A Kick Up The Eighties!
The weekly walk down memory lane by SES has got me thinking about the best Celtic XI I have seen in the flesh.
I’ve restricted it to starting from 1980 as that is when I started going to every game home and away.
I’ve come up with three players for each position and gone 3-5-2 as I think that suits best as we’ve always had better strikers than defenders
Big Packy Bonnar was a great servant but not top quality.
Boruc was so agile – and gave us some great moments. His penalty save v Sp Moscow took us into the group stages of the Champions League and then v Man Utd his penalty save after the Nakamura free kick WOW – I thought I was going to take a heart attack!!!!
But it’s got to be big Forster. His performances v Barcelona had their media dubbing him La Gran Muralla – the Great Wall.
He also single handedly won us the League Cup Final v the Huns when he saved the penalty from Morelos. MOTM performance that day. You felt we could compete with anyone with him between the sticks.
Left sided defender
I’ve gone for Mahe in 3rd place. He had a great engine but alas a propensity to blow a gasket at any moment! Tosh McKinlay is runner up. A good servant to the club. A pity he didn’t arrive earlier in his career.
But, it’s KT all the way. Such a shame he didn’t stay to help secure the Ten. I suspect we’ll see him back some day.
It was such a downer when he left. A lot of folk are bitter but he was kicked up and down the park for 3 years with no protection from the refs.
I’ve never seen any player receiving so many assaults after he played the ball away. He probably left to prolong his career.
And so to our dominating centre half.
Virgil Van Dyke is the most expensive and best CH in the world however we only saw his apprenticeship so he doesn’t make the cut.
Big Paul Elliot would probably have been a top shout but he buggered off to Chelsea after about 18 months so only gets a bronze medal. He only lasted a short time and had to retire very young.
There’s not much between my top two.
Bobo Balde might have made it but he was a bit reckless and petulant. A good servant but failed to hit the heights that he was capable of.
So it’s his partner Johann Myallby who gets too spot. Together they took us all the way to Seville and gave us lots of great nights. He was just more consistent and played with us for longer so he grabs top spot.
Right sided defender
This was by far the easiest decision of the year for me. A mere nanosecond.
Instead, I spent the time trying to come up with a couple of alternatives.
I came up with Tom Boyd and Mikel Lustig. Two good servants to the club over the years.
But – Danny McGrain. What can you say?
I see him often at Celtic Park. He is so humble, modest and unassuming. He still doesn’t get what the fuss is about!
My abiding memory of him was his first game as captain when King Kenny left. We played Chelsea in a pre-season friendly. There were 6 Chelsea fans sitting in front of me and they were completely blown away by his performance. At HT and FT they turned to me asking all about him. Their parting comment was a shake of the head and “ never seen anything like that in our lives! What is he? A fullback? A midfielder? He’s bloody everywhere!!”
I said we refer to him as an overlapping full back. They were like “ ah ok”
He was truly world class by 1977. And he played like that for another 10 years after that!
Defensive midfielder (no 6)
I’ve put Broony in 3rd place. Great servant and captain but for me a bit limited as a player. If Wanyama had stayed longer Broony probably wouldn’t have made the cut.
Lambert gets second place. He was class and pure quality. We wouldn’t have reached Seville without him.
In first place I’ve got Neil Lennon. As a player he was massive for Celtic. I don’t think people realised how good a defensive midfielder he was until he retired. In fact, the season after he stopped playing I could only come up with Edgar Davids of Juventus as a replacement! 😂
(Playing alongside Lennon) So many really good players to choose from. I finally narrowed it down to:
3 Stan Petrov. I’d have loved him to have spent his entire career with us. Class act and provided lots of goals and assists.
2 Chris Commons. Pretty much the same as the above. Unreal how many goals he scored from midfield.
1 Murdo McLeod. Nine seasons of hunskelping from a former Rangers supporter. He really bought into Celtic. I absolutely loved the wee man.
Right sided Midfielder (7)
In third place I’ve gone for George McLuskey – although he also played wide left at times. He was sorta overlooked a bit due to the arrival of Charlie Nicholas and Frank McGarvey. But I really liked him. He used to get a bit of abuse from guys in the Jungle but he could always produce a wee bit of magic to shut them up!
In second place I’ve gone for Di Canio. Absolutely amazing player. If he’d stayed for 4 or 5 seasons then I’m sure he’d have been number 1.
First is wee Davie Provan. Another great servant to the club. He scored so many important goals and weighed in with numerous assists too. It was heartbreaking that his career was cut short by ME. I remember crying when he came off after 10 mins during his testimonial match.
Central midfielder (no 8)
I’ve gone for John Collins in third place and Tommy Burns in second. Both were so talented and oozed quality. TB just pips JC due to his longevity at the club.
In first place it just HAS to be the maestro- Paul McStay! I remember when he played his “last game” he threw his boots into the Jungle. All the talk was that he was going to Arsenal or Juventus. Then a few weeks later I was driving to Campsie listening to the radio. The DJ said here’s the sports news…..Paul McStay has signed a new four year contract with Celtic!
I nearly left the road and ended up in a field!!! And THAT’S at true story BTW! 😂
Left sided Midfielder (11)
Jota is already no 3. I hope to God we can keep him – but it’s already looking unlikely if he plays like he currently is all season.
In second place I’ve got Scott Sinclair. I wasn’t expecting too much from him but wow what a player. I’m not sure we should have let him go. He seemed very disappointed to be left out of the team and was managed out the door.
Number one is the incomparable, magical Lubo! There are really no words that do him justice. Just go and watch his DVD!
Up front I have gone for twin strikers:
In third place I’ve gone for Gary Hooper. He scored 82 goals in 138 games. I was at the game v Hearts when he scored all five in a 5-0 win. He also goes down in history as the last player to score in an Old Firm game- in 2012.
In second place I’ve got Leigh Griffiths. 90 goals in 173 games. He had everything. Left foot, right foot or headers he scored every type of goal. Unfortunately, he self destructed as a human being which is really sad. He’s far and away the most natural Scottish striker of his generation and he would literally WALK into the current Scotland team if he hadn’t fucked up so badly.
And now, my number 1.
It can only be the King Of Kings himself – Henrik Larsson!
He gave us 7 magical seasons. With him in the team you felt that we could beat anyone – and we took some big scalps. Time will tell if Angeball is going to produce someone like him. I’ve rarely been as excited at the start of the season as I am at the moment.
My twin striker to play alongside Henrik.
In third place I’ve got Brian McClair. Signed to replace Nicholas for 10% of the fee we got for him. He played for 4 seasons and scored 30 each time. I was gutted when Man Utd pinched him.
Second is big bad John. I thought he was more or less finished when he came to Celtic. His days at Arsenal seemed like a long time ago-but what a player. I reckon if he had been fit to play in Seville we’d have beaten Porto.
And in first place it’s Chris Sutton. What a partnership he had with Henrik! I was confident going in against any team with these two up front.
Funnily enough I think we have a really exciting front line right now. It will be very interesting to see if any two develop the chemistry Henrik and Chris did.
Fingers crossed 🤞
So, that’s my lifetime best Celtic XI.
I’d be interested to hear what others think. And perhaps someone with a fetish for spreadsheets of a Celtic nature would be interested in collating the results of this,and that it inspires others to name their favourite 11.