I had been holding off on writing this review of our attacking department so I could include our latest striker signing but then I remembered I will be busy in January so thought it best to get this written now. I think most fellow supporters will agree that this is an area we definitely need to strengthen – we have plenty of players but they are either not performing and/or not good enough or have potential that needs to be developed.
Last season we signed Balde, Boerrigter and Pukki and it is fair to say they contributed very little last season for a reported combined transfer outlay of around £7m. Pukki has shown some green shoots of promise in pre-season and so perhaps may be ready for a big season, but the jury is very much still out on Boerrigter and Balde. The jury may in fact have been out, given up and went home… Commons was fantastic last season and remains our most creative, as well as one of our most experienced, players, Stokes blows hot and cold a too much and whilst Griffiths has the talent he needs to focus on his game after a good start last season he faded around the time of his karaoke exploits in Edinburgh. Forrest has (had?) great potential but injury has curtailed his development and his impact. Add in Callum McGregor and Tony Watt among others and the future looks bright but we lack the outstanding striker that you can be sure will finish off chances when it counts, always difficult to find but must be a priority.
10, Anthony Stokes (CF)
151 appearances, 69 goals, 26 years old, 5ft 11, Ireland, 8 caps
Signed from Hibernian, August 2010, £1.2m
Tony, Tony Stokes has many attributes to be a Celtic legend, he is skilful, is a good finisher and is a proven goalscorer with almost 1 goal every 2 games in the hoops. So, why isn’t he revered in the way Gary Hooper was by many? Well, for a start Hooper scored 82 goals in 138 games, so is still 13 goals ahead of Stokes despite playing 2 seasons less for the club, scored more than a few against Rangers and scored in Europe frequently. The truth is, Stokes should have played and scored a lot more in his time at the club and has been inconsistent repeatedly throughout, and the big goals in big games has mostly eluded him.
Last season he went long spells without scoring before finding form in the second half of the season – coincidentally when we signed another striker in Griffiths to play up front with him which he thrives on. Stokes had a great partnership with Hooper also, so perhaps it is unfair to focus on the differential in goals between the pair, the truth is Stokes setup a fair amount of the goals Hooper scored, and perhaps Hooper wouldn’t have been such a success had Stokes not been there from him. Injury at the start of the 2012-13 season was also a factor in Stokes’ development. Maybe his hair transplant will make all the difference – it will be interesting to see if he is the kind of player suited to the system Deila wants to play.
11, Derk Boerrigter (LW)
23 appearances, 1 goals, 27 years old, 6ft 2, Holland, 0 caps
Signed from Ajax, July 2013, £3m? (hope not)
The Dutchman made a blistering debut in the first game of last season against Ross County, showing electrifying pace and confidence to terrorise the County defence before he fell over and got injured and was subbed after 39mins. Since then he has been unable to recapture that form and has cut a frustrated figure whenever he appeared, looking devoid of confidence. There is talk of him always having been injury prone but he managed 32 games + in 5 out of 6 seasons before signing for us and played 43 times for Ajax, scoring 6 times in the 2012-13 season, so perhaps he really has just been unlucky and will show what he is made of this season.
I almost convinced myself, then I saw his miss against Rapid Vienna on youtube… ☹
15, Kris Commons (AM, CF)
148 appearances, 66 goals, 30 years old, 5ft 6 1/2, Scotland, 12 caps
Signed from Derby County, January 2011, £300k
After Larsson and Lubo, Commons has to be one of the greatest bargains we have signed in the last few decades, albeit not quite as good as either of them! He had a great debut season then seemed to decline for a while before getting a goal in a 3-0 demolition of Rangers just before liquidation and never looked back. Last season saw him play in an ever more advanced position and he displayed his excellent shooting skills could be adapted to being a great goalscorer rather than simply a scorer of great goals (of which he has scored many!). He also seemed to thrive on his retirement from international football which coincided with his best run of form in his time with the club.
We really should give the man a new deal and mould the team for this season around him, he enjoys playing for Celtic and can be one of the leaders on the park in Brown’s absence. Will his age go against him in contract talks as Samaras’ seemed to?
17, Amido Balde (CF)
24 appearances, 3 goals, 23 years old, 6ft 4, Guinea-Bissau, 0 caps
Signed from Vitoria Guimaraes, June 2013, Undisclosed
The warning signs were there when we hadn’t signed him yet and he was wandering about Glasgow airport posing with a Celtic top and scarf that he may have bought in the club shop on his way through arrivals. So far he has not shown any reason why we signed him aside from a few goals here and there (2 out of the three have been fluky ones against Killie!) and despite his size doesn’t really seem able to use to his advantage. No harm to the guy, but I don’t think he is (or will ever be) good enough for us and it may be time to move him on.
19, Holmbert Fridjonsson (CF)
0 appearances, 0 goals, 21 years old, 6ft 3, Iceland, 0 caps
Signed from Fram Reykjavik, January 2014, Undisclosed
I literally have nothing to say, it would be nice to see him in the flesh to verify he actually exists… Also, from our games with KR suddenly scoring 12 in 23 games in the Icelandic league doesn’t seem all that impressive.
20, Teemu Pukki (CF)
34 appearances, 9 goals, 24 years old, 5ft 11, Finland, 28 caps
Signed from Schalke 04, August 2013, Undisclosed
For most of last season Pukki was also in the category of “Why have we signed this guy?” popping up to score a few goals but looking at times like he didn’t know what a goal was. He must have some talent in there having been at Sevilla and Schalke before he signed for Celtic. Pre-season has given us hope that Ronny Deila may just be the man to unleash Pukki’s ruthless clinical goalscoring alter-ego and give us plenty more opportunities to watch the Pukki song on youtube.
What surprises me is that he has now scored one more goal for us than he managed to score for Schalke, would you sign him for us now having seen what you have seen? I assume no, therefore, why did we sign him based on fewer goals in more appearances for Schalke?
28, Leigh Griffiths (CF)
16 appearances, 7 goals, 23 years old, 5ft 10, Scotland, 4 caps
Signed from Wolves, January 2014, Undisclosed
Get ready to be astonished:
Leigh Griffiths was born in the 90s and is 23 years old. Whit!? Hard paper rounds in Leith!
For a while, Griffiths was a breath of fresh air last season, with a fantastic work rate and some excellent finishing (his goal against Hearts will live long in the memory) but his form and goalscoring faded as the season came to a close which seemed to correlate with his ill-judged trip to watch the Edinburgh derby via the pub. I think we are yet to see the best of Griffiths in a Celtic shirt and hope he will get, and take the chance to shine for us.
I then noticed that as a sixteen year old he had a trial with West Brom and Mowbray wanted to sign him but then left for Celtic, we all know Tony knows a player when he sees one…
32, Tony Watt (CF)
35 appearances, 8 goals, 20 years old, 6ft, Scotland, 0 caps
Signed from Airdrie, January 2011, £80k
We all know about Watt’s meteoric rise – scoring twice on his debut against Motherwell, doing well as an impact sub and when called upon to start for the first team and then scoring that goal against Barcelona in November 2012. He has only scored one goal for Celtic since then. Last season he spent in Belgium at Lierse and had a fractious relationship with the manager, bickering in public repeatedly despite scoring a few goals. I hope that the experience has redoubled his focus to get his head down, work hard, focus on football and grab the opportunity to play his football at Celtic. If not, he will likely disappear down the leagues and the goal against Barca will be the pinnacle, rather than the beginning of his career as it should have been. UPDATE – Now looks like he is off to Belgium Permanently.
37, Bahrudin Atajic (CF)
4 appearances, 1 goals, 20 years old, 5ft 11, Bosnia, 0 caps
Atajic is another young striker who banged in goals galore for our U20s and development squad and then struggles to breakthrough into the first team. He has had a few fleeting substitute appearances and scored a great goal against Motherwell last season but his loan deal to Shrewsbury evidently didn’t go to plan with no goals from 13 appearances. Difficult to make a case for him to break into the team this season on evidence so far.
42, Callum McGregor (LW)
2 appearances, 1 goals, 21 years old, 5ft 11, Scotland, 0 caps
McGregor seems to have been the main beneficiary of Ronny Deila’s new regime so far with two games played in important Champions League qualifiers in the position Derk Boerrigter had been playing in early pre-season. McGregor has impressed, scoring a vital away goal and setting up one of Pukki’s goals and generally just playing well. He is clearly talented and made the most of his loan spell at Notts County last season – ok it was only league 1, but that is not an easy league, especially in a struggling team, so to score 14 in 40 especially when not being an out and out striker is fantastic. For me it shows he also has the attitude to grab his chance and force his way into the team. I fully expect him to be an integral part of the first team squad, if not the team this season.
49, James Forrest (RW)
127 appearances, 24 goals, 23 years old, 5ft 9, Scotland, 9 caps
The most important thing for Forrest is getting him fit and figuring out a way to keep him that way. If you weren’t aware of his injury problems, (where have you been!) he has played in half or less of our league games in three of the last four seasons, making less than 30 appearances in total in each of those three seasons. At this stage in his career he should be expressing himself and developing into the top class player he promised to be, but instead his career is in danger of fizzling out. For comparison, in 6 seasons McGeady made around double the number of appearances Forrest has managed so far in 4 seasons.
There has been talk of an £8m move to Everton but frankly, that sounds even more ridiculous than the £9million bid from another galaxy for Jelavic a few seasons ago. Not that I don’t think Forrest has the talent to command that sort of fee, but right now anyone would be mad to pay that sort of money without knowing if he can ever play a full season without injury blighting it. I really hope Ronny Deila is the man to nurture Forrest into the 40-50 game a season, flying winger that he should be.
Check out our Goalkeeper, Defenders and Midfielder reviews here: