What a week for Celtic and Scottish Football

What A Week For Celtic And Scottish Football…

I’m pretty sure it was in everyone’s mind that the ‘dead rubber’ would pass without a whimper, and that Celtic would be once again relegated to also-rans in the European Champions League final group match with nothing to show for it except a bit of bad luck.

Well, we were all wrong! Celtic turned up and beat old foes, Feyenoord 2-1. The manner in which we did was not exhilarating, but efficient and professional. It had to be because, consider this. Which one of us would have placed a thin dime on The Boss’ chosen team beating the Champions of Holland with selections we never previously imagined would come from the gaffer?

Yes, Brendan has his critics, and they are vicious at times, but full credit to the man for fielding players who many of us considered dead in the water. AND, he won through on the day by second guessing us. Imagine sitting in the pub with your mates discussing the possibility of these guys beating the Dutch Champs in Europe? No, me neither.

We had the much-maligned Joe Hart, a great character with flaws we all know about, but Joe used all his nouse, World Cup and European experience to steady the ship at the back. His continual promptings, occasional ravings and serene calm brought success when we needed it.

He not only saved us but encouraged his bizarre backline to do the same. Did I say bizarre? Although the solid, dependable Alistair Johnston would do what the Canadian does in terms of tackles and supporting the midfield, the central defensive pairing of Liam Scales, (Man of the Match) and Stephen Welsh raised more than eyebrows, but hackles to many. Stephen hasn’t been seen since way back when and has been widely touted for transfer elsewhere. The fans were rightly worried.

However, what a game he had and showed exactly why Brendan Rodgers showed such faith in bringing him in from the cold. Now, Scales, our beloved Irishman, the big red-head produced yet another sterling performance for us, prompting fans to give him the monicker, ‘Scaledini’! He simply goes from strength to strength although he is not yet the finished article.

Greg Taylor is an enigma; he has so much skill and talent, yet he is often found not good enough in Europe, an overachiever in Scotland, however, he is caught out at the back too much. His passion and energy is never in doubt, but Celtic need more than he has to offer tactically.

Calmac foraged and diverted, sprayed passes and occasionally commanded against a fast, fluid Dutch midfield. With the unlucky Tomoki getting first dibs at the soap early doors, Cal had Bernardo to foster. He did it well and his fierce shot which cannoned off the bar deserved a happier ending.

Luis Palma discovered what Europe is really about as he worked hard to establish himself in the game. His cool penalty slot will have lifted his confidence sky high although there is much more to come from him.

Mikey? Who the hell would have predicted that the comeback-man would start in a game such as this? Like Taylor, he works tirelessly but often to little effect. I’d love to see him succeed, but hearts v heads etc…

Jamsie Forrest! At his age? Still pulling on a first team strip, still romping the wing and still playing in Europe. We love Jamsie and I’m grateful for his service when we are down to the bare bones in squad depth. He’s a legend!

Kyogo started OH-so brightly (see what I did there?) but his finishing was reminiscent of the last few weeks, bereft of confidence. The wee man forges tirelessly and never gives up but seems to have lost that X-Factor he once thrived on. It will come back, and I hope it’s soon.

Oh came on and bullied to no avail-not sure where he will fit in when all our players are fully fit and demanding starting slots.

Matt O’Riley is far and away the best player in Scotland and the winning goal speaks for itself. Matt is a genuine diamond and delivers every single time. Collecting a long, high ball on the edge of the box, the Danish international brought it down, controlled and shimmied before delivering a sublime chip to the back post. The rest is history.

Liam Scales and Gustaf Lagerbielke of Celtic celebrate following the team’s victory during the UEFA Champions League match between Celtic FC and Feyenoord at Celtic Park on December 13, 2023 i. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Big Gus. Again, who saw that coming? Playing him is one thing but watching him nod home Matt’s chip to elevate the stadium into a state of delirium is another. What a great moment for him, and us.

One of the highlights of the match was the introduction of young, Mitchel Frame, as predicted only on The Celtic Star by James French. The attacking firebrand has been called upon for weeks to be included in the first team, but nobody imagined he would come on against Feyenoord and help turn the game! What a future this lad has before him.

To beat the arrogant (before and after the match) Dutch with this team of misfits and so-called rejects is phenomenal and should not be discarded as simply luck or a one-off. We battled hard for this result!

Yes, there’s work to be done and yes, Brendan is working his socks off with reserves mainly, but although the evil genius (Chris Sutton) reckons we should not get carried away, (fair enough), I believe we should look at the big picture.

We’ve been decimated by injury to our top stars whilst some have gone off the boil and confidence has waned. We’re still top of the league and are on the verge of having Liel Abada, Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate returning to the ranks to bolster our Championship tilt.

Should we lose our Asian contingent to their Cup bid in January, I hear we are on the verge of signing two quality players with a top loan striker incoming during the upcoming window.

Hear me out here. theRangers beating Real Betis in Seville may not be such a bad thing after all. They are Europa Cup league leaders in their section and heading into the last 16. I can feel your curiosity there folks! Hold the line…

German shock-troops, Frankfurt hammered Harry Kane’s superstars, Bayern Munich, 5-1 at the weekend. Aberdeen beat Frankfurt 2-0 (deservedly) yesterday at Pittodrie. See where I’m going with this?

There’s a new format about to be unveiled in the Champions League this coming season, more games, different venues etc, and Celtic want to be a part of it. In order to qualify and compete in said tournament the Scottish coefficient must align. The results this week will do nothing but help in this matter therefore we should put aside our domestic rivalries for the better good.

Brendan Rodgers applauds after winning the UEFA Champions League group E football match between Celtic and Feyenoord at Celtic Park on December 13, 2023. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Yes, it’s been a sensational week for Scottish football in Europe and we must strive to elongate this feel-good factor long term. There is much at stake, but before then, Celtic have the small matter of welcoming our bosom buddies to Celtic Park in a must-win match.

Three goals against Betis says something, and Celtic will be ultra-aware of the standard they will need to set if they want to see off a resurgent (if not brilliant) Ibrox side.

Me? I fully expect to see the gaffer’s gleaming white teeth flashing into the cameras at Celtic Park post-match. I believe it will invigorate an occasionally sluggish term for us and the new players, allied with the returning ones will ensure the League Flag flies over Paradise once more come May.

We are undoubtably the finest team in Scotland, so now is the time to step up to the mark and prove it. In Brendan we trust! Bring it on!

Eddie Murray

About Author

Eddie Murray – I Grew up with the Lions, coming from a Celtic-daft family. Played against Jinky once! Paradise was my second home and Dalglish was my hero. A long term Brisbane Bhoy for many years and have been blogging here for many years. Written a book on Ange/ Brisbane Roar/ Celtic which awaits publication. Writing on other genres as I speak. Top moments? Interviewing Cesar, Wispy, Cairney, The Maestro, Alan Thompson.

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