“Live” and Learn
First of all,a round of applause to the gallant thirty thousand hardy souls who braved the elements on Saturday to watch our team despatch another mob of mini-huns. Hands up,I got that crowd prediction W-A-Y wrong,and while I’m not too proud to admit it,I’m certainly proud of everyone who was there. Still don’t know anyone who watched it “live” on tv,though.
(I reckon I’m still scarred from “that” Morton game,which drew around a third of Saturday’s total. That’s an evening I’ve no wish to repeat!)
So what did we learn from Saturday? After all,there were a few unfamiliar faces around,as well as the stalwarts. Well,we won’t have learned much from the performances of the latter,such as Boyata,Benkovic,Forrest,McGregor,Christie. But Scott Bain in goal rose-as usual-to the occasion. Comfortable and composed on the ball,he looked to have the confidence of and in his defence. That’s always a good starting point for a goalkeeper. No longer would outfield players be worried about getting a hospital ball from a keeper in possession,no sirree.
But of course,the measure of a goalkeeper is in the definition of the name. And although he wasn’t called on to do much,he did what he had to do with some aplomb. Certainly,I can’t recall a keeper ever making five saves in quick succession like that,it was like a speeded-up training exercise-with live bullets! In my opinion,Scott has never let us down in the year he has been with us,and I’ll be perfectly happy to see him take over from Craig Gordon when the time comes. Two top keepers costing us not a jot in transfer fees is good business by any standards.
At right back,Anthony Ralston continued his upward curve. His career had stalled after his mauling by Neymar in 2017,and it takes an iron will to recover from that. I watched him in the U-20 Tournament for Scotland in the summer,and he was frankly not up to it even then. He has clearly been hard at work on the training ground,and if he continues this level of improvement-which saw him win a deserved and treasured Man of the Match award on Saturday-I will rest a lot easier in my consistent calls for a replacement/back-up for Mikael Lustig.
At left-back was Izzy. Now,I’ll admit that I find it hard to be objective about this guy. Our best left-back since the heady days of Big Tam,he can still fire in a cross after a marauding run down the left and still fire in a tackle. In short,the fire still burns. He is an able deputy for the injured Kieran,and he’s back where he belongs. He might well be the second-best £650,000 we have ever spent! Additionally,in much the same way that he mentored a young Kieran,he may well be just the man to do the same for our latest signing in the position.
And so to a midfield,which had a settled look to it. Two of whom I’ve already referred to,but of course I neglected to mention our captain. Is Broonie back? Well,he’s still not playing to the form he displayed last season,still playing himself back in after that injury spell. But he was first on the scene when the Airdrie players got mob-handed on Izzy following the penalty,and seemed to be showing for every ball when required. Aye,it was only Airdrie,but as that’s who we were playing on Saturday,that’s what I’m judging that performance on. He can build from there,we have a long run of games at two per week to come. Get up to speed,Broonie,and tell the Australians to kiss your Down Under!
Another pleasant surprise saw Nir Bitton play a late cameo role as he finally returned after a long lay-off. Let’s be honest,Nir has never really nailed down a first-team place,but again he is a capable deputy when called upon,and his versatility is an additional plus. It’s good to see him back.
Up front may have been the most telling part of the performance. James didn’t have one of his better matches,but he more than justified his selection. Either Ollie Burke or Michael Johnston could have taken over,but the position belongs to James. I’d be happy to see that contract extended past next summer,and I hope the club are working on it. Michael Johnston replaced James with about 20 minutes to go,and looked much happier in that role than the central one he occupied three weeks ago. Another bright prospect from our Academy.
But to Ollie Burke. The young lad made his debut on Saturday,he has had a chequered career to date,even at only 21yo he is a millionaire just from his signing-on fees! He’s a big strong unit,and the only question mark over him prior to Saturday concerned his confidence and desire. I think he put them to bed on Saturday,showing a willingness to play an unfamiliar role through the middle. His performance probably merited a goal,but he’ll be pleased with that. We all know how good a player he is,and on Saturday he looked as though he kinda remembered that himself.
Of course,he had experience beside him in the form of Scott Sinclair. And what an experience Saturday was for Scott. Everything about his thirty months with us encapsulated in one afternoon,from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Of course,it was the other way round really. We had the “Aw,Ffs! Scott” missing another penalty when the score was 0-0. We had the (I’d get barred from here anaw) Scott when he missed an absolute sitter shortly afterwards,from what,three yards? Sure takes some doing. What also takes some doing is what Scott did. Easy to let the head go down and your spirits shrink,he manned up,scored the first two goals and but for a typical Mason-wi-a-flag routine,would have completed his hat-trick. That’s a man who does not hide,he takes a kicking from the opposition,and frequently from the stands too,but he fills that jersey. He could certainly look at himself in the mirror after his display,and it took some guts to overcome those howlers.
Possibly saving the best for last,we have Tim Weah. He replaced Scott with twenty minutes to go,and took to the occasion like a duck to water. Comparisons are odious,and he will know that he doesn’t have to compare himself to his famous Dad. He has pace to burn and showed delightful composure to finish off a peach of a through ball from Dedryck. What impressed me more about his goal was his awareness to bend his run and stay onside. I know we only have him till the summer,but he is on a long-term deal with PSG,and his club might well see him making sufficient progress at Celtic Park that they allow him to stay till summer 2020. Him and Eddie up front would put a smile on my miserable coupon,that’s for sure.
All in all,a much better afternoon than I had envisaged. It is unusual to take so many pluses from a game like that,but there were plenty of them for us. If I’m being honest,having three loanees on the pitch-none of whom is scheduled to be with us next season-is not what we would wish for,but it would be carmudgeonly to detract from a fine performance on the day. There are still eleven days left in the transfer window after all…
Above by BMCUWP. Got something to say,mail it to Mahe.