It’s farewell to Paddy

Come the end of the season, Celtic will no doubt part company with some playing staff. One of those players will be Paddy McCourt.

He began his Celtic career five years ago in what turned out to be Gordon Strachan’s final season at the club. Strachan did strive to get McCourt to the sort of fitness level that would make him a first team regular but it never materialised.

Strachan’s stance on McCourt’s ability and match fitness led many, including myself as to why he bought him in the first place. Perhaps it was the need to buy, but buy small and there was little risk involved?

Whether you agreed with Strachan’s opinion, Paddy continued his career at Celtic after the head coach had departed. Strachan left under a cloud, cast by sections of the Celtic support, but Paddy would remain a Celtic player for another four years.

His presence in the first team was notable by his absence. When he did feature he made some memorable moments though.

Seldom seen, and sporadically influential, Paddy has to date scored 10 goals for the club. The one thing he didn’t do was score easy goals.

If there was an simple goal scoring path for ‘Derry Pele’ it certainly wasn’t for him. His preference would be to have a rack of players between himself and the intended target.

It didn’t matter how many of these players stood between him and beating the keeper. Usually two or more were a good starting point though.

Dribbling the ball was what Paddy was all about. It was an old style of direct play sadly missing in the modern game and lets be honest, we loved him for doing it.

His best season for the club was undoubtedly 2010-2011 where he amassed 31 appearances for the first team in all competitions. He added 7 goals to that season statistic as well but we wouldn’t see that kind of input from him again.

Neil Lennon showed faith in him during his first full season in charge. Lennon had his own plans to develop the team though and Paddy slipped further down the pecking order as the team progressed.

Although never a true ninety minute man for Celtic, he has given us some special moments. I don’t think many would argue that he was kept on purely for the entertainment value and the fact that the fans loved it when he made a sub appearance.

I did used to wonder how good he could have been but then that wouldn’t be the first time I’ve thought that about a Celtic player. Whatever flawed him, the memories he has given we Celtic supporters some special memories.

Good luck Paddy and all the best for the future.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Well, well, well

Wouldn’t you know it? No sooner has David Moyes sworn in at Man United than Neil Lennon is top of the list to replace him at Everton.

Now I don’t know about you but I can’t see this post being of interest to Lennon. Not at this point in his career anyway.

Everton are a good club but they’ve achieved little in modern times. Sure, they’ve remained stable in a highly competitive league but for a decade Moyes has been the glue that’s held Everton them in that position.

Tight budgets are the norm for Everton these days. While this may be something that Lennon also has experience of, he is used to playing Europe now.

Perhaps this kind of role could lure Lennon in a few years time. In reality though, Lennon has much left to do at Celtic and he still is young so the opportunities are there for him in the future.

League titles, domestic trophies and Champions League are all a reality at Celtic Park. At Everton its about Premier League survival.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

End of an era

When a giant figure leaves the scene forever, a new era is born. Now that Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement, that time is now.

The news of his departure has engulfed the world of sport since the media broke the story. Ferguson did of course mention retirement around a decade ago, but nothing ever transpired until now.

At the ripe old age of 71, Ferguson is a legend of the game. His length of service and influence at Manchester United has gained respect around the football world and beyond.

In terms of the best managers in the world, particularly in Scotland and England, he is up there with the best. Many debate who is/was the best but at the end of the day it is a personal choice.

Firstly you have to have managed one of the few clubs who possess a certain bond with their fans and that club must also have a kind of ‘romance’ about it. Most of all though, you have to have made your mark in the world of football and taken the best prize of all – the European Cup.

Ferguson has done this and follows in the footsteps of those who he admired most in the game. They don’t make mangers like this any more, we live in a different age, particularly in the UK.

Money dominates the game these days and the game is now a business. The modern day supporter is a shadow of those who crammed into the terraces of yesteryear.

Galla signings, advertising, merchandise, TV rights and coverage are now staple in the game. Ferguson has witnessed these changes in his decades within football.

His legacy is that even in the modern day he taught a fair few opponents a lesson. More importantly he has gained their respect and influenced their own careers.

The gap that Ferguson leaves is not only going to be a hard hole to fill at Old Trafford. The experience he retires with leaves chasm in the game.

Its been said that David Moyes is Ferguson’s imminent replacement at Manchester United. There is no doubt that the former Celtic player and Preston manager is a respected figure in the Premier League, but is he the choice every United fan wants?

Moyes has been in charge at Everton for eleven years. He arrived at the end of the 2001-2002 season and finished 15th in the league.

In the four seasons that followed he would alternate between a top half and bottom half of the Premier League. For the next six season he would keep Everton in the top half of the table and in the current season he is set to do the same.

He has survived in the Premier League all this time on a tight budget which is to be admired. His experience of survival is perhaps sometimes overlooked due to fact he has won nothing with Everton.

If his appointment does eventually transpire as it is expected to today, many will see this as a ‘safe’ appointment. People will also call into question what that will bring to a club like Manchester United whose fans expect success at home and abroad.

When you thrust money into the hands of a good coach, which Moyes quite clearly is, you begin to wonder what the result might be. Good or bad this is an appointment that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Although Moyes has been the front runner in the media for this vacancy, Jose Mourinho has been on the lips of many. The only reservation I would think that United have about Mourinho would be that it wouldn’t be about the club, but about himself.

That does not fit in with a club like United. It is a fans club and community but he remains an admirer of Ferguson and United.

Mourinho has always had money to spend. At United, he would be unlikely to get the financial freedom he is used to.

Moyes’ stability in the Premier League stands him in good stead. Any money he does get at United, will be more than he has been used to at Everton.

If he is indeed the man who is announced later today as the new United manager, then he obviously has the approval of Ferguson. Nobody in the UK knows the game more than he.

It’s fair to say he has lived and breathed the game, battled with the best and worn his heart on his sleeve. Having never been a United supporter, I have grown to respect Ferguson as a football man.

If he passes the torch of success to Moyes without the sort of sticky start that he had when he came to Manchester United, it will be a good beginning. The rest though…has yet to be written.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie