps for his country, the last one coming in 2005. Another decent player going forward, offers plenty of width and a decent cross into the box, but he struggles defensively. His age works against him, and he’s not a patch on Izaguirre. Worth signing? No.
Jose Cardenes: 25 year old left full back/ wing back/ left midfielder. Cardenes has won two caps for Mexico, and scored on his debut. Cardenes is a real creative force for his side when he plays further forward. Skillfull, quick and with a peach of a left foot, Cardenes is at his best when operating further forward. Great from a dead-ball, his corners are a particularly useful weapon for Santos. At 25 years old, he’s still young enough to be a worthwhile signing. Worth signing? Yes.
Fernando Arce: 30 year old defensive midfielder, has won more than 40 caps for Mexico. Arce is one of the vital tools in this Santos Laguna side, sitting in a holding role alongside Juan Rodriguez. Always available for a simple pass, with the ability to get forward and put the ball in the net. Another small player in stature, but without him, Santos are not the same team. However, Celtic are at their strongest in the middle of the park, so despite his talents, I don’t see him as a real option. Worth signing? No.
Juan Rodriguez: 31 year old central midfielder, has also won in excess of 40 caps for Mexico. Originally broke into the national side on the back of his goal scoring exploits at Club Atlas, where he scored more than 50 goals in 6 years from midfield. He became renown for his set pieces, although he has now become more of a ‘simple stuff’ type player, much like Lennon himself was. Lacks a cutting edge in the tackle, and would probably be another to struggle in the aggressive Scottish game. Worth signing? No
Daniel Ludena: 28 year old Argentine attacking midfielder, who began his career at River Plate. In my opinion, Ludena is the best player at Santos Laguna, and he has been reportedly interesting several clubs in Spain. Ludena is exceptional from dead-balls, very much in the Nakamura mould, and averages a goal every three games from midfield. He has great vision, and regularly unlocks defences with a wonderful through ball. Although not the quickest, he’d slot straight into the Celtic side and stay there. Worth signing? Immediately.
Carlos Darwin Quintero: 23 year old Columbian international striker, wide midfielder. Well, what can I say about Quintero? Easily the most frustrating player in Mexico, Quintero certainly has the ability to be dynamite. He has blistering pace and great skill, and at 23 he has definite potential. However, his finishing is highly erratic, and he frequently picks the wrong option. Think Samaras but about twice as quick and half as tall! Should score far more goals from the positions he finds himself in. Worth signing? Dubious.
Christian Benitez: 24 year old Ecuadorian international striker. Of course, the second the partnership was announced Celtic were linked to the ex Birmingham striker, and for good reason. Benitez was the top scorer in the Apertura on his return to Santos, scoring 16 goals in 22 games, and he also averages a goal every other game for Ecuador. It never quite worked out for Benitez in England, but he is a predator in front of goal and has blistering pace. At just 24, another spell in Europe is certainly not beyond him, and I’d undoubtedly back him to be a success. Would certainly offer another option up front, even if only used as an impact player. Worth signing? Yes.
Are you a fan of Mexican football? I’d love your feedback either here or follow me on Twitter.
October 26, 2010
Perhaps it was because I’ve barely seen Celtic this season as most of my weekends are spent commentating. Perhaps the league table caught me off-guard, with 8 wins from 8 games. Perhaps it was sleep deprivation, combined with a portable flux capacitor and I thought I was about to watch the 2001 team. (OK, maybe not that last one.) Whatever it was, I woke up on Sunday certain we were going to witness a performance from Celtic, and that Lennon’s side would go a long way towards healing the pain of last year. What we got was more of the same.
I’ve seen a few accounts post-match, many of them hysterically blaming Willie Collum for his ridiculous penalty decision. Sure, he got that one wrong, and yes, it was a sore one to take. At 2-1 the game was wide open, but at 3-1 we needed a miracle. However, that doesn’t quite tell the whole tale.
I’m very unhappy to say this, but if I remove my green-tinted specs I will begrudgingly admit that Rangers dominated the game, and we got exactly what we deserved. Tactically, Lennon got it wrong, but he was let down by his experienced players all over the park. And it simply wasn’t good enough. Let’s look at Lennon first.
The system he picked was a head scratcher for me. Going for 4-4-2, but with Maloney and Stokes as the wide men meant we were effectively playing 4-2-4. Against a side with a 5 man midfield, we were always going to get over-run. We did.
Now there are some who may say that the system was changed early on with the Maloney injury. They’d be right, but the problem there was we still had both Samaras and Stokes playing wide. Both out-and-out strikers, neither were going to be useful in the midfield battle. Indeed, we were lucky not to lose Stokes just a couple of minutes in for a horrific challenge. Then of course we persevered with Glenn Loovens at the back, and if he’s actually a professional footballer then I’m a Dutchman.
I think Lennon should have predicted the inevitable Rangers formation and looked to play with 3 central midfielders, with Ki and Juarez playing in front of the back 4, and Ledley as a ‘box-to-box’ player. At Cardiff, Ledley was renowned for getting ahead of the front men and scoring goals. The type of player we have been missing since Stan Petrov left for Aston Villa, yet I believe we are not seeing the best of him thanks to our system. He almost reminds me of Paul Hartley: a player we signed as a great attacking midfielder, yet we played him as an anchorman. Too early to tell with Ledley, but speaking as someone who watches a lot of the Championship, I thought he was wasted protecting the back four.
And now, onto Samaras. People who have ever read my posts before will know that I’m hardly the big Greek’s biggest fan. He leaves me tearing my hair out at just how frustrating he is. I just don’t know how he can be so brilliant one week, and the next he’d struggle to get a game for Lincoln City. On Sunday he was just simply abysmal.
So much time was spent screaming at him. He dallied on the ball, didn’t see simple passes, and his ball retention was non-existent. There was a little drama involving Lee McCulloch in the first half, with the Rangers man lucky not be shown a second yellow. However, if Samaras had been on his game he would have slid Hooper in before McCulloch had a chance to make the challenge, got himself into the box and we may well have scored. And there were countless times he did this. Rather than taking a simple pass to slide the full back in for a cross, he tried to cut inside, or just took too long and the momentum was gone.
Then onto our defence. The first goal was an absolute shocker to concede, especially so early into the second half. All the momentum we had gained from Hooper’s goal right on half time had gone, and it was simply because we didn’t have the nous to deal with a high, hopeful cross into the area. Can you imagine that cross coming in with big Bobo back there? Or even Mjallby? (I’d suggest registering big Johan as a player again, just so we can have SOMEBODY who’ll put their body on the line at the back.) Quite simply, that kind of cross should be dealt with by Loovens and Majstorovic all day long.
And if the first goal wasn’t bad enough, the second was a real howler. I’m a firm believer in only passing the ball back to the keeper when you absolutely have to, as all they ever tend to do is boot the ball upfield. Majstorovic didn’t have to, he had time to clear the ball himself. Instead, he caused unnecessary pressure by knocking the ball back to Forster, and we all know what followed. Such a poor goal to concede, and it really knocked the stuffing out of us, and Rangers just got stronger. I’m not going to go into the penalty decision, because it has been done to death, but we were never going to come back after it.
All in all, it is more fuel to those who say that Lennon is yet to win a match “that matters”. At the moment, it’s hard to argue with them. Ross County, Braga, Utrecht and now Rangers really do take the shine off his previously unblemished league record. Fortunately, it’s a cup-tie on Wednesday and an immediate opportunity to put that right. I’d suggest that we will.
I’d also suggest that the next time we come up against Rangers we’ll be much more balanced as a side. Lennon strikes me as the sort of manager who’ll learn from tactical errors, unlike his predecessor who blindly stuck with the same players and system, even when it was blatantly failing. And despite all my negativity throughout this post, it is just three points. By the time the next derby comes around, our newer players will be even more settled, and with more experience of what it actually means to play for Celtic.
This championship is a long way from being over, and we’re right in the hunt. Keep the faith, Bhoys and Ghirls. There’s a long way to go yet.
August 28, 2010
My apologies for the delayed blog, once again I’ve spent my weekend commentating (and I will be commentating again on the Cruz Azul v Tigres match tonight, too) so I have not had an opportunity to dissect Thursday night’s atrocity. Before I start, I’m sure some of you didn’t get to see the game thanks to it not being available on TV, so here is the YouTube highlights clip.
So what can I say that hasn’t been said before? Truth be told, not much at all. It was a woefully inept performance, and the great promise from the previous week’s comfortable victory had disappeared after 20 minutes. I don’t know about you, but after the second penalty had been given, I knew that only one side were going through.
But then there are the goals themselves. The first one was a naive challenge from Hooiveld, a guy who seems to have a mouth as wide as the Clyde, and he gave the referee a question to answer after just 12 minutes. (I’m sick of hearing about Hooiveld’s opinions in the press, declaring that he wants to be ‘our leader’ and the like, when he is frankly ordinary on the field. Here’s a hint, Jos, if you want to be skipper EARN it. Show us some leadership on the park instead of the press conference.)
The second penalty was even worse. There’s an infamous saying when learning the game of football of “if in doubt, kick it out”. I’m not sure what the Polish, or indeed, the Korean version of that saying is, but I’d suggest that Lenny looks it up pronto. Both Zaluska and Cha had an opportunity to put the ball out of play for a throw in, yet instead they manage to give the ball away and a silly penalty is the result.
Then after the second half kicks off, Lennon’s words surely ringing in the players’ ears, and the phrase “keep it tight” was surely that very message, we concede another ridiculous goal. Why could none of our defenders get a challenge in, or at the very least bring the winger down on the half-way line before he can get to the edge of our box? OK it’s cynical, but why not? Italian sides have done it since the dawn of time. At 3-0 the game is done, and the fourth doesn’t even need talking about.
So we have no European adventure, either in the cash-rich Champions League or the consolation prize of the Europa League. Now I’ve heard many fans try and be bullish about this, claiming that our defeats will make us stronger over the course of the season, and that without the distraction of European football the squad will become more focused on the league title. What utter tripe.
The effect of this defeat will not be felt this season, but next, and the year after that. No, I’m not talking about the financial side of the defeat, but about the club’s reputation around Europe. Celtic is still a massive name, but that only gets you so far. Players of quality will not sign unless they feel the move can benefit their career, sometimes financially, but also on the field. Will a move to Celtic right now help anybody’s international prospects? Of course not, you’d be better off in the English Championship. The lack of European football this season will make players think not just twice, but three times or more about a move to Parkhead. Why move to a club that cannot give you that platform of Europe to play on?
However, the problem is not just limited to Celtic. Motherwell, Dundee United and Hibs are all out of Europe before September as well, and as much as it pains me to say this, Scottish football is a joke. Although it is becoming more competitive, this is simply because the standards of both Celtic and Rangers have slipped beyond recognition. Changes need to be made now from the SFA, the SPL and the SFL (having one football body would be a good start.)
We also need to move the time of the season. One of the reasons so many clubs struggle in these early preliminary rounds is because they are still rusty from pre-season. Clubs in Scandanavia and Russia start their seasons early because of the weather, but if the Scottish season began in May then late June or early July European games would see all of our clubs in full swing of the domestic campaign, and as such, rustiness is no longer an issue.
Sure, there are possible problems to this (the transfer window for one, and the possibility of a 12 month season if one of our clubs is lucky enough to make a European final again, and of course, the World Cup) but it has to be worth investigating, especially now there is only one Champions League spot up for grabs, and it could take THREE qualifying rounds. This can hopefully lead to a couple of sides sneaking into the European arena again. This in turn will see a return of prestige, and more importantly, cash to the Scottish game.
This really isn’t a new idea, and that I accept, but without urgent changes the Scottish league will become as prestigious of that in Wales. Dark days then for the game north of the border, and it’s time for fans to make their voices heard.
A complete revolution is the only answer.
July 25, 2010
OK, it’s official: I’m almost gibbering in excitement ahead of the new season. There’s nothing like opening day optimism for every fan of every club, but at Celtic there’s more reason for that than most. The fans have been keen for quality signings after the atrocity of last year, and I’m quite hopeful that Lenny has delivered.
Joe Ledley was a terrific piece of business, a player who is very highly rated and rightfully so. He’ll certainly add a new dimension to the midfield, and him and Brown have bags of potential. I’m also really pleased with the Juarez signing, a player who looks like he will add a bit of steel to a midfield too often bullied under Mowbray. However, the purchase that has really caught my eye is Gary Hooper, the 22-year-old striker from Scunthorpe.
OK, there will be doubters. The more ignorant will say ‘who are Scunthorpe?’ and dismiss him before he even arrives. I imagine in days gone bye, a section of the Liverpool support said ‘who are Chester?’ when a certain Mr Rush was signed up, too.
Others will ask why the club have brought in a player with no European experience, and whilst they may have a point, I think only the most optimistic of Celtic fans is concerned with the European adventure this year. Getting beyond Braga is difficult enough, and then we would face the likes of Tottenham, Sevilla or Sampdoria for a chance to make the Champions League itself. OK, participation in the Europa League is a likely bet, but surely that’s a perfect opportunity for Hooper to get that experience he is missing, no?
Instead, our priority has to be wrestling the championship back from Ibrox, and for that, Hooper is our man. I’m not one to kick the quality of the SPL while it is down, but we have to face facts, so I would argue two-thirds of the SPL is equivalent to the English Championship in terms of quality, with the other third similar to League One. At that kind of level, Hooper scored 50 goals in 93 games for Scunthorpe United, which suggests to me that if he plays he’ll set the SPL alight. Indeed, I think it is a monumental piece of business from the club, and being only 22, he is also one for the future.
As for Daryl Murphy, I’m afraid I need to reserve judgement. He looks like a reasonable target man, but it seems a bit ‘Chris Killen’ to me. I hope somebody points that line out to me at the end of the season after he has scored 20 goals, and I’ll happily eat some humble pie, but we’ll see. Saying that, with him signing I’d expect to see him starting the season off in the team.
As always though, when new players come in some have to leave. Hooper will be the eighth striker at Celtic Park (if you consider Maloney to be just a winger) and that figure surely needs cutting. I’d be surprised to see either Fortune or Rasmussen leave as they are new arrivals, but numbers do need to be cut. McGowan has recently signed a new contract, so I’d suggest he was safe, but that leaves Sheridan (a certainty to leave) Samaras and Hutchinson. I won’t pretend to be disappointed when Samaras leaves (the most frustrating player I have ever seen, some days brilliant, but others he’s horrendous. The phrase ‘sublime to the ridiculous’ could have been coined for him alone) but I am disappointed Hutchinson hasn’t really had a chance at Celtic.
I’m also eagerly waiting for some new defensive signings. I think there is promise in Rogne and Hooiveld, as there is in Thompson, but I’m yet to be convinced by Loovens and O’Dea. I’d hope all the money earned from the inevitable McGeady sale is pumped into the defence, with two commanding central defenders the top of the list. And of course, David James too would be a welcome addition as a short-term replacement for Boruc.
So how do we line up opening day? Truth be told, I haven’t got a clue. I can’t even put my finger on a formation, let alone a first XI, so all I can do is pick my own. For me, it has to be 4-3-3 to utilise the talent at our disposal, with the central striker as a target man, Fortune out wide right and the third striker as a ‘poacher’, so here goes.
All I know for certain is there cannot possibly be any less heart in this year’s team than was on display under Mowbray and that is the first step to winning anything. Now, if only we could find another Lubo…
July 12, 2010
Been a while since I got to post about Celtic, so I’ll make the most of the Ledley signing today.
Seems like Lennon is looking at some tidy players, and Ledley is a bit of a coup for him personally. Ledley has been linked with numerous clubs the past few months, so for him to choose Celtic really is fantastic news.
I’m quite pleased with the signing of Mulgrew too, especially for his dead-ball skills. Since first Nakamura and then Robson left, a dead-ball specialist has been a necessity for us to bring in, and the fact he plays in one of our weaker areas is also good news.
However, as far as both Bullard and Campbell go, enough is enough. Both have had several weeks to make up their mind, and now they are both just toying with the club and the fans. If these players consider Celtic to be a ‘last resort’ then we shouldn’t be after them, especially not with the squad that Lennon has inherited. Heart and desire was sadly lacking in Mowbray’s team, but if a player cannot even decide if he wants to play for the club in a four-week period, who is to say he can be depended upon to pull the club out when we’re in a hole? Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to rely on them on a cold Wednesday night at St Johnstone, let alone the white-hot atmosphere of the Old Firm derby.
Instead, Celtic need players who believe wearing the Hooped shirt is a privilege, players who will fight for the cause, players who the fans will love as much for their spirit as for their skills. This is something Mowbray clearly didn’t understand, but I don’t see Lennon having the same problem. Time to move on to other targets.
Finally, I’d just like to thank Artur Boruc for his five seasons at the club, and wish him all the best in Florence with his move to Fiorentina. You’ll always be welcome back at Paradise. However, the ‘Holy Goalie’s’ move will at least allow us to see the best of Lukasz Zaluska.
Next stop, another striker and a central defender. Roll on the new season.
June 12, 2010
OK, I admit it. This blog is going to be a ‘filler’ piece because I have absolutely nothing to say about the dire Uruguay v France game, and didn’t really catch the opener to the World Cup. I may follow this with a post on England and my predictions for tomorrow, but first I feel the need to concentrate on my club teams, Celtic and Notts County. Bizarrely, and for the first time ever, I can do that in the same post.
Both sides have now appointed new managers. Both managers have appointed club legends with very little management experience. Both clubs are looking to appoint an experienced technical director to aid the young ‘gaffers’. And both sides can be tied to Sol Campbell over the past 12 months.
Now I’ve had a chance to get used to both appointments, I’m actually getting excited. I was a little disappointed about both initially as I’m always one of those annoying fans who calls for an “experienced head”. Indeed, I can be a little cynical at times, and I had questioned the ambition of both clubs with their choice of managers. However, I’ve since changed my tune.
Craig Short should be great for Notts, and Notts should be great for him. He is clearly ambitious, knows the club very well and has the basics of a decent squad already. The news that Stephen Hunt, Craig Westcarr and Mike Edwards have all signed new deals is good news, as is the earlier contract signed by Lee Hughes. Then there is a good young goalkeeper in Rob Burch lined up from Lincoln, and with a little wheeling-and-dealing, ‘Shorty’ should find a really good squad in front of him come pre-season.
Then there is Celtic. In those last eight matches of the season, Neil Lennon brought fire to the belly of a Celtic squad that had rolled over and died under Tony Mowbray. Of course, ‘Lenny’ is Celtic through-and-through, and he is well aware of the players at the club who have no right to pull on the Hoops. A new manager might have needed a few months to discover who was deadwood, but make no mistake about it, Lennon already knows and is planning on squad surgery even as I write this.
Both clubs are shopping in very different markets ahead of very different seasons, but both clubs are at an important precipice. For Notts, surely the priority is staying in League One, although Short will be pushing for much more, as will Mr Trew. Indeed, I’m hopeful that with a couple of decent signings (such as Lee Trundle, who is being widely touted as a candidate) that we may nick a play-off spot.
For Celtic, however, only one thing will do. The SPL title is the absolute minimum on Lennon’s list, and the board must back him with the cash to deliver it. Indeed, I’ve suggested on this blog that he should take the £10m for McGeady and buy two quality central defenders and a midfielder, trusting in the fitness of Shaun Maloney and Paddy McCourt next season. I’m even cautiously optimistic about the news of Sol Campbell’s signing (although I say that through gritted teeth after his debacle at Meadow Lane) and the thought of Keane or Bellamy back at Parkhead has put a smile back on my face.
Fingers crossed that smile is enhanced by a couple of exciting signings at both Meadow Lane and Celtic Park in the next couple of weeks. Failing that, Rangers and Forest going bust would be equally acceptable…
March 1, 2010
Apologies for my break in blogging. I spent much of that time researching for my commentary of the Suwon Bluewings v Gamba Osaka, but more on that later. I’ve been especially quiet on the topic of Celtic, simply because I’m sick of repeating myself, but after yesterday’s Old Firm I guess it is only right for me to address them again, so here goes.
What a mess we’re in. The club has me tearing my hair out in despair right now, and our lack of quality and leadership is evident for all to see. But before I get into that, I have to talk about the fans actions in the minute silence for Gerry Neef, the ex-Rangers keeper who died last week.
Regular readers will know how I felt about the actions of the mindless few at Falkirk on Remembrance Sunday and I feel exactly the same this time. By disrupting the silence, these “supporters” shamed themselves and our club. My father-in-law believes we should go to a minute’s applause for all these periods of respect, to ensure the idiots can be drowned out. Whilst I totally understand his perspective, I still think this can be massively inappropriate. Instead, I’d suggest those who booed are pointed out by our own supporters and ejected from the ground. Now this may infringe the ‘right of protest’ in the country, but when inside a football ground you have to abide by its rules. If you don’t like it, stay at home and don’t embarrass your club.
And on to the game itself. Like many other Celtic fans, I felt greatly aggrieved by Scott Brown’s red card. Indeed, Kyle Lafferty has ‘form’ for play-acting, and I’d like to think the SPL will look at this, but once again it seems the major decisions have gone against us. Quite how Bougherra managed to get through 90 minutes I’ll never know, and yesterday I felt quite bitter towards referee Dougie McDonald. However, that truly is deflecting blame, and instead, we should be looking at the players and the management team.
In a match we HAD to win, we didn’t even win a single corner. We had 4 attempts on goal, only two were on target, compared to the 14 efforts on goal Rangers mustered. Quite simply, (and I say this through gritted teeth) Rangers were far superior to us on the day. As a result, the championship has certainly passed us by for another year.
We are bereft of quality in the midfield, with no creative spark, nobody with the desire to dominate the opposition, and utterly shambolic at the back. The amount of times a simple through ball destroyed our defence is no joke at all, and reminded me of the earlier game at Ibrox. So what does this show us? It shows us that despite giving Mowbray the time I and many others called for, he’s not up to scratch.
As an ex-central defender, he should have us organised at the back, yet all season long, the defence has been our achilles heel. His vision of expansive, attacking football can only be played with a water-tight defence, yet Mowbray seems to be incapable of this. I have toyed with the idea of allowing him another season to get it right, but now I want him gone as soon as possible. He seems to make some utterly bewildering decisions, too.
Looking at our side, and our form going into Ibrox, Ray Charles could have told you to leave McGeady out. His form is abysmal, and a period on the bench is just what he needs. Then there are our options up front. In a match we had to win, we needed to go with our best goalscoring line up. That does not include Fortune. Morten Rasmussen has proved already he is capable of scoring goals, yet he’s been brought in to keep the bench warm. Why? A front two of Keane and Rasmussen was the best opportunity we had of nicking a goal in a game where chances were at a premium, and if Rasmussen had the opportunity Fortune had, I’d have backed him to at least work the goalkeeper.
However, we’d have had an even better chance if we had changed our system to 4-3-3. If we had played narrower in the centre of the park with three central midfielders, it would have allowed us to really get on top of Rangers. This would not only help our young central defenders, it would also enable us to use the pace of Keane and Kamara down the channels, with Rasmussen playing in the 6-yard box. And if I can see this, why can’t Mowbray?
This next paragraph may be deeply unpopular with a section of our support, but say it I shall. Can you honestly tell me that you think Gordon Strachan’s Celtic side would have been effectively 13 points adrift by the first of March? Anybody who answers ‘yes’ is either a liar, a fool, or a Rangers fan.
Quite simply, to be 13 points behind Rangers to a team including Gascoigne, Laudrup et-al is horrendous, but understandable. To be 13 points behind THIS Rangers team is just downright incompetent, and Mowbray should pay with his job.
I’m all for backing a manager, but that manager has to be up to the job. Mowbray has given a clear indication that he is not. Pack your bags ‘Mogga’. The time has come to stand aside.