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LE MANS CLAIM MARKO BASA DEAL IS DEAD

By Trialist

As frustration in Timdom continues to grow regarding Celtic's lack of successful transfer activity this summer, it has been reported that Le Mans' 25-year old Serbian central defender Marko Basa has rejected a transfer to Celtic.

Marko Basa has been linked with Celtic for weeks, with it being widely reported that Celtic had successfully negotiated the highly-rated central defender's transfer fee down from £7.5million to £4.5million.

However, Le Mans president Henri Legarda claims that Marko Basa has rejected a move to Celtic after the clubs agreed a fee.

In an interview with the French Eurosport website, Henri Legarda said: “For Marko Basa, several clubs made us proposals. Now we are awaiting the decision of the player. Depending on his decision and on the offers we receive, we will grant our accord to his exit.”

Henri Legarda continued: “For eight weeks there have been discussions with several clubs and I think we will reach a solution eventually. It was nearly finalised with a Club (Celtic). In the end it was not, but that was not the fault of Le Mans.”

Henri Legarda: “The player himself did not want to go there.”

It has been reported that Celtic, Hamburg, PSG, Fiorentina and Spartak Moscow have been pursuing Marko Basa.

So, will Celtic re-start negotiations with Auxerre's 24-year old Romanian international central defender Gabriel Tamas, or is that transfer, which became a pantomime, dead?

BARCA BHOY WOULD LOVE TO JOIN CELTIC

By Trialist

Barcelona midfielder Marc Crosas would “love to join Celtic”.

20-year old Marc Crosas has been linked with a season's long loan move to Celtic and Sevilla, with the midfielder's agent, Ramon Arasa, claiming the three in a row SPL Champions and Sevilla are in negotiations with Barcelona regarding a loan move for Marc Crosas.

And Marc Crosas, who was on loan at Lyon for the later part of last season, has revealed he'd love to become a Bhoy.

Marc Crosas said: “I would love to join Celtic. I enjoyed my time last season at Lyon a lot and it is now up to Barcelona to agree a deal with Celtic or Sevilla.”

Marc Crosas continued: “Both have made proposals which appear acceptable to Barca. An agreement now has to be struck with one of them so that I know where I will be playing next season.”

Marc Crosas explained: “The option of a season at Celtic could be perfect and there might even be an option to extend that stay. For me it would be an enrichening experience to play in Scotland. As well as the football, I would experience another culture and also improve my English.”

Marc Crosas added: “Gaining experience of playing in the Champions League is another attraction and I am thrilled about that possibility. Celtic is a very attractive proposition.”

It has been widely reported that Marc Crosas is so highly thought of by Barcelona's new coach Pep Guardiola that the Catalan club are not prepared to sell the player dubbed ‘the new Xavi Hernandez'.

However, Marc Crosas is competing with the likes of Alexander Hleb, Yaya Toure, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Seydou Keita for a first team role at Barcelona.

It has also been widely reported that Pep Guardiola is prepared to allow Marc Crosas to go out on loan to gain first team and Champions League experience, but Barcelona would prefer the loan move wasn't to another Spanish club.

Marc Crosas played for Barcelona in their 6-0 humping of Hibs and in their 5-1 demolition of Dundee United during the Catalan giants' Scottish tour and yesterday the midfielder's agent, Ramon Arasa, revealed a return to Scotland and a loan to Celtic would appeal to the Barcelona midfielder.

Ramon Arasa said: “Both Celtic and Sevilla are now openly having conversations with Barcelona about Marc. As yet there is no firm proposal from either side for us to consider, but a short-term move to either club appeals to Marc.”

Ramon Arasa continued: “Barcelona's trip to Scotland confirmed the appetite there is in the country for football and Celtic as a big Club have a great history.”

Ramon Arasa added: “We now await firm proposals before deciding the next step.”

EX-CELTS IN THE MEDIA PART 4 – MURDO MACLEOD

By David Potter

It would have been hard to imagine a more whole-hearted Celtic player than Murdo MacLeod. Not without cause was he nicknamed “Rhino”, for he was tough and thick-skinned with a murderous, crunching tackle. And he could play too.

