MORE has been written about Celtic’s left back position this season than anywhere else on the park. We started the season by losing Kieran Tierney to Arsenal for £25million and of course at the end of the previous season Emilio Izaguirre called time on his Celtic days and headed home to Honduras to finish his career where it began at his home club of Motagua.
Tierney was always going to leave a huge gap in the Celtic side and two players were since – Boli Bolingoli from Rapid Vienna in July 2019 for £3million then Greg Taylor from Kilmarnock arrived in a £2million deal from Kilmarnock just before last summer’s transfer window slammed shut.
The ever reliable squad player Jonny Hayes was also drafted into a three way contest for the number 3 position. Hayes, a £1million Brendan Rodgers signing from Aberdeen is currently in his final year of his Celtic contract and would like to stay on. Given the cover he provides at left back, wing back and outside left then surely that is something that Celtic will be looking at sorting?
Before Taylor arrived, Neil Lennon had that brain freeze moment that now and again afflicts most football managers, when he decided not to trust his £3m signing at left back, or indeed his £7m signing in centre defence – Christopher Jullien who had been signed for French side Toulouse and ended up starting with Callum McGregor at left back – weakening the midfield – and losing to Cluj in the Champions League qualifier.
Revenge was later served up when the sides met again in the Europa League, although remarkably both sides progressed from the group at the expense of both French Cup holders Rennes and Italian high-flyers Lazio who appear to win all there games except the ones against Celtic.
And talking of Lazio v Celtic, it’s Olivier Ntcham’s 24th Birthday today so happy birthday to the man that Sandman calls the Methafecker (or something like that) who did the best ever Mussolini impersonation in Rome after scoring that winning goal.
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) February 9, 2020
On this day in 1996, Olivier Ntcham is born. Probably scored the best goal so far this season. Happy birthday! pic.twitter.com/r4cTkiNAGD
— CelticLisboa (@CelticLisboaa) February 9, 2020
Back to the left backs. All three have had an opportunity and all three have had their ups and downs it is fair to say. Tierney left big boots to fill so it was always going to take time to establish a new first pick left back.
Hayes is Mr Dependable, a perfect guy to have on the bench who can play as and when required and never moans. And if it wasn’t for our French Birthday Bhoy mentioned above his would have been the goal of the season. Yeah this one…
Bolingoli has blown hot and cold with his performances. You can see why Celtic paid £3million for him but you also know that it’s just not clicked for him yet. He’s been out of the side, had a bit of a petted lip too apparently, and could get some game-time today.
He’s be well aware though that Neil Lennon, when asked last week, accepted that it was Greg Taylor who currently has the jersey as his first pick left back.
The Scotland defender has been speaking to Sunday Post about his first eventual season in Paradise.
“There were adjustments to make, a process I had to learn. I am talking in terms of building up patterns of play and getting used to having more of the ball,” Taylor stated.
“It was the attacking side I needed to work on. I hadn’t had as many opportunities to push forward at Kilmarnock. At Celtic, you’ve got a lot more of the ball, so it’s important. Thankfully, we’re scoring lots of goals.
“You’re higher up, especially in a 3-5-2. You are a wing-back so it’s a shift. But it is one I am enjoying.
“Everyone wants to be playing but, equally, it’s very rare for someone to walk into a Celtic team. So I was doing wee bits here and there with John Kennedy and Damien Duff on the pitch.
“They’ve been really good with helping me improve. They are two fantastic coaches and it’s good to work with them. I wouldn’t say I was worried when I wasn’t playing. You’ve got to have full belief in yourself.
“I wanted to become a Celtic regular when I signed. I always had confidence in myself that the opportunity would come and, when it did, that I would take it.
“It’s hard getting here, but it’s even harder becoming a regular in the team. There is competition for every position here. For me, it is maybe coming from Boli and Jonny, but everyone has people trying to push each other on.
“So it’s important to try to perform when you’ve got the shirt. At a club this size, you’ve got to be doing it week in, week out, otherwise that will change quickly.
“It’s a great group of players. I can only do what I can do. Potentially, this could be a huge few months coming up for me – with both Celtic and Scotland.
“The key word, though, is could! In football no one owes anyone anything.”
Incidentally, has anyone else noticed how Greg Taylor seems to be the first player to reach the Celtic goalscorer? Compare and contrast with Moritz Bauer who was beaten over to celebrate with Scott Brown by Fraser Forster after the captain’s dramatic 94th minute winner against Hamilton at Celtic Park at the start of December.
Taylor gets it. The number 3 position is his to lose.
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