The most breathtaking, jaw dropping moments of Celtic’s season were encapsulated in the 2-1 Champions League victory over Barcelona. On a night of sheer joy and pandemonium, the noise erupting from Celtic Park as Victor Wanyama’s stunning header ripped the back of the Barca net was deafening. From this explosion of rapture the Victor Wanyama song emerged to the fore, belted out like never before. It was a tribute not just to the goal scored but marked the recognition of a player who was at the top of his game. Wanyama was brushing aside high calibre European opponents and generally adding a couple of million to his price tag every time he looked to control Celtic’s midfield play with a combination of strong tackling and neat passing.
Of course one man does not make a team but Wanyama’s presence in the midfield in the Champions League was incredibly impressive, even more so, for someone so young.
2012-13 really saw big Victor cement his place in the Celtic team and at times it was hard to recall that he was still only in his early 20’s. Great displays on those European nights really showed what a bargain buy Victor had been. In today’s crazy prices, largely down to the obscene amounts spent in the English Premiership, the £900,000 spent on Wanyama the previous season was proving to be a shrewd investment.
As Victor’s European performances were being noted across football Neil Lennon was naturally talking up his player and constantly marking up the likely price tag.
Wanyama’s goal against Barcelona was his 2nd in European competition as he scored the final goal versus Helsingborg in the Champions League Play off round.
Domestically, Wanyama’s form dipped at times along with the rest of the team particularly after intense mid week Champions League games. Having said that, his goal tally for the season was only one short of 10 which is no mean achievement for a holding midfielder.
Wanyama was a regular selection by Neil Lennon and only Fraser Forster made more starting line ups than him in the SPL. Wanyama’s regular presence and growing maturity where a vital ingredient to Celtic’s midfield with Scott Brown being on the sidelines due to his ongoing injury problems.
The great thing about Wanyama though was his all round strength allied with great technique. Increasingly in games he was becoming the dominant figure at Celtic corners rising above opposition players to deliver well timed headers. In addition Wanyama was not wary of shooting from distance to good effect on more than a few occasions. This was a welcome sight given Celtic’s requirement to often break down packed SPL defences with short attacking passing around the 18 yard line.
Perhaps the 5-0 demolition of St Mirren away encapsulated Wanyama’s shooting skills. Although the game was memorable not only for the scoreline but also for Efe Ambrose’s triple quadruple somersault celebration, Wanyama scored with a low drilled shot from 15 yards before minutes later curling in a sublime long range effort which gave the St Mirren keeper absolutely no chance. This was October and Wanyama had already exceeded his goalscoring record for the previous season.
Wanyama’s positional play often meant he would not be picked up by defenders and he was often seen making a late entrance into the area to be on the end of a free kick or a cross. In the January home win a neat move resulted in a back post cross from Lustig and there was Wanyama ghosting in to hammer a header home having completely lost his defender.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was not seeing Wanyama in the Scottish Cup Final with him having picked up a yellow card and a suspension in the classic semi final against Dundee Utd.
Effectively, with all the talk about Wanyama being sold this summer, the Cup Final would have been a fitting finale to what looks likely to be a brief but memorable Celtic career for big Victor.
Of course his immense presence for Celtic was rewarded after he picked up the SPL Young Player of the year award. This was a fitting reminder of his youth so often disguised by the maturity and strength he showed on the park.
Wherever Victor ends up next season it is unlikely that he will surpass those incredible moments at Celtic Park when his astounding header against Barca saw the place go ballistic. One thing is for sure we have seen one of the finest young players to pull on the hoops and he has given a tremendous amount of enjoyment for supporters in the 67 jersey in a double winning 125th anniversary season: Victor. 67. 125.
Last Season – 5th.