Hallelujah,the fitba’s back. That’ll give us something to argue about,discuss and cogitate-let’s face it,there’s been little of interest football-wise lately. Some minor occurrences have taken place since we last saw a ball kicked in anger-I think it was by the Dundee goalkeeper as he punted up to the centre spot for the restart after Eddy’s late late winner!-so I’ll summarise those in this article before a brief preamble about Sunday.
It seems that Scotland’s latest shameful displays on the travels/travails have led to some serious soul-searching in the upper echelons of the SFA. Outsiders might be inclined to term this as blame-shifting and finger-pointing,but that would be churlish. Or accurate,take your pick. Either way,the person being held responsible for the whole fiasco will be the manager,Alec McLeish,and of course he will have his contract paid up in full. Whether that be as a one-off payment or in monthly increments until he finds another job remains to be seen,but the SFA can save themselves a lot of admin with a one-off payment rather than 35 monthly ones to a man who will never find a job again.
Assuming that mumbling his way through match analysis for BBC Scotland doesn’t count as everyone will have turned the sound down.
There will be no blame attached to President of the SFA and former chair of McLeish’s testimonial committee Alan MacRae and his VP Rod Petrie,the men responsible for sacking Gordon Strachan and installing Alec McLeish as a more palatable choice than the odious stand-in,Malky Mackay. Despite,of course,McLeish having previously walked out on the job to sample the delights of Birmingham. Hell knows who they’ll dredge up next,and I’m long past caring anyway. The gravy train will roll merrily on as Scottish Football dies a lingering half-death.
The blame-shifting game isn’t the sort of thing that Celtic indulge in,of course. No,no,no,and perish the thought. We do things in an entirely out-of-the-box manner at Celtic Park. We decide that no-one is to blame. The independent report finally arrived at a satisfactory conclusion-ooooops,sorry,I meant to say was finally published to huge fanfare earlier in the week. Fanfare,maybe-fan welfare,naw! The report looked at the events and the conclusion that nobody was to blame and managed to fill in the blanks,for which they should be commended. This took only 38 weeks,and is a veritable masterclass.
And so it goes.
It seems that a game at noon on a Sunday is because of Sky,and that the police have absolutely no say on the matter. Absolute rubbish,if I were Sky,appalled at the suggestion that their schedules might be to blame,I would demand that the next one be played at 530 on a Saturday evening and wait for the outraged responses to it. The report also claimed that reduced public transport on a Sunday was a factor. Since when has anyone in Scotland paid attention to public transport restrictions? It’s not so long ago that they wanted Aberdeen to play a semi final in Glasgow on a Sunday where the kick off time was before the first train from Aberdeen arrived in the city! Utter balderdash,but there’s more.
Hardly a mention of the late closure of London Road,and no attempt to find out who authorised it,nor why,nor a request for justification. Sticking it to the Tims would not have looked good in the report,so maybe don’t ask that question. Nor any others which might throw up potentially problematic or awkward answers. Like why around 30% of the access areas were used for 1.1% of the crowd,while the remainder were shovelled through ever-narrowing spaces.
And there is the pointer to the one question above all others which should have been asked at the start of this independent enquiry. Was there anything different about this game from the many others which have taken place at this time and place?
Answer-Yes,only 800 Rangers fans,which meant another 6200 or 12% more Celtic fans.
Okay,follow-up question. What steps were taken to cater for this large increase in the number of Celtic fans wishing access to the stadium?
Answer-Obviously we increased the access areas for the Rangers fans to around 30% and shoved the Celtic fans through the eye of a needle,both in the environs of the stadium and outwith.
Clearly these are questions which couldn’t be asked due to the other follow-ups like who thought this was a bloody good idea and who decided to agree to it? There are some very lucky people alive today-those who escaped a death similar to those at Hillsborough,and those responsible who will never have to answer those or similar questions while defending charges of manslaughter or worse.
They got away with it this time;that report does nothing to convince me that there won’t be a next time.
Looking forward to Sunday’s game-which I am,as we can nail the lid back on the zombies for another season (you’re getting your Horror genres mixed up-ed)-it looks like Celtic still have injury woes,though Neil Lennon may have his biggest squad yet to choose from. Lustig has a dead leg,but should be fit to give Kent a couple of dull ones. Benkovic,Ajer and Simunovic are fine though Boyata might be a late decision. Kieran Tierney should be fit,and if he isn’t,I expect Johnny Hayes to deputise,rather than Izzy.
Up front,our only injury niggle seems to be Jamesy. He’ll also be a last-minute decision. All the rest of our forwards are itching to start-I won’t hazard a guess who they’ll be as the last time I did that,Neil Lennon took my advice 10 times out of 11 and we needed a late winner against Kilmarnock! Even better news is that Leigh Griffiths is back in training,and despite suggestions from elsewhere that we won’t-and shouldn’t-see him playing again this season,I’ll stick my neck out.
Cameo late substitute in one game. He is one appearance short of the ten required for a medal.
In midfield,we may suddenly have an abundance of riches. All players are fit or sufficiently close to it,and will be available for selection. This includes the possible and long-awaited return of Tom Rogic,our Wizard of Oz. Lordy,we have missed his magic! In Oliver Ntcham,we have another superbly gifted midfielder,and one who certainly owes us for some poor at best performances this season. I hope he casts the demons out of his mind,plays like the star he is,and gets the move he so clearly desires at the end of a tremendous season next year. McGregor,Brown,Henderson and Christie will be a headache for any team,but NL faces a selection headache to get the balance right for this game.
We can’t play any worse than the last time we played the huns,so I’ll be happy enough for whatever bunch of players he picks,as long as we win!
Finally,we have been blessed recently at Celtic Park with some outstanding keepers. Long overdue,we put up with some adequate at best and bloody awful ones too before the arrival of Artur Boruc. Not since Ally Hunter wrapped his,erm,confidence round a Wembley goalpost had we had one,but I was delighted when we signed Magnus Hedman. Problem was,Coventry City got the best from him,and he was another disappointment with us. Maybe his concentration was poor and he needed to be in the game all the time,and while that might have been the case with Coventry,it certainly wasn’t so with us!
He talks here of his battles with depression,drugs,suicidal tendencies,since retiring. There’s a piece also on Stevie Clarke. Worth a listen,I think.
Above article by BMCUWP. Have your day in the sun,mail an article to Mahe.