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Thoughts From The Sofa For This Season

El Cormaco has put his balls on the table, had a wee look at them  and now puts them on the line with his predictions for the season ahead. 

Hail hail fellow hoops, I m back after my off season, I’ve been weighed (not good), done bleep tests (not good either)and some light ball work (oo-er) so far as I’m gearing up for 2017-18.

I’m ready to go with my predictions for the season ahead. I don’t gamble much, but I strongly advise you to take all my tips and place all the money you can get your hands on on these beauties, its printing money. (N.B. please don’t)

Get involved in the comments below with how you see the season going.

 

Champions:

Celtic. Who else? I can’t see a way in which we won’t win the league, with a slight caveat – I genuinely thought this would be the time we would see a culture change by the board.

As far back as I can remember Celtic have never looked to push on from a position of strength. We are like a marathon runner leading the race who sits at the side of the road waiting for others to catch up again, and I want to see us lap the other runners, and thought finally a “speculate to accumulate” mind set was seeping into the board room – with Brendan’s 4 year contract, talk of early signings etc

However, while the summer signings may prove to be great ones in time, they are slightly underwhelming so far – Ncham is the only one you can see being a first team regular at this point. He looks a bargain at that price coming from the insane world of English football and has a grace on the ball that reminds me of dare I say it  the Maestro himself

Benyu looks decent but not quite ready yet, and from the January window Kouassi Eboue too will get more game time this year and hopefully will start to look like a near £3m player when he’s fit again  – I’m not saying he’s been bad so far, he’s hardly played. Hayes is a good level  SPL player and could push on late in his career like a Barry Robson type, but is more likely a squad guy.

Over the summer we have lost for one reason or another – O Connell, Efe, Kolo, Commons, Janko, Izzy, Bailly, GMS, Christie (loan), Allan (loan) and no doubt some others I can’t recall. I’m sure among that list there are names who gave us great memories and we will always be grateful for their efforts. Scott Allan and Saidy Janko are on the list too.

A couple of points on this – first, that’s quite a chunk of change off the wage bill which you would like to see reinvested in the squad and second, it’s a lot of defenders out and none in.

They have few similarities but one thing Brendan and Ronnie seem to have in common is a weakness for signing guys who play centre or attacking midfield, possibly from wide but more likely the middle. Under Ronnie we had literally dozens of guys around the squad who could play there, and we seem to be heading back there again under Brendan.

The balance of the squad is what worries me.

Last season we saw periods where neither Griff nor Dembele were fit and have the same scenario again this year already, and last year KT was out for a few months and Izzy came in and did well, that option in reserve is gone

I appreciate its really difficult to sign quality, and I agree that we don’t need guys making up the numbers, we need guys who are actually going to make us better, and getting them up to Scotland isn’t easy.

We might sign guys and then in a while we have Boyata, Erik, Dembers and the Griff all back and firing and 2-3 new signings to keep happy when they are but frankly I don’t think Erik is quite good enough anyway, so even if they were all fit I think we are at least one if not 2 quality centre halves short (Boyata had a great year last year but again, I have some doubts over him). Ajer could end up being a really great centre half but I’d like to have another quality option there.

If KT goes out for a spell – and at 20 you could well expect him to need a rest at some point – I’m not sure playing a left winger trying to make his career in Calvin Miller fill in there will do us or him a lot of good.

No big surprises there, I think we all agree where the squad is thin and all trust the manager to make the best calls he can for the team.

People will say last year was a one off, a special year, and it truly was special, but why a one off? Another year on the squad know the managers’ wants better, can now do automatically what before they had to think about and are a well-oiled, confident machine. In a year’s time we might start to see the first signs of complacency or fatigue or the best players being sold en masse, but in modern football it seems to me you see managers (who are successful) operate in 3 year cycles:

 

Year 1 – get the plans in place, see improvements but not the consistency

Year 2 – a great year, the plans are all locked in and players perform consistently –see Astana last year and this year

Year 3 – players bored by manager’s ideas, get complacent and fat etc., the wheels begin to come off and either the manager goes or overhauls the team to repeat years 1 & 2

If this model holds up then we are in for a very special season. Last year we broke all kinds of records and I’m going for some bold predictions:

We will go unbeaten in the league again 

We will get more points and more goals than last year, and unusually for Celtic, concede less than 25 league goals – I think one of the unspoken targets for this year will be to be impregnable for as long as possible, aiming to overtake Forsters clean sheet record from a few years ago.

We’ll qualify for the Champions league – I know, bold prediction with a 5 goal lead – and win an away game and finish 2nd or 3rd in our group

We will have Liverpool in our group – it’s just a football thing to throw up these wee sub plots

After fines we will post a small profit from Champions League participation 

On now to the also rans….

