Tag Archives: SPFL

Hamilton v Celtic preview: Can the Hoops notch up a stunning win after goalless draw against Dundee?

brendan-rodgers

In a season full of them, Celtic characteristically slipped up again in their game in hand against Dundee during midweek. In a scoreless draw, it was Dundee who came closest to finding a goal, through a freak challenge by Dedryck Boyata that sent the ball spinning onto the post. Not that it will matter; Celtic are still 10 points ahead of nearest challengers Aberdeen with just 6 games left to play.

Brendan Rodgers will be looking for a reaction from his players tomorrow though, and a fixture against league strugglers Hamilton may present the perfect platform.

The home side are only 5 points way from the relegation zone – albeit with a game in hand on their rivals – and this game arguably matters more to them than Celtic.

Rangers v Celtic

Martin Canning, therefore, will have his players primed for the importance of it all. They’re unfortunate to have captain Dougie Imrie out through injury while Celtic may see the return of key defender Kieran Tierney in time to make the team, although Rodgers might be wary of risking him on Hamilton’s notorious artificial pitch.

He has goalkeeper Craig Gordon back in the first-team after he started against Dundee, and will have to decide whether to remain with him or bring back the impressive Scott Bain. Leigh Griffiths and Patrick Roberts, in relieving news for supporters, are now fit and will be hoping for some game time.

Celtic have enjoyed their recent history with Hamilton: they’ve never lost at New Douglas Park, and Hamilton have only won just one of their previous 20 top-flight league meetings with their lofty opponents.

Celtic’s next game is the Scottish Cup semi-final against Rangers and Rodgers might have one eye on that important fixture when picking his starting lineup tomorrow. He’ll certainly want to win to take his side another step closer to their 7th league title in a row, but he’ll not want to risk losing any key players to unnecessary injuries.

The unfortunate timing of Hibernian midfielder Dylan McGeouch’s injury

dylan-mcgeouch

The unfortunate timing of Hibernian midfielder Dylan McGeouch’s injury

After finally receiving his first call-up for the Scottish national team this March, injury cruelly took the opportunity away from Dylan McGeouch. It was a terrible twist since the Hibernian midfielder had secured his place solely on merit. This was his first season as a regular starter in the Scottish Premiership and he has handled it with class and assuredness, establishing himself a dynamic presence in the Hibernian midfield.

He joined up with Alex McLeish’s squad for the friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary but it was almost immediately announced that he’d be returning to Hibernian. Given he was one of 10 uncapped players in the squad, McGeouch could have fairly been expecting some game time, adding a further note of aggravation at his plight.

Injuries are sadly nothing new to the player, with McGeouch having missed significant periods of previous seasons. However, he had settled in as a virtual ever-present in Neil Lennon’s first-team this season, seemingly rid of his fitness problems.

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Having strung together 16 consecutive games for his club prior to this new groin strain, it is a significant blow to Lennon and his team. With 8 league games left, the second place is firmly within Hibernian’s grasp, trailing Rangers currently by only 6 points.

During his time in the Scottish Championship, McGeouch has stood out as a talented performer but due to his onslaught of fitness issues, he is often regarded inconsistent when compared to fellow midfielder John McGinn. To be fair, much of Hibernian’s success this season has been down to his powerful running and stamina on the right side of the midfield. He combines well with McGinn and the duo play with perfect balance and understanding.

That said, it remains to be seen how long McGeouch will be sidelined for. However, Lennon can take solace in the fact that their next few fixtures are kind ones: they face Patrick Thistle, Hamilton, and Ross County. Barring unforeseen disasters in those unformidable fixtures, Lennon will be hoping that McGeouch will be fit enough for the tougher opponents that will present themselves in the post-split games.

Hibernian have performed astoundingly well against the big sides – even winning at Ibrox on two occasions – and McGeouch has always featured prominently for his team.

Given that he burst through in such spectacular fashion in 2011 with that 70-yard run to score for Celtic on his second appearance for the club, it’s remarkable that McGeouch is only 25 years of age. He’s at his peak and Hibernian will be wanting their player back to his best as soon as possible.

Rangers 2-3 Celtic: Match Review

Rangers v Celtic

It was billed as the biggest ‘Old Firm’ contest in years but it was Celtic who emerged triumphant yet again. In a thrilling encounter, Brendan Rodgers’ 10-men saw the result through to the end, but the Northern Irishman won’t be fully ecstatic this week after the game. Poor defending was omnipresent from his players, something which direly needs to be addressed. For Graeme Murty, it was a humbling learning experience for the new manager, after a week of intense media hype and passionate displays from his team’s supporters.

When Rangers took the lead not once but twice in a pulsating first-half, he would have been forgiven for truly believing that an upset was on the cards. It’s a testament to the resolve of Celtic that they fought back, kept in the game, and emerged winners. This is a team who have notably been questioned for their winners’ mentality, especially in European competition.

It was Celtic’s fourth straight win at Ibrox, equalling an incredible record that had stood since 1909, and it leaves them a comfortable 9 points ahead of their rivals, with a game in hand still to play against Dundee. There will be no title race this season, certainly, but Rangers fans should still feel some hope for their club’s future on the pitch.

Daniel Candeias has been one of the signings of the season, and confidently smashed home the second goal through Scott Bain’s legs. His partnership with skillful right-back James Tavernier is powerful, commanding, and they were a constant menace to Celtic’s defence, as they were in the previous encounter at Celtic Park. That right-hand side is the one area where Rangers can say that they’re currently stronger than Celtic, and it should be a high priority of Murty to secure Tavernier for another few seasons.

New arrivals Greg Docherty, Sean Goss, and Jamie Murphy all looked promising in their debuts in this fixture, especially in the first-half, but what will need to be addressed is the lack of creativity which meant that Rangers were unable to find a way past their opposition after they were reduced to 10-men on the 57th minute. Jozo Simunovic’s loose elbow impacted on Alfredo Morelos’ face and the linesman immediately and ferociously signaled for a red card and referee Willie Collum duly complied.

It was after this flashpoint that Rodgers showed his tactical superiority over his managerial rival with his in-game changes. Youngster Jack Hendry was brought on for the defensively-suspect midfielder Tom Rogic to cover in defence and forward Odsonne Eduoard boldly followed shortly afterwards to partner Moussa Dembele in attack. His cavalier attitude in several important games have been questioned this season by the Celtic support, most explicitly against the big European teams, but it just highlights the incredibly fine margins that exist in football.

Within 2 minutes of coming onto the pitch, Eduoard had cut inside his marker and curled a delightful right-footed shot into the far corner, in what would end up being the winner. Murty, conversely, brought on Jason Cummings to strengthen his attack, but none of his players could find a way through until late in the game, when Morelos missed one of the worst sitters in recent memory. Bain also saved well when one-on-one against him earlier in the second-half and, while he is certainly a powerful striker and still young, there is still lots of work to be done on his game.

All the goals were of excellent quality – particularly Rogic’s signature left-footed blast from outside the box that swept into Wes Foderingham’s top corner. Olivier Ntcham also gave a man-of-the-match performance in central midfield, at certain points looking a class above the rest with his touch and vision. Less impressive was the terrible performance of Derrick Boyata, who handed the first goal to Rangers with his characteristic mistake and continued to look uncomfortable throughout. It must be said that the big Belgian defender was rushed back from injury to play in the game, but Rodgers will need to tighten his defence if they are to cut out these needless errors costing his team.

The next match between the two is just over one month away, in a Scottish Cup semi-final encounter that was notoriously welcomed by the Rangers support when the draw was made, but perhaps their expectations will be tempered going into this one. Murty has molded these players into a better team than they ever were under previous incumbent Pedro Caixinha, but Celtic remain a far superior and higher-quality side.

Top 3 Rising Talents In Scottish Football

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Another World Cup qualification campaign ended unsuccessfully for Scotland last year and, in truth, it was unsurprising. Head coach Gordon Strachan often appeared aimless, clueless and only started to get his team playing anywhere near at the level required when it was too late.

It was an ageing squad, it must be said. Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown, Russell Martin, and James Morrison – all ever-presents when available – are on the wrong side of 30 now. The new man in charge, Alex McLeish, has a tough job on his hands but he’d be wise to put his trust in youth because (and only say it in a whisper) it looks like Scotland have a good generation making their way into first-team football now.

We’ve seen Kieran Tierney grow into one of the best left-backs in Europe, likewise his slightly older compatriot Andrew Robertson, now firmly established as Liverpool’s starter on the left-hand side.

Consider also Hearts’ 4-0 humbling of Celtic, the result which ended their incredible unbeaten run, made even more astounding given that 16-year-old Harry Cochrane started and bossed the midfield against the formidable Scott Brown.

