The Comic Snob's Semi-Interesting Life

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Sell! Sell! Sell!

Even after Celtic’s admittedly great victory in Helsinki recently, and the chance to get in the Big Cup group stages reasonably high after drawing Helsingborgs, it is my belief that Celtic should continue their recent policy of buying players on ‘the cheap’ or bringing them through the youth system and selling them for big money, as was the case with Aiden McGeady who cost nothing and Celtic received over £9 million for him.
There are currently a group of players at Celtic who fit into this category and have been attracting interest – Emilo Izaguirre, Beram Kayal and Victor Wanyama. But in my opinion the two players Celtic should cash in on are Ki Sung-Yueng and Gary Hooper.
Ki, who was signed during the disastrous Tony Mowbray ‘era’ for £2.1 million, has had a ‘up and down’ career at Parkhead thus far. He had difficulty at first as he arrived midway through a season that was slowly turning into a car-crash under Tony Mowbray. The following season, under the esteemed management of Neil Lennon, things did improve and he gave his best performance in a Celtic jersey during a ‘titanic’ cup tie against some team who have recently died. He also scored the first goal in the Scottish Cup final win against Motherwell.
Last season was more chequered, as he flitted in and out of the team with Celtic currently having a talented group of midfielders. He also managed to miss two open goals in the cup semi final loss to Hearts.
So onto this summer, and the newspapers/internet have been engulfed with rumours about Ki. Supposedly Arsenal, Atletico Madrid and a host of other clubs are set for a BIDDING WAR, with a fee of £9 million being mentioned. This presents a win-win situation for both the player and the club.
For Ki, he will move to a team who will be able to nurture him as a player, in a league where you actually get time on the ball, unlike the panic strewn long balls of the SPL. For Celtic, it would mean a profit of around £7 million made on a player who is not always first choice, and a chance to make up some of the financial shortfall missing since the demise of Rangers. It could also enable Celtic to make some signings – a rarity I know – and Gary Mackay-Stevens of Dundee United seems like an able replacement.
Turning to Gary Hooper, he was been an unqualified success since signing from Scunthorpe for £2.4 million, scoring 44 goals in 63 games. However, I feel that the time is correct for Celtic to cash in while the player is in the best form of his career, and with bids of £8 million from the likes of Southampton being mooted, I’m sure the Celtic hierarchy feel the same.
Even though Celtic’s policy may get them criticised from a section of the support, I feel it is the correct way to do things in the midst of these turbulent financial times.

Some Words On Mr.Polarizing

“I love it when people jeer me. I love to see the hate in their eyes…People whistle me because I am good-looking, rich and a great footballer. They are jealous of me.” – Cristiano Ronaldo

The quotes above show why people are often vitriolic in their hate towards Cristiano Ronaldo, not to mention the fact that he dives, once winked after ‘getting’ Wayne Rooney player sent-off, always seems to be annoyed on the pitch and plays for football’s EVIL FASCIST OVERLORDS, Real Madird. But I feel he doesn’t get the respect he deserves, and is unfortunate to be compared to Lionel Messi all the time.

In my mind, the feats of Ronaldo eclipse – just – those of Messi, as Ronaldo has managed to become the catalyst of two great football teams, whilst changing his style of play from mostly playing on the wing to becoming a predator, desperate to score as many goals as possible.

Ronaldo’s move to Manchester United came at a rare period of upheaval at Old Trafford, as United were in danger of falling behind Arsenal’s Invincibles and Jose Mourinho’s seemingly unstoppable Chelsea. However, when United won their first title in three years he was a vital part of the side, scoring 23 goals. However, the next season, United’s double winning 2008 campaign, Ronaldo became the focal point of the side, scoring a fantastic 42 goals and forming a formidable partnership with Rooney.  That season a switch seemed to flick in Ronaldo’s mind – he was determined to become the main man in a team and that was how he has continued to play throughout his career.  After winning another title with United, Ronaldo made the £80 million move to Real.  And things got even more statistically insane.

