Ed Bhoy

I’m back!

The most likely rumour ever to have become reality at Celtic in recent years is that of Odsonne Edouard. Today, that reality was confirmed.

After a successful season long loan in Glasgow, the 20-year-old Frenchman has signed a 4 year deal with the Hoops. The tried and tested striker persuaded Celtic to break their 18-year-old transfer fee record of £6M previously held by Chris Sutton’s move from Chelsea in 2000.

 

I guess that means Odsonne was only 2 years-old when Sutty signed for us. Christ I feel old!

John Hartson arrived the following season for the same fee. Since then Celtic have not breached that amount, mainly because of the state of the Scottish game.

Edouard will now continue to battle with Leigh Griffiths and fellow Frenchman Moussa Dembele for a striking role next season. This is great news for Celtic and their attacking options.

The transfer wasn’t about breaking the bank. It was about good business with very little risk if at all.

Celtic have spent millions of pounds on strikers over the years that never ever worked out be it on loan or on permanent terms. On this occasion the club have invested wisely on a proven talent who will only get better with age.

The details of the deal with PSG is unclear at this time, but the club did say it is the biggest deal they’ve ever done. When you consider that Celtic sell so many players for big money, I think they’ll feel this deal can be justified especially if Celtic were to lose Moussa Dembele in the next twelve months.

Transfermarkt have stated the fee to be worth £10.26M. I would imagine for a club as prudent as Celtic, that won’t all be at once.

With this move sealed, Brendan Rodgers can now turn his attention to the overall shape of the team. Pre-season training begins on Monday and his main focus will be preparing those not at the World Cup for the forthcoming challenges.

Celtic have a four friendly matches lined up before they embark upon Champions League Qualification on July 10th/11th. SK Vorwarts Steyr (27th June), Bohemians Prague (30th June), Sparta Prague (3rd July) and Shamrock Rovers (7th July) will provide the opposition.

The futures of other squad members will be assessed over the summer, but for now Brendan will expect all but his World Cup attendees in on Monday. It doesn’t seem like much of a break, but in a short playing career that offers a better lifestyle than many of us are ever likely to experience, I won’t feel too sorry for them!

Happy Friday!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Preparation, preparation, preparation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What makes you a front-runner for the season ahead? A glut of transfers or good planning?

Transfers are all well and good, but it is what your end product is that really matters. On and off the field.

We’ve only just entered week two of June and already the media are moist with Ibrox transfer news. Comparing their early transfer activity to the relative ‘inactivity’ at Celtic Park.

Transfer activity amounts to very little in my book, unless you have foundations. And a plan of course.

If you throw enough shit then eventually some might stick. Well, there’s been a lot of shit at Ibrox since they rebooted in 2012.

Rangers bought/took on loan around seventeen players last season. By contrast they off loaded/loaned out about fourteen, some are still out there and some have come back.

The SMSM were fawning over one another about this compared to Celtic’s transfer situation last summer. I mean let’s be honest here, the Celtic squad is awash with established talent.

It only requires minor tinkering to freshen up and to move up a gear in Europe. Unlike to continual Ibrox bring-and-buy sale, wholesale changes are not required at Celtic Park.

Celtic have probably offloaded more players than they have recruited in the last two seasons. I haven’t verified that – it’s a guesstimate.

There have been so many peripheral players, the club simply cannot accommodate all of them. Even now, the squad still requires a little pruning.

Whoever Celtic recruit this summer, they don’t need a lot of new personnel. By next summer, a number of players will be out of contract as well.

Some will sign new deals and some will be sold off this summer. I doubt many, if at all, will be allowed to run their current contracts down.

Dorus de Vries, Dedryck Boyata, Mikael Lustig, Cristian Gamboa, Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong, Scott Allan, James Forrest and Ryan Christie are all in the final year of their contracts. I’d say that apart from Lustig, Brown and Forrest – who by the way could all potentially sign new deals this summer – the rest could each leave now if we’re being realistic.

 

 

 

 

It’s unlikely that all of those players would depart though if they did, I would expect quite a bit of transfer activity from Brendan! Tom Rogic was on that list, but has just committed his future to the club and is like a new signing.

All the talk right now of course is about Armstrong and as other Celtic bloggers have already commentated, this will be resolved very soon. The question is what does Stuart really want?

To be richer and play in the Premier League? Or win trophies and be adored and chanted by his fans?

The former he will only get from playing in the south obviously, but if it’s what he wants then he should go. The latter he won’t get because the bigger clubs aren’t interested in him.

He’s only had one barn storming season with Celtic and he needs another one to convince bigger English clubs – or Celtic – to give him the deal he probably wants. I really like Stuart and I’m still of the opinion that he is learning, but if he committed to a longer deal at Celtic he could still go to the Premier League in a couple of years time a more experienced player.

Dedryck Boyata I’m not so romantic about. Yes, overall he has improved under Brendan, but he has not put the bomb scare moments to bed I’m afraid.

His inclusion in the Belgium squad is very positive for him and his prospects, but given his lack of international caps some may feel this is a gamble by Roberto Martinez. It’s a huge tournament for Dedryck because if he rides this one out in good form, he won’t just have a new contract on the table waiting for him at Celtic Park, he’ll have other suitors looking to pry him away.

Ryan Christie’s future could all depend on the comings and goings at Celtic. He is a great wee player who I think could do a good job for Brendan.

He’s only 23 and had a great season for Aberdeen. If he can’t break into the Celtic team this season then another loan would only run down his contract and free to discuss a move come January 2019.

De Vries, Gamboa and Allan should be offloaded now. Their time is up in my opinion.

 

 

 

 

Scott Bain, a loanee from Dundee signed a permanent deal to bolster the goalkeeping contingent. He is my preferred backup choice to Craig Gordon.

Although only seen once, Marvin Compper signed in January and will be looking to stake a claim in defence this summer. Similarly, Lewis Morgan signed in January, but went back on loan to St Mirren so he too will be aiming to break onto the scene at Celtic.

Jack Hendry also signed in the winter transfer window and has already begun to ease himself into the team. He is set to be part of a new generation of the Celtic defence alongside Kieran Tierney, Anthony Ralston and Kristoffer Ajer.

 

 

 

 

So on the face of it, Celtic already have new and young players looking to establish themselves in the team. However, that isn’t how the media see it.

They want numbers and new fancy things to write about. January acquisitions, forward planning and new contracts aren’t juicy enough for them.

Celtic’s advanced preparation for the coming season doesn’t appear to float the boat of the SMSM. The one player that might get them talking positively about Celtic is Odsonne Edouard.

Signed on loan from PSG as a backup to Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths, he took his opportunity with both hands. I’m confident that Celtic can do the required business here.

After that it’s all down to who stays and who goes, as per my previous blog. With less than a week until the World Cup, some of those decisions will need to wait until after the tournament ends.

Hail ! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Who stays, who goes?

With the season over and the new one beginning for Celtic before the World Cup will have even finished, Brendan Rodgers’ plans for next season have been under way for a while. He’s waved goodbye to half a dozen players or so already and next season he’ll be looking to establish a fresher lineup.

Jamie Lindsay and Sam Wardrop from the youth set up have moved on permanently. Other youth players Jamie McCart and Joe Thomson are both out of contract after fulfilling loan spells as well.

Loanees Charly Musonda, Patrick Roberts and Odsonne Edouard have returned to their parent clubs. Whilst Erik Sviatchenko made a permanent return to FC Midtjylland and the final year of Nadir Ciftci’s contract has been terminated.

However, we’ve had Scott Bain sign a permanent deal, Tom Rogic extend his stay and Lewis Morgan finally arrive. So what else does Brendan need to do with this squad this summer?

Read on…

GOALKEEPERS

1. Craig GORDON – He’s proved himself to be our number one and benefited from being pushed by the presence of other keepers in the squad.

24. Dorus DE VRIES – I think it’s time he moved on. After two years at the club I’ve never been convinced by any of his performances.

29. Scott BAIN – Scott came in on loan and took his chance. His permanent deal will allow him to learn under Gordon and having already tasted first team experience and an international call up he is perfect backup.

65. Conor HAZARD – Conor spent the second half of the season on loan at Falkirk and earned his first cap for Northern Ireland as well. If de Vries goes we might need him to stick around rather than go out on loan again, but he would also benefit from some first team experience.

DEFENDERS

4. Jack HENDRY – I have to say I didn’t know much about the kid before he joined, but with spells at Partick Thistle, Wigan Athletic, Shrewsbury Town and MK Dons under his belt before joining from Dundee he could prove to be a worthwhile investment for the club.

5. Jozo SIMUNOVIC – Between injuries, an inability to play on certain surfaces and that on/off move to Torino I’m beginning to go off Jozo. At one point, I thought he was the answer to our defensive problems, but he’s brought his own set of problems with him. He’s only good if he’s fit and that hasn’t always been often enough so unless there is some way the coaching team can resolve these issues then perhaps it is time for him to move on.

12. Cristian GAMBOA – You never really know how a player is going to turn out until they arrive and I didn’t have any expectations of the Costa Rican defender to be honest. So to say I’ve been neither disappointed or impressed is as accurate as I can put it. In fact, I haven’t seen enough of the guy to even criticise him. The question is, why is he still here after two years having played so few matches? He’s made the Costa Rican World Cup squad though, something he’s been widely criticised for.

20. Dedryck BOYATA – The big man was brought in after his former Man City and Belgium counterpart, Jason Denayer, returned to his old club after successful loan with Celtic. We all thought we were getting a polished version of Denayer, but that soon looked to be way off. Now in his third season at Celtic it has been up and down for Dedryck. He has had some injuries and even improved under Brendan, but he has also had multiple defensive mishaps. The manager still rates him as his best defender at the club, but the jury is out that one. To be fair, he hasn’t had too bad a season overall, but at a time when Celtic need to be shoring up at the back, he has still caused errors. He’s made the Belgian World Cup squad somehow and will possibly even see game time. It will either convince Brendan to offer him a new deal or offload him to interested parties as he enters the final year of his current contract.

23. Mikael LUSTIG – Vice-captain and loving life at Celtic. He has had his moments to forget, but on his day he is an excellent contributor. With a year left on his contract, a decision will need to be made on whether to extend that. Lustig can be very useful and as long as a decent understudy is ready to step in, then I think he should stick around for 10-in-a-row.

33. Marvin COMPPER – Arrived in January, played once in March and hasn’t been seen since. At 32 he doesn’t need an introduction to football, but it looks as though Marvin’s Celtic career starts next season. Unless this has been a flawed transfer, then I’m prepared to accept this was a false start for the German defender.

35. Kristoffer AJER – I’ll be honest, I thought this kid could be another one to get overlooked and find himself heading back home. However, he may yet turn out to be the best player Ronny Deila ever signed, despite having never played for him. After a degree of patience and a short loan spell at Killie, he’s now pushed his converted midfield to defence role into Brendan Rogers’ plans. Whoever is available for central defence next season, Ajer is at the top of that list.

56. Anthony RALSTON – I was talking about an understudy for Lustig earlier. Well, this could be the guy. He’s only 19 years old, but he’s already made an impression on me, most notably when he went toe-to-toe with Neymar. His loan spells at Queens Park and Dundee United, as well as experience at international youth level have provided him with some decent game time. Next season I’d like to see him push himself into contention for that right back spot.

59. Calvin MILLER – Has played back-up to Kieran Tierney, but highly unlikely to displace Mr Celtic from what I’ve seen. So for me it’s either going to be a loan spell in his final year at the club or a transfer this summer because I can’t see a new deal unless he makes inroads next season.

63. Kieran TIERNEY – what else is there to say?

MIDFIELDERS

0. Lewis MORGAN – Morgan’s arrival at Celtic could well be just what Scott Sinclair needed – a boot up the arse. The former St Mirren player signed in January, but went back on-loan to the Paisley promotion seekers without ever really leaving. I’ve got a good feeling about this guy and think he’ll be one to watch. His former manager is sniffing around him now that he is in charge of Sunderland and in need of familiar and friendly faces down south.

6. Nir BITTON – I don’t have a lot that’s bad to say about the Israeli midfielder. His most recent matches for Celtic have been in defence though. Whether that is where Brendan sees his future or in the team at all, I have no idea. Our midfield is packed at the moment and needs trimming, but if that isn’t where he is being planned to be positioned any more then maybe he too will find himself on the defensive rota again.

