Gary Mackay Steven continued his impressive pre season with the winning goal against Real Sociedad in Paisley last night. Celtic won 1-0 , but it’s not the result that’s important, although it’s nice to get a win.
The team looked sharper, after a dodgy opening spell, and worked harder for each other, which, given the fact that we are only a few days away from the first qualifier, was a huge relief.
Nir Biton returned to the side, and as he became more settled, so did Celtic. Leigh Grifiths , as usual , worked his socks off, and was unlucky not to score one of those goals you replay on You Tube when you’re drunk. Dispossessing a Real defender, he did a delightful little twist before making the space to hit a low shot off the post, which sadly for him , meant that new signing Nadir ciftci got all the headlines, after the ball rolled down the substitutes leg into the path of Mackay Steven to win the game.
Griffiths, though, despite what you might read in the paper, is certain to start against Stjarnan. After all, he’s been given the squad number nine shirt, which is usually an indicator of what the manager thinks of you, and captain Scott Brown was quick enough, on twitter, to recognise the significance;
@leighgriffiths28 wow number 9 well done weeman
Ciftci looked sharp, and it was good to see a player who can put himself about a bit in the team, as Real, like Dukla and Den Bosch before them, were a little enthusuastic in their tackling. Something we may need to be aware of in the next few weeks, because it seems that when beaten with pace, which Celtic possess in abundance, the fouls will be a plenty.
If he stays the full season, might be worth a punt on van Dijk to score more than ten goals. Failing that, Mulgrew.
Apart from those two, Celtic don’t have a dead ball specialist, and it might be worth teaching one or two how to place a free kick.
After the game, Ronny Deila seemed quite pleased with the way it had gone. Well, sort of;
“It was a controlled game,”
“The last game was wild but this game was more balanced and played more defensively. As a team, we were compact.
“Offensively we started without confidence but we grew throughout the game and in the end we created the chances that we needed to win. So I’m happy with the performance.
“We need more sharpness but that’ll come on Wednesday.”
He was also a little more measured about Ciftci than the papers seem to be;
“I’m very happy to get Ciftci in. He showed today what he can add to the team. He’s a good football player and he’s going to be an important player for us.
“We’re working on the same things all the time and we just need to do it quicker. That is why it’s good to meet a good team and we get a good tempo.
“We had to defend as well as we did last season and it was much more controlled.
“It was Nir Bitton’s first game as well and Mikael Lustig hadn’t played for five months and now he’s played three games in a row, so he needs time to get to his top level.
“It’s going to make us even stronger. We have things we can do from the bench and we have a strong squad and everyone is looking forward to the games.”
From those words spoken by Deila, the Record took this;
RONNY DEILA last night insisted Nadir Ciftci is in the running for a European start after catching the eye in last night’s 1-0 friendly win over Real Sociedad.
A fairly innocuous statement at first glance, but on the face of it, he’s merely stating the obvious, but somehow it feels more like there is an attempt here to destabilise Griffiths.
That may be my own paranoia, but then again, we have seen that where the press is concerned, we probably aren’t paranoid enough.
The Evening Times went a little further, even adding a photograph which implies that last nights substitution has wider implications:
Nadir Ciftci put himself in line for a start in Celtic’s Champions League qualifier against Stjarnan next week with an impressive debut performance against Real Sociedad.
Then again, you have to question the veracity of anything they say;
Celtic 1 Real Sociedad 0: Match made in seven as Bhoy Nadir Ciftci sets up winner on Parkhead debut
Presumably after that, he rushed over to Paisley for the last part of the Real game.
A little common sense would tell you that Ciftci may be used as a sub, but to disrupt a team with a signing who is likely to get a lengthy ban would just be silly.
Anyway, looking ahead to Wednesday, there are tickets on sale, £20 and up for adults, £10 and up concessions, and a fiver for the under thirteens. A big vocal crowd would be a help against Stjarnan, so you know what to do.
Although there shouldn’t be too much difficulty in making the tie safe-Stjarnan lost again last night, 2-1 at home to Valur- even though they took the lead.
They aren’t doing very well this season-now eleven games old-but that’s no reason to be complacent.
Something I did see last night was another sign that the players are not as distant from the support as has often been the case in years gone by.
Stefan johansen staning still long enough for a photograph after the game with Conor Calhoun, which appeared on twitter last night. It looks like the Norwegian was getting ready to jog home to keep his fitness up.
There seemed to be a lot of police at the game last night, all four corners seemed to be bursting with them at half time. Anyone who was there notice anything out of the ordinary, or were they just there for the jolly ?
Meanwhile, the Mark Warburton Years began in earnest for Second Rangers when they were narrowly defeated by Tottenham in a closed doors friendly. Well, Tottenham under 21’s, but they were quite big lads, we hear.
One Ibrox fan, on one of their forums wasn’t downhearted;
How strong was the Spurs team ?
Their U21’s, even then a very strong side, easily good enough to win the SPL.
It’s not just finances where they can’t see what’s staring them in the face then.
Warburton had two Tottenham youngsters in his line up, which was nice of the London club, who noticed the Ibrox side were a little short.
They were also delighted by the professionalism shown over the fourteen hour round trip expedition;
It’s a magnificent facility down at Tottenham, and it’s a chance for the players to get away overnight and for us to check out our away game protocol – the pre-match meal and the timings etc. to make sure everything is right for us ahead of the new season.
fourteen hour round trip to establish that everyone should bring their boots to the game. Although another fan tweeted a question..
Did I hear that @RangersFCTrust said Rangers staying at student accommodation in London?
Under-21s Coach Ugo explained that today’s collaboration with Mark Warburton’s side worked well for all parties – and picked out several players for praise.
“It’s always important to put these game situations on because we’ve had a physical and technical build-up in recent days and now the players are being reintroduced to different types of movement and running by playing in training ground games,” said Ugo after the match, in which Ismail Azzaoui (2) and Shayon Harrison were on target.
“This morning’s game was a wonderful test and the format of it worked well, especially in the hot conditions. Six or seven players got 60 minutes under their belts, which was really pleasing.
“Ismail Azzaoui was very eye-catching with his movement – he threatened in behind and scored two goals. I’d say Cy Goddard can be very pleased with his performance, as can a lot of the Development Squad boys.
“There were some very solid performances, Christian Maghoma and Grant Hall were impressive at centre-half, and later in the game there was a great opportunity for some of our new First Year Scholars to get some exposure to senior football, so there was a lot of good stuff to improve on next time.
“Now we recover and go again. We’ll look to ramp up the tactical awareness and intensity each time we have a session like this and the aim is for players to be fit for the first league games in August.”
Not one of them seems to have noticed that they were beaten by a development side. Although one or two of them are looking forward to the upcoming Ibrox friendly with Burnley;
I think it’s a great test not too strenuous a matter of days before our season kicks off.
Meanwhile, we’ve an exclusive photo of what happened after the meeting between Dave King and Mike Ashley….
However, king or no King, Warburtons expertise is still being quited as tactical nous. On BBC sportsound, allan Preston, clearly deputising for Chick young, claimed that when St. johnstone needed two goals, against ten men, Warburton would have altered things and gone for it. Listen for yourself, aroud the seven minute mark;
Presumably based on his European experience. Bear in mind that no-one in the Scotttish media had ever heard of Mark Warburton before he bailed out the Ibrox club by purchasing Lewis MacLoed. Now he’s some sort of tactical guru whose opinion , even when not actually offered, is invaluable.
Speaking of experts, Cartuja, over on the Kerrydale Street forum,who is the the main man when it comes to photoshopping, has stumbled on the ibrox reply to Celtic’s outstanding new stadium wraparound.
Who is the ballboy with the red hair in this picture, taken many , many years ago ?