In his three years at Madrid, Ronaldo has scored an incredible 146 goals in 144 games.  Which in anybody’s eyes is an incredible achievement. There’s only one problem. Lionel Messi has scored more. It seems odd that in these days of false football prophets, that people are so desperate to be in either the Messi or Ronaldo camp, and that one’s feats have to constantly be in comparison to the others’.  Recently Ronaldo has shown his displeasure about the comparisons by pointing out that Messi failed in the Copa America last  year.  If Ronaldo really wants to distance himself from comparisons to Messi, then the upcoming European Championship semi-final against Spain could be the game.

Ronaldo will have to carry the hopes of Portugal almost on his own, this time against the tiki-taka enthusiasts and, intriguingly, against some of his Madrid team mates.   Ronaldo will be desperate to prove that he is the best player in the World by inflicting Spain’s first defeat in a knock-out game in a major tournament for six years.  His one man demolition job against the Czech Republic in the quarter finals, following his performance against Holland earlier in the tournament, shows that Ronaldo is marking a mark on this tournament when certain other big players – Van Persie, Ribery, Robben Rooney – failed.

Lastly, if you look at the quotes at the top of the article, it can be suggested that Ronaldo is very arrogant…well who cares. A lot of football’s biggest heroes have been arrogant, look at Eric Cantona, another recent football iconoclast.  Ronaldo has the medals and the skills to back up his statement.  If he manages to drive Portugal to Euro glory, it’ll go down as the greatest feat in international football since Maradona’s inspirational performances in Mexico 1986. The chance is there for Ronaldo to shut the doubters up, and knowing him he’ll do it.

A HERO GONE by NEIL CUSTARD

Football was shaken to it’s foundations last night as the greatest manager ever, Harry Redknapp, was UNFAIRLY SACKED by the callous and uncaring Daniel Levy.

The tactical genius, who was always good with his cash, told me last night “I can’t understand why I’ve been sacked. I’m just taking Rosie to meet the bank manager. Can you reverse the charges on this? I think I’m holding this, what do you call it, mobile phone, upside.” Typical bluntness and honest from the great man. I could hear the emotion as his voice quivered. Why had the dastardly FA led him up the garden path after TELLING HIM he would be England manager!?

Meanwhile the online community was SHOCKED by Redknapp’s departure. Henry Summer said “Harry was a very decent respectful man. I remember the time he threatened to sue me – he was so gentlemanly about it.” Charlie Whatt said “Daniel Levy and the Spurs fans are idiots for wanting this tactical guru gone.” And my brother Sean Custard said “When Harry give us stories…eh, I mean spoke to us that meant he spoke to the fans.”

So where do Spurs go from here? Probably back to midtable mediocrity, with the inevitable departures of Bale and Modric. As for Harry, perhaps after Mr. Hodgson loses his post after he deservingly fails at the Euros, the FA will make the call that should have been made long ago – and make Harry England manager. It’s what we the media…er, I mean public want.

An Open Letter To Pep Guardiola

Dear Pep,

I see you are taking a sabbatical from football after leaving Barca. However, I think you should end this to take over at my club, Celtic! Here are some reasons why:

1. You will have at least…£3 million pound to spend. You wouldn’t get that at Chelsea!

2. You will be given a one year rolling contract – which could be extended if you do well!

3. You will be expected to win the Champions League…sorry qualify for the Champions League in your first season. No pressure.

4. You will be given a huge wage…in air miles in case you want to fly back to Spain at any time.

5. You will take part in one of the greatest rivalries of all time – Celtic versus Rangers (possibly – if Rangers are still in existence at time of letter).

6. You can work at our version of La Masia, Barrowfield!

7. You can turn our ‘rough diamonds’ into gems, following in the footsteps of Celtic greats such as Jim Slavin, Marc Anthony, etc.

