The narrative about Celtic internationals and their travels that's getting out of hand
Every international break, there’s a recurring story about Celtic internationals and the travel they’ll have to do before a subsequent Hoops game.
It’s happened as long as I can remember. Mark Viduka, Lubomir Moravcik, Shunsuke Nakamura, Scott McDonald and more. How will players cope with having to travel out for international games? Can they then handle the rigours of Scottish football?
To a degree, it is understandable. Take, for example, Celtic internationals Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda, both called up for Japan. They’ll face Australia away, and then Vietnam at home, before coming back to Glasgow. You’re talking a 34,000 mile round-trip there [Glasgow Times].
Tom Rogic, too, will have the aforementioned game against Japan, before taking on Saudi Arabia, should he be called up. Again, a lot of air miles.
No doubt, travel can be exhausting. However, there’s a decent window for rest before Celtic’s next fixture after the international break, which happens to be against Rangers on the 3rd of April. But unless I’m forgetting something, Celtic internationals have a tremendous recent history of not falling apart after some plane trips.
The last time Celtic played Rangers, Daizen Maeda was substituted on in the second half. He was with the Japan squad the day before. Tom Rogic, after coming back from Australia duty, scored a brace against Motherwell. Perhaps the most tiring thing is this narrative, rather than the travel.
Nowadays, it’s just par for the course. In what is a truly global sport, club and country commitments will pile up, and yes, travel will be taxing on the body. However, is it really an excuse? These days, with all the facilities Celtic have for recovery and fitness?
It doesn’t really wash.
Top players, either at Celtic or internationals generally, want to play as much football as possible
It’s not that I don’t care about player welfare, far from it. If a Celtic player who’d just been on international duty didn’t feel physically capable of playing the next Bhoys game, nobody would bat an eyelid. Nor should they.
The last thing anyone wants is players burning themselves out and picking up daft injuries. That’s not for a moment what’s being suggested here, that players go through the pain barrier to impress idiots like me. Not the case.
It’s just that, I haven’t really heard any of the current crop of Celtic internationals ever complain about this. Tom Rogic never has, and until recently, it was him with the most air miles of any Hoops player. When he’s been fit, he’s wanted to play.
Equally, Daizen Maeda might have skewed our expectations somewhat. However, if a medical team deems a player fit enough, and Ange wants to pick him, what’s the issue?
It just feels like another sub-plot thrown into games that doesn’t really require further examination. There are any number of reasons why players might miss a game. Top players, though? They want to snaffle every minute of competitive action that they can, provided they’re fit and able.
So let’s rid ourselves of this notion. It’s 2022. Physios, sports scientists and coaches have this figured out. Players are far smarter, know their limits and also know when they’re fit and ready.
The Glasgow Derby on the 3rd of April has enough riding on it. An annoying sub-plot about the travels of the Celtic cohort of Japanese and Australian internationals just detracts from the show at hand.