A chance for fringe players but Commons won’t be one of them

screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-172908Since Celtic last played Partick Thistle, they have seen off Hamilton Academical and Dundee at Celtic Park as well as the Jags themselves on a 4-1 victory at Firhill. Tonight that unbeaten could continue, but with Brendan Rodgers hinting about personnel changes for tonight’s visit by Thistle, are Celtic jeopardising their winning streak?

Brendan Rodgers has a huge squad and not everyone has seen the light of day since he came on board. Aside from those sent out on loan he still has many fringe players who need game time as proper assessment.

It will give Brendan a chance to run the rule over some of the players without sufficient game time. In recent weeks we’ve seen one or two ease their way into the squad such as Gary Mackay-Steven, Emilio Izaguirre and Patrick Roberts.

There have been cameo appearances from Cristian Gamboa and Ryan Christie and some becoming forgotten figures such as Kolo Toure, Dedryck Boyata, Nadir Ciftci and of course Efe Ambrose. Deeper down the ranks though we haven’t seen much of Eoghan O’Connell, Jamie McCart, Anthon Ralston, Liam Henderson, Kristofer Ajer or Jack Aitchison.

Tonight some of these guys might get a nod, but I don’t see Brendan making too many changes. As comfortable as Celtic are right now, you don’t want to appear to be cocky.

A win tonight would put Celtic 14 points in the clear and still with a game at hand over second place. The long-term aim is an unbeaten run, even if it isn’t being discussed openly.

It currently sits at all 20 domestic games unbeaten, 19 of which were wins with the last 14 being straight wins. To ensure that continues, players will be champing at the bit to be part of it and keep this momentum.

One player who isn’t part of things right nowh though is Kris Commons. He has gone out on loan to Hibernian until mid-January.

The happy recipient is of course the man who brought him to Celtic in the first place. Neil Lennon will utilise the services of Commons to see Hibs through a tough spell with personnel in the Scottish Championship battle.

The Leith club are neck-a-neck with Dundee United right now, but Commons has answered the call by his former manager. Brendan Rodgers has stated that it is good for both parties, but with Commons out of contract in the summer and having never kicked a ball under Rodgers he is very unlikely to be at Celtic beyond this season.

For a player with such great talent, he has managed to find himself out of the picture with all three Celtic managers he has played under. Despite making a huge impact in January 2010 under Lennon, Commons would lose his place in the first team the following season amid rumours and speculation of a fall out, ignoring any other facts in the process.

He would later return to form and the first team which was good news for the club and the fans. Commons was a key player and had been missed by the fans.

Next came the Ronny Deila era and it wasn’t too long before he fell out of favour with the Norwegian. Deila was becoming well-known for fitness and it was almost certainly the reason behind his decision to leave Commons out of his team selections.

Although a gifted player, Commons isn’t the fastest or leanest. When a manager is focussed on certain attributes that you are lacking then they are going against their own plans to make an exception for you.

Even although Lennon and Deila would make that exception, Rodgers doesn’t appear to be of the same mind. You have to be consistent with your decisions and this loan spell may offer Kris Commons a lifeline to see out the rest of the season with Celtic, but after that I don’t see a way back for the 33-year-old.

There is no question of his affinity for the club and the admiration the fans have for him. If he is not fitting the mould of the Brendan Rodgers type player he is almost certainly a goner this summer.

I hope he does well at Hibs and we do get to see him wear the Hoops again. Tonight though, the opportunities are there for those with a longer future at the club.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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A busy transfer window, not a miserly transfer window

I’m not going to beat about the bush. This Bhoy is satisfied with the transfer activity carried out by Celtic this summer.

Many of you will no doubt disagree with me on that,  judging by some of the reaction I’ve read elsewhere on the web. The lack of an apparent marquee signing or a creative midfielder appear to be the main reasons.

With a squad the size Brendan Rodgers has, there are still plenty of opportunities for existing players to prove themselves under his guidance. The manager has already made a huge difference upon his arrival.

Celtic have offloaded nine players with a further ten out on loan. At the same time, they have drafted in six players and renewed the contracts of two.

If that isn’t a busy window, then I don’t know what is. Come the January transfer window, I would expect to see further moves in and out of Celtic Park as well.

Celtic are already showing signs of great improvement on the field of play and that is without a fully fit squad. Now with the transfer window shut, we know who will be available to Brendan Rodgers until the end of the year at least.

The addition and impact of Scott Sinclair and Kolo Toure has been very influential and I would argue that they have marquee signings for Rodgers. New contracts for Tom Rogic and James Forrest has breathed new life into their careers at the club and on the field of play.

Moussa Dembele continues to settle in and has also made a steady impact. Cristian Gamboa’s was an unexpected purchase but with Saidy Janko now out on loan, it appears this was an area Brendan Rodgers was not happy with.

The departure of Stefan Johansen and the loaning of Scott Allan has helped the midfield in that there will be more opportunities for others. Ryan Christie, Liam Henderson and Kristoffer Ajer will be seeking to displace Scott Brown, Nir Bitton, Callum McGregor, and Tom Rogic.

There is also Stuart Armstrong and Kris Commons to consider as well. With the amount of games Celtic are set to play, I expect many will get an opportunity even if they have to be patient.

At the back, it would have been good to see the back of Efe Ambrose but he has stood firm and remains. I can’t see him getting in the team with Kolo Toure and Erik Sviatchenko as key players.

Also fighting for a place will be Dedryck Boyata and Jozo Simunovic. The jury is still out on Boyata for me but the failed transfer of Simunovic to Torino is a positive.

Having been hampered by injury, the Croatian defender has rarely had time to make a go of things and I was stunned Celtic were trying to move him on. I think this might be a twist of fate for Celtic as he will push Toure and Sviatchenko all the way.

Mikael Lustig has the benefit of being able to play right back or centre half so he is one of our more fortunate defenders. Kieran Tierney doesn’t look as comfortable in a back three as Lustig but will be a key player on the left side of defence regardless.

Sparring for that role will be Emilio Izaguirre though he is more like Gamboa as a wing back than a defender. The one player I was sad to see sign on elsewhere was Charlie Mulgrew.

Although he was still training at the club, he hasn’t been shy of injuries in recent times. Mulgrew’s versatility is one of his greatest assets which would have been great to have had in the squad.

However, if he did receive reduced terms as reported, I cannot fault the club. Given his absences in the past two seasons and his desire to secure one last big contract I can only wish him all the best at Blackburn.

On the wings we have Scott Sinclair, James Forrest, Patrick Roberts and Gary Mackay-Steven. Mackay-Steven will struggle to get into the team now, especially when Roberts returns.

Up front, Leigh Griffiths will duel with Dembele so it will be interesting to see how Nadir Ciftci handles being left in the dark. He will either emerge better or go under and eventually move on – it is up to him.

Last but not least is the number one slot. Craig Gordon has been first choice for two seasons but with the arrival of Dorus de Vries, his position is in jeopardy.

De Vries played under Brendan Rodgers previously and seems he will be given a chance to push Gordon all the way. Meantime, Logan Bailly and Leonardo Fasan have fallen further down the pecking order.

So it is an exciting time. The squad has seen arrivals and departures and judging by what I have seen under Brendan Rodgers will continue to get better.

Poor transfer window? I don’t think so.

Some further deals may have happened but for the business that has been done, I am happy. There is so much to look forward to right now and even more to look forward to in the future.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Time to be cut-throat with our over-inflated squad

No sooner than he is announced as Celtic’s new manager, Brendan Rodgers is said to be planning a clear out of players. This isn’t much of a surprise but it does seem to be prompt action.

Celtic have a massive team and in the hours following Rodgers signature, I’ve been discussing the current squad in my circle. Downsizing is a must particularly if fresh players are to be introduced but there are some question marks over key players.

Rumours are suggesting that Stefan Šćepović and Carlton Cole have already gone. Emilio Izaguirre was also set to leave but the word on the street is he will be back for pre-season training.

Perhaps the arrival of Rodgers has some players reconsidering their Celtic careers. This is not just limited to Izzy though, there are several players who will be evaluating their positions.

The latest rumour is linking Efe Ambrose with a move to Europa League opponents Fenerbahçe. I mean, if the Turkish club didn’t get a good enough look at his calamitous efforts when playing against him then I would say this is a cruel joke.

However, he does need to go and won’t get any argument from me. Tyler Blackett can also return to Manchester United after a poor loan spell.

In terms of do-they-or-don’t-they get new deals are Charlie Mulgrew, James Forrest and Darnell Fisher. All three are out of contract, though Forrest’s is said to run until mid-season, but whether they have futures at the club will be the first piece of business.

Mulgrew is a valuable utility man and any deal he offered is most likely to be small given his recent absence from the team. Forrest has also been a player absent from the first team but how much of that has been injury based is unclear.

He has had his fair share of them and has hindered his career at the club. Despite that, he has had some fantastic games for the club, we just haven’t seen it for so long and he might become surplus to requirement.s

Fisher, has been on loan at St Johnstone this season but played less than a dozen games. He looked like a decent prospect, despite playing in an oversubscribed playing position.

With Mikael Lustig currently first choice, Saidy Janko second, Fisher is likely to be cut. That would only change if either of the first two were to leave which is doubtful.

In the final year of their contracts are Kris Commons, Stefan Johansen, Tom Rogic, Leonardo Fasan and Eoghan O’Connell. Also on that list are Emilio Izaguirre and Efe Ambrose.

There is opportunity for Celtic to cash in on all or some of these guys. However, one player the club should make a priority to keep is Tom Rogic.

Put simply, he is one of our best players and given the season he has just had, deserves a new contract. Commons’ value will be low given his age but his ability suggests he still has a role to play at the club.

Johansen had a great start to his Celtic career but this season has been poor. There is nothing to suggest he won’t get back to his best and a new contract would depend on that and his desire to stay.

Fasan and O’Connell are squad players who have never made an impact and could will either go out on loan, let their contracts wind down or be sold off. The only other player with a year left to go is Cole but if rumours are accurate, we can confine him to the scrap-heap.

