McCarthy Showed Celtic Fans Something On Sunday. He Must Show More Tomorrow.

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We were never going to be able to make a proper judgement on James McCarthy until we had watched him play properly. Until the weekend just past I would contend that we never had seen him for real in a Celtic shirt.

We still haven’t but we’re a step closer.

McCarthy played well at the weekend in a position which does not generate much attention and so only very rarely rewards excellence. I have seen McGregor have superb games in the defensive midfield role this season and previously only for people to say that he was dreadful, because they aren’t understanding what he’s supposed to do.

McCarthy suffered for that at the weekend. He was solid but unspectacular in a position where you need to be spectacular to get positive ink. It was a major step up in terms of his performance I thought and you would think that’s because he’s now getting match sharpness and fitness and acclimating himself to his team-mates and his role that he will get better.

Tomorrow night, against Hearts, is a big one for him unless Rogic is fit and he doesn’t play. A good performance in that game and I think this boy will be all set. I think you’ll see the emergence of the player we were all so excited about.

He has the talent. He’s played at the highest level. He’s a natural for the position and a good fit for the club. Is he a good fit for Ange’s tactical outlook? He’ll have to be, or he’ll have to grow into it at the very least. But he’s made a slow start and that has the buzzards circling. He has work to do in order to win people over, starting, perhaps with the manager himself.

This is the time when you want to see his mental toughness come through. McCarthy is made of strong stuff; he has to be.

He’s recovered from two massive, career threatening injuries and you don’t do that and return to the fray unless you have real resilience and self-belief. We already know that he has the talent.

But this is new. There is pressure here too.

At his other clubs McCarthy could drift in and out of games and the team without much comment.

Here, where we can’t afford passengers, the media wouldn’t allow that even if we were prepared to overlook it. At Celtic, one bad performance can get you headlines.

Have a few of them and the press pressure will be relentless.

So James has to dig deep and find that spirit and the talent to overcome his shaky start.

He gave us some glimpses of the real player on Sunday.

The same again on Thursday and fans will feel much more confident that the real player has finally begun to emerge.

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  • Mark B says:

    We definitely need a top class defensive midfielder ….I remain sceptical but would be delighted if he can get, fit get performances and fill the role.

    • Damian says:

      Ange’s system relies on a deep lying playmaker, which will be McGregor, and two energetic 8s ahead of him (which we’ll need to sign because we don’t have any). The inverted full backs compensate for the lack of a classic defensive midfielder. Like the system or not, that is the logic of it. If we sign the 8s, we won’t play a defensive midfielder at all. And so far, McCarthy has shown himself only to be a backup to Bitton – which is not £20k per week well spent.

  • Damian says:

    I thought he was pretty poor at the weekend and would prefer Bitton in that position, if available. I hope to be proven wrong on this of course, but if he doesn’t get much better and very quickly, conversations ought to be being had about releasing him from his contract. He’s reportedly on around £20k per week and I can’t help but feel that two players on £10k could be giving us a lot more. In the longer term, Ange seems to prefer playing with a deep-lying pivot / creative-playmaker type and two 8s ahead of him. McCarthy is not, and never has been, any of those things. I don’t see how he fits in at all. It has all the hallmarks of an incurious Desmond signing and symptomatic of a club with no overall football vision or recruitment process. There is certainly no point in having a player like that if you have to wait too long.

  • jrm63 says:

    I agree with you on this one. First time McCarthy has really turned up. Not only a great defensive display in the middle of the midfield where he was often outnumbered but the ball through the defence for the second goal was superb. Hopefully he can push on from there.

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