8. You will have far more dignity and class than our previous manager – you wouldn’t ever run on the pitch and blame every defeat on the referee would you Pep? And you wear nice suits instead of odd tracksuit leggings. And you don’t chew tobacco either.

9. Our fans (especially the Green Brigade) will be willing to fawn over your every action and make banners in your honour – for example, you as Che Guevara, various homages to Catalonia, etc.

10. Us on twitter would be willing to start hashtag based campaigns at the drop of a mouse – eg. #weareallpep, #fuckthesfa, #celticpepfamily

11. We would be willing to give a budget of £100 to buy a new cheap suit for every game.

12. As Barca have been held down by the Facists of Madrid, us at Celtic have been held down by the Masons of the SFA/SPL/Rangers/whoever. So you should be used to having the world against you!

13. Celtic are also ‘Mes Que Un Club’ – our fans were voted the bestest in the world ever (c) FIFA – 2003

14. Er…

15. That’s it.

I hope you consider my reasons seriously and decide that your heart leads you to Paradise.

Hasta La Siempre, Comandante,

John Reid

In Defence of A Certain Team…

Chelsea’s recent Champions League victory brought an unprecedented level of anger from the internet. Football was ‘dead’, ‘over’, ‘killed’, ‘RIP’ etc. Also the money spent by Chelsea over the years was brought up. However, I feel that this anger is misplaced, and has a lot to do with the fact that the Chelsea team has, some…’unsavory’ characters in it.

The biggest criticism Chelsea faced on Saturday was criticism of the ‘defensive’ way they lined-up in the game and tournament as a whole.  My reply would be – what did people expect? They were without 4 players who would be starting the game in usual circumstances (Terry, Ivanovic, Meireles and Ramires) and their highest profile signing of the last 18 months – Fernando Torres was on the bench. In fact they should be praised for having the bottle to start Ryan Bertrand in his first European start – and he didn’t let the side down. Chelsea were always going to play on the break – it had paid dividends in the semi-final against THE GREATEST TEAM EVER – so why change now?  It should also be pointed out that Chelsea were able to change their style in the tournament when it suited them, for example the terrific attacking performance in the second leg against Napoli.  They also managed to score in every game they played in the Champions League this season – something Mourinho’s Inter didn’t do when they won the tournament in 2010, and as far I remember they received nothing like the vitriol Chelsea have.

If we move on to the complaining about spending money – football, for better or for worse has always been a rich man’s plaything. Look at the money Massimo Moratti threw at Inter (without success for long spells) or how Jack Walker bought Blackburn the English Premier League in 1995. Football is sadly a capitalist game – and rich owners will continue to spend big bucks on ‘chasing the dream’ as David Murray once memorably put it.

Now we move on to another reason Chelsea were so roundly pilloried – the fact that some of their players are…unlikeable to say the least.  It is true that John Terry acted like an absolute moron after the game, putting on his full kit – and shinguards – to collect the trophy and the likes of Frank ‘I’m a Tory’ Lampard and Ashley ‘fury over £5 grand’ Cole don’t seem ‘nice’ people either.  But it is worth praising the likes of Peter Cech, who was heroic in the penalty shoot-out and the incomparable Didier Drogba, who has scored 9 goals in 9 finals in his time at Chelsea.  Massive credit also has to go Roberto Di Matteo, who took over a team which seemed like it was disintegrating and turned them into unlikely, if deserved double cup winners.

I’m not suggesting that this Chelsea side should act as a blueprint for clubs to follow in the future, I just feel they deserve more respect for the way they battled against the odds to win the Big Cup. Surely all right-thinking football fans would agree with me…?

Attitude

Yesterday should have been the start of a treble for Celtic and Neil Lennon, but the team put in a dire performance against Kilmarnock.  Why did this happen? In my opinion it’s all because of attitude.

It can be said that in the last couple of weeks Celtic’s performances have started to slacken off.  It’s understandable in a way as the league is virtually won, but that doesn’t excuse the performance of yesterday.  The players seemed to have a sluggish attitude from the off, exemplified by Gary Hooper’s miss in the first five minutes, which seemed to affect his contribution to the whole game, which was negligible.  The midfield, which is typically Celtic’s strongest department went missing, and the defence were not up to standard, as Kelvin Wilson’s efforts in trying to defend Killie’s goal.  In fact the only player who can be exempt from criticism is Fraser Foster. The players, in my opinion, seemed to take Kilmarnock lightly, they believed the hype which has built up around this team in their admittedly very impressive unbeaten run.  It was always risky to take this Kilmarnock side lightly and so it proved, as they created as many clear-cut chances as Celtic and it can arguably be said deserved their win.  The team selection was also a mistake, as Samaras – who has probably been in the best form of his Celtic career – was on the bench (and brought on far too late) and the fatigued James Forrest was thrown up front in a desperate attempt to get a job.  So from the players and management the game was a collective failure, one which will hopefully be put right this weekend.

The other attitude problem, and I know some people might not like this – was from the supporters. The Celtic fans – to an extent understandably – have been pre-occupied with impending demise of our closest rivals.  In fact during the game yesterday the  people behind me seemed to spend more time discussing Rangers then concentrating on the game.  People seemed to be distracted by this and take victory for granted – and as a result the atmosphere yesterday was generally flat.  I know these things shouldn’t matter, but perhaps some more encouragement from the fans would have pushed us over the line.  Another thing which slightly disappointed me – and I know a certain contributor to Celtic Underground agrees with me – is the way that people reacted to the defeat by claiming it doesn’t matter, it’s only the league cup, Killie deserved to win etc.  That doesn’t wash with me I’m afraid.  This Celtic team have underachieved badly recently, and yesterday would have been the perfect opportunity to put that right. If the players, fans and management get the attitude right for next week then perhaps we can have one of the most memorable days in our history.

The Commons Touch

A phrase that is often heard in football is that injured players coming back ‘are like a new signing’, which is usually a cliche. But, for once could the cliche be true as Kris Commons prepares to come back from injury?

It is hard to understate how pivotal Kris Commons was to Celtic’s vastly improved form in the second half of last season. He made an immediate impact on his debut against Aberdeen, chipped in with two goals against Rangers and provuded Celtic with an attacking threat from midfield which hadn’t been provided for many a long year – Commons ended the season with 14 goals and 3 assists.  It looked like he would be a key man in Celtic’s attempts to bring the league back home, but it jusn’t happened. So what’s went wrong?

Commons’ start to the season was disrupted by injury, then in our defeat at home to St. Johnstone he slipped missing a penalty which would have given Celtic the lead. He then lost his place in the Scotland team. After his next injury,  his Tweet after the game at Ibrox when he claimed he was fit to play caused a dispute with Neil Lennon which led to him quitting Twitter. He then made his next appearence at Tynecastle and was sent-off, and was then injured after a good first-half display versus Dunfermline.

The stop-start nature of Commons’ season has led to it not really starting, so perhaps he can make the same impact as he did last season. Although Celtic’s midfield have been chipping in with goals, it seems unlikely that any will reach the total Commons’ got in five months last season. Tomorrow could be an ideal chance for his rehabilitation to start, with news that James Forrest is likely to be out versus Dundee United, Commons could easily replace him on the wing. Even if he doesn’t start, it would be ideal to get him involved in the game at some stage. Interestingly enough, Commons came into a side that was playing well last season and thrived, a situation which is almost a mirror image to this season.

If Commons is able to replicate his form this season from last season, then all of his early season problems will be forgotten about.

Great Albums Of Our Time #7: Psychocandy by The Jesus And Mary Chain

When East Kilbride heroes Jim and William Reid (alongside Bobby Gillespie and Douglas Hart) released this masterpiece in 1985 people tended to concentrate on the volume of feedback on the record and the ‘riots’ at their gigs, which is unjust as the best thing about the Mary Chain has been the songs – which were quite brilliant on this album.
People were no doubt expecting the album to begin with an avalanche of noise – but it began with a romantic Spectorish ‘love song’ Just Like Honey – which managed to combine both melody and noise. The album then continued with the fantastic rumbling biker anthem The Living End, which has to go down as one of the Mary Chain’s best songs, Taste The  Floor which follows is another fuzzed up anthem towards nihilism which the Reids excelled in, The album does contain some great feedback drenched moments of mayhem – such as the stirring Never Understand and In A Hole. You Trip Me Up could go down as the Mary Chains’ definitive statement – a jolly pop song drenched in feedback.  The Mary chain were/are masters at combining light and shade, as the aforementioned song proves.  The album once again took a more mellow turn with Taste Of Cindy, but in my opinion there is one other aspect that is just as important as the songs – Attitude. The Reid brothers displayed a ‘fuck you’ to the music industry that bands today try and fail to recreate, but as has already been said the songs have always been the most important thing. This album lead to a varied and interesting career for the Reids, with a selection of great albums and singles. The band split acrimoniously in 1998 but returned in 2007. There is talk of a new album, but the Reids have claimed it will not be made unless it is going to be the best album the Reids have ever made.
A quick note to anyone wanting to buy Psychocandy – the new 3 CD/DVD set is terrific, it contains the Peel Sessions, the fantastic Upside Down/Vegetable Man single, early demos and footage of the ‘riot’ at North London Poly. All great stuff!

Collective Responsibility

Today’s pathetic defeat to Hearts has left Celtic third in the league and already 10 points behind Rangers after 9 games. Already it seems unlikely that Celtic will win the league.  So what has happened to Celtic which has lead to a team which should have won the league turning into a team which looks like it will fighting it out to finish 2nd this season? Instead of scapegoating just one individual, I have decided to examine the three most important elements of the club and examine why they are failing the club so badly.

If we begin with the management, Neil Lennon has not done himself any favours by continuously changing the starting line-up and team selection.   I suppose it should be pointed out that it look Lennon until January to discover his best team last season, but this season he has chopped and changed to disastrous effect.  He has broken up the partnership of Hooper and Stokes – who had won every game they had started together this season and has gave chance after chance to players who have failed time and time again such as Samaras and Loovens. However, his worst mistaken this season was completely changing the formation and personnel of the team at the recent visit to Ibrox.  Dropping two of the team’s more consistent performers of this season, Ledley and Forrest was a disaster and Samaras – who did play well against Rangers last season was invisible.  The defence was unsurprisingly dire as usual and the 4-2 defeat was flattering to Celtic.  To be fair Lennon hasn’t been helped by injuries to key men such as Kayal, Ledley and Izaguirre, but that should not prevent Lennon from picking his best available and sticking with it. It strikes me that once again he does not know what Celtic’s best team is and the results have suffered accordingly.

The responsibility of the players in the recent poor form also has to be examined.  So many of Celtic’s more ‘important’ players have been extremely poor this season.  Fraser Forster has been nervous and does not strike anyone as a commanding goalkeeper, any of the central defenders used – be it Loovens, Wilson or Majstorovic have proven to be dreadful. Up front the players have flattered to deceive like Hooper or Stokes, or just plain bad like Samaras.  However, the player who has probably summed up the dire season so far is Kris Commons.  Dropped after missing a penalty on the home defeat to St.Johnstone, he then had a ‘personality clash’ (allegedly) with Lennon and didn’t play for a month.  He then came back versus Hearts and was deservedly sent-off.  That a player who was so vital last season has turned out to be a disaster this season sums up what is going wrong at Celtic.  It strikes me that the players – who remember failed to win the league last season – just don’t seem up to the responsibility of what it means to play for a club like Celtic.  A rare exception to this would be Charlie Mulgrew, who has overcame his limitations to become a vital player in the squad, but I suppose that sums up far the team has fallen since 5 years ago.

