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tuesday 1st "Celts slap gag on fans", is the headline in this morning's Daily Record, trying hard to change its ways from last season... by becoming even worse. This is a reference to the 3,400 executive season ticket holders who are having to agree to a confidentiality clause being written into their terms of sale. No longer will they be able to hotfoot it straight from their rapping sessions with Martin O'Neill over who the latest signing is going to be to tell all their mates the latest news. An unnamed fan is reported as saying to David McCarthy - the hack responsible for this - "This is yet one more example of the paranoia that seems to be taking over at the club." Another fan - me - said that McCarthy's story was "yet one more example of the Record trying to stir the shit as far as Celtic is concerned."
John Hartson is named as Welsh Player of the Year which means the big man has now equalled Mark Hughes' record of three such awards.
AC Milan have cancelled their friendly against Celtic due to be played in Ohio on July 25th. The official reason given is that the European Champions have over-committed themselves this close-season, although an unnamed fan - actually it was me - said, "We all know it's really because they're crapping themselves in case the Hoops humiliate them."
The Arteta transfer saga rumbles on with Rangers reportedly refusing to take anything but cash (discount terms available) for the player from Atletico Madrid. If nothing is sorted he will have to return to Glasgow. "I don't have a problem with that", said the Ibrox ingenue.
wednesday 2nd The BBC announce their live TV schedule for the start of the new season. Celtic's first appearance is due to be in week three when the Hoops are due to play at Firhill. This is the same weekend as last season, when there was fixture chaos because Celtic had to play a crucial Champions League qualifier, thereby necessitating a change in dates at the last minute with all its associated disruption for travelling fans. This season's fixture at Firhill also falls the weekend before the CL qualifiers - with the added complication that Rangers are also in the competition this year. Good to see the SPL and the BBC have thought this one through properly.
thursday 3rd Another classic from the Daily Record as David McCarthy shocks us all with the revelation that, "Celtic started off pre-season training yesterday but manager Martin O’Neill was more interested than Henman than the likes of Hedman as he spent the day at Wimbledon... As O'Neill dodged showers in London, his players - without any new summer signings - were being put through their paces without him." Any more of this kind of neglect and we'll have to phone the Social Work Department.
McCarthy combined this rubbish with more kite-flying on behalf of players looking for new contracts, in this case Senegal's Khalilou Fadiga who - at least according to Fadiga himself - is a possible transfer target for Celtic.
Still on the transfer speculation front, Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy confirmed that he has been having talks with Colin Healey, although no deal has yet been done.
One deal that has been done is that Craig Beattie has signed a new three year deal with Celtic after scoring thirty goals last season for the Youth team and the under 21s.
The big story, of course, is that the Arteta transfer is back on with, according to Darrell King, "Rangers locked in talks in the south of France... director of football Martin Bain has flown to Nice to meet with former Ibrox owner David Murray, who has a house in nearby Antibes", a somewhat predictable bit of name-dropping from the Evening Times hack, although he passed up a golden opportunity to mention David Murray's legendary private jet. Later in his article King has the audacity to describe the Spanish club as, "cash-strapped Atletico."
friday 4th Javier Sanchez Broto looks to have played his last game for Celtic as the club flew to Sweden for their pre-season tour without him. Clearly his indecision over whether to accept a new contract became too much for the manager, but according to David McCarthy and John Docherty in the Daily Record the 'keeper was, "Shattered after being dumped by Celtic... last night he sounded distraught as Sports Record spoke to him (who wouldn't be distraught talking to those balloons? - distraught ed). He said, 'I am not feeling well about this. I am with friends now.'" Yes folks, it took two of them to write this stuff.
McCarthy also reports that Giovanni van Bronckhorst has been holding court and telling anybody who would listen that he would never sign for Celtic - despite the fact that Celtic have never tried to sign him - which is an interesting variation on a theme: get some column inches out of a player commenting on a story that somebody like McCarthy has simply made up.
The dismal Hugh 'Bonkers' Keevins reports that, "A group of angry Celtic fans besieged Dunfermline Chairman John Yorkston's house after the SPL title deciders. But they were chased off by an angry neighbour waving a spade. Yorkston avoided the incident because he was on holiday with the club following their 5-1 defeat at Ibrox." Apart from getting the score wrong, it turns out that Bonkers' 'group' was actually a car load and that the 'siege' lasted a few minutes - hardly Maffeking was it?
saturday 5th In a statement issued to the press Celtic condemn the cretin who sent death threats to a Dunfermline player, calling for him to be traced and punished.
sunday 6th Celtic beat a Kungshamn/ Smogn Select 7:1 in the opening match of the Swedish tour, a game notable for the 4-4-2 formation employed by Martin O'Neill.
tuesday 8th Celtic's Swedish tour continues with a 2:0 win against GAIS courtesy of two strikes from local hero Henrik Larsson.
Off the pitch, more bad news for the mere paupers among us as the hacks breathlessly announce that David Murray has at last answered the bat signal and stepped in with some much-needed wonga for the cash-strapped Ibrox club: "Alex McLeish today stepped up his transfer moves - bankrolled by a £15 million loan from club owner David Murray." (Darrell King, Evening Times). What? Just a loan?? What happened to the days when Murray was gifting millions all over the place? However, closer inspection reveals that the £15 million is not to be used to buy players. It is, in fact, a 'credit facility' to be used over the next two years to 'help Rangers in time of need'. This 'Buddy can you spare a dime' facility was described in the official Death Star press release as providing "additional working capital during temporary peaks in funding requirements", or in other words, there's a few bills just arrived through the letter box.
wednesday 9th Celtic star of the 1930s Willie Buchan dies at the age of 88. Signed by Willie Maley in January 1933 from under the noses of Rangers, he was loved by the fans for his thrilling attacking or midfield play. He will probably be best remembered for his part in the 1936 Scottish Cup final against Aberdeen, played at Hampden in front of a record crowd of 146,433. He set up Crum for the first and scored the second himself in a 2:1 victory. He was transferred to Blackpool by the board shortly afterwards. His biography in 'An Alphabet of the Celts' concludes, "Willie was not a long time at Celtic Park but his impact was startling as much as his loss was grievous. He must qualify easily as an all-time Celtic great."
thursday 10th The Swedish tour finishes with a 3:2 victory against Henrik Larsson's former club Helsingborg, goals coming from the K of Ks himself, Petrov and Craig Beattie.
According to the chip wrappers we could soon be tuning in to Celtic TV. Setanta have apparently been in talks with Sky with a view to having dedicated Celtic and Rangers channels. The broadcasters were unsure as to the format of the programmes, but for their Rangers channel they can always simply broadcast every edition of Sportscene.
Celtic announce that Boca Juniors will replace AC Milan as opponents for the friendly in Cleveland on July 25th. A spokesman for NTV who did not want to be named, although it was in fact George of the Jungle, was outraged that the Argentinian side are not sending their senior side, lambasting their decision as 'disrespectful'.
friday 11th Stanislav Varga signs a new two year contract with Celtic. OFM must have been impressed by the giant Slovakian's two previous outings in the Hoops, against Inverness and Kilmarnock.
Eric Manasse, agent of Argentinian strike sensation Luciano Figueroa has been sounding off about the way business is done down Kinning Park way following the collapse of the deal to take his player to Rangers, describing the cash-strapped Ibrox club as: "the most unprofessional I have encountered in 33 years in football. The player is heartbroken," Manasse told the BBC Sport website. "After the game at the weekend, he had a glass of champagne with Alex McLeish and Martin Bain and was welcomed to the Rangers squad. He had his heart set on playing for Rangers and then they pull out, giving me no explanation."
sunday 13th In today's Sunday Mason, Scoop Guidi informs us that David Fernandez "could be set for a dramatic return to Livingston."
The main football story (apart from some back page nonsense by Scoop about how Amo will always be a Hun) is by Gavin Berry, in which he gives Eck two pages to expend on his fears that ,"The £13 million loan from David Murray could price Rangers out of moves for his transfer targets ... The gaffer fears that clubs will look at last week's newspaper headlines and hike the price of potential transfer targets... It has already been a factor in the collapse last week of the Luciano Figueroa deal." At least we know now that it was the Buenos Aires edition of the Record to blame for that particular debacle.
The Screws has its own slant on the Figueroa transfer with Kenny MacDonald careful to portray Eck as having nothing to do with it all in an article under the headline, "Man of Honour - Figueroa farce left Rangers looking bad but I would have kept my word." In this version of events it's agents that come out as the baddies.
The Screws also quotes the manager of Celtic's potential Champions League qualifying round opponents Torshavn as saying: "I watch Scottish football on TV and Celtic are my favourite team. Don't ask me why, but I just think they play great football whenever I watch them."
wednesday 16th Javier Sanchez Broto tries his best to sound thrilled about the prospect of signing for Ipswich Town while at the same time being quoted in the Scottish press as saying that he'd "swim back for a Celtic deal".
thursday 17th The agent of VfB Stuttgart's Belorussian midfield player Alexander Hleb has told the BBC's website that Celtic have made a friendly enquiry about the player, although he is tied to the German club for the next three years.
Sports Record's Gordon Park reveals that Celtic have told Motherwell they are not interested in signing James McFadden, at least for the foreseeable future.
In the live-on-Sky pre-season match Celtic beat Fulham 2:1 at Loftus Road, the goals coming from Larsson and Petrov. Stan Varga is stretchered from the pitch before half time with a knee injury.
saturday 19th Martin O'Neill deflates Javier's water wings again by seeming to rule out any possibility of a return to Parkhead for the Spanish 'keeper: "Funnily enough, I like Javier enormously, but it was all about money."
sunday 20th A distinct lack of swooping in the red tops this morning so it's to the business section of Scotland on Sunday we have to look for the interesting Celtic story, wherein Terry Murden reports that the club are about to launch a new credit card in North America and are expected to announce a tie-in with a telecoms company. It is also revealed that recent research by Capita Consulting, in conjunction with Cranfield Institute, shows that Celtic have a worldwide fan base of nine million, a million of whom live in the USA.
friday 25th Following the draw for the third qualifying round of the Champions League Celtic are to face MTK Budapest while Rangers have to play FC Copenhagen. "The Old Firm have struck it lucky", announces Darrell King, "They could not have asked for a better draw." The sentiment is echoed by Peter Lovenkrands, who should know a thing or two about Danish football. "They are a team we should beat home and away."
saturday 26th The Hoops conclude their tour of the States with a 1:0 win over Boca Juniors thanks to a goal by Chris Sutton in a match which sees the ref flash nine yellow cards and a red. Somehow the word 'friendly' seems to have been mistranslated for the benefit of the South American champions as 'Donnybrook'. Alf Ramsey would have been spinning in his grave.
Back in Blighty, ex-Celts Alan Stubbs, victim of a concerted booing campaign from the gibbering Ibrox hordes, pops up with a last minute winner for Everton to keep Rangers' pre-season build-up ticking along nicely with a 3:2 defeat.
sunday 27th Scotland on Sunday reports that Celtic have held talks with representatives of Chelsea's Nigerian defender Celestine Babayaro. In their other big transfer story, SoS reveal that both Celtic and Rangers have knocked back the chance to sign Sergei Rebrov, one of the top scorers in the history of the Champions League. Apparently the player was willing to take a hefty seventeen grand a week pay cut in order to leave the delights of Fenerbahce behind and come to Glasgow. He'll have to take a bigger cut than that if he wants to wind up in Kinning Park.
monday 28th Chris Sutton appears before the SFA's General Purpose Committee and is handed and additional one match suspension for bringing the game into disrepute following his comments about Dunfermline on the last day of the season. He is the first player to be banned by this particular committee which has previously confined itself merely to fining miscreant footballers.
Celtic's Champions League qualifying first leg tie against Kaunas will go ahead despite the awful news that the Lithuanian side's striker Audrius Slekys has died in a car crash.
tuesday 29th A joint world record attempt by the Old Firm as gigantic strips are laid out on the turf at Celtic Park and the Death Star. Measuring 130ft by 120ft they are expected to be officially recognised as the biggest in world football by the Guinness book of records. Derek Johnstone was delighted to try on the Rangers strip but was dismayed to find it didn't quite cover his gut.
wednesday 30th The Guardian reports that Martin O'Neill has sold his shares in Proactive Sports, the agency which represents several big name football players, in a move that will distance him from any possible future conflict of interest. Shares in the company closed this evening at 5p, a drop of some 30p since it went public. Almost as sound a financial proposition as investing in Rangers.
The Hoops cruise to an easy 4:0 away win in Lithuania. The only blight on another thoroughly professional away European performance is the sight of Henrik Larsson limping off the pitch injured.
After the match the Celtic party have a scare when the pilot of their aircraft has to abort takeoff on the runway. The reason is given as instrument failure, which immediately prevents the rumour spreading that it was John Robertson's fault for smoking in the toilet.
thursday 31st Iain King and Robert Grieve exclusively reveal in the Sun that Rangers have dropped whatever interest they may have had in signing Motherwell's James McFadden because, "Boss Alex McLeish does not think the Scotland striker would fit into his team." Presumably because he does not match the Ibrox club's stringent criteria for signing in that he is not yet halfway to bus pass age and has a contract at another club. The Dynamic Duo go on: "The news will prompt a serious offer from Hoops manager Martin O'Neill as he looks to make his first signing before the Champions League deadline on August 7th."
august saturday 2nd The operation to separate Simon Donnelly and Phil O’Donnell looks to have been a complete success as Sid - striking out on a solo career - signs for Billy Stark’s St. Johnstone. The Times of Oman splashes the somewhat flattering headline “Celtic held by Arsenal” as the Hoops draw 1:1 in a routine pre-season friendly with the Arse. The goal is a well taken effort by Liam Miller, of whom much is expected, both by the Republic and his manager. At least it wasn’t an embarrassing 3:0 defeat. sunday 3rd Another Swoop Guidi swooping manager story appears on the back page of the Sunday Mail as Souness, we are reliably informed, “will tempt Celts with a £2.5 million offer for Alan Thompson.” monday 4th In an interview for Radio 5, billionaire Celtic director Dermot Desmond chooses the post-Arsenal Monday to launch a broadside against what he describes as a cartel of broadcasters and administrators whom he sees as thwarting competition both north and south of the border and says he is consid
SAMUEL PEPYS-SHOW and HACKWATCHERT
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