"In training he was arguably the best player"; Ex-teammate wowed by incoming Celtic signing

By John McGinley

January 10, 2022

One of the curious things about incoming Celtic signing Riley McGree’s career so far is the contrast between his playing time at Birmingham City versus everything that’s said about him.

McGree was at the Championship club for a season and a half but was hardly ever-present in the team. In fact, for decent chunks of last season and this season, he found himself on the fringes.

That’s not to say he didn’t play at all. In fact, he made 30 appearances in total. But given that is such a busy league, it’s a total that doesn’t scream star player.

Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

But he’s been lauded by Birmingham supporters, pundits and experts in recent days – with many feeling he’s on the cusp of bigger things.

It seems that much of his issues down south stemmed from former boss Aitor Karanka if ex-teammate George Friend’s comments are anything to go by.

He gave a very interesting interview in December, suggesting that McGree wasn’t given a fair shot at first-team football in 2020.

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As quoted by Birmingham Live, Friend said: “He has been great, hasn’t he? He is a very good player. He has had a really tough time here because under [Aitor] Karanka he just didn’t play, even though every day in training he was arguably the best player.

“He has waited and he has got a great temperament and personality – and most of all he is a talented footballer. He is showing now his quality and he will do well, whether it is here or somewhere else.

“If anyone has been watching him, then surely you would take him on after what he has been doing.”

So there you go. It wasn’t for the lack of trying that McGree didn’t get chances at times down south.

More than that, he sounds like exactly the kind of personality you’d want at Lennoxtown pushing on with these Celtic players.

If he can transfer that work ethic to life under Ange Postecoglou, he should get plenty of chances at the Bhoys.

In other news, Report: Celtic want Championship defender; Liverpool and Newcastle also keen.