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European adventure rolls on

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It is a measure of how far we have come during this Champions League campaign that a 2-1 defeat away to Benfica, leaving us favourites to qualify in second place for the Champions League knockout stage and assured of European football after Christmas, is a disappointment.

Unlike previous defeats in this competition, this one has not limited our ambitions.

Around this time of previous Champions League campaigns I’ve opined that Uefa Cup/Europa League qualification would be preferable to finishing second in the group stage, leading to inevitable elimination to a group winner.  Teams who drop out of the Champions League have the prospect of a decent run in the Europa League, earning more coefficient points and potentially more cash, whereas Celtic never convinced me they could reach the last eight of the Champions League.

This time is different.  We got it wrong last night and as a result lost the head-to-head against Benfica but this was not the case against Barcelona.  Most of the current group leaders are better than Celtic, all would create more chances and have more possession against us, but here’s the rub, Celtic can score goals against anyone and can defend remarkably well.

Georgios Samaras has now scored in three consecutive group stage away games; he scored in all of Celtic’s five away games in Europe this season, surely a record.  This is beyond a mere statistical oddity, it’s a result of a strategy which Benfica, Barcelona and Spartak have been unable to cope with (last night’s block-and-free-header routine was a thing of technical brilliance).

We’ve scored five goals in total in our three away group stage games.  In the eight away games in the competition proper before this season, since losing in Copenhagen, we scored only once (remember against whom?)!  In short, we can go anywhere and play effective counter-attacking football which even the best team in history had trouble dealing with.

That doesn’t mean we are champions-elect, of course.  Benfica, who are a worthy team but are not tier-one material, got the better of us.  They played to form last night and Celtic dipped.  Scott Brown was clearly unfit, Charlie Mulgrew may-or-may-not have declared himself ill before kick-off but his condition did not help (stunning corner aside).

Neil also left out Kris Commons.  Kris’s form has shaded since The Beating of Barca, so I was not surprised to see him on the bench, but did you notice we started to get balls into the Benfica box after he came on? More of this and I fancy Benfica would have yielded. In his post-match comments Neil Lennon reminded us his players are young and will learn from the experience.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that the manager is also young and learning as he goes along. His tactical decisions have been the real revelation of this group, even if he did leave Kris out and his gamble with Scott Brown didn’t work. His progress as a manager has been, as our old friend might say, astonishing.

Fraser Forster provided more evidence of his outstanding ability.  Mikael Lustig and Kelvin Wilson looked perfectly at ease with under frenetic pressure but Efe Ambrose particularly impressed.  I’ve watched Celtic defences for decades and we always seem to have a ‘junior partner’ but not now.

The defence made two mistakes last night but in all their games together they have yet to conjure up a Big Dan Moment.

My objectives for this Champions League campaign have already been surpassed but expectation levels are never level, so let’s take care of Spartak and see where the adventure goes next.

Orders are now open for the very first CQN Annual, get it here!

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  1. So Celtic loose against Moscow and its Europa league I think most of us would have accepted this at the beggining of the season. If they draw and Benfica draw or win ditto. If they win and Benfica win Ditto. If Celtic win and Benfica draw or loose champions league..no bad with the trick colour funding methinks…for a Celtic supporter likesy.

  2. There’s a green eyed yellow wido

     

    to the north of no can do

     

    lurks for hours no endo

     

    to be the first to poo

  3. The Battered Bunnet on

    I am unqualified to dispute the many Legal aspects of the FTT judgement on Rangers’ use of EBTs, and in any event, wouldn’t be so conceited as to try, but from a Football perspective, it seems to me that the outcome is the worst possible.

     

     

    The Rangers story has shambled on for almost 3 years, and there was at least the prospect of the FTT decision permitting a line to be drawn under the entire affair, allowing Football to get back on with the Game. Regrettably not I fear.

     

     

    At a simple level, the decision of the Tribunal that the EBT payments were not liable to Tax and NIC at source rather indicates that the liquidation of the club was entirely unnecessary. That is a ghastly outcome.

     

     

    Whatever else Rangers may have been, they were a principal player in the Scottish Game, and their demise it seems was precipitated by the risk of the Tax Case going against them, rather than the reality of it. Scottish Football is no better off this morning for knowing it. Additionally, while the sums held to be due by Rangers have not been disclosed, it is fair to consider them a fraction of the overall HMRC Assessment, and as such, would have been within the resources of the club to pay.

     

     

    I have written previously on the impact of the decision by the Rangers Board in 2010 not to provide for an adverse outcome. With Champions League money guaranteed, and a first team squad of considerable value, battening down the hatches by selling some of the star players and operating on a break even basis from Domestic football would have permitted the club to ring fence perhaps £40M to provide for an adverse outcome. Even had the outcome been the worst possible, Rangers would still have had the necessary collateral to avoid a terminal fate.

     

     

    That they chose not to is I’m sure a matter of some regret for those fellows individually, and for the fans of the club collectively.

     

     

    Nevertheless, the FTT decision is not cut and dried. On the one hand, the dissenting opinion of Dr Poon is explicit and provides ample Legal basis for an appeal by HMRC. On the other, decisions at FTT do not constitute legal precedent, and an Appeal to the Upper Tier seems likely, given both the grounds laid out by Poon, and the chance for HMRC to obtain a legal precedent accordingly. Such an Appeal would cost a fraction of the original case, as no new evidence can be led, and with perhaps 5000 similar EBT cases in the HMRC pipeline, HMRC I should expect will be inclined to go for it, politics notwithstanding.

     

     

    Which is why the FTT decision is such a rum do for Scottish Football. There is no end in sight.

     

     

    The big tax case has always been distinct from though associated with the Football Regulatory issues. It was expected that a definitive outcome from the former would facilitate a clean conclusion to the latter, albeit the latter is considering a separate set of alleged rules breaches. Not now I think.

     

     

    Nimmo Smith is now in the unenviable position of having to determine the status of the side letter payments and the matter of their non-disclosure from the perspective of the Football Rule Book, in the full knowledge that any subsequent appeal at Law of the FTT decision by HMRC might very well contradict his own conclusions. Nimmo Smith also has to consider the view of the Tribunal at Paragraph 161 to 163, particularly the view that: “Non-registration of side-letters was incompatible with both authorities’ policing and disciplinary powers”. That’s a tough one for him to deal with safely.

     

     

    My own concern in this matter has been focussed on the invidious position of certain Rangers’ Directors during the period of operation of the EBT scheme. These guys were at once implementing the scheme, benefiting from it, electing not to disclose it to SFA and SPL, and serving as Directors of variously SFA and SPL. Nimmo Smith will necessarily require to deal with these conflicting interests without the benefit of a firm legal definition of the status of the payments undisclosed (an Upper Tier Decision).

     

     

    That the letters providing for the payments were deliberately withheld is beyond doubt given the extensive discussion on the matter in the FTT. Nimmo Smith must determine whether withholding the side letters was legitimate or illegitimate from the perspective of the Football Rule Book without the benefit of their definition at Law. Were they part of the over-arching contract? Were they simply discretionary loans right enough?

     

     

    It is entirely possible that contracts lodged with the SFA/SPL provided for the ‘gross’ wages for each player, and only the method/channel of payment was withheld. That would be reasonable in my view: If the total contractual entitlement was notified to SFA/SPL, whether it was paid in cash in a suitcase or in Krugerrands or any such combination is none of the SFA’s business.

     

     

    Alternatively, if the contracts lodged do not reflect the ‘gross’ value of the agreements, we are back to square one, where payments for football related activity were not disclosed to the Authorities, rendering the Registrations invalid, and all manner of sequelae.

     

     

    In all of this, Nimmo Smith is being asked to come to his own view despite an Upper Tier Appeal outstanding. If his judgement is contradicted subsequently at Upper Tier Tribunal, God alone knows how we might deal with the fallout from that one. Imagine if a former Rangers Director was banned sine die by Nimmo Smith for a set of actions that were subsequently exonerated at UTT? Or indeed the opposite occurred. An impossible position.

     

     

    All he can really do is look at those matters unaffected by the law, and defer judgement on those that are until a later date.

     

     

    And so here we are, 3 years on, and with the possibility that there may be a further 2 years to come in this saga before there is any final clarity, providing of course that HMRC do indeed appeal.

     

     

    Even my interest is unlikely to be sustained over that period.

     

     

    In the meantime, we need to rebuild the Game. Try that for size.

  4. Paul 67

     

    We were punching above our weight last night.

     

    Player for player – Benfica are better.

     

    We’ve lost away to – Barca and Benfica

     

    and yet some folk are unhappy ?

     

    THAT for me, shows how far NFL has taken us

     

    at the minute and, when you consider the amount

     

    of money Neil has spent – to what he has taken in

     

    I can’t wait to see us when the board start to get

     

    ambitious !

     

    Hail Hail

  5. I see the battle for stripping titles is under way by the MSM with General Jabba leading the charge.

     

     

    Pity, they lost the war! ;-)

  6. So Scotland’s cancer is only in remission thanks to some outstanding pal-o-mino-therapy.

     

    Wonderful! Only in Scotland.

     

    Thanks Kenneth Mure QC and Scott Rae

  7. Philbhoy - It's just the beginning! on

    Let the people sing their stories and their songs

     

     

    And the music of their native land

     

     

    There lullabies and battle cries and songs of hope and joy

     

     

    So join us hand in hand

     

     

    All across this ancient land, through the test of time

     

     

    It was CELTIC that kept our spirits free

     

     

    Their songs are yours and mine!

     

     

    C’MON THE CELTS!!!!!!!!!

  8. prestonpans bhoys on

    I think Benfica need to revise their policing. Celtic fans were in Lisbon for days without trouble; had about 500 fans in their end without trouble but keep us locked in for about 25 mins after the match thereby allowing 5000 to come down one stairwell at the same time. Great idea, surprised no one was hurt.

  9. Paul67

     

     

    “My objectives for this Champions League campaign have already been surpassed but expectation levels are never level, so let’s take care of Spartak and see where the adventure goes next” sums up where I’m at in a nutshell.