8. Scott BROWN – Our captain, our leader. Will be interesting to see who fills his shoes in the next few years. Right now there is loads of mileage left in Broony. Plenty more to come.

11. Scott SINCLAIR – After a dream debut season came a pretty poor one and yet it was laced with enviable stats. Whatever the reason for Scotty’s dip in performance last season, I don’t expect him to repeat that next season. Brendan eventually came to his senses and dropped the Englishman and with Morgan now on board there will be competition for the left wing.

14. Stuart ARMSTRONG – Many thought the new deal/one year extension meant that we’d be selling Stuart this summer. There’s nothing to suggest that won’t happen, but I was more of the opinion that it kept options open for both parties. It’s obvious Celtic didn’t table the deal Armstrong wanted. Instead, it allowed both parties to return to the negotiating table at a later date. This hasn’t been as fruitful a season for the midfielder due to injury and form so next season he’ll need to push himself hard to get the contract he wants because in all honesty, I can’t see anyone offering him a bumper deal this summer.

15. Jonny HAYES – Just when it looked as though he was getting into his stride he got injured. Hayes was a tried and tested domestic player with Aberdeen, but hard to see how he would displace what we already had. Next season he is kind of back to square one, but he will be hoping to get back into the fold.

17. Ryan CHRISTIE – As good as he has been at Aberdeen, you have to wonder where this kid will fit into the current set up. I think he could be great for us, but who do you drop for him, particularly when you have so many others ahead of him? If players in his role do move on then he could be in with a chance but we’ll have to see what the summer brings.

18. Tom ROGIC – Now with a new deal, Celtic have secured the services of the Wizard of Aus long-term. I’m looking forward to more of his genius displays in the Hoops.

19. Scott ALLAN – I have no doubts that Scott Allan will be gone this summer. It’s clear he isn’t going to make the grade so his time is up.

21. Olivier NTCHAM – A class act, and one we’ll struggle to keep long-term. Right now though he is our player and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him next season.

26. Kundai BENYU – In his first season, Benyu spent the first half at Celtic and the second half out on loan at Oldham Athletic, but he’s only managed nine games all season. That hasn’t done him any favours at all so a season long loan would be his best bet this summer.

42. Callum MCGREGOR – Another brilliant season for Callum. A dynamite player who always answers the call. Another good season is expected from the versatile midfielder. A real talent.

49. James FORREST – What a season for James. He finally hit the heights and consistency we all knew he was capable of. If it wasn’t for Broony he could have been player of the year.

88. Eboue KOUASSI – It’s high time we started seeing more of this fella. Looks good when he has played, but is still young. I hope he gets a chance soon or he could find himself in need of a loan spell to get more game time.

FORWARDS

9. Leigh GRIFFITHS – I was the first one to criticise the club when we signed him, but have happily been eating my words ever since. A key part of our strike force.

10. Moussa DEMBELE – A regular on the rumour mill for two seasons now. It’s almost like it was written into his contract. Rediscovered his first seasons form as this most recent season progressed. He’ll most likely still be here next season as well which is good news. It will take the right club and right money for both parties to separate.

So what does Brendan need to do this summer? Well the numbers are reducing already and still continuing, but what about recruitment?

That all depends on further movements. Brendan just needs to figure out his defensive setup.

It remains an issue for him. Particularly in European competition.

When the qualifiers start he’ll be turning to Ajer, Compper, Hendry, Ralston, Simunovic and Tierney at the back with Boyata, Gamboa and Lustig away at the World Cup. Will he be looking to cash in any of those guys now to secure someone new?

Whichever players Brendan doesn’t rate or want should go now for whatever cash we can bring in or free up. The same goes for central midfield.

Allan, Christie and Benyu have all been out on loan this season. Are they going to make it at the club?

We can’t get a third of our team on the park often enough as it is. Armstrong stands in the way of others and needs to decide what he wants as it could mean opportunities for guys like Christie or indeed any of the rumoured targets.

The media have mentioned John McGinn continually, but I honestly don’t think we need him. Even if Allan and Christie moved on we still wouldn’t be able to fit him into this team.

