Flag day in Paradise: New season brings new hopes and dreams

Competitive football returns to Celtic Park for the opening game of the 2023/24 season as the Hoops play host to Ross County on flag day.  A full house of 60,000 spectators is expected to turn up and watch James Forrest, who was honoured in midweek with a testimonial against Athletic Club, unfurl the 2022/23 title-winning flag in Paradise.

It is not just competitive football that is returning to Celtic Park this afternoon, also making his return to the dugout is manager Brendan Rodgers.  The Irishman’s departure back in 2019 caused uproar amongst the Celtic support however, his return this summer as the replacement for Ange Postecoglou has generally been met with optimism from the fan base.  That said, it remains to be seen whether or not The Green Brigade will give him their full backing, with reports that they make their displeasure at Rodgers’ return known during today’s game.

Regardless of The Green Brigade’s view on Rodgers’ return, today should be a day of excitement for the coming season and celebration of what was an incredible 2022/23 season that culminated in Celtic claiming a world record 8th domestic treble.

New Signings

As always, the summer weeks are dominated by rumours of potential signings and departures.  This summer has been no different, and the rumour mill still has a few more weeks to run before the end of the summer transfer window.

The biggest transfer news of the summer was undoubtedly Jota’s unexpected sale to Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad for £25 million.  The Portuguese superstar had been an integral part of Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic and was expected to fulfil a similar role under Brendan Rodgers.

While not yet directly replaced, although the arrivals of Marco Tilio and Yang Hyun-jun could help fill his position, Jota’s departure has provided Liel Abada with the perfect opportunity to step up in Rodgers’ system and take on a more influential role in the team.

It sounds cliché to say, but under Rodgers’ guidance, Abada has the potential to become like a new signing for Celtic this season.  Already during pre-season, the Israeli has impressed greatly as he adapts to Rodgers’ way of playing and a big season is expected from him.

Elsewhere, Maik Nawrocki has been brought in from Legia Warsaw to provide strong defensive cover for Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt and is likely to push for a starting place sooner than later.

The midfield has been bolstered with the arrivals of Odin Thiago Holm and Kwon Hyeok-kyu.  The former has made some very encouraging appearances during pre-season and looks like a long-term option at the troublesome number 6 position, while the former struggled badly during the game against Athletic Club.  However, one poor 45 minutes does not make Kwon a bad player and the Korean will have plenty of opportunities to impress once he settles in to life at Celtic.

The centre-forward area remains with Kyogo as the main striker option, however, both Oh and Daizen Maeda have given food for thought as different options should Rodgers need to change system and style mid-game.

Hopes and Dreams

With the new season comes new hopes and dreams.  Brendan Rodgers has gone on record this week saying that he doesn’t want his team to merely defend the title, but to win it.  That simple statement has big psychological connotations.  Rodgers is back not simply to carry one Ange’s work but to improve on it and win trophies in style.

During his last tenure at Celtic Park, Rodgers won 7 out of 7 available trophies.  The Irishman has a determination and winning mentality about him that encourages and fosters real hope that Celtic is finally getting serious about their ambitions.

Domestically, the club should be aiming to claim all three available trophies and Rodgers has history of doing just that.  But more than this, Rodgers returns as a manager who has taken a side to a semi-final of a European competition.  The naivety of his first crack at Europe with Celtic has gone leaving Rodgers to return to Celtic as a more tactically astute manager on the European front.

Progress in Europe in the call from the Celtic support, and in Brendan Rodgers, we may have the manager to help deliver just that.

The 2023/24 season kicks off this afternoon and ACSOM will cover every game as Celtic strive to continue their domestic dominance while also aiming to make inroads into Europe.  We hope you can come and join us and celebrate another fantastic season of following the Hoops.

Today’s Potential Starting Eleven

Hart; Iwata, Carter-Vickers, Starfelt, Taylor; McGregor (c); O’Riley, Hatate; Abada, Kyogo, Maeda

Kevin McCluskie

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