Then there is the matter of Celtic’s players out on loan. Fisher we’ve covered, the Šćepović rumour has yet to be clarified so that leaves some key players to discuss.

After 4 goals in 22 appearances for Celtic, Nadir Çiftçi was shipped out on loan to Eskişehirspor during the January transfer window. He lasted just 34 minutes in his first game before being substituted and was sent of in his second after receiving two yellow cards in the space of a minute.

In 10 appearances he managed 3 goals and now Eskişehirspor have been relegated. Given that their fans set fire to their own stadium following that, I’d say Çiftçi and Eskişehirspor are a good fit for each other.

Before going to Hibs, Liam Henderson was looking like a very decent midfield prospect. However, it is a busy area in terms of personnel and Celtic farmed him out for some first team experience.

He played the end of last season at Rosenborg where he scored 4 goals in 13 games. After returning to Celtic he was then off on a season long loan to Championship club, Hibs.

He’s played a massive 48 games and scored 6 goals. Will he be returning to Celtic this summer and making an impact in the first team?

Well he certainly has the talent but like I say, there is a lot of competition in the team right now. His future may depend on the future of others with expired/expiring contracts.

Another Hibs player with a question mark over his future is Anthony Stokes. I’ve been fairly convinced the club have been trying to move him on but as you might have seen from his performance in the Scottish Cup Final, he still has a lot of worth.

He is still only 27 and you know what, Brendan Rodgers might just fancy him for the left flank. At the moment, it isn’t our strongest position but it is a place Stokes knows inside out.

Is it time for the prodigal son to return? Watch this space.

Other loanees are Stuart Findlay, Calum Waters, and Aidan Nesbitt. These guys could very well be part of the next generation but right now there immediate futures are not a burning issue.

So what about our other team members? Will we see any more movement within the squad?

Well in the goalkeeper department we are reasonably secure for the coming season with Craig Gordon as number one and Logan Bailly as backup. The defence isn’t looking too bad either though that will all depend on who is available.

Erik Sviatchenko looks good and steady at the back. He needs a permanent partner though and my first choice would be Jozo Šimunović.

However, Jozo has had his injuries and the central defensive pairing will depend on his recovery and long-term fitness. If that doesn’t work out then you are looking at Dedryck Boyata.

In all honesty, I haven’t been convinced by the Belgian who was a permanent buy from Manchester City once Jason Denayer returned to them from his loan spell. Boyata hasn’t even come close to looking as good as Denayer so this season is make or break for him.

Our midfield is flooding with personnel right now and to accommodate all of them is a tall order. Captain Scott Brown has had a dodgy season but there is no danger of losing his services though I do think Rodgers should not be afraid to drop him.

Nir Bitton is a fine player when he wants to be, despite his languid demeanour at times. I’d be happy for him to stay on though with a return to form we may find it difficult to prevent a future move.

Gary Mackay-Steven has had some decent games for Celtic but he lacks any sort of consistency. Even at his best, he hasn’t looked as good as James Forrest and with Patrick Roberts currently blowing away almost every other Celtic player right now, Mackay-Steven is on the fringes right now.

One player growing in importance and demonstrating is adaptability is Callum McGregor. Ronny Deila gave him his first outing in the first team and has been a very loyal servant to the now departed Celtic Head Coach.

He can play wide, central or deep and has an eye for goal. His place in this squad is not in jeopardy.

Stuart Armstrong is wasted out in the wide areas. He might have a left foot but he is not a let winger.

For me, he needs to play more of a central role. He isn’t fast but he is strong, has great technique and can pick out a pass.

The two players who will be knocking on the door of the new manager will be Ryan Christie and Scott Allan. Both came in last summer and have played a small amount of matches, though Christie was loaned back to his previous club for half of this season as well has suffering and injury.

They are both highly rated players and could well be the part of the new season under Rodgers. Celtic need to push forward and these guys can be part of it but as I have said before, we have a lot of players in the midfield position and something or someone will have to give.

In the youth front, Anthony Ralston and Joe Thomson are still on the periphery. With so many players ahead of them their time is likely to be a bit further down the line.

Up front is an area where Celtic are lightweight. Leigh Griffiths is our star player right now but he has not backup. Colin Kazim-Richards is a more physical player but he doesn’t’ provide anywhere near the same kind of ability so this is an area where Celtic will have to strengthen, particularly if we are to make inroads in Europe once more.

Jack Aitchison came off the bench to score with his first touch in his first senior appearance for the club in the 7-0 mauling of Motherwell. He also became the youngest ever player to score for Celtic, breaking an age-old record.

You can’t judge the boy on one goal. If he can offer something long-term in attack we will soon find out though.

Rodgers might have to be cut-throat to bring down the squad size in order to make some space for new players. We already have a new player in Kristoffer Ajer joining the ranks as part of a pre-planned deal but there will be further moves and changes in the coming weeks.

Exciting times to be a Celtic supporter.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Who would you choose for Sunday?

