The Jamies 2018

Here we are again. The final blog of the season, and so for the eighth year running…

Welcome to The Jamies for 2018!

Following the Invincibles was always going to be a difficult challenge, and while this season couldn’t quite emulate the unbeaten record it did manage to carry it into December and set a new club and Scottish record.

Not the only record that would be broken this season of course! I think the next few days, weeks and possibly months and years will see us debating what was the bigger achievement – in Invincibles or the Double Treble.

I can think of worse things to be debating!

There is no doubt that in the years and decades to come, these times will be looked back on almost as fondly as the European Cup win is. Unprecedented domestic domination, and we’ve been fortunate enough to witness it all first hand.

Many times I’ve thought the Willie Maley song needs a new verse, but I think in this case it really does! Maybe we’ll get there one day, once we’re able to properly reflect on this achievement through the mists of time.

But for now let’s get to the awards.

Player of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – Emilio Izaguirre; 2012 – Charlie Mulgrew; 2013 – Georgios Samaras; 2014 – Kris Commons; 2015 – Stefan Johansen; 2016 – Leigh Griffiths; 2017 – Moussa Dembele.

Last season saw a long list of players who really hit a high as quality came in and existing players stepped up. It was wonderful to see.

This season has been a bit more difficult, with key players facing spells out through injury or just not finding the form they would hope. But there have still been several players who have stood out from the rest.

What more can be said about our captain, Scott Brown? No goals and no assists but still picked up player of the year awards all over the place – he made this joke himself! His leadership has been evident as he’s led by example and even though he’s right about those stats we all know the simple truth – he makes the Celtic team tick and when he bosses the midfield the rest of the country struggle to get anything from us. I can’t argue with him getting many awards, although he’s not getting this one!

Callum McGregor and Tom Rogic. Two players that don’t always feature but who have a habit of scoring big goals in big games. Derbies, Scottish Cup finals, they pop up when they’re really needed and they create for others too.

We’ll come back to Kieran Tierney later, but he goes from strength to strength and few players in Europe have played as many minutes this season as he has. And when he doesn’t, he’s in the crowd with the rest of us. Forever one of us, he just gets to join in more.

But I’m giving this award to a man who isn’t far behind Brown in terms of years of service. A man who is often maligned but a man who has really stepped up this season.

Before this season, James Forrest had scored at most nine goals in a season. This term he has nearly double that. He scored the key goal against Rosenborg that got us to the Champions League as well as claiming his first professional hat trick against Partick Thistle in probably our trickiest Scottish Cup match this year.

Oh, and he finally got his brother Alan off his back about not scoring against the blue half of Glasgow.

He hasn’t had the same impact towards the end of the season that he had earlier, but that shouldn’t mean his achievements are forgotten. He was terrific, so much so that the disappointment of Patrick Roberts being out injured was far less than it otherwise would have been.

Young Player of the Season

Previous winners: 2011 – Greig Spence; 2012 – Marcus Fraser; 2013 – Bahrudin Atajic; 2014 – Darnell Fisher; 2015 – Jason Denayer; 2016 – Kieran Tierney; 2017 – Kieran Tierney.

If there’s been one disappointment this season, it’s been the lack of breakthrough from the academy. Tierney, McGregor, Forrest… they’re all massive parts of this squad and have been for some time now. All from the Celtic academy. But who’s coming through now?

Jack Aitchison hasn’t featured. Calvin Miller is trying to be moulded into a left back and it’s not really working. Anthony Ralston was loaned out to Dundee United. Mikey Johnston managed to get a couple of appearances but might still be another season away from making any kind of real breakthrough. Ewan Henderson made his debut in the goalless draw against Kilmarnock. But that’s about it!

I feel like I should just give this award to Tierney again to be honest! He turns 21 next month but he now feels like such an important part of the senior squad that you forget how young he is. But I feel like that would be a cop out. Don’t get me wrong, Tierney has been terrific this season once again, but I’m going to give this award to someone who has stepped up their game.

