2 words which in the past 3 or 4 months have become the perfect weapon to not only drive a wedge between Celtic supporters, but also to (at times) ridicule the managerial judgement of Ronny Deila.
Before I begin, let me stress; Kris Commons is a player I like. I appreciate everything he has done in the last 4 years and enjoyed many of his goals. I would be pleased to see him sign a new deal and stay at Celtic beyond this summer. However, if he does go, be it this month or in the summer, not a wink of sleep will be lost. There are a number of reasons why and I’ll explain my argument whilst trying to address so many of the Common points made in his support.
There is one absolutely undeniable fact. Last year he WAS Celtic. Without him we really would have struggled. Many games throughout the year, he singlehandedly dragged us to victory. He was our top goal scorer, but to me that at times said more about the team than just his performance. He, rather ironically given the criticism of the 4-2-3-1 system used this year, played as a second striker. This was due to the fact that Pukki, Balde and Co weren’t firing so Stokes needed a partner. It is also worth also looking at his contribution in previous years since joining us.
In his first 6 months he of course was on fire, scoring 14 in only 21 appearances. It really looked like we has got ourselves a bargain. However in his first full season, despite 33 appearances, he scored only once. Now, it was a memorable finish, remembered partly for the fact he dinked over McGregor in the last ever match against Rangers but also for Kyle “I have an itch” Bartley sliding along on his arse hopelessly in the build-up. But 1 goal in a full season!!! He followed it up with 19 before last season’s 32.
In totality his haul of goals over 3 and a half years is impressive, if a little inconsistent. There is no guarantee that playing him every week would mean he would deliver another 15+ goals.
Now if we listen to Chris Sutton (and I mean, why wouldn’t we?) then Commons is our crown jewels and the team should be built around him. As I said at the outset, I rate him as a very good player. But I would say that he is not even the best player in his position!
12 months ago, Neil Lennon brought in Stefan Johansen. I think most Celtic fans felt that we had a very decent midfielder as he settled in well in centre midfield. At the start of this season he was deployed in the withdrawn midfield positions, partly to allow Commons to play and partly to cover for Scott Brown who was injured. However recently we went on an unbeaten run which coincided with Commons being injured and Stefan Johnsen playing further forward. Given the style which Ronny wants us to play, fast paced, pressing and short sharp passing, there is no doubt that Johansen is far better equipped to perform in the role. He may not have the ability to smash one in from 30 yards as much as Commons, but then again when he receives the ball in that area his first, second and third thoughts probably aren’t to simply shoot, unlike our subject. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes off and Commons does smash one in, it’s fantastic, but recently against Kilmarnock I believe the stat passed by Sky was that he had 9 efforts at goal. This was deemed to be worthy of praise indeed he was Man of The Match. Here’s a thought though: Imagine Stefan Scepovic had 9 shots at goal but didn’t score. Would he be looked upon the same? I highly doubt it.
At the weekend it looked as if he had no mission other than to score. Now perhaps this was because he believes it will be his last match and wanted to sign off with a win, however it became very frustrating to watch. His style often sees the play slow down, and indeed you can see other players getting frustrated at his selfishness in games.
And if he really was our best player, I imagine the queue of clubs looking at him would render Bolton extremely unlikely a destination.
1 further point worth looking at:
In Domestic football this season we have dropped points in 6 games. Kris Commons has taken part in every one of them.
ICT Away – Loss – Started
Dundee Away – Draw – Started
Motherwell Home – Draw – Came off bench and scored
Hamilton Home – Loss – Started
Dundee Utd Away – Loss – Came off bench
Ross Co Home – Draw – Came off bench
Now it can be said that in matches where he came off the bench it may have been different if he’d started, however there hasn’t been one single domestic match that we have gone into without Commons and dropped any points. I alluded earlier to the unbeaten run, which happened whilst he was out injured. Now I’m not suggesting that he is responsible for it, however it can’t be said he is that vital.
In terms of his contract negotiations, a lot depends on which side you wish to listen to. We have the player’s agent telling the press that the player gave up International football and Celtic owe him some loyalty. He wants 2 or 3 year deal for the security for his family and apparently Celtic are not willing to offer more than 1.
We then have Ronny saying at the weekend that a 2 year deal is very possible but that there are other details which need thrashing out.
Now, lets look at details. I would hazard a guess that Commons is on approx. £15k a week. That means over £750k per year. Given that there are bonuses for goals, appearances and trophies etc, it could very easily rise to £1m per season. Now if we are guaranteed to get 2 seasons like last year then it would seem to be a no brainer. However at 33 going on 34 can we guarantee that? It is a lot of money also for a player that the manager doesn’t necessarily want to play every week. So surely a 1 year deal with an optional second year based on appearances makes sense?
Another consideration is his career history and how his moves came about.
He left Stoke at the end of his contract, was offered a deal but chose to leave and join Notts Forest on a free.
At the end of his Forest deal, was offered a contract, refused it and joined Derby on a free.
With 6 months left of his Derby contract, was offered a deal, chose to reject it and joined Celtic.
There appears to be a trend! Perhaps he isn’t so straightforward to deal with in negotiations.
As for his international retiral, it was claimed at the time that it was due to being away from his family whilst not being played by Scotland management. At no point was it claimed to be to prolong his club career.
Now as I said at the beginning, I would be happy to see Kris Commons be here in the summer and lift all 3 domestic trophies this year. I’d be delighted if he was part of our squad next year and happily performing for Ronny. But unlike Chris “Hurtin” Sutton, Gordon “1-Cell” Dalziel and the rest, if he decides that he wants to move on, I’ll say thank you and good luck and like many before him, Celtic fans will find a new hero and carry on.