Off to a good start

By Ryan Fleming

From now on it’s now or never for Glasgow Celtic. Before Saturday’s clash with St. Johnstone, the Hoops were 10 points out of first in the Scottish Premier League and fighting for their season and perhaps a spot in the Champions League next year.

Being knocked out of the Europa League in the first Qualifying Round and trailing their hated, cross-town rival, Rangers, Celtic needed a boost – perhaps a miracle.

Before traveling to McDiarmid Park, Celtic was faced with much criticism. Journalists, analysts and fans were writing the club off as a bust and a runner-up to their Old Firm counterpart. Down 1-0 after Dutch defender Glenn Loovens (later taken off in the first half due to a head contusion) took down the Saints’ Liam Craig inside the box, the Hoops desperately needed some hope, never mind three points.

The hope Celtic was looking for wasn’t far off.

Graham Gartland sparked the something the Hoops were looking for when the defender was given his second yellow of the day, then the red, leaving the Saints playing a man down.

After continual offensive pressure, Marc-Antoine Fortune, silenced his critics for at least another couple weeks with a screamer from 19 yards out that found its way past former Rangers keeper, Graeme Smith. Smith was spectacular all match. (See video at bottom)

Fortune’s celebration was almost certainly directed at the journalists who have written him off.

Celtic would go on to score three more goals, winning the match 4-1, after playing their best half all season. Fortune scored once more with Samaras and impact sub Pat McCourt notching a goal each. (See video at bottom)

Last Sunday’s win is all well and good, but Celtic still has a tough task ahead of them. Since the winter transfer window’s opening on Jan. 1, manager Tony Mowbray has been busy.

Shakin’ Up The Hoops

Dutch defender, Jos Hooiveld, signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Celtic on Jan. 11 from Swedish club, AIK Stockholm. Two days later Celtic lost defender Gary Caldwell (Wigan Athletic), left-winger Barry Robson, midfielder Willo Flood and Chris Killen to Middlesbrough in a reunion with former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan.

The Glasgow side, though, weren’t done adding to their club.

Thomas Rogne, a highly-touted, Under- 21 Norwegian international central defender signed with the club for three-and-a-half years. Rogne will add some stability on Celtic’s infamously shaky back line in the future. And with new developments on the inevitable signing of Morten Rasmussen, a striker from Denmark that has been playing his football at the Danish club, Brøndby IF.

With all of these moves one has to ask if Mowbray is moving too quick or he sees that change is needed and his pursuing instead of laying back. It’s apparent now that Mowbray sees change is needed and it’s needed sooner rather than later.

With the signing of Rogne and Hooiveld and the play of 19-year old Josh Thompson in Celtic’s latest match (his first start) there is some reason for optimism at Parkhead. If Fortune continues his run, McCourt becomes a reliable impact player off the bench and these new pieces fall into place, the Rangers could have a run for the SPL title. If not, Mowbray might be looking for a new job come the summer.

Ryan Fleming can be reached at ryanrfleming@gmail.com. You can follow The Soccer Guys on Twitter for all your updates.

Fortune’s equalizer

McCourt’s goal – Celtic’s fourth.

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