Celtic has been unlucky with injuries this season, as everyone knows well.
But is that all it is? Just bad luck?
Or do we have a few players at this club who are susceptible to injuries, the same injuries, over and over again?
Leigh Griffiths gave us all a scare the other night when he pulled up during the Scotland game.
There is talk now of him not playing on Friday, saving him for the midweek match against Paris St Germain. Dembele is back in training, and he says he might be ready for the game at Ibrox in a fortnight. There is no temptation to rush him back for that.
On top of this, Jozo Simunovic is said to be ready to go … but he might not feature on Friday because he doesn’t like to play on the plastic pitch.
We pulled out of signing a highly rated kid in South Africa because we found an injury … but we have players on the books at Celtic Park right now who’s fitness is always just on the edge. The manager highlighted the case of Griffiths last season, but there are long-standing concerns about Simunovic and Boyata’s recovery has taken an age.
Some players at clubs never seem to get injured.
You can do anything to them, put them through the rigours of a heavy pre-season and then get them on the pitch for huge games and they waltz through all of it. Others pick up knocks everywhere and nothing is ever simple. It’s not a curse of the modern game, it’s been around forever … and fans and managers hate it.
Simunovic is the best case in point; this stuff about not playing him on plastic pitches is ridiculous, frankly. I get that the manager might not like the idea of throwing him into games where he might pick up a knock but those pitches are havoc for all of our players, not just him. Jozo Simunovic hasn’t played in weeks. If he doesn’t play Friday there’s no way he should be thrown right into the team against Paris St Germain, no matter the alternatives.
This is why the fans were crying out for a defender during the window. There’s too much uncertainty over whether this guy or Boyata will be game-ready. And our best players, our important players, are no use to us sitting on the bench or in the stands.
I’m not suggesting that we give up on these guys, but Brendan has to consider the long-term planning and what the future might hold. Players who pick up repeated injuries, who are going to spend long periods of time out of the team … that’s no good to us.
There are innovations in medical treatment which could temper the likelihood of players going out for long periods with the same things over and over again; are we investing in that? In ice baths? Are we using sand-pits to aid recovery times? We have a good sports science department, so I have to think we’re doing all that and a lot more besides … but some of these guys have been out for an age. Dembele hasn’t been fit since pulling up at Hampden; what the Hell was that?
Moussa’s two injuries – the thigh injury he picked up in April last year and the hamstring pull he got in July have kept him out for a total of 91 days.
That’s no joke, okay?
That’s three months when the guy hasn’t kicked a ball.
Since December 2015, Boyata has had three thigh injuries; the first kept him out for 26 days in which we played 5 games. The second lasted 40 days when he missed a total of 8 games. His third injury, in May 2016, kept him out for 154 days and he missed 22 matches … now he has a knee injury which, by some estimates, will end up costing him and us three months and nearly 20 first team games.
Simunovic has allegedly been fit for a few weeks; what’s the problem with him?
Where’s he been?
Is he actually back in training?
His was the most famous of our injury problems; he arrived at the club unfit, which took two months to change, and then he tore knee ligaments and was out for over 220 days.
Leigh’s problems are more recent, but he was side-lined no fewer than five times last season; the first was a calf injury that kept him out for 22 days. Second was a knock that kept him out for 3 and cost him a game. Then he went out with another calf injury and 18 days. Lack of training cost him a further 13 days and he suffered a chipped bone which kept him out for 10 days.
His total injury time was 66 days of the season. 14 matches in total.
Are we doing something wrong here?
That’s the longest series of injuries Leigh has ever had in his career.
Moussa’s injuries at Celtic have been the worst of his short career thus far.
Simunovic? Who knows what happened there, but he arrived at Celtic unfit and has spent long periods out.
Boyata, and his thigh injury issues, make him one of the unluckiest players at our club.
This is going to be a long season, one where we’ll need every player to play regularly and do their business well.
Long lay-off’s are costly, and I know they will happen … but certain of our players seem to be more injury prone than others and that two of them are central defenders will have our manager scared half to death.
Which is to say nothing for Erik Sviatchenko; two knee injuries, one in July last year and the other in August this year, put him out of the team for 23 days and now more than 40 days respectively … and we’ve got lucky with him, because he arrived at Celtic on the back of four of the most Hellish years a player could experience, with three mammoth injury issues between 2010 and 2014 costing him 502 days of his career and over 50 matches with FC Midtjylland
We are lucky Kieran Tierney isn’t a player who goes down at every bump and then spends a fortnight recovering from it, or we’d have a serious problem.
Looking at those injury numbers, I’m not convinced we might not have one anyway.