All the best Adam…

For a young talented player with only two years senior experience under his belt, Adam Matthews turned out to be a good acquisition for Celtic. Having signed him for nothing, retained his services for four years and sold him on for over £2M with a sell on clause, it is good business for the club.

Adam proved himself at right back, left back and on the right wing for Celtic. He played in some huge matches, scored goals, provided assists and even had a great pair of lungs!

The one thing holding him back was in proneness to injury. He isn’t the only Celtic player in the present day to be held back by such an issue but it was an issue.

It has been said that it was his desire to move on and not Celtic’s that brought about his transfer request and subsequent move to Sunderland. I see no reason to doubt that given that he has served us well and despite his injuries.

And it is was his injuries that were the only issue for me. His ability was more than enough to hold down a regular place.

If you are a manager and looking to make strides in Europe as Celtic always are then you need to be able to rely on your best players. The unfortunate thing for Celtic is that they haven’t always been able to rely upon Matthews, Lustig or even Forrest because of niggling injuries.

For Ronny Deila to even try to achieve his goal at Celtic, he needs to know the players he has at his disposal will be available for him. If there is a ‘cure’ for Lustig and Forrest then I see no reason for them to leave the club.

At the same time, the club are under no obligation to hold on to players who cannot fulfill their contract. I’m sure given maturity Matthews will overcome his injuries but he has been granted a transfer request and Celtic get something in return.

The young Welsh international has done his job for Celtic these last four years. 150 appearances and 5 goals later, he goes south with my blessing.

Good luck Adam in the rest of your career. You have a bright one ahead of you.

His departure makes more room on the right hand side for Darnell Fisher and new Bhoy Saidy Janko to compete for a place. Mikael Lustig will also compete for a place in the right back berth but as mentioned before, a solution to the Swede’s recurring injuries will make or break his Celtic career.

In the meantime, we have two young lads battling it out for a starting spot. With any luck, neither will have the injury issues either of their predecessors have had.

Celtic have also shipped out Paul McMullan (to St Mirren) and Michael Duffy (to Alloa Athletic) on loan. Both forwards will get invaluable experience playing in the Scottish Championship against Hibernian and Rangers as well as each other.

There is lots of movement for Celtic right now and things are shaping up nicely as Ronny Deila begins to make this team look more and more like his own. I expect more changes in the days and weeks ahead but today, it is back to the preseason schedule with the second of three matches at St Mirren Park.

FK Dukla Prague are today’s visitors and it’s another opportunity to see how preparations for the Champions League qualifiers are going. Today I hope to see new Bhoy Janko in at right back and those who never featured midweek to get some game time.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Advertisements

Back in training, back in Iceland.

Celtic will return to Iceland next month to face Stjarnan F.C. The draw for the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League has paired Ronny Deila with Icelandic opposition for the second year running.

With neither team having faced each other before, both will be doing their homework with European football at stake. Many will feel this is a tie Celtic are more than capable of winning comfortably but Stjarnan will be using last seasons Europa League qualifiers as a base to progress.

Stjarnan F.C. overcame Bangor City, Motherwell and Lech Poznań only to exit at the hands of Celtic’s Europa League victors Inter Milan in the play off round. However, Celtic swept aside KR Reykjavík at the same stage of Champions League qualifying last season and will feel confident they can do the same to the current Icelandic champions.

The Icelandic season runs from May to September and as a result, Stjarnan have already played 8 league matches. They are currently sitting in sixth place having won 3, drawn 2, lost 2 with 10 goals for 10 goals against.

Despite winning the Úrvalsdeild title for the first time in 2014 their league form won’t be of too much interest to Celtic. It is the fact that they will have better match fitness by the time they face Ronny Deila’s side.

As for Celtic, they will be looking to be more convincing in qualifying than they were last year. Despite winning by a 5-0 aggregate score over KR Reykjavík last summer, Celtic were beaten comfortably 6-1 by Legia Warsaw in the round that followed.

It was only the incompetence of the Polish champions fielding an ineligible player that bought Celtic another crack at qualifying for the Champions League. Even that wasn’t enough, as Ronny Deila’s side lost out in the second leg at home 0-1 after completing a respectable 1-1 draw in the first leg away to Maribor.

