The Jamies 2019

Another season has come to an end. Actually it came to and end over a week again, so it’s probably past time for my final blog of the season. Ach well, better late than never. For the ninth year now, yes I really have been writing for this website for that long…

Welcome to The Jamies for 2019!

It’s been an odd season. We’ve had a lot of downs, more than we’ve had in quite a while, and yet ultimately we came out with all three domestic honours for the third year running. As far as anyone can tell, the treble treble is completely unprecedented in the whole world. That follows on from the double treble that was finally achieved for the first time in Scotland, and the invincible treble that started it all off.

Nine trophies in a row. Next season will see us going for another nine in a row, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. 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; 2018 – James Forrest.

It’s been a season where almost no one has managed to shine through for Celtic for the whole season. Some have had mixed form, others have had no luck with injuries. Nevertheless, certainly players stepped up when it really counted, when we needed them the most.

James Forrest, who won this award last season, had picked up many of the country’s awards from players and sports writers. His ridiculous scoring record against St Johnstone might well be one of the reasons for that! But unlike last season he wasn’t quite as consistent as we might have liked.

Ryan Christie was the surprise package of the season. Many, including myself, expected him to move on and not break into the team. But when his chance came he took it with both hands and is one of the main men responsible for getting us the first of the three trophies we picked up this season. His performance at Murrayfield was terrific, and his goal in the final was ultimately the only one of the game. Too many injuries sadly cut his season short, culminating in the shocking head injury he had in the Scottish Cup semi final.

Scott Bain is definitely worth a mention here too. He didn’t start out as first choice but he certainly finished the season that way. His clean sheet record is terrific for a man who didn’t feature the whole season! A couple of dodgy moments in the last couple of league matches after the title was clinched can be forgiven.

Kristoffer Ajer is another man who has stepped up when it was needed. With our defence suffering from injuries and huffs, he was there to first fill in and ultimately become first choice. He’s a young man with a long career ahead of him, and its pretty ridiculous he wasn’t considered for the young player of the year awards!

Callum McGregor is another stalwart of the team. The kind of player you can rely on… though perhaps not at left back at Ibrox. In a game where he was played well out of position, he still managed to be our best midfielder. It was very strange.

But I think player of the year has to go to the man at the very heart of the team. Scott Brown now has a medal haul to rival most teams in Scotland. He has twenty to his name when you include his League Cup medal from his time at Hibernian. Hearts only have sixteen in their entire history, and they’re one of the more decorated sides!

There’s no doubt that our captain played his part in dragging us through the difficult last few months of the season, and nothing quite demonstrated that like his ninetieth minute winner at Rugby Park against a Kilmarnock side who were having their best season in two decades. Scott Brown won the league at Rugby Park.

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; 2018 – Kristoffer Ajer.

Last season I found myself having to break my own rules and give this award not to someone who came through our academy, but give it to someone who had a great season. As I said earlier, Ajer has only gone on to be even better this season and it was a travesty that he didn’t get nominated in this category in the national awards.

But this season I’m going back to the spirit of this award and trying to keep it to our academy graduates only.

Two names have stuck out towards the end of the season particuarly. Armstrong Okoflex and Karamoko Dembele are the two real standouts from the academy this year, with the latter getting 45 minutes in the final game of the season while the former has also made it to the first team bench. Dembele was unlucky not to score against Hearts, and did enough to earn a place on the bench in the Scottish Cup final. It will be interesting to see if one or both of these youngsters have a chance to make more of an impact next season.

Another new name to the Celtic squad is that of Ewan Henderson. The younger brother of Liam made his debut at the end of last season, but he made his first start against Motherwell this year and was awarded man of the match that day for his performance. He also featured in that final game of the season against Hearts, playing his part in a one-two for the opening goal.

But I think I have to give this award to the scorer of that goal. Mikey Johnston actually got both goals that day, adding to the goals he got against Motherwell and Dundee in December. Johnston also featured in the Europa League this season, and although I’m sure he’ll want to forget his two trips to Ibrox this season he’s certainly looked like an exciting young player against some of our bigger opponents. Hopefully he can continue to learn and make even more of an impact next 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; 2018 – Celtic 5 v 0 Rangers (2012).

It’s not been a season of classic matches. Actually it’s probably easier to remember the disappointments than it is to remember the specific triumphs. Even the high scoring 4-3 win at Pittodrie was a dire affair for the vast majority of it!

We dished out some thumpings, especially to St Johnstone who were on the end of a 6-0 and a 5-0 this season, but they were few and far between for much of the season.

We also had some last gasp winners, particularly towards the end of the campaign. Victories at Tynecastle, Dens Park and Rugby Park all came very late on, leading to some message boards bizarrely drawing up league tables if games ended after eighty minutes. Desperate stuff.

As usual though, it’s to Europe I have to turn for what was probably the highlight of the season. The Europa League draw was probably the toughest we could have got in that tournament, but it also meant we turned in our finest performance. Celtic 2 v 1 RB Leipzig. This game had it all.

The disco lights had their debut to spectacular effect – more so with the atmospherically dimmed lighting for You’ll Never Walk Alone than for the actual show itself – and then the game started. Kieran Tierney gave us an early lead but we failed to find our way to a second goal to kill it off. Then with twelve minutes remaining, Leipzig’s equaliser came and for a brief moment our hearts sank.

The next time Leipzig touched the ball was to pick it out of their own net as we took centre, worked out way up the park and Odsonne Edouard scored the winner. Leipzig were a great team, probably the best team we’ve beaten in Europe in many years. And ultimately it proved to be crucial as we progressed to the last thirty two at Leipzig’s expense. But more on that later.

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; 2018 – Kieran Tierney v Kilmarnock.

Kiernan Tierney’s unstoppable long range effort from… eh… Barrowfield by this point easily won last year’s award. Scott Brown’s similarly terrific long range effort against St Johnstone won the Celtic award this season. It would probably be easy for me to go with that, but I have something else in mind.

Olivier Ntcham’s goal in the second Glasgow derby of the season was a terrific break up in the park, odd given we dominated the game. Scott Sinclair’s quick thinking backheel against Aberdeen won that game as well. Leigh Griffiths got his 100th Celtic goal with a spectacular free kick against Suduva. Mikael Lustig scored a diving header on the day we won the league. Lustig also used his head to play through Odsonne Edouard to wonderfully score the treble treble clinching goal in the cup final.

And then of course there was the fairytale. Our current number five scoring with the clock reading 67 on the day we paid tribute to our Lisbon Lion number five.

But actually, I’ve already mentioned what I think was goal of the season. When you’ve worked so hard for so long in a massive game, to lose an equaliser late on can be gut wrenching. It’s easy for the heads to go down and even for the game to slip away from you completely. So what do you do? Well, you take centre, work the ball out to Scott Sinclair on the left side, he plays it inside to Ryan Christie who then hits the byline and plays it across goal for Odsonne Edouard to tap into the net, that’s what! Celtic 2-1 RB Leipzig. A goal that meant so much, at such a crucial time, in arguably our biggest game of the season. Odsonne Edouard v RB Leipzig is my 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; 2018 – the open top bus parade.

That goal against Leipzig might as well get this award too to be honest! Unfortunately, our chance of a second open top bus parade was ruined by loaning Celtic Park out to a rugby match and then the police in Glasgow not knowing what a barrier is. Maybe they should ask their Edinburgh colleagues, they had them all set up for Hearts should they have won the cup!

Alas this is a season where it’s easier to list the next category than this one. There are moments, yes. Winning trophies counts for three of them! Late winning goals count for a few more. But maybe the image of this season that sticks in my mind most is because it was one of the few times I was there to experience it.

You’ll Never Walk Alone under the disco lights. Much ridiculed prior to their usage, it took until that RB Leipzig match in November to actually use them. Were they worth the money we had paid for them? That might still be debated now, but what’s pretty clear is we certainly got an amazing new experience because of them. The light shows themselves have improved over time, but what followed was unlike anything I had expected.

You’ll Never Walk Alone is an amazing song, one that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end when it’s full gusto. I can still remember my first proper experience of it against Bordeaux in 2000, and of course I heard it many times before that – most notably after stopping the ten in 1998. I’ve been a part of many other times that it’s been incredibly – the night we beat Barcelona in 2004 after the Madrid bombings. The night we Shunsuke Nakamura beat Manchester United when we started an octave too high because we were all so excited.

Now I had a new experience of that song, and it blew me away. I don’t usually do anything other than hold my scarf up like everyone else at these times, but just for a change I stopped to take a panoramic photo. I’m glad I did, it might be one of the most impressive photos I have stored away.

I’m glad the game itself went on to be a highlight in its own right, it makes the memory of that night all the more wonderful.

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; 2018 – The end of the unbeaten run.

This season certainly upped the stakes as far as bizarre moments go. The governing bodies certainly did their best. The SPFL gave Hearts just enough of a points deduction for fielding an ineligible player against Cove Rangers that they could still qualify from the League Cup section. How you dock them two points and not all three is beyond me. They got all the way to the semi final which was first scheduled to take place on one mad day at Hampden and them moved to Hearts doorstep when that idea proved to be bizarre. Personally I think they accidentally stumbled on a great idea of having both semis on the same day one after the other, but you can almost guarantee they’ll be back to one a day next season sadly.

