The fringe players who can still make an impact in Postecoglou's Celtic team
Whether Postecoglou’s Celtic have gotten over their worst injury crisis this season or not, it’s true that squads, fringe players and all, win titles.
Everyone, from Moussa Dembele to Marvin Compper got a medal at the end of 18-19, for example. These things count, and depth is an exceedingly important quality in modern football.
When Ange Postecoglou arrived at Celtic, he essentially had half a squad and some youngsters. However, less-heralded names came into his thinking, and made an impact.
Adam Montgomery and Anthony Ralston emerged to become important players for Celtic in the first portion of the season. Meanwhile, Postecoglou has thrown surprises our way, like Dane Murray and Boli Bolingoli.
For all the talk of how sparse Postecoglou’s options are, there are still some names he can bring in from the relative cold of the first-team fringes. He’s already done so.
Here are three guys who could end up having a say on Celtic’s fortunes when all is said and done at the end of May.
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Liam Shaw – a very decent option for Celtic boss Postecoglou
There’s little doubt Liam Shaw has quality. He showed that with some impressive performances for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship last season [Transfermarkt]. And when Celtic snapped him up on a pre-contract deal, it seemed like good business.
It still could be. However, we’ve seen precious little of the Englishman since arriving in Glasgow. That said, his positional versatility and his rambunctious style lend themselves well to Postecoglou’s approach.
As either a centre-back, a defensive midfielder or further up, Shaw can cause chaos. His height and frame are obvious advantages, while his reading of the game for being 20 years old is considerable.
It’d be surprising to see him go the whole campaign without getting at least one league start. With neither of McCarthy or Soro particularly impressing in Callum McGregor’s absence, it’d be good to see the young English midfielder getting an opportunity.
There’s a real talent there.
Boli Bolingoli – from misfit and Celtic fringes to key cog?
Think about this one: at their peak, who has been the better Celtic player, Boli Bolingoli or Greg Taylor?
I’ve defended Taylor many a time on these pages. I think he’s often criticised unfairly, and early on, he looked relatively comfortable in Postecoglou’s new role for him.
However, it seems to have been forgotten that Bolingoli was once a fan favourite, of sorts. Certainly on Celtic Twitter. Because at his best, he’s a more than capable player.
Leaving aside unfortunate off-pitch dalliances to Spain, Bolingoli has rarely put a foot wrong for Celtic. His pace, willingness to take on a man and drift into central positions could yet make him decent foil for Ange Postecoglou.
Against Livingston, he was one of our better players, in what was a hugely surprising selection. Sure, Juranovic can play on the left, with Adam Montgomery and Liam Scales also in the reckoning.
But Bolingoli could earn himself more action as the season rolls along.
Nir Bitton – more than one of the fringe players for Celtic?
Named in the starting line-up for Celtic against Aberdeen, Nir Bitton could yet be effective, provided he’s played in his right position.
By no means has the Israeli international shone as a centre-back for the Bhoys. But the refusal to play him in defensive midfield is somewhat baffling, given that we know he can be more than useful there.
Not so much the swashbuckling box-to-box midfielder Postecoglou would necessarily prefer, Bitton is a slower, shrewder operator. With a decent range of passing and tackling ability (granted, not always), Bitton is still a more than capable option for the Celtic boss.
Like another of the “Celtic fringe players” in Liam Shaw, his versatility is more than useful. In more chaotic games when Celtic need to grind out a win, Bitton’s control of tempo could be a real asset. Or, when there are two attacking midfielders in front of him, he can thrive as an anchor, sitting deep.
Yes, he’s caused us some frustrating moments. However, Nir Bitton remains a useful player to have. If Celtic do win trophies this season, it wouldn’t be strange to see Bitton as an important part of any triumph.