Exclusive: Celtic hero Jackie McNamara on Ange's biggest calls for Bodo/Glimt clash

By Euan Davidson

February 15, 2022

Former Celtic captain Jackie McNamara played in some huge European games during his illustrious career. In fact, he was in the side the last time the Hoops overcame a knock-out opponent in Europe.

In an ill-tempered two legs, the Hoops beat Barcelona back in 2004 [BBC].

Now, it’s a very different Celtic, and a very different challenge. The Arctic Circle’s finest, Bodø/Glimt, come calling on Thursday night. It’s our first experience of the UEFA Europa Conference League, and Ange Postecoglou will be desperate to make it count.

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

To do that, though, he’s got two very big calls to make. Does he stick with Giorgos Giakoumakis, or start Daizen Maeda through the middle? Meanwhile in midfield, 4 into 3 will not go, and Callum McGregor is the captain. Which two get the nod out of Reo Hatate, Matt O’Riley and Tom Rogic?

Speaking to 67 Hail Hail, McNamara gave his thoughts on our striking options, and the possibility of starting Rogic and O’Riley together in the middle. He said: “I think he’ll probably for Giakoumakis again, like the Rangers game, then change it later on.

“Just to give you that physical side. I do like Maeda, I think his energy, his desire, work rate – he’s a constant threat.

“But I think he might do similar to the Rangers game to start the match. I thought Giakoumakis did well.

“I’d be surprised if he does [pick O’Riley and Rogic together] in this one. I think he’ll start with one, it’ll be Callum [McGregor] deeper, Hatate and either Rogic or O’Riley, I think that’s how he’ll start the match.”

More glory beckons as Celtic’s attention turns to Europe | Matt O’Riley and Jackie McNamara on 67HH

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More glory beckons as Celtic’s attention turns to Europe | Matt O’Riley and Jackie McNamara on 67HH
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Jackie McNamara knows what it takes to progress in Europe; do this Celtic team?

The Europa Conference League hasn’t garnered a huge response from the Celtic faithful, but it’s an exciting opportunity.

At the very least, it’s valuable experience for this young Hoops side. Ange has said as much, in terms of how the Europa League experience helped to really mould this squad. Strong European form can galvanise a team’s confidence; something we’ll need to compete on all fronts.

It’s also a chance to make a real dent in a brand-new competition. There is only one opportunity to be a competition’s first winners. That’d be pretty cool.

Photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As for Thursday night, we’re inclined to agree with Jackie McNamara on the striking options. Giorgos Giakoumakis was indeed excellent against Rangers, and put in another good display against Raith Rovers. His prowess receiving the ball close to goal is an asset. Daizen Maeda, at this point, represents a frightening option off the bench, though he’ll likely be a starter long-term.

In midfield, it’s far trickier. You could argue O’Riley was ostensibly rested against Raith Rovers, and his freshness after a frantic start could be valuable. Next to him, Hatate seems the better fit stylistically, though it’s tantalising to imagine a Rogic and O’Riley midfield.

These are big, big calls. And it’s up to Ange Postecoglou to make them.

Read more: Ex-Celtic loanee Mohamed Elyounoussi now bossing the EPL with Southampton