Celtic man Carl Starfelt has shown up pundits queueing to criticise him

By Euan Davidson

March 16, 2022

We know Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou doesn’t like being an underdog, but both himself and players like Carl Starfelt – today called up for Sweden – have been succeeding against the odds.

For Postecoglou, there was doubt from day one. It’s well-covered by now; for all the pundits cared, Postecoglou was coaching your local juniors side in the park, instead of managing the Australia national team, or winning historic titles in Oz and Japan.

His signings were going to be useless – how could 5’6″ Kyogo Furuhashi deal with Scottish defences? Who on earth is Liel Abada? Where is Giorgos Giakoumakis? And, particularly at the start of the season, what does a “Carl Starfelt” do?

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Yep, the 4-cap Sweden defender has had a litany of critics waiting to take a pop at him this season. Fine – he didn’t exactly make a barnstorming start, but defenders attract a unique brand of hostility when they’re getting used to a new club. Especially during such a dramatic change of style from his Rubin Kazan side.

Early on, Michael Stewart – someone we normally agree with – said both he and Carter-Vickers “weren’t good enough” [Sun]. Charlie Nicholas said Celtic needed to replace Starfelt; it was only August [Sun]. Stephen Craigan was all but foaming at the mouth over his performances, as was picked up by fans watching a game against Ross County.

Really, it was more a case of who was backing him, even so early on. Frank McAvennie, of all pundits, fought his corner [Daily Record].

Since then, it’s not as if Carl Starfelt is prime Maldini and Baresi combined. But taking our most recent game for an example; do you remember the Swede losing a header? Missing a tackle? Giving the ball away?

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Starfelt, Giakoumakis, Maeda, Ange Postecoglou himself – Celtic stars have defied critics

Nobody in the Scottish Premiership is passing more accurately [WhoScored?]. Very few, if any, are beating him in the air. And Celtic have a fantastic defensive record. Starfelt is a big reason for that, and with this Sweden call-up, he’s getting overdue recognition.

Again, there are multiple examples of Celtic players being re-evaluated after some hasty judgement. Giorgos Giakoumakis, for example, was a mystery for the first-half of the season. Now, even when Kyogo comes back, there’ll be fans calling for the Greek striker to stay in the team.

Anthony Ralston’s redemption arc goes back longer, but he’s answered every question posed to him when the season began. More recently, it felt as though Daizen Maeda was getting rough treatment from pundits; he’s been superb in recent games.

Photo by David Lidstrom/Getty Images

So, Starfelt is far from alone here. Perhaps, though, the most savage criticism was going his way. Leave aside the fact that, for central defenders, getting used to Ange’s system was always going to be difficult. It takes a lot of work, and that work is paying off.

Now he’s back in the Sweden fold, and it’s richly deserved. You can’t be in consideration for caps if the critics are right about you, can you?

Here’s hoping the Swede can make a big impact against the Czech Republic.

Read more: James McPake gives Lennoxtown insight after discussions with Celtic staff