Former Celtic defender Marc Rieper gives valuable advice to young defenders, cites England legend

By Euan Davidson

July 27, 2021

Former Celtic and West Ham United defender Marc Rieper would’ve been taking in the weekend’s game with interest.

After all, the Dane has been highly relevant in recent weeks. Not only did he impart some wisdom ahead of meeting FC Midtjylland, but he’s also been there and done it with both Celtic and West Ham. As an experienced campaigner by the time he got to London, he was responsible for helping along members of the the Hammers’ famous Academy.

So, having watched two of his former clubs playing each other, he’s come away with some advice. Dane Murray and Stephen Welsh were entrusted for much of the friendly. Although fans weren’t critical of the young defenders individually, there are concerns our defence isn’t strong enough in general.

Rieper made some interesting comparisons as he gave advice to Celtic’s young defenders. He said [Sun]:

“I remember when Rio [Ferdinand] came through at West Ham when he was about 17.

“He had so much ability. He was incredible and you knew he was going to play at the very top level. But in the early days, Rio sometimes made life complicated for himself on the pitch.

“He had the talent to try things but it could put him into difficult situations. There is always a time and a place for that kind of stuff.

“We would say to Rio, ‘Just keep it simple… and then your ability will come through’.

“That would be my advice to the likes of Murray going into this game against Midtjylland. He is only 18 and he’s playing for Celtic. He clearly has talent for the manager to trust him.

“It’s the same for Welsh. He is 21 and that is not old for a central defender.”

Marc Rieper, the defender who helped Rio Ferdinand mould his game, is worth listening to for young Celtic defenders

When a 61-capped international, who helped a bona fide star defender like Rio Ferdinand, and was key in guiding Celtic to stopping Rangers’ 10 talks, you listen. Especially if you’re a young Celtic defender, surely.

So, it’s very interesting to hear Rieper talking up Celtic again, and offering his advice. It’s perhaps a little forgotten now, because of his injury woes, but Rieper was a very solid defender indeed.

Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images

And, a bit like his partner at Celtic Alan Stubbs, it was all about fundamentals. Reading the game, making smart decisions, when to tackle. These are things that young defenders absolutely need to have nailed-down before they try anything extra.

That was undoubtedly the case for a young Rio Ferdinand, who became the world’s most expensive defender [National Football Museum]. While Ferdinand had all the talent, the advice of a wiser, older head was surely invaluable in his development.

For Murray and Welsh, should they indeed get the nod against FC Midtjylland, it’s a significant test. Welsh at least has the luxury of some experience to rely upon, whereas Murray, hitherto last week, was untested in European competition.

He did perform well though, after Nir Bitton was sent off. That matters more than a friendly performance. It’s likely the efforts of Tuesday night had a bit of a hangover effect on Saturday, given his lack of significant game-time in the past.

As ever, it’s great to hear from Marc Rieper, and it’s sound advice. Nail the basics, and you’re most of the way to being a great defender.

In other news: Former Celtic captain’s riposte to pre-season negativity