Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Cult Of Paddy McCourt

Scottish Premier League, St Mirren Stadium: St Mirren 0, Celtic 2

Ever since he arrived at Celtic Park last season, there has been a certain mystique surrounding Paddy McCourt. Whether it was the supposed ability of the player, or just that his signing represented a perceived bygone age where players who went to the Old Firm very much as a work in progress rather than the modern trend of being more or less the finished article when that move is made. Whatever reason, McCourt to Celtic fans represented something of a throwback to how Celtic used to operate. To non Old Firm fans, McCourt was a flop waiting to happen.

However since the current injury problems to Aiden McGeady, McCourt has found himself in the Celtic first team and has won new fans, particularly in the media. Wednesday saw him start against Falkirk in the League Cup, he was described as exiting by Radio Scotland’s Richard Gordon. Today saw him make his first League start away to St Mirren, searching for their first league win over Celtic since winning home and away during the 1989/90 season, and to me on today’s performance he seems a bit lackadaisical, but has the talent. He still has some way to go to remotely deserve the plaudits going his way though.

With his first touch, he shuffled forward and put in a lazy cross which went nowhere. However a worrying trend did start to appear in the opening minutes, the St Mirren defence were not getting their tackles in. This was to cost them dear when in the 27th minute. McCourt went on a mazy run going past 5 statues and scoring Celtic’s opener. Commentators have been quick to claim that this was a fantastic goal, when there were at least 5 bit’s of comic cuts defending which means this goal wasn’t as good as claimed. That’s not to take anything away from McCourt, but any resistance from the St Mirren defence would have kept Celtic out.

A couple of minutes later, McCourt nearly repeated his trick, but this time one of the St Mirren defenders managed to intercept the ball. St Mirren had to get to half time, and this was underlined by Garry Brady’s unforgivable gift to Celtic at a free kick… in a prime attacking position on the right side of Celtic’s box. From this position, he rolled the ball to a Celtic player, which started an unsuccessful raid on St Mirren’s goal.

The second half was much more even, and frankly boring. The St Mirren fans made their own entertainment by either trying to out sing the family friendly sectairian songs coming from the St James’ end, or by singing about ESPN’s match summariser, Craig Burley. There were a couple of incidents to puncture the trudge that was the second half, St Mirren broke upfield with about 15 minutes left, Dorman ran into Celtics box from the right and cut back to Dargo, who’s shot was blocked, while both Potter & Killen were booked when Killen tried to take the ball off of Potter at a St Mirren throw, though in all honesty it was a spot of handbags at 20 paces.

Celtic scored with about 10 minutes left with a bending shot which beat Gallagher all ends up. I suspect that this was a missed opportunity for St Mirren though. Celtic’s manager Tony Mowbray was correct in his assertion that Celtic did not play particularly well, and had St Mirren not been so soft in midfield, Celtic would not have been so comfortable in the latter stages of this game.

However when people remember this game, they will talk of McCourt’s goal, which has unleashed an element of hype and expectation. How he handles the kind of hype which surrounds new talent breaking through in any of the Old Firm will be key to his continued development as a player. In the meantime, rather than make rash predictions, we should sit back and just watch this space.

Update 23:59 - The St Mirren songs about Craig Burley were apparently prompted by a comment made on air - "Those St Mirren fans have paid to bait the Celtic fans & should spend more time supporting their team....". Prehaps those Celtic fans should stop singing songs in celebration of their own outdated and unwanted version of Jihad then.

No comments:

Post a Comment