Whilst not quite as unappealing as a trip to the dentist – as one of our listeners described international week – there’s no doubt that huge swathes of Celtic supporters “look forward” to the international break with as much enthusiasm as they would usually muster up for their annual check-up with the tooth doctor.
To be fair, for most fans there’s often little to get excited about on the international stage – at least when it comes to Scotland – though there’s no doubt that Steve Clarke has reversed the fortunes of a team that was going nowhere fast, as their Nations League success has shown.
The sole footballing focus amongst a majority of our support is undoubtedly Celtic, with many viewing international football as an inconvenience which – temporarily at least – merely interrupts the enjoyment of following the Bhoys in green.
Celtic were last in action only eleven days ago (“Come on you Bhoys in Light Grey?”) in a disappointing league defeat by a disciplined St Mirren side. It feels far longer however, such is the nature of the international break.
The time passed even slower this time around as a result of that first league defeat in almost a year, and no doubt a seventh straight league win would have left us feeling far better about ourselves as Callum McGregor and co. headed off to add to their international cap collections.
The biggest gripe about international football amongst many is the risk of injury in such fixtures and those fears were realised this time around with several players picking up knocks on their travels.
Daizen Maeda, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Sead Hakšabanović and David Turnbull are all now a doubt for this weekend’s visit of Motherwell and we’ll have to wait for an official update on the extent of their respective injuries from Ange Postecoglou in tomorrow afternoon’s official press conference, which incidentally will include a representative from The Celtic Star.
Despite this setback, Ange himself has often talked up the honour of representing your country as a footballer – he picked up four caps for Australia and managed his nation in the 2014 World Cup Finals – and is an avid supporter of his players taking to the international stage and showcasing their talents at that level.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
Many cited Reo Hatate’s time away with Japan this time around as a “complete waste of time” given that he accrued a grand total of zero minutes as Japan played out friendlies against the USA and Ecuador in Dusseldorf, Germany.
However the midfielder himself would very likely disagree with that sentiment.
He’ll understandably be frustrated by his lack of game time on this occasion, but with World Cup 2022 a little under eight weeks’ away he’ll be equally grateful for every chance he gets to impress as he targets a seat on that flight to Qatar in November.
His countrymen Daizen Maeda and Kyogo Furuhashi will also have “the greatest show on earth” firmly in their sights as will Josip Juranovic (Croatia) and Aaron Mooy (Australia).
Participation is less certain for Cameron Carter-Vickers (USA), and Matt O’Riley may have an outside chance of representing Denmark but one thing for sure is that no footballer* could possibly turn down even the slightest possibility to feature at the pinnacle of world football. (*I don’t have time here to discuss Roy Keane in Saipan in 2002 – an incredible turn of events!)
Even putting the World Cup to one side, for a footballer to be recognised as amongst the best players in your country at any given time, and to be selected for an international squad (whether it be for a friendly, a nations league fixture, or for a major international) is a huge honour and one that very few players could – or should – turn down.
The knock on benefit to any club side, including Celtic, is that players should be boosted both by the confidence that comes with that recognition, as well as the opportunity to improve themselves by playing with, and against better players on these occasions.
That said, let’s hope that next time around they return to Lennoxtown with a few less injuries, and that those mentioned manage to shake off their ailments ahead of Saturday’s 3pm kick off with Motherwell as Celtic look to get back to winning ways in the Scottish Premiership.
Celtic’s international travellers and their injury concerns are assessed in this short (10 minutes) Midweek Bulletin from The Celtic Exchange – available now, listen HERE.
Something a bit different today in the shape of a short (10min) “Midweek Bulletin”
— The Celtic Exchange 🎙 (@CeltExchange) September 28, 2022