Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Interview with Bernie Slaven

Bernie posing in his Republic of Ireland kit
Bernard Joseph “Bernie” Slaven is a Scottish-born footballer, who through his grandfather became eligible to feature for the Republic of Ireland at international level.

Slaven made a total of 514 senior career appearances, scoring 200 goals along the way. He also pulled on the Republic of Ireland shirt seven times, scoring the only goal of his international career on his debut against Wales.

Slaven was included in Jack Charlton’s 1990 World Cup squad, but unfortunately did not feature. Despite being disappointed to not play, Slaven was grateful just to be there.

“To be included in the World Cup squad was a dream and an honour. What you have to remember is, up until then I had only played one and a half games, scoring on my debut, so to hear I was rubbing shoulders with guys like Van Basten, Gullit, and Lineker was surreal.

“I was disappointed not to get a game but I was realistic as I had played no part in getting the Republic to the finals. Jack Charlton very seldom changed the team and nine of us didn't even get a game. Frank Stapleton was one of them and he was a top goalscorer.

“Pulling on an Ireland shirt at 29 was an honour and a reward for all my hard work and I will be forever grateful to Jack Charlton.”

Bernie started off his career in Scotland, making a handful of appearances with both Airdrie and Queen of the South. In 1983 he moved to Albion Rovers, scoring 31 goals in 47 appearances. This is where he would earn his move to Middlesbrough, where he would go on to make a real name for himself as a goalscorer.

Bernie spent eight years at Middlesbrough, where he managed to score 147 goals in just over 382 appearances.
Celebrating promotion to the Premier League in 1992
Slaven impressed the Boro management, scoring in a trial game against Bradford City. Despite Bradford wanting him to sign on the dotted line, Bernie signed for Middlesbrough in October 1995 for £25,000, to the delight of manager Willie Maddren.

One of the more amusing anecdotes from Slaven’s career occurred at Binns department store, after his Middlesbrough side defeated Manchester United away from home for the first time in almost 70 years.

“During radio commentary, my old colleague asked, ‘Next time we go to Old Trafford to take on Man United, how far would you go if we actually beat them?’ I replied ‘There is a saying in Middlesbrough that you will show your arse in Binns window if it happens. The last time the Boro had won there was 68 years ago, so I thought it was a safe bet.

“After 90 minutes at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, the scoreboard read ‘Man Utd 2 Middlesbrough 3.’ The travelling Boro fans were chanting ‘Bernie, Bernie show us your arse.’

“On the Monday morning I arrived at the manager’s office at Binns, within an hour the room was full of journalists, local and national, don’t forget it was Christmas and the press were looking for stories.

“I put on my red tartan kilt and got one of the girls to write 3-2 on my bum cheeks.

“As I entered the window of the store I couldn't believe my eyes, there was a couple of thousand people inside and outside, trying to get a glimpse of my rear.

“If only I had kept my big mouth shut!”

Slaven admits that his boyhood heroes are Glasgow Celtic, and is impressed with the job Neil Lennon has done, especially in Europe.

Bonding with teammates 
“Neil Lennon has done a fantastic job. Last season’s exploits in Europe were exceptional. Obviously disappointing that he had to sell Hooper.”

On Celtic’s Champions League group this year he said,

“You write Celtic off at your peril, home form is the key and the record at Parkhead over the years has been exceptional.”

When he was scoring consistently at Middlesbrough, there were rumours in the press that Celtic were interested in Slaven’s services. This is something Slaven would have welcomed.

“When I was banging in the goals I was linked with Celtic in the newspapers, unfortunately Billy McNeil and Liam Brady quashed the rumours. I would have loved to have played for my boyhood heroes. If I was good enough scoring in every division in England on a regular basis, I would've say yes.”

It was former Celtic manager Tony Mowbary who gave Bernie the nickname “The Wolf.” Following this, whenever Bernie scored the crowd would howl like wolves.

Bernie recently talked about Celtic on his website and said,

“Recently my Da (sic) passed away, but I will be forever grateful that he introduced me to the game of football and introduced me to Celtic. But now that he has gone I just wish I could have worn the famous hooped jersey. Whenever I hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ it will always remind me of my boyhood dreams, my Da and Celtic.

Bernie finished off our interview by telling me his career highlight.
Bernie and his son at his benefit game

“My career highlight was scoring the goal that relegated Chelsea. It was the play-off finals, which was over two legs. The first game was at Ayresome Park and we won 2-0. At Stamford Bridge we held on and went into the top flight. It was amazing.”

Since Bernie stopped playing, he has been heavily involved in the media. He started out doing Boro TV and has summarised on over 500 games for Middlesbrough. For the last 14 years, he has done a radio show called ‘The Three Legends’, which broadcasts every night on Star Radio 6-8pm.

Finally, I would like to thank Bernie for taking time out to do this interview. You can follow him on Twitter by following this link here.

Monday, 2 September 2013

How far can Liverpool go this season?

Liverpool currently sit top of the English Premier League after winning their opening three games of the season, the most recent of which,  a 1-0 victory over the Champions Manchester United.

Rodgers is mobbed by Sturridge and his teammates 
Prior to Sunday’s match, Brendan Rodgers’ side had seen off Stoke at Anfield and Aston Villa away from home, both by the scoreline of 1-0. Their 1-0 victory against United, means they become the first Premier League side to win their first three games 1-0, and with the same player (Daniel Sturridge) scoring all three times.

Liverpool now sit top of the league with nine points from three matches and are the only side to currently have a 100% record.

An impressive start to the season from the reds, who desperately want to get into the top four and earn that elusive Champions League spot.

Sunday was an emotional day for the club, with the fans and management of both sides celebrating, what would have been the 100th birthday of the legendary figure Bill Shankly. The KOP had an impressive mosaic display to pay tribute to their former manager.

One of Liverpool's fans' tribute yesterday
It took Liverpool just four minutes to break the deadlock, as the inform Englishmen, Daniel Sturridge cleverly lost his marker at the far post and flicked the ball past David De de Gea in the United goal.

It was the kind of start Moyes must have dreaded, raising the decibel level of an already pretty raucous occasion.

Daniel Sturridge, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Sunday, has had a fantastic start to the season, having already netted the winners against Stoke and Aston Villa and scoring during the week in the cup.

The former Chelsea and Bolton striker seems to be thriving in his preferred role as a centre forward, and making the most of being the main man, as Luis Suarez still sits in the stand, following his ban at the end of last season.

Liverpool’s manager Brendan Rodgers will have a headache to deal with once Suarez is eligible to feature again. Will he push Sturridge back out wide, or keep him playing as the main striker? Sunday’s win made even more impressive, considering they never had their Uruguayan star in the squad.

Robin Van Persie was one of four United players cautioned in a typically fierce affair, and the half ended with an angry exchange of words between Steven Gerrard and the Dutch striker, whose focus appeared to have slipped somewhat after an earlier tangle with Agger.

Liverpool weren’t at their best by any stretch of the imagination, but still managed to hold out and earn an invaluable three points against their great rivals.

Gerrard and RvP go head-to-head
David Moyes has still never won a game at Anfield, after failing to win on Sunday and during his entire time as manager of Everton.

So, how far can this Liverpool side go this season?

It seems Daniel Sturridge is going to be pivotal to their success, giving how much of an impressive start he has made to the season. Liverpool still have Suarez to come back to the side, if they can keep him from leaving in the remaining few hours of this transfer window.

Liverpool fans aren’t na├»ve and will not want to get carried away, despite making their best start to a season in recent years.

Their hopes of a top four finish, however, were boosted somewhat today with the signings of Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori for a combined £25m. With what has been a busy day for the club, they have also brought in the Chelsea winger Victor Moses, while Borini has went to Sunderland on loan.

Sakho, a 23-year-old France international centre-back, has put pen to paper on a long-term contract with Liverpool having agreed a fee with Paris Saint-Germain believed to be in the region of £18m.

The 20-year-old Ilori, who has represented Portugal at under-20 level, has arrived from Sporting Lisbon for £7m having been tracked by Rodgers for much of the summer.

Sakho said: “I’m delighted to be here. I’d like to thank everyone for the welcome. “I came here because the project that is in place at Liverpool interests me. I’m really looking forward to playing my first game.”

Sakho, who can also play left-back, has made 14 appearances for France and played 201 games for PSG since making his breakthrough in 2007.

He won the French title, French Cup and French League Cup and was also named the country’s young player of the year in 2011. “I’m really looking forward to cracking on with work and I can’t wait to get on the pitch,” continued Sakho.

Despite it being early days, Liverpool fans must be confident of the season ahead. With today’s signings, they should be aiming for a top four finish and aim to get back into the Champions League, where they quite rightly belong.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Bias in the Scottish media

If the media in this country is to be believed, an independent Scotland will be a friendless, incompetent, struggling nation with a pot full of useless oil.

The referendum on Scottish independence will ultimately decide the future of the Union, and whether or not Scotland will become an independent nation.

As this is Scotland’s biggest political decision in 300 years, the press coverage has been extensive and sometimes excessive.

The campaign for an independent Scotland was launched on May 25 2012 by the Scottish National Party (SNP) and its leader Alex Salmond. This gave the opposing campaigns - the Yes campaign and Better Together – approximately 28 months to battle it out to win the votes of the Scottish public.

Many people already know how they will vote. But there are still a large number of people who are undecided. These people often get placed into the category of a ‘No’ vote, but I will go into that in more detail later.

Those who are still undecided will rely on the media to inform them and expect the portrayed facts to be balanced, whether in the newspapers they read, or the news programmes they watch.

That being the case, the points that the media put across to the public should be factually accurate and presented in a way that allows people to make their own decision.

But is this happening?

The media will play a vital role in this referendum yet they are often accused of not being impartial.

A recent example of this can be found in the newspaper, The Scotsman.

On Monday 3 June, their front page has the headline, “80% of young Scots snub independence”. When you read the story, it states that only 60% are actually opposed to Scotland leaving the UK, and 20% are undecided. The word ‘snub’ used in the headline is therefore inaccurate and used to suggest that those 20% indeterminate voters are voting no.  Is this fair and balanced?

Political editor of the Scottish Sun newspaper, Andrew Nicoll, believes newspapers publish these polls to ‘flatter their readers.’

“People buy newspapers to see themselves reflected. In some cases this is blatant bias and I don't think it’s a coincidence that the people writing the most virulent stuff are not Scottish.

“Some people make no secret of the fact that they have a mission and, if that's what they get paid to do, then that's their job. I have a rather more old fashioned view of the role of a journalist, so until I'm told to do something else, I will try to tread a middle path, pointing out failures on both sides.”

Nicoll also feels the media isn’t playing all that much of a role in the campaign just now, in reference to those undecided voters.

“Nobody is listening. People who have not yet made an unshakeable decision won't give it a thought for another year. If a killer argument has been deployed, so far I haven't seen it. The main theme in the whole thing so far is that, whether by accident or design, the SNP government has found itself in a position whereby SNP policy = independence = SNP policy and the gaps in SNP policy, their lack of homework, have been allowed to undermine the idea of independence.”

Another criticism of the media coverage in newspapers and the BBC is the use of the word ‘warn’, or ‘warning’.

When used to describe someone else's statement or comment, it implies that the person speaking agrees with it.

The BBC often, when describing someone’s opinion, uses the word “warning.”

There have been several occasion on the BBC where the words “Scottish independence” and “Warning” go together. Here are a few examples to back up that point.

“Scottish independence: Pension shortfall warning"
“UK Treasury warning that an SNP plan for a currency union after independence”
“Scottish independence: Warning over ‘weakened military’”
“Scottish independence: ‘Havoc’ warning from pensions firm”
“Scottish independence: Luxembourg warns against ‘going separate ways’”
“Scottish independence: Barroso warning  on EU membership”
“Scottish independence: Michael Moore issues warning over vote question”
“Scottish independence: ‘Border checks’ warning from home secretary”

You get the point. Is this tactical scaremongering from the BBC?

By contrast, however, it’s almost impossible find a BBC headline that positively promotes independence. You will look in vain for headlines that say “Yes campaign says independent Scotland will be eighth richest country in the world” or “Official GERS report shows Scotland’s public finances much healthier than those of the UK”. Such headlines, it seems, do not exist. Reporting Scotland is rarely, if ever led by a positive story about independence, but it is often led by negative ones.

David Ross, a representative from Better Together doesn’t buy this and believes the coverage thus far has been “fair and balanced.”

“I strongly disagree that there has been a pro-Union bias in the newspapers. In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, which was only two years ago, the SNP received endorsements from seven Scottish newspapers. Below is an extract from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre's briefing on the 2011 election to illustrate this point.”

"In the 2011 election, however, the SNP was backed by the Sun, the News of the World, the Scotsman, the Scotland on Sunday, the Sunday Herald and the Scottish Sunday Express. The highest profile newspaper intervention during the campaign came from the Sun which, in a reversal of its position in 2007, endorsed the SNP on 19 April."

Ross also disagrees with Andrew Nicoll’s assessment of the importance of the media in the campaigns.

“The media will have a crucial role in the referendum as it remains the principal means of communicating with voters, along with traditional outlets such as newspapers, TV and radio. There will also be an important role for social media (Twitter, Facebook etc.) particularly in relation to younger voters.”

How do the people who are reading and listening to these stories feel? They are the individuals who are relying on the media in this country to give a fair representation of what a Yes or No vote would entail for Scotland.

Student Collin Teasdale, 25, believes people need to make their own decision, and not rely on the media.

“There is a bias, but that’s always going to happen. Newspapers always put their own spin on things and make sure the story becomes more newsworthy. It’s a big decision so we need to read about it ourselves. I’m not sure many people will, mind you.”

Boots employee, Kayley Melville, 20, does agree there is a bias, but it benefits the Yes campaign.

“There is a bias in the Scottish media with the "Braveheart effect.” The media won’t make much of a difference to me. We are fine the way we are just now.”

Painter and decorator, Kevin Kelly, 52, worries that he isn’t being told the whole truth as he relies heavily on the media to inform him.

“I work most of the day and the only time I get to myself is spent with my family or watching TV, I don’t have the time to look deep into the issues. I watch the news and read the papers, but if they’re not being totally honest, then that does concern me.”

The media will continue to have a big say in the referendum, right up until 2014. There are Facebook pages and marches set up to try and combat the apparent bias shown, but whether or not that will be successful is up for debate. The people who have a bigger say in this decision are the voters. If they are pro-active and they get out to encourage and inspire others to make their own decision, then that will have a greater effect than the media ever will.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Is there a lack of ambition amongst this Celtic squad?

After the highs of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and defeating the world’s best side, who would have thought our best players would be linked with the likes of Reading, Hull and Wolves?

Celtic’s now esteemed scouting system, which is led by John Park, has brought relatively unknowns to Celtic and made some of them Europe’s hottest properties, or so we thought.

Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster and Gary Hooper all stood-out during our European campaign, which in turn has led to numerous clubs being interested in gaining their services.

At first there were talks of Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all being interested in the three players mentioned above, and rightly so.

Several English club have been watching Wanyama
Victor Wanyama, in my (biased) opinion, could walk into any of
they midfields and not look a bit out of place. He is a perfect fit for a club like Manchester United, even more so now that Paul Scholes has retired for a second time.

Despite this, it’s Premiership new boys Cardiff City who are chasing, and are favourites for our Kenyan midfielder.

I’m sure everyone on Twitter has seen the fans of Cardiff, Southampton and Reading slating Celtic and the SPL, claiming joining their club would be a significant step up for Wanyama or Hooper. You can see the slight amount of logic if he was joining the Premiership, but Reading? Championship Reading would be a step up? You can draw your own conclusions from that.

