Scott Bain dropped out of the Celtic side after that dreadful defeat to Cluj in the Champions League qualifier in August last year. The club referred to a hand injury at the time and it looked like history was repeating itself when Vasilis Barkas’ name was missing from the team sheet at Pittodrie last Sunday.
The Greek international keeper, a £5m summer signing from AEK Athens, was initially reported to have had a back problem but by last night that was clarified as a shoulder issue. It looks like, just as happened to Bain a year ago, it’s the cold shoulder he’s been given from the Celtic starting eleven.
Barkas hasn’t had too much to do at Celtic other than picking the ball out of the net. There is an argument that he could have done better at some of the goals conceded so far this season but not too many, perhaps he should have done better with Goldson’s opener for theRangers in the recent Glasgow Derby for instance.
But while there have been no real goalkeeping howlers there’s not really been any particularly impressive saes either – and maybe that’s why Scott Bain was given the nod against Aberdeen and kept his place last night in the 2-2 draw away to Lille in the Europa League.
Neil Lennon was pretty badly let down by big Fraser Forster in the summer, the first of a series of unfortunate events out with the Celtic manager’s control that led to the recent mini-crisis and toys going out of some supporters prams everywhere.
Think Boli Bolingoli and the loss of early season momentum that caused, the loss of Ryan Christie for the Glasgow Derby when Kieran Tierney, in exactly the same position as his former Celtic teammate, was allowed to play for Arsenal.
Nir Bitton going against Celtic’s instructions to play for Israel while clearly injured, then contracting Covid-19 while on international duty, with Hatem Elhamed also contracting the virus and of course his talisman, Odsonne Edouard also catching the ‘Rona’ while back home in France with the French Under 21s.
Yet in the goalkeeping front, it might have been a more sensible option to bring in David Marshall for a year – he was a free agent remember – then look at big Fraser after he’d got his money sorted as Southampton’s most expensive benchwarmer of all time. It was pretty “unCeltic” to go for the flash, splash spend £5million option when a free alternative was staring us in the face – and apparently waiting on a return call that never came.
So we are back with Scott Bain between the sticks and last night he produced one or two magic moments including a crucial penalty save but also one notable bomb-scare moment when he gifted the surprised Lille player with an open goal after a horrible fumble. Bain got lucky as he was saved by the crossbar.
For now though Bain has the gloves and looks like keeping them for now. It’s going to be in his own hands whether that’s an ongoing process as Barkas gets the chance to watch from the bench.
“Scott was always in and around it anyway,” Lennon said last night, as reported by Glasgow Times. “He’s trained well and the time between coming back in June. I think there has been a real sea change in his attitude to his work.
“He’s in the gym very early in the morning and he’s reaping the benefits of that. We put a lot of trust in him and faith as we do in Barkas as well, but Scott has done his chances no harm with another big performance.
“When you go away in Europe, you need your goalkeeper to play well and he stood up. He can be pleased with himself as we are.
“I was delighted with Scott. I thought he was excellent. We felt really aggrieved at the penalty decision. But Scott made a great save and a couple of great saves inn the first half. Everything he did he handled well,” the manager said, politely ignoring th dropped cross just before the interval.
So it looks like Scott Bain will have the gloves again on Sunday as Celtic take on Aberdeen in the delayed Scottish Cup semi-final. Few of any supporters would disagree with that decision from Neil Lennon.