As disappointing as that was, there was still Europa League football to be had. This was also a much more suited tournament for Celtic at this point as much as it may have been hard to admit at the time.

With a change of manager and a serious modification to the way players trained, ate and slept, the Champions League could have been a total disaster. One year on, I think both Ronny and the players are now ready to field last seasons progress against the best.

I will highlight the fact that Celtic are not the finished article and still require a handful of players to make the team a solid force. These players now have a season under their belts though and have made some headway.

We’re all desperate to hear that music again. There can be no doubt it is what the Celtic family want to be involved in every season.

The challenge is to face the best and match them on the night. Special things can happen on the Champions League nights, especially at Paradise.

A solid qualifying campaign and a few extra signings before deadline day will be most welcome. As the players were back in training today they will be thinking about that.

Before that we will have the chance to see the Bhoy’s in action against FC Den Bosch, FK Dukla Prague and Real Sociedad de Fútbol. All ties are to played at St Mirren Park whilst Celtic Park has some stadium work carried out.

The most important thing is that Celtic will be back at Paradise for any of the home legs in the qualifying rounds. Although it wasn’t the reason behind last years dismal showing, I think many would agree that they’d rather have seen Celtic stage a revival at Celtic Park than Murrayfield.

So now it is down to the Bhoy’s to get stuck in at training and get some practice in these upcoming friendlies. There’s a pot of gold waiting for the club in September but they’ll have to work hard to get there.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Light at the end of the tunnel

These past two months have been a hard slog for Ronny Deila. At the same time, its been tough for Celtic supporters to watch.

In August I decided that I wasn’t going to get worked up about Celtic’s early season form and I said as much in my Celtic circle. With the team being developed I wasn’t going to get too upset too soon so would just let Ronny Deila get on with it.

As October approaches I look back on the campaign so far and what Deila has had to endure. A new manager at a big club, new players, some uncertain futures to contend with, late arrivals and the weight of expectation firmly on his shoulders.

The Champions League, now forgotten for another season. The Europa League, our fall back (and probably better suited for now) competition now under way.

Throughout this early stage of the season, Deila has had injuries to contend with. On top of that, he hadn’t played a single match at Celtic Park until Celtic’s thirteenth fixture (friendly and competitive) which was a home tie against Dundee United, a 6-1 slaughtering of Jackie McNamara’s current league leaders.

Following those opening two league victories, the first being a 3-0 away win over St Johnstone, Celtic hit the skids. After the Legia Warsaw reprieve, a major distraction, Celtic received a further blow at the hands of Maribor and failed to reach the Champions League group stage.

League form suffered, with one defeat away to Inverness and a draw at Dundee. After the international break Celtic bounced back with a 2-1 win over Aberdeen at Celtic Park.

Then came the Europa League and with it, an away draw. Something I would have settled for before kick off.

Then Motherwell visited that weekend and earned a draw. It wasn’t pleasing for the home crowd as the boos rang around Celtic Park.

With fans questioning Deila’s rotation of players, frustration was beginning to emit from sections of the support. The game against Hearts was important for Deila’s treble chances and this game had been mooted as a make or break tie.

It was a convincing performance by Celtic and one that Ronny Deila must now build upon. Saturday’s early kick off against St Mirren is another vital one for Celtic for consistency purposes if nothing else .

As the season has progressed there appears to be less disruption for Deila. The transfer window has been closed several weeks, new players are bedding in, European fixtures confirmed etc etc.

What we need to be mindful of as ‘supporters’ is that Ronny Deila is trying to develop a team as he sees it. He’s had to do that with no end of disruption along with an expectation of instant success.

It’s not to say that Ronny, his coaches and the squad are out of the woods just yet. There is however, a calmness and focus now that Deila can see which players he has and what they are capable of.

Now all he needs is our support. He’s says he has done tinkering with the team and that’s fine, I had no problem with him doing that at this point in the campaign.

A lunch time victory on today would go down nicely along with the last two results. It would also give Deila a positive boost ahead of next Thursday’s Europa League match against Dinamo Zagreb at Celtic Park.

Lets take the fight to Paisley.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie