As good a holiday as I had, nothing during the three weeks I was in the States made me feel quite the way beating Spartak Moscow did just a couple of days after I got home. Couple that with the fact that Celtic went top of the SPL after beating Motherwell on the day I was heading home and you can practically feel the happiness emanating from all corners of the Celtic global support.
Tuesday night was obviously the high-point of the week – and the season so far – but it was closely followed by Celtic’s NextGen team winning 3-1 on Wednesday night at Firhill against a PSV Eindhoven team who had already beaten Sporting Lisbon and Aston Villa in their first two matches. That win brings the young Bhoys right back into contention as PSV and Sporting sit on six while Celtic and Villa are on three at the midway point in the group. Thursday also gave us another home League Cup tie against St Johnstone, which will be welcomed by the team if not by the suits. They will now have to organise another home game and hope that a bigger crowd turns up that night than turned up for Raith Rovers!
Another international break is on the horizon, and with Fraser Forster being called up by England we’ll be missing another of our first choice players from Lennoxtown for a bit. Gary Hooper’s time may come soon as his stock continues to rise – Champions League goalscorers are worth a few bob and tend to get you noticed outside of your “backwater league” – but for now he’ll be keeping Kris Commons company as Craig Levein continues to overlook Scotland’s most in-form midfielder for reasons known only to the Scotland manager. You’d think he’d have the common courtesy to tell Kris at least.
Before half our squad jet off to their various destinations though, there’s the small matter of hosting the number one contenders to replace Rangers as far as our focal point of disgust in the SPL is concerned. Yes, Hearts are the team visiting Celtic Park for the Sunday 12.45 (7.45 ET, 4.45 PT) kick off and they’ll no doubt bring their usual songs referencing things that no sane human being would ever use for point scoring. But when did football chants and songs ever have anything to do with sanity? Maybe if they’re in a good mood they’ll just sing about our “Glasgow slums” instead.
I enjoyed the debate on Tuesday night’s HomeBhoys show about the singing. It’s always been one of those very polarised subjects, but Paul and Jason especially discussed it very well and you could understand the points they were both making. I must admit that I would tend to agree with Jason – no song has ever hurt me and people should be able to sing what they want, but if people are now being arrested as easy targets when they go to use the facilities then maybe it’s time we were more picky about what we sing. When people are being thrown in cells for two days before being released anyway it pretty much doesn’t matter if the songs are legal or not – it has the same effect of disrupting your life regardless.
Whatever gets sung on Sunday will be designed to annoy the other set of fans. That’s always been the point and I’ve said as much in previous articles. Clearly Hearts do a reasonable job of annoying me. I find their lack of taste disturbing, but that’s an issue for their consciences and not mine. In the end we’ll go our separate ways at full time and get on with our lives and that’s the way it should be. The problem has never been, and will never be, the singing. The problem is the culture behind the singing, and those that take it to the next level. Until that is the focus of various campaign, little to nothing will change.
But back to Sunday’s game. When Hearts last visited Celtic Park back in May, we were preparing for a party. It was SPL trophy presentation day and to cap off a successful league campaign we were treated to the Gary Hooper show as he scored all five goals in our 5-0 win. For all Hearts had one eye on the Scottish Cup final the following week, it was their first choice defence that were hammered that day. Obviously it didn’t harm them though as they went on to win the cup with a 5-1 defeat of their rivals, Hibernian. Hearts had, of course, beaten us in the semi final of that competition just a few weeks earlier so it was even sweeter to give them a good hiding on end our season in style.
Prior to that, Hearts other visit to Celtic Park last season came back in December. That game was much tighter, as a Victor Wanyama cracker into the top corner from outside the area gave us a 1-0 victory. But while Victor was the man to get the 1, it was down to Fraser Forster that we got the 0 as his late penalty save from Eggert Jonsson was just as crucial in securing the three points.
Hearts have lost a few key players since last season – mainly to the third division of course. David Templeton’s last act as a Hearts player was to level their Europa League tie against Liverpool, but sadly that didn’t last long and they left us as Scotland’s only representation in Europe. Why Templeton would go from that potential high to then drop down the leagues is anyone’s guess. There was some suggesting that he was pushed as much as he was pulled, and Hearts pay issues and lack of incoming players would tend to back up that assertion.
As they Hearts have trimmed their outgoings, it’s had something of an effect on the park. Through the first two months of the season they’ve had three draws from four in August and three defeats from four in September. Despite the other two games being wins Heart find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the table and wondering who can put the ball in the net at times. Cillian Sheridan was linked with them in August, but nothing came of it and he eventually signed for Kilmarnock and scored a hat trick at Tynecastle last weekend.
It says it all for Hearts that their goal at the weekend came from their captain, Marius Zaliukas, a defender who happens to be the top scorer at the club. Hearts goals this season have tended to come from set pieces and long range midfield efforts. Arvydas Novikovas has a mean strike on for one, although some would suggest he’s actually a striker. From what I can tell, the only striker Hearts actually have is John Sutton, and for some reason he hasn’t featured as much as you would expect.
Whatever Hearts woes, they will we up for their visit to Celtic Park and should not be taken lightly. After such a great week for the club, all that is left to do is ensure we enter another break top of the league by beating a team we all love to get it right up.
Krys (twitter @Krys1888 and @HHMParadiseRep)