”S’happenin’ Bitton?” – Israeli to face the music at Lennoxtown on Monday morning

Injury prone Nir Bitton admitted that it’s Celtic who pay his wages as he explained how he managed to go from being in a wheelchair to playing for his country in Thursday night’s League of Nations semi-final against Scotland at Hampden.

The Israeli admitted that he knows he’ll be in big trouble if he’s not fit enough to be considered for the Celtic v theRangers game next Saturday and joked that he’d blocked Neil Lennon’s number to prevent his boss reaching him ahead of the match on Thursday which Israel lost 5-3 on a penalty shoot out.

Neil Lennon is enough of a football man to give Bitton – a player he signed for the club and who he admires greatly – some slack for his rebellious actions this week. He’ll understand just how important that this match was to Nir Bitton and will accept that while reckless in the extreme he put his career at Celtic on the line with the best of intentions.

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However we’d expect Lennon’s patience to end right there with the game at Hampden where Bitton performed very well against the best that Scotland had to offer in attack – see our Leigh Griffiths article this morning on that subject – and it should also be noted that Hatem Elhamed looked really good as a left back who could deliver a decent ball into the box.

Israel, like Scotland, have two further International matches before Celtic ‘welcome’ theRangers to Celtic Park next Saturday. Thankfully Bitton is not going to be involved in these games and instead will do all  that he can to be available for team selection for Celtic next weekend.

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Both Kris Ajer and Shane Duffy are away on International duty as is the aforementioned Elhamed, so Neil Lennon will be unsure this morning who will be available to play next weekend. We’ve seen both Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie either becoming a doubt (with a positive Covid test in France) or even dropping out of this Glasgow Derby (via a negative Covid test in Scotland) and the Celtic manager will realise that there could be further situations to contend with this week, whether injury or Covid related.

So the situation is clear, Bitton should get himself back to Lennoxtown on Monday morning. Apologies should be forthcoming and should get ready for the next game for the club that pays his wages.

Here’s what Bitton had to say to the media yesterday as reported by Daily Record. “Celtic are the club who pay my salary but as a person, as a professional athlete, I couldn’t give up on this game. These are the games you dream of playing when you are six years old.

“Even the day after the injury I told the medical staff at Celtic that I wanted to give myself a chance.

“I twisted my ankle very badly away in Bosnia and I didn’t believe I could make it. On the way back home on Friday I was on crutches, I was in a wheelchair and I couldn’t even walk on the foot. But I wasn’t going to rule myself out of the game until I knew that I couldn’t play.

“I never give up, I always try to push myself to the limit but to be honest the medical staff did an unbelievable job, they treated me like their child with treatment three times a day.

“I played this game only because of them and I understand the frustration of Celtic. I was glad I 
made it but it is a bit frustrating now.”

That’s when Bitton joked about avoiding Neil Lennon’s calls. “I blocked his number.  I didn’t speak to him. It was between the national 
team and Celtic. But for my side, I always told Celtic that I was going to give it a chance and obviously if 
I didn’t feel good I wouldn’t play.

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“But on Tuesday I felt okay at training, on Wednesday I felt better and on Thursday morning I told the gaffer that I wanted to play. With all the adrenaline around the game and around the occasion you don’t feel anything. I feel it now though.”

Thankfully Bitton did not leave Scotland with the Israeli party who welcome Czech Republic to Tel Aviv this weekend before travelling to Slovakia for Wednesday’s Europa League match.  Bitton though will be watching these games on television in between trying to make sure he’s match fit for  next Saturday’s crucial Scottish Premiership match where a victory for Celtic will see the 9IAR Champions go two points clear at the top of the league with a game in hand.

Will Bitton be ready to face theRangers? “I am in big trouble if I’m not! Obviously (the)Rangers is a big game but I’m not thinking about (the)Rangers right now. I gave everything to take part in this (Scotland) game. That really was my target. I didn’t really think about the Czech Republic or Slovakia, I only thought about Scotland.”

Neil Lennon might use this rather famous words of Kieran Tierney and also wait for the Israeli at the front door at Lennoxtown on Monday morning. The welcome though might not be quite as friendly!

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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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