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It was a bolt from the blue today when I heard the name Henri Camara – so long ago, yet I have such a vivid memory of his time at Celtic – as short-lived as it was.

The striker finally retired at the age of 41, playing for 19 different clubs and amassing 99 caps for Senegal.

When the tears had been shed after a long goodbye, Henrik Larsson finally left Celtic after seven magnificent years at the club.

That summer, Martin O’Neill was tasked with one of the hardest jobs I think a Celtic manager has had to do – replace Henrik Larsson.

With money not so forthcoming towards the Irishman’s latter stint at the club, O’Neill knew he had to be thrifty if he was to get someone who could help pitch in with his fair share of goals.

Yes, we still had Chris Sutton and John Hartson and even David Fernandez but all eyes were on who O’Neill would bring in. Rightly or wrongly, that player was always going to be compared to Henrik Larsson and that man was Henri Camara.

O’Neill signed him for Celtic from Wolves on a season-long loan, he had two strikes in John and Chris who were powerhouses but they were not nimble or light on their feet – that’s where Henri came in.

O’Neill wanted someone who would complement his successful little and large combination upfront. Henri fitted the mould.

He scored 8 goals in 16 starts for the club, which wasn’t too bad a record considering some of the strikers who have graced Celtic park since then. But the Senegalese international was fighting an uphill battle – yes he could score but he couldn’t score as frequently as Henrik and for many fans, the jury was out as we headed into the January window.

Henri once recieved a retrospective one-match ban for a stamp on Gregory Vignal in a game against Old Rangers. Many bringing his temperament into question, something the fans weren’t interested in and was not the way Celtic should go about thing

In the January window, it was clear Celtic needed something a bit different up front and in the final days of the window Southampton came in and bought out the rest of his loan deal, taking him away from Celtic Park just 6 months after arriving. Then Celtic would pull the ace from their sleeve and announce Craig Bellamy in the final hours of the window – a massive coup for the club and a gift from Newcastle after former Ibrox man Graeme Souness fell out with the speedy attacker.

Henri played against Barcelona, AC Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk during his time with Celtic but never hit the heights expected of him. This would be a theme throughout his career.

His biggest move came just 6 months after leaving Celtic when Wigan spent £3.5million to buy him from Wolves.

After that, the player rarely settled and bounced around all over Europe in search of first team football.

He may not have had a storied career but Henri is a well-travelled veteran of the footballing world.

And however, flimsy the link there was a time when people looked at him as Henrik Larsson’s replacement – even just for a second.

We wish Henri the best in retirement.

 

 

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