Three Celtic derby debutants Diego Laxalt should look to emulate

By John Reid

October 7, 2020

Celtic’s recent signing from Milan, Diego Laxalt, could have an interesting debut for the Hoops. He may make his first Celtic appearance against Rangers in next Saturday’s Glasgow derby.

That would certainly be a baptism of fire for the player, who would be taking part not only in a Glasgow derby, but one that is played behind closed doors.

However, should Laxalt make his debut against Rangers, he will not be the first Celtic player to do so. Here we shall examine three Celtic players who made their Hoops debuts against Rangers, and the Hoops triumphed in each game.

Johan Mjallby

Johan Mjallby signed for the Hoops from AIK in November 1998, and was immediately thrown into a difficult situation. The Hoops were at home to Rangers but trailed the Ibrox side by double figures in the league. It was a time for desperate measures, and manager Dr Jozef Venglos gave Mjallby his Hoops debut against the Ibrox side.

Johan Mjallby in action for Celtic against Rangers (Mandatory Credit: Stu Forster /Allsport)

Mjallby partnered Alan Stubbs in the heart of the Celtic defence, and he had a solid debut. The day really belonged to Lubo Moravcik, who scored twice for the Hoops in a famous 5-1 victory.

Mjallby would go on to have an excellent Hoops career. He won many trophies as a player and as assistant manager to Neil Lennon during his first spell in charge.

Shaun Maloney

This debut can be described with the word ‘unexpected’. Shaun Maloney was a youth player on the Celtic bench at Ibrox in April 2001, as the Hoops took on their rivals on the way to a domestic treble.

Shaun Maloney playing against Rangers (IAN STEWART/AFP via Getty Images)

Martin O’Neill wasn’t afraid to give youth a chance, and he gave Maloney a Hoops debut replacing Tommy Johnson in the 67th minute. It was almost a dream debut for the player too, as he was put through one on one with Stefan Klos but fired the ball over the bar.

Still, despite that miss Maloney’s confidence didn’t drop, and he almost scored later on but was denied by a smart save. The Hoops won 3-0, and Maloney went on to have a stellar career with Celtic. He became a mainstay of the very successful Celtic sides of the mid 2000s.

Juninho

Probably the best debut of the three, yet unlike the other two his Hoops career was a disappointment. Juninho joined Celtic from Middlesbrough in August 2004 as the Hoops were looking for a new talisman to replace Henrik Larsson.

Juninho in action on his Celtic debut (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

In his debut at least, the attacker looked as if he could fulfil that role. He dominated the game in his first Hoops appearance. He was at the heart of everything good about Celtic’s display, and led the Rangers defence on a merry dance. Indeed, Juninho would have scored a debut goal had Henri Camara not taken a shot instead of him when Juninho looked best positioned when through on goal.

As it was, an Alan Thompson goal gave the Hoops a 1-0 win. However, Juninho didn’t last that much longer at Celtic. He lasted only seven months with Celtic before moving to Palmeiras on a free transfer. Still, for one day at least he was a Hoops hero.

In other news, Celtic released a statement confirming no positive Covid-19 tests at Lennoxtown.