Celtic have already accepted a bid of £12m from Southampton last week but the midfielder’s agents, Rob Moore and Ivan Modia, dismissed the terms on offer and accused Celtic of trying to railroad a deal — with relations between the two parties now strained.

It is likely that Wanyama will join either Cardiff or Southampton, clubs that are surely below Celtic in terms of their reputation.

Today Liverpool have accepted a £6m offer for Jonjo Shelvey. If this England under-21 player is worth £6m, then surely whoever gets Wanyama for £12m will be laughing.

Wherever he goes, Celtic are going to make an extremely healthy profit, so I shouldn't lose that much sleep over the issue, but Wanyama has proved himself to be more than capable of joining a bigger club. What’s the rush? He’s still young and has plenty of time to make money. Sadly, it seems his agents might be doing the talking for him.

Another player in a similar boat is Englishman Gary Hooper.

Hooper, when playing in the Championship with Scunthorpe, outscored the then Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, who was then rewarded with a £35m move to Liverpool, only to leave for West Ham, for an expected £15m two years later.

Hooper was the player everyone was talking about in the January transfer window, with Norwich chasing the 31-goal hitman throughout the month – even sending a plane for him on the final day.

Despite shining in the Champions League, Hooper hasn’t been linked with top Premiership clubs. Instead there are talks of Hull and Reading wanting him to move down south.

Hooper scored 31 goals in all competitions last year
There are rumours that Hooper would be happy to stay, if he is to become one of the joint top earners at the club. I don’t think he is asking too much. Goal scorers are hard to come by, when you have one, you need to make sure you keep him.

Going by his attitude on the pitch since Christmas, I think it’s clear that Hooper would fancy a move away from Celtic. If this means to Reading or Hull, then that’s his decision. Will moving to one of these clubs really boost his chances of getting an elusive England call-up? Surely the Champions League is a better platform for him.

Former Celtic striker, Frank McGarvey had this to say about Hooper;

"I understand the financial pull of a club that can effectively double your wages.

"But what Gary also has to ask himself is what are his ambitions?

"Celtic's aim this summer is to have a crack at the Champions League again – and there is silverware and medals on offer too."

Times have changed for Celtic, they can’t compete with the ludicrous amounts of money that the English clubs have to spend, but not that many years ago Celtic aces were getting their chance to move to the big teams.

Liam Miller, a flop, I know, got his dream move to Manchester United. Hooper and Wanyama are significantly better players than the Irishman.

Henrik Larsson went on to play for Manchester United and won the Champions League with Barcelona.

One of my favourite Celtic players from recent years is Georgios Samaras. Not only for his qualities as a player, but he has shown the kind of commitment and passion to Celtic that is a rare thing in today’s footballing climate. This quote from the Greek sums up the attitude that every footballer with ambitions and morals should abide by.

“At the end of my career, I'd rather count my medals than count my money.”

Maybe some of this current Celtic squad should look at this and realise what their priorities are.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

(OLD) Celtic book place in Scottish Cup Final

 CELTIC have booked their place in the Scottish Cup Final after a thrilling seven-goal thriller against Dundee United, ending their Hampden ‘curse’ in the process.

Since Neil Lennon was appointed to succeed Tony Mowbary, we have lost numerous big games at the national stadium - five to be precise.

The most recent of which was a 3-2 defeat to St Mirren, in yet another game where we simply did not turn up, meaning we left yet another cup game feeling rather melancholic.

