Peter Grant on James McCarthy: “I know what the club means to him. I’m very loathe to be critical of him”

When analysing last season, it would be fair to say that James McCarthy didn’t exactly set the heather alight in his first year as a Celtic player. His inauspicious beginning with no pre-season under his belt was compounded by contracting the Covid-19 virus and then niggling injuries wreaking havoc on his body.

No longer a spring chicken, McCarthy has had to comprehend with successive injuries in his later career. These were self-evident during the whole of his inaugural season in Paradise.

20th November 2021; Hampden Park, Glasgow City, Scotland; Scottish League Cup semi-final, Celtic versus St Johnstone; James McCarthy of Celtic

However, former Celtic hero and midfield anchorman, Peter Grant has insisted James must bring something to Ange Postecoglou’s squad otherwise he wouldn’t be there. As reported by Football Scotland, he said: “Does James have a future at Celtic? That comes down to the manager. It’s difficult for an outside looking in.

“Everyone can pass comment and judgement. James had a few injury problems at Palace before he arrived. He did exceptionally well in England. At Celtic, he’s not played as many games as we thought he’d be involved in.

“The thing that’s interesting for me is that the manager obviously thinks he has an influence, because the manager wouldn’t even have him sitting on the bench.

James McCarthy during the Europa League group G match between Real Betis and Celtic FC at Estadio Benito Villamarin on 16 September, 2021 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

“It’s alright people saying they are not influencing it on the pitch, but there are managers out there that would have you sitting in the stand if you weren’t contributing anything. So he’s obviously offering something. I’m sure James would love to play more and people may now start to question the four-year deal.

Grant continued: “You’ve got to remember though, that coming from the Premier League, he would have been on a lot of money. To get anywhere near his wages, you’d probably have to do it over four years anyway. That could be a factor.

“People think footballers are mercenary at times, but they all want to play. As I say, he must be having an influence of some sort otherwise he wouldn’t be in and around the group. That’s probably the highest accolade I can pay him. I’d be loathe to be critical of him. I don’t know the ins and outs of it fitness wise and levels wise, but he must be influencing it in some way to get near the bench.”

Celtic s James McCarthy is fouled during the cinch Premiership match at the Tony Macaroni Arena, Livingston. Picture date: Sunday September 19, 2021. Photo Andrew Milligan

The former Celtic midfielder also reckons this season could be the making of the former Ireland international at Celtic. He said: “Pre-season is always a fantastic time. Players go away and work hard during the summer and are ready to come back and show they are the man.

“As a coach, certain things surprise you that you’d never seen before. You think, ‘where did that come from?’ I’m sure that’s what James will be doing.

“He’ll come back in the best shape he possibly can, hopefully stay clear of injury. There’s no doubt that he’s a talented boy. It’s very difficult to come on in the games he has and play a bit here and there. It can be very sporadic.It doesn’t matter how well or how hard you are training. It’s not the same as getting game legs. So that’s always difficult to judge him on that.

Photo Andrew Milligan

“Unfortunately, nine times out of ten he’s coming off the bench and that’s not an easy gig to be doing. But he must be influencing things in some other way. James will know himself. If he thinks that he’s not at the levels, he’d be the first to say.

“I know what the club means to him. I’m very loathe to be critical of him. It’d be great if he could have a fantastic season.

“Sometimes, a brilliant season can be when he’s training at his best, doing exceptionally well but pushing the guys in front of him so that they know they can’t slip down a peg because they are going to lose their position.

“Sometimes that can be the influence players can have more than anything else. The way he conducts himself on the training pitch, you don’t realise how important that influence can be off the pitch as well. That’s obviously what the manager sees.”

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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