How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maloney?

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I often argued with many a Celtic fan about how his decision making and end product were far more consistent and superior to McGeady’s.He always knew when to pass and when to dribble unlike McGeady’s head down and run into a “cul-de -sac” approach. Sure on his off days the game passes him by and he offers very little defensively, but just like Commons he is a match winner, and can play in several positions. This alone is a very valuable commodity when you are chasing the game and the manager is looking to freshen things up and change formation and tactics.

Some will agree with that summation of Maloney’s attributes, some won’t. What no-one can argue about though is how easily he gets injured. The innocuous nature and regularity of these injuries is truly astonishing. I seen him get an eye-injury in the first Old Firm game of the season, and as he was coming off you could see the swelling on his eye appear. I was wanting him to do a Rocky Balboa – come to the side lines and say “cut me” then go charging back out. Fair enough it could have been the doctors orders that forced him off, but you just knew as soon as he started running towards the bench that his game was over. He seemed to want to come off

There was a lot of talk in recent years that his injuries might have more to do with his mental rather than physical state. I could see the reasoning in that, as at one stage it was just one niggling injury after the next with him being out for months at a time. Like Phil O’Donnell (RIP) I just think his body is not designed for modern day football. While O’Donnell was all skin and bone, Maloney seems to be quite stocky for a wee guy and this combined with his explosive pace seem to cause him all sorts of problems whether it be his hamstrings or tendinitis.

However we analyse it though – the simple fact remains that he is one of the top earners at the club and he can barely last half a season. For a guy on 20k plus a week, this cannot be allowed to continue.

At the start of this article I stated it was a tough one, but when you actually weigh it all up, it really isn’t at all. He needs to be moved on. With the signing of Commons and the emergence of Forrest and McCourt in recent seasons , there is ample cover, so it is just a case of freeing up considerable wages. This is easier said than done however, as he still has a year left to run of his contract. You have to wonder who would be willing to spend money on someone who has rarely been fit in the last 3 years and who is on such decent wages. It may well be that no-one comes in for him and we would have to keep him for another season before releasing him. This would be a strain on the resources, but I think there will be a lot of players leaving Celtic this summer, so this could maybe offset it.

I would love nothing better than for Maloney to have another season like he did in 2005-06 when he was the first player in Scotland to win both the Young Players and Player of the Year Awards at the same time. He scored 16 goals that year and had 28 assists and also managed to avoid injury. I fear though that even a season like that would still not be enough to convince folk that he is worth a new deal.

I was gutted when he left in January 2007. I got the impression that he wanted to stay, but Celtic were playing hardball, and his agent also seemed to be bending his ear. In the end it seemed he left over what. I suspect to him, seemed like a matter of principle as the reported difference in wages he was receiving from Villa and what we offered was not that big. After a few months, I think he realised he had made a big mistake and admitted as much upon his return.

What I could not get when he came back was the folk (just like the ones who doubted his ability at the start of last season) who said they did not want him. Fair enough they seem to be vindicated given what has transpired in the last few seasons , but their reasoning was not based on his footballing ability , it was based on the fact that he turned his back on Celtic. I have no time for this sentimental nonsense these days, maybe in the seventies and early eighties there was this player  – club bond, but the cold fact is that in modern day football all the players care about is No 1. It is a short career, and the money involved can see you set for life , which is no bad thing given the intelligence of some of them.

People need to get with the times, and realise that no matter how much they kiss the badge – it means absolutely jack. Trust me if Izzy and Kayal are not offered the right money , they will be off like a shot as well. Modern day footballers can be horrors off the park and heroes on it. Take  Ryan Giggs and Marlon King as recent examples. I’m not saying that they are right, I am simply saying that is how things are. To refuse to re-sign Maloney because he turned his back on us would have been silly.

All that matters to me and the more realistic in our support is whether they can show form week in week out on the park. I would stop short of saying this in a Marlon King or El Hadj Diouf scenario by the way for those who think I am totally without morals.

I really did think Maloney would be a Celtic great when he broke through to the first team. He obviously learned a great deal from training with the likes of Larsson and Lubo everyday, his technique and control were a step above anything else coming through the youth ranks at that time. Some of his free-kicks were every bit as good as Lubo’s, and I thought his game reached another level in 2005-06 when he was electric. He was consistent and some of his best games came against the buns.

Who could forget his 35 yard scorcher against Klos? Or his classy cut back for Hartson to score into an open goal against them a few days later? I still thought his best football was ahead of him even when he re-signed. In his first game against Falkirk, he looked as though he had never been away, with a great display in which some of his link-up play with Sammy was a joy to watch.

I would hate to see us get rid of him and then see another team enjoy his best years while managing to keep him fit for a full season. The likelihood of that happening as we all know though is very slim. The most probable scenario is that he would play 15 games before succumbing to another injury that would force him out for several months. Frustrating and sad as it may be for a player who I harboured so much hope for, it is high time he moved on.

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