Exclusive: Celtic legend Jackie McNamara has "no issues" with Juranovic at left-back
Jackie McNamara says he has no problem with Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic playing on the left, because he did it too.
McNamara, a manager’s dream, was capable of playing across the defence and the midfield, something he often did as a player. Whether on the right or left of a four, or the right wing-back in a 3-5-2, McNamara could perform wherever he was needed.
That’s something McNamara expects of Juranovic, who has been impressive playing on his less natural side. Adept at getting into the middle, and more than happy in Postecoglou’s system, Juranovic is flourishing despite being out of position.
Speaking to 67 Hail Hail, McNamara told us:
“I have no issues with that. He’s comfortable. I played there under Martin [O’Neill], at left-back, as predominantly a right-footer. You’re not expecting him to get to the byline, but I don’t think we were doing that anyway.
“He’s got players in front of him that you want him to support. You don’t need to overlap Jota, just leave him and give him the space. It’s different if you’re playing with someone in there that’s going to drive inside and is struggling to get past people.
“Jota doesn’t need a left-back to get in behind him right now and whip balls in. Just give him the ball and support him.
“And obviously he can take penalties as well!”
Josip Juranovic has Jackie McNamara seal of approval early into Celtic career
Given Juranovic’s technical abilities, his preferred side doesn’t really seem to matter. Nor is he making any sort of fuss about having to play out on the left. He’s perfectly capable. According to his career stats thus far, he’s fine playing almost anywhere [Transfermarkt].
But what’s emerged from this season so far, amongst so many other things, is that Celtic have two high-quality options at right-back. We have a Croatian international, and a player who ought to be fielding a call from Steve Clarke before long.
The inverted full-back system was meant to take months of adjustment. There were critics who suggested it might never work. But the improvement in recent weeks has been phenomenal. Both Juranovic and Ralston have played a significant part in that.
Adaptability is clearly a big part of what Ange Postecoglou looks for in his signings. Just look at Kyogo and Jota, who can play anywhere along a front three. Osaze Urhoghide and Liam Shaw, even though the latter was a pre-Ange signing, would’ve impressed with their versatility. Carter-Vickers can fill in as a right-back, too.
Essentially, you make yourself useful, or you don’t play. That seems to be the methodology under Ange Postecoglou, just as it was for Celtic under Martin O’Neill.
Juranovic has had no issue adapting. He’ll get his chances on the right over the course of the season, but so far he’s been an excellent option at left-back.