Exclusive: Jackie McNamara on the poor and predictable Celtic substitutions at Tannadice

By David Walton

March 9, 2021

Celtic great Jackie McNamara has stated that he was “surprised” with John Kennedy for taking so long to throw on another striker at Tannadice.

The Bhoys relinquished the Premiership title after failing to beat Dundee United in Tayside on Sunday [BBC]. The 0-0 draw leaves us 20 points behind our rivals with only six fixtures remaining. A truly damning stat that shows the season up for what it’s been – a sheer disgrace.

As for Sunday, Celtic piled on the pressure for long spells but couldn’t get the goal we needed. Kennedy then incredibly decided to take off David Turnbull – Celtic’s best player on the day. He introduced Tom Rogic in his place, a player struggling for form this season and one that effectively slowed our forward play down.

That was one particular decision Jackie couldn’t understand along with the rest of us. However, with Kennedy waiting until the final six minutes before throwing on Leigh Griffiths, bemusement amongst the support reached peak levels.

Speaking exclusively to 67HailHail, Jackie said: “That was the only thing I was kind of surprised about with John. It was a game we had to win to not lose the league, but still we didn’t change things to go and get a goal.

“Changing Turnbull with Rogic wasn’t changing the shape or the system. It was crying out for another striker to stretch the game, which Griffiths can do. There was one instance in the first half, I think it was McGregor who hit a fantastic ball over the top for Edouard. Siegrist saved it quite well but there wasn’t enough of that.

“If you had Griffiths on earlier, you would maybe have stretched the game and let Edouard come into little pockets and turn and run at them. Whereas Rogic coming on at that point just condensed it even more in the middle. You had Rogic coming in, Christie coming in – it was just predictable stuff.”

Jackie spot on; Celtic fans would’ve appreciated competent game-management at Tannadice

Not many took Kennedy seriously when it came to potential permanent options for the managerial role. However, if he wanted to sell himself a bit more, some competent game-management on Sunday would’ve helped.

When it came to making a sub with half-an-hour to go, you couldn’t complain too much. The game was going well enough just without that all-important goal. Celtic were still creating chances, and it still looked as though the breakthrough would arrive.

The only decision Kennedy should’ve made if he felt a sub was necessary was to add to the firepower. But that simply couldn’t come at the expense of the one man who was making things tick.

Leigh Griffiths had next to no time to make an impact on Sunday (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Turnbull was at the centre of everything. His ball-control and passing accuracy was a major problem for United. As was his ability to turn opposition midfielders and defenders. The room he was creating for himself and others was a major reason we bossed the first hour so comfortably. It’s why we looked so dangerous in the final third also.

Yet Kennedy hit us with a double-whammy. He took off the man who was controlling the game, whilst keeping only one up top. It made very little sense. Like Jackie says, Rogic was hardly going to be able to stretch Utd’s backline. At his peak he was never the quickest regardless, but given he’s slowing up this season, it was no surprise to see him lack any sort of goal threat.

When Griffiths did come on he managed to get in at the back post to create a chance for himself. Had he come on for the final half-hour with an on-fire Turnbull in behind him, Celtic would’ve been much more threatening in the closing stages.

In other news, Chris Sutton has touted a “really interesting” Premier League option for the Celtic job.