     

     

    I was naturally disapointed last night but this has been a completely remarkable CL adventure this season and has given us all a game and a victory that we will be talking about three decades from now.

     

     

    Away to read TBB’s long post on the FTT findings. looking forward to it.

     

     

    SwanseaBhoy

  10. Gordon_J backing Neil Lennon

     

    12:20 on

     

    21 November, 2012

     

     

    Suprising?

     

    dead?

     

    Reports on their death are greatly exaggerated

  11. Gene’s a Bhoys name – Philvis is paul67

     

     

    Wrong.

     

     

    Paul67 is a wealthy businessman, philanthropist and celebrity socialite.

     

     

    Philvisreturns is an enigmatic mystery man who uses his intelligence and martial arts skills to fight crime and keep the city safe.

     

     

    To suggest we are the same person is crazy talk. (thumbsup)

     

     

    31003 – Thank you kind sir. (thumbsup)

  12. Gene’s a Bhoys name, he’s not. Or at least, I don’t think he is! Should really check that.

     

     

    Battered Bunnet, enjoyed that analysis, thanks.

     

     

    KevJungle, indeed.

     

     

    everalwayscfc, look again!

     

     

    SwanseaBhoy, yes, remarkable.

  13. Chris McLaughlin ‏@BBCchrismclaug

     

    Independent hearing into allegations of dual contracts at #Rangers now to start late Jan or early Feb. decision due shortly after #BBCSport

     

    Expand Reply Retweet Favorite

  14. Good article Paul.I was at the game with Oldtim a great occasion in a wonderful European city ,noisy,friendly, Celtic fans young and old,male and female congregated in the bars and restaurant around Rossio square and nearby clad in green and white,just enjoying ourselves peacefully as a low key friendly police presence and citizens of Lisbon looked on and smiled and on more than one ocassion joined in with us.

     

    Such a contrast to our own city.

     

    I think its time for Scott to have a proper rest and whatever treatment is required for a long term solution to his problem…HH

  15. 67Heaven ... I am Neil Lennon..!!.. Ibrox belongs to the creditors on

    the battered bunnet

     

     

    12:13 on

     

    21 November, 2012

     

     

    What an EXCELLENT post ……… When all is said and done, they are deed, and that will do me …. They were ‘assisted’ to 3 SPL trophies (at least), so ‘hell mend them’ ……. Scottish Football is a lot better without their ‘hate’ culture…….

  16. TBB

     

     

    I see Nimmo enquiry set for Jan/Feb

     

     

    Chris McLaughlin‏@BBCchrismclaug

     

     

    Independent hearing into allegations of dual contracts at #Rangers now to start late Jan or early Feb. decision due shortly after

     

     

    I reckon Nimmo will have to make a distinguishing judgement before it gets underway IF HMRC decide by then to Appeal.

     

     

    He either rules on SPL requirements and the spirit thereof being independent and unrelated to the FTT findings or delays his enquiry until any appeal is heard.

     

     

    What a tangled web we weave eh?

  17. The Battered Bunnet,

     

     

    That’s one of the best pieces I have seen written on this sorry saga. Should be bedside reading for any in the MSM… especially those foolish enough to be crowing about the result as being in favour of Rangers (most by the looks of them)

     

     

    It illustrates magnificently how utterly foolish the previous Rangers Board were in adopting this aggressive tax avoidance regime.

     

     

    It simply didn’t matter that you got away with it if you can’t afford the risk that it fails.

     

     

    I would like to hope that any appeal by HMRC would be swift and taken before a Court with some pace given that no further evidence can be heard… but the Law in this land like to run slowly… not in my opinion to aid the innocent or ensure correct convictions… but imho to line the legal professions coffers (though that is another argument).

     

     

    B

  18. 67Heaven ... I am Neil Lennon..!!.. Ibrox belongs to the creditors on

    Got BT Infinity installed ….WOW, what an improvement (but not in my spelling …..LOL)

  19. Paul67

     

     

    Its amazing how we see games differently.

     

     

    I thought Efe Ambrose had a nightmare of a game whilst Kelvin Wilson was immense.

     

     

    He got caught under the ball too often, headers sclaffed everywhere, including for their second goal where he was out muscled by the centre half of Benfica, he gave the ball away, got caught in possession far too often.

     

     

    Opinions, opinions, its a pity we chose last night to have our most innefective performance in our European adventure, Adam Matthews will have nightmares about his attempted clearance last night which ultimately led to their first goal.

     

     

    Nevertheless onto Spartak Moscow, beat them and in my opinion we will qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, Barcelona even with a second string outfit will be very strong at the Camp Nou.

     

     

    Hail Hail!

     

     

    RobinBhoy

  20. BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS on

    So PHIVISRETURNS and PAUL67 confirm to us that they are NOT one and the same person?

     

     

    I recall,in fact,that PAUL67 denied even having met PHILVISRETURNS.

     

     

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm……………

     

     

    In which case,they have clearly never been in the same room!

     

     

    Investigations will continue,methinks…..

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