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Is this the squad to bring success to Paradise?

In the middle of the international break we can now finally take a breath, grab a seat and wave goodbye to one of the most important transfer windows in Celtics recent history.  Coming off the back of the horror show that was last season, recruitment to improve the decimated squad was essential. With the loss of several loan players, a new manager and treble winning stalwarts like Ajer, Edouard, Christie and Captain Scott Brown all leaving, the transfer business needed to be quick and full of quality.

Sadly it seems Celtic failed on at least one of those quotas.  The amount of time taken to get deals over the line was as frustrating as it was costly. Reinforcements were needed as the club entered the Champions League qualifiers, however, they came in far too late and the team crashed out with a whimper.  Of course there must be some consideration given to the lack of time the manager had to identify players and the fact there is still no recruitment structure in place, but still, the fans had every right to be disappointed.

The second requirement, to bring in quality, requires a deeper look. Time will ultimately tell, but now that the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ are over until January we can assess the current first team squad, minus the youth players brought in, and gauge whether this current squad of players can bring success back to Paradise.

Goalkeepers

There is simply no question that Joe Hart is a decidedly more experienced, confident and adept keeper than the others between the sticks.  He has brought a calmness and a presence to the back-line that was sorely lacking last season.  The question remains though, if Hart gets injured, what remains? Barkas has been a failure by any metric used to gauge success, Bain is only slightly more reliable and Hazard doesn’t seem to be in the managers plans.  Lack of depth here is a worry moving forward.

Defenders

Stephen Welsh has been consistent over the past few weeks, he looks confident and assured, but there is a mistake in his game at times.  At only 21 he will improve even more and looks the strongest centre back at the club, at least until Chris Jullien makes his long awaited comeback.  Starfelt hasn’t hit the ground running as many were hoping, with concerns over his composure on the ball particularly concerning.  His tackling and pace has, however, indicated that there is a talent there who perhaps needs a bit of time to settle.  Carter-Vickers has a lot of experience for someone his age, having spent most of his career loaned to different clubs.  He is good with the ball at his feet, strong, athletic and aggressive and Celtic fans may find him displacing Starfelt sooner rather than later.  Dane Murray is an excellent prospect but needs game time.  Urhoghide looks very raw at this stage and could possibly have done with a loan move, not an ideal situation given the lack of depth in this position.

Liam Scales looks to have been brought in to fill a few positions but, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume he is a left back.  He is a fairly unknown quantity and while highly rated, it seems unlikely he will replace the oft maligned Greg Taylor.  The current first choice left back has struggled for consistency, although his attitude and desire is never been in question. Bolingoli is now such a divisive character that it was a surprise he remained at the club and with only teenage defender Montgomery as cover, the full back position looks vulnerable.

On the other side of the park Tony Ralson has proven many a doubter wrong with a string of impressive performances.  Another player who is young enough to improve greatly, it looks like he is thriving under Postecoglou.  Croatian international Juranovic may be in a fight to get the jersey initially, but his quality cannot be underestimated and he looks like an excellent addition to the team and potentially the first right back since Lustig to hold down the position long term.

Midfield

New captain McGregor has been excellent so far this season, with flair and consistency adding to his new found leadership skills.  Turnbull has found some form in a slightly deeper ‘quarterback’ role and is a player of immense talent.  Another example of the great coaching of Postecoglou, Tom Rogic has been a player reborn, striking together some mouth watering displays.  The midfield is the teams strongest area.  With the experience of McCarthy still waiting to display the qualities that have kept fans pining for his debut, the strength of the others fighting for places are less clear.  Soro has great potential but can be rash, Bitton has, in the eyes of many fans, ran his course at Celtic and young Shaw, who showed up well in pre-season, yet to feature this is a concern over the dynamic in the midfield three should injuries strike.

Moving forward, Abada has been a brilliant signing.  At only 19 years old he has shown composure, ability and has enormous potential.  Jota has been brought in with decent pedigree and, with the loan to buy option in place, is an exciting and risk free proposition.  James Forrest is consistent and always offers reliability and skill.  As has become a pattern of this piece, the lack of depth is a worry.  Johnson has shown in flashes he has ability, but injuries and lack of consistency have cost him.  Young Dembele is much the same, great ability but a lack of game time and concerns over his physicality have not given the fans such confidence in his contributions thus far.

Strikers

Kyogo has, without doubt, been an inspired signing.  Incredible movement, striking pace and an eye for goal, alongside a tireless work ethic, has endeared him to the Celtic faithful instantly.  Ajeti has been something of a mystery since he arrived.  Costing £5 Million form the EPL, with a decent pedigree and reputation at international level, fans had every right to expect goals.  However, for many reasons, it simply has not worked.  The question of whether he even ‘fits’ into Ange’s system still remains.  More positive is the arrival of Greek international Giorgos Giakoumakis.  The top scorer in the Dutch league offers a different dynamic up front to Kyogo, but given Postecoglou’s desire to get him in, including a personal phone call, there is reason to be confident he will hit the ground running.

