Joe’s first season was a mixed bag. I will always give a new signing the benefit of the doubt in their first season as a lot of players from outside this country cannot appreciate the size of club that Celtic is and the high, and perhaps unrealistic, expectations that come from the club’s supporters.
Simply put, Celtic fans expect to win every game. Whether it’s a visit to Brechin in the League Cup or a European game in the Bernabeau, the collective will of the Celtic fans is to win on every occasion and with no excuses for failure. Add to that the constant media spotlight that Celtic players endure then it’s not surprising that even experienced professionals can take some time to adapt to life at Parkhead. The demand on Celtic’s players is tremendous.
It gives me great delight to say that Joe Ledley came into his own last season. Never a spectacular player, Joe impressed us all with his consistency and work rate and those are attributes never to be underestimated. Never an up and down player Joe was reliable every week and Celtic’s long unbeaten run through the winter month’s owed a large part to the efforts of Ledley.
Joe’s best position is undoubtedly in the centre of midfield where he is happy to receive the ball, touch, pass on and move. His game is very simple yet extremely effective. He’s not a noted tackler but can put the foot in when required and last season actually saw him become something of a goal threat with a respectable nine goals from midfield.
Some of the goals were impressive and varied. From the fine low drive against Inverness in September to the ghosting header in Rennes in the Europa Cup. From the back post header at Tynecastle in February to the exquisite chipped finish at Rugby Park on title winning day in April.
And yet the goal Joe will always be remembered for last season was probably the most important goal of the season against Rangers in December. On a wild, windy night with Rangers sitting deep and Celtic dominating but having no cutting edge it was Joe who struck. A trademark vicious in swinging corner from Mulgrew and Joe’s header at the back post was perfectly timed. The winning goal had arrived and the celebrations over the New Year were to be long and happy.
Another aspect of Joe’s game was his versatility. He was able to fill in at left back on occasions and though he sometimes looked uncomfortable in that position he never threw any tantrums as some would and was happy to play his role in assisting the team in a crisis. It was notable too that when he went to left back the midfield did not function too well in his absence.
Joe Ledley’s transfer to Celtic has now been vindicated. He can point to a League medal, European football and has now become a ‘Hunskelper’ which will forever endear him to the Celtic support. Hopefully with a bit of luck he can achieve his dream of playing in the Champions League in the near future. And yet I believe we have only scratched the surface with Joe and that his best years have yet to come.
Joseph Christopher Ledley – I salute you !