OK, it’s official: I’m almost gibbering in excitement ahead of the new season. There’s nothing like opening day optimism for every fan of every club, but at Celtic there’s more reason for that than most. The fans have been keen for quality signings after the atrocity of last year, and I’m quite hopeful that Lenny has delivered.

Joe Ledley was a terrific piece of business, a player who is very highly rated and rightfully so. He’ll certainly add a new dimension to the midfield, and him and Brown have bags of potential. I’m also really pleased with the Juarez signing, a player who looks like he will add a bit of steel to a midfield too often bullied under Mowbray. However, the purchase that has really caught my eye is Gary Hooper, the 22-year-old striker from Scunthorpe.

OK, there will be doubters. The more ignorant will say ‘who are Scunthorpe?’ and dismiss him before he even arrives. I imagine in days gone bye, a section of the Liverpool support said ‘who are Chester?’ when a certain Mr Rush was signed up, too.

Others will ask why the club have brought in a player with no European experience, and whilst they may have a point, I think only the most optimistic of Celtic fans is concerned with the European adventure this year. Getting beyond Braga is difficult enough, and then we would face the likes of Tottenham, Sevilla or Sampdoria for a chance to make the Champions League itself. OK, participation in the Europa League is a likely bet, but surely that’s a perfect opportunity for Hooper to get that experience he is missing, no?

Instead, our priority has to be wrestling the championship back from Ibrox, and for that, Hooper is our man. I’m not one to kick the quality of the SPL while it is down, but we have to face facts, so I would argue two-thirds of the SPL is equivalent to the English Championship in terms of quality, with the other third similar to League One. At that kind of level, Hooper scored 50 goals in 93 games for Scunthorpe United, which suggests to me that if he plays he’ll set the SPL alight. Indeed, I think it is a monumental piece of business from the club, and being only 22, he is also one for the future.

As for Daryl Murphy, I’m afraid I need to reserve judgement. He looks like a reasonable target man, but it seems a bit ‘Chris Killen’ to me. I hope somebody points that line out to me at the end of the season after he has scored 20 goals, and I’ll happily eat some humble pie, but we’ll see. Saying that, with him signing I’d expect to see him starting the season off in the team.

As always though, when new players come in some have to leave. Hooper will be the eighth striker at Celtic Park (if you consider Maloney to be just a winger) and that figure surely needs cutting. I’d be surprised to see either Fortune or Rasmussen leave as they are new arrivals, but numbers do need to be cut. McGowan has recently signed a new contract, so I’d suggest he was safe, but that leaves Sheridan (a certainty to leave) Samaras and Hutchinson. I won’t pretend to be disappointed when Samaras leaves (the most frustrating player I have ever seen, some days brilliant, but others he’s horrendous. The phrase ‘sublime to the ridiculous’ could have been coined for him alone) but I am disappointed Hutchinson hasn’t really had a chance at Celtic.

I’m also eagerly waiting for some new defensive signings. I think there is promise in Rogne and Hooiveld, as there is in Thompson, but I’m yet to be convinced by Loovens and O’Dea. I’d hope all the money earned from the inevitable McGeady sale is pumped into the defence, with two commanding central defenders the top of the list. And of course, David James too would be a welcome addition as a short-term replacement for Boruc.

So how do we line up opening day? Truth be told, I haven’t got a clue. I can’t even put my finger on a formation, let alone a first XI, so all I can do is pick my own. For me, it has to be 4-3-3 to utilise the talent at our disposal, with the central striker as a target man, Fortune out wide right and the third striker as a ‘poacher’, so here goes.

————————–James———————–

Cha——-Rogne——–Hooiveld———Mulgrew

———————–Juarez———————-

———-Brown (c)—————Ledley——-

—–Fortune——–Murphy——Hooper——

All I know for certain is there cannot possibly be any less heart in this year’s team than was on display under Mowbray and that is the first step to winning anything. Now, if only we could find another Lubo…

Advertisements