All things considered the transfer window was a success, Celtic got players of quality and filled the gaps in their squad.  The major concern is the amount of players that were needed to fully flesh out a squad capable of rotating throughout the season ahead. There is no doubt there is a best eleven equipped to succeed, however, if injuries and form cause much disruption to the team, we may be looking toward Januarys transfer merry go round with open arms.

The bright lights in the darkness of defeat

It is never easy to be positive after losing to your rivals. The pain of defeat is always hard to take, especially at a club like Celtic who, only recently, had broken records in securing the quadruple treble.  To lose to your bitter rivals is ever worse.  However, things are often darkest before dawn and there can be no doubt that, in the months gone by, Celtic have faced some dark times.  They seemed on a path of redemption but on Sunday met a bump in the road.  In the aftermath of the game, when disappointment clears and cooler heads prevail it is important to look, with context, on where Celtic find themselves.

At the end of last season, with Celtic far adrift behind Rangers in the league and facing an exodus of players, fans had every reason to believe the rebuild facing the new manager would be one of the biggest in the clubs history.  The collapse from quadruple treble winners to downtrodden runners up had been swift and devastating. There was no permanent manager, no CEO, no head of recruitment and no communication with a disenchanted support.  News of a new leader, in highly rated young manager Eddie Howe, gave a brief glimmer of hope. That too was taken away.  The club thought they had their man, but, seemingly at the last minute, the deal fell apart and the club was again rudderless.

Given how long the Eddie Howe debacle rumbled on for, with the club and fans believing he would take over, only for the rug to be pulled at the last minute, the situation, unbelievably, looked even more daunting.

With no recruitment structure in place, an incoming CEO who hadn’t worked in football before and the financial implications of a post Covid landscape casting a shadow over the backing any new manager may receive, the mood was grim. The behind the scenes issues affecting the club didn’t seem to be going anywhere and pessimism reigned.

Adding to these problems, was a playing side facing huge turnover.  Having several loanees (another sign of the gross mismanagement and short termism which has plagued the club in recent years) returning to their parent clubs, as well as many first team players, such as Captain Scott Brown and defensive mainstay Kris Ajer leaving, the squad has been left decimated.  Add to this the long term injury to Chris Jullien, reports of players wanting to leave and squad players being sold and the situation was becoming desperate.

The ‘Champions League’ qualifiers, a source of both glamour and income, were only weeks away and every second without positive news seemed like an eternity.  The footballing doomsday clock was slowly ticking toward disaster. When Ange Postecoglou was announced as manager in June, fans were underwhelmed. The big Aussie was in for a rough start.

With all of this in mind, the job that Postecoglou has done in just two months cannot be overlooked.  Qualification for the Europa League, decisive displays domestically, performances that have thrilled the returning fans and the signing of the inspirational Kyogo had raised expectations before the Glasgow Derby.  The style and tempo with which Postecoglou’s men have approached games has left fans purring.

In the face of adversity behind the scenes and on the pitch, Ange Postecoglou headed to Ibrox, with no away supporters, to take on a Rangers side who were undefeated domestically (cup competitions aside), and who’s team had been assembled over several years.  Given all that had come before, the turmoil the club had endured and the huge rebuilding job needed, the fact there was an expectation of victory speaks volumes about the effect he has had on the team so far.

Sadly the game would come to soon for Celtic and they fell to a 1-0 defeat.  Confidence is a fragile thing and, suddenly fans may have felt the need to question if this was, in fact, a false dawn.  Some outlets reacted by giving the Celtic players low match ratings, demanding Postecoglou change his style and yelling about the need for more reinforcements.  Only that last point has any validity.  On the game itself, it would be inaccurate to say there wasn’t already improvement from the last humbling derby defeat.

On the 2nd May, Celtic crashed to a 4-1 mauling, had only 49% possession and six less shots on target than their rivals.  This was a team who, earlier in the season, had completed an unprecedented quadruple treble.  On the 29th August, Celtic lost by a fine one goal margin, with 66% possession and only one less shot on target.  This was a team assembled by a new coach, only a few months in the job, with a threadbare squad needing reinforcements and yet the improvement was obvious to see.

