“S’appenin’ Bitton?” Kieran Tierney’s very warm Scottish welcome to Israeli international Nir Bitton as he reported back for pre-season training in early July 2017 is now a catchphrase that Celtic Fans use when they bump into the player around the city. It’s something he enjoys even if he’s heard in thousands of times now!
Well at the moment, there’s plenty happening for Nir Bitton. The Celtic star looked ahead to the New Year and predicted more of the same from Celtic under Ange Postecoglou who last month won his first major honour as the Celtic manager, beating Hibs 2-1 in the League Cup Final. And the 30 year old Israeli international, in his ninth season at the club is confident that the medal he picked up at Hampden last month – his 17th as a Celtic player – will not be the last this season.
“Every time we win a trophy it’s a great feeling. It’s always great to achieve something and we are out to build something special here. I’m glad to win the trophy,” Bitton told the mainstream media, as reported by Daily Record. “I don’t really think about how many I’ve won. There’s always the desire to win more and more. Every trophy is special. We knew before the final this is a new team with a new coach and players and we wanted to win it for them to experience this feeling, to create a winning environment.
“Obviously when I finish my career it’s good to look back with something special. We’ve won a lot in my time here and made some great memories. But that’s gone. We knew before the game it was all in the past, people have already forgotten about it. We have to create our own history and legacy by winning more trophies.
“We knew winning this would give us a lift and a push before the break. It gives the new boys a sight of what this club is all about. Hopefully we can create more memories this season,” Bitton added.
Celtic’s last game of 2021 came up at McDiarmid Park on Boxing Day and with Liam Abada scoring twice and Bitton adding the third in a comfortable 3-1 win over St Johnstone, it was notable that the Celtic goals all came from Israelis.
How long into this New Year before we can say the same thing about two or more Japanese players scoring the goals in a Celtic victory?
For Bitton, who has taken the 20 year old Liel Abada under his wing since the winger signed for the club in the summer in a £3.5m move from Maccabi Petah Tikva, recognises the challenges for a young player arriving at Celtic from Israel and having to deal with the expectations at the club while settling into a new country, with language and weather considerations on top. Having been there himself eight-and-a-half years ago Bitton knows just how challenging that can be and is doing all he can to help Abada settle into life in Scotland and to Celtic.
“He’s a little boy,” Bitton said. “Since he came in I look at him and I see myself when I was in his position and signing for Celtic. I just want to make sure he settles in. When life outside is easier it makes the football better.
“I’m there to guide him, give him the advice he needs, and just to make his life easier. It’s not easy to come from a different country when you are 20-years-old. You leave your parents, your family and friends. Your language is not the best. Some people forget it and think you should be on top of your game every week. But it’s not easy at this age – or at any age – but especially this young, coming from another country, adapting to the weather, the language.
“I’m just trying to be here for him and he’s one of the boys I wanted to win this trophy for. Do I help? You’d need to ask him! I’m just trying to be the best I can. I wanted someone to be there for me so I’ll do whatever I can.”
Bitton has accepted greater responsibility in the Ange Postecoglou side and the Australian manager even has come up with the rather novel idea of playing the Celtic Number 6 as a sitting midfielder rather than as a makeshift central defender. And as required during Celtic winter injury crisis Bitton has even played further forward in the number 8 position. He really is Celtic’s Mr Versatility, although that in itself usually means that when everyone is fit he is going to be on the bench. That doesn’t worry Bitton too much.
“I think I’m quite enjoying it at the moment. I’ve had my ups and downs in my Celtic career. But whenever or wherever I get the shout to play, I’ll do my best for the team, for the manager and the people around the club.
“I know how much it means to them. Sometimes it goes better, sometimes worse, but we always try to do our best to make this club successful.”