A trip to the Highlands

A TRIP TO THE HIGHLANDS

Back to league action on Saturday, when Celtic travel up to Inverness. Terry Butcher –recently inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame – will have had more reason than most to regret the international break, as his side thrashed Kilmarnock 6-3 two weeks ago. Will the two-week gap have allowed the Caley squad – most of whom were not on international duty – to keep their fitness and enthusiasm up?; or will the break have interrupted what was obviously a good streak of form?

Many of Celtic’s players have been on international duty, of course, and the manager will have to deal with the various immediate symptoms of players returning from such duties, like injury, disappointment etc., before noting if more serious effects come out in the long run, like homesickness or disillusionment.

Judging by previous matches at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, Celtic will not find this match an easy one. Everyone connected with Caley on the pitch and behind the scenes will be delighted that this match is the lunch-time kick-off game to be broadcast throughout the UK and abroad. That might not mean too much to Celtic’s players, more used to the attention, but the exposure matters a great deal to the home team and they will want to show the watching world what they can do.

As in so many of the Hoops matches this season, success will depend on our attitude. If the players rise to the challenge, take to the field with the necessary drive and determination plus that essential element of refusing to give any quarter to the opposition, then the points will come to Celtic. Anything less than that and we could drop further behind…

….and that’s assuming, of course, that our chief rivals pick up a win over St Johnstone at Ibrox. The points which Rangers have dropped this season have been in two home matches, so they will be wary of Saints, especially when the latter’s players will have received a boost from the appointment of new manager Steve Lomas. He has a difficult decision to make on Saturday.

Certainly, a win over the champions would do wonders for his CV but if he is a realist, he will be aware that the more open he sets out his team’s system, the more it is likely to benefit the Light Blues. I cannot see past a Rangers victory.
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I enjoyed the article by FrankieBhoy, which was a testament to his great passion and love for Celtic Football Club. For many of us, the international breaks – especially for friendly matches – are indeed a nuisance, breaking up the rhythm of the side as well as exposing our players to possible injury.

Unfortunately, though, few current Celtic players are from a similar background to FrankieBhoy. They have come in from all corners of the world, stay here for a few years (if successful), then move on to other clubs, before eventually, in many cases, returning to their original homeland.
For them, international breaks are important. It allows them to wear the colours of their national side, gives them the possibility of reaching the final stages of a World Cup, a European Championship, an Asian or African Cup etc. and most importantly, keeps their name in the public eye of the country to which they will eventually return.

So, while I am fully in agreement with FrankieBhoy regarding his views on international breaks, as an ex-player I have some sympathy with the predicament the modern guys find themselves in. For them, club v country is a difficult choice.

Jim Craig

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