Regular listeners of the podcast will know the outcome of the Celtic Underground Top Ten and the Samaras Award but not everyone is a podcast listener so we decided to trial out laying the podcast out as a transcript for those who prefer to read than listen. Below is confirmation of the Top Ten for season 2016/17 with our joint winners and joint 8th place. ALso are details of the Samaras Award.
Thanks for voting;
1 Brown & Sinclair
The Samaras Award for THE MOMENT of the season goes to Tom Rogic for the winner at Hampden
Harry: So, I’m joined now by an eminent gallery, because I can see their faces, of Celtic Underground luminaries. We have Lachie Mor, Mark Cooper, and Saint Anthony. How are you doing, guys?
Lachie Mor: Very nice.
Saint Anthony: Doing good.
Mark Cooper: Very well.
Harry: I normally start with a weather forecast update, so I’m gonna start. In my screen, I’ve got the people in order of Lachie, Mark, and Saint. Lachie where are you? How’s the weather?
Lachie Mor: In Dumfries it’s dull, and I think it’s cool today. Actually cold early on.
Lachie Mor: I’ve no idea, but I was really cold.
Harry: How’s the boat?
Lachie Mor: The boat is tied up nicely. We had a few days of rain. It was brilliant.
Harry: Good, good. Mark, where are you and how’s the temperature?
Mark Cooper: I’m in Buenos Ares, and it’s just the start winter here. It’s about eight, nine, ten degrees, drizzly, grey, winter.
Harry: Oh, sounds like yesterday in Scotland. Saint, where are you and how’s the weather?
Saint Anthony: I’m in Renfrew at the moment. It’s cloudy and dull and it’s probably about 16 degrees.
Harry: I can see … I’m in Glasgow and I can see patches of blue sky. I’m not far from Celtic Park, that’s probably why. Sun always shines on the righteous. So we’ve got the Celtic Underground top ten, finally, after about six months of trailing this, it’s coming. I should offer apologies for Jim, he’s on his holidays, and for Hull Boy, he’s on the one road, maybe the wrong road, but he’s on the road to god knows where, and he cannot make it back to the Skype in time, so those two would have been joining us.
We’ve got the Celtic Underground top ten. The guys know numbers ten through to number three, but they don’t know who finished in the top two, so we’re going to reveal that in a great reveal, which will be very exciting.
So if I go in tenth, ninth, and eighth place, we have Lustig, Gordon, and Simunovic, actually because Gordon and Simunovic are joint ninth or joint eighth place, which either way you’re going up and down the league table. Lachie, do you want to kick off? Lustig in tenth place and Gordon and Simunovic jointly in front of them. What’s your thoughts?
Lachie Mor: I’m surprised at Lustig being in the top 10. I thought he had some interesting performances and seemed to get a cult following towards the end of season. I think he’s still a weak link in the back four.
Harry: One of your things is been to say that Lustig’s legs have gone. That was one of your common things last sort of 18 months. So what’s your thoughts on Lustig being in at number 10 ahead of utility man Callum McGregor or last year’s top goal score, Leigh Griffiths, or even Forrest, who was a first team starter up until the last two and a half months of the season? What’s your thoughts, Saint?
Saint Anthony: Who’s that to Harry?
Saint Anthony: Oh me, sorry, sorry. Lustig, he’s a fairly consistent player, but I don’t think he’s got long left to be honest, I think, in terms of longevity. Having said that, but judging last season, and he was a fairly consistent player who had two spectacular moments. The first one being the Rabona thing at McDiarmid Park, which created a great goal. The second one being the obvious one at Ibrox where he scored the goal, which will be remembered for many years to come. So he’s probably well worth a place in the top 10 on that basis.
Harry: Do you think, Mark, some of the voting came down to people just, as Lachie said, Lustig a cult figure with his goal celebrations and perhaps his fifth goal at Ibrox?
Mark Cooper: A wee bit, yeah. I also think that there’s a weighting on the last four months of the season, rather than the whole season. I agree with Lachie. Lachie was saying that he didn’t start that well, but he kind of came on to a bit of a game. I think in about, I don’t know, September, October, I was also kind of thinking is Lustig as a wee bit of a weak link? Especially in European games, sometimes when the defence are trying to circulate the ball and it gets to Lustig, it just isn’t as fluid as the other players and he maybe needs and extra touch or something.
I agree in terms of … Lustig’s quite an interesting player because, firstly as a fullback he’s pretty atypical. He’s about 6’2, and you rarely get a fullback that’s what, 6’1. He used to be, weirdly even for that kind of fullback, he used to be kind of a box-to-box fullback, making overlapping runs. And now he’s almost turned into a kind of right-sided centre back if Tierney’s going back to join the midfield, and he’s on the right side of a three.
To be honest, that role kind of suits him more now that he doesn’t have the legs anymore. That said, he still, I felt, in the last four months of the season actually came on to a bit of a game, whereas before I was thinking that, I think I said in podcasts before at the start of last season that I would have thought he would have been a position we might want to improve on.
Harry: It’s interesting you say about him being box-to-box because I was looking him up. In the three seasons before we signed him from Rosenberg he scored eight, nine, and eight goals. So patently we signed him because he was an attacking fullback who scored goals. Then for most of the time he’s been with us he’s played, well last season I think he played six … the season before that he played something like six games and before that it was early twenties, number of games. And then all of a sudden this season he’s playing every week.
George, after Lustig, we’ve got Gordon and Simunovic tied. This time last year Simunovic was on his way to Turin for a medical. So were you surprised that he stuck around and went through the January transfer window and he’s now one of our key defenders?
Lachie Mor: I’m not surprised he’s one of our key defenders. I was astonished they were prepared to sell him. I had a feeling if they were prepared to sell him, it was a fitness issue. I didn’t expect him to come back having failed a medical. I was pleased when he did come back, because I thought, we didn’t sign this boy just to sell him right away without him getting the chance to settle into the team. I think he’s a really, really good player. He’s got a lot of potential to be a better player. So I was really happy that he came back, and it didn’t surprise me he settled into the team. I think Gordon, he had a shaky start to the season that he ended up being one of the key players because he does make good saves. It was erratic errors that he made at times. I had doubts about him.
Harry: There’s something saying, because Gordon has now made it into our top ten when five, six games into the season, again it was looking doubtful he’d make it to Christmas, because De Vries had been signed, and Gordon was on the bench, and it was because he couldn’t pass out from the back. I’m just trying to see. Gordon wasn’t in your top 10, Saint.
Saint Anthony: Nope. No.
Harry: So were you surprised that you sent it to join eight, ninth place?
Saint Anthony: He wasn’t in the top 10, because I think there was players more deserving. One of the turning points in the season for me was when De Vries was beaten by the forty yarder against Kilmarnock, and Brendan sent Gordon out at halftime to warm up.
My mate said to me, “I think he’s bringing them on,” and I said, “Don’t be so daft. You never bring a goalkeeper on at halftime, not unless he’s injured,” and he certainly didn’t look injured. He’d pride looked hurt more than anything else. Then Gordon ran out for the second half. It was one of those moments that gave me great faith in Brendan Rodgers because not many managers have got the balls, frankly, to substitute their goalkeeper at halftime.
Brendan was diplomatic at the end of the game by saying that De Vries, I think he said he was sick or something like that. And I don’t think that was the case for a minute. I just think the thing was that Brendan was being ruthless. That’s a ruthless streak, something I admire about him.
