To return to my theme however, I have been fascinated by the views offered in areas of the web about personnel – players and managers – in the club’s employ by a wide range of people who would regard themselves as Celtic supporters and I exempt from this those whose only contribution is a smiley or the word ‘carrot’.
I refer to individuals who can construct a logical argument and create a coherent sentence in support of their views. Some of these folk are responsible for web-sites and podcasts that I admire and respect, but I find that even in those quarters positions are taken and opinions offered which cause me to shake my head in disbelief since facts are often the last consideration in forming a viewpoint.
This is especially so when the topic is the Ginger Ninja, our former head coach WGS.
Step forward Eddie, you are still in the van of this movement, but you are not alone.
On the LostBhoys podcast just before Christmas – Chris can correct me if I am wrong – but if I recall correctly the discussion led to a view point that Gordon Strachan made many poor signings, in the sense that he was a poor judge of a player. This is an opinion that I have seen expressed in other parts of Celtic Cyberspace, but it is a viewpoint which takes no cognisance of fact.
The truth may be that some of his signings did not perform as well as we – and he – might have hoped, but when they were signed many were hailed as positive additions to the squad amid hopes that they would go on to be ‘Hun-skelpers’ to use a phrase beloved of folks on KDS.
A reasonable analysis of Wee Gordon’s tenure suggests that In Nakamura he found a true genius, in Artur a flawed genius, but the others need to be looked at individually before consigning them to the dung heap.
Zurawski looked a good signing and on his day was a decent striker whose return of goals per game was better than average, but he was no Henrik Larsson. However I did not hear many dissident voices when he joined us from Poland. Thomas Gravesen was hailed by the majority of fans and his signing was seen as a coup, but his whirling dervish approach meant that he was not the addition we had hoped for. He was a good team player in terms of attitude, but conversely he was a poor team player in his approach to the game.
Jiri Jarosik, who I recently saw playing in La Liga, was another whose arrival was trumpeted, but whose languid style did not fit into the sophisticated SPL!!
Jan Vennegoor – to my mind – was a good player, but whether I think so or not is immaterial to my argument – when he signed we thought we had bought another star and although he lost his way towards the end, I would argue that he was a trier and his efforts in the final Championship win were crucial.
Kenny Miller was many folks’ whipping boy. He is described in Celtic Wiki as ‘the hapless Kenny Miller’, and while I agree that we got good money for him, he should not have been allowed to go. His signing was seen largely as a good one and he never once sold us short for effort, but we have suffered for the decision to off-load him since. The phrase ‘Kenny Miller misses a sitter’ has given many Tims a good laugh, but he hasn’t missed too many against us since his return. Sometimes a player’s value to a side outweighs the technical deficiencies he may have. Steve Chalmers was such a player and while I would not ordinarily compare Miller to Steve Chalmers his tireless running and unselfish play offer similar things to any team he is in.
Scott McDonald may have seemed a cheap signing but he did offer goals and is another whose arrival was received in positive terms at the time. That he later became a fat petulant wee egotist should not obscure the goals that he did score and the contribution that he made.
Of the ‘big name’ signings that Gordon made the only one who did not fill me with excitement was Gaka. When I read on the Hib’s message boards how glad they were to see the back of him I had a sense that he was not the complete article as a defender, and to my mind so it proved, but not many internet voices suggested that we had bought a dud at the time. He was a Scottish International and it was to be hoped that his acquisition was a good thing.
Among the players who joined us on Gordon’s watch were the hapless Lee Naylor. Not enough was known about him for us to be excited or dismayed but his contribution was less than stellar over his time in Hoops. Another whose time in the Hoops would have been eminently forgettable had he not scored the winning goal in the Cup Final was John Paul Perrier Doumbe and exotically named but quite ordinary player by the standards Celtic players are judged by.
I watched Mark Brown playing for Hibs last weekend and was confirmed in my view that he was decent goalkeeper if a bit small. He was better suited to a side that was under pressure for much of the game as was the case at ICT, but his errors at Celtic Park were magnified both by their importance, and by the fact that he was standing in for a hero.
Paul Telfer arrived with little fanfare, and for much of his time was far from being a fans favourite, but only recently I heard some Tims bemoaning the fact that he was not adequately replaced and suggesting that in the words of Joni Mitchell : ‘We don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone’. Nakamura certainly made good use of Telfer’s willing runs and played some of his best stuff with the former Southampton player at his back.
Any one who saw Chris Killen play for Hibs before his injury would have considered his signing in a positive light, but experience tells us that cruciate ligament damage is a hard one to get over, and perhaps his signing was not so inspired as some. Derek Riordan remains one of the lost Bhoys. A great signing he was given few chances, but perhaps his approach to life and to football can explain this, but he was/is a genuine talent.