We’ve seen a lot of changes to the Celtic side since Ronny Deila came in almost two years ago. Few of these player combinations have had a consistent run for varying reasons bu does Ronny have or know his best eleven?

Players going out on loan from Celtic, players finishing their loan spell at Celtic, loss of form, injury or simply not good enough! It has had a big impact on progress but that’s all part of the game.

Whether you perceive Sunday’s match as old rivals or as new ones, the match is still being hyped up to the effect of the former. Given the opportunity, who would you choose to start on Sunday though?

Do you throw in your experienced players such as Kris Commons? Or do you stick with your on form Patrick Roberts and don’t let the occasion get to you?

It’s a tough one because whilst you can play down the encounter as two different teams from two different leagues, meeting for only the second time, the sports media are all over this like it’s an O** F*** match. The first time Celtic played The Rangers it was a firm 2-0 win at Hampden in the League Cup Semi Final last year.

On that day the line up was: Gordon, Lustig, Izaguirre, van Dijk, Denayer, Brown, Bitton, Commons, Johansen, Stokes and Griffiths. Later in the match we saw Guidetti on for Griffiths, Forrest on for Stokes and Matthews on for Lustig.

Of the 14 Celtic players who took part that day, 5 have now departed (Stokes is on loan but almost certainly gone in the summer). With the exception of Denayer, van Dijk and Stokes Celtic could put out the same team.

This time, Ronny Deila has further options though. In fact he has almost an entirely new team at his disposal.

Although with Celtic by that stage last season, Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven were both cup tied for that semi final. In addition, players such as Charlie Mulgrew, Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor were not available for selection.

Even Kieran Tierney was but a twinkle in Ronny Deila’s eye at that stage. Whereas Efe Ambrose was left on the bench along with current Celtic loanees, Stefan Šćepović and Liam Henderson.

Since then Deila has added Dedryck Boyata, Erik Sviatchenko, Jozo Šimunović, Saidy Janko, Ryan Christie, Scott Allan, Patrick Roberts, Colin Kazim-Richards and Carlton Cole to the ranks. With injuries and lack of game time ruling out many, there are still significantly more options available this time around.

From those thought to be available my personal pick would be: Gordon, Lustig, Tierney, Boyata, Mulgrew, Brown, Bitton, Commons, Armstrong, McGregor and Griffiths. I’d think about bringing on Roberts for Armstrong or McGregor and Rogic for Commons as the game wears on.

If you’re going to play Commons then do so from the start I say. I’m very much in favour of Rogic playing more matches as well, but I think he can pick up a game from any stage unlike Commons who could well be important in this match.

Armstrong would provide some much needed stability in the midfield which is an area we have been weak lately. McGregor would provide a good support to the attack as well and is also a form player.

Roberts would be a great option to bring on to either keep momentum or up the pace entirely. There may also be a place for Kazim-Richards in this tie with his physical presence in mind.

As much as Griffiths has the guile to cause problems, he can be out-muscled if he isn’t on his game. I’m sure this match will be more challenging than last year’s whichever team Ronny decides to put out.

The Ibrox club will be out to prove they can cut it at the ‘top’. Playing the current Scottish Champions and the best team in Scotland is the benchmark for them after all.

Do we have anything to worry about? Well that depends on what you are worried about.

Personally, Celtic should be putting them to rest with relative ease. The Rangers have a point to prove though and if you believe what the Scottish media tell you, this mob will be challenging for the title next season, not just trying to stay up!

We’ve had a continued stream of anti-Celtic stories all week. In contrast I’ve read nothing negative about tomorrow’s underdogs.

Once that whistle blows at 12pm on Sunday, all the negative stories will fade away. Celtic just need to do their talking on the park.

Until tomorrow then.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

What does the future hold?

The current season is far from concluded but the one that follows isn’t far away in terms of time or planning. In fact it is most certainly well in to the latter already, but the question is who will still be involved next season?

Celtic bought in the January transfer window once more. By acquiring certain players it suggests future planning with a central defender, winger and striker added to the ranks.

There will be further movement come the summer and no doubt, some will need to go. Not necessarily to make way for new players, but because the squad is too large and not everyone is performing as they should be.

Craig Gordon – a standout performer in his first season, he has slid in terms of reliability in this current season but has looked better recently. I don’t think his position is in jeopardy for next season though. Verdict: still no.1 in the current set up

Logan Bailly – nothing to suggest he will get the nod ahead of Gordon or that he will be on the move. Will remain no.2 to Gordon. Verdict: must push Gordon for no.1 spot

Leonardo Fasan – the young goalkeeper would have loved to get the no.2 slot but was deemed too inexperienced. At 22 he will want and will need first team experience. Verdict: loan out for a season

Mikael Lustig – close to equalling his best ever season in terms of appearances and goals, the Swede has had his share of injuries at Celtic. This season he has avoided major injury and worn the captain’s armband in the absence of Mulgrew and Brown. I fully expect to see him back in the fold next season as well. Verdict: a key player, particularly in big games

