Ledleypoty2013We should be thankful that Ledley is happy in his football and his life in Glasgow. The 26 year-old has always shown his worth to Neil Lennon as a technically gifted player but in the absence of Scott Brown for long periods last season he was invaluable in both the domestic and European arenas.

Let us establish the statistics: Joe Ledley played 42 times for Celtic last season, picked up just two bookings and no red cards. During those months he scored 10 goals with some notable strikes such as those away to HJK Helsinki and in the Scottish Cup final against Hibernian.

The latter of those, a powerful drive into the top corner of the Hibs’ net, capped his own season but in truth he had been making a difference from the off.

Way back at the very start of August Ledley was already stamping his imprimatur on proceedings.

Deep into the second half of the away leg against HJK Helsinki it was he, chesting the ball home, who made the breakthrough and calmed nerves with the Finns still in the tie.

That was to be the start of a wonderful European adventure and again the Welshman – as he so often does for his team – had made a crucial difference.

At that stage Ledley was operating in a midfield also containing Victor Wanyama, Beram Kayal and Kris Commons. There were also a raft of substitute appearances – something which the versatile Ledley always seems to take in his stride.

On the day in October when Celtic beat Hearts to hit the top of the table he came off the bench after just half an hour to replace Charlie Mulgrew who was forced off with a head knock.

In the weeks thereafter Ledley would find himself swapping shirts with Xavi who waited for him in the Celtic Park tunnel after the historic beating of Barcelona.

On that great night at Celtic Park – with Scott Brown ill – he had put in a wonderful shift to shackle Messi and the rest, and left the pitch wearing the captain’s armband.

His five minute cameo against Spartak Moscow a month later in December is also instructive.

Here then was a man trusted by Neil Lennon to come on and steady the ship, with nerves utterly shredded and Scott Brown toiling.

Ledley let no-one down, he rarely does.

Three days later away to Kilmarnock he was instrumental again, sliding in at the back post to covert a pass from Brown.

Alas a groin injury saw Ledley miss much of December but he was back in the picture after the winter break, playing over an hour in a 4-1 win over Hearts at home.

He retained his place in the starting XI for the 4-0 win over Dundee United the following Tuesday, a victory which saw Lennon’s side go 12 points clear at the top.

By this stage it was obvious that Ledley was becoming a crucial cog in Celtic’s season. He may not have been in the headlines as much as the likes of Commons, Brown or Wanyama but the solidity of his play, coupled with a presence of mind was invaluable.

The only real blot on the landscape was the League Cup exit against St Mirren at the semi-final stage.

Even with Scott Brown on the pitch it was very likely the Welshman who the manager had in mind when he said there had been “a lack of leadership”, simply because his performance was so out of character.

It is perhaps typical of the player that in the midweek which followed that loss at Hampden he sparked a fine home win over Kilmarnock with a long-range goal after just four minutes.

In fact Ledley went on to captain Celtic on several occasions throughout February and March as the title was wrapped up.

Stand-in he may he been – “Scott is the man, it’s nice to be given the captaincy while he is out” – but there are those among the support who can envisage this being reprised in a more permanent fashion.

It’s a fair point. For he has a consistency that fellow pros greatly admire, he does work that allows others to flourish.  In short he is a natural leader.

More than that, he is wholly unselfish. With a free reign he would score more often for he often showed in the blue of Cardiff that there is no lack of ability to move speedily from box to box, evading markers with late runs.

There is every reason to conclude that Joe Ledley will continue to feature in this list for some seasons to come.

We may also feel, by the time he does finally depart, that in the modern era he stands as a real committed Celtic hero.

Click here to follow Douglas Beattie on Twitter

Image kindly supplied by @vagelisgeo of biglens.co.uk