Celtic legend and pundit Frank McAvennie has claimed that striker Odsonne Edouard is not “up for the fight”.
Commenting on the Bhoys’ striking options, McAvennie made some inflammatory comments about the French U-21 striker and his colleague Leigh Griffiths.
Ignoring form entirely, the 80s Celtic legend and former West Ham United frontman claimed that Edouard should not be the first-choice attacking option for a struggling Hoops team.
Speaking to Football Insider, Macca said:
“I do not get it.
They keep saying he is not fit but he cannot be, surely he cannot be not fit. That is not right. There is something more deep than that but I do not know what it is.
“Celtic need him. The team needs him right now. ‘Get your act together and get back on the pitch,’ that is what I would say to him. Do it for the club.
“Even if Edouard is fit, I would put Griff first. Edouard does not look as if he is up for the fight. At least you know what you are going to get with Griffiths, he will wind people up and chase the ball because he is a cheeky little sod.”
A couple of things, there…
Firstly, Leigh Griffiths has had a legitimate knee injury, but he’s also not had his troubles to seek in recent months. In October, he narrowly avoid serious injury in a three-car crash (Scotsman), while a fire at his home is being treated as “suspicious” (Daily Record).
We’re not sure about you, but any of those things would knock us for confidence, let alone all three.
The former Hibs and Wolves striker is also battling a long-term struggle with depression (FourFourTwo), and should continue to be lauded for being so forthright about his mental health.
His current manager, Neil Lennon, has also spoken out about mental illness (BBC). Both men deserve our support and celebration for helping to tackle the stigma around the issue in sport.
Unfortunately for Griffiths and for all sufferers, it’s not something you can turn on and off. Even though there’s nothing to suggest that Sparky’s knee injury is not serious, there’s no shame in needing a break either. As frustrating as it is for Celtic fans, who want to see Griffiths firing in goals, it’s not always going to be possible.
Talk of getting his “act together” is ill-informed at best. For someone as seasoned as McAvennie, it’s a disappointing comment to hear about one of our best players.
That’s not to say Macca isn’t supportive; he’s a Celtic man through and through. It’s just that these comments are misguided.
As for French Eddy, there’s only so much he can do.
The role of the striker depends on service and runs. Edouard is only truly accountable for the latter. Given opportunities, he buries them. His penalty against Hibs and his mazy dribble and finish against Sparta Prague are testament to that.
He’s also struggled with injuries this season. A large part of Celtic’s problems this year have related to players missing, and a lack of fluidity.
To say he’s “not up for the fight” feeds into a popular narrative about some of our players this season. There’s a prevailing idea that some stars are not putting a shift in under Lennon.
Edouard scores goals. He can’t do everything else. He’s scored 5 in 9 league matches so far, which implies a hunger to drag Celtic along.
Between McAvennie and Charlie Nicholas (Daily Record), Edouard seems to be an easy target for ex-players regardless of how well he’s doing. When he is scoring, he’s not happy enough. When he’s in and out of the team and forced into sudden tactical changes, he’s not up for the fight.
It seems unwarranted and unfair.
Searching for form
Many of the Celtic team need to improve, and fast. There’s little doubt that, along with the coaching staff and board, there’s room to criticise the players if they’re doing badly.
That said, if you’re going to pick your targets, Edouard and Griffiths don’t seem like the two players who need to be pilloried.
Context seems to go out the window at the moment. Jullien has faced similar criticisms after giving away a harshly awarded penalty against Ross County. He’s only just back from injury himself. Ditto Elhamed.
Yes, the players are as much to blame as anyone else for Celtic’s recent form. However, if we’re going to dive into hot takes, let’s at least consider the bigger picture.