The Hearts pair, Paul Hartley and Steven Pressley might not have been universally welcomed, but they were good pros and did their bit for the cause.
The Dundee United recruits, Mark Wilson Barry Robson and later Willo Flood had mixed fortunes in their time in the Hoops. Wilson has been plagued with injuries, but he has stayed the course – perhaps because of this – and has made some decent appearances in recent weeks. Robson sometimes irritated me in the way that he resolutely refused to use his right foot, but overall he was a good acquisition with several qualities, not the least of which was his understanding of how to play against the Paris Buns. That he was missed following his departure says much about how intolerant we were of him during his time with the colours. Willo Flood was a good player with his former club who excelled against us on more than one occasion, but he was seen as a cheap option and the support never really took him to their hearts.
Andreas Hinkel is a good if not outstanding player and when we bought him from Sevilla few voices were heard in opposition to his arrival. He seems a good sort and while he was apparently considered surplus to requirements by the present manager, worse players the Andy have worn the Hoops in my time.
Our current hero – for this week anyway – gorgeous Georgios is another whose arrival was hailed as a master stroke. There was even the video on this site of the last days of Hitler when the fact that we had usurped the Dark Side to acquire his services was a cause for great hilarity. His great days – and there have been a few – make his inconsistency even more annoying and puzzling. As Eddie said on this week’s podcast – some club will have a great player when he is in his late 20’s – but why are we so diffident about the possibility that it might be Celtic. I must disagree with my good friend St. Anthony when he offers the view that Georgios has no heart. He does lack focus at times and often seems to play with little brain and less confidence, but at his best he is outstanding.
Massimo Donati was another whose purchase was much trumpeted at the time as was the unfortunate Koki Mizuno and the cameo appearance of Roy Keane was an unmitigated if short lived success.
Even the projects – the works in progress – were to my mind evidence of a manager who was looking ahead. Mizuno I have touched on, Milan Misun was unlucky with injuries and the great figure of fun – Zheng Zhi – was an interesting look forward, both economically and in a playing sense. The boy was captain of the Chinese Olympic squad if I recall, and all the reports we had read about his progress did not lead us to expect what happened at Broadwood. It should be noted that initially we did not think of getting shot of him after that day, but his club in China wanted a decision about buying him, and the events against Clyde clouded the picture.
However the most interesting project may now be reaching his potential – the indomitable Paddy McCourt. A real match winner if ever there was one – if he stays fit – a big if – he could be the replacement for the great Nakamura in our hearts and minds.
So you see Dear Reader, Strachan did not make bad signings, but the performance of footballers comes without a guarantee and we can rail against them when things go pear shaped, but as with the manager himself, who was literally 2 goals away from completing 4 in a row, it is easy to write people off.
The glaring omission from this list is of course Scott Brown. Few voices are raised in defence of our Captain and yet when he signed he was seen as the hottest property in the Scottish game and we were to a man rejoicing that he came to us and not to the South Side.
I read a piece in one of the broadsheets the other day which suggested that every manager who works with Scott Brown has him as the first name on the team sheet and yet supporters don’t like him or value him at all. His temperament is called into question, his abilities are derided and journalists like Tom English never miss the chance to put the boot into him, but it is a fact that this season we have won every league game he has started and those we struggled in were when he was out injured. Perhaps there is more of Paul Telfer and less of Aideninho in Brown, but the coach values him and we should be mindful of Joni Mitchell.
Another subject for criticism in recent weeks has been Neil Lennon. It heartened me to hear the spirited defence which our web-master made of the Lurgan lad on this week’s podcast.
Chris on the Lostbhoys last week made a sound summary of why he is the right man in the right job at this time. We are not going to get any stellar names, and the coats of those who were supposedly in the frame after Tony Mowbray’s demise – Avram Grant, Mark Hughes, Roy Hodgson are all on a shoogly peg in their present posts.
He has done relatively well and to my mind shows promise. If we persevere and win this league I am convinced that Neil Lennon will go from strength to strength. He has a good back-up team and they know what it means to play for the jersey.
It took Alex Ferguson 3 years 6 months to win his first trophy at Old Trafford and in the November of that season there were banners saying
“Three years of excuses and it’s still crap. Ta ra Fergie.”
Surely it is not unreasonable to cut our fledgling coach a little slack, even if we do not achieve our main objective for the season.
He has brought in a number of talented players, mostly young, who have to be given time to settle in an unfamiliar environment. Look how Ki Sung Yeong is now viewed by all and sundry and yet at the start of this season he was dismissed by many as a ‘Lawwell signing’.
I am aware that this week there is a feeling of euphoria in the air on the back of our splendid result at the weekend. Is it too much to ask that we try to maintain this positivity in our gathering places both on earth and in cyberspace. It can only help the team if we do and in this we help ourselves.