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As Celtic Pushed On, Another Unlikely Hero Emerged To Become A Key Player.

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As Celtic has marched onward for the last few months, sustaining a title challenge, winning a series of tough games, achieving respectable results in Europe and winning a domestic trophy we all know that there have been heroes and some of them quite unlikely.

I think everyone thinks of Anthony Ralston when we talk about improbable heroes and they are quite right to. But there’s another player who has stepped up in a big, big way and it is less surprising to some of us but perhaps even more surprising to others.

The unsung hero who, at last, is getting recognition is Nir Bitton.

I am really pleased for him. I’m a bit Bitton fan, but only – and this is the crucial thing – only when he’s played in his natural position, which is midfield. He was signed as a midfielder, he played the better part of his career as a midfielder and his worst games at this club have come when he has been moved outside of that position to play at central defence.

It was madness. Too many Celtic coaches have persevered with this nonsense, but Ange prefers to have players where they belong and especially at the back. At a pinch Nir Bitton can deputise if there are no other options, but he has shown us where he belongs and the manager has responded by making him a big part of the plan in that role.

I think he has two great strengths as a player. One is his determination and his never-say-die attitude. He never hides, even when things aren’t going well.

He fights to the last whistle. And secondly, and more importantly, I think he can pass a ball as well as, if not better than, any other player in the side. He has a great ability to spot a run and put a pin-point ball up the pitch. He is a great counter-attacking footballer.

I think he’s having his best spell as a Celtic player right now, and this is a guy who has taken a lot of shit from some sections of our support. I was delighted to see in addition to a starring role in the team yesterday he also had the armband; he earned that.

The big guy is 30 now. He’s been at Celtic since 2013. His contract runs to 2023. He will be entitled to a testimonial at that point if he stays long enough, and of course he will. By then I expect he’ll have made close on to 300 appearances for us – an outstanding return on our initial investment. He cost us a mere £700,000, a fee he’s repaid ten times over.

It is great to see him thriving in the team under Ange. His best spell prior to this was under another high-tempo manager who saw the quality in his game; Ronny Deila. Ange has had an extended opportunity to watch him lately, and he must be impressed.

Bitton will be at Celtic for a few years yet; in fact, we may be seeing the best of him now.

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7 comments

  • Henry says:

    Sorry, but in my view he is not what we need and should have been moved on long ago.

    Far too many passes are sideways or backwards a la Neil Lennon with wild shooting and a feeling something disastrous will happen at some point. Plus there was the Midtylland madness that did us no favours whatsoever. A mentalist, as Alan Partridge would say.

    • Fred Howden says:

      A bit of the end is nigh merchant are,nt you mate ? Biton has and is a Faithfull valued servant for Celtic !

  • Damian says:

    I can’t think of a best version of our midfield with current options that doesn’t involve him. That could certainly change with a transfer window, but still.

    That’s really code for: I don’t like Turnbull and Rogic playing at the same time and conversations about releasing McCarthy ought to be taking place.

  • SSMPM says:

    Biton’s critics view him from the defensive, out of position, performances cause that’s where we’ve seen him being played time and time again, out of position. Midytylland was the prime example of that.
    In his natural midfield position he offers much more, his performances for Israel in the middle highlight one thing – our previous managers have misplayed him time and time again.
    Well done to the makeshift team yesterday, they have kept us in this title race and the January sales beckon. HH

  • BhilltheTim says:

    “He’s been at Celtic since 2003.”

    2013, maybe?

  • jrm63 says:

    Nir Bitton was a very highly regarded player in Delia’s side. I think he is a very good midfield player. His finishing with head or boot is woeful. That is his major weakness. Moving midfield players back into central defence is not a good idea. The best example is Roy Aitken, a far better midfield player than he ever was a central defender

  • Iljas Baker says:

    When I see Bitton sky those shots or skew those headers I wonder what goes on. Anyone read Herrigel’s Zen and the art of archery? I think a lot of players could learn from that book. Clearly they’re doing something wrong mentally and perhaps Herrigel has the answer: Become one with the ball and the target!

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