 

Runners up:

Aberdeen. Who else? McInnes Is hurting over missing the Ibrox gig, and finally seemed to realise by the end of last season that *rangers are not Rangers anymore and are beatable if Aberdeen go after them, which I expect they will this year

They have good consistency and a well – constructed squad. Stevie May could be a great signing if he stays fit – I wanted him at Celtic a few years ago when he was scoring for St Johnstone. Christie looks a real prospect (I wonder if Celtic might make a move for him. What’s that? Oh right, great!) GMS can be a good player when everyone loves him and they are settled and know what they are about.

They could do with a few decent defenders and also, cup final aside seem to sh*t it against us and any team in Europe, but against the other teams in the league they are well placed to dominate again.

Third:

*Rangers. I saw the highlights of the Hibs game and a replay of Progres for a laugh, their new “upgrades” at centre half look as bad as last year’s options – a 2 year deal for Alves? Insane, his agent must have been delighted, and the other boy made Simon Murray look like a rampaging Zlatan in his pomp

But the midfield is a bit better – Dorrans / Jack aren’t great but better than Halliday or Holt. Don’t know anything about their wide options, though I thought Mc Kay was their best player and they punted him.

Upfront they have a pudgy looking wee guy who has scored some early goals – not Waghorn pen, some other pudgy looking guy, but I doubt that will be enough to see them win consistently enough to really keep the heat on Aberdeen.

Kenny Miller lost a yard when big Jozo halved him and seems to be running away from goal nowadays trying to find it again, they lost their Joey Garner song too, the full backs are really poor and the influx of guys from Portugal and Mexico are complete unknown quantities – though DFDJ likes the cut of their jib obviously

It will be interesting seeing how Pedro fares – he is a wildcard who I don’t understand, so I imagine the players don’t know what he’s on about either.

I don’t want to be xenophobic in saying that, his English is certainly better than my Portuguese and he seems a genial enough sort of a guy when not being told what to say by Traynor et al, though the levels of paranoia seem to be rising nicely, but is so steeped in football hipster chat BS it goes right over my head. In isolation I know each word, I get a general sense of what he is on about, but when you step back and try to take it all in its very difficult to be sure of what exactly he is talking about. They are a peephole or something, I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him. If you aren’t banned.

The knives aren’t out for him yet over Govan way but hands are resting on sheaths. A couple more poor results and the fans will want him gone, but I think the board will have to keep him or create another patented “aye, but you resigned” scenario he’ll have to go

In the banter stakes they will of course remain unrivalled as their idea of themselves meets the reality of themselves with painful regularity

Fourth: 

Hibs. I love Lenny. We all love Lenny. Lenny makes teams with spirit, aggression and a will to win. Add that to good players like John Mc Ginn, Efe, Stokes (at SPL level both are very decent) and now Murray and they will have a good season, possibly even taking third if they keep their big players fit through the season.

They are also only one more win against *rangers away from getting to keep them and seem to enjoy getting it up them, which is nice

The only risk of course is that *rangers are successful in banning other teams from scoring or celebrating at Ibrox after the totally unacceptable scenes at Ibrox of Lenny winning a game of football and paying back the hospitality he received.

 

Relegated:

Kilmarnock. In 2014 *rangers tried to be Rangers c.2009 by signing up as many of that team as possible with 5 more years on their legs and it didn’t work, so I can’t see Kilmarnock in 2016 having more success with the same policy.

Signing old, slow ex Rangers / *rangers players will make a lovely dressing room for Elbows and the lads, but a slow, turgid team for their fans. Usually journos say “army of fans” but let’s face it there is no way Killie have that many fans. If Celtic have a Green Brigade do they have a Blue Sentry? When a chant of “killie army” goes up its one guy in a camo jacket with hundreds of empty seats in every direction around him.

I hate their pitch, I hate their lack of fans, I hate their strip, I hate their “rangers lite” approach to building and supporting their team; I hate them! And Ross County, and Hamilton; any one of these teams could go away and never be missed.

League Cup

Celtic. We don’t want to give it up. Why should we. Who will knock us out? I predict another win here, *rangers have remarkably been drawn away but will make it to the final, in which we will humiliate them again

Scottish Cup

Aberdeen. I actually think we could well win this again too but don’t want to be too greedy. If we do lose a game in it then Aberdeen seem best placed to take advantage and a trophy would be some reward for their relative ambition this year.

So that’s the club honours sorted – go and get on it at your bookies and thank me later (please don’t btw) or give us your better thoughts below.