The next campaign to qualify for Euro 2020 will likely come too soon for that young man, but there are plenty of others beginning to impress in Scottish football, and who should be catching the attention of McLeish. This article will look at 3 of the top examples.

3) Anthony Ralston (Celtic)

It’d be permissible to only know Celtic’s young right-back from his comical and unfortunate tussle with Neymar in the Champions League group stage, with his ‘iconic’ laughing in the Brazilian’s face and then less funnily PSG’s man refusing to shake his hand at the final whistle.

That game was certainly too much for Ralston. Brendan Rodgers has repeatedly spoken highly of him, even after that game, (Daily Record) and everything is in place for Ralston to replace the tiring Mikael Lustig as Celtic’s first choice right-back.

Ralston started the season well, even scoring his first goal for the club in a 5-0 League Cup victory over Kilmarnock, but a cruel knee injury has kept him out since September.

In his early showings, though, he appeared extremely solid defensively, and there can’t be many young players who have come through from the youth ranks with the physique of Ralston. He’s an imposing presence, well-built and powerful. His tackling, unsurprisingly, is excellent, so much so that a future at centre-back could even await him.

His technique going forward isn’t as strong as Kieran Tierney on the opposite side of the pitch, and he can appear hesitant in possession, but Rodgers has plenty of time to increase Ralston’s confidence in these matters.

If he does so, Scotland could have a great answer to their problematic right-back position which has plagued the national side for years.

2) Lewis Morgan (Celtic)

It’s been seen before, notably in the case of the miserable Scott Allan, a player from a smaller Scottish club leaving too early to join Celtic or Rangers (or even an English side), where they proceed to struggle to gain a place in the team before returning to the lower level.

After choosing the champions over his boyhood club Rangers, Allan never really had an opportunity to show his capabilities under Ronny Deila, and Rodgers just hasn’t fancied the midfielder, sending him on loan to Hibs.

Morgan completed his signing for the club in January. It’s important that he’s returned to St Mirren for the remainder of the season, for this will allow him to play regularly in the first team and be fit and ready to impress as best he can in Celtic’s pre-season in the summer.

He had impressed for the Paisley club over the past few seasons, a standout in the Scottish Championship. He’s still only 21, but hit double figures in the 2016/2017 campaign and has 13 already so far in this one.

Full of creativity, strength on the ball, and with a mighty shooting range, Morgan could be the type of player Scotland have been missing recently. His ability with both feet and versatility across the back line will enable him to have a good chance of making Rodgers’ first-team squad from next season.

1) Ross McCrorie (Rangers)

As his club were experiencing a turbulent start to this season, McCrorie’s performances gave Rangers fans something to be proud of. His introduction to the first team was one of the few things Pedro Caixinha achieved during his time in charge.

Although he was on the losing side in a 2-0 defeat, McCrorie’s performance in his first Old Firm derby was commended favourably by the media. Since December, he’s even played mostly outside his natural position of centre-back but, as a defensive midfielder, has looked assured and effective.

He’s provided the steady base which has allowed others the freedom to express themselves going forward.

Loan spells in the lower leagues with Ayr United and Dumbarton in previous seasons helped the player with his physique and mentality, and the switch to the Scottish Premiership has been swift and seamless.

McCrorie has also played at almost every youth level for Scotland. Caixinha tipped (Daily Record) the player to become a legend for both club and country last year, and McCrorie possesses the skills and confidence to do so.

Does Ryan Christie Have A Future At Celtic?

Ryan Christie

In the loan market, Celtic has found differing results. Nadir Ciftci struggled in the English lower leagues with Plymouth and is trying again back in Scotland with Motherwell; promising youngster Kundai Benyu can’t get a game for Oldham Athletic. The only true success story they’ve had this season is Ryan Christie, who has been mightily impressive on loan with rivals Aberdeen. This was not a new territory for the player, given he spent time on loan at the same club last season in a productive spell. He notched 6 goals in just 13 league games in the second half of the campaign. His form helped Aberdeen to a second-place finish in the Scottish Premiership and a Scottish Cup final against his, of course, Celtic.