Saidy Janko – unlike his fellow right back, the Swiss youngster has been out for the majority of the season due to injury. He showed early promise and left many Manchester United fans disgruntled at the loss of a good prospect. It will be good to see him back in contention for next season. Verdict: target a place in the team for next season

Efe Ambrose – the Nigerian internationalist is now in his fourth season for the club and on course for his fourth league winners medal. He joined a Celtic side at their peak under Neil Lennon but his errors have exposed him badly, particularly in big matches. Whether he remains a bit part player or is moved on remains to be seen but I personally don’t see him as a key player for Celtic in their bid to make progress. Verdict: time to go I’m afraid

Emilio Izaguirre – the Honduran internationalist made a huge impact when he signed for Celtic nearly 6 years ago. He has endured serious injury, won prizes and is still very much a talented player. This season he has lost his place to an emerging youngster but it remains to be seen if this spells the end for Izzy. With good left backs a rare breed it is both hard to satisfy and retain two good ones at the same time. Verdict: more than happy if he stays but club may cash in this summer if the opportunity arises

Kieran Tierney – nobody expected such positive results from this player when he stepped into the first team but he has now held down the position and made it his own. It is a testimony to his ability and application that he can keep an internationalist of more than 80 caps out of the side whilst he embarks upon his own career for club and country. Verdict: a very long and bright future at Celtic

Charlie Mulgrew – out for most of the season through injury, he has emerged (not for the first time) as a calming influence at the back for Celtic recently. Versatile as he can be, it is hard to know what Mulgrew’s best position is but he does provide options for a manager and that is a valuable tool to retain and utilise. Verdict: worth another contract for sure (and looks like he’s getting one)

Dedryck Boyata – brought in last summer as a replacement from Manchester City who took back Jason Denayer much to our disappointment. I think I am being honest in saying that Boyata isn’t a patch on his fellow Belgian and former City colleague. There is still time for Boyata to prove his worth but to date, I am less than convinced. Verdict: no doubt will remain at the club but as backup to the preferred centre backs

Jozo Šimunović – the young Croatian was drafted in with a hefty price tag but that transpired to be off the mark in terms of accuracy. He was injured early on in his Celtic career and is once more, but hopefully once recovered he can show as much promise as he has in the games he has played in so far this season. The hope is that he makes a full recovery from this season ending injury which required surgery recently. Verdict: hopefully we’ll see him emboss himself in next seasons defence

Erik Sviatchenko – this is the player I’d like to see build that relationship with Šimunović. Sviatchenko has been thrown into the mix and helped settle things down at the back for Celtic during a turbulent and pressurised period. He claims not to be fully fit at the moment and just scooped player of the year in his homeland, suffice to say I think we’ve got a good one. Verdict: looks a like a good acquisition for Delia

Tyler Blackett – Manchester United allowed this young, inexperienced defender to come to Glasgow on loan. He got his chance earlier in the season but was less than impressive. Verdict: return to sender

Eoghan O’Connell – this promising central defender has played a handful of games for Celtic and looked comfortable at senior level even as a teenager. A loan spell at Oldham Athletic this season was used to gain him some first team experience only to be cut short by injury. He has now gone on a further loan spell to home town club Cork City to get the experience he missed out on last year. Verdict: still a good choice for the future

Stuart Findlay – another young talent currently out on loan at Kilmarnock, seeking first team experience and a future at Celtic. The central defender has plenty of international experience for Scotland from under-16 through to under-21 and despite no real opportunity at Celtic just yet, there is nothing to suggest that his future cannot start at the club in the near future. Verdict: still time to stake a claim

Calum Waters – the young full back has also been out loan this season with Dumbarton benefiting from his talent. He has also represented Scotland, at under-16 to under-19 level and will be looking for a chance at Celtic, but with right back an oversubscribed position at the club, he may struggle in getting that chance. Verdict: another loan spell wouldn’t be a disaster

Darnell Fisher – sent out on loan for the season, I think this is one player who deserves to be part of the squad. Nothing fancy but showed enough under Neil Lennon when called upon to do a job at right back and right midfield. His loan spell could prove to be useful should Celtic bring him back and keep him and upon turning 22 next month, the first team should be his priority or the club may move him on. Verdict: time to push for a first team place

Scott Brown – club captain and still a big influence in the first team, he remains a key part of this squad. He is a strong character who has matured well in the Celtic jersey. There is little doubt he could retire at Celtic but he has many years left in him before that happens. Verdict: can’t imagine a Celtic squad without Broony right now

Nir Bitton – the Israeli midfielder has blossomed over the last year or so into a key player for this team. At 24 he still has his best years ahead of him and whilst that is good for Celtic, they may find it difficult to hang on to him if his talent continues to grow. A good offer may not come this summer but I wouldn’t rule out one in the near future. Verdict: an essential player who may be tempted by a big money move

Derk Boerrigter – definitely in the top ten of Celtic’ s worst ever signings, this guy should have gone last summer never mind this summer. Verdict: go now please

Stuart Armstrong – looking more assured in a Celtic jersey since he signed just over a year ago, I think he will grow into a key player for Celtic. Verdict: would like to see him in central midfield

