True to form Fortune didn’t come out of the blocks firing. He looked rusty and off the pace in pre-season. Then ineffective against Dinamo in the home leg of the Champs League qualifying round before missing a couple of sitters against Aberdeen at Pittodrie in the SPL curtain raiser. The knives weren’t exactly out but you got this sneaky suspicion he was going to be a bit of a lemon. Since then I’ll be kind and say the results have been mixed.
There were a few false dawns when we thought he may have finally hit the ground running. The first was when minutes after coming on as a sub he played a neat one-two with McDonald and lashed an absolute howitzer into the roof of the net of an action packed 3-2 away win against Motherwell in the lead up to Christmas. Around 5 days later on a freezing cold Austrian winters night he was superb and scored twice in a 3-3 draw with Rapid Vienna but seeing as that was a nothing match with our elimination from the tournament already secured not much attention was paid. Carrying on from that a fortnight later he bullied and dominated the Weir / McCulloch hammer throwing back line and had a legitimate goal chopped off against Rangers in the New Years Old Firm Derby. He went rather quiet for some time after that. In fairness so did the whole team. That was the afternoon that sealed the fate of the 09/10 Championship and effectively killed off Tony Mowbray’s long lamented ‘vision’ for Celtic. We dominated the game from start to finish but both failed to take our chances and couldn’t shut the back door resulting in Burns-era esque mugging. Neither Mowbray or his Celtic team ever recovered and there would be few highlights between then and Mogga’s departure.
During that period of inevitability and complete mediocrity Fortune delivered the odd smattering of goals, none of which were particularly memorable with the exception of another long range pile driver, this time delivered on the 24th of January against a 10 man St.Jonhstone side on a bitterly cold Perth later afternoon. From outside the box Fortune proved the Motherwell goal was no fluke and that when he puts his mind to it he is one of the crispest strikers of the ball in the country. It also set us on our way to an unusually ravenous 4-1 away victory. Shame that two weeks later such striking prowess deserted him when he bottled it in front of goal at Mordor after some initial trickery on the edge of the box had presented him with a golden chance to put us 1-0 up just before half time. Damn shame!
Since Lennon’s arrival Fortune has looked a better player. Maybe Lenny has given him confidence or perhaps seeing the man who signed him getting his jotters is the boot up the arse he needed. In the final Old Firm game of the season he once again rag dolled Davie Weir for 90 mins and, from a strangely identical position no less, this time had his legit goal allowed. Nice of the SFA to cut us some slack there eh? You know. Actually giving correct decisions in big games.
No matter who the new manager is and I think we all know who it’s almost guaranteed to be, they are going to be forced to deploy Fortune next term is some capacity. He still has 2 seasons left on his current deal, has no resale value relative to what he cost and is getting paid £25 K a week. There is a player in there. Of that I have no doubt. But the man himself needs to be prepared to throw himself into the firing line a lot more often and he also must take his chances more regularly. 12 goals in all competitions is just not good enough for a Celtic striker. Twenty-five yard show stoppers are nice but are somewhat devalued if you had missed 2 or 3 guilt edged chances in the weeks and minutes leading up to them.
To end on a high note, I look forward to seeing him make Davie Weir look every day of his impending 40 years when they next meet. It’s a rare treat to see the SFA’s housewives favourite banjo’d for 90 mins.