Celtic veteran's continued class gives ideal platform for exciting new talent

By Euan Davidson

January 28, 2022

Nir Bitton is going to be absolutely vital for Celtic against Dundee United, and potentially against Rangers.

After last season in particular, you wouldn’t expect to read that. I didn’t expect to write it. But as per, reflecting on an important Celtic win, we’re forgetting about the calming, veteran presence of Nir Bitton.

All the talk – rightfully so – was about Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley. The creative duo ran the show against Hearts, with just 1 prior Celtic appearance between them before kick-off on Wednesday night. They deserve the praise they’ve been getting, especially given the atmosphere and non-existent margin for error at Celtic.

Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

All fine and well, and richly warranted. But in a number of respects, they had the license to perform as they did because they had Bitton behind them.

We’ve talked already about Callum McGregor’s influence, on and off the pitch. The captain is a colossal leader, the kind of guy you’d want beside you on the biggest occasions. It was Bitton with the armband the other night, though, owing to McGregor’s injury.

And what a job he did. Despite playing deep in the midfield, the majority of his passes were forwards, and consistently found their man. He had an impressive 73 touches, dictating play and constantly looking for attacking options.

It was the defensive work by Bitton, though, that really allowed new Celtic talents Hatate and O’Riley to flourish. 2 massive interceptions, 7 won duels and 7 ball recoveries highlight an impressive shift from Bitton [Fotmob]. He was integral to us winning against Hearts the other night.

And with the Celtic squad the way it is right now, the smart money’s on him running things against Dundee United, too.

Ange predicts a bright future as Celtic find a new hero at Tynecastle

Ange predicts a bright future as Celtic find a new hero at Tynecastle
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Used correctly, Nir Bitton is an asset to Celtic

Celtic have a comparatively young squad, and so veteran presence really helps. Admittedly, calling 30-year-old Bitton a “veteran” is depressing for personal reasons, but he’s been a significant and vocal presence in the Celtic squad this season.

It all started so badly, though. After a rough season of sparse appearances and high-profile errors, his first-leg showing against FC Midtjylland, in which he was sent off for daft reasons, could’ve easily set the wheels in motion for an exit.

It wouldn’t have been entirely surprising had Bitton left Celtic last summer. Instead, he knuckled down and consistently impressed Ange Postecoglou at training. At this stage, with every opportunity he’s had, he’s been an asset to Celtic at times.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Again, Bitton is going to have two really inexperienced players ahead of him tomorrow, at least in terms of playing for Celtic. O’Riley was superb against Hearts, and Reo Hatate looks like a revelation. But they still have fewer than 5 Hoops appearances between them. The onus will be on Nir Bitton to ensure they have the ball, and time to do something with it.

We’ve talked a lot about Anthony Ralston reviving his fortunes this season. He’s been absolutely superb for Celtic, from an almost anonymous spot in the squad. We should also mention Nir Bitton who, while far from the same as Ralston, has revitalised his Celtic career this season.

He’s been assured, aggressive and composed. That’s exactly what we’ve needed, and it’s been a real asset for Ange Postecoglou.

Read more: Dundee United man Butcher warns he won’t change despite horror tackle in last Celtic game