Kris Commons – few would argue that he is one if not the most talented players currently plying his trade at Celtic. Age is currently against the gifted player and for many, he hasn’t seen enough game time under Deila. Verdict: Celtic will want to retain his skills for as long as he can still cut it at the top

Gary Mackay-Steven – another Dundee United acquisition from last year, he has made a reasonable contribution to the team albeit, not consistently. This is a player who has put in some fine games but needs to push on if he wants to keep a place in the team. Verdict: still looking for more from the winger

Ryan Christie – after signing in the summer he went back to his previous club on loan but now he is pushing for a place in the Celtic first team. Verdict: a very promising young player who could be very big for this club

Tom Rogic – I for one am glad this guy has made it into the first team. His services have been a rare joy this season and I look forward to seeing more and more from this exciting Australian. Verdict: Celtic should pull out all the stops to keep this guy

Scott Allan – many think a run in this team is long overdue for the former Hibs midfielder but his time will come. As established midfielders begin to age or become subject to transfer speculation I have no doubt he will be among this next wave of talent at Celtic who are the future of the club. Verdict: a key part of the future midfield

Stefan Johansen – even though he has been way off the boil this season he is still a big player for the club. His first season and a half were impressive and whilst this one has been largely forgettable, I think any suggestion of him being sold is utter nonsense unless it is what he wants. Verdict: needs to get back to his best next season

Patrick Roberts – on loan from Manchester City, this player has come highly recommended. With his services available at Celtic until next summer, Deila will be looking for this bedding in period to help the winger establish himself in the first team and play a key role next season particularly in Europe. Verdict: high expectations from his long-term loan

Callum McGregor – he is but one example who has responded to and performed for Deila. He is a big part of the team now and provides the team with a good attacking option. Verdict: has taken his chance at senior level

James Forrest – now at the age of 24 and in his 6th full season in the first team, the often exciting winger is now looking close to leaving the club after turning down a new contract. The contract was said to be a good one but the player obviously sees that differently. As much as I would hate to lose his services, injuries are a problem for Forrest and it could well be that was factored into the deal he was offered by the club. Verdict: likely to depart in the summer

Joe Thomson – a young player who still has age on his side, he has made just one sub appearance for the club. Like many other Celtic hopefuls, he has a lot of international experience with Scotland at across the youth teams from under-15 up to under-19 but lacks the first team experience to push past the current list of midfielders-in-waiting. Verdict: a loan move will be essential for his development

Liam Henderson – this is one player who has shown to be a promising talent both in the Celtic first team and out on loan. He burst onto the scene under Neil Lennon and continued that under Ronny Deila but in a congested midfield, he was sent out on loan to Rosenborg and now with Hibs where he has played more than 30 games this season. He has made a significant impact with both clubs in the space of a year. Verdict : undoubtedly a player I look forward to coming back and wearing the Hoops for many years to come

Leigh Griffiths – Celtic’s top player right now and prime candidate for player of the year. His goals are the statistical difference between first and second place in the league but his skill and touch are equally as impressive. Some strikers possess pace, some with a powerful shot but when on his game the touch displayed by Griffiths can be spectacular. Verdict: unplayable but needs more support at times from his midfield or a second striker

Colin Kazim-Richards – the “Coca-Cola Kid” hasn’t had the success he may have liked in football but he has certainly has had the clubs. The London born Turkish international has been around English and Turkish clubs with pit-stops in France, Greece, Holland and now Scotland. At 29 years old, he comes with experience but the real hard work will be done next season when he will be expected to provide more to this team. Verdict: only time will tell

Carlton Cole – the former England international penned a two-year deal with Celtic last year but has been a seldom seen figure. With the greatest of respect to the big fella, he is little more than a squad player who might provide a ‘presence’ up front at a key stage in a match. In all honesty his best years are behind him at West Ham United. Verdict: a curious signing but he’s all ours for another year!

Nadir Çiftçi – for a player we were all pretty much universal in our condemnation of, he has done little to appeal even to the most passive of Celtic fans. He got plenty of game time at the beginning of the season but it proved to be largely uninspiring despite scoring 4 goals in 11 league appearances. This loan spell Eskişehirspor has yielded 1 goal in 4 appearances but what has been more notable was that he subbed in his first game, then sent off in the second. It could happen to anyone but he never seems far from on-the-field controversy. Verdict: can Celtic afford another striker failure?

Stefan Šćepović – yet another striker who failed to hit the mark for the club. The Serb came with a reasonable scoring record from his previous club like fellow Celtic loanee, Çiftçi but struggled to make headway in the first team. All his 6 goals in 25 appearances last season earned him was a loan move to Getafe. Verdict: doubtful to return

Anthony Stokes – unlike the previous two loanees, Stokes has actually done a job for Celtic since he joining in 2010. Under Deila though, he has been frozen out. Off the field, Stokes has not helped himself and the club have frowned upon that. Verdict: Despite his skill and success he will be gone in the summer.

Aidan Nesbitt – of all the strikers out on loan, only this kid is a certainty to return t the fold. He has been hailed as one for the future and could well go out on loan again next season but if the current backup to Griffiths fail to deliver, you could be seeing this kid sooner rather than later. Verdict: great expectations

So, there you have it. My take on the current squad is that from front to back Celtic could or should be parting with Blackett, Ambrose, Boerrigter, Forrest, Stokes and Šćepović permanently but that list is by no means final.

The only player confirmed for this coming summer is Kristoffer Ajer who is yet another midfielder. At 17 he is much younger than anyone else in the Celtic team but a player which Deila has pursued with intent.

Next season this team could look very different in terms of regular appearances. Until then, there is work to be done and places being fought for to secure a league and cup double.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Everything out in the open

At a time in the season when trophies are the paramount of importance, another discussion is in circulation on planet Celtic. Discontent is high on the agenda right now and the future of this Celtic team, their coaching staff and those who wear the suits, surrounds everything.

If you consider Celtic to be the best team in Scotland, which they still are at the moment, an outsider might say “well what’s the problem then?” The simple answer would be “for how much longer?”

That of course is based partly on the current sequence of events which is largely seeing Celtic struggle to secure a fifth successive league title. It doesn’t end there though because the situation is bigger than that.

What’s bigger than the league? The Champions League of course.

One does not exist without the other though. To get to the latter you must first win the former.

Having missed out last season, but having a relatively decent innings in the Europa League, we all expected more in the current campaign. What happened turned out to be worse though.

It’s hard to ignore the regression of this season. Celtic’s faltering attempt to remain a European force has taken us down a peg or two.

Nobody likes it and it has hit the supporters hard. In truth we threw away a superb opportunity to make it this season and ultimately failed the European test.

By comparison we failed even more in this season’s Europa League campaign than the last. Statistically, there isn’t much between this season and the last in the Scottish Premiership and at the same stage.

Yet this time last year this squad were finding their feet. They were looking sharper than what we had seen earlier in the campaign and there was a sign that things were coming together.

Where did it all go wrong then? Was it Champions League failure that crucified our season or was it something else?

Are Ronny Deila’s efforts exhausted or is something amiss? It’s hard to define exactly what the problem is when you have players coming out to back the manager and taking the blame themselves.

Then Ronny calls it as he sees fit. The “players didn’t do well enough” or “we’re improving all the time”.

At times I feel he is just telling the media whatever he needs to protect himself and his players. You can’t ignore a really dire performance but he has done so on occasion.

Ronny is a highly intelligent and likeable man. I get the distinct feeling we don’t see the real Ronny enough.

As for the current set of problems, I don’t know where the issue lies precisely. The only thing I can say is that we’re not seeing a good product on the park for this club or its fans.

Is it the coaches or is it the players? Are the players not receiving the right motivation and tactics or are the players simply not good enough or influential enough to lead this club?

On their game, I would say all of the current Celtic squad are capable of remaining Celtic players with one or two exceptions. So why aren’t they performing individually or as a team?

What do the men upstairs think about all of this? Are they already looking at alternatives or are they sticking by ‘their’ man?

I’m not sure that the addition of more players is the answer either. It’s about how we are playing on the day.

I’d happily take a couple more players to ensure that next season we have the correct quantity and quality for each position. That would also mean moving some deadwood out, but I think there is more at play here.

I think there are some players in this team that really want to play for this coaching team and some that don’t. This is where I think the problem might be and if I am being honest something or someone will have to give.

If I am right about this then there is a stalemate within the club. Even if you have most players playing for the head coach, there will be an atmosphere which upsets the harmony.

You know what though, I could be completely wrong but I think there is something in that. And perhaps this is where these “clear the air” talks have stemmed from.

This time last year we were on the up and now we’re not. If it is simply that Ronny Deila is out of his depth then we’ll soon know.

If there is more to it and Celtic have been trying to contain the matter then I’m sure it’ll all come out in the wash eventually. The club do not appear to be pushing Ronny out the door and whilst that may suggest they are not taking action, perhaps we as supporters don’t have all of the facts.

Only the players and coaching staff know what the problem is. It’s up to them to sort it out if they are to win this double.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

 

Trimming the numbers

Following on from my pre-match blog yesterday, I’ve included the part about current Celtic squad members and their futures. The team as we know is inflating to the point that it is becoming the new criticism on supporters lips.

Almost every Celtic midfielder right now, has a valid reason for wanting to go or for the club moving them on. It’s a lottery to be quite honest and its anyone’s guess who is for the chop.

After a dire season for him so far, Stefan Johansen is top of some lists. Come the summer he will have been at the club for two-and-a-half seasons and with only one of those seasons being poor (the current one), it would seem rather harsh to sell him based upon that.

Nir Bitton, one of Celtic’s best players has a long-term deal (not that, that stands for anything at Celtic) but he is probably our most profitable midfielder right now. For that reason, it would not surprise me if Celtic tried to cash in on that this summer.

Recently back from long-term injury is Charlie Mulgrew. Now I am a fan of Charlie, but because his deal is due to run out, questions have been raised over his future but with his versatility, relatively low salary (I assume) and an influential Scottish player, I doubt Celtic would let him go.

