Four It’s A Grand Old Team…
Our mean streak continued on Sunday with another clean sheet-and Big Joe must be casting glances at Fraser Forster’s record of 24 of them almost a decade ago-and an absolute mauling of a spirited Motherwell side. I’ll refrain from calling them The Mothers,as that seems to upset some on here-personally,I always think back to “Shaft” and similar Blaxploitation stuff when I hear that term!-but those Mothers weren’t for taking prisoners against us!
Of course,they had to catch us first,and that wasn’t easy. We started the game at a relentless gallop,then allowed our opponents an opportunity back into the game around the midway point of the first half. Maybe some of us,used now to the fact that AP isn’t a believer in easing his way into a game-were a bit concerned. I know I was,but really we were only giving them a false confidence,for moments later we blazed up the pitch to score the opener.
That it was almost a carbon copy of the third on Wednesday night was a double delight-we could revel in the joy of the goal,and remember the sheer pleasure of that moment the other night too!
Thank you,Reo and Liel!!!
In truth,Abada should have opened the scoring much earlier,a far too casual attempt when Tony Ralston laid it on a plate for him. But he wasn’t in a mood to let it affect him,and the low cross into the inviting empty space by Reo was simply mouthwatering,and to pass that up would have been criminal. He duly made no mistake,made amends,made himself the hero. That is now fourteen goals from the wing for the youngster,barely turned 20yo,who is fast becoming a fixture in the side and a firm favourite of the fans.
When he signed for us,he was-in my opinion and I said so at the time-tainted by association with the dreaded Duda. I publicly retract that now,with the caveat that he was bound to unearth a gem eventually. Which he has!
But watch the goal again,look for a very important detail. When Reo sweeps that ball into the area,there is only the goalkeeper in the box! Now,that is the benefit of coaching,that a player knows that if he swings the ball into a certain space,another will be there to receive it. I could watch this goal all day and never tire of it,for it is the sort of thing we were denied for so long under the previous regime. Truly a thing of beauty.
As was the second only moments later. Scored by Big Tam,who also provided the assist with his first touch! He took that touch to control the ball,another to steady himself,the third to curl a peach into the corner. Have you ever tried to curl a peach-it must be like peeling an orange in your pocket while wearing gloves,but Tam has it down to a fine art. If the first goal was down to coaching,the second was simply talent,a talent of the sort that just cannot be coached.
But what of our two strikers,Maeda and G-Mak? Well,the latter was repelling all invaders and creating space for his colleagues,and even giving the goalframe a damned good seeing to. No fifteen months out for him,he shrugged that off as a mere pfft,tchah. And by ‘eck,was he unlucky not to get on the score sheet. He peppered that goal,he found the final pass fortuitously blocked,but his head never went down. When he starts scoring as well,this lad will be a sensation for us. But we will have to be patient,I think,while looking to the other things that he does for us.
I mentioned the other night in a call to ATHINGOFBEAUTY that he reminded me of someone-I hesitate to do so here,as comparisons are odious and unfair. That someone was not a prolific scorer for us,but he was loved and appreciated by the fans and his colleagues for his overall contribution. If G-Mak can give us even a fraction of that?
Maeda? Well,he was like a buzz-bomb,running everywhere,harrying defenders and leaving them trailing in his wake. He almost laid on a third with a carbon copy of the first. Crossing from the same spot as Reo into an empty box. This time,the keeper just barely got to it first in front of Abada,and also managed to block the attempt from Tam. Liel got up to overhead it neatly into the net,but was blatantly offside-and could have left it for Tam to follow up anyway,but heyho.
Coaching,ye see. Canny coach eyes in the back of a player’s head!
The third goal? Well,we all remember THAT goal in the New Year derby of the Centenary Season. Substitute Tony Ralston for Paul McStay with the blinding pass behind the defence. Abada for Chris Morris and the first time cutback to the box,Tam for Macca and the instant finish. Get the picture?
Aye,it really was that good. As was everything about our display in that first half.
With a couple of tweaks at half time,we took our time to settle in the second. But taking off Abada and Reo would weaken any side,at least initially. It led too to a change of formation,as Forrest and Bitton are hardly like-for-like replacements. And that brings me to the main point of the article,for it is not a mere match report almost 48 hours later.
If we go back to the corresponding fixture at Fir Park in October,have a look at the line-up and especially the subs bench of seven. Back then,we played the likes of Boli,and also the now injured Kyogo and Turnbull. The bench had the yet untried Scales and G-Mak,as well as Ajeti. Sunday,we could put out a terrific starting eleven AND have the likes of Jota,Forrest,McCarthy,Juranovic and Matt O’Riley to call upon. Some of you might remember that when we signed the latter till summer 2026,I said that we would be offering him an extension next summer. His pass for the fourth,and his overall contribution in only a few short weeks suggests that we should tie him up ASAP.
He really is that good!
A manager should always know his best eleven,and I’m certain that AP does. But he should also be comfortable with the concept of rotating his squad,should know that he can shake up the formation with his subs if required. Earlier in the season,we saw that was not always the case,when certain necessary replacements disrupted the side and cost us. Not now,I think. We took that initial time to settle,yes. Some of us pointed it out at the time-thanks,FAN!-but once we did so,that could have been our starting eleven and we wouldn’t have noticed the difference. Even when G-Mak came off after an hour,we just put Maeda through the middle to further torment that poor defence.
God,his legs are like that Duracell bunny!
Replacing Taylor-hopefully the criticism of this guy is now a thing of the past-with a right back,even that was seamless. Sure,players can be disappointed not to start every week,but AP now has at his disposal a starting eleven he can trust,and a squad that he can trust. He knows,players know,that the line-up is flexible game by game,no certainties in life anymore.
If it makes life difficult for those of us who like to pick a first goalscorer,I can live with that!
When was the last time we had a bench with such quality,and one that didn’t even include some players who have recently figured prominently as well as a number of injured first picks? This is an exciting and talented squad that AP has brought together,and against all the odds too. Once again,I will remind you where we were a year ago,and at the start of July when our favourite Aussie-unless you count my brother in law-walked in. What a job he has done since then,and I think it only fair that Dominic McKay and Michael Nicholson share the credit for backing their man.
The downside of what faced AP was the magnitude of the rebuild. The upside is that we do not have our regular problem of stars wanting out with a couple of years left on their contracts. The ink has yet to dry on most of those contracts! But if I can just be Oliver Twist for a day and ask for more,it is that we get busy finalising permanent deals for CCV and Jota.
Virtually every signing since AP walked through the door has been a success,and we can surely have nothing to complain about. But completing those two will be the icing on the cake,as well as providing a blow in the solar plexus across the city. Flex those financial muscles,Celtic. Show what a well-run and financially sound club can do. Give those loanees from the top tier the same financial guarantees they have at their parent club as well as the promise of medals to show the grandweans AND the adulation of our worldwide diaspora.
Make it so,Celtic!
The news which is hardly news that reached us yesterday at the presser of Tam having less than 18 months left on his contract comes as no surprise to me.
If you think back three years,BR was still the manager,and Tam and CalMac were being played every time they were available. As was the case under RD previously. And they seemed to be signing a new contract extension every week!
Yet,under NL Mk I,they were loaned out and ignored. FIFTEEN times he picked Tam. And that is fifteen more than CalMac got. And when NL returned three years ago,it is no great surprise that performance and desire dipped. Nor that those contract extensions were being left on the table.
Hopefully they both know how much AP appreciates them,how much the fans appreciate them. They are now into what should be their peak years. They should be spent at Celtic,and hopefully the club and the players are working on that.
Above article by BMCUWP