If history had repeated itself against Dundee United, and we missed out on another cup final, serious questions would have been asked about this squad of players and their commitment and passion for this club and what we expect to achieve.
Celtic fans, from what I have seen and heard, unanimously agree that Hampden is a lifeless, bromidic ground, and leaving their time and time again empty handed is something that we can no longer accept or be content with.
So, could Celtic finally break this dreaded ‘curse’ as it is now known?
Celtic got the start that Lennon would have dreamed of.
Kris Commons has opened the scoring for Celtic on their previous three visits to the National stadium, and wouldn’t you know it, he did it again!
Commons picked up the ball from Victor Wanyama in the second minute of the game and eased past United midfielder Marc Millar before lashing the ball in from 25 yards into the corner of the net for his 17th goal of the season. 16 more than he managed in the whole of last year’s campaign.
It would be putting it politely to say Celtic were looking extremely nervy at the back. Despite this, we should have doubled our advantage when, in the 20th minute, Emilio Izaguirre stood a cross up at the back post for fellow full-back Lustig but his header from inside the six-yard box hit the post and John Rankin cleared the ball to safety.
Dundee United would make Celtic pay for that miss three minutes later, when Kelvin Wilson mistimed his tackle, leaving Daly to run on and play Mackay-Steven down the right channel and, with the Hoops defence posted missing, he played a one-two with teenager Ryan Gauld before bending a shot past Celtic keeper Fraser Forster from inside the box.
United were soon to take the lead, when Barry Douglas swung a teasing ball into the six-yard box. Daly wanted it more and got his reward as he nodded past Fraser Forster to give the Arabs the lead. Deja vu, right?
The lead only lasted 80 seconds, however, as Victor Wanyama, who was far from at his best for the Hoops, got on the end of an Izaguirre cross to head Celtic back level. Four goals after 30 minutes made for great showing for the neutral, who were also treated the day before in the other semi-final which saw Hibernian go through after a 4-3 win against Falkirk.
The second half saw both sides go all out to get the all-important goal. It was end-to-end stuff, but in the 59th minute, Izaguirre raced up the left, taking a Wanyama pass and when his cross came into the middle, Commons did not appear to know too much about it as it bounced off his chest/arm and trundled over the line. Not as spectacular as his first, but they all count.
11 minutes later, however, United were level again.
The unmarked Daly looped a header from Mackay-Steven's cross over Forster and in off the post. The cup final place, once more, was up for grabs.
The game finished like this meaning extra-time was required to separate the sides, who had produced a memorable semi-final. Substitute Anthony Stokes came out and got the goal that would prove to be the winner after 104 minutes of play.
Celtic, it appears, had broken their Hampden Curse, and will go on to face Hibs in the final on May 26.
Semi-finals are all about winning the tie and getting through. However, there were some serious concerns that I feel should be pointed out. I hope this game will give the players a physiological boost going into the final, after it appeared some of the squad were suffering from nerves.
Efe Ambrose was a bomb scare all afternoon. He is clearly a talented player, and likes to run with the ball, but there was times when that over-confidence gave the ball away and could easily have cost us the game.
Another player who I think is already planning his summer holidays is Gary Hooper. I, along with the vast majority of fans wanted Hooper to stay in January. But since then it appears he has lost his hunger and spark.
In my opinion, and it is just my opinion, Hooper was very poor today. His first touch was slack, he was struggling to complete the most simplest of passes and didn’t seem to have any sort of imagination. This clearly frustrated the Celtic fans, as they booed Neil Lennon’s decision to take off Commons and not Hooper.
Hooper has been brilliant for Celtic, scoring some crucial goals. I just feel it’s pretty clear he knows he will have to go to England to get his international call-up. I hope I am wrong, of course. I hope the likes of Hooper, Wanyama, and Forster can repay the faith the manager and fans have shown them since they moved to our club, in the final few games of the season.
Overall, I’m sure everyone was pleased with the result today and is relieved to get that ever-growing monkey off our backs. Let’s hope that continues on May 26, and we can complete the league and cup double.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Is Lennon immune from criticism

Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Ross County in Dingwall confirmed Celtic will finish this season with fewer points than Tony Mowbray’s side did in 2009/10.

That being the case, should Lennon and his side face any sort of criticism, despite winning the league with four games remaining?

It has been well-documented this season that Celtic have been far from their best in numerous games in the SPL. But some fans still seem to be wrapping Lennon and his side in cotton wool, defending them from any sort of criticism.

“We’ve won the league, it doesn’t matter what the results are from now on.” I have read this on Twitter and other sites numerous times.