We have plenty of guys coming back from injury and through the ranks. I’d like to see more of Anthony Ralston and Mikey Johnston, the latter of which scored a solo wonder goal against England under-21’s at the Toulon Tournament last night.

We’ve already seen glimpses of Mikey since Brendan arrived and he’s already bagged his first club goal. We might see him emerge this season as he’s an exciting player.

One piece of business that is of the utmost importance is Odsonne Edouard. The Frenchman was a hit whilst on loan from PSG and a deal to sign him appears as though it may happen.

I think it showed just how much we need that rota of top quality strikers given the injuries we’ve had in that department. Playing without a striker is unthinkable so three should be the minimum.

There’s less than five weeks until the Champions League qualifying begins. Best get cracking!

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Boyata joins three other Hoops in Russia

Contrary to my blog of a couple of weeks ago, it now seems that Dedrcyk Boyata will indeed be going to the World Cup after all. As ever, I check my facts before venting my spleen, but on this occasion it appears I was wrong.

Some World Cup squads were provisional, some finalised and others not released. My recollection was that although Belgium hadn’t finalised their 23 man squad, Boyata wasn’t even in the provisional 28 man squad.

Seems I was wrong about that totally. More importantly, it now transpires the big man has made the final 23 man squad!

So, I’m not only wrong once, but twice! Several reports last week stated that mattresses being sent to Russia for the Belgian players were seen with Belgian players names on them – Boyata being one of those names.

The squad announcement hadn’t yet been made, but this appears to have been genuine and now confirmed. I have to say, I’m really pleased to have been wrong.

He’s not my ideal choice at centre back for Celtic, but this will be a boost for him personally. It will be an invaluable learning experience to play at the World Cup and will benefit both himself and Celtic.

Brendan Rodgers reckons he is his best defender. I’m not sure I’m of the same opinion because his bomb scare moments are still fresh in my mind.

Having said that, he has improved under Brendan. The question for the Celtic manager is how to settle that back line.

The World Cup will either bring Boyata to the attention of other interested clubs or help him retain a place at Celtic. Either way, it is win-win for us.

So now he will be joining Mikael Lustig, Tom Rogic and Cristian Gamboa in Russia. I look forward to watching these Bhoys with great interest.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

The John McGinn rumour isn’t going away it seems

He’s been the talk of the town for a some time now. Is John McGinn the next best thing to emerge from Hibs and join Celtic?

I’ll be honest, I don’t have a strong opinion about the midfielder either way. He’s been fawned over by fellow Celtic fans for ages now.

I’m actually bored with the debate and Celtic’s overbearing midfield quota. If guys like Nir Bitton, Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie and Scott Allan aren’t going to make the cut like the underrated Liam Henderson then we need to start moving folk on.

We cannot keep all of these guys happy as it is. Now the McGinn rumours are doing the rounds again and growing in strength.

I’ve seen him play against us, but not so much in other matches. The question is does he measure up and can he bring something to THIS Celtic side that others cannot?

I guess it all depends on what Brendan Rodgers thinks he needs. For many, defensive reinforcements are a must, something which McGinn doesn’t fit into.

However, if McGinn has been earmarked as a key component for the Rodgers revolution then I would expect midfield departures this summer. I’m not against the signing of the Hibs midfielder, I’m just trying to get my head around Celtic’s future and the players who will be cast aside.

There’s even been talk about Dylan McGeouch. He’s been at the heart of the Hibs midfield now for a few years.

I’ve always been impressed by McGeouch when I’ve seen him play. His range of passing and vision are great.

He started his youth career at Celtic and continued it at Rangers. However, Neil Lennon brought him back when he took the full-time post as Celtic manager back in 2011.

Unfortunately we didn’t see enough of the midfielder in the Hoops. After loan spells at Coventry City and Hibernian, he made a permanent move to the Edinburgh club in 2015.

Now he is out of contract with Hibs. Would I have him back at Celtic?

Yes I would, especially as he is a free agent. The only problem is that we have so many midfielders.

Only Brendan knows who is staying and who is going. The latest exit was youngster Sam Wardrop.

After a season out on-loan at Dumbarton he has joined Dundee United. He isn’t the first Celtic departure since the season ended and he won’t be the last.

