Saturday, 15 March 2014

Never a Zero
Sometimes in football you turn up a gem without having to invest millions of pounds to do so. You may recall the £300,000 fee paid for Lubo Moravcik which had the ill-informed section of the Scottish sporting media pouring scorn on Celtic’s purchasing of a ‘cut price dud.’ Indeed ahead of Lubo’s first Old Firm game in 1998 one hack commented…

‘If anything the signing of Lubomir Moravcik at a cut price has merely caused Celtic fans further embarrassment.’’   (Jim Traynor)

Of course Lubo led a rout of Rangers on that occasion scoring two as Celtic thumped them 5-1.  During a press conference in the wake of that game the SMSM returned to their ignorant ways when one ‘journalist’ asked Lubo…  How does it feel to go from zero to hero?’ The little Slovak’s eyes fixed the hapless reporter with a withering gaze as he replied through his interpreter…’You tell him I was never a zero!’  

Last night saw Celtic turn a toiling first half display at Kilmarnock into a solid victory and the scorer of those three goals was another who cost the club relatively little. Kristian Arron Commons. Kris Commons may not have the sublime artistry of Lubo Moravcik but his contribution to the Celtic cause since joining the club in January 2011 has been considerable. His direct style and robust physique, allied to no little skill, make him a dangerous player in the final third.  It is to Manager Lennon’s credit that he spotted Commons’ talent during their brief time together at Nottingham Forest. Commons moved on To Derby and Lennon to Celtic’s managerial hot seat but the Manager kept tabs on Commons and when his contract was running down, swooped to bring him north for a tenth of his market value. One of his first press conferences as a Celtic player saw the inevitable dumb question involving Rangers…’Why did you knock back Rangers Kris?’ he was asked by one of the assembled press pack. A slightly bemused Commons shrugged and replied simply…

‘It was mainly talk from yourselves. There was no talk on our side. The things that went on in the press-the wages, the money was all nonsense,’’

That the people responsible for printing such ‘nonsense’ were sitting facing him at the press conference was lost on the assembled sporting media. The Rangers of January 2011 were mired a in financial crisis that would prove fatal to the club. Purchasing and then paying top wages to a player like Kris Commons would, in retrospect, seem absurdly reckless. The sporting media would have been better employed looking into the looming collapse of the Ibrox club in that period but chose instead their usual ‘Nothing to see here’ approach to matters at Ibrox.

To say Kris Commons made a favourable initial impression on the Celtic support is putting it mildly. His sublime chip on his debut against Aberdeen in a League cup semi-final at Hampden helped Celtic to a 4-1 win and had the fans excited about the new player. He also scored on his Celtic Park debut as well as his first outing at Ibrox and has weighed in with important goals in European competition too. His nerve held when he was presented with a late penalty against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League at Celtic Park. As 60,000 held their breath realising that a winning goal would take Celtic through to the last 16, Commons slammed the spot kick home off the underside of the bar. He also scored the vital first goal against the rugged but essentially unsophisticated Shakhtar Karagandy just before half time which saw belief surged through the team and fans that Celtic could overturn the 0-2 deficit from the first leg.

Commons time at Celtic hasn’t been all plain sailing. He suffered a second season dip in form and confidence which wasn’t helped by injuries and suspensions. He also had the odd run in with referees and saw red on one forgettable game at Tynecastle after a silly lunge on a Hearts player. His decision to stop playing for Scotland was perhaps understandable given his growing young family and the demands which too many games and the related travelling were making on him. In a sense Scotland’s loss is Celtic’s gain as Commons has been in excellent form in the last year or so. Indeed this campaign will surely see him net 30 plus goals and that is an incredible return for an attacking midfielder.

Kris and his partner, Lisa Hague, also suffered personal tragedy when their first child was stillborn. To their credit Kris and Lisa has turned their personal anguish into something positive by supporting charity and giving hope to others. Lisa is a Special Ambassador for SIMBA, the Scottish Stillbirth charity. She also got right behind the fundraising efforts to help the courageous wee Irish lad the Celtic family know as Wee Oscar Knox.  Those of you who heard her excellent interview on Billy Nowell’s ‘Desert Island Tims’ (link below) can’t fail to be impressed by her humour, humanity and decency. That this couple fit right into Celtic’s charitable ethos is an added bonus for the Celtic support in an era of greed and selfishness.

Kris Commons is now 30 years of age and has several good seasons in him yet. We all have our memories of his best moments in the Hoops and for me his deft chip over the Rangers goalkeeper in a 3-0 destruction of now the defunct club remains top. His cheeky sitting celebration of that goal was the icing on the cake. He is currently a strong favourite to be player of the year in Scotland for the current season and that is no surprise. Kris has contributed greatly to Celtic over the past 3 years and will do so for a few seasons yet. It just goes to show that despite what the media say, you can sometimes find real gems that don’t cost the earth.


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