In January 2016 Ronny Deila purchased a recently proven international level defender from Midtjylland , a side who in 2015 had beaten Manchester United in the Europa League in their home leg. It looked like an excellent piece of business from the Norwegian Hoops boss. Born in Viborg, the son of a Ukrainian immigrant and painter, he rose through the ranks at Midtjylland playing in the youth system from 2006 to 2009. He had six and a half seasons in the first team with the 2014/15 Danish Champions but didn’t make his Danish debut until 2015 when injuries to key defenders like Daniel Agger left a gap in the team for him to exploit. In current form and given Agger’s retirement since, we can expect to see Erik don the red of Denmark for many years to come
It feels like Erik has been at Celtic for so much longer than he has. Both on and off the pitch he shows the capabilities, passion, responsibility and interpersonal skills that have so quickly endeared him to the Celtic faithful. He proved himself incredibly quickly to Deila, proof of this being that despite having only signed in January he was handed the captain’s armband against St Johnstone on May 11.
From that very first interview until now Erik has always been incredibly well spoken and is excellent at conveying his passion for the club over to the fans. His first interview unlike many others’ left Celtic fans impressed with the general consensus being, “Well he can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?”. He must be a dream player for Rodgers, one who can deal with the media, without leaving him with any errant comments to deal with. Whilst Brown’s men against boys comment after the Old Firm game in September was brilliant, it’s probably not something a more tactful Rodgers would have really approved of. His usage of social media has also been excellent, his Facebook has an extremely personal feel, there doesn’t seem to be a middle man uploading on his behalf which really does helps to break down a barrier between him as a player and the fans. There’s a reason why out of all the Celtic players he was chosen to do an interview with Sky Sports on Christmas Eve. One which I recommend to anyone who is yet to see it.
— Alsean (@AlseanStrochs20) December 29, 2016
Sviatchenko has become one of the first names on the team sheet, with the rest of the defence subject to change around him. Both he and Simunovic have spoken of their partnership, and it looks to be one that has serious potential for the future. It speaks volumes of him that despite having not scored very regularly he has found the net on two occasions against the team from Ibrox, even if one was farcically ruled out after he utterly dominated Clint Hill on the edge of the six yard box. His first goal against them was also his goal for Celtic, with an incredible leap into the air in celebration afterwards. Big man scoring big goals!
Comparisons between himself and Virgil Van Dijk are forthcoming, especially after his screamer against Ross County, which showed that he is far more than just a steady-eddie defender. He is only three months younger than the Dutchman but unlike Van Dijk, has a very clear defensive priority and a reluctance to venture too far forward. He won’t be on free-kick duty any time soon either. He is very vocal and if you watch him when he’s walking off the pitch at half-time he’s almost always deep in conversation with a fellow defender, regardless of the score.
Be as this may, possibly the best aspect of Sviatchenko from a supporter’s perspective is that he seems to feel a real connection to the club and that he is not the only one who has a contract to the club in his household. It would be rude not to mention Ms Anne Rudmose, girlfriend of Erik and mother of his young child, who signed for Celtic’s ladies in February 2016, despite being pregnant at the time. Rudmose, a left winger who sports number 28 the same as Erik, went on to make her debut against Hibernian ladies on October 9th, but two games before the end of the women’s season. A rather funny slip up from Erik saw him tweet a picture of Anne getting ready for her first game with the sole word “Ready”. Oops Erik! Wrong club!
Sviatchenko himself said of their relationship that “Our careers have developed at the same time too. When I knew I was coming to Celtic, we started looking for a club that Anne could play for.”
So with not just one contract to the club but two, I would suggest that there is every chance the services of Sviatchenko will be retained for the foreseeable future, which is something that most Celtic fans will be more than happy about.
If Brown were to retire tomorrow, he’d be my choice of captain, who would you pick?
KEVIN JOHN THOMSON