The wheels are turning on preseason already for the bhoys while pretty much every other country in the world still has their players on a beach somewhere. I’m not bitter. Not one bit. But alas, it is what it is. In living memory, I don’t remember our team returning back for preseason in such good shape. It might be because these lads are professionals who treat their bodies like a temple, or that they know just how important it is to hit the ground like Sonic on speed for these (Not)Champions League qualifiers. Or maybe, it’s because the season finished 18 days ago for the international bhoys. After some 60+ games for our most important players, they get 432 hours away from the game, not counting when they actually went back into training.
Anyway, enough moaning.
Lennon said it would be two teams to play the separate games, and unlike Pinkafeld on Wednesday, this wee team could zip the ball about. Surprisingly enough for a 3rd tier team from Austria, they had some serious composure on the ball. Aye, they barely threatened but still, you’ve got to appreciate a team who operate in a league with the Austria and Rapid Vienna reserves knockin’ it about like that.
Our high press was a wee bit lacking sometimes, but it’s preseason and it’s still miles ahead of where expected at this point. But even then, we won the ball back in good areas and but for some wasteful finishing we could’ve pulled the shutters down on this one early doors. Plenty of chances came and went, but in reality it was the new bhoys we were all most interested in seeing.
We’ll start from the back. I loved wee Emilio, but early indications are Gutman is an upgrade. Be that in his legs or his talent I’m not sure yet. But he has the engine to get up and down, and with some work on the final product, we could have an able deputy for KT, who by the way, can’t go through another 60+ game season. The boy needs a seat sometimes and the American might be the guy to help him.
Sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head in disbelief at some of the opinions that fly from our fans. One particular drivel was writing off Shved. After 45 mins. *Insert profanity here* Let’s pose a riddle. What do you get when you have a winger who lacks the natural confidence and belief that he can commit his man, beat him and then deliver. Anyone…? Scott Sinclair, you get Scott Sinclair.
Now, I’m not bashing Sinky. He has contributed in a big way to the last 9 trophies with goals. But in all round general play, he’s a frustration. The talent is obviously there, and in most cases the frustration comes from trying to get the talent out of the player that riles you. But in Sinclair’s case, he doesn’t put himself in a position to even ask the question; can you beat your man? I might be being a bit hard on the guy, but it’s a game of opinions I suppose.
Compare and contract with Shved. A willingness to run at his man, inside, outside and link the play going forward is encouraging. So what it doesn’t come off every time. The point is he’s at least giving us another dynamic than a backwards pass to the full back. One of our major faults for the longest time has been speed of play and it stems from the widemen playing it safe (backwards) almost every time. The pattern is as mundane as it was predictable > Wideman > Fullback > Centre Back > Other Centre Back > Full Back. Rinse and repeat until there’s 11 men parked 20 yards from their goal line. Get the ball wide, force your full back to engage you and either pass or take him on. It sounds simple, but it really stems from the rest of the team and the shape they take up. But we’ll get onto that in future ramblings!
So who knows, this fresh blood might push 2016/17 Sinclair back to the forefront! And then we really have a player on our hands.
Boom Boom Boom, Everybody Say BAYO… No? Okay, moving on. The big fella had played all of 10 minutes last season, and I think I saw him trap a ball further than some can kick it. But it was 10 minutes, so to avoid being one of they bandwagon jumpers, I held my weesht until I saw more. And what I saw I like. I’m gonna say something, but hang with me, there’s a logic to the madness… He reminds me of the very early Dembele we saw. That run of games up till the infamous “Dembelition” game, where Joey Barton’s career sadly passed away; Moussa was rough and raw. You get that same sense with Bayo. Now I’m not saying the quality will match up, because I don’t know, it’s been 1 half of a preseason game. But the big man can take a ball in, turn or link the play. He’s obviously a threat in the air, but that needs work as evidenced by the chance he missed tonight. Moussa motored away sharpish and improved 10x by the seasons end. If Bayo can progress even half way to where Dembele ended up in 16/17 then we have ourselves very healthy competition up top with French Eddy and Griff.
Now, to the man, or kid of the moment. Mikey Johnston. We have a player. I’m the first to admit I’ve been back and forward on the wee man. Sometimes he looked the part, others not so much. But since teh tail end of last season when he broke into the team till now, you can’t argue that he has improved. We just need to work that final pass into his game, and erase those extra 3/4 touches he takes to blow up a chance.
In the same vein of Shved, he showed the bravery every winger needs to attack his man. He looks sharp and he has genuine quality that we haven’t seen in a Celtic winger since McGeady. No, I’m not overlooking Forrest here. Mikey is a bag of tricks, Jamsey is raw pace and direct running. If you combine the two, you’ve got a frightful prospect. But with Rogic more acquainted with the treatment table these days, we may be seeing the shift of Forrest from winger to No. 10. He is capable, but time will tell whether he can really pick up the intricacy’s of being the pivot the team revolves around. Another pleasant surprise in the wide department was Morgan. He done well when he came into the game, direct and beating men. But if I had to hazard a guess, he’ll be heading out on loan before the end of the window.
All things considered, we’re operating at a higher level than we normally do at this time. And with kids like Dembele, Oko-Flex, Henderson and new kid Connell all waiting in the wings, we seem to be half way there. We just need a right back because as hard as Ralston tries, he’s had circa 3 seasons to do something. On to St Gallen on Tuesday night where hopefully we get a look at all 6″5 of Christopher Jullien.
And while we’re here; Welcome to the Party Luca Connell.