Next time (there’s more? give us strength) its individual stuff – player of  the year, young player, referee of the year, journalist of the year, some other mad mad hings and including just how much laughter are *rangers going to provide (clue: plenty)

Finally, we have the miscellaneous section of my bumper book of predictions for fitba in 17-18, have a read, give us your thoughts, stay in school and don’t do crack, it’s a ghetto drug

 

Player of the Year:

Patrick Roberts. Yep. He’s taking the number 7 shirt and playing like the King of Kings meets Jinky in a devastating blizzard of fast feet, mazy dribbles, shots bending into the top corners or tickled over the line while a helpless defence lies bamboozled on the ground.

Previously we had nice Patrick thinking “I’ll play well here and get my chance at Man City” now we will have the angry Paddy determined to show Guardiola he was wrong to let him go and taking it out on SPL defenders.

If for some mystifying reason Paddy isn’t playing for us, Scott Brown. Mr consistent, I had written him off in Ronnie’s last season and was happily proved wrong. I think this year he will get in a groove with his play and not be knocked out of it all year. Nothing spectacular, he’s just as reliable as an old pair of pants; he holds everything in place without being overly strained despite the signs now of a few miles on the clock and needing some legs around him, and you know he’s had a good day when he is coming off having helped keep a clean sheet and with no stains on him. I don’t think I can stretch that metaphor any further (a bit like the old pants)

For the press it will initially be Alves till he turns out he is done, then Jack for being able to not be as bad as Halliday, then Miller for his “running about” before they have to concede defeat again and admit they have no players at *rangers anywhere near the best player in the country, probably when the gap is around the 25 point mark

Young player of the year:

Mc Ginn at Hibs is pretty decent, Christie at Aberdeen is good, I’m sure soon enough we will all be hearing about how great some young guy at *rangers is until he actually plays half a dozen games – see Beerman or Bates for previous examples but KT will win this award.

Strong, quick, insistent – that’s my heart beat when I watch him. He could deliver a better cross at times, was badly shown up in the Nou Camp nightmare last season but he is still getting better and has already scored the goal of the season, so give him the award now; If he doesn’t win he is going to use his thighs to crush the life out of the voting panel

 

Sports Journalist of the year:

Keith Jackson mysteriously disappears any time any EBT rulings come out, only to reappear after a few weeks, casually whistling and asking people to join his fantasy league. As he shows no interest in calling out the ten year fantasy league we all watched while Rangers cheated their way to trophies I’ll pass.

His “brave” – ahem – article highlighting that media sessions are now being filmed at *rangers to identify any journalist who dares ask the bold Pedro any question beyond “Why are you so good?” will see him unashamedly hold up the award once again.

It’s oxymoronic to talk of sports journalists in Scotland, I’m not sure who is the bigger moron, those that write the “rangers are coming” shite or those that pay to read it. As a profession though its craven, incapable of independent thought or investigation, wilfully deceitful in its coverage of the Rangers EBT / liquidation story and so desperate to see the “return” of “rangers” to their “rightful place” they will go to almost any lengths to belittle Celtic and praise *rangers

Chris “I can eat a whole Ryan” Jack is of course the Prince of Ibrox for his fantasy good time stories / adverts to buy tickets at the gate.

He is the club reporter on a Glasgow city paper, so fair enough, you can’t expect too much reality for the sensitive wee souls, but others like Roddy Forsyth and Ewan Murray are more pernicious – placed in national papers with a readership perhaps not watching affairs in Scottish football as closely as the bampots, they have helped successfully drip feed the false narrative of the continuation myth. So much so that it’s likely broadly believed to be true down here in Engerland.  “Engine room subsidiaries” liquidation of “operating holding companies”, these guys can spin yarns out of 100% bull shit and are a credit to fiction. Shame they work in journalism.

Referee of the Year

Poor brother Beaton has blotted his copy book already, hilariously generating a petition against anti “rangers” refereeing  (yes, they really are that deluded) for having what appeared to be a nightmare, similar to the one he had last year when he failed to send of Joey Garner song for halving a Hamilton player which oddly didn’t bring about a petition.

Watch now for the remainder of the season seeing decisions “even themselves out” for *rangers following this outrage

Craig Thomson always has a howler in him, Andrew Dallas is a sad reminder of how relatively not absolutely useless his father was, so it is a really open field

 

Some other predictions:

There will be a serious public safety incident at Ibrox. 

Last year was bad. Batteries, fans on the pitch, candles in the away toilets, but another year of getting horsed and there will be even greater rage at Ibrox. Given the SFA / SPFL are unwilling to even say anything never mind do anything to bring their fans to heel, and they use unpaid volunteers to do stewarding its almost inevitable there will be something serious – a full scale pitch invasion, a player attacked or hit with a missile, and of course it will be everyone else’s fault

The inaction of the “powers” in Scottish football is worrying, the offensive singing is ramping up, they are even up for pitch invading at Firhill and the more they do and get away with the more emboldened they become, so when a serious incident does happen those who failed to address the rise in bad behaviour will have to answer for their failures, if they can ever be found at a time of crisis

Statement o clock will carry on to ever more banterific levels

They can’t help themselves. Whenever they lose there will be someone to blame. If they aren’t given a throw in they should have got they will cry conspiracy. When other teams laugh too hard they will cry “no one likes us and we can’t take it anymore”. When Celtic get stronger and stronger they will wail to the moon about it.

