Celtic Diary Saturday September the Ridiculously Early.
Its 5am, dark, and the heating hasn’t come on yet. Even the birds aren’t up yet. The view through the window is hardly inspiring.
One of the joys of travelling to the game from a distance is being able to enjoy these bracing early morning starts, and watching the sun rise over the hills, bringing all the hope and expectation of a new day, filled with promise and expectation.
Or I could just go back to bed and ignore the phone, which has been bleeping with the usual “are you up yet ?” messages.
And we wonder why its impossible to fill a mini bus these days.
The diary will be mercifully short today, but will be updated with regular comments throughout the day, which is a testament to the characters I will be travelling with, as it means as they get drunker, I will be spared their conversation.
Thats right, the big fat miserable one who sits down the front. How do I get this reputation ?
The idea is to head into Carlisle for breakfast, and then the Gallowgate by noon at the latest. all travelling have promised to make the game, and not be dragged into a pub and kept there.
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.
Celtic will be without James Forrest, Beram Kayal and Joe Ledley today, which leaves the way clear for the likes of Boerrigter, Pukki and Bitton to make a name for themselves.
Forrest has been sidelined with a mystery virus, and manager Neil Lennon is worried. Well, we are when its our own, and the boss has been fretting;
James faces at least a week to 10 days out, so it is a race for the Barcelona game. ‘He was at home and felt really bad with a virus and ended up in hospital from Saturday to Wednesday, which was very concerning.
‘He was floored by it, but he is out now and feeling a bit better. He is back home with his mum and dad in Prestwick and has a bit more energy about him.
‘They think it was a deep-lined respiratory virus, but they are waiting on a few more tests coming back so nothing has been confirmed yet. We don’t know where it came from. We need to wait and see what it was.
‘It’s a shame because nothing seems to be simple with James. He missed a lot of games last season and also has an inflamed nerve (sciatica).
Another player Lennon spoke of was Anthony Stokes, who has stepped up to the plate this season so far inthe absence of Gary Hooper, who has gone on to fame and fortune in the EPL with Norwich. If the definition of fame and fortune is obscurity , that is. Lennon said ;
I had him in the office a couple of times. It’s fair to say he was walking on very thin ice. It wasn’t about tarnishing the club, he was hurting himself. It was nothing to do with stuff last year, the stuff in Dublin, it was just his indiscipline around the training ground and the team. He’s tidied that up now and become a really good professional.”
“I don’t know what made the penny drop for him. Maybe the injury and missing out on the whole Champions League campaign last year, sitting in the stand and watching the boys play in wins against Barcelona and Spartak Moscow and realising what he has at Celtic. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until you’re not there. I’ve never spoken to him about it but I certainly think the natural thing would be to sit down and think ‘I want to be a part of this’, and now he is.”
“I had question marks over his temperament in big games but his athleticism and fitness has improved and certainly his football, His movement as a striker was always good and he had adaptable feet, but he was curtailing his own progress with indiscretions and ill-discipline. Since he’s come back from injury he’s knuckled down and is doing his talent justice now.
“He did a lot of upper body work when he was out but he is a naturally strong boy. In the strength tests that the boys do at the start of the season he’s top of the list, the weightlifting and that sort of stuff. He doesn’t look it, when you strip him off he’s just a naturally strong boy. There were things he was doing in the game on Wednesday, he was challenging for balls in the air whereas before he was a little bit wishy-washy. I think with the fact Gary’s [Hooper] gone he’s looking to be the No.1 here and he’s enjoying that challenge.
“I’m really liking what I’m seeing in him at the moment. He’s always had goals in him and he will score goals at Champions League level if we can get the right service to him. As a lone striker you sometimes have to create your own opportunities but the one he had in the first half in Milan he’s latched on to a mistake and I fancied him to score, but he just sclaffed the shot a little bit. And if his free-kick had been an inch or two lower, instead of hitting the bar, we’d all be raving about him.”
Two players, and its not difficult to see which one is his favourite.
We cut a podcast last night, hey, look at me with the groovy talk, and one of the points that came up re Stokes is that he isn’t perhaps allowed to trust hisn own instincts, and is being asked to play in a certain way. Fear of being dropped again may be curtailing his natural striker instincts, and as a result, we are being denied the true talents of a natural goalscorer, which was, after all, how he made his name.
Right, time to go.
That sign seems a long way off at the moment. not as far as this one, though.
I’ll just nip upstairs and kiss the wife goodbye. Its better than taking her with me.
Teemu Pukki and /ronnie Simpson were the two Celts in yesterdays quiz, and today could be the first time its not answered straight away, given the early hour.