The Jamies 2015

oscar-statues-021Hello! Remember me? Remember Jamie? No? Well this will make no sense at all then. Go trawl the archives and you’ll find this is just me picking my favourites without asking anyone else…

Welcome to The Jamies for 2015!

Player of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – Emilio Izaguirre; 2012 – Charlie Mulgrew; 2013 – Georgios Samaras. 2014 – Kris Commons.

It’s been a season of change, with Ronny Deila coming in and changing the very ethos of how we play. Change for the better in my opinion, even if it did take an extraordinary long time for some of our players to buy into it. With it, we’ve seen some players drop out of favour, others come into favour, some do both and some disappear entirely.

Remember Derk Boerrigter? One dive against St Johnstone and he was never seen again as Ronny was seriously annoyed about it. He was “injured” a lot, which on one hand is believable and on the other seems rather convenient to me. Either way, well played Ronny.

For me, there are a few candidates for this award. You can certainly make a case for the club captain, Scott Brown, being a pivotal part of the team’s success this season. Especially when he started playing along side another candidate – Nir Bitton – who let Brown get forward more often.

Bitton was one of those players that fought his way into the manager’s plans, and he should definitely be credited for that. Another who has done likewise is Leigh Griffiths. Neither looked anywhere near the first team to begin with, but by May they were two of the first names on the team sheet.

Craig Gordon has come in, proven his injury problems are behind him, and made most people forget that we started the season with Fraser Forster in goal as one great wall has been replaced by another. You only have to look at most of Gordon’s performances in Europe to see that. The Scottish Football writers certainly opted for him, in one of their less bizarre picks.

But for me there’s only one winner. Stefan Johansen not only won the Celtic fans’ award but also won the players’ player award, and rightly so as he has been a major part of the centre of Ronny Deila’s Celtic. Not much of a surprise given it was from Ronny Deila’s Stromgodset that Neil Lennon’s Celtic bought him! Nevertheless, I wasn’t exactly a fan of his at the start of the season. He’s won me over, shown himself to be invaluable in the Celtic team, and hit double figures for goals long before his final goal in the last league game of the season.

Young Player of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – Greig Spence; 2012 – Marcus Fraser; 2013 – Bahrudin Atajic. 2014 – Darnell Fisher

Well here’s the bad news. Our thirteen in a row in the country’s top youth tournament has come to an end as Aberdeen took the development league title. It’s not all bad though. The youth cup final was a resounding 5-2 victory over the holders from across the city, while the Glasgow Cup was clinched at under-17 level at the end of last month.

But as always, the youth setup is there to feed the first team. Sadly, we haven’t seen too much movement there. Callum McGregor followed up his loan at Notts County by signing a new contract at Celtic after a blistering start which saw him score in three consecutive European away games – not bad considering Georgios Samaras only recently set that record at five! But he has long since disappeared out of the Celtic first team, so lets look elsewhere.

Last year’s winner Darnell Fisher has spent most of the season injured sadly – and given Matthews and Lustig have both been injured as well, it’s an opportunity missed for the young Englishman. He has at least figured in Ronny Deila’s plans at the end of the season, so hopefully we’ll see more of him next term. Liam Henderson has at least featured a little bit as well, but he’s been sent out to Rosenborg to get some more experience. He may be another that is in the manager’s plans next season instead.

Jackson Irvine at Ross County, Dylan McGeouch at Hibernian, John Herron at Cowdenbeath, Stuart Findlay at Dumbarton and Paul McMullan at Stenhousemuir… we’ve got a lot of irons in the loan fire, that’s for sure. Whether any of them return and break into the first team remains to be seen.

Really, this award comes down to two choices. On the one hand, we have Eoghan O’Connell. Another youngster who has done well in the youth team and also had a glimpse of the first team. But he did have that really unfortunate own goal up in Inverness and hasn’t really had a chance to atone for that.

So this award is going the same way as the player of the year award. Copy the fans, copy the players, give it to Manchester City’s loanee Jason Denayer.

Along side Virgil Van Dijk, Denayer came in raw and has grown into the Celtic centre half pairing. He’s scored a few goals, he’s conceded very little, he’s had some good experience in Europe, he’s broken into the Belgian national team… Manchester City will be delighted. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in their first team next season. After all, their defence has been utter mince this season.

I’ll be very surprised if we get him back on loan for a second season, and the signing on Dedryck Boyata suggests we have already sourced his replacement.

Game of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – Celtic 9 v 0 Aberdeen; 2012 – Hibernian 0 v 5 Celtic; 2013 – Celtic 2 v 1 Barcelona. 2014 – Hearts 0 v 7 Celtic.

There’s a few contenders for this one in my eyes. There was the last minute winner against Aberdeen at Pittodrie when we were down to ten men that put us top of the league for the first time and sent us on our way to four in a row. There was the early 6-1 thrashing of Dundee United – a team we’d get sick of seeing by the end of the season. There was the post-holiday thrashing of Motherwell where everything seemed to click and Motherwell tried their best to keep us out as that was all we would let them do. There was a similar game against Dundee just before we clinched the title.

But, to be honest, there is one game this season where I wish I was there more than any other. Instead I was at home doing the @ByTheMinCeltic feed, and what a night it was.

Celtic 3 v 3 Inter Milan. Although we’d go on and lose the second leg thanks to some very harsh refereeing and a wonder strike, this was one of those amazing European nights that live long in the memory. A massive early setback as we went 2-0 down and looked like we were onto a hammering… until Adam Matthews set up Stuart Armstrong for our first goal.

Before we were even done celebrating that, Armstrong forced a second goal off a defender and we were level. But if we thought we were over the trouble, Craig Gordon gifted Inter the lead just before half time. We fought back in the second half, and although it took until pretty much the last touch, John Guidetti – who had missed out on the group stage campaign due to good old registration issues – fired in the late, late equaliser.

Just the kind of drama that makes Celtic Park so special on a European night. There’s truly nothing like it in the world.

Goal of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – Gary Hooper (Goal 2) v Rangers; 2012 – Charlie Mulgrew v Rangers; 2013 – Georgios Samaras v Kilmarnock. 2014 – Mikael Lustig v Hearts.

Just like last year, I find myself at odds with the Celtic support as they’ve apparently picked a Kris Commons goal over a Mikael Lustig goal.

For Commons, it was his strike against the new Rangers in our first game against them. There’s no doubt it’s a cracking strike, but for me the Lustig goal against Motherwell where he first started the moved and the finished it with a diving header was a better goal.

However, since the Celtic awards which short listed those goals, we’ve scored a few more!

Scott Brown did an even better job than Lustig as he put in a perfectly timed challenged against Aberdeen’s Barry Robson. Broony then fed the ball forward, eventually seeing it get to Stuart Armstrong who jinked past two Aberdeen defenders and fed the ball to the captain who had just run a full 99 yards from the initial tackle to sliding in to score. A brilliant goal, putting Aberdeen firmly in their place.

Then there was Nir Bitton’s unstoppable strike against Dundee, which probably would have been a goal of the season had it not been for an earlier goal that night. The goal from Scott Brown v Dundee saw every single Celtic player touch the ball in the build up. From Gordon at the back, through the back four and the midfield, to a lovely quick passing series inside the penalty area, finally placed into the corner by the captain himself.

Moment of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – The Broony; 2012 – The Four Horsemen; 2013 – Tony Watt scoring against Barcelona. 2014 – The Green Brigade William Wallace/Bobby Sands banner.

There’s been a few moments this season that have been truly brilliant. Personally, I’ve actually enjoyed sitting at home with the wee man and watching him smiling up at me as I’m jumping about like a lunatic after we’ve scored against Aberdeen or won the League Cup. But personal moments aside, there’s been a few on the park too.

The invention of the “Ronny Roars”, despite the naff name, has been inspirational. You want to see the players, the manager and the fans all linking up and that post-match ritual has done a lot to build a bridge there. It was born after another great moment – the late winner with ten men against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

But, with full credit to Hamilton Academical for inviting him along as an honoured guest and getting him onto the park at half time, my moment of the season is Jay Beatty winning goal of the month. After Georgios Samaras moved on, I’m sure a few of us wondered how Jay would react. Well, he apparently did what we all do and found a new hero. Efe Ambrose wouldn’t be my choice right enough!

But Samaras was back on our screens to announce that wee Jay had won the award for his half time goal in our 2-0 win over Hamilton. The fact the fans of clubs across Scotland voted for it just goes to show that sometimes football can be absolutely brilliant.

WTF Moment of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – The Referee Strike; 2012 – FC Sion; 2013 – Lennon cited for swearing. 2014 – The defeat of Resolution 11.

I’m pretty sure I could name Steven McLean here and you’d all know exactly the incident I mean. How one referee, one assistant referee, and one goalline referee can all miss a blatantly obvious hand ball is a question no one ever wants to answer. One of them may have been unsighted? Two – well we’ll argue that one. But the referee – the most important of the three – could see it clear as day.

However, I’m not going to name that as the WTF moment of the season. I’ve seen too many dodgy decisions from referees over the years to ever say WTF about them. We know they’re dodgy, we’ll argue over whether they’re biased or incompetent, and nothing will ever change while the SFA suits insist on protecting them. Until that changes, we just need to be good enough to ensure that “honest mistakes” can’t spoil our day.

Although I’d be remiss not to mention some other SFA highlights of the season. Alexander Tonev being branded a racist on the “balance of probability” – the only time that’s been used in Scotland before or since. Odd considering several players, who on the “balance of probability” did commit an offense, were let off with a “not proven” verdict. Kris Boyd and Nadir Ciftci to name but two.

The SFA’s fit and proper process has recently proven to be laughable too since a convicted tax criminal who was part of a liquidated club’s board is apparently fine. But we shouldn’t really be surprised given the SFA president is a man whose hands are ridiculously dirty from the EBT scandal at Rangers – for which they were found guilty remember. That Stewart Regan can come out and criticise the FIFA President for, as yet unproven, corruption at the governing body is frankly laughable when he reports to the guilty himself.

But no, I’m going to go for a non-SFA related WTF moment that happened way back in July. The Bartosz Bereszynski substitution.

With Celtic Park out of commission due to the Commonwealth Games, Celtic were playing “home” Champions League qualifiers at Murrayfield. We’d already knocked out KR Reykjavik with some ease – at least in the “home” leg – but by the time Legia Warsaw arrived at Murrayfield they were in the box seat after a 4-1 win in Warsaw. On the park, Celtic were deservedly beaten 2-0 in the second leg in a game best erased from history.

Which is good, because that’s exactly what happened.

With the game long finished, and just a couple of minutes left on the clock, Legia brought on Bereszynski for his first taste of European football that season. He had been given a three game ban after being sent off in Legia’s last game of the 2013/14 Europa League group stage against Apollon Limassol.

However, because Legia had not registered Bartosz for their previous round of games against St Patrick’s Athletic, UEFA’s rules clearly stated that he had not served that ban in those games. As such, Bereszynski had only served one of his three games in the first leg against Celtic, and was still suspended when he came on at Murrayfield.

UEFA, after being alerted to this error, awarded the second leg to Celtic with the standard 3-0 win. Celtic therefore progressed to the playoff round on away goals, 4-4 on aggregate.

Which, of course, lead to mass outrage and complaints of how clearly Legia has won on the park. “Let Football Win” was the cry, ignoring that the rules were clear and that football has to be played within its rules. UEFA rejected the appeal that followed, and eventually so did the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Legia had rightly forfeited the second leg, and all the moaning about it would do nothing.

Of course, Celtic went on to lose to Maribor in the final qualifier anyway, so that just annoyed us further. But the clerical error will join the FC Sion transfer ban of 2012 in the annals of farcical history.

The Golden Boot

Previous winners: 2011 – Kris Commons; 2012 – Gary Hooper; 2013 – Gary Hooper. 2014 – Kris Commons.

With the change in manager, there’s been a change in the way we play. As such, the goals have been shared among the team a lot more. Nothing quite illustrates that better than the fact that Virgil Van Dijk has ten goals from his 58 appearances this season! Indeed, he’s one of only five players to have hit double figures this season, with the others being Stefan Johansen on thirteen, John Guidetti on fifteen, Kris Commons on sixteen, and Leigh Griffiths on twenty.

That’s Kris Commons up to 82 goals for Celtic now, so he’ll need to up it next season if he’s to reach the century mark last reached by John Hartson. That’s assuming Commons gets to feature as much of course, which is by no means certain. He has, however, passed Anthony Stokes whose eight goals this season have taken him up to 76. But then Stokes hasn’t featured much as a striker under Ronny Deila, having been deployed wide more often. He has, however, managed seven assists this season which is second only to Commons’ eight.

As always though, this award isn’t given out purely for scoring the goals. I like to look at the goals to game ratio, and Van Dijk’s 0.17 is a terrific return for a defender. But really, given the number of games that he and Johansen have played, it comes down to the three attacking players. John Guidetti’s 0.44 is reasonable and clearly beats Kris Commons’ 0.34, but Leigh Griffiths takes this award with his 0.49 ratio. A goal almost every other game isn’t a bad return. He’s no Henrik Larsson, but then again who is!

Charity (The Reamonn Gormley Award)

Previous winners: 2011 – Reamonn Gormley/The Good Child Foundation; 2012 – The Vanessa Riddle Appeal; 2013 – The Wee Oscar Appeal. 2014 – The Green Brigade Food Drive.

It’s always great to see charity playing a big part in Celtic, and that’s certainly been the case again this season.

As suspected, the club’s official charity, Celtic FC Foundation, has really kicked on this season under CEO Tony Hamilton. Ben Nevis huddles, badge days, and zip slides are just some of the many events that have taken place. Quite simply, Tony gets it, and that’s what was needed. This year’s badge with the “Ronny Roar” is a cracker too!

The Kano Foundation continues to go from strength to strength. It was terrific to see good friends in the Homebhoys being named as Kano ambassadors at the dinner dance in March, and hardly a surprise given there isn’t a show goes by without them rightly mentioning the Kano Foundation. That dinner dance sold out remarkably quickly as well, which was great to see. The news that they could be branching out into other football clubs through one way or another can only be even more encouraging.

Following on from the Green Brigade’s food drive, there has been a few more. I had first hand experience of the latest one at the midweek Kilmarnock game, and the generosity I saw that night really did a lot for my faith in humanity. Whether it was the image of the Kerrydale Clover full of bags, or watching people struggling to stuff notes into the bucket I was holding, it was terrific to see so much help in something that was announced at very short notice.

That food drive, done as part of the Walfrid Legacy marking the 100th anniversary of the club’s founder, helped out so many food banks. No doubt it won’t be the last either, until such times as we can eradicate the need for food banks altogether.

But this year I’m going to go with the old bhoys network. Hey, if the suits that run our game can do it, then so can I! For me, it’s been great to follow the journey of The Asterisk Years as Paul Larkin has taken his documentary on tour around the world. At each of those showings, someone has benefited. Local charities have benefited at local screenings in different continents, but where Paul has been asked who should benefit then it’s gone to the Kano Foundation.

He didn’t have to do that. He’s been taking his documentary on tour personally, flying here there and everywhere when he could have been making money off the back of this himself. But he’s just not that kind of guy. Like Tony Hamilton, Paul gets it. As long as we have people like that – and there are many more – then we will always been the good guys in the football world.

The Unsung Hero

Previous winners: 2011 – Charlie Mulgrew; 2012 – Fraser Forster; 2013 – Kelvin Wilson. 2014 – Emilio Izaguirre.

There’s always players who slip under the radar. Players that don’t get mentioned in the awards at the end of the season. Players who, without them, we wouldn’t be doing as well as we have done.

Craig Gordon is quite a tempting pick here, given his performances for Celtic this season. He wasn’t short listed in any of the players or fans awards, but he probably should have been. But the fact the sports writers picked him suggest that he maybe doesn’t quite merit this award.

Emilio Izaguirre won this one last year, and to be honest he could probably win it again this season. He’s been our left back for five seasons now, and despite having no one else even considered to threaten that position he’s been consistently performing well in that position. He’s even added to his goal tally this season. He has his doubters, but he also gets the praise of large sections of the fan base. Myself included, I love Izzy!

But for me, the unsung hero this season has been Nir Bitton. Despite being out of favour at the start of the season, he knuckled down, played his way into Ronny Deila’s thoughts, earned a spot in the first team and has kept it on merit. He’s now a player we miss when he doesn’t play, and that speaks volumes for how far he has come this season. He frees up Scott Brown along side him, and that has probably helped our Captain blossom this season to the point people were talking about him being player of the year.

And so, that’s us for another season. It’s been a roller coaster season, from the lows of Legia and Maribor, to the highs of playing against Inter and gubbing Aberdeen, to the bitter disappointment on missing out on the treble in such controversial circumstances. But as always it’s been brilliant being a Celtic fan, and we’ll be back again next year to do it all again – the highs, the lows and yes no doubt even the WTFs.

Oh yes, and then of course there’s me. The ink is still drying on my new blogging contract with Hail Hail Media, and I’m looking forward to my second stint. Some say you should never go back, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to recapture the old magic once more. See you next season!

Krys (Twitter @Krys1888)

This Post Has 2 Comments

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