If Celtic wish to improve and have ambitions of domestic and European success then they must be brave and stick by the attacking principles of ‘Angeball’.  If they continue to be brave on the ball, defiant against all opposition and press with the aggression Postecoglou desires then only good things can come.  The manager has spoken about never setting his team up to be underdogs as he feels that mentally, the players believe they aren’t good enough even before a match begins.  He has spoken about going down with a fight being better than sitting back and possibly losing anyway.  He is showing he is a winner and wants his players to believe they can take on any, and all, comers.  This will take time but Celtic cannot let some black eyes along the way stopping them battling for a higher footballing purpose;  Bring success back to the club and winning with a swagger.

While it is never acceptable to lose a Glasgow Derby, It is important, when looking at this result, that Celtic fans consider all that has come before. Consider all the trials the new manager, and this great club, has faced in such a small window of time, and the relative successes within. That pre match confidence was not misplaced.  It is always darkest before the dawn, and if this man can get the club on track after straying from the path of success so drastically while making fans believe in only a few short months, then in Ange Postecoglou, they have a man of vision and purpose to help shine a light on the way to a brighter future.

On June 10th, the day of his unveiling, the fans were asked to take a leap of faith by both the manager and new CEO Dom McKay.  “The key for me is that people believe in me,” said Postecoglou when he took over as manager of Celtic. He asked for belief but there were many questions to be answered;  Could an unknown, at least on the European stage, really be the answer?  How far behind Eddie Howe was he in the selection process? With such a huge rebuild on the horizon, and Champions League qualification at stake, would he have the time and resources needed?

While he has had varying degrees of success so far, with answers to some of those questions still forthcoming, one thing he can be sure of is that the fans are starting to believe and, judging by the impressive performances on the park, so are the players.  This optimism is despite missing out on the opportunity to progress in the Champions League, and losing the first domestic league game of the season.  Such a start would normally have added pressure to an already treacherous period to navigate and yet there is a confidence around the club. There has, albeit slowly, been a strong recruitment drive with the new additions hitting the ground running and results since that night in Edinburgh have improved dramatically.   The buzz around Celtic Park is tangible, with fans eager to vanquish the ghosts of last season and embrace the new manager.

So how has Ange Postecoglou managed to win over the Celtic fans so quickly?

Ange ‘Gets it’

Understanding what makes Celtic a special club is a simple task for fans.  They know the history; from the charitable origins to the Lisbon Lions and back again there has always been a romance about the club.  More than a few players and managers over the years, who haven’t grown up Celtic minded, have come to embrace what Celtic, as a club, stands for.  They have become enamoured with the club, and while they my not have come to the club a fans, they leave the club as fans. Ange Postecoglou is a different case.  He is from the other side of the world, never played or coached in Europe and has only been in the city a matter of months and yet, from day one, he seems to have the attitudes, the human qualities and values fans want in a manager.  He is not belting out the ‘Fields of Athenry’ or talking about times he has visited the stadium or how great the fans are, but he has spoken about the value of hard work, the fact he was brought up to respect and understand the fortunate position he is in, his working class background and his desire to bring ‘good people’ to the club.  None of this is more evident than in his interview regarding the horrendous racial abuse aimed at Kyogo Furuhashi.  ‘Just be a decent human being’ he said when asked if this behaviour was a result of education. He went on to say that Glasgow is a great city because of its multiculturalism and as ‘an immigrant’ he was proud of that.  Celtic have always been a club open to all, founded to help the poor immigrants in Glasgow.  If ever a man and a club were to be matched on a value system, it is Postecoglou and Celtic.

Playing the ‘Celtic Way’

The great Jock Stein once said, ‘The best place to defend is in the opposition’s penalty box.’ Much like the human qualities and values that Celtic fans are so keen to cherish, the footballing style is something that obviously dominates the minds of the faithful. Playing the ‘Celtic Way’ is much more than a slogan, it is a style that keeps people entertained, that players love to be part of and that, most importantly, brings success with a swagger.  Much like the type of man Postecoglou appears to be, he is also the right type of manager for Celtic.  From the outset he has stated his team ‘never stop’ constantly attacking and pressing, determined to score goals and keep people on their feet.  This strength of philosophy and vision, while single minded and risky at times, is what fans have been crying out for.  While last season the performances where flat and unimaginative, this seasons team has displayed, especially recently, a flair and a hunger for goals that has blown the opposition away.  There are two massive games approaching, at time of writing, that have some questioning whether it is time Postecoglou changes such a high risk approach, but he will stand firm.  This desire to not only win, but win in a way that thrills and excites anyone who watches is exactly the type of manager Celtic need.  There may be a few bruises and black eyes along the road, but playing this expansive, aggressive, attacking style is very much ‘The Celtic Way’.

