Jackie Of All Trades-And Master Of Most!
The news that Nir Bitton has finally been rewarded with a three year contract extension couldn’t be more welcome. He follows in the footsteps of the vast majority of his colleagues who are regulars in our first team squad. In fact,with the exception of two,I think our entire squad aged under thirty has signed a new contract in the last eighteen months or so.
Of the over-thirties,I doubt very much that Scott Sinclair will see a renewal-though I wish him well in the future-and Craig Gordon will probably have a decision to make. I think he will be offered a one-year extension if we don’t sign Big Fraser full time,but that he will turn it down. Broonie will decide when he leaves Celtic and is probably in a position to write his own contract,and Jonny Hayes will jump at one. I sincerely hope we make his New Year just that wee bit special for him.
But back to Nir? Now that we’ve signed him,where are we going to play him? Well,the answer to that is-wherever he’s needed! Nir is probably not quite able to command a first team place in our midfield-for which we originally signed him-nor is he likely to split the central defensive partnership of Christopher Jullien and Kris Ajer. But he is a very capable deputy to have for a number of positions,either on the bench or as a short term deputy. Indeed,he can even fill in at right back if required.
Which got me to thinking about the utility players we have had over the years,players who can play-and be trusted in-a number of roles for us. I know I’ve seen plenty of our stars fill in capably in unfamiliar roles,and I’m sure that people like COSYCORNERBHOY and TIMHOY2 and maybe a few others on here will regale you with horror stories about Bob Kelly’s meddling in team affairs. Such as insisting that Bobby Murdoch was an inside right,or playing Bertie Auld as a left winger. Hell,he’d have played Jinky at centre-half if he had thought of it in time.
Jock Stein,though,was a man who put round pegs in round holes,and only resorted to playing players out of their usual position when dictated so by injuries. Or,of course,as a tactical ploy to mindfuck the opposition manager! Occasionally,even he would find a player who could swap roles with ease. Kenny Dalglish was a front-line striker who could easily play as support-just ask Ian Rush how true that is-or drop deeper into midfield. George Connelly was peerless whether he played as a centre-half or in midfield,but it was as a sweeper,our own Franz Beckenbauer,that most of us remember him fondly. And his best pal,Davie Hay? Pretty much anywhere across the back was fair game to him,but he really came into his own as an utterly ruthless midfield ball winner.
A man who genuinely didn’t know what a fifty/fifty ball was. All he knew was that it was his!
More recently we have had Big Vic,who could play anywhere across the middle as well as in central defence,and was also described by Neil Lennon as the best finisher at the club,while before that we had the likes of Chris Sutton putting the fear of death into his opponents whether he was playing central defence,central mid or central striker. An evil genius indeed,and a very handy guy to have around. But even they were probably eclipsed by possibly the finest example of them all in my fifty plus years of watching Celtic.
I give you Jackie McNamara!
Jock Stein famously said that you’d win nothing with eleven Charlie Gallachers or Harry Hoods. Which sounds like a very cruel putdown of two magnificent players. But no,it wasn’t meant that way-Jock rated both players very highly and knew what they brought to the team,but he also knew that in order to flourish they needed their water-carriers,as Eric Cantona once described Didier Deschamps. But,you know,I reckon we could definitely have challenged for a few honours if we had eleven Jackie McNamaras. (Alright-Henrik,a decent keeper and nine Jackie McNamaras)
One of the less-ringing endorsements I’ve given Jonny Hayes during his time with us is that he has never let us down,and he is also a utility player for us,btw. A tad unfair,as he is much better than to be damned by faint praise. But Jackie? Not only did he never let us down no matter where he was played,he performed like the position was his own and he intended to keep it that way! We originally signed him as a right back,which became a wing-back in much the same mode as his colleague Tosh McKinlay on the opposite flank. Both were comfortable with their defensive duties but boy,they flew down those wings and they could certainly fire in the crosses. He was Players Player of the Year when we stopped their tainted ten under Wim,but then seemed to drop from favour under Dr Jo and Barnes/Dalglish. Even Martin didn’t seem to fancy him much-until the post-Seville season,where he was played just about everywhere. Right back,central defence,left back,anywhere across the midfield. It was no bother to Jackie,and this time he won the Football Writers POTY award,to go with his league medal.
Jackie might not have quite reached the dizzy heights accorded to our legends over the years,he might not be in the running in many Best Player Ever lists. But when you’re likely to be in the top ten on most lists over a good few positions,I’d say that’s good enough.
So,best Celtic team ever,position by position? Been there,done that. Twelfth man,Jackie McNamara. Just don’t ask him to play in goal. And by the way,he’s also a handy man for the trenches when the going gets tough. Ask Mark Hateley.
Above article by BMCUWP. If you want to have your opinion posted as Article of the Day,mail it to Mahe. We always publish them.