Tag: Celtic

Learning to Beat Swords Into Plowshares Takes Time

An odd thing happened to the prediction that Celtic would break the GI Joe kung-fu grip Rangers have had on the Scottish Premier League trophy the past three years. Quite simply, it appears to have been rather hastily determined based on deceptive appearances alone, or perhaps a notable disappearance from Ibrox. With Ally McCoist taking charge after Walter Smith’s retirement, it was generally presumed Super Ally would not be up for managing retention of the title for a fourth consecutive season and that Neil Lennon would be able to add his first SPL title to the Scottish Cup Celtic managed last season. Some pre-season prognostications went so far as to calculate Celtic finishing ten points clear of Rangers by the end of things, as unfavorable money matters were to prevent Rangers from strengthening their squad and concerns over McCoist’s ability to successfully manage without the guidance of Smith were cited for giving Celtic the edge. Instead, by the first week of October, it is Celtic that sits ten points behind Gers, already with a loss in the Old Firm derby, and questions being raised about whether Neil Lennon is cut out for managing Hoops. While the merit of this view appears debatable only ten matches into the season and with Celtic having two games in hand to make up the points, it was Lennon who even brought it up...

Read More

Ugly Goes Underground

Voices floating over Hadrian’s Wall after Sunday’s Old Firm derby sounded curiously, positive. Curiously positive in the sense that, with so much about Scottish football being accompanied by the sound of a death knell of late, hearing something good about two SPL clubs struck a more upbeat note. Rangers and Celtic gave those in attendance at Ibrox, along with those watching abroad, a fierce display of quality football for the majority of the ninety minutes, showcasing much of the skill and drama that draws us to this game. As opposed to previous iterations where fans might have thought they were attending a fight and a game of football broke out, Sunday’s affair gave us a match that was purely about the football and little else. There was that peach of a goal from Celtic’s Gary Hooper to level the match in the 34th minute, followed by Scotland’s No. 1 producing a howler that would have made Robert Green nostalgic if he were watching, and gave Hoops the halftime lead. Ally McCoist then answered some questions about him that have been asked since his appointment as Rangers manager, weaving into this particular match’s narrative his personal story of redemption. Having set his halftime hairdryer to the appropriate setting as well as correctly adjusting his tactical schemes to overturn the shock deficit, McCoist provided his squad the better plan with which...

Read More

An Old Firm Apology

According to the calendar, it is time to bash the first Old Firm match of this season. After all, ample material currently exists to do so just on their recent performances in Europe alone. Rangers failed to keep their European campaign alive past August whereas Celtic’s grand contribution was successfully challenging UEFA on the validity of an FC Sion squad that bested them on the pitch and in so doing earned default 3-0 victories off the pitch. The league coefficient enthusiasts politely chuckled at how Celtic’s fortunes were better served when they were not playing. On the evening Rangers, Celtic, and Heart of Midlothian were bounced from Europe, BBC Radio Scotland commentators immediately chastised the Old Firm, stating supporters of the two clubs should care less about the rivalry played out at Ibrox and Celtic Park and more about the shame heaped upon them by their continental transgressions. A good portion of the less than positive views on Scottish football at the moment stems from an assessment of just these two clubs, from their dominance of the domestic league and their failures abroad down to their player recruitment strategies and threats to quit Scotland altogether. Granted, there are myriad sticks with which to beat Scottish football right now–feel free to pick up one for each hand and ask a friend to hold one for the national team too–but the reputation...

Read More

The Old Firm: Mea Culpa

The main hazard attached to stridency of opinion is that you are often wrong. Sometimes, my success rate is in line with a stopped clock. And it appears my suggestion that Celtic were more sinned against than sinner in their recent Scottish Cup victory over Rangers was wide of the mark. The Scottish Football Association’s disciplinary process has found Celtic manager Neil Lennon to be primarily responsible for the disgraceful scenes during and after the match, scenes that were so shameful they needed a Scottish government summit to sort out. So what else can I say but sorry? Watching the game on TV, wanting Celtic to win, I allowed myself to be swayed by the card count (thirteen – three reds and seven yellows to Rangers ), by Rangers defender Majid Bougherra’s so-called manhandling of match referee Calum Murray and the parallel-universe behaviour of El-Hadji Diouf. This was, of course, unfair. Lennon was clearly the main culprit. Rangers didn’t go looking for the cards. And they signed Diouf as a former African Player of the Year with extensive experience in the English Premier League. How could they know he was going to behave like that in an Old Firm game? Referee Murray’s card-happiness was certainly exposed by Steven Whittaker’s unfair dismissal, as I acknowledged in my original article on this site on this subject (Celtic and Rangers: Old Firm,...

Read More

Celtic & Rangers: Old Firm, Old Enmity, New Century

Imagine different circumstances surrounding Manchester United’s defeat at Liverpool last Sunday. Leave aside Jamie Carragher’s nasty tackle on Nani, Nani’s ability to race to the referee before collapsing in an injured heap and the glorious sight, which may stay with me forever, of referee Phil Dowd, arms folded, watching from a distance like a disapproving dinner lady on playground duty at a primary school as players from both sides got their handbags out.  Imagine instead, that United had three players sent off and nine booked. Imagine Nani crossing three-parts of the Anfield pitch to the Liverpool bench to confront Kenny Dalglish et al after the first dismissal. Make Carragher’s tackle a genuine yellow card offence, rather than the red card offence it was and have Sammy Lee pointing an accusing finger at Paul Scholes as the team’s entered the tunnel at half-time. Then imagine Wayne Rooney, already booked for raking his studs down the back of Dirk Kuyt’s leg with the ball elsewhere, sliding in on Luis Suarez in the last minute and dumping him into some pitch-side photographers before joining two-thirds of his colleagues in buffeting Dowd and attempting to snatch the yellow card from Dowd’s hand. Move on to the final whistle and imagine United’s players are into Dowd again, jostling him and threatening him, with Ryan Giggs sent off for his part. Then imagine Giggs walking...

Read More