I’m sure the fans who are paying their hard-earned cash to travel to support Celtic will certainly disagree. If Lennon knows his side aren't going to perform to an acceptable standard, why can’t he let the fans know prior to kick-off to save them money?

If Lennon wasn’t a ‘Celtic man’, for example Gordon Strachan, then there would be a lynch mob outside Celtic Park calling for him to quit.

The Champions League run was fantastic and we, in every sense of the word, over-achieved. That for me, however, does not excuse the fact that Celtic have been woeful this season domestically. The public wooing of Lennon is tiresome and needs to stop. He is a good manager, yes, but why can’t he motivate his side when it comes to league duties? It doesn't help when he’s in the stand most weeks mind you.

I can imagine people reading this and angrily cursing at me, “We won the league, what more do you want, you closet hun?!”

Well, here’s a little perspective and a breakdown of how we have performed this season. I won’t bore you by talking excessively about the omission of Rangers from this year’s top flight, but it’s a relevant point. Had a full-strength living Rangers been competing this year, they would have mopped the floor with us. It’s not relevant to say, “Oh, but we would have raised the bar if Rangers were here.” That’s a nonsense thing to say. Fans are paying money expecting this side to give their best. It isn’t just a one-off game. We are consistently under-performing.

Anyway, I digress - our league form.

Away from home this season, we have won eight games out of 18. Motherwell have won nine.

Has it led to vociferous protests against Lennon and the team? No, it hasn’t. Some fans are blindfolded due to our Champions League run and the omission of our former rivals.

After the draw in Dingwall, we have now gone six SPL away matches without a win - our worst run in the league since going 10 away games without a victory in 1994/95. That is a shocking and embarrassing stat, which must be addressed.

Winning eight out of 18 games away surely merits some form of criticism? Stats such as these justify why none of our players were nominated for Player of the Year. I would make a case for Commons, but a weak one at that.

In Tony Mowbray’s “disaster” season, the “worst one ever”, we ended up with a total of 81 points – we now cannot reach that tally for this season.

Even today (6-5-13) Neil Lennon has taken to his Twitter account to defend his team. Is the pure denial? Here are some of his quotes that stood out for me.

“I didn’t see anything wrong with the attitude yesterday” – He must be the only one.

“We have a cup final so season is not fizzling out. And the league was won a fortnight ago” – Is this an excuse for the players to under-perform? I hope not…

“Am (sic) using the whole squad..the edge isn’t there at min (sic)as league is already won” – Don’t tell me he is starting to believe the nonsense that he is reading on his timeline. The players have the obligation to go out and perform until the final day. We are spending money to support them, the very least they could do is put a bit of effort in.

I’m far from a “Lennon out!” man. I admire Lennon as a man and a manager for everything he has went through in Scotland, but I’m pretty fed up of being slated every time I wish to question anything he does.

Another cause for concern is that if this inconsistency continues, supporters will postpone renewing their season tickets. Why should we spend our money when we’re turning up watching half-hearted performances every week? 

Winning the league is great, but we are also paying to be entertained throughout the season.

Attendances (oh no, not this again…) are important to the club and have been terrible this year. If that is to improve, a bit part of that is down to the players. If they can perform to a high enough standard, then attendances will get better.

Bottom line, I wrote this article, as I do with every article, to find out what the fans think. Should Lennon face any sort of criticism for this year’s domestic performance, or is winning the league purely enough?

Twitter: @Kieran_Psyl 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Watt's happened to Tony?

Watt made an extremely impressive start at Celtic
Remember that teenager who scored against Barcelona to give Celtic one of their greatest ever wins? Where has he gone?

Since that night, it seems Tony Watt has drifted further and further away from first team selection. After such a promising start to his Celtic career, I am just curious as to why he isn’t getting much of a shout now.

Watt, prior to signing for Airdrie, had only played football for fun. When he impressed in a bounce game at under 17 level, he soon broke into Airdrie’s first team. During the January transfer market in 2011, several clubs were looking at Watt and considering making a move for him. These included the likes of Liverpool, Fulham, Celtic and Rangers. After a trial with Rangers and a week’s training with Liverpool, he signed for Celtic on January 4, for a reported £80,000 on a three-year contract.

Watt impressed during the early stages of his Celtic career, including scoring a goal against Barcelona in the NextGen Series.

Watt turned the game at 'Well in Celtic's favour
Celtic manager Neil Lennon then decided young Watt was ready to make his full Celtic debut.

That day came on April 22, 2012, when he came on as a substitute away to Motherwell. The game was drifting when the 18-year-old striker replaced Pawel Brozek in the 59th minute, but it came to life when he volleyed in a Victor Wanyama cross three minutes later from a tight angle. With the travelling support still celebrating, he drove low past Well goalkeeper Darren Randolph from the edge of the box, to make a name for himself and give the Celtic fans more reasons to be optimistic for the future. It seemed we had another bright, talented star on our hands.

With the omission of Rangers from Scotland’s top flight this year, I, for one, was confident this would be the ideal chance for Neil Lennon to bring through players from the reserve and youth leagues. The likes of Watt, McGeough, the Twardzik twins and many more.

This looked to be the case, Watt was involved in Celtic’s squad more week than not. This season, Watt has made 24 appearances in all competitions, scoring six goals. Is this too much for someone so young and still in the early stages of his development?

That’s one of the question that many Celtic fans are asking about Tony Watt. Although he has shown himself to be an excellent prospect, it’s easy to forget that he is only 19-years-old. He has went through a lot, in footballing terms, for such a young man - has this played a negative or positive role in his career to date?

On the 7th of November, Celtic welcomed Barcelona to Glasgow, and, well, you know what happens. Watt came on and scored what proved to be the winner against the world’s best side. Is there a concern he peaked too early? Watt wants to prove this isn’t the case.

Watt was a regular in the Celtic first team squad
“The Barca game’s behind me. I’ve only scored one goal for Celtic since I scored against them, so I need to prove to the fans I’m not just a one hit wonder.” Watt admitted.

So after such a promising start, why has he fallen out of favour with Neil Lennon?

I have seen a few fans claiming Watt’s attitude has been a problem since he scored against Barcelona. Has the fame gone to his head? The last thing you want a young, hopeful talent to have is a big ego. Confidence and a certain degree of swagger (apologies for using the word swagger in one of my articles) is understandable for footballers. But is this why Lennon isn’t picking him on a more regular basis now?

I think something must be wrong if Miku and Lassad are getting the nod, in front of Watt. I would rather see a youngster come off the bench to make a difference. I’m sure this isn’t an unpopular opinion amongst the Celtic support.

Bright future
Seems a bit strange how he can go from scoring against Barcelona, to being demoted back to the under 20’s squad. I have also seen some fans claim he isn’t putting the effort in when training. As well as acting ‘the big shot’ whilst out and about in Glasgow. Obviously this is all pure speculation.

Perhaps I am looking too much into this. Lennon is a smart man and manager, he knows what he’s doing, but some clarity would be appreciated. Is it just the case that he wants to protect one of our hottest prospects, or is there something that we aren’t being told?

Celtic have had previous players who have promised so much from their career, but for one reason or another, it hasn’t worked out.

Liam Miller is the first one that springs to mind. I won’t go in-depth about this, but after he finally broke into the Celtic squad in the 03/04 season, he put in numerous impressive performances, including scoring goal in the Champions League against Lyon. After turning down a contract with Celtic, he moved to Manchester United where it didn’t work out. He is now playing with Perth Glory.

There are other examples, such as Craig Beattie, David Marshall, Paul Caddis (remember him?!) and I could go on. I just hope Tony Watt won’t be added to this list. He has a fantastic opportunity, one that everyone reading this would have at one point or another dreamed about, he needs to work hard and keep his head down.

The aim of this article was to find out what everyone thinks about this about the Tony Watt situation. What do you think is the case? Feel free to leave a comment putting across your opinions.

Twitter: @Kieran_Psyl