Boli Bolingoli looks ready to compete for a Celtic place despite defeat

By David Walton

September 20, 2021

Whisper it quietly, but Boli Bolingoli’s Celtic return against Livingston actually saw him put in a decent performance.

Boli was playing his first game for the Hoops since August 2020. It was also rarely mentioned that it was his first competitive game of football since mid-May too.

It was a big occasion for the Belgian considering what has gone on over the last year. The breaching of Covid rules and what it did for his reputation at Celtic made it look as though he had played his last game for the club.

Photo by Kate Green/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Earlier this season, Ange Postecoglou also omitted him from the Europa League squad ahead of our group stage campaign. But despite having Liam Scales and Adam Montgomery at his disposal, the Celtic manager threw Bolingoli a bone yesterday.

No, nothing went right on the pitch in terms of the overall performance. Nothing can mask a 1-0 loss to Livingston and it was a day of sheer negativity for the football club.

But I feel the result, quiet rightly, will totally overshadow how Boli handled the occasion yesterday. He was actually one of our better players on the day and on a difficult surface on a tricky afternoon.

Ange Postecoglou is building a Celtic team to be proud of

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Ange Postecoglou is building a Celtic team to be proud of
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Livingston defeat will overshadow decent Bolingoli return

So much has been made in the past of the player’s poor passing ability. That makes you wonder whether he would even be suited for Postecoglou’s style. However, yesterday he was superb in his use of the ball as well as his passing accuracy.

Stat-trackers WhoScored clocked Boli as managing over a 94% success rate with his passes. This was from a total of 90 passes produced by the player during the game.

Not to mention he was our most efficient wide player when it came to putting the ball into the box. Bolingoli threw nine crosses into the penalty area yesterday, but for many of them there were no takers. With three successful challenges too, Boli was clearly switched on defensively.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Again, we’re not looking to detract from how bad a result yesterday was. Postecoglou has nothing to shout about after that shambles. But Boli has every right to be walking out at Lennoxtown tomorrow with his chin up.

It was a massive occasion for him personally. He’ll feel he had a point to prove to everyone after being sent on loan to Istanbul Basaksehir. He may even have felt that this was his last chance to save his Celtic career.

Whether he succeeds in doing the latter remains to be seen. But in terms of yesterday, he was one of the only players showing a bit of purpose on the ball. Not everything came off for him, but most things certainly did. It was pleasantly surprising seeing him put in the performance he did.

Moving forward, it’s hard to see how Postecoglou views him. Leaving him out of the Europa League squad was a bad look. But his sudden appearance against Livi will have many wondering if this is the start of some form of renaissance. Time will tell, but credit to him, he was far from the worst at the Tony Macaroni.

In other news, Joe Hart addresses Celtic unity after Livingston defeat