Celtic legend Petrov backs James McCarthy after difficult start

By Euan Davidson

September 22, 2021

Celtic legend Stiliyan Petrov has backed new Bhoy James McCarthy after a slow start to life at the club.

McCarthy had looked decent in cameo appearances against AZ Alkmaar and Real Betis. However, in his first start against Livingston, McCarthy seemed laboured and inefficient.

His performance led to plenty of criticism and speculation. A report emerged from The Athletic, suggesting he’s struggling in training, and wasn’t a “Postecoglou signing”.

However, Petrov, who’s seen and done it all in both Scotland and England, gave McCarthy some words of reassurance.

Petrov said [Daily Record]:

“It’s very difficult for any player coming in who hasn’t played in a long time. You need to be at full strength to it’s been hard for him to hit the ground running.

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“It’s going to take him time to build his fitness. We know he’s a good player. He’s played a lot of games in the top league in England, so we know he’s got it.

“But in football these days you have to run. It’s difficult if you are not match fit, but I’m sure the team behind Ange are working hard to get him up to speed.

“I got a shock when I came here, especially just how tough it could be away from home. When teams play against Celtic and Rangers, their performances go up 100 percent.

“They raise their game and fight for every single second on the pitch.

“I found it really difficult at first. It wasn’t just me either. We have seen lots of players coming from England or abroad and finding it difficult to adapt. It took time for me to adapt and it will be the same for these new players.”

James McCarthy needs backing, and former Celtic midfielder Petrov knows it

Perhaps because McCarthy had played in Scotland before, we expected more from him. Or, his Premier League pedigree, with over a decade of top-flight English experience.

However, all that is essentially moot if he’s not entirely fit, hasn’t quite adapted to life at Celtic yet, and is already bearing the brunt of intense scrutiny. Against Livingston, he made what was only his first start.

Plenty Celtic greats have made far more inauspicious starts to life at the club than McCarthy on Sunday.

Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Our rush to judge players, even with barely anything to go off, is a football-wide problem. Perhaps it’s exacerbated by stats, or increased coverage and analysis more generally. But we need to be a bit more realistic about what players can realistically do on their debuts.

Especially when said debut is in a ground where we haven’t won since Labour were in Government.

Petrov is right. We know he has the goods. He just needs time, like all signings do.

In other news: Celtic winger Jota was one time linked with £15.4m Real Madrid move