A dignified show by our fans at Celtic, paying Sir Bobby Robson – a real gent, and a great son of the North wherever his allegiances lay – the right sort of tribute (and some measure of atonement for some inexcusable chants, even if on the lips of a minority of idiots, from earlier in his illness), was in its way more important than the football.
But not a bad pre-season so far, and Pete Sixsmith has seen it all. We must never read too much into the results – wins or defeats – but there is no reason why we shouldn't be quite pleased with a 2-1 away victory at Celtic …
Another world class side, another victory for the Lads! After crushing the giants of Madrid, we turned our attention to the finest team in Scotland, a nation renowned for its record in European Championships and World Cups. Clearly, we are heading for our first League Title since 1936.
Well, okay, I may be getting a wee bit carried away. Beating a pedestrian Atletico team, and a Celtic with a crucial Champions League game on their mind, means we should curb our enthusiasm, but I have to say it looks promising.
Clearly, the advent of Bruce and Black has made players focus on what they should be doing. The idea of leaving Jones to play up front on his own has seen a return to the form that prompted John Terry to describe him as the most dangerous forward in the division. He wreaked havoc amongst the Hoops defenders, scored a good goal and linked up well with Kieran Richardson. If we have even considered selling him, we need to forget it pdq.
Richardson also looked good. He took a smart goal, missed a sitter and generally looked happy in this “off the big fella” role. As Pete Horan said, he thrives without the responsibility of having to think about his other midfield duties. Bruce likes a big man up front (Heskey) with midfielders picking up behind. Kieran fits that bill perfectly.
The rest of the team looked solid and there was another very promising performance from Jordan Henderson, who is in serious danger of being in the starting line up at Bolton. He has grown in confidence this month and he is beginning to pace himself better. He and Leadbitter looked very sound in the middle of the park.
Steed and Reid (Comedy Capers with a Song and a Dance) did well wide, with Reid playing some cracking balls and nearly scoring with a tremendous shot. Steed reverted to the right, where he looked not quite as good as he does on the left but he also looks to be an integral part of the team.
It was good to see George McCartney return at left back. He moved forward comfortably and was always there to receive a ball from Collins and Ferdinand for the ball from the central defenders and then looked to give it to Reid and support him going forward.
The two goals were well taken: a left foot drive from Kieran and a good far post header from Kenwyne. Celtic never threatened in the first half and only got back into the game when they strengthened their team and we weakened ours with copious substitutions.
The weaknesses in Scottish football were there for all to see as Celtic huffed and puffed and at times looked little better than a poor Championship side. We looked at their squad and it was full of Championship players – Loovens, Naylor, Caldwell and players who have not cut the mustard in the Premier League like Samaras and Fortune.
They have a magnificent stadium and loyal support, but they are sure to slip further and further behind the middle ranking clubs in Europe as domestic TV money dries up. They will probably go out of Europe next week and that is ruinous for them. Many in Scotland will rejoice at that, but it is clear that Scottish football is in a parlous state at club level.
The day was a good one. The Penrith route worked, Virgin Trains were impressive and the coffee was excellent. Mr Horan (rapidly losing his Jonah soubriquet) found a cracking pub for lunch, complete with Billy Connolly type landlord. It was the Babbitty Bowser in the elegant and sophisticated Merchant City part of the city. Pricey beer and good food made us think we were back in Amsterdam.
We were brought back to reality as we walked out to Parkhead. After turning left at Glasgow Cross, we walked along Gallowgate, past the Barrowlands Music venue and into a very, very run down area of the city. The beer in the pubs was cheap, the music was of the Irish rebel variety and the clientele looked distinctly hostile to all things English. It reinforced stereotypes about Glasgow and the fact that it is the unhealthiest city in western Europe. A lot of work to do there!
The bandwagon rolls on to Peterborough on Tuesday, which I am almost certain to miss, before stopping in Glasgow’s snooty neighbour Edinburgh next Saturday. Having been promised a post match snifter in the Scotch Whisky Society by Peter’s daughter Emma, it’s probably wise not to expect a detailed breakdown of the game until, say Monday – the 17th!!
Haste ye back, as they used to say on The White Heather Club.