An Embarrassment of Riches

Published on Wednesday 28th July, 2010 by Celtic Trust

Neil Lennon’s recruitment of new players has been a huge triumph for the Manager and the club

Although Davy Weir is reported from down under as having no concerns over developments at Paradise, its clear such bravado will melt like summer snow when the real business begins and we start doing our talking on the park. Neil Lennon’s recruitment of new players has been a huge triumph for the Manager and the club, with one important proviso: that Lenny and his back room squad can deliver what looks like a formidable squad on paper into something more than the ‘paper tiger’ delivered by Tony Mowbray during his short reign. In this regard the real business begins tomorrow night. Although it’s early days I don’t think there’s any chance of a freak occurrence like that which took place in Bratislava in 2005. Lenny has been much more active in the transfer window at this stage than Strachan had in the same period. He also has the advantage over Strachan of knowing the players intimately both as a player, a coach and latterly as a Manager. His most difficult task tomorrow night will be not who to include but who to leave out. Only Lukasz Zaluakas and Scott Brown it would appear are guaranteed to start at the 30000 capacity AXA Estadio Braga tomorrow evening. Picking the rest of Lenny’s first eleven in a European game is the sporting equivalent of picking your way through a minefield whilst walking on eggshells. I have a hunch, no more than that mind you, that Mark Wilson and Charlie Mulgrew might be joined at the back by Glenn Loovens in a back three. If Lenny goes 4-4-2 as expected then there would probably be a place for Josh Hooiveld, preferred, or Darren O’Dea. Scott Brown should be partnered in midfield by at least one newcomer probably Efrain Juarez, or Joe Ledley - or both. Shaun Maloney if he’s fit and ready to go for one of the six matches that he plays on average every season might be a surprise choice. He’s like a little buzz bomb when he’s new, until he tires himself out. We know he can be deadly when he’s on his game and full of that new season enthusiasm. Never having played together with Juarez or Ledley in any competitive game might rule out Ki for consideration. I suspect it might be between him and Crosas on the night, and the Catalan‘s defensive qualities might just tilt it in his favour. It is in this area that I feel we have a genuine claim to an embarrassment of riches. And that’s not counting Aiden Mc Geady. The midfield provides the most difficult choice or series of choices for the new Manager and his advisors. I would play Paddy McCourt, who was exceptional on the US tour, especially against Sporting Lisbon as the creative dynamo at the apex of a midfield four. Whilst creative and Paddy sit easily together, dynamo and McCourt are rarely used in the same sentence. But at least I know what I mean. Tomorrow night I’d be inclined to go with Paddy playing in what I understand is now called ‘the hole’ - a mysterious space somewhere between the midfield and the striker. Striker singular would appear to be the wisdom on this occasion. It’s a case of who to go for? Two players who are tried and tested, both exuding talent but lacking consistency in the form of Samaras or Fortune? Given the American tour again and the fact that his confidence is up I’d go with Sammy - words I never though again would leave my mouth after Ross County. God forgive me but even after his 100% record in penalties on the tour I’d be inclined to let someone else step up in the event that we get a spot kick. Or maybe not. That’s what you get with an enigma. The alternative would be to surprise them and indeed us with either Daryl Murphy or Gary Hooper. The latter who will be stepping into Scott McDonald old kit in terms of size has a definite eye for goal, or big Daryl who would appear more likely as a ‘marker’ for the main striker if we were going with two up front. So there you are. I’ll email ‘Big Vinny’s Eleven’ to Lenny now, so he can worry about other things or get a good night’s sleep. This picking a team stuff is not as easy as it seems. Nevertheless whatever eleven take the field in Portugal should do so without fear. ‘I know. I know but what about……’ I hear you say. We are always full of beans and great expectations when we are about to embark on a European adventure. More often than not in recent years we come back full of holes and crushed expectations. But really, hope springs eternal and we should be able to get a result tomorrow night which will set us up nicely next week to get ‘this place rocking again’ as Lenny has promised. Rest assured Davy Weir and company will be keep a close eye on things from down under. He might try to sound like Crocodile Dundee, but a good result in Portugal will make sure his last few days in Oz are concerned with a whole lot more than looking out for Rolf Harris. Away the Bhoys!



By way of a postscript tomorrow should also tell a good deal about Aiden’s future or lack of it at the club. If, as seems evident he wishes to be on his way, then all we can do is wish him well and send him off with our best wishes and blessings. It would be unfair to him and especially to his team mates to consider starting him in Portugal knowing that he is halfway out the door. Still, one never knows? It goes without saying he may live to regret it, but that’s a chance he and his agent clearly prepared to take. He’ll always be remembered as a Celtic Bhoy, one who brought us moments of sublime beauty and great bravery in the face of the bigots and racists who abused him every time he took to the field. He more than often shut them up with a flash of brilliance or a streak of defiance that left them spitting bile. There’s no doubt but that he will be missed. As was his old team mate Nakamura last season. As was Hartson and Suttton and our beloved Henrik. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles as my Da used to say. Nothing is forever except Celtic itself. One thing is for sure wherever he eventually plies his trade, he will never again receive the adoration of 60,000 fans on a regular basis as he did on the big occasions in Paradise, and may find as did Shaun Maloney that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Still we can only wish him well and hope that he goes on to fully develop the great potential we have witnessed for the past 6 years or so in the proud colours of our club.


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