It's hard to know what the plan is for Celtic summer signing

By Euan Davidson

March 5, 2022

For Celtic summer signing James McCarthy, it’s worth noting that he was a starter when the Hoops last played Livingston at the Tony Macaroni.

Through injury woes and bit-part appearances, it wasn’t really certain what his role was. No mistake, he showed flashes of quality, with diagonal balls and even the occasional assist. He’s decent at breaking up play, and has that Premier League experience to count upon.

We’re in March now, though, and McCarthy has played just 681 minutes all season, spread across 19 appearances [Transfermarkt]. He’s only started and finished a game in the league twice, and though his most recent showing wasn’t too long ago – away at Bodo/Glimt off the bench – it’s still hard to know what the story is.

Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

Especially when we’ve got Nir Bitton and Yosuke Ideguchi as back-ups to Callum McGregor. The Celtic captain is unquestionably our best no.6 when he’s available. It’s not that James McCarthy has fallen down the pecking order as such. It’s just that it’s hard to envision where he was in the order to start with.

There was plenty of speculation about whether McCarthy would join Celtic. It goes back years, in fact. Since McCarthy was at Everton, he’s been tipped for a return “home”, to the club he grew up supporting. Now he’s here, he’ll surely be confused by his role at Celtic under Ange Postecoglou.

And it’s not really anyone’s fault. Not a criticism of any party involved. But it does strike me as a deal that was in the offing pre-Ange, and now there are too many cooks in the midfield kitchen.

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Is James McCarthy happy with a bit-part role at Celtic?

We’re talking about a guy who was playing Premier League football last season, too. An Ireland international. No doubt he’s being fairly compensated for his work, but will he be satisfied with how things are?

It’s honestly hard to say. He’s not a player we hear a lot from. And he strikes as the diplomatic type, who wouldn’t necessarily make his concerns public if he didn’t feel he was getting enough playing time.

The fact is, though, he had over 800 minutes in the Premier League alone last season [Transfermarkt]. Fine, it wasn’t exactly a vintage Crystal Palace side, but he was a regular in the English top-flight for a long, long time.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

At 31, you sense he still has plenty to offer. But in these tactics, under a manager who likes players like McGregor sitting deeper? Does he quite have the pace, the quickness of step and the ability to adapt his game, given his years?

It’s hard to know what the plan is for James McCarthy at Celtic. And, harsh as it sounds, it’s getting harder to justify the signing.

I really hope he can make it at Celtic. The guy is a born-and-bred supporter, and he brings a lot to the dressing room. He’ll be excellent for younger players to learn from.

But is it enough?

Read more: Celtic youngster shines out on loan with 2 Saturday goals