Re-energising the players

While it’s clear as a man he shares the clubs values, and as a manager shares its philosophy, it is a coach where his quality is shining through.  The core squad of players who won a quadruple treble looked a shadow of their former selves last season; lacklustre, unsure of themselves, low on confidence and directionless.  Those players who had achieved so much looked gone.  Enter Ange Postecoglou.  Earlier the recruitment process was mentioned and there is no doubt clever business was conducted to bring Kyogo and Abada, in particular, to the club.  These players have really hit the ground running. However it is the improvements made to the existing core group that really show how positively Ange has affected the club.  Callum McGregor has excelled in the captains role and is putting in some of the best performances of his time at the club.  David Turnbull looks to be thriving in the system. Stephen Welsh has made the Centre Back position his own and Anthony Ralston, one of the most unfairly derided players in recent memory, has won over a skeptical support.  All of these examples have illustrated how much influence a good coach can have on a team.  You can add Christie, Edouard and Taylor into that camp as well, but the stand out example of a player rejuvenated is Tom Rogic.  The big Australian has looked like a new player, strolling about Celtic Park like a Rolls Royce and that is down to the influence of the man at the helm, Ange Postecoglou.

There will be ups and downs this season, but the feeling that something special is happening at Celtic is tangible.  On June 10th Celtic fans were asked to take a leap of faith in the face of one of the biggest rebuilds in the clubs history.  The fans have done their part and it looks like Ange Postecoglou will do his.

It’s been several months of inactivity, work wise this year has been intense with very little let up so the programmes have taken a back seat, and I’ve only just managed to get through the latest batch and get them all uploaded in the last week.

331 programmes added, 7217 pages scanned and 44 years that have had programmes added to which brings the total number of programmes to 2876, with 89172 pages scanned and far too many cups of coffee consumed!

The wants list will be getting updated as I need a real good sort out of exactly what I’ve Got and not Got and put everything in order which is going to take a bit of time!

A programme that I enjoyed having a good flick through was the Celtic v Liverpool fixture from 1974, see the link below!

https://celticmatchday.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/12TH-AUGUST-1974.pdf

The fans were treated to a fine game between league champions Celtic and English FA Cup holders Liverpool.

The great Bill Shankly took charge of the Anfield side for one last time to go head to head against his great friend Jock Stein. Liverpool played all their big guns – Clemence, Hughes, Keegan, Heighway, Toshack.

60,000 fans turned out to make it a wonderful occasion with tremendous atmosphere. At the end McNeill went to the supporters as the fans chanted his name.

There is only one ‘King Billy’……..and that’s McNeill.

From the website Shankly.com – Shankly led out Clemence, Lindsay, Smith, Thompson, Hughes, Heighway, Hall, Callaghan, Cormack, Toshack and Keegan out at Celtic Park in front of 60,000 people and got a sensational reception as Liverpool fan Chris Wood remembers:

“Two days after the Charity Shield match at Wembley when Bill was given the honour of leading out his men in red for one final time, I made the long journey up to Glasgow from London by train where Liverpool were playing at Celtic Park in a testimonial match for Billy McNeill.

Before the teams appeared Billy McNeill walked in the the centre-circle to take the applause of his people and then he beckoned for Bill Shankly to come and join him. Everyone knew it was his last match in charge before the competitive season started five days later under Bob Paisley.

It was McNeill’s night but that amazing crowd of 60,000 stood as one and it seemed the whole stadium was chanting “Shankly, Shankly” and “Liv-er-pool, Liv-er-pool”. They just didn’t clap and cheer. they roared. I have never seen or heard anything like it before or since, not a tribute like to someone who had never worn their famous green and white hoops. It was breathtaking. Makes me shiver thinking about it now.”

Source: *https://www.thecelticwiki.com/1974-08-12-celtic-1-1-liverpool-billy-mcneill-testimonial/

That’s another 124 programmes added to the site, taking the total amount of programmes to 2521, and the amount of pages scanned to 81955, a mammoth task!

There are plenty of programmes currently being bartered for and heading my way in the post! As I was uploading I had ebay on in the background and I just missed out on a Newcastle v Celtic friendly from 1953 by some jammy bastard! Who beat me by a quid! Oh well.

A few of the uploads that caught my eye:

Celtic v Hibernian – 26th of October 1974 – League Cup Final – 6-3

Celtic v Dundee United – 4th of May 1974 – Scottish Cup Final – 3-0

FSV Zwickau v Celtic – 17th of March 1976 – European Cup Winners Cup 3rd Round – 1-0

Celtic v FC Solothurn – 12th of July 1988 – ??? – Has anyone got a result for this?

League of Ireland XI v Celtic – 8th of March 1994 – Friendly – ??? – Also this?

Heart of Midlothian v Celtic – 1st of December 2013 – Scottish Cup – 7-0 (SEVEN)