The current Celtic squad has a lot of likeable players. Ryan Christie taking a bow, Kris Ajer screaming after a clearance, French Eddy with the calm down gesture or Fraser Forster running the length of the field to celebrate with his captain – the list could go on. I’m Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and in this article we have Eoin Coyne (@toomanybigwords), Liam Divers (@LDivers91), Matt Evans (@SkylandsCSC) and Ronan Kearney (@Kearney1085) discussing their favourite players in the current Celtic side.
The Joy of Jeremie
When Celtic carried out our little exploratory mini-raid of England for a batch of very highly rated kids I doubt even the most cock-eyed optimists among the support thought we’d unearth a gem by September. Enter Jeremie. It might seem a little odd to pick a kid with 9 first team professional appearances to his name but, to me, that level of inexperience is just another thing that makes this wee guy so impressive.
There is something particularly thrilling about watching him fearlessly slaloming through opposition defences with reckless abandon. You sometimes have to remind yourself that he is, predominantly, a full-back. Apparently a converted winger, he has the pace and enthusiasm to essentially patrol that whole right wing by himself. It is admittedly very early but the potential is so obviously massive.
Then there’s the manner in which he conducts himself, from his first presser the enthusiasm just radiated out through the screen. He’s clearly loving being here, being given his chance and wears a seemingly permanent grin that says “I’m absolutely loving this”. He’s taken to the club as well as he has the first team and is already held in genuine affection by fans and players as well if his interactions with Broony are anything to go by.
The only downside is that we haven’t had the chance to see him in Europe yet but Lennon has got to take a lot of credit for the measured, granular way he has been introduced to the team. We probably overplayed Kieran Tierney to breaking point out of sheer necessity, with 3 other right backs at the club who can do a job (Elhamed, Bauer, O’Connor) there will be no need to run him into the ground. We have the opportunity here to develop a really class talent and to do it in the right way.
Strong man Ntcham
Oli. Ntcham. The Regulator. Ntchampagne Supervova. The fascist slayer.
Since joining in 2017 from Man City, there’s been a bit of an enigmatic air about Ntcham. We rarely see or hear anything about his personal life online, he very rarely gives interviews (maybe for the best given his track record) and seems to cut a rather reserved figure amongst his teammates. We know very little about him apart from he’s a talented midfielder who we haven’t seen enough of.
And it’s for the reasons outlined above that I’ve selected him as my favourite current squad player. There’s the fact that he’s clearly cool as fuck, as can be evidenced by his absolutely ridiculous clobber that only a man so incredibly sure of himself would wear. We’re talking a complete Gucci tracky, a full NBA kit including sweatbands, and those mad green specks he was spotted wearing boarding a flight. Regardless of ability, that type of get up is something we can surely all get behind?
However, it isn’t merely sartorial excellence Ntcham displays in abundance. He’s a ridiculously talented player who I feel we haven’t seen the best of. There was a period where he became part of a midfield three alongside McGregor and Christie which looked like the beginning of a fearsome trio and the gradual phasing out of Brown. Unfortunately, injury curtailed this run and he’s failed to have a real clear run of starts ever since. He has been used far more this season by Lennon and has contributed when called upon. His laser-guided passing and ability to control the tempo of a game have been there to see in his appearances this season. Then there was the Lazio goal, obviously!
Ntcham is my favourite current squad player as he’s everything I want in a midfielder for Celtic; cool as fuck, clearly talented and, well, cool as fuck. I only hope we get to see more of him as the season progresses.
The one with desire: Kristoffer Ajer
Celtic have fleet wingers, tough, smart midfielders, creative forwards and they all have their own admirers. My favorite player to watch on the current team, however, is Kristoffer Ajer. A lot of that love is compounded by how lucky we are to have him and without Ronny Deila and the Norwegian connection, big Kris could have gone anywhere. But he is here, and has become the rocksteady heart of the defense.
For a player who was played all over the pitch in his upbringing, Ajer has shown his willingness and ability to learn to play the position. He rarely makes a mistake, and he never makes the same mistake twice. Although not much of a scorer he is very capable aerially and strong in the tackle. He has also really grown into a leadership role, which strengthens the defensive pairing in a way that we didn’t really see with Boyata/Simunovic/Benkovic.
The moment that I think best illustrates what Kris Ajer’s all about happened late in the 31 March derby last season. With Scott Bain hopelessly beaten at his post, Rangers’ Joe Worrall was about to knock the equalizer home – but in came Ajer with an exquisitely timed tackle to take the ball away and preserve the 2-1 win.
Worrall could only look on in horror and Andy Halladay buried his face in his hands as Ajer celebrated with a “yasssss” that was audible on TV. The tackle was no less impressive for the fact that Ajer had sustained a head knock early on that needed to be glued back together – and this off orbital bone surgery the season before and a concussion against Dundee earlier in March of 2019.
Fortunately and unfortunately, Ajer fits the new Celtic model of develop and sell on, so it’s a matter of when, not if, we say “sees” to the Norwegian and console ourselves with a big pile of money. But for now, it’s a real pleasure watching someone who gets Celtic and puts his heart and body on the line for us.
Rampant Ryan Christie
Let me preface this by saying I struggled here. I struggled for two reasons in particular:
- Having a favourite Celtic player recently has proved to be a futile exercise as our model means we lose our best players within around a two season window. Dembele, Tierney, Armstrong. Even Boyata (!) It makes idolising a player such as Edouard an exercise in caution as we all know he will leave us to become the greatest player on Earth.
- Johnny Hayes is not my favourite Celtic player but he is what I would be like as a Celtic player. “What’s that, gaffer? Left back? No worries.” “Not in the squad today, boss? Yeah, that’s fine, I just love playing for Celtic.” “Want me to dress like an airplane for the Christmas ad? Strap me in and call me Captain Hayes.” So, I, like many others I imagine, identify with Hayes a lot in that I would do anything for the Celtic.
Taking the above criteria into consideration, I am going with Ryan Christie. Since signing with us in 2015, he has played more games for other Scottish clubs than he has for Celtic due to being on loan to Inverness and Aberdeen but he didn’t cry about it. He developed and shone at Aberdeen and got a chance in the League Cup semi final against Hearts last season. He took that chance and hasn’t looked back. He has started this season sensationally, scoring domestically, in the Europa League and on international duty.
He has so many strings to his bow in terms of his make-up. He can play the simple pass, he can put the ball through the eye of a needle. He can score headers from 5 yards and drill them in from 25 yards. All great characteristics of your typical ‘box-to-box’ midfielder.
I like these things about him.
What I love about him however is that he has a lovely little nasty streak in him. He knows how to commit enough fouls without getting booked. Just the right amount of snide to remain an innocent wee guy rather than a hammer thrower that belongs in a blue jersey. I love that. I love him.
Agree with the points made here? Want to share your favourite Celtic player? Please get in touch on the Patreon app or on Twitter @90MinuteCynic or @SJRussell23. For non-stop, unrivalled Celtic coverage subscribe to our Patreon service at www.patreon.com/90minutecynic. Subscribers in December will receive this badge for free.