Murdo MacLeod was a brilliant passer, a tenacious ball-winner and a fine distributor of the ball. He had a great shot as well, and was one of the best kickers of a dead ball the Celtic support had seen for many years. The chant “Murdo! Murdo!” would appear whenever Celtic were awarded a free kick outside the box.

His position? Midfield, but he could defend as well on both sides of the field and could also score goals.

What more does one need in a player? Not really very much, and clearly Billy McNeill thought so when he bought him from Dumbarton in early November 1978. By the end of the season, a difficult topsy-turvy season punctuated with bad weather and loads of postponements, Murdo had settled into the Celtic team and had won a Scottish League medal. This being achieved on the never to be forgotten night of May 21st 1978 when “ten men won the League” in that great 4-2 win over Rangers. No-body who was there will forget Murdo's sensational strike that settled the issue.

Yet, ethnically and in other ways, Murdo was not one of those born “Celtic minded”. He soon however became a true Celt, and it was remarkable that while others of a given religion were occasionally chided by the none too bright for not being “Celtic minded”, no-one ever said that of Murdo. He very rapidly became “Celtic minded” in every possible sense of the phrase. Celtic fans can always spot a trier and a talented player. Murdo was both.

Celtic were always among the honours in the those days and Murdo won 4 League Championships, 2 Scottish Cups and 1 League Cup. But there was never total domination for this was the era of two fine teams from the East of Scotland in Dundee United and Aberdeen who challenged hard.

Celtic never really made much of an impact on Europe in those days (losing to Real Madrid, Juventus, Notts Forest and Real Sociedad) and it was this that perhaps persuaded MacLeod to leave the Club that he now loved to try his luck in Europe with Borussia Dortmund in 1987. But he never really left Parkhead.

Even when Dortmund put Celtic out of Europe the following season, he was given a great greeting by his fans. And once again on Boxing Day 1987, when he appeared at Tannadice Park to see Celtic, a murmur of appreciation was soon heard among the Celtic fans and the chant of “Murdo! Murdo!” rang out. Then in April of that season, when Celtic landed the Scottish League as part of their Centenary celebrations, Murdo, working this day for a radio station in the Main Stand, was seen to join in the “Celtic Song” as the trophy was being paraded before the fans.

His playing days (which included 20 Scottish caps) over, Murdo turned to coaching and management with teams like Hibs, Dumbarton, Partick Thistle and of course with Celtic themselves, as assistant to Wim Jansen in that famous 1997/98 season when Celtic won the League and stopped Rangers' ‘in a row'.

But Murdo caught some of the flak that came in the aftermath of that memorable but strange season, and very soon turned to the media. He writes for the Daily Record (Boo! Hiss! – Ed), but it is with BBC Radio Scotland that he does a great job as a co-commentator and summariser. His opinions are trenchant, well expressed, and above all else, contain loads of sense. Just like they way he played, in fact.

Murdo remains a great Celt.

David Potter

CELTIC SHORTS – SPITTING MAD, DOES MY BUM LOOK BIG IN THIS AND AIDENINHO

By Trialist

It has been reported that Scott Brown was spat on by a Porto fan after the Celtic midfielder was substituted late in Celtic's 1-0 win at Porto on Saturday night.

Porto and Porto fans were incensed by Scott Brown's involvement in some meaty challenges in Saturday's ill-tempered friendly, with Porto fans jeering Broonie on his late substitution.

Porto and Porto fans were further incensed when Broonie had the audacity leap from the subs' bench to punch the air in delight when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink powered home his match-winning header in the 88th minute.

However, it now emerges that a Porto fan spat in Scott Brown's face just after his substitution.

The Daily Rectum quoted a source close to Scott Brown: “Scott was sickened by what was going on. To have someone spit in your face is the lowest of the low and he did well not to react more aggressively. The conduct of some Porto fans was outrageous.”

It has also been alleged that Scott Brown and Celtic's Assistant Manager Garry Pendrey were “pelted with missiles in the technical area” prior to Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's dramatic 88th minute match-winning goal and that Gordon Strachan is “furious with the treatment his team received.”

Porto spokesman Cacio Pedro moaned: “Our fans behave themselves so we expect players to behave as well. We don't want to make a big issue of this and it's not a problem although we did speak to the Celtic bench about Brown's conduct.”

Some clubs have no dignity whatsoever.

Celtic keeper Artur Boruc has joked that Porto had no chance of scoring against him on Saturday night, because the Holy Goalie's bum is so big.

Artur made his first Celtic appearance of the pre-season against Porto on Saturday night after his extended holiday following his Euro 2008 exploits for Poland.

And the Holy Goalie made several superb saves to deny the Portuguese champions in Celtic's 1-0 triumph.

The Holy Goalie joked: “I guess because my backside is so big after the summer it was impossible for Porto to get past me.”

Artur continued: “It is always hard to get going after the break. I felt my legs were heavy for the first week of pre-season training but that's only natural after a holiday. It was good, though, to get a game under my belt.”

Artur added: “We'll now head out to Rotterdam where we play Spurs and Feyenoord and then we have our last warm-up match against Manchester City before the real season gets under way.”

Does my bum look big in this?

Finally, Aiden McGeady has targeted four in a row as the three in a row SPL Champions' objective for the forthcoming domestic campaign.

The wing wizard, who has recently signed a new, improved and extended Celtic contract until the summer of 2013, said: “This could be a historic season if everything goes well.”

Aiden continued: “Every season at Celtic is massive but the last few years have been special. To be part of a Celtic team to win three titles in succession was incredible.”

Aiden added: “This season, the title takes on even more significance because we are all determined to do everything we can to make it four.”

Aiden also issued what was effectively a warning for the three in a row SPL losers, Rearrangers, who must negotiate two Champions League qualifying rounds to gain entry to the Group Stages, to which Celtic have guaranteed entry.

Aiden said: “I'm delighted that we don't have to qualify for the Champions League. It's a massive bonus because it can be a rollercoaster ride.”

Aiden continued: “Last year, we got Spartak Moscow. They were a quality side and that was just to qualify for the Champions League. Thankfully we don't have to worry about that.”

Aiden added: “It might also help us with the League. We know that we only have one game a week until the Champions League starts, so that should be a bit better for us.”

Hope the Huns get humped.

CELTIC TO PUT A CORK IN THE SIEVE?

By Trialist

Chelsea defender Jack Cork is the latest name to be added to the ever-increasing list of reported Celtic transfer targets.

Celtic to put a Cork in the Sieve?

(The Sieve? Rather a harsh description of the SPL's best defence last season – Ed)

According to reports, Celtic are considering “a £300,000 swoop” for the 19-year old defender, who can, according to that fountain of reliability, Wikipedia, play as a right-back, as a central defender, as a holding midfielder and….wait for it…..as a left-back.

Jack Cork is a product of the Chelsea youth academy, has endured two loan spells at Bournemouth and spent last season on loan at Euro giants Scunthorpe United.

Jack Cork has also been capped at Youth and Under-19 levels for England.

Fulham (this transfer window's Bolton), West Ham and Sheffield Wednesday are also linked with the Chelsea youngster.

Meanwhile, add Ipswich Town to the list of clubs reportedly interested in Celtic central defender Bobo Balde, who will be allowed to exit through the Paradise Revolving Door on a free transfer, despite having a year remaining on his Celtic contract.

Bobo Balde's representative Mick Oliver recently claimed the 32-year old Guinea international was being pursued by Wolves, Birmingham City, Sunderland and a couple of French clubs.

Finally, a rumour that Derek Riordan is shuffling towards a Paradise exit……., though the rumour may have the quality of the air in Beijing.

AGENT – CELTIC APPEAL TO BARCA BHOY

By Trialist

The agent for Barcelona's Marc Crosas has claimed Celtic and Sevilla are now in negotiations with the Catalan club regarding a loan move for the 20-year old midfielder.

And agent Ramon Arasa has claimed that both Celtic and Sevilla appeal to Marc Crosas, who played for Barcelona in their 6-0 humping of Hibs and in their 5-1 demolition of Dundee United during the Catalan giants' Scottish tour.

According to widespread reports, the three in a row SPL Champions and Sevilla are pursuing a season's long loan move for Marc Crosas, who spent the latter part of last season on loan to Lyon.

And Marc Crosas' agent has claimed another loan move could be imminent for the Barcelona midfielder.

Marc Crosas' agent, Ramon Arasa, claimed: “Both Celtic and Sevilla are now openly having conversations with Barcelona about Marc.”

Ramon Arasa continued: “As yet there is no firm proposal from either side for us to consider, but a short-term move to either club appeals to Marc.”

Ramon Arasa explained: “Barcelona's trip to Scotland confirmed the appetite there is in the country for football and Celtic as a big Club have a great history.”

Ramon Arasa added: “We now await firm proposals before deciding the next step.”

It has been widely reported that Marc Crosas is so highly thought of by Barcelona's new coach Pep Guardiola that the Catalan club are not prepared to sell the player dubbed ‘the new Xavi Hernandez'.

However, Marc Crosas is competing with the likes of Alexander Hleb, Yaya Toure, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Seydou Keita for a first team role at Barcelona.

It has also been widely reported that Pep Guardiola is prepared to allow Marc Crosas to go out on loan to gain first team and Champions League experience, but Barcelona would prefer the loan move wasn't to another Spanish club.

Marc Crosas has said he is expecting news today from Barcelona about a proposed season-long loan move and the 20-year old midfielder is aware of the interest from Celtic and Sevilla.

Marc Crosas said: “I haven't spoken to anyone from Scotland yet, but I am awaiting news today.”

Marc Crosas added: “People have spoken about Celtic and Sevilla, but everything depends on Barcelona's decision.”

MARC CROSAS EXPECTING LOAN MOVE NEWS TODAY

By Trialist

Barcelona midfielder Marc Crosas is expecting news today from Barcelona about a proposed season-long loan move to Celtic or Sevilla.

And the 20-year old midfielder, who was on loan at Lyon for the latter part of last season, is aware of interest in him from the three in a row SPL Champions and the Spanish club.

Marc Crosas told today's Scottish Sun: “I haven't spoken to anyone from Scotland yet, but I am awaiting news today. People have spoken about Celtic and Sevilla, but everything depends on Barcelona's decision.”

It has been widely reported that Marc Crosas is so highly thought of by Barcelona's new coach Pep Guardiola that the Catalan club are not prepared to sell the player dubbed ‘the new Xavi Hernandez'.

(Can we have the old Xavi Hernandez also? – Ed)

It has also been widely reported that Pep Guardiola is prepared to allow Marc Crosas to go out on loan to gain first team and Champions League experience, but Barcelona would prefer the loan move wasn't to another Spanish club.

The Scottish Hun, the Daily Rectum and the Harold all quote the same unnamed “source”.

The “source” said: “Barcelona rate Marc very highly so there's no way they will sell him. But Guardiola likes the Scottish mentality, work ethic and team spirit.”

The “source” added: “Moving to Celtic for a year would also give Marc some valuable Champions League experience.”

So will Celtic have a Barca Bhoy courtesy of our “special relationship” with the Catalan club?

A flight on the Phoenix to those who call it correct, a flight on Qantas to those who call it wrong.

EX-CELTS IN THE MEDIA PART THREE – DAVIE PROVAN

By David Potter

When Billy McNeill signed Davie Provan from Kilmarnock in September 1978, it would be fair to say that the Celtic fans would have been a little puzzled. Not only was this chap not really a household name in Scottish football but his very name itself caused a little bewilderment.

You see, Rangers had had a full back of the same name some fifteen years previously - not a bad full back, but very much in the Bobby Shearer, Sammy Cox tradition of Rangers full backs - hard, tough, uncultured. You know the type!

This David Provan, however, could hardly have been more different. He was a class player, and immediately revealed it. By Christmas he was accepted, and by May 1979 after the 4-2 game against Rangers in which ‘ten men won the League', Davie Provan was a hero.

Davie Provan was a traditional right winger, a position in which Celtic had been traditionally well served by men like Alec Bennett, Jimmy Delaney and of course Jimmy Johnstone. Davie was more of a Delaney than a Johnstone - fast, direct, able to interchange positions and suddenly appear on the left - and a more than occasional goal-scorer as well, with the sometimes match-winning ability to run in from the wing and score when the opposition were expecting a pass.

And he could take free kicks! His most famous of these was certainly the 1985 Scottish Cup Final against Dundee United. Time running out, 1-0 down against the notoriously competent Dundee United defence of the grim Jim McLean era, and Celtic were awarded a free kick just outside the box. “Only once before in Scottish Cup Finals has a goal been scored direct from a free kick. Is this a piece of history?” asked Archie McPherson in the BBC TV commentary. “It is!” he panted, and the supporters then carried Celtic to victory, Frank McGarvey's flying header resulting in a famous Celtic Scottish Cup Final win.

With his long frizzy hair, Davie Provan should have shared the nickname “the Bear” with team-mate Roy Aitken. From a distance there was a similarity, and there was also a similarity in their total commitment for the Cause. Several occasions in the early 1980s saw disappointment for Celtic supporters, but there was never any criticism for lack of effort from Davie Provan.

In 1980 he was the Scottish Professional Footballers “Player of the Year” and he won 10 caps for Scotland (playing brilliantly in the 1981 win at Wembley) and with Celtic lifted 4 League Championships, 2 Scottish Cups and 1 Scottish League Cup.

Yet he was a very unlucky player. He missed a large part of the 1983-84 season (something that perhaps explains why Celtic didn't win anything that year) and in November 1985 seemed totally lethargic and uninterested in a 3-0 defeat at Ibrox. This had followed one or two other games where he was not at his best.

Davie was eventually diagnosed as suffering from M.E., an enervating, exhausting illness in which the patient has no energy. In fact, he had burned himself out for the Cause, and he never really came back. It was a sad end to one of the greatest players Celtic have had. I have already linked him with Delaney and Johnstone. That speaks for itself!

Davie Provan's media career then took off. He has worked for Radio Clyde and written for the News of the World, but it is as a commentator for SKY Sports that he excels. He is sensible and unobtrusive, adding the incisive comment or the cutting phrase, but he is not offensive or “in your face”, as so many can be. And, although he may try to hide it in public, I suspect that he still loves the Celtic!

A fine Celt was Davie Provan!

David Potter

 

CELTIC SHORTS – IRONY, GEORGIOS SAMARAS AND JOHN KENNEDY PLEDGE

By Trialist

The irony, indeed hypocrisy, of Porto bitching and moaning about the behaviour of Celtic midfielder Scott Brown during Celtic's Saturday night 1-0 smash ‘n grab raid at the Dragao Stadium, Oporto, is patently obvious to Timdom.

This is the club that cheated, dived and time-wasted to UEFA Cup Final triumph in Seville in May 2003 against Celtic. This is the club that is up to its nostrils in the stench of match-fixing allegations. This is the club that didn't like it up ‘em.

Porto and Porto fans were incensed by Scott Brown's involvement in some meaty challenges in Saturday's ill-tempered friendly, with Porto fans jeering Broonie on his late substitution.

Porto and Porto fans were further incensed when Broonie had the audacity leap from the subs' bench to punch the air in delight when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink powered home his match-winning header in the 88th minute.

Porto spokesman Cacio Pedro bitched: “Our fans behave themselves so we expect players to behave as well. We don't want to make a big issue of this and it's not a problem although we did speak to the Celtic bench about Brown's conduct.”

Wonder if Porto ever spoke to Baia about his conduct in Seville?

GIFRUY, Porto.