Manager Derek McInnes was desperate to secure the return of the midfielder for this season and Brendan Rodgers – perhaps surprisingly – granted his wish, and Christie has continued in fine style for the Dons. His goals return may be down (just 3 in the league so far) but whenever he’s played, which is often, Christie has made Aberdeen tick in attack and has been their main creative outlet. In battles against Celtic, they’ve sorely missed his ability, lacking that spark to change a game in one team’s favour. Aberdeen’s other options in midfield – players like Kenny McClean and Gary Mackay-Steven – have their positives but don’t possess Christie’s talent for that killer pass, his incisive play through an opposition’s defence. With McClean also due to depart the club for Norwich City next season, it’s little wonder that McInnes has talked about the possibility of signing Christie permanently from Celtic (Daily Record).

Rodgers, however, stated in the media last week that Christie will definitely remain a Celtic player next season. (Thescottishsun) Christie turned 23 last month and is at the age where he needs to find the best club to settle down at and play his best football. His ability is unquestioned but the overload of midfielders at Celtic could be problematic. Tom Rogic, Callum McGregor, Charly Musonda, and Stuart Armstrong are all potential rivals for his favoured position, attacking midfield. It’s something that Rodgers does need to address, this imbalance in his squad, for the defence is far more in need of reinforcement. The only way one could see Christie being allowed to join Aberdeen, then, is if McInnes can afford a decent transfer fee to secure his services.

ryan-christie

This is unlikely, for Aberdeen will most likely be focusing their expenditure on their new stadium, and closer attention to his competitors in midfield can offer Christie hope. Stuart Armstrong has appeared disillusioned with life in Glasgow this season and has been a pale imitation of the player from last season. Charly Musonda is very raw and it remains to be seen if he has the physicality required for Scottish football. Callum McGregor has filled the position consistently this campaign and has had an admirable season, but many have noted the dearth of creativity when he does occupy that attacking midfield space; the Scottish international possesses a goal threat and keeps possession well, but he doesn’t have that unpredictability or creativity of someone like Christie or Rogic. The latter’s exquisite left foot shot to equalise against Rangers last weekend was evidence of this but the rangy Australian is alarmingly injury-prone.

Rogic is the player most similar to Christie at the club, but it may play into Christie’s favour that he is fitter, more physically capable and can thus offer Rodgers more consistency. They both have an excellent eye for a pass, are graceful in possession of the ball, but Christie should be able to play far more minutes on the pitch. Rodger’s insistence about his place in his squad for next season will fill Christie with confidence, and a full season of first-team football with Aberdeen will ready him for a tough pre-season this summer.

Aberdeen And Their New Stadium

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After a long, drawn-out process, Aberdeen finally got approval for the plans for their new stadium. Revised plans for the project were approved by the city council at the end of last month. The £50 million training and stadium package have met with many detractors, however, like the No Kingsford Stadium group: they have voiced their concerns about the increased traffic in the Westhill area of the city where the stadium would be built, and are likely to seek a judicial review of January’s decision.

Aberdeen have been talking about moving from their current home, Pittodrie, for over a decade, but fans remain split; moving from an old and historic stadium always comes with emotional difficulties. Pittodrie has been their home since the founding of the club all the way back in 1903 but, unsurprisingly given its age, further developments on the ground aren’t possible. The new site at Kingsford is 8 miles west of the city centre, far from the Pittodrie ground where fans have called home for over a century, and for some, this is a sad distance.

What it does offer is space to build top-class facilities and provide a better match day experience for fans, for Pittodrie was located in a dense area, surrounded by land restrictions which stopped the club from growing in the space. It will be much easier-located for visiting fans, it being on the periphery of Aberdeen, but moves outside of inner cities often aren’t popular. It seems like madness now but during their early 1990’s troubles, there were plans to move Celtic from their spiritual East End home in Glasgow to Cambuslang, a town on the outskirts of the city. Instead, they redeveloped the old Celtic Park on the same site and the club now has one of the most admired stadiums in Europe.

What this new stadium for Celtic also did was usher in a new era for the club, as things improved both on and off the pitch; the same could, and should, be possible with Aberdeen now. Chairman Stewart Milne has spoken of his excitement at what new first-class facilities could do for the potential of the club. Aberdeen, under Derek McInnes, has emerged as a top Scottish Premiership side in the last few years, the second best in the country, but a large part of taking the next step is the Kingsford project.

Footballers are always attracted by excellent training grounds, by modern stadiums to play in, and for too long Pittodrie was a creaking ground, sorely lacking in atmosphere. The Dons have stated that the new 20,000-seater stadium and training ground complex could even be completed in time for the 2020/2021 season and could mark the culmination of an exciting period in the clubs history. Much will need to be done and said to placate local residents and the surrounding community, certainly, but if the move is handled with care, there’s every reason that it could take Aberdeen’s vision and ambition as a club to a different level.

Celtic’s Future Star: Karamoko Dembele

karamoko-dembele

One is always loath to make predictions too prematurely on young talent, but early footage of Karamoko Dembele is simply incredible. He first came to wider prominence at the tender age of 13 when he made his debut for Celtic’s U-20 side in October 2016. He’s been under media scrutiny ever since and even featured in a high-profile Nike advertisement alongside Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo a few months ago; it’s a lot for any young man to take in and one hopes it doesn’t all go to his head.

There was the unfortunate instance of Islam Feruz recently, who Celtic raised – and even ensured he and his family were allowed to stay in the country and not face deportation back to Somalia – and took care of before he promptly left the club when the rich Chelsea made their interest in him known. Feruz, accordingly, has yet to make a first-team appearance for the club and, at 22, his career just hasn’t taken off, with the player struggling through several terrible loan moves away from Stamford Bridge.

Perhaps staying with Celtic would have allowed the youngster to mature in a more nurturing setting, perhaps he would have faded away regardless. Dembele would be wise, though, to consider his predecessor’s example and not be tempted by the wealth of the English Premier League too soon.

dembele

And based on the available footage so far, Dembele is a far superior talent to Feruz. His touch, his vision, his pure footballing ability completely belie his youth, and even Brendan Rodgers said last year that Dembele was technically good enough to occupy his first-team squad. Celtic have done well to not rush him through the age groups, for Dembele is still young and must mature physically, but it’s also true that he has held his own against older boys in games he’s featured in.

Given the excitement around him, a battle has also commenced for his international position, with both England and Scotland having a claim: eligible for either of those teams, as well as the Ivory Coast, Dembele has featured in games at U-16 level for Scotland and U-15 level for England, and still seems unsure where his future lies. Notably, he starred in a victory over England for Scotland in 2017, but Dembele still has a few years to make his definitive decision. He’s 15 now and Celtic’s youngster ever first-team player in their history was only a year older, Jack Aitchison in 2016, so the winger should be thinking about doing the same very soon.

What’s truly astounding is Dembele’s confidence and bravery on the ball, a mentality that will be vital if he’s to break through at such a young age. Celtic has required a good reputation in the 21st century for developing youth, with Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, and James Forrest all breaking into the first-team in recent seasons and – as the current evidence shows what could be a once-in-a-generational player – there’s every reason that Dembele could be the next in line, even at 15.

Carlton Cole Could Land At Celtic

Carlton Cole

Through the last week of September, former English International, Carlton Cole was in Glasgow for a week long training session for the Scottish giants in preparation to sign a new deal. The 31 year old was training with the Celtic first team when he tweaked his calf during the tryout and has been forced to take care of his injury instead of working on a deal. However, Cole remained in Glasgow during the International break and he seems to be recovering nicely. It appears that once the Hoops players return from break that Cole will get another shot at making the club.

The free agent has been fixated on the prospect of joining Celtic since he arrived during the last week of September and was watching from the stands in Paradise to watch the Hoops’ 6-0 thrashing against bottom feeders, Dundee FC. After the match, Ronny Deila made opening remarks toward Cole and stated that it was a perfect time for Cole to find an adjustment after being in London for his whole life.

“It is not (a trial), he has been in London his whole life, so he has to see what he is coming to and then we will see if it is something that he likes and we like as well.
“I think he is very good football player and he shown in the Premier League and also the Championship that he can score goals and he is different to what we have.”

If the Glasgow side are to sign the Londoner in the near future, defenseman Mikael Lustig has been quick to point out that Celtic must act quick because even though the striker is 31 years of age, he still has the experience that a lot of clubs are looking to have.

Carlton Cole will bring a different type of attacking option to the Celts that they aren’t used to having. Cole is a large and aggressive striker that can come in off the bench and help the offense inside the box, providing headers and drawing space from two or three defenders when he’s on the ball. Celtic can only get better in depth and the striker position should they sign Cole. The only worry right now is whether he can stay fit when playing at full pace. The good news is that while Cole was nursing his injured calf, he remained in Glasgow, barring any interest from rival clubs. It is also a good sign that Cole hasn’t left the city, which means he is becoming acclimated to his surroundings. The interest level seems to be extremely high from both player and club to get a deal signed as soon as possible.