Tom Rogić, a player I thought would never wear the Hoops again, has been a revelation this season. Even though Europe was a major let down for the club and the domestic scene has been a real slog, Tom has been a stand out performer for me and his Celtic future should be a priority.

Kris Commons has ben on the sidelines recently with injury and illness. He has weighed in with 9 goals overall this season but at the age of 32 and not always a first pick for Ronny Deila, he could be moved on.

It would be a great shame to part with such a gifted player though. Last season he was well out of the picture at one point but he still massed 16 goals in all competitions.

I think his experience is undervalued at times, especially for big games. Personally, I would be looking to retain his services as one of the club’s most experienced players but with a large squad at the club, he could be on wrong end of the decision making.

Out on the wide areas there are a few players vying for similar positions. James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Gary Mackay-Steven have all seen action this season but Celtic cannot possibly sustain all three, particularly when Patrick Roberts has been drafted in on loan until the end of next season.

When on his game, Forrest is a nightmare for defenders. He can add goals as much as a assists but he is often let down by injury and used sparingly one would assume to prevent these injuries.

McGregor got his chance under Ronny Deila last season and repaid him immediately with a goal on his European debut. As that season wore on, he faded out of the picture and after getting injured has made it back into the fold this season.

He appears to be one of Ronny Deila’s favourites. In fairness to McGregor, he has made a fair contribution recently as well.

Mackay-Steven has also been out of the picture or underperforming but he came back onto the scene recently with a few goals. He too has goals in him and plays in a wide area but can support the front man as well.

In this area though, something has to give. And there are other players possibly looking at summer exits.

Efe Ambrose is far from having a CSC named after him (or does he have one already?). With the defence already beginning to take shape without him, he could be on his way out.

Tyler Blackett is most likely going to return to Manchester United. He hasn’t impressed at all, though to be fair I think he was out of his depth to begin with.

Stefan Šćepović, currently out on loan at Getafe, may not even return to Celtic. Having signed on deadline day two summers ago, he has failed to hit the heights in Scotland.

I thought he had a good chance this season to prove himself but was sent out on loan instead. Whether that was his desire or Deila’s, I can’t see Celtic bringing him back again/him wanting to come back.

Also out on loan is Anthony Stokes at Hibs. Despite what any fan thinks of his playing ability, good or bad, it would appear it is his off the field issues that are the problem for Celtic.

There is no doubt that the player has talent but his time is almost certainly up. I am fairly certain Celtic will move him on this summer.

A question mark remains over Nadir Çiftçi though. He got the nod in Europe early on in the season mainly because he had a domestic ban and couldn’t play in the league.

In half a season he hasn’t looked anywhere near doing a job. Will he come back?

I think he probably will. Whether he ever makes it at Celtic though remains in doubt.

Right now Carlton Cole is probably ahead of him in the pecking order of attacking options. That’s saying something considering he has barely kicked a ball for Celtic.

Last but not least is Derk Boerrigter. Since signing in the summer of 2013 he has managed 26 appearances and scored one goal.

His absence has been largely through injury. However, he hasn’t played for the first team since his ban for diving was served back in 2014.

With his injury history, it is still questionable why Celtic spunked £3M on him. Let’s hope appearances were set into that figure because if they weren’t heads should be rolling upstairs at Celtic for his signature and many other failures like him.

Most of those failures we have seen off now. That doesn’t stop you thinking about how many bad ones there have been.

Celtic need to start getting it right again on the transfer front. Ronny Deila has used a mixture of loans and buys in his first two seasons.

On that note, I actually think our most recent purchases are of a better standard. Jozo Šimunović, Erik Sviatchenko and Colin Kazim-Richards all look like decent buys though I know very little about the incoming Kristoffer Ajer.

Although only 17, he is a midfielder and another reason for Celtic needing to trim their numbers. There is also the likes of Liam Henderson, himself a worthy prospect, currently out on loan at Hibs.

There is every chance that he might even stay another year at the Edinburgh club. I rate him as a decent prospect but it is hard to see where he would fit into this Celtic midfield right now.

Also out on loan are Darnell Fisher (St Johnstone), Eoghan O’Connell (Cork City), Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock), Calum Waters (Dumbarton) and Aidan Nesbitt (Partick Thistle). Fisher I liked the look of since ever since he made appearances under Neil Lennon and reckon he would be a good squad player.

O’Connell is now on his second loan of the season and still requires more experience. Nesbitt is said to be a very good prospect which is food for thought.

Findlay and Waters are getting valuable experience playing elsewhere this season. As for their Celtic careers, you are always doubtful when someone goes out on loan, if they will come back and break into the first team.

At the end of the day it is a numbers game and Celtic will have to trim accordingly. Next season is make or break for Ronny Deila in terms of Europe but there remains a domestic double to chase this seasonbefore then.

That should be the all inspiration and motivation the current team require to prove themselves for this club, its supporters. Not to forget their own futures whether they are out on loan or in the current playing squad.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac