A trip to Celtic Park beckons – a date in the calendar I always seek to avoid.

Our record there is generally miserable – though our rare wins usually come when you least expect it. Certainly our point this season at Parkhead came from nowhere, and I suspect we’ll need a similar level of defensive stoutness and, in particular, goalkeeping performance if we’re to grind out anything here.

It is worth reflecting just how different our team looks now from that day in August. That day we started:

Mitov, Robinson, Considine, McClelland, Olufunwa, Carey, Smith, Phillips, Costelloe, Turner-Cooke, Jephcott.

The last three named have all left the club. McClelland is out on loan to the Championship and Olufunwa is a bit part player at best. That’s quite a significant turnover in little more than six months.

 And that turnover has been for the better, without question. There is more depth, a bit more quality, and in general we’ve made ourselves harder to beat. That day there were a couple of outstanding individual performances, and the work rate was off the charts.

Most of all, Celtic had an off day. They’ve had quite a few lately. They are far from the dominant, potent force that swept all before them the last couple of years. Something isn’t quite working for them and that opens the door, at least a crack.

But what concerns me is they also have the potential to click out of the blue, much as they did against Dundee in hilarious fashion a couple of weeks back. They’ve also been piling pressure on the refereeing fraternity in a manner that always ends up working for them. I just can’t shake the feeling that Saturday will be a long day.

Thankfully, because I sought to avoid this day on the calendar, I’ll be far, far away eager for a great result – but most of all hoping we avoid a heavy defeat, injuries, suspensions or anything that could otherwise derail the more important games we have coming up before – and especially after – the split.


My apologies for the tangent – but in the absence of a game last weekend to look back on I’d like to climb on my soapbox.


Those were the literal words that introduced BBC Scotland’s flagship Scottish football radio show a couple of Saturdays ago.

That’s right, top billing given to a roundly hated piece of technology, despised by people in the stands but loved by pundits for whom it provides endless hours of controversy and tedious talking points without any requirement for research, insight or even really paying attention to the games they are covering.

Sportsound was the soundtrack to Saturday afternoon for me in previous years. The build up to every game, the team news, the anticipation building as you drove to the game or got on the supporters’ bus. Open All Mics was a great innovation – allowing up to the minute updates from every game as an alternative to a live commentary game.

Now it is a rabble. A complete shadow of what it once was.

The format barely changes week on week. An introduction touching on any of the week’s controversies – often topics that have been done to death online, in the news and on podcasts and other radio shows throughout the past seven days.

Then an extended interview with either the Rangers or Celtic manager, depending on which one is playing that afternoon.

Then a brief tour round the rest of the Scottish Premiership grounds and maybe one or two in the lower leagues collecting the team news, by which time 3pm is upon us and the frequencies split to a live commentary of whichever Old Firm side is playing, or Open All Mics.

Inevitably, you mostly choose Open All Mics, and very quickly wish you hadn’t.

Genuinely – a few weeks ago a large period of time was taken up with those appearing on the show talking about their Gladiator names. The nadir was when one said another would be called “The Tadger”. The kind of banter you’d get from an old boy in the pub that you try your best to keep away from. Shortly after one contributor at a Championship game was slapped down by Willie Miller for trying to give an actual update on their allotted match.

You’ll then be treated to Pat Bonner failing to identify any of the players on the park that don’t have a connection to Celtic, while you try in vain to get any real sense of what is happening at your team’s game, or indeed any other.

The issue, for me, is that there is a core of contributors who are wannabe controversialists, and others who are essentially having their season tickets to their team paid for by the BBC. There is a complete lack of insight, and if you’re not interested in VAR decisions being given top billing every week it is a tough listen.

It is understandable that the Old Firm are given prominence – at least to some degree – but I also feel its an insult to the intelligence of Rangers and Celtic fans that the producers seem to think they’re incapable of listening to a show with a broader remit than those two clubs.

There is a format there that works. Find the formula that fits it and they’ll be on to a winner.