With regards to Siminovic, I was talking to a guy who works in the hotel that Simunovic was staying in at the time of the Torino carry on. He was adamant that Simunovic wanted to stay at Celtic. He really didn’t want to got to Torino, but he would have went if he wasn’t wanted here. He was so happy that he stayed, and I think that was reflected in his performances.
I like Simunovic, he’s my kind of defender. Again, he’s got a ruthless streak. His distribution’s good. He reads the game well. He’s strong, he’s physical. Probably lacks a wee bit of pace in some respects, but he’s got almost everything you would need, although there is that worrying doubt about injuries, is there a dodgy knee? Can he play more than two games in a week? Well he seemed to do okay last season.
Harry: We did sort of nurse him through, because if you remember he wasn’t allowed to play two games a week until we got past the winter break, because Brendan would drop him. Your point about the ruthless streak, we’ve got the Samaras award that we’ll be discussing later, the Simunovic tackle on Kenny Miller came third in the Samaras award for the moment of the season.
Saint Anthony: How could that come third? Seriously, that was one of the highlights of my season. Wonderful.
Harry: Well, if you think about it, in all the highlights of the season, and I’ll take you through the other two later. Again, the other two, partly get back to the point we’ve discussed about when people vote for any of these things, and you see in Player of the Year awards for the press and for other things, people’s memories tend to be focused on the last three months of the season. The two moments that finish ahead of the Simunovic tackle happened even further on in the season than the Simunovic tackle. We’ll get onto that.
Simunovic, Gordon and Lustig, from what people are saying a bit of a surprise that they were in that. If I then go to the next three. In seventh, sixth, and fifth place, in this order, seventh place, Rogic, sixth place, Roberts, fifth place, Tierney. So Mark, what’s your thoughts?
Mark Cooper: I’ve a weakness for Rogic. The way he sets a pass in tight space on the half-turn is … I still think-
Harry: He doesn’t have fidgety feet.
Mark Cooper: Sorry?
Harry: He doesn’t have fidgety feet.
Mark Cooper: I didn’t even say fidgety. You’ll have to remember what I said before. Twitchy.
Harry: Twitchy feet.
Mark Cooper: Rogic, he sometimes has fitness … He doesn’t have the fitness of an Armstrong or Brown three or four years ago. But sometimes it can also be a wee bit overplayed. After the pre-season last summer he played 90 minutes four times in five games, from the end of August to the end of September. He also played 90 minutes away at City, and then the last 20 minutes of that game he was becoming more influential and getting the ball just outside their box and trying to thread passes through. So I think that can be a wee bit overplayed.
Also, I thought it was slightly overplayed, I remember it was probably about midway through the Champions League group stage, and people were just slightly criticising Rogic for not having a great influence on the play. But on the same time his pass set up Tierney for the goal against City. That was a lovely weighted pass. And also when we were playing pretty badly against Monchengladbach but it was still 0-0 with about five, 10 minutes to go until half-time, and from 40 yards out he plays this 40 yard diagonal pass which cut open their defence, and it goes to Sinclair about eight yards from goal, which Sinclair then I think puts over the bar or something.
In such a low scoring game like football, to have someone that can create those chances, it’s so valuable. And also he scores important goals. Before O’Dea put him out for practically half the season at about Christmas time, at that point he’d already scored about 10 goals. He’d scored in the final against Aberdeen, and then by the time he’d come back and recuperated he then obviously scored the winner at Aberdeen. He scored a goal against Beer Sheva in the 5-2. So although he isn’t yet running the team, and he’s almost the additional midfielder that can make way for McGregor or Armstrong, but his contribution is actually pretty significant.
Harry: So George, you’re a Rogic fan, aren’t you?
Lachie Mor: Indeed, I think he’s great.
Harry: Just something Mark said there about, I’m just looking at the possession that we’ve got, Rogic in seventh and Roberts in sixth, and for me the interesting thing is Mark’s point there that Rogic was out pretty much from Christmas onwards, and Roberts was only in the team as a first choice starter from the Rangers Cup semi-final really, because Forrest was keeping ahead in the team. So what are your thoughts on Rogic, Roberts and then Tierney in those positions? In fact, we’re talking about three players, Rogic, Roberts and Tierney, who missed a chunk of the season. Because Tierney obviously was out for a few months with his broken ankle.
Lachie Mor: That’s right. I think Rogic is the cleverest player we’ve got in terms of his ability to see a pass and make the pass. He doesn’t look really the same type of player. I agree with Mark on that. He’s got a wee bit of Riquelme, but I think there’s a resemblance to the way Riquelme used to run about in the midfield. I see that sometimes in the way Rogic plays. He has an eye for a pass, and none of the others have. They don’t always come off, but he sees them. And when they do come off, they’re brilliant. He’s not going to run around at a hundred miles an hour, it’s just not his style of play. I think if you’re going to have him in the team, you have to accept that.
I think Paddy Roberts had a tremendous end to the season, and he scored some marvellous goals and made some marvellous runs. But I don’t have a think he was going to be staying, I really don’t. I think we hoped he would stay, but I couldn’t see it. They weren’t going to go back to Manchester City. He was going to get a big deal somewhere else. More than we could afford.
Harry: As we’ve talked about in this podcast, if other clubs find out that Patrick Roberts can be picked up for seven, eight million quid, clubs in England will pick up a player of Patrick Roberts’ ability for seven, eight million quid and pay him 80, 90 grand a week.
Lachie Mor: Exactly, that’s the point. And he’s already had the Celtic experience, if you want to call it, of playing in a treble winning team and two league championship medals. He’s done that. And he is English. We had to accept he only ever came on loan, and it was to get experience and put himself in the shop window, which he did.
Tierney is just Tierney. I think he’s quite unique at the moment the way he plays, and he seems to have a love for the club that marks him out as a potential Celtic captain, but we’ll see.
Harry: Saint, I was asked this by someone down south actually in relation to Tierney. Why is he so loved by the fans like Lachie just talked about? And I started to write down why he was loved for the fans, and then started to think I could be describing Callum McGregor as much as I could be describing Kieran Tierney. So what is it about Kieran Tierney that’s elevated … Callum McGregor gets a wee bit more grief and a wee bit more criticism than him? What do you think, Saint?
Saint Anthony: I think Callum McGregor was very unlucky. I actually feel very guilty not putting him in my top 10. He was the 11th name and I was toying with whether to have him in or not, and I felt guilty, but again he was a guy who I felt at the end of the season came onto a game like some of them did, like Roberts did. But why is Callum McGregor not as popular as Kieran Tierney? It’s down to personalities, and one criticism of Celtic fans is that they can be very harsh on guys who are not particularly deserving of it. I can think back to years and years ago, guys like Harry Hood and Tommy Callaghan, used to get a real hard time off the crowd because they weren’t ferocious tacklers and they didn’t put it about the way Davie Hay did or Roy Aitken did. And I think Callum is a wee bit like that. He’s a wee bit lightweight at times in midfield. But what I love about Callum McGregor is he’s a continental-type player. He would not look out of place in Spanish football. He’s got that touch and we can take the ball in tight positions and he can move it on.
But I’m digressing here. We’re talking a wee bit too much about McGregor. The reason why Tierney is loved, as the guys were saying there, it’s his commitment, the wholeheartedness, and his talent. I don’t make this comparison lightly but he’s a left-footed Danny McGrain for me. He’s got everything. He tackles, he gets forward, he can cross, he’s got a terrific shot on him as well. He’s wholehearted, he’s the whole package. With regards to Tierney and Rogic, had it not been for injuries, those two guys would have been much higher up in the placings. And that brings me back to Roberts and Rogic. Roberts, yeah, really disappointed to see him go, because he’s my type of player. I just love to go watch guys like that. I do appreciate that it was almost impossible for us to keep him, because as George says there, he might fancy coming to us but there’s teams down there that are going to give him extravagant amounts of money that we can’t afford.
I like Tom Rogic as well, and I think it was George that was saying about Riquelme. Rogic remains for me a Trevor Brooking, the West Ham player in the ’70s and ’80s. He’s got that sort of lazy, loping stride. But I think that’s deceiving. I think he’s very much switched on, and again, repeating what some of the guys were saying, he’s brilliant at taking the ball on the half turn, and that’s a wonderful art that’s been lost to the game, and I think Rogic is a wonderful exponent of that kind of thing and he’s a thoroughbred footballer.
Lachie Mor: I think if I could say a bit more about Tierney, I think when Tierney came in as a young player, a lot of players come in and make an immediate impact. He never really let his level drop. He continued to play with that terrific enthusiasm. He would tackle anybody. Crowds got excited by him. He would run up and down … There were some games I remember when he was really running on empty when he was in his first season or so, but he never stopped trying to run. I think people appreciate that commitment. Plus I think he’s a very very good player.
Harry: Yeah, I think the thing for me, Mark, with Tierney is he’s played at left back, when we started with a back four and then switched to a three, he’s moved into a winger role. We’ve also started games with a back three where he’s been one of the three. So patently the management trust him as a footballer to play across that whole section.
Mark Cooper: Yeah, it’s quite interesting. I think Rodgers either this morning or yesterday was talking about Tierney as being a centre back for Scotland, so it’s quite interesting. Also, we’ll get onto Sinclair later on in the podcast I assume-
Harry: What made you think that?
Mark Cooper: I notice it’s Brown and De Vries as a one and two. The fact that Sinclair’s kind of strange. Again he’s an atypical player. He’s a kind of strange … He’s nominally our kind of high left player, but it’s not like he gets it like Roberts or Forrest and he generates play from there. Tierney is more actually in that position, and Sinclair moves inside and then becomes like the second striker as we are advancing up the pitch. So Tierney’s actually, although we’re talking about him being a left back, most of the time when he has the ball he’s in the opposition half. So he’s almost playing, not exactly, but he receives the ball about the same area of the pitch as Alan Thompson would have done in a four-four-two.
And yet he is obviously an excellent player. He’s obviously a pretty complete player. I think I’d quite like him to improve his right foot a wee bit when he’s in those tight situations. Like the game at Barcelona, it’s obviously quite a harsh thing to pick up when those two or three Barcelona players bearing down on you, but it was a part of his game that I thought he does have a flaw. He can improve something. But at the same time we’re talking about a boy who turned 20 the other week. So we look at Tierney as though he’s been playing with us for five years or something and he’s in his mid-20s. Something I really like, and I’m sure everyone’s picked up on it, are these cut-back, he’s drilled the low cut-backs when he gets on to near the byline, and they’re so effective for either Rogic coming in or Sinclair coming in to hit it first time. And yeah, that’s about it.
Harry: Saint, I know you’re a fan of Scott Sinclair, and when I was speaking to the guy this past week who was asking about Tierney, one of the things was the point Mark made there, that said some of Tierney’s best games have been with Sinclair in the team, because Sinclair cuts inside to almost become our second striker, and leaves Tierney to be a winger in that scenario. So do think Tierney has helped make Scott Sinclair’s performances at Celtic?
Saint Anthony: I think the two of them have got a good relationship in the field. They link very well together, and certainly there was games the two of them on the left-hand side were a very potent threat. The one thing I’d like to say is that Tierney did get injured for a while, and I think Izaguirre deserves great credit, because he came in to the team cold and he, because of his experience and his ability, the team were able to carry on regardless, and so Tierney wasn’t really missed. I don’t mean that in that I don’t want him back in the team. He is a better bet than Izaguirre, clearly. But the point I’m making is that when Izaguirre came into the team, he in turn provided the high performance level, and I think that’s something he should be very grateful for, that he was able to come in and basically Tierney wasn’t missed to the degree that he might have been otherwise.
Harry: You’re nodding your head there Lachie.
Lachie Mor: Well there were two things. I thought when he came into the team at first, because he’s a young guy, other teams targeted him. I know the instant in the Cup Final, the guy just sort of slapped back at him, but in the league match at Pittodrie, they tried putting that big guy up against him and firing cross balls at him. And that was a feature of his early games in the team. Put the big striker on him, and try and expose his lack of physical development, because he was just a boy. But I think as he’s getting stronger he’s coping better with that. In order to get the better of him physically you’ve got to foul him now. Whereas I think you could just overpower him in the past. But I agree with Steve, I thought Izaguirre was terrific. I love Izaguirre. I think he’s a brilliant player, and I feel really sorry that the guy, in order to get his place in the team, he’s had to put a really good player out of the team. Whereas on the other side, if Izaguirre played right back and Tierney played left back of that quality, the team would be bent better balanced, because not sure that Lustig is as good a player as Izaguirre.
Harry: For me the problem for Izaguirre was he wasn’t a great defender, because he plays as winger for Honduras half the time. And then his final cross ball wasn’t that great.
Lachie Mor: I don’t know, I think his distribution was pretty good. But he wasn’t a bad defender. How many seasons did he play, he was the first choice left back?
Harry: Oh I know, just if I think back to some key games where we’ve lost, and this is where I would say why Tierney’s in the team ahead of him, if I think of one or two key games we’ve lost, it’s because we’ve been on the counter-attack, Izaguirre’s not had the ability to come back and cover, and Kieran does.
Lachie Mor: In turbo terms I think he’s still got enough. I actually wonder sometimes why he didn’t play them both?
Mark Cooper: Of all the four fullbacks that we have, I think Izaguirre is actually the best in terms of receiving the ball in tight situations, like on the touchline, maybe on the halfway line, under pressure in European games. I think he actually holds onto the ball quite well, and won’t give up. Maybe his passing won’t be incredibly ambitious, but he’ll receive the ball under pressure and he’ll be able to manipulate the ball and then be able to give it back to the centre back or inside to the midfielder. And it isn’t like he’s creating anything but he’s keeping the move going in a way that I think Lustig can maybe be a little bit susceptible to giving over a turnover of the ball. They’re completely different players though obviously. We all know that the attributes that Lustig has, Izzy doesn’t have and vice versa.
Harry: Without wanting to sound negative, but people move on from our club. Those three, Rogic, and then Roberts and then Tierney. Well we know Roberts has gone. Saint, can you see anyone coming in for Rogic? There’s been a lot of talk of people coming in for Tierney. Do you think we’ll manage to keep Tierney for a period of time?
Saint Anthony: I don’t think there’s a problem with Tierney because I think his heart’s here. I think if he does move on he is a clever enough boy to realise that if he sticks about here for another two or three years it will help his development, he’ll get to play European football, he’ll become an international. So ideally by the age of 23 or so, if he does want to move, and I hope he doesn’t, he will be ready to move on. I’m not sure about anybody coming in for Rogic. I think it’s more a case of Brendan wanting to sacrifice Rogic to bring in a better class of player. I think Rogic is quite settled here. I don’t have any inclination that Rogic would be for the off.
Harry: You don’t think if a team came in this summer for Tierney, and it was the stature of a top six team in the EPL, so therefore he’d be getting offered a hundred grand a week, do you think he’d turn that down?
Saint Anthony: Well that would be very difficult. It would be head turning for any individual. But we need to be careful here because I still think Dembele will go in the summer. I think if there’s a big offer they get for him, he’ll be off. I’ve given up hope with Armstrong. I think that he will be leaving as well because of the contract situation. You’ve lost Roberts, and then you’re already talking about Tierney and Rogic. We need to draw a line here.
Harry: I know. I’m just asking because the problem we face is the money kicking about in the English premiership, players who would struggle to get on our team are changing hands in excess of 10 million quid and getting wages of upwards of 80, 90 grand a week.
Saint Anthony: I know. I appreciate that, and that’s the pitfalls. But I really don’t think Tierney’s ready to go to one of the big teams in England yet. And I say that with the greatest respect, because I think his phenomenal. But I do think that if he’s a clever enough boy from a good family background that he’ll stick around here for two or three years and really make his mark, and then he’ll be ready to go anywhere.
Mark Cooper: I agree. Oh sorry, go on George.
Lachie Mor: He continues to develop over the next couple of years, he might not just go to a top six team. He might go to a top team. His progress over the last two years has been pretty remarkable, and if he continues to develop, Celtic who qualified for the Champions League over the next couple of years and he makes progress under Brendan Rodgers, he would be a really good pick for a top top team, not necessarily in England.
Harry: Mark, Rogic and Tierney?
Mark Cooper: I completely agree with both the Saint and Lachie there. Just one regarding Tierney. Just one thing about Rogic, is that I could see a lot of teams being interested in Rogic, especially watching Australia in the Confederations Cup, and they see this 23, 24-year-old kid, who is six foot two, lovely touch, scored against Germany I think. Did he win the penalty against Germany as well?
Saint Anthony: He scored a penalty against Saudi Arabia.
Mark Cooper: Yep. And I could see a lot of teams being interested in him, but not from England. So you might be talking about … Say Simunovic for example, Simunovic, a lot of English teams could be interested in him after one more season. Does well in the Champions League again, and then you might be talking about something 15 million pounds for then a 23-year-old centre back, two years in the Champions League, strong. Whereas Rogic, I could see a Spanish team coming for him. I could see maybe an Italian team.
Harry: It seems to me he might suit French football as well.
Mark Cooper: Yeah, yeah. but they are going to offer, what, 4 million Euro, something like that. That sort of thing. And then you have to make the calculation, okay he might not even be a regular starter, a definite starter, but for 4 million Euro for a guy who can score, if he’s fit for the whole season, will score 15 plus goals, who’s maturing, who’s very creative. It’s kind of … For me it wouldn’t be worth it.
Lachie Mor: I remember you and I were on a podcast when he came back from Australia and I mentioned he was back … Sorry I take this back, I read it in the paper. And I remember at the time when Ronnie Deila saw him, he said he’s a brilliant player. He didn’t say that about many guys. This guy just arrives back from Australia, and his response was “he is a brilliant player”. And I think Rodgers thinks he’s a brilliant player.
Mark Cooper: There’s one thing about what Rodgers said. At some point during the season he gave, kind of apropos of nothing, after some league game, he said to the press guys, the most important thing that I’ve learnt in football is to limit space when you don’t have the ball. And that’s something, that would be the drawback on Rogic obviously.
Harry: So hopefully we will keep hold of them. It’s just that it’s one of these things, it’s a compliment to our squad that we are the only team … It’s amazing how a six million pound guy at Christmas has just changed hands for half a million quid. But we’re the only team with sellable players in Scottish football, and it gets talked about. So if I go through, fifth place Tierney, sixth place Roberts, seventh place Rogic, joint eighth place Simunovic and Gordon, and then tenth place Lustig. So I’m going to go to third and fourth place. You guys know this. What you guys don’t know is who is in first and second. So third and fourth place are, fourth place Moussa Dembele, third place Armstrong. So Saint, that’s not a million miles away from where you had them. So talk me through them.
Saint Anthony: Okay Dembele, I wasn’t sure what kind of player Dembele even was when we signed him to be honest. I haven’t seen anything of him, and my first couple of glimpses of him, I wasn’t that impressed. And then he came on fire against Rangers and became, he’ll be a legend spoken of for years. He’s got everything, Dembele. He’s a big strong boy, he’s got pace, he’s got a shot, he can finish, he’s got good control. And yet the one thing I think, and I hope and not being overcritical here, he will turn up in the Cup Final, he will turn up in the Rangers games, he will turn up in the European games, but I wasn’t convinced he was putting in a full shift when we were playing Ross County and St Johnstone. I just felt that some of the times he could have given us more. I’m not saying he wasn’t trying. I’m not saying that for a minute. But I do think he’s a big game player, and he rises to the big occasions, and maybe on a cold January day at McDiarmid Park or a similar place, he isn’t the same threat he would be otherwise. I do think, as I said previously, that the first big offer, maybe not the first big offer but certainly a big offer, he will be off in the summer. I don’t doubt it for a minute.
Lachie Mor: I don’t know. I don’t know if he’ll be leaving in the summer. I’ll wait and see. I think when he came in at the start of the season I wasn’t overly impressed with him. I thought he carried a bit of weight when he arrived at first. But he settled in to the team when he got into the team eventually. He scored more goals against these teams than you think. He scored goals against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. He scored goals against Ross County and places like that. So he maybe looked a wee bit as if he wasn’t putting in a full shift, but when the chances came along he put most of them away. I still think that Griffiths was unfairly compared to Dembele in terms of folk would say is he didn’t recycle the ball as well as Dembele. The ball didn’t stick to him the way it stuck to Dembele. As far as I could see it was six and half a dozen. Because I think Griffiths was greatly underrated. Maybe because he was a wee Ned from Scotland, and he wasn’t an exotic potential 50 million pound player. But I would like to keep them both, because I think they both have different strengths.
Harry: I think one of Griffith’s problems is he sees himself as a striker, and strikers score goals, and his problem sometimes is once he gets to 60 minutes in a game, if he hasn’t scored a goal he then starts to shoot on sight instead of passing the ball. And I think he’s tried … I think the coaching staff were trying to persuade him that’s not necessary but he’s maybe not taken that on board.
Lachie Mor: I was interested in Brendan’s comments last week on the radio. Celtic TV I think. They asked him about Griffiths the international, and he put the goals to one side and he talked about his performance. He says he thought he was brilliant against England. He said everything you want your striker to do, he did to a very very high level. He says the goals were the icing on the cake. And I think your point is true, I think you need to persuade Leigh Griffiths that the goals are the icing on the cake. And the goals would-
Saint Anthony: Can I be controversial here? I actually think that Leigh Griffiths is a better all-round finisher than Dembele.
Harry: I think Dembele is a better all-round player-
Lachie Mor: No, no.
Harry: … which is why Dembele, whenever he goes will be a 40 million pound player.
Lachie Mor: I haven’t seen anything that made him so much better than Griffiths, that he would be a 40 million pound player.
Mark Cooper: I think Griffiths’s performance against England was superb. I was pretty pleased when I was watching that interview that you mentioned there with Rodgers out in Austria, and he was discussing his performance, the way he occupied Smalling and Cahill, he completely dominated them. He was going for headers, and maybe they were winning the header, but then he was anticipating the loose ball and he was picking up the loose ball, and playing quickly off onto our midfielders. He was exceptional that day, apart from those two excellent free kicks. But I still think that Dembele, his hold-up play on a regular basis I think is quite a bit better. I think the game at Ibrox, the Rangers game-
Harry: The ball in the the corner flag.
Mark Cooper: I was watching your eyes go there. The Rangers Derby, El Glasico. He was exceptional in the New Year derby. He really was. He completely dominated their defence, and I think Saint’s right in that he is a big-game player and he was perhaps more motivated for big games. At the same time, when I’m thinking about player of the season, I weight the big games more than when we’re playing Hamilton away. The players who made a difference, I had Dembele number two because of that. Because if you think about how many games is it that, the six games we played against Rangers, the six games we played against Aberdeen, the four we played against Hearts, four or five, and then six group stage and then the qualifiers. You’re getting to about 20 games that are the important games of the season, and in those 20 or so games, Dembele was excellent. Dembele, for four games of those six, dominated Rangers. He scored two at home to City. He was excellent away at Monchengladbach.
Harry: Three of the people on this podcast at Dembele had number two. Lachie, you didn’t. You had him a bit further down. What about Armstrong? Because 12 to nine months ago, no-one would have believed that Armstrong would finish as voted in at number three by over 200 people who emailed in. No one would have thought that Armstrong would finish third.
Lachie Mor: I think my reaction to Armstrong was that I was disappointed that he hadn’t prospered as he was in the previous season. It was curious to see how he didn’t actually figure at the beginning of the season. I think it was after a few games that he and the manager seemed to come to a sort of understanding as to where he would play. He plays with tremendous energy, but he’s still capable of having games where the passes are rushed, and he seems to lack a wee bit of confidence. But overall through the season he was one of the most effective players we had. And towards the end of the season he was clearly played at a much higher level than he did last season.
They paid decent money for him by Scottish standards. I was surprised when they bought him. I didn’t get any sense before he came to us that Celtic were a club he would come to. So when he came, I was quite pleased. I was impressed with his attitude. But I think he’s one of these guys who, maybe a wee touch of the Brian McClair about him. Again, another guy who’s cerebral graduate type guy, who maybe has a bigger picture of his career than just playing for the Celtic, and it concerned me that he didn’t get his contract tied up. At the moment, with clubs sniffing around, and remember last year you told us about the difference in salary, that even Southampton were prepared to pay Virgil compared to what we were paying him, and I have a feeling that the agent may be … We’ll wait and see how persuasive the manager can be to get him to sign another contract, stay another year or two and then perhaps again move to a bigger club. I’m not sure that would be the best thing for Armstrong to leave Celtic. I really would not. I don’t think he’s yet a consistently great player.
Harry: The problem is though, if he signs a two, three year contract now at Celtic, unless someone comes in with a really big bid, then his opportunity to get that huge payday might be gone because he’ll be 28, 29 at the end of this contract.
Lachie Mor: Is he that old? I wasn’t sure what age he was.
Harry: I think he’s, what, 25.
Mark Cooper: I think he’s 25 now.
Harry: Yeah, so if he signs a three-year deal that’s 28 for the move. But it’s a challenge for the club, because this time last year, they probably couldn’t give him away. So the concept of offering him a bumper contract this time last year was probably furthest from their minds. So you’ve mentioned that you think that he just might be gone and we’re not going to keep him, but then again for the same thing as you, this time last year you wouldn’t have been thinking he’d be third in our top 10, would you?
Lachie Mor: I think it’s curious that they’ve brought in what’s his name, Kouassi is it? They’ve now brought in another young midfield player, and they appear to be prepared to spend big money on the boy from Chelsea, who as far as I can say is a midfield player. A lock-picker. So I have the feeling that it may be on the radar that he’s going.
Lachie Mor: Certainly don’t need new midfield players if they keep them.
Saint Anthony: I don’t doubt for a moment that Armstrong is going to go. I think the contract thing’s went too far now, they were still talking about the signing and he didn’t, it hasn’t happened, so I’d be really disappointed to lose him because I think he’s turned into a fantastic player. I think as well as the goalscoring threat and the runs from midfield, which he reminds me very much of Stiliyan Petrov in that respect. He’s cool in the penalty area, he places the ball into the net, he’s very rarely hurries. He has great composure. But my abiding feeling about Stuart Armstrong is that the Ronnie Deila syndrome that when Ronnie played him out wide on the left and he was like a fish out of water. Without being condescending to Ronnie, I think it was an indication of how Ronnie was trying things that just weren’t working. And as soon as Brendan saw Stuart Armstrong, he thought to himself, “central midfield player attacking through the middle”. Which every Celtic fan knew, Stuart Armstrong was a central midfield player, apart from Ronnie Deila.
So it annoys me a wee bit that we ruined him for a couple of seasons under Ronnie. We never saw his best. And now when we are seeing his best, he’s just about to come to his best, we’re going to need to move him on. I think what George is saying there is very significant, that the Kouassi guy is in, the new boy is in from Ipswich, there’s talk about the Chelsea guy, and they’ve already got Rogic and Armstrong and various other midfield players. So reading between the lines, Armstrong is off.
Harry: So I’ll pause there on our top 10. so we’ve got Armstrong, Dembele, Tierney, Roberts, Rogic, Simunovic, Gordon, Lustig. And I’ll go to the Samaras award. So I’ve already mentioned that in third place was the Simunovic tackle. In second place was Tierney lifting the Cup. And by far the main … It was interesting actually because as the votes came in, this wasn’t … The first of 20 votes that came in, this was only mentioned by a couple of people, then all of a sudden everybody else voted and this then started to flood the betting. And Mark, this wasn’t your moment of the season but it was most people’s moment of the season. It wasn’t my moment of the season actually either, and I mean that only because there was an element that it was too obvious. It’s Rogic’ goal in the Cup Final. But then you were busy trying to explain to an Australian female who was occupying other attentions of yours at the time the offside rule. Yes exactly. So it might not be in the forefront of your mind, the Rogic goal at that time, but it was a good moment wasn’t it?
Mark Cooper: What do you want me to say? Yeah, it was great. I’m the worst person to ask for this.
Mark Cooper: I’m the worst person to ask for this.
Harry: He wasn’t paying attention to the cup final goal. Rogic getting the winner. Best moment of the season? You put it down as the best moment of the season.
Lachie Mor: Well I had gone out. I couldn’t cope with it.
Harry: Right, so that’s two people on this podcast who haven’t seen it.
Lachie Mor: I came back and as I left the car, between the car and the house and I opened the front door, I heard this tremendous cheer from the telly. I thought, “Oh no, what’s happened?” And I heard them shout Rogic. You beauty. I have watched it about a hundred times. Periodically I just put it on and watch the last 20 minutes again.
Harry: You can actually say that there is an element of me thinking that my moment of the season was not something that I saw in the flesh. My moment of the season could also be classed as that fantastic camera shot from behind Gordon as the Rogic goal goes in the back of the net, because for me it just encapsulates everything about football in one three or four second camera pan.
Lachie Mor: And just to say, you don’t remember this, Stephen. Do you remember when they scored the winner against Dundee United? It was a minute to go or something like that when McGarvey scored. And Dundee United had a last throw of the dice. Fired the ball into the box. Pierce O’Leary booted over the bar, remember?
Saint Anthony: Yep, yep.
Lachie Mor: The same thing happened really then. Having won the game, they nearly throw it away in the very last second, and the goalkeeper has to make a save.
Saint Anthony: I think Aberdeen deserve credit for that, because they’ve swung a great ball into the box, and the Celtic defenders hesitated and Gordon almost with the good fortune managed to pounce on it. George makes a good point there about Dundee United, but I would say the other final because it reminded me very much of the Frank McAvennie final.
Lachie Mor: Same with me.
Saint Anthony: We were coming to the end of the centenary season. It’s such a special season, such a significant season. And to get a late win in the Cup Final is phenomenal. There was so much at stake in the Cup Final there, you had your unbeaten record, you had the treble at stake, and if you had have lost it, it sounds terrible to say it but it would have left a bad taste through the summer, and would have been such a big anti-climax. But not only to win it but to win it in such dramatic circumstances is just absolutely beyond belief. And Rogic deserves great credit because he was getting in his stride and he kept on going and he kept on going, and it was a phenomenal finish.
Mark Cooper: I remember when the podcast before the Cup Final, we were talking and we were saying that it would be good if Aberdeen actually turned up. I digress into a kind of rant about the middle-sized teams in Scottish football becoming better, but the fact as Saint says, the fact that Aberdeen turned up and they deserve credit. It was a properly competitive game. And that obviously adds to that moment, that everything’s on the line, it’s the last minute, and then Rogic picks up the ball, waltzes through three players, puts it in the net, it’s fantastic. But it was because of Aberdeen’s good performance for about 55 or 60 minutes.
Harry: Which I suppose is part of the great frustration for me as someone who will only enhance Celtic if the rest of Scottish football improve their position, the utter contempt that one other Glasgow club and parts of the media have for our game, that they only ever … and the president of the SFA has for our game, that what would make our game better is if the team who I expect to finish behind Aberdeen, behind Hearts and possibly behind Hibs this season, I expect the second best team in Glasgow to finish fifth, or fourth at best this coming season. Yet Aberdeen have been bypassed in the chat, and whoopdy-doo, let’s have a great Rangers. I think it’s very patronising. The point you just made that it was Aberdeen that made the cup final.
Saint Anthony: To put it in context, if it wasn’t for Celtic, Aberdeen would have won the treble. Because they came second in every competition. I think that’s a remarkable achievement given the fact that Celtic were so good last season. It wasn’t the fact that Aberdeen were particularly poor for finishing second. They deserve a lot of credit for going the whole way and pushing, especially in the Scottish Cup Final. I agree that they never turned up in the League Cup Final. It was very one-sided, and I suppose you could argue that Celtic ran away with the league. But nevertheless, for Aberdeen’s resources, they had a really good season and I think they should be proud of what they achieved, although they ultimately never got any cups.
Lachie Mor: I found in recent years that Celtic, you’re obviously disappointed if Celtic get beat in the Cup Final or a semi-final or even an earlier round. But once you get over the disappointment, I personally start supporting the other teams. I start taking an interest in what Aberdeen are doing, Ross County are doing, and then there’s Caley Thistle, if it was the final, semi-final I’d watch the games. And I’d definitely want them to do well. Once Celtic are out of the equation, I think Scottish football is interesting and enjoyable. I really would like, as you say, the other teams to get better.
Saint Anthony: The thing you’re saying that George, and I agree and I’m going to back you were here in this respect, in the four years that Rangers were in the lower divisions, when they were starting off again, this was a boom time for Scottish football. You’ve got teams like St Johnstone winning a cup, St Mirren winning a cup, Ross County, Inverness, Kilmarnock. Some of that was our expense, but I think you can be magnanimous enough to live with that, because you have to appreciate that the Celtic fans were going to get a lot of enjoyment and were going to get a lot of success. So you cannot hold it against small teams if they beat us. It really annoys me about the press not speaking up that the success of the smaller teams in Scotland during that period, and saying how good that was for the game, that the trophies were spread more evenly. Certainly in the cup competitions. We ran away with the league. But it goes to prove as well how Rangers financially doped the league, because they were winning a lot of these trophies in a three or four year period that other clubs might have won otherwise.
Lachie Mor: Shows how hard it is to win the treble. That several years running, how difficult it is to win the treble. This year was remarkable so it was.
Harry: So that’s that.
Lachie Mor: I was really disappointed that St Johnstone got beat today.
Saint Anthony: What was the score?
Lachie Mor: They got beat one nothing.
Harry: They behaved like the rest of Scottish football does every season, and has done for the last 25 years. It starts to bug me now that people talk about, and you hear the press talking about “for the last five or six years”. It has been for the last 20 years. It is 20 years of garbage.
Mark Cooper: Or more.
Harry: I know. More.
Mark Cooper: I was speaking to an English friend today. I know we’re going to go into the last two, but I was speaking to an English friend today, and I said 20 years as well, and then I had to think back. It’s actually about 30 years now.
Harry: Aye, it’s nearly 30.
Mark Cooper: And another thing, and I’m digressing again here, yesterday I was looking at Aberdeen’s account, and their wage budget 6.8 million. And the first team I looked at was AIK Stockholm. Their wage budget is 6.1 million a year. And that’s a club who have sold to players to Real Madrid in the last five years. They’ve sold players to Besiktas, and a few others across Europe. Even one to us. Our medium-size clubs are about the same level as … Okay, Malmo have Champions League money for the last four years or something, they’ve qualified once or twice so they’re a bit different. But the fact that Hibs were beaten 7-0 at home a few years ago by Malmo before they got into the Champions League. They’re at the same league financially. We should be competing at the same level as the smaller Swiss clubs, the bigger Swedish clubs.
Harry: My big bug is when you hear them say things like well of course that’s because they’re technically better than us. Why? There is zero reason why they should be technically better than us. Zero.
Lachie Mor: Especially when you think, I know it’s a long time ago but during that golden time of the ’60s, when they were really good Scottish teams and great Scottish players. Go and play an Icelandic team or a Dutch team even, and horse them. So how can they suddenly become better than us?
Harry: It’s another reason for me way Stewart Regan’s position at the head of the SFA is untenable, because actually, much as we’re talking about this and it’s been bad for 25 plus years, the coefficient of the national side and our club sides has deteriorated during his reign, when he’s in charge of the Football Association in Scotland. So he’s done nothing to enhance it. The simple thing is for me, whatever we have been doing for the last 15 years, scrap it. If we’ve tried three different ways in the last 15, 20 years, scrap it, because whatever we are doing doesn’t work.
Lachie Mor: I think with Stewart, they lost a foreign coach, and then they lost McClair very quickly after it. They’ve gone in there and thought something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.
Mark Cooper: Just one thing is that Celtic are actually doing quite well. Scottish football … You know how we changed our model to incorporate St. Ninians, and the players are within the school and they also train at the same time altogether. It’s interesting that Tierney and McGregor have been through Celtic’s system since they were nine years old. And it seems as though the kid Dembele and Johnson for me looks a decent young player. Aitchison looks like a decent young player. They’re coming through the same system. So hopefully at least for us, we are now beginning to produce players again.
Harry: I’ve been told to expect that Ralston and Aitchison, by the end of next season might have played 10 games each, and Ralston and in particular, maybe more.
Lachie Mor: I often go to see Queen of the South. So I see these other teams that come to play Premier sides, and every other week there’s a former Celtic youth academy player playing for one or other of the teams. And they’re invariably the best players in those teams. Might not be good enough to play for Celtic, but they’re stick-outs in the other teams. And it’s throughout the league.
Harry: So that’s that, and we’ll get onto my final question that I did last year as well. I can’t remember what people’s answers are, so it’s a bit of a waste of time me asking it anyway, so you can give this a bit of thought before we get the top to of who you think might be a star in next season’s top 10. Obviously the top two will consist of two Scotts: Scott Sinclair and Scott Brown. so I’m very quickly going to ask each of you in order, so Lachie, which way round? Scott Sinclair, Scott Brown? Which way round do think it’s going to be?
Lachie Mor: Scott Brown first for me.
Mark Cooper: Brown has to win.
Saint Anthony: Dear God almighty. Sinclair does not win this then we should just wrap it up.
Harry: Well my own personal thoughts are that I think that Sinclair’s position is an indication of how if you are they penalty kick taker, people forget that you’ve had a bad game. Because you’ve put the ball in the back of the net sometimes when you’ve not played well and you get some goals. However, nobody is correct, and everybody is right. Because we have a tie for the Celtic Underground top 10. Scott Sinclair and Scott Brown are tied for joint first place. After over 200 votes. With the way that I did it, it’s a bit like single transferable vote, if somebody was first they got 10 points, if someone was second they got nine points, someone was that they got eight points, and everyone’s top 10, tallied them all up, and as I got into the last couple of votes it was neck and neck as I was tallying them up, and then I counted them and it was a tie.
Mark Cooper: Saint, where did you have Brown? Can you remember?
Saint Anthony: Off the top of my head it was fourth.
Mark Cooper: Terrible, terrible.
Harry: Brown, fourth place for Saint.
Lachie Mor: There you go.
Harry: There you go. Lachie, do you remember where you had Brown?
Lachie Mor: No.
Harry: Hold on, I’ll tell you. I’m looking through, looking through. Why cant I find you when I’m looking for you? Not there. You had Brown, Lachie, you had Brown in first place.
Lachie Mor: Aye.
Harry: You had Brown, Armstrong, Sinclair. I had Brown, Dembele, Armstrong, Sinclair. Mark, you had-
Mark Cooper: Brown, Dembele, Sinclair.
Lachie Mor: Losing things.
Harry: So, we had Brown a wee bit behind. So Saint, do you want to explain why you think it’s a travesty that Sinclair’s not run away with it, and why we are wrong and you’re right? Go on and explain.
Saint Anthony: This is why Scott Sinclair should have won it. For the first time in years, the first few games that he played, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. Because every time he got the ball, I thought, “Whoah, he’s going to do something here.” His trickery, his pace, the finishing, he carries a threat. He even drops off deep, and he can hold the ball well. Guys are frightened to come there because he has got that burst of pace to get by them, so they stand off him. He made a brilliant contribution right from the beginning, from the day at Tynecastle where he streaked through the middle to get the goal. The other reason why I think he’s the player of the year is that there was a wee period that I thought we were going to struggle round about Christmas, when Dembele got injured and then Griffiths got injured. And Scott Sinclair took on the mantle of goalscorer. He took on the … He played as the striker upfront, which isn’t his normal game, and in my eyes he was really good at it. He carried the team in that respect for a few weeks, until the team found their feet again and they got Dembele or Griffiths back, to allow Sinclair to get back to playing slightly on the left-hand side. I just think he is by far the best player in Scotland.
It’s kind of interesting that there’s a guy in my local who’s a Rangers fan. He’s a good guy and he’s quite a deep thinker in the game, and he said to me in the early months of the season, what a signing Sinclair is. I said, “What do you mean?” And he goes, “See when you buy quality like that at our level, it stands out a mile, and that’s money well spent with Scott Sinclair.” Another thing as well as that he is a player that the fans have taken to, and he’s a blue-chip signing in the respect that he is a class act. He could play for most of the teams in the English Premiership. In fact he’s been at Chelsea, he’s been at Man City, he’s been at Swansea. He’s been about the place. And I have no doubt in my eyes that he was Celtic’s best player last year. But I will say kind words on Scott Brown as well, and one of the moments of the season for me was the drop-ball against Joey Barton when we played Rangers in September, and Brown went right through him. And I think that spoke volumes for Scott Brown.
Harry: So Mark, Saint has eloquently put the case for Sinclair edging above Brown. So do you want to explain why he’s wrong and you are right, and it’s Brown who should be in first place?
Mark Cooper: Well firstly I basically agree with Saint that Sinclair offers Celtic something that we don’t have, and it’s like Gil Scott Heron, that arrow where he gets the ball and he just drives straight at goal. The really impressive thing about that I found was that when he did it away at Barcelona, about four times and they couldn’t get the ball off him. He was an excellent outlet away in Germany, when we were on the counter-attack and he would just carry the ball about 40 yards up the pitch. So if that’s going to be … Hopefully Dembele’s stays for next season, and it will be really interesting to see those two on the break, like what happened at Ibrox with the New Year game, that those two are making combinations as we are breaking up the pitch would be really good.
Brown for me was comfortably the best player. As I was saying before with Dembele, why Dembele was my number two, that say we play 60 games a season more or less, and you take the Rangers games, the Hearts games, the Aberdeen games. You take the qualifiers and the group stage games, takes you to about 20 games. Of those 20 games, Scott Brown, I would be surprised if anyone would disagree that Scott Brown wasn’t the best player in those 20 games. For instance, in the Champions League he covered 70,000 metres. He was amongst the top five midfielders for covering ground. Out of every single Champions League player in the group stage, he made the most interceptions. For any midfielder in the group stage, who had more than 200 passes, so basically excluding the players who played one or two games or something, he had a 96 percent pass completion. It was the highest of any midfielder who completed more than 200 passes, according to UEFA.
And this is for Celtic. This isn’t Barcelona, where they have 10 different options to pass to all of the time circulating around the pitch. This is us under pressure when Barcelona and Guardiola’s City are trying to close him down, and he kept the ball. As I said to you before in the previous podcast, when we were playing City away, in the last group stage game, the Argentinian co-commentator on Fox Sports says for me Brown has been one of the best players in the Champions League this year. Watch him. He doesn’t lose the ball. And he was right. Brown was exceptional for us in the Champions League. Especially the first six months, to get us into the Champions League and then to have a further fairly decent showing in the Champions League, was mostly down to Brown. Although I don’t want to overly criticise Sinclair, I thought he had an excellent season and I had him as my number three of the season, he didn’t score in the Champions League. Even Brown got a goal against Beer Sheva. So for contribution in the biggest games, I think Brown was comfortable our best player. For me, playing against Barcelona or Monchengladbach away, that has more weight than five games against Hamilton and Inverness and whatever. They’re the games that really define our season.
Saint Anthony: I think the thing that Sinclair brings to the table is Celtic should always have a personality player. There should always be a player there that the fans take to who sing a special song, and obviously he’s got that special song now. He reminds me very much of Hendrick in the sense that when Hendrick had the dreadlocks and it was a very identifiable player on the pitch, and you see something of it with the mad haircut, that he is a very identifiable player on the pitch. So he represents a personality in the team which the fans have taken to their heart, and I think that’s important because I don’t think they’ve had that for a number of years. I think he has a very close relationship with the supporters, and I’m hopeful that that’s something that’s going to increase in the seasons ahead.
Harry: Lachie, your thoughts on Brown?
Lachie Mor: I accept what Stephen says about those a dynamic there to the way he plays, the way he runs at teams. And he promises much. I think I wrote two articles that two guys who are great goalscorers, as opposed to guys who are scorers of great goals, and I think he falls into the latter category, because I think it misses a lot of easy chances. And even this week watching the friendly games, he missed a sitter against that team the other night that I could have scored. I think he does that, not more often than not, more than you would expect, for a player of his ability. But he scores terrific goals. I found him at times frustrating, because the guys that make these dynamic runs don’t always complete them. So I accept that he was a key player for us last season, but I think Mark’s right. I think his contribution has to be measured against other factors. And as far as him being a fans’ favourite, he’s no more a fans’ favourite to my mind than Leigh Griffiths.
Saint Anthony: Listen, but I meant to say was that the fact that their supporters have got a very distinctive song in his favour-
Mark Cooper: Oh come on, he’s not winning because of a song.
Lachie Mor: Honest to God.
Harry: Paddy McCourt had a song.
Saint Anthony: What I’m trying to say-
Lachie Mor: I still can’t make out the words of that song. What is it they sing? I don’t know what the song-
Mark Cooper: Harry, do you want to sing it?
Harry: It’s to Supertramp’s-
Mark Cooper: Supertramp?
Harry: Supertramp’s Scotty Sinclair
Mark Cooper: Sing it, sing it now.
Harry: No. I’ll do that later.
Saint Anthony: The point I’m going to make here … I’m going to make a wee bit of a humorous point, but I’m serious at the same time. Scott Sinclair is the kind of player I thought Aiden McGeady should have been. An early Aiden McGeady when I saw him and I thought this boys got so much potential here but it never materialised, whereas Scott Sinclair to me is a player I hoped that Aiden might have been for us. I know, I’m pulling Harry’s leg here to a certain degree, but I’m serious the point that I make because McGeady could have been something if he had moved up the levels that we all hoped, but I look at Scott Sinclair and the position he plays, on the left-hand side, cutting in on his right foot, and that was very much the position that McGeady held in the team at the time.
Mark Cooper: Sinclair had an excellent season last season. The way he carries the ball, he offers something different. He’s so quickly, he’s dynamic. When he’s running at pace he could he keeps the ball so close to himself, and as Saint says, he’s clinical. His finishing, for a player carrying the ball, I actually think his finishing is very good. If you think about the goal away at Inverness for example. As we break at pace, as he goes on to that right foot, I think he’s very good. He is very good. But at the same time, if you look at the European games, he carried the ball well away. At home he missed a very good chance at 0-0 against Monchengladbach, and in 7 appearances I think he had in the qualifiers and the great games he didn’t score.
Lachie Mor: The comparison I would have made for Sinclair was he was like Bellamy, more than Henrik Larsson. I’m glad that the comparison with Henrik Larsson was about his hairdo, because he doesn’t come into the same galaxy as Henrik Larsson in terms of ability.
Saint Anthony: Let me come in. Let me come in there, George, just to say that-
Lachie Mor: He is very like Bellamy in the way they carry the ball and score a brilliant goals.
Mark Cooper: Yeah, I agree with that.
Saint Anthony: Let me come in there just to make the point that Sinclair had a far better first season than Henrik Larsson had.
Lachie Mor: Not at all. No. He might have had a better first game-
Saint Anthony: First season?
Lachie Mor: Go back and watch the videos.
Saint Anthony: First season, Henrik was nowhere near the player he became.
Lachie Mor: That’s different. But Henrik was brilliant in that first season. Absolutely brilliant. He went on to be a superstar, but apart from that first game, he was absolutely brilliant. Go back and watch that video of the year he stopped at 10. Henrik Larsson was there every week, scoring goal after goal. You’ll not buy that one. You’ll not take that one.
Harry: You’re supposed to be talking up the team, not falling out about whether Henrik Larsson’s first season was-
Lachie Mor: I have to accept he’s a very good player, but he is no Henrik Larsson. And you cannot say he was better in his first season than Henrik, because he wasn’t. His first game he was.
Saint Anthony: Right, okay. Henrik’s goal return the first season was actually by his standards quite average. He only scored 18 goals. Scott Sinclair got, how many did he get? Did he get 26?
Harry: How many penalties did Scott Sinclair score?
Lachie Mor: Henrik made loads of goals. Henrik terrorised defences.
Harry: How many penalties did Scott Sinclair score last season?
Lachie Mor: I don’t know.
Saint Anthony: There was nothing in Henrik Larsson’s first season to indicate the player he was going to become.
Lachie Mor: That’s nonsense.
Harry: I would respectfully disagree slightly on that.
Lachie Mor: What’s that still?
Harry: However, so we’ve got a tie in top place. I think all of this demonstrates we’ve got a fantastic squad that is going to be there or thereabouts for the treble again this season. We are going to only improve it, and let’s see how we get on in Europe. So the final final question for everybody, and I just want one player, is somebody who wasn’t in the top 10 this season, who you think might make it into the top 10 next season. You can even do that hedging your bets thing of saying somebody we’ve not signed yet. So I’ll start with you Saint. Is there going to be somebody in the top 10 next season … Do you know there’s some guy, he’s never been on this podcast since he made this type of comment. I chucked him off. Young guy called Jack Lyons, and he had Eoghan O’Connell would be in this year’s top 10. I wonder what happened to Jack. Anyway, so Saint, who’s your player in the top 10?
Saint Anthony: I’m going to go for Leigh Griffiths, because he is the obvious choice. And the fact that like George, I’m a huge Leigh Griffiths fan. I think he’s the kind of player … I think he’s approaching the peak now of his career. We saw it in the England game, we saw it towards the end of the season. It’s a disappointment to me that Brendan hasn’t got a formation that he can maybe utilise Griffiths and Dembele. Whichever formation that may be, but if you’re asking me who is going to win it next season, I’ve got very very high hopes for Leigh Griffiths, and I’m horrified at the prospect of anybody suggesting that he should be sold for whatever reason it is. I know he’s got baggage, and I know he can be a difficult character, but going by that adage then Jock Stein should have sold Jimmy Johnstone in 1968. He didn’t, because he appreciated that he brought something to the table, and I hope Brendan realises that he’s got a wee gem there in Leigh Griffiths. And with a stroke of luck, he’ll do even better next season than what he did this season, and he’ll be in the top 10.
Mark Cooper: I’d assumed that McGregor … McGregor was unlucky not to be in the top 10 this season. So just on that basis I can see him sneaking into the top 10 next year. I think if Dembele stays, he’ll be number one. I think he’s had a very good first season, and if he stays he’ll be excellent in the Champions League, and he’ll dominate Scottish football next season.
Harry: Okay. Lachie?
Lachie Mor: I think that McGregor continues to develop, he will be, and so will Leigh Griffiths. Because if Leigh Griffiths gets in the team against him.
Harry: Okay, so with that-
Lachie Mor: Where did Leigh Griffiths finish last year?
Harry: Last year … He was number one last season.
Lachie Mor: That’s what I thought.
Harry: He was number one. Actually, last season people voted for the front three and then, as somebody said in their submission last year, I’m not allowed to stick “Triallist” in the top 10, otherwise I would. So last season people were struggling, so it was Griffiths last season was the winner. Before we fall out about Henrik Larsson and his first season, or Jimmy McGrory or whoever, I will leave the top 10. The only thing I would say, do you know actually, talking about comparisons, Saint, McGregor reminds me of Paul Wilson. I grew up not knowing why Celtic fans got on Paul Wilson’s back. I started going to football when Paul Wilson was the whipping boy of the sport.
Lachie Mor: Lovely footballer.
Saint Anthony: Paul was a fine player, who again never really fulfilled his potential the way that they hoped. And I see Paul Wilson maybe being more similar to Sinclair, because he had that electric burst.
Harry: No, I’m just talking about in terms of the fans getting on his back.
Saint Anthony: Do fans get on his back though? Tommy Callaghan was the guy for me when I was a boy I always thought got a hard time.
Lachie Mor: The fans used to give him have hard time.
Mark Cooper: I think that after the two Rangers games, the two Rangers goals, I think that’s over now. I think the fans have now embraced McGregor.
Harry: I agree. Because the fans are so much in awe of the opinion of Brendan Rodgers. Brendan Rodgers telling the fans that McGregor is a good player has also changed people’s opinions. With that, I will say guys, thanks very much, and onwards and upwards for the new season.