Given fud 1872 are a major shareholders they are running a real risk of being censored for bringing the game into disrepute with this angry drivel (just kidding, SFA / SPFL are scared to death of the perma raging)

The tone of these statements is always a delight, the absence of any ability to criticise anything their own fans do renders them hypocrites and Lenny was spot on referring to them as like 15 year olds.

Petitions are the new thing 

Statements are all well and hilarious, with their puffed up language, spelling mistakes, crying tone of “it’s just so unfair we are so sh*te” but petitions are where hurting is really at now for ra bears. With the “get referees to only give decisions to Rangers” petition already up and running it seems there is one now to throw Celtic out of the Champions league for the benefit of Scottish football, the petition could well become the next hilarious step after the bealing statement.

The irony of them wanting to pap Celtic out of the Champions league for the good of Scottish football when for a decade they cheated the game here for the exclusive short term good of themselves alone is of course lost on them.

Alves will be lauded then loathed

They love a pre-season superstar – see Barton / Kranjcar – who turns out to be well past it. Alves seems to have the attributes for this – he ran right down Davie Weir way for Hibs first goal and while he was once good time waits for no man and based on the admittedly little I’ve seen he looks pretty much done – by February the press will have turned and the campaign to get him off the wage bill will be in full swing – there could be a petition even

Pedro will see out the season

Most think he will be gone. It’s quite likely he will be, but if I am right he signed on for 3 years and frankly I don’t think they have the money to get rid. Either he’ll be sacked into resigning like Warbs or limp on putting together half way decent runs of form until coming up against us, Aberdeen, Hibs or any other team who fancies giving it a go, which will be enough to secure 3rd and demonstrate the – ahem – progress required to –ahem – guarantee European football.

Celtic 18-19 will be a team in transition 

Sadly financial reality means Celtic can’t keep their best players together. This is the model, and success outside Scotland drives up the value of our players and sales of players covers our costs which the pittance earned from TV and prize money in Scotland will never do

With CL football all but secured for a second year in a row a lot of players will be in the shop window, and some will fancy a move – Armstrong, his new contract pretty much says it openly, Griff – I heard a SSB interview the other day and one or two wee things just made me wonder if his head isn’t being turned towards England again, and some will be heavily sought – KT, Rogic, Dembele, and with a board who never allow a pound to pass them by then expect quite a lot of outgoings next summer

So long as this is planned for I’m not concerned that we won’t be ready to deal with this and replenish the squad to go again

Strip the Titles won’t go away

The “move on” folk think its mission accomplished. I don’t believe so, there is still enough anger about how Scottish football is managed to believe that the campaign will die or that Doncaster and Reagan will both still remain in post.

“You can’t take away our memories” True, but you can reflect the fact that those memories are tarnished by the knowledge that the scales were being unfairly, illegally and knowingly tipped, and remove titles from the records. Not re assign, but remove, and you can certainly take to task the football authorities who have overseen this cluster f*ck but want no part in cleaning it up or punishing the miscreants, that’s where action should be directed now in my view

Some mad mad hings 

Scottish football is objectively pretty crap. Celtic aside teams have no money, play in half full grounds and make their squads up of young guys trying to make it, old guys trying to eke out a last year or two and journeymen unwanted elsewhere

But you know what, I don’t care. It’s passionate, its players are honest if limited triers,  its relatively unpolluted by money and greed, it’s got characters, narrative, rivalries and events that other football can’t give you and I love it.

Last year we had McGhee “get that tae fu..” Lenny v Duffy UFC bout, handstands, tactics demos with glasses, LSD inspired mascots, legitimate goals that were not given, referees making it up as they go along, Barton sulking away with his coffee machine, Warbiola doing the hokey cokey – in –out, in -out, King getting blacklisted from UK banking and investment institutions after appeals exhausted but still being unquestioned when he says he will appeal, and loads of other mad mad hings I can’t remember now.

This season we’ve already had Pedro arguing with a hedge and telling us even when he loses he wins – an idea the SPFL are considering seriously for *rangers, quoting pop music lyrics in interviews, Lenny winding up the perma ragers, red cards for hair pulling, Griffiths getting booked for missing a bottle of Buckfast, all teams apart from Celtic getting battered by teams no one had ever heard of, so who knows where it will all end.

Right that’s it. Here’s hoping for another memorable season – get involved in the comments with your crazy forecasts

Find me on Twitter – @elcormaco