Meanwhile the SFA managed to let our neighbours across the city off with all sorts. Their first game of the season saw a kick out red card overturned, and their season ended with an elbow into Scott Brown not being ruled a red card either. In between the referees were continually pulled up for getting decisions wrong in the Ibrox club’s favour and so they had to be repeatedly corrected by the compliance officer, only for that club to somehow claim that it was unfair that they were being singled out by her. Maybe if the referees did their job properly in the first place?

Closer to home, we had our manage up sticks and leave in the middle of the season and in particular in a very crucial week when we had important league and Scottish Cup ties to play in Edinburgh – a city where we didn’t have a particularly good record. Fortunately Neil Lennon stepped in and got us two wins there, so in the end there was no real harm done, but the less said about the previous manager the better I think at this point.

Particularly bizarre was the end of our season. The open top bus parade organising was pretty terrible, but it was completely overtaken by news that we had offered Neil Lennon the full time manager’s job. Not that he had signed up for it, merely that he had been offered it. It was days and days before that was all signed and made official.

Oh yes, and then there’s the transfers. This season saw us see Dedryck Boyata and Moussa Dembele take the huff at not getting to leave – reportedly because of our then manager. Apparently it was okay for him to leave when he wanted but not them. Boyata eventually didn’t go at all and so has only now left for free. At least we got decent money for Dembele, but it left us short of strikers for most of the season.

Then we hear at the end of the season that we don’t need to strengthen much. I think Peter Lawwell had a bit too much Hampden hospitality to be honest. Mind you, if his idea of strengthening is anything like the leaked transfer list that was discussed with the now departed Lee Congerton, I have to wonder if he hasn’t been at the club far too long and it’s starting to affect his mental state.

However, I’m not going to give this award to any of these because the most bizarre moment was probably another one I got to experience first hand.

Progressing to the Europa League last thirty two was in our hands. We just had to avoid defeat to Red Bull Salzburg and we were through. A draw would have been enough, and for three quarters of the game that was as good as we were going to get. It was not a good performance at all, and we seemed to be living on our luck for the most part. The only part where we didn’t have luck was with injuries as we had two enforced substitutions.

Then Salzburg scored. Then ten minutes later Craig Gordon gifted them a second by throwing it against an opponent when he was aiming for Tierney. With Leipzig winning against Rosenborg, we were now heading out. Please started to leave. The atmosphere was non-existent. Those that stayed watched in agony as Ajer somehow got the ball over the bar from about an inch. It was all over, we were going out.

Until, with just four minutes to play in Germany, Tore Reginiussen equalised for Rosenborg. Suddenly, Celtic Park erupted. Those that had stayed had something to cheer! Phones were frantically checked and rechecked and refreshed and refreshed and refreshed. Then Celtic won a penalty that Olivier Ntcham missed. But he managed to get the rebound. We definitely cheered the Rosenborg goal more than that.

The full time whistles went, and we celebrated the defeat. The team did a wholly undeserved lap of honour, knowing full well that they had failed to do what they needed to do. Our game had become a dead rubber thanks to the result in Germany, so actually the lap of honour was more to do with the nine points we had won across the other games than what we hadn’t done that night.

It was all very, very surreal. I’m pretty sure I left the stadium laughing that night. What else could you do?

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; 2018 – Moussa Dembele.

Last season we didn’t have anyone that managed to score over 20 goals, and this season only Odsonne Edouard pulled that off. Scott Sinclair and James Forrest each managed 17 goals, but as always this award isn’t about how many you score it’s about how prolific you are. Goals per game ratio is the winner in this award!

Now, I could give this award to Moussa Dembele. In the six games he played before he spat the dummy and left, he scored three times. That gives him a 0.5 ratio which is better than anyone else, but I’m not sure he played enough games for me to justify giving it to him!

The aforementioned Scott Sinclair and James Forrest had a similar number of games played for the season, with James playing one game more and so having the 0.30 ratio to Scott’s 0.31. The only other man to hit double figures this season was Ryan Christie with 11, and with those coming in just 38 games due to injury he had an, again, similar ratio of 0.29.

So it’s not really a surprise then that Odsonne Edouard does indeed have the highest ratio with 0.44 for the season. Although as I said already, technically Dembele could argue this one! If only you had stuck around, Moussa. Oh well.

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; 2018 – the Bhoy on the Road.

Okay, I admit it, I’ve not kept up with too much in the way of charity this season. To be honest, the most noteworthy thing I noticed this season was that we ended up having two collections in one final league game!

Of course the Celtic FC Foundation are constantly working away on a number of initiatives throughout the season. They’re my favourite bit of Celtic to be honest, constantly living the true spirit of why the club was founded. We lost that too many times, hopefully that’s never allowed to happen. It won’t under Tony Hamilton, that’s for sure.

But the Celtic support themselves have always been there for charity even when the club wasn’t. That hasn’t stopped just because the club has stepped up. Besides, the work that the Foundation do is usually in organising things for the fans to do – so it’s not like that isn’t the fans!

I was worried that having two collections on the same day would be a problem, but while Celtic FC Foundation raised just as much money from the end of season badges as they usually do, in the region of £18,000, the Green Brigade managed to raise their own £12,000.

Now! Most of that was for the double tifo display that we got at Hampden, but £1,967 of it went to Alzheimer’s Scotland following the sad passing of both Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers after suffering from dementia. Maybe they could have donated more, I have no idea how much that tifo cost, but then they were always up front about exactly what they were doing. So fair play to them.

Besides, the Green Brigade do more than their fair share for charity throughout the season. Particularly noteworthy is their foodbank drive, an annual occurrence that won this award five years ago!

If you Google for Celtic fans charity then you get plenty of hits. The Foundation and the Green Brigade are probably the most prominent, but you see others too. The Jimmy Johnstone tournament in London is one that turns up in amongst those prominent ones.

But I think, as we build up to the women’s world cup in a few days time, I have to hand it to three female Celtic supporters who are changing attitudes not just at Celtic but across football in Scotland and beyond. The On The Ball campaign started last season to get free sanitary products for women into football grounds. Where they quickly succeeded with Celtic, they’ve since gone to get 88 clubs to do the same.

The fact that period poverty in even a thing is ridiculous. The fact that football, a notoriously male dominated area even today, is actually help to lead campaigns against it is brilliant.

The Unsung Hero

Previous winners: 2011 – Charlie Mulgrew; 2012 – Fraser Forster; 2013 – Kelvin Wilson; 2014 – Emilio Izaguirre; 2015 – Nir Bitton; 2016 – Charlie Mulgrew; 2017 – Emilio Izaguirre; 2018 – Callum McGregor.

And once more we reach the final award of the season. Who at Celtic hasn’t had enough credit for what they’ve done for us this season?

Well, Odsonne Edouard was overlooked as player of the year for a hothead who can scored against the lower teams in the league but can’t score against us. Well some people in this country think Kris Boyd is better than Henrik Larsson, so that kind of idiocy is not surprise.

Similarly, Kristoffer Ajer was overlooked for young player of the year. Yes he’s not eligible for some awards as he’s not Scottish, but that’s not the case for them all. They can’t all be marking him down for that miss against Salzburg, can they?

How about Neil Lennon? He came in when we needed someone quick, got the results we needed and helped us to clinch the treble treble. What more could he have done to get some credit? Entertained us? Well, hopefully that will come when he makes it his team again and not just filling in a gap for a while.

What about Mikael Lustig? Much maligned, especially in Europe, yet he was there to lift every trophy with Scott Brown and he even managed to score on the league clinching day and set up the Scottish Cup winning treble clinching goal.

No, I’m giving this award to Scott Bain. Why? Numbers, that’s why. He only played half the season – 31 games to Craig Gordon’s 32 – but barely put a foot wrong when it mattered. Bain’s record is so good in fact that he was joint top of the clean sheets chart in the league this season despite the fact he only played in 20 of the 38 games. He got 15 clean sheets in that time, the same as Allan McGregor who played 34 of the 38 games. Ahh if only you hadn’t been kicking out at half the league, Allan. Then again, it should have been even less since he mostly got away with it.

Indeed, he played in all the cup games, which saw us concede only twice – once to Partick Thistle in the League Cup and once to Hearts in the Scottish Cup. There wasn’t much he could do against Valencia, and after the game against Salzburg it would have been difficult to do worse than Gordon managed that night.

We went from joint top of the league in December to, at one point, thirteen points clear. A lot of that was down to Scott Bain’s clean sheets. He wasn’t alone, the defence also helped earn that, but Bain was at the centre of it and made some crucial saves along the way. Not bad for a Neil McCann reject.

Another season comes to an end then, and what a run it’s been. This site is almost like my own personal blog these days, although thanks have to go to Sam for his far more eloquent and thought provoking blogs than the “oh we have a game today I’d better put something together”. It’s not easy trying to do that almost twice a week for ten months of the year! Especially when life also pulls you in a hundred different directions. So maybe Sam has the right idea.

Then again, come July I know I’ll be champing at the bit to write about Celtic again.

So what to dream of in 2019/20? I wanted the treble treble last season because I wanted to beat the consecutive trophies record, keep the titles in a row going and finally win the Scottish Cup three times in a row. Well, now I’d quite like us to make it ten in a row – domestic trophies that is. I’m not getting ahead of myself on that! We still have to win nine in a row first – and growing up in the 90s I never thought I’d be saying that!

Oh yes, and four Scottish Cup wins in a row has never been done. So there’s an aim too.

What do you even call four trebles in a row? Hopefully we’ll find out in a little under a year’s time.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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