International Break best ever 11 – Central Defense
Moving on now to the central defenders…
Oh there’s only one King Billy,that’s McNeill! Was Billy the most accomplished centre-half I’ve seen play for us? I think maybe Paul Elliott and Marc Rieper were better,Mick McCarthy was similar,Big Johann and Bobo were just too scary to play against. But for what he has achieved,and as a leader of men,he gets my vote.
He’s still our record appearances holder,well over 800,and has an incredible trophy count. Nine Championships,seven cups-one in his final game,way to go!-and six League Cups. Oh aye,and another one with one of those trinkets from Lisbon…
And he set the ball rolling for the dominance of the Stein era with the winning goal v Dunfermline in 65,not a bad thing to have on your cv even if it stopped there.
Billy broke into the team as a teenager in the late 50s,and was pretty much a mainstay for the next six or seven years. He was solid but little more than that. Going nowhere,but still a decent enough player. When Jock returned,Billy was enthused. “Oh,that’s great! We’ll see the difference now!” he is alleged to have said. Bhoy oh bhoy,he wasn’t wrong.
Jock came through that door,made everyone feel ten feet tall-when it suited him,it has to be said-and played them where their talents demanded. And he had the most capable man representing him on the pitch in Cesar. Billy had many career highlights,but the obvious one is still the iconic image of Billy holding his head nearly as high as he held The European Champions Cup that day in 1967. There’s a statue outside Celtic Park,in that very pose.
I don’t know how he had the strength to lift it,btw. I was in Estadio Nacional for the 50th Anniversary. It wasn’t quite as hot as reported in 1967,and I could hardly climb the stairs. At walking pace! Our guys ran their hearts out for ninety minutes of relentless attack! Even red-headed fellas like Big Tam and Jinky,who must have been on the verge of sunstroke. That day gave me an even better appreciation of their achievements.
Aye,800+ games for Celtic. The man who lifted Big Ears to show off to the world,to let them know,the man who had the complete trust of the greatest manager ever,anywhere.
Billy McNeill waltzes into my team,no question. Oh,and he’s captain anaw.
Saltires en Seville,,,Roy Aitken 667 games (1975-1990) x55 goals.
Dunno what happened to Roy at the end of his Celtic career. Seemed so sudden and a bit sour. Anyway, Billy should get this spot as I saw him but tbh just remember him as an icon rather than a player. Elliot, McCarthy or Rieper all deserve a mention but don’t make the appearances requirement. So, it’s The Bear as he was such a huge part of my life as. Bhoy and young man. Not stylish but what drive and guts. Needed permission from hi Headmaster to play in European tie ( Albania? ) Wow! Never say die attitude to bring the Cup back to Paradise pushing his team to achieve when lesser men would accept a draw. Aitken cross McGarvey, header GOAL … bedlam! Then, then the leadership continued onto ‘88 double season! Best memory was his 2 goals in the 2-2 draw at Ibrox on 19th March, 1977 the 2nd (equaliser) as 10,000 Oldco scarves disappeared as if by magic!
Its not easy at all to narrow myself down to 2 defenders although after goalkeeper its probably the most sparse area of quality , well to me anyway.
I would never slate a player for trying if offered the chance to pull on the Hoops as afterall its not his fault and he will ( hopefully ) do what is asked of him to the best of his ability and if that ability is not good enough its not the fellas fault . Some however where just not up to the task , and did their utmost while some others collapsed.
Josh Thompson , Scheidt , Hooiveld , Du Wei , Rogne ( I liked him but injury prone , had a great sweeping tackle ) ,,,the list of pretenders to the throne are many . Chris Sutton played there ffs.
On the other hand fair play to Wgs for making Caldwell and McManus better than the sum of their individual parts and the bedrock of his Celtic side. I will never forgive Mick for backing off Kaka that night though,,golden rule ,,,go to the ball ,, a defender should never back off an attacker running at him, either go or stand your ground for him to take you on but never ever back off .
Martin clearly had his own stereotype of what a central defender looks like and I must admit I do tend to lean in his direction myself . If only he could spot a keeper like he could a defender eh ?
Although a pretty recent buy and departure there is no doubt in my mind at all who is the best defender Ive seen in the Hoops and the rest of the world has cottoned on now also .
Remember that ad “ Take it easy , with Cadburys Caramel “ well the wee rabbit got it wrong .
In my house it was “ Take it easy , when Virgil is back there ! “
Yes , Virgil is now the best defender down south and we had him for a mere 2.8 million from Groningen . It was an absolute snip and I do recall some explayer saying hes way to good for Celtic when we signed him which made me think if he can tell that from just that one club in a small space of time then he really must be something indeed, and he was. I still cant see an obvious flaw in his game , although he did give away a stupid penalty at the weekend its the first I remember him doing that .
The Liverpool podcasts I listen to just gush forth solid tributes to him all day long and his signing is viewed as the key piece of the defensive jigsaw down there . Yes 75 is a lot of money , as yer man from manchesscity said when he heard the price but it will be the standard decent player fee in 5 years .
They tell of one of his first games in front of the Kop he made a mistake and there were a few sighs and weak groans to which his head immediately swivelled straight into the Kopites staring them down . Everyone shut up and left him alone. The implication was you literally cannot get better than me , what you gonna do ! He has that arrogant streak I like ( kept in check ) and he knows hes the man . Like I stated last week I reckon he lifts the title at the end of the season, he was a Ramos wrestling challenge from having a great shot at the big cup last year .
Varane ( who I really rate ) is around the same age and it should be good viewing to see just how good each gets . But if I was placing a bet I would have big Virgil to emerge the worlds best defender over the next 5 years. Thats how good I think he is .
Big Virgil Van Dyke takes the first central defence slot .