The reason was his raw assets. Footballers come in all shapes and sizes. But anyone who’s genetically athletic and tall has a huge head start on those around him. On the day Samaras made his debut against Kilmarnock and he sprinted down the wing, cut in and slotted home a beautiful goal I was left thinking “here’s something we’ve not seen before.” Yes, Celtic have had great strikers, but never one with the raw physique to truly dominate opponents across the pitch. As I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen for years, with the right brain big Georg is a £25 million player. But there lies the problem.
For whatever reason, I don’t pretend to know, Samaras has always failed to put together a proper run in the Celtic side and consistently score goals. In my days as his web forum spin doctor I’d blame then manager Gordon Strachan for his misuse of the striker. I suspected Tony Mowbray had some faith in him which Samaras repaid with an important away goal in Moscow. But even after that Samaras refused to burst into flames like I always hoped he would.
I had one theory; that he was too nice a person. In any game, whether it’s a pre-season friendly or a raging Glasgow derby the big Greek will be seen, like a wartime medic, crouching over injured opponents seeing that they’re okay. This isn’t what Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Didier Drogba would do. Modern football is driven by egos – Samaras doesn’t appear to have one. For all his natural gifts there’s mental weaknesses which, though they may make him a better human being, are to the detriment of him as a footballer. I always tried to see the positive in this, but recently I’d had enough and called for Neil Lennon to punt the fruitless big forward.
And by God was I wrong? Today, with Celtic missing their top scorer, big Georg was thrown into the mix for the away game against Rangers. Finally the lad fulfilled his potential. Roaming across the weather worn Ibrox Park like a mustang over an American prairie, Samaras was sensational. At last a Celtic striker gave Rangers’ aged and protected central defender David Weir a long overdue run-around. Georg galloped onto Joe Ledley’s clever forward pass to score the first then moments later, at full speed again, won Celtic a penalty. He dusted himself off, placed the ball and dispatched the ball into the Rangers net securing his legendary status forever more.
Who knows what the future holds for the man I’ve always affectionately called The Bubble (I’m not suggesting it caught one). But tonight is his night and he deserves all the praise that goes way. Have a drink on me Georgios Samaras. Happy New Year.
Antony will be performing at the Stand in Woodland’s road tonight (02/01/10.) Follow Antony on twitter by clicking here