There was very little to be down about for Celtic fans following a straight forward 2-0 victory over Motherwell at Celtic Park on Saturday, the team put in a solid performance and the teams nearest challengers Inverness lost to St Johnstone putting the team clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
However there was one sour note that came from the game, this was the news that right back Adam Matthews has been ruled out until early 2014 meaning he will miss the rest of the group stage of the Champions League.
This article will have a look at how the young Welshman has done since joining Celtic in 2011 and assess how big a blow this will be for Neil Lennon’s side in their quest to guarantee European football after Christmas for the second year running.
Not many Celtic fans knew much about Matthews when it was announced on the 25th of February 2011 that the Cardiff youngster had signed a pre-contract agreement with Celtic, he was criticised by his then manager Dave Jones for a lack of ambition, however Matthews stated a lust for European football and winning trophies as his main desire for joining Celtic.
He quickly settled into the squad, stating that having former Cardiff team mate Joe Ledley there helping him settle, in the 2011/12 season he made a total of 38 appearances in all competitions and was a vital part in the defence that broke the SPL clean sheet record. This impressive first season was capped by Matthews being named as part of the leagues ‘Team of the year’. Matthews also got his first taste of European football with Celtic in the Europa League as Celtic came up against Udinese, Atletico Madrid and Rennes, as well as getting his first piece of silver wear of his career with an SPL winners medal.
Having made the right back position his own Matthews went into 2012/13 season full of confidence and again had an impressive season with stunning performances in the Champions League as he was a major part of the Celtic side that reached the last 16 of Europe’s elite competition. Matthews also helped Celtic achieve their second successive league title and completed a domestic double by lifting the Scottish Cup as well. The Welshman made an impressive 39 appearances in this season and also added goals to his repertoire, with his first ever Celtic goal proving to be the only goal in an away win at Arbroath in a Scottish Cup replay. He then added a double at home to Kilmarnock later on that season. Yet again Matthews was named in the SPL team of the year for the second season running.
Going into the current season Matthews had real competition for his right back slot with Swede Mikael Lustig putting in impressive performances, this had led to Matthews playing in a right midfield role for parts of the current campaign, up until Saturday Matthews had made 14 appearances with 1 goal, however his last appearance of the calendar year was on Saturday after a fractured collarbone was suffered by the Welsh fullback following a rough landing after a robust challenge from Motherwell player Keith Lasley.
The admirers of Matthews have grown since he swapped the English Championship for one of Europe’s premier clubs. His performances have also seen him become a regular for Wales national squad. He was also named on the 100 top youngsters to watch in 2013 by IBWM. He has been in back to back league winning sides, been named in the league team of the year in both full seasons he had with Celtic, been a part of the side that has performed so well in Europe, these performances have not gone unnoticed and he has been linked with big money moves to the English Premier League, however it remains to be seen what the future holds for Adam at Celtic.
So how will Celtic cope without the player who has been so impressive in the last 2 and a bit seasons?
It would seem that if Mikael Lustig can stay injury free then the right back position should be covered by the Swede. Lustig has been in solid form for club and country and will no doubt look to take advantage of Matthews absence in order to try and affirm himself as the number 1 choice right back at the club.
However Matthews had been operating more in a right midfield position which could prove a problem, this is because players who can fill the position such as James Forrest and Derk Boeriggter having injury plagued seasons. With Scott Brown suspended for the Ajax double header it seems that Matthews will be a big miss for the Hoops.
It remains to be seen how Celtic will cope with the absence of Matthews but it surely can be said that the chances of progression have been hindered by the unfortunate injury to one of Neil Lennon’s best signings since he took over the Celtic hot-seat.
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