Tag: Celtic

A Celtic Encounter

Every so often events conspire to make us question whether there is indeed some footballing god directing proceedings from, somewhere. After UEFA’s initial decision to remove Swiss club FC Sion from the Europa League, the club they had previously beaten on aggregate in the final playoff round–that club being Celtic FC–were awarded their place in Group I in their stead. Thrown into a rather deep group containing the likes of La Liga’s Atlético Madrid, French representative Stade Rennais, and a Serie A side in Udinese likely of Champions League calibre, it appeared the Scottish side should have been cursing that football god for their rotten luck at being granted a reprieve in Europe yet likely destined to advance no further against the quality saturating that particular group. The Zeus of football rarely spells out his omnipotent power so clearly though, so we must work a bit harder to seek out the divine inspiration. Either through a deity’s hand or just sheer coincidence, Celtic’s next two Europa League fixtures see them travel to Rennes to play at Route de Lorient against Rennes for the first time before entertaining their Breton opponents back in Parkhead. While both clubs have been active in European competitions over the decades, their paths have never crossed until these two Group I matches were scheduled (or more accurately, when Celtic replaced FC Sion). Now, perhaps this comes down...

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Matters of Hearth & Home in the SPL

There exists evidence to the contrary that a man’s home is his castle. To begin, seeing as how there are so few men living in castles these days, owing to their relatively poor resale value and faulty electrical wiring incapable of  handling the wattage necessary to capture the beautiful game in breathtaking HD, castles just aren’t prime real estate these days. Stripping away the rather antiquated phrase and applying it to football, there is the simple matter that where a club plays its home matches no longer appears the refuge it might once have been. Instead, for those clubs operated more so with an eye to being a business organisation keen on extending their brand or reinvention as a 21st century enterprise, monuments of yesteryear might be seen simultaneously as albatrosses weighing down portfolios, prime real estate worth more to commercial interests than footballing ones, no longer fit for purpose of any kind, too small for modern spectator events, or leveraging instruments during club ownership negotiations. With London clubs such as Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham United popping up in the news recently regarding where their next moats will be dug around, and with discussions about future castle construction on Merseyside ongoing, stadiums are a hot topic of late, and any or all of these perspectives on their current residences have been submitted. As England is having a sneeze over...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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