Celtic striker Georgios Samaras, who began Saturday night's Celtic victory over Porto in the lone striker role, has opined that this is the template for Celtic success in our Champions League adventures away from Paradise in the forthcoming campaign.

Gordon Strachan initially deployed a 4-5-1 system, but later altered his tactics to a 4-4-2 when he introduced Scott McDonald and the Hoops' goal-scoring hero Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.

The Ginja Ninja's tactics worked.

Georgios Samaras said: “Maybe the system we used could work in European games. We're used to playing 4-4-2, attacking and making goals. Sometimes you need to do that or we could play with one up front but it's up to the gaffer to make that decision. I just wait to hear how he wants me to play and then I go out to do my job.”

Georgios Samaras continued: “It was a 50-50 game with Porto. I don't think they had many great chances while we must be honest and say we didn't have many either. I think we played well and all the boys enjoyed playing on a stage like that.”

Georgios Samaras added: “We have two weeks still to go until the Championship starts and three friendly games still to play. We still have work to do.”

Finally, Celtic central defender John Kennedy, who has joined Norwich City on loan until January, has vowed, “I'll be back,” though without The Terminator's menace.

The 24-year old said: “I spoke to the Manager and he was keen for me to go on loan until January. It's a good opportunity for me to get games under my belt, freshen up and try something new.

John Kennedy continued: “First and foremost, it's about getting as much time on the pitch as I can. It's exciting for me. But once you've played at a high level like the Champions League, you know how great that is.”

John Kennedy added: “I'll go back to Celtic in January and hopefully I'll go back an even better player.”

CELTIC CONFIDENCE

By Redbiddy

Usually at this stage of the build-up to the new season I would be on edge waiting for news of new faces at Celtic to enhance the squad. My last contribution to Keep The Faith was something of a wish-list for summer signings, which was written in the aftermath of Tommy Burns Thursday and included a striker, a fast and direct wide player, a left-back and a central defender.

At the time of writing, Celtic have purchased striker Georgios Samaras from Manchester City for a reported £1.2million and winger Paddy McCourt from Derry City for a reported £100,000.

Paddy McCourt brings his undoubted talents to Celtic's wide midfield and having seen the winger play for Derry City I can say he was a standout, though I suspect the biggest challenge for him will be to build the core fitness that is needed to compete as a Celtic player. One does not envy Paddy his training regime, once he has recovered from his hamstring injury.

Two in and two to go – left-back and central defender – so I am not concerned by Celtic's apparent lack of activity on the transfer front since and it seems that much of the Celtic support is generally quite calm about the whole thing. Why?

Confidence, my dear friends, in Celtic, confidence. There's your why. It was a commodity sadly lacking at times last season. I am not sure that most of us are really aware that we are confident in Celtic's future, but I think we are. The evidence is there and we have good reasons for it. The reasons that we are reasonably calm about the lack of successful transfer activity are two fold.

First of all, many of us believe in the ability of the Suits at Celtic to deliver our transfer targets. We know that lack of news in the media does not equate to lack of negotiations, rather it demonstrates a level of professionalism at the Club that we have never really been accustomed to as Celtic people. Celtic no longer conduct their transfers through tabloid newspapers or allow others to do so for them. Much of the speculation we read is accompanied by quotes from agents or no quotes at all. When do we ever read a direct quote from a Celtic official about transfer speculation?

The Club is on as sound a financial footing as it is possible to be in the limited confines of the SPL and this gives us a vital edge over our domestic competitors. Knowing that there is a decent pot to dip in to during January in order to boost a flagging title push, replace an injured player or simply snap up a player who you couldn't get previously is a major psychological boost for all concerned, as happened last January.

We also have major saleable assets on the playing staff. Is there a player in the first team who would not command a seven-figure transfer fee? As a Club of ambition we do not wish or need to sell these players, as evidenced by the long-term contracts awarded to Aiden McGeady, Scott McDonald and Artur Boruc. But the recent trend of making a profit in the transfer market is further proof of the sound management at all levels of the Club. We have numerous multimillion pound players on our books. None of our opponents in Scotland could say likewise.

Secondly, I think that there is a consensus that the squad we have is not too far away from being good enough to compete at home and abroad next season. We are two players away, in my opinion. For the first time in a long time we have no players coming to the end of their careers who have to be replaced with unknown quantities. Celtic have a young squad with a good bulk of the players only about to enter their best footballing years. Not only that but the players who constituted the squad last season are now a year wiser, a year more experienced, a year more familiar with their team-mates and they have a Manager who seems able to improve them.

Most of all, last season's experiences have proven to them, as well as to us, that the Bhoys have a winning mentality and that is something you cannot buy.

I still believe that Celtic need to strengthen and ‘freshen things up', as is the football parlance for these things. A central defender and a left-back would suffice for me. I do not have insider information on the young players at Celtic, but it strikes me that there are one or two ready to step up. Ben Hutchinson and Koki Mizuno must be given a chance to show what they can do and we already know that Paul Caddis is an able deputy for Andreas Hinkel and Mark Wilson.

Confidence is the word, fholks. Last season put us through the ringer and standards were not always what we expect or deserve, but I am confident that our young players and relative newcomers now know those standards and will have the confidence in their own ability to deliver.

As we await announcements of team enhancement remember that there are good times ahead. You heard it here first.

PS. When Dr John Reid was appointed as Celtic Chairman I wrote a somewhat vitriolic piece on his appointment, all of which I stand by for the reasons given at the time. However, I called at that time for Dr Reid to be roundly booed by the Celtic support should he unfurl the League Championship Flag at Celtic Park on the first day of the new SPL campaign. I wish to retract that call.

Whoever unfurls the flag does not matter. It is a day for Celtic celebration, for giving thanks to the players and coaching staff and our day to rejoice that we, “the heartbeat of Celtic Football Club”, played our part in urging our current representatives over the finishing line from an almost impossible starting position.

Cheer the flag and all it represents.

Redbiddy

GRATUITOUS GOSSIP - SNO DEAL AND BARCA BHOY?

By Trialist

According to that bastion of accuracy, honesty, impartiality and truth, the Daily Rectum, Evander Sno has rejected a £1.2million move to Osasuna “at the 11th hour”, whenever the 11th hour is.

The Daily Rectum's ugly sister paper the Hunday Mason claimed yesterday that Celtic had rejected a £1million offer from Osasuna for Evander Sno, with Celtic ‘demanding' £1.2million for the 21-year old who cost us £250,000 from Feyenoord in the summer of 2006.

The Hunday Mason also claimed Osasuna and Evander Sno had agreed the Dutch midfielder's personal terms.

And today the Daily Rectum is claiming Celtic had accepted Osasuna's £1.2million offer from Osasuna, with coach Jose Angel Ziganda “convinced the deal had been concluded” and “expecting the midfielder to join up with them at the weekend”.

But now, according to the Rectum, Evander Sno has “had a dramatic late change of heart and has told Celtic boss Gordon Strachan he wants to stay and fight for his place.”

And all this drama with Evander Sno preparing with the Holland squad for the Olympics in Beijing.

Needless to say, the Daily Record and the Scottish Hun turn into ambulance chasers today by once again linking Lee Naylor with Aston Villa following Wilfred Bouma's horrific injury in Villa's Intertoto Cup match against Danish side Odense at the weekend.

Sunderland have been repeatedly linked with Lee Naylor this summer.

Finally, Spanish website ‘Sport.es' has linked Celtic with Barcelona's midfielder Marc Crosas, with Sevilla also reportedly pursuing the 20-year old who was on-loan at Lyon for the latter half of last season.

It is claimed Gordon Strachan was “impressed” with Marc Crosas' performances in Barcelona's 6-0 humping of Hibs and in Barca's 5-1 demolition of Dundee United.

Presumably the Ginja Ninja was glued to Setanta TV whilst Celtic were at their Portuguese training camp in Vale do Lobo in the Algarve.

REAL FOOTBALL RETURNS WITH A STEADY STREAM OF ‘F' WORDS

By David Potter

Real football was played on Saturday, but not at Porto where our “revenge” for the 2003 UEFA Cup Final didn't excite me all that much. Nor at Stark's Park, Kirkcaldy, where two mysterious teams in fancy dress and looking like each other masqueraded as Rangers and Raith Rovers and not at Tannadice where Barca surprised everyone by only beating Dundee United 5-1.

No, folks, real football was played in the League Challenge Cup. Not, I grant you, Scottish football's glittering prize, but a competition for teams other than SPL teams, and in a rare outburst of common sense, divided into North-East and South-West sections. So 14 games over the weekend, two teams got a bye, no replays allowed - just penalty shoot-outs - and even more common sense in the decision to play subsequent rounds on these boring Sundays immediately after an International when nothing normally happens.

No doubt about it, the low profile SFL is a shade brighter than its bigger brother, the SPL.

But to the action. Welcome to the Scottish League, Annan Athletic. Unfortunately, it was their lot to be shot down by the COH (Clapped out Huns) of Clyde, as grizzly horrors like McSwegan and Brown beat the new SFL boys, 2-0. Another COH in Alex Rae of Dundee suffered a bad blow when his team went down 2-1 at Alloa. Aye, a bad day for Tayside all round. Mind you, the opposition was quite good - Barcelona and Alloa.

But full marks to Forfar! New manager Dick Campbell (remember him? More clubs than Padraig Harrington, but a cheery character with awful teeth and a never ending flow of “F” words, they tell me) has started the Forfar revival with a good 2-1 win over local rivals Arbroath. Both Forfar's goals were penalties, sunk by Sean Kilgannon (like that name, somehow!) and Kevin McLeish (who might be OK as well).

Challenge Cup holders St. Johnstone lost 2-1 to Ross County up at Dingwall, but Fife's two, East Fife and Dunfermline, got through with wins over Brechin (1-0) and Stirling Albion (3-0) respectively.

And our old pals the Doonhamers of Queen of the South, whom we supported so fervently yon day back in May, beat Rangers 5-1. Sadly, it was the wrong tournament and the wrong Rangers, for the game was at Berwick, but well done the Doonhamers, who I suspect will do well this year.

Airdrie came back well from being 2-0 down to Dumbarton to win 3-2, which is kinda like the 1904 Scottish Cup Final when Jimmy Quinn scored his hat-trick against Rangers. Yes, yes, I know that's irrelevant and you all know that anyway - but I like writing it and you like reading it!

And the biggest win of the day saw Peterhead beat Montrose 6-0.

So, the season has started. Full programme of SFL action next week, while the big boys continue the ‘let's bore the pants off ‘em' round of pre-season friendlies.

Readers with long memories will recall that last year at this time I tipped Celtic, Dunfermline, Raith Rovers and Forfar for the four divisions, and so confident was I that I put on £1 (don't tell my wife, by the way) at 180-1. It didn't quite work for the Pars plummeted, Raith Rovers ran aground on the rocks and Forfar floundered - but my other team did quite well, I seem to remember.

Nothing daunted, I'm trying the same this year and I'm sticking with Forfar for Division Three, East Fife this time for Division Two and Queen of the South for Division One... oh, and I think you possibly know who I'm going for to win the SPL.

David Potter

Scottish Challenge Cup Results

Sunday 27th July

East Stirlingshire 2-1 Ayr United

Saturday 26th July 2008

Airdrie United 3-2 Dumbarton

Alloa Athletic 2-1 Dundee

Arbroath 1-2 Forfar Athletic

Berwick Rangers 1-5 Queen of the South

Brechin City 0-1 East Fife

Clyde 2-0 Annan Athletic

Dunfermline Athletic 3-0 Stirling Albion

Elgin City 0-2 Cowdenbeath

Livingston 4-0 Stranraer

Partick Thistle 2-1 Queen's Park

Peterhead 6-0 Montrose

Ross County 2-1 St Johnstone

Stenhousemuir 0-1 Albion Rovers

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