Riga defender Antons Kurakins has been looking back on his former days at Celtic and remembering the figures he worked alongside.
Kurakins was signed by Celtic after having a trial in Glasgow back in 2008. However, after three years without managing to make the step-up to first-team level, the defender was released and signed for Ventspils in his homeland.
He would end up coming back to Scotland for a year with Hamilton, but has been with Riga since 2017 and has settled back into life back home.
But it appears he hasn’t forgotten about his Lennoxtown graft sessions as he looked back on those around him during that period.
As quoted by the Daily Record, Kurakins said: “It was big at my age. Not many players went from Latvia to play at a big club abroad. Now it is easier. Neil was the reserve team coach before he moved to the first team. I liked his type of coaching. He was close with the players and spoke all of the time to motivate you.
“He always spoke with all the boys and told you he believed in you and made you feel confident. He was good to everyone. Myself and Jamesie played together in the Under-19s and reserve team. He’s a legend now.
“When I moved up to train with the first team some days, it was mostly against McGeady. He was tricky and very good. I remember Callum McGregor from this time and Scott Brown, Woodsy, John and Neil. In my life, it always comes to Scotland. When I saw we could have Celtic in the draw, I thought it would happen.”
Hopefully Kurakins’ intel is out of date
It’s clear that Kurakins remembers plenty from his Celtic days. That could be a potential worry if he’s able to provide his team-mates with some intel on certain weaknesses he knows about from those he played with.
However, we’re talking 10 years ago now. With a bit of luck he hasn’t been keeping much of a track on things in Glasgow’s East End. The last thing we need is for this tie to become even more awkward than it looks on paper.
The likes of Callum McGregor and Scott Brown, for example, are nowhere near the kind of players they were back when Kurakins was in the youth set-up. The same can be said for the manager, who has managed to evolve over the last decade.
So much has changed since the defender was part of Lennon’s reserve side. But it’ll be interesting to see how much he himself has improved as a player since then.
It’s extremely dangerous to look at Kurakins’ spell with Hamilton and think that’s the standard Riga will be operating at. We know from their European history that this will be much tougher than playing the likes of Accies.
But it’s clear the player himself has fond memories of his time in Scotland. Hopefully, however, a bitter taste is left in his mouth come 7:45pm tomorrow night.
In other news, a Celtic-linked Championship winger still doesn’t appear to be any closer to signing a new contract.