The board of directors also have to play their part in this season’s malaise, with Neil Lennon once again forced to shop in the bargain basement and sign players who aren’t of Celtic standard.  This could be due to the ‘Director of Football’ role which seems to be played by both Peter Lawwell and John Park, who seem to have as much involvement in what players are brought in as Lennon does. Case in point – Lennon goes to Portugal to sign Baba Diawara and the next day the deal is off due to ‘work permit’ issues and Bangura is signed the next day. Obviously Diawara was a player Lennon wanted very badly – but was Bangura? It would be interesting to find out who really signs the players at Celtic.

In conclusion, the time is right for all three of the main parties at Celtic to take collective responsibility for what is going wrong and resolve – very quickly- to put things right. But I fear that this may not happen and Lennon – aided by his mistakes and the players’ ineptitude – will end up hung to dry by the board. And soon enough the fans will be congregating on Kerrydale Street once more with the cries of “Sack The Board”.

A Rant About Celtic

It may be early in the season, but alarm bells are already ringing for us Celtic fans, particularly in the wake of this weekend’s pathetic capitulation to Rangers.  Whilst the scoreline may have made the game same close, it wasn’t really and we could have had a very heavy defeat.

The main problem is that once again, Neil Lennon changed his team set up to play against Rangers.  Once again Georgios Samaras was used – as ever when we play against Rangers – to play off Gary Hooper. Charlie Mulgrew was moved to left midfield, Scott Brown was back in right midfield and Joe Ledley and James Forrest were on the bench, which struck me as strange as they have been two of our more consistent players this season.  In defence Badr El Kaddouri was at left-back and and Glenn Loovens partnered Kelvin Wilson.

Before the game kicked-off I feared that wouldn’t be able to cope with Rangers’ more attack minded players and so it proved, with the second half performance a particular embarrassment. So who is to blame for this terrible result? For me, most of the blame has to be put on Neil Lennon.  He has tinkered with his system against Rangers on at least 5 occasions and it has only been a real success once – when Samaras played up front himself last January. However, if you keep doing the same things over and over again you will be sussed out – and Samaras was his usual ineffective self today.  The midfield picked by Lennon was also a puzzler.  Why take out two of the best midfield players in Ledley and Forrest to accommodate a patently unfit Scott Brown – who inevitably got injured? I know Lennon is a fan of his ‘agression’ but for me Brown flatters to deceive to often in big games – this being another example.  The defence was also a disappointment with Kelvin Wilson having a poor game and Loovens being inevitably rag-dolled once again at Ibrox.

The use of subs  by  Lennon was another disaster.  Charlie Mulgrew was moved to left-back in place of El Kaddouri – despite the fact that Mulgrew had been a red card in waiting since the start of the second-half, so exposing him to Naismith’s pace was asking for trouble, and inevitably Mulgrew was sent-off.

I cannot understand why Celtic continue to show so much ‘respect’ to Rangers when we play them – we are playing a team whose players are roughly as good as ours.  We’re not playing  Barcelona so why the need for change? Why didn’t Lennon just say ‘screw it’ and go for Hooper and Stokes up-front?  Why did he once again use players who failed in the past like Samaras and Loovens? And worst of all, why did Celtic revert to the long ball when our passing ability brought us Hooper’s goal? These are all questions Lennon has to answer very quickly before Rangers are over the horizon.

One final point – slightly unrelated to this – I feel that sections of the Celtic fans’ obsession with Rangers’ financial troubles is taking away from the bigger picture.  Yes, they may be going into ‘administration’ but on the field, which is where it counts, they seem to have a better team than us. So  forget about what HMRC are up to next or what some idiot who works at the Daily Record has done and concentrate on the fact that once, when it matters most, the players and management have let us down again.

Rant Over.