Kristoffer Ajer, loaned out to Kilmarnock last season, has turned himself into one of the best choices at centre back this season. His rise to that position pretty much started with an assured performance at home in the goalless draw against Rosenborg, and he hasn’t really looked back. Given the chopping and changing all season in the back four, he has been the one that has rarely put a foot wrong and could be relied on.

Given the question marks ahead of that very position this summer, it’s nice to know we have someone in there already that can do a job from day one of the new season.

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; 2015 – Celtic 3 v 3 Inter Milan; 2016 – Celtic 3 v 2 Malmo; 2017 – Celtic 3 v 3 Manchester City.

It may not have been a vintage season for headline catching games, but we still had a fair selection of classics to choose from.

Way back in August, as we looked to reach the Champions League group stages for the second season running, the absolute thumping of Astana 5-0 at Celtic Park had that tie dead and buried after the first leg. Of course, we still managed to give ourselves a few worries in the second leg, but really it was all fine and the near perfect performance at Celtic Park was enough to get us there.

The 3-0 away win against Anderlecht was also a highlight of our European campaign, and ensured that we finished third in our group even though we lost the home game to them at the end of the group stage. That saw us head into the Europa League after Christmas, where the 1-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg was another terrific performance, sadly lacking in more goals that we perhaps deserved that night and that proved to be quickly undone in the away leg.

In the domestic cups, our semi final win over Hibernian was an exciting 4-2 match, albeit aided by the referee awarding a penalty for a decent challenge and letting them back into the game, while the 4-0 win in the Scottish Cup was emphatic if all too easy.

The league campaign could probably have seen us pick up far more points than we did, and certainly we weren’t the top goalscorers in the league either. But we won when it counted, never more so than wins at Pittodrie and Ibrox where we beat our nearest rivals when it mattered most. The 3-0 in Aberdeen was particularly good as it sent us clear of them on points at the top of the table.

They may not be the same Rangers of old, but given it’s the same fans who lorded over us far too often in the past it’s still more than satisfying to put their new club to the sword. And we did that in style. The aforementioned semi final aside, the 3-2 win at Ibrox where we came from behind twice and eventually got the winner when down to ten men only helped kill their spirit. Nine goals with no reply since then proves that point.

And it’s that last game, Celtic 5-0 Rangers (2012), a complete thrashing on the day we clinched our seventh league title in a row, that really said it all. We were at them from the first minute, but when we got to 54 we pretty much stopped.

Just like the old Rangers.

Imagine being 5-0 up in less than an hour against your city rivals and then just taking your foot off the gas and enjoying the moment for the rest of the game. How galling must that have been? We were thumped by the old Rangers several times, but never anything like this.

To do it on the day we clinched the league title too. Magnificent. Almost makes up for not clinching the first of the seven against the old Rangers at Ibrox in 2012. Almost.

Am I disappointed we didn’t keep going after the fifth goal? Yeah, just a little bit. But I do love that they know we did that, it just rubs salt in the wound.

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; 2015 – Scott Brown v Dundee; 2016 – Stuart Armstrong v Motherwell; 2017 – Moussa Dembele v St Johnstone.

Last season we had a terrific team goal, but this season’s goal of the season was probably wrapped up way back in August. You know what’s coming.

But let’s take a moment to salute some of the others that were scored through the season. James Forrest getting his goal in the derby with a jinking run past several defenders. Calum McGregor’s half volley to open the scoring on the double treble clinching day at the Scottish Cup final. The Leigh Griffiths unstoppable free kick at Ross County. Tom Rogic’s long range equaliser at Ibrox. Either of Kieran Tierney’s goals at Pittodrie.

Okay, we’ve danced around it enough already. The best goal scored this season anywhere in Scotland was Kieran Tierney at Celtic Park against Kilmarnock in the League Cup. It just was. No debate. A couple of strides out of the centre circle and pinged straight into the top corner. It was so good, Kirk Broadfoot watched it go in and then turned around in disbelief. Absolutely unstoppable, easily the goal of the season.

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; 2015 – Jay Beatty winning goal of the month; 2016 – Tom Rogic’s goal against Kilmarnock; 2017 – Tom Rogic’s treble clinching goal.

Unlike last season, there was no magical last minute winner to clinch the treble. It was done and dusted in the first quarter of the game and we all knew it. But we still had some wonderful moments along the way.

Qualification for the Champions League group stages once again. Winning each of the three trophies. Coming from behind twice to win at Ibrox with ten men. Callum McGregor’s goal in the game against Zenit. Most of the moments when we gubbed our city rivals 5-0.

But if there’s one iconic image from this season, it’s right at the very end. Coming back from Hampden Park to finally get the chance to do an open top bus parade. Yes, it might have been a short journey from Dalmarnock station to the Celtic Way, but we’ve dreamed of being able to do that in Glasgow for a long time. Even the Lisbon Lions had to have their parade inside the stadium!

Maybe this city is starting to grow up a bit finally. Maybe we can have nice things after all. And this time we got a wonderful image of the double treble winners surrounded by delighted Celtic supporters for as far as the eye can see, on a glorious sunny day in May. I’m sure that picture will be on all sorts of merchandise in no time.

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; 2015 – The Bartosz Bereszynski substitution; 2016 – Patrick Roberts miss; 2017- Palestinian flag fine.

There’s not been too many strange moments this season, certainly not at our club anyway. Managers standing in bushes having an argument are for someone else to worry about after all.

But we’ve had a few anyway. How many people managed to get away with booting Scott Brown up in the air after Heart manager Craig Levein suggested it? How much did he bang on about Brendan Rodgers correctly calling out their failed tactic of keeping the grass long? The guy is a dinosaur of Scottish football, and only has the job he’s in because no one wanted to work under him after Ian Cathro was thrown under the bus.

Some of our performances this season have left us scratching our heads too. Games where we couldn’t score, games where we just didn’t turn up, and how we can’t seem to win when Jack Hendry is in the team is beyond me – it’s not like it’s actively his fault we don’t score!

Jozo Simunovic has probably had a few WTF moments himself too. Our most difficult Scottish Cup tie came against Partick Thistle, and while we had been 2-0 and cruising, he played an awful pass back that was easily intercepted and let Thistle back into the game. And then there was a certain performance at Tynecastle.

To be honest, that is probably the biggest WTF of the season. After 69 domestic games unbeaten, Celtic had been showing signs of the unbeaten run coming to an end. But no one could have anticipated the absolute pasting that Hearts gave us that day. Hearts 4-0 Celtic. Everything went right for them, everything went wrong for us, and it was the biggest gubbing we’ve had from Hearts in over a century.

Well, after a good 69, I suppose you should expect a pumping.

The Golden Boot

Previous winners: 2011 – Kris Commons; 2012 – Gary Hooper; 2013 – Gary Hooper; 2014 – Kris Commons; 2015 – Leigh Griffiths; 2016 – Leigh Griffiths; 2017 – Scott Sinclair.

It’s amazing to think that not one Celtic player managed to score over 20 goals this season. I couldn’t even tell you when that last happened at the club, someone always seems to manage it somewhere along the line. Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair both did it last season, and the season before that saw Leigh Griffiths hit 40!

Actually, it was 2009/10 when Robbie Keane was our top scorer with 16 – but then he was only here half the season!

However this award never gets given for the total number of goals, it goes to the player with the best goals per game ratio. Which this season actually makes it really interesting.

Top goalscorer Scott Sinclair has a ratio of 0.33 thanks to 18 goals in 55 games, ever so slightly less than Leigh Griffiths who also has 0.33 but rounded down rather than up. He got 13 from 39 games.

James Forrest, on his best ever return of 17 from 58 games, has a very respectable 0.29 ratio, but it’s the two French strikers that have battled it out for the best goalscoring ratio at the club.

In second place, Odsonne Edouard with a ratio of 0.38 thanks to 11 goals in 29 games. Which means in first place, with a ratio of 0.41, it’s Moussa Dembele with 16 goals in 39 games.

Credit to Callum McGregor with 0.22 thanks to 12 goals in 55 games as well, since he was the only other player to reach double figures. Tom Rogic managed eight goals, four of which came against our city rivals of course, while Olivier Ntcham on his debut season with Celtic managed to get to nine.

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; 2015 – The Asterisk Years; 2016 – Celtic FC Foundation; 2017 – Match the Fine for Palestine.

Once again, charity is where it matters most at Celtic. The usual suspects are here, from the Celtic FC Foundation and their various endeavours, the Kano Foundation still getting those children through the turnstiles at an incredible rate, the Green Brigade ran another successful foodbank drive, Paul Larkin is always chasing us for some cause on his Facebook page as I think he might just rival the Foundation for his variety of beneficiaries – when they aren’t chased away by incredibly disturbing and depressing levels of hatred of course…

But one charitable endeavour caught my imagination more than most this season. David Edgar, the Bhoy on the Road, spent the entire season cycling to all of our away league matches in an effort to raise money for the Foundation. He reached his target of £5000 on final game – away to Tynecastle – and I can’t think of a more deserving winner of this award than that.

Just think about it. Who wants to cycle to Dingwall in November? Or Aberdeen in October and again in February? I wouldn’t even want to cycle to Ibrox or Firhill from Celtic Park to be honest, never mind those treks!

He deserved even more than the wonderful figure that he raised. I take my hat of to him. Or should that be helmet?

The Unsung Hero

Previous winners: 2011 – Charlie Mulgrew; 2012 – Fraser Forster; 2013 – Kelvin Wilson; 2014 – Emilio Izaguirre; 2015 – Nir Bitton; 2016 – Charlie Mulgrew; 2018 – Emilio Izaguirre.

And so to the final award of the year. The one that tries to recognise someone that hasn’t really been recognised properly. It can be quite difficult to do this, as more and more everything is picked apart and scrutinised to the point that no one is truly unsung.

Kristoffer Ajer may well fit this bill, but I already spoke of him when giving out the young player of the season award! Chris Davies, assistant to Brendan Rodgers, might well win this award every year himself too! He plays such a big part behind the scenes that he really should get more credit than he does.

But I think there’s one player in the squad who gets credit but perhaps not the credit he really deserves. Tom Rogic certainly has a reputation for big goals, but he’s not the only one. Callum McGregor seems to duck under the radar. Less so in recent months, scoring in derbies and cup finals will do that, but still not quite the recognition he really deserves.

Doesn’t help when your national team manager doesn’t pick you either, but the less said about Gordon Strachan’s selections the better. Fill your team with Celtic players and you do well, take them out again and that’s why we’re not going to the World Cup. That’s all I’m saying Gordon…

Callum McGregor is the only man to have scored in every single competition that Celtic played in this season. He scored against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League, Dundee in the League Cup, Rangers (2012) and Motherwell in the Scottish Cup, and a further seven goals in the league as well including against Rangers (2012) and a couple against Hibernian in that 2-2 draw back in September.

It’s not like this is new either. Under Ronny Deila he scored in three consecutive away European qualifiers – including the vital away goal against Legia Warsaw. He’s always had it in him, but he like others at the club seem to be raising standards under Brendan Rodgers.

When they come through our youth system and do that, is there anything better?

And so we bring down the curtain on another season. This is the eighth time I’ve done this end of season blog now, and before I go I’d just like to thank everyone that reads these blogs.

Hail Hail Media is not what it once was. I’m pretty much the only one writing on here now, but over the years there have been many great contributors. They’re always welcome back, and so is anyone else who might fancy picking up the baton and giving it a go. I’m still planning on returning in 2018/19 as we go in search of more wonderful records. Walter Smith’s seven trophies in a row will be matched if we retain the league cup, eight in a row is our next league target, and if we win the Scottish Cup it will be the first time in Celtic history that we’ve won that trophy three years running.

Anyone fancy a treble treble then?! Enjoy the summer.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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