Over the next couple of months we’ll see who is going where.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Erik has gone, but the defensive drama has not

The departure of Erik Sviatchenko wasn’t an unexpected one. It is another head scratcher though.

When he signed for Celtic in January 2016, he was an instant hit as he brought some stability to Celtic’s back line. It was a troublesome area for then manager, Ronny Deila.

In the Dane’s first full season, this time under Brendan Rodgers, he managed 43 appearances. However, it was this season just gone where his place became uncertain.

After suffering an injury and subsequent three-month lay-off between August and November, he fell down the pecking order. He wasn’t the only central defender to fall foul of injury though.

Celtic lost Jozo Simunovic for almost two months between September and November. Before either of these players were on the injury list, Dedryck Boyata had already been on the treatment table since July, not returning until mid-September.

So Celtic had their defensive issues, calling on the likes of midfielder Nir Bitton and defender in the making, Kristoffer Ajer. Neither of these players you would expect to have been lining up against the giants of Europe or even the bigger challengers in Scotland but they did.

By the time Sviatchenko returned to the first team fully fit you could forgive him for failing to understand why he wasn’t back in the fold immediately. Yes, the makeshift defensive choices had gotten Celtic through some of their challenges, but they needed someone who knew the job as Rodgers took chance after chance.

In the Dane’s own words, Rodgers said to him that he couldn’t guarantee him first team football. With the World Cup looming and possibly hoping to get himself in the candidate pool, he made a loan move to former club FC Midtjylland.

Whilst there he helped secure the Danish Superliga but failed to make the Danish World Cup Squad. Now he has made the return to Denmark permanent, but why?

I don’t blame the guy for returning to his homeland and former club, but when Celtic’s back line remains so unstable, was it really necessary to offload the guy? By no means do I think that he is irreplaceable, but given some of the bomb scare performances by Boyata, continual injuries to himself and Simunovic and the relative inexperience of central defending by Bitton and Ajer it is another weird one.

Had Celtic moved Boyata or Simunovic on, the latter not for the first time, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Celtic need stability at the back and we’ve not seen that since the partnership of Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer – three seasons ago.

With Erik gone and the remainder of the Celtic back line unreliable or work in progress, this is most certainly an area the club need to invest in. If we come unstuck once more in Europe due to this then questions will be asked.

Celtic were threadbare at the back last season. Yes, largely due to injury but that is one of our key issues to those left.

Ajer looks like a good prospect and Jack Hendry might fit the bill in time, but that means Celtic need Boyata and Simunovic to be injury free and on their game. That might be beyond both of their capabilities and Brendan Rodgers needs to be alive to that especially with expectations in the Champions League still great, despite the obvious financial disparity between Celtic and the European elite.

For now, we wish you all the best in your next venture, Erik. Good luck.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Bring it home Bhoys…

And so, the end of the season is here. The Scottish Cup Final is the last date* on the domestic football calendar.

It is a repeat of this season’s League Cup Final. Celtic and Motherwell go head-to-head at Hampden for the 145 year old trophy.

Celtic have won the Scottish Cup a record 37 times and this will be the club’s 57th final appearance. Motherwell have won the trophy twice and appeared in 7 finals.

The stats are against the Lanarkshire club but in these games it’s a one-off scenario. It all depends on who turns up on the day.

A red card for Cedric Kipre ruined the League Cup Final Motherwell. For the good of the game let’s hope 22 men stay on the park today,

For Brendan Rodgers, the team picks itself. He knows his form players right now and has his best eleven ready and able.

Gordon, Lustig, Tierney, Boyata, Ajer, Brown, Ntcham, McGregor, Forrest, Rogic and Dembele are the likely starting eleven. These boys have been great in the build up to the final and in the league run in.

Appearances from the bench could see Griffiths, Sinclair and possibly a farewell for Paddy Roberts. However, that is all dependent on how the game pans out.

There is nothing else for me to say other than go out and enjoy the occasion Bhoys. You are here on merit and can write a piece of history if you handle the occasion correctly.

Motherwell will be fiercely competitive and physical. Celtic just need to keep their head and go about their business.

Oh Hampden in the sun…

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

*As pointed to me by a fellow reader, the last game of the season is actually